Holmes is one of America’s most brilliant political philosophers.
Few people question the conventional wisdom like Ivan Krastev.
George Soros [previous praise for the authors]
Ivan Krastev is one of the most interesting thinkers of our time. A juggler of paradoxes, an assailer of conventional wisdomsyou may not always agree but you will never be bored.
Robert Kagan - Washington Post [previous praise for the authors]
The Light That Failed has its brilliant flashes of insight. The authors are exceedingly well informed and draw upon a capacious command of recent history, economics, demography and culture to advance their argument. Throughout, Krastev and Holmes are also provocative, exposing shibboleths and cutting through conventional wisdom. The Light That Failed is well worth the price of admission.
If you read one book to understand the state of the world today, make it this one. Aphoristic, counter-intuitive and amusing, a single page provides more insight into populism than libraries of books on Brexit or Trump.... This is an extraordinary and compelling book. Its subject matter is bleak but the deep learning, humour and humanity of its authors shines through.
This is a book about copying that makes an original argument. In doing so, it reminds us that liberal democracy depends not on mechanical processes but on human originality.
This is a book about imitation by a couple of utterly inimitable authors. It is the most original explanation I've read of the self-destruction of the liberal West as universal utopia. Its analysis is rooted in an unparalleled understanding of the resentment fueled revolt (and revolting resentment) of political elites who sought to ape the West, and ended up loathing it for that very reason. Scathing yet fair.
Witty, incisive, devastating: an unforgettable analysis of why the light of liberalism failed in Eastern Europe, and why resentment towards imitation of the West has fueled the furies of the populist revolt.
Krastev’s beautifully lucid
After Europe packs an enormous amount of wisdom into a very short space.
Times Literary Supplement (A Best Book of the Year) [previous praise for the authors]
Krastev is one of Europe’s most interesting public intellectuals.
Financial Times [previous praise for the authors]
A bracing analysis of post-Cold War politics, upending cherished assumptions, and forcing us to look afresh at the complex dialectic of liberalism and illiberalism.
A brilliant, original book on the crisis of modern liberalism. A must-read to understand our present discontents.
The Financial Times (named one of the best books of 2019)
Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes give an unflinchingly honest explanation of what has gone wrong in the Westand the Eastsince 1989. Krastev and Holmes reject the idea that ‘reactionary authoritarianism and nativism will inherit the earth,’ and suggest that a chastised liberalism, having recovered from its aspirations to global hegemony, remains the political idea most at home in the twenty-first century.
Tony Barber - The Financial Times
“A sharp, polemical and ideas-packed book by Ivan Krastev, a Bulgarian-born political scientist who has witnessed and participated in the remaking of central and eastern Europe, and Stephen Holmes, an expert on the history of liberalism at New York University.”
A brilliant explanation of the mess we are now in: Trump, nativist politics, bunkered nationalism and the failure to establish an order based on Enlightenment liberal values.
London Evening Standard (named one of the best books of 2019)
When the Soviet Union collapsed and communism fell, the countries of eastern Europe set out to emulate Western democracies. But, as the authors of this perceptive book eloquently relate, their attitude to liberal democracy soured amid globalisation and the financial crisisforces that also fed the rise of nationalism in the West.
The Economist (named one of the best books of 2019)
Two academics and policy experts bring considerable erudition to the conundrum of why anti-liberalism has gained currency since the fall of the Soviet Union, when the world seemed happy to see it go.
According to Krastev (
After Europe, 2017, etc.), a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and Holmes (New York Univ. School of Law; The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity, 2012, etc.), once communism fell, the "radiant future" of Enlightenment democracy—encompassing a separation of powers, checks and balances, free elections, freedom of the press, and so on—seemed the sole alternative model. However, in chapters moving from Central and Eastern Europe through Russia and China, the authors show how imitating the "masters" created a groundswell of resentment and backlash. In Central Europe, Hungary and Poland were at first content to imitate the Western model. Unfortunately, "Central and East European versions of liberalism had been indelibly tainted by two decades of rising social inequality, pervasive corruption, and the morally arbitrary distribution of private property into the hands of a few." Krastev and Holmes succinctly explain why this brand of populism and nativism would ring familiar in Russia, China, and eventually in the United States under Donald Trump. The authors also cogently explore the anti-immigration hysteria that has continued to plague these countries. In Russia, the authors see a convulsion of "aggressive isolationism" at work in addition to an effective destabilizing revenge theory bent on revealing the mask of hypocrisy of the U.S., especially in foreign affairs. Meanwhile, China, once an imitator of the Soviet Union, has ceased exporting its brand of Maoism and is reaping grandly the effects of centralized economic control.
An informative study that conveys a subtle but powerful argument for the attraction of anti-liberal populism.