Why did the West, after winning the Cold War, lose its political balance?
In the early 1990s, hopes for the eastward spread of liberal democracy were high. And yet the transformation of Eastern European countries gave rise to a bitter repudiation of liberalism itself, not only there but also back in the heartland of the West.
In this brilliant work of political psychology, Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes argue that the supposed end of history turned out to be only the beginning of an Age of Imitation. Reckoning with the history of the last thirty years, they show that the most powerful force behind the wave of populist xenophobia that began in Eastern Europe stems from resentment at the post-1989 imperative to become Westernized.
Through this prism, the Trump revolution represents an ironic fulfillment of the promise that the nations exiting from communist rule would come to resemble the United States. In a strange twist, Trump has elevated Putin’s Russia and Orbán’s Hungary into models for the United States.
Written by two pre-eminent intellectuals bridging the East/West divide, The Light that Failed is a landmark book that sheds light on the extraordinary history of our Age of Imitation.
Ivan Krastev is a Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, a contributing opinion writer for the International New York Times and, most recently, the author of the widely acclaimed After Europe.
Stephen Holmes is Professor of Law at NYU School of Law and the author of many books on liberalism.
*Winner of the 2020 Lionel Gelber Prize*
FINANCIAL TIMES, ECONOMIST, PROSPECT and EVENING STANDARD BOOK OF THE YEAR PICK