Anyone who has paid any attention to the words coming out of the mouths of populist figureheads like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, and Geert Wilders will know this: populists traffic in nostalgia. For them, the best days are always our yesterdays – before the West was corrupted by the onslaught of progressive values, unchecked self-expression, secularisation, multiculturalism, globalisation, and the rejection of tradition. That is why they are forever promising to ‘bring back’ what has been lost and to ‘restore’ the West to its former glory. Their recent successes come down to the fact that many in these societies, feeling left behind and betrayed by their own countries, long for simpler times. In the lead-up to the 2016 US presidential election, for example, numerous polls showed that a majority of Americans felt that the country had ‘lost its identity’ (Quinnipiac University Poll) or that its ‘best days are in the past’ (American Values Survey). For political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, this was the pervasive sense of cultural estrangement – felt most acutely by older generations, white men, the less educated, and those holding conservative political beliefs – that led to the populist cultural backlash of the past several years.
Mark Chou reviews 'The Retreat of Western Liberalism' by Edward Luce and 'The Fate of the West: The battle to save the world’s most successful political idea' by Bill Emmott
The Retreat of Western Liberalism
by Edward Luce
Little, Brown, $32.99 pb, 234 pp, 9781408710401
The Fate of the West:: The battle to save the world’s most successful political idea
by Bill Emmott
The Economist Books (Profile Books), $32.99 pb, 267 pp, 9781781257791
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Mark Chou is an associate professor of politics at the Australian Catholic University. His latest book is Young People, Citizenship and Political Participation: Combating civic deficit (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).
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