‘The obscurest epoch is today.’
Robert Louis Stevenson, Across the Plains (1892)
A book that attempts to predict the course of contemporary affairs is always a dangerous enterprise. Events, political events, in particular, have a way of turning like the proverbial worm. Brexit and the election of President Trump are simply the latest and most shocking examples of just how wrong social forecasting can be. James Kirchick’s The End of Europe: Dictators, demagogues, and the coming Dark Age does not hold back in its predictive potential. The end of Europe, Kirchick declares, is upon us. This is a statement, not a question. But this is not the end of Europe as an institution or the demise of the continent. This is Europe, to paraphrase Scotty from Star Trek, but not as we know it.
One way to interpret the overall thesis of this book is to read it as yet another rejection of Francis Fukuyama’s end of history thesis. The end of Europe for Kirchick would be the return of history, but a history, so dark, so bleak, and so Hobbesian in form that we should all be doing everything we can to forestall its coming. In this sense, despite all of his pessimism, Kirchick’s book is a call to arms on behalf of Europe, not the pronouncement of its death.