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The Light That Failed

A Reckoning
Narrated by: John Sackville
Length: 8 hrs and 58 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (53 ratings)

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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

A landmark book that completely transforms our understanding of the crisis of liberalism, from two preeminent intellectuals. 

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 30 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 Westernised. 

Through this prism, the Trump revolution represents an ironic fulfilment 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 preeminent 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. 

©2019 Ivan Krastev, Stephen Holmes (P)2019 Penguin Audio

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Liberal hubris at its best

Although not the authors intent the arrogance and and self congratulatory tone and crowing virtue is a excellent example of how the elite are failing to understand as to why peoples across the world are turning against the globalist agenda.

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Hypothesis rather than history

Easy listening, accessible and enjoyable. Interesting observations and speculations ending with more questions than answers.

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  • MM
  • 04-10-20

Disastrous narration

This is a very interesting book and congratulations to the authors. However, I have to comment on the narration which is absolutely horrendous. This type of dramatic narration is suited for fiction works (think George Orwell), not for non-fiction. Unnecessarily dramatic Intonation, probably unintentionally comical imitation of non-English words and names - it almost made me give up and order a hard copy of this book.

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  • Me
  • 06-09-20

Really interesting listen

A really good and thought provoking book. Has certainly made me look at what's going on in the world in a different way. Sometimes I found the authors were disparaging of non liberal view points rather than sitting above it. However this didn't detract from the book and the points they raise which give a good overview of the past and present which sometimes can be difficult to appreciate.

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Gripping analysis of the fall of western liberalism

The calamitous decline of Western liberalism has been the political story of the past decade. We are only beginning to see its impact on the world. You may agree or disagree with the analysis of its causes as noted in this book. This analysis is infinitely preferable to the hand wringing and self pity seen in liberal circles today. Personally, I believe that the liberal values of individual freedom and a government of checks and balances is overwhelmingly preferable to the unsavoury alternatives on offer. For me, liberalism has been poisoned by uncontrolled capitalism. Until it finds a way an alternative economic model, it has slim hope for a future.

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Superb narration of an important work

John Sackville's narration is to be applauded, especially as this is a work of contemporary politics which needed attention to nuance and specialist language.

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How the light of democracy is fading

Here is a book full of ideas and observations that will have your head spinning and your brain thinking. Why do so many people in western states feel that their ways of thinking about political ideology are so right and struggle to understand the reasons why the light of liberal western democracy isn’t taken up with the same zealous zeal as it might be in Western Europe or as some in the United States. And it appears to be dying in the west also. However, in the past many couldn’t understand why so many people fought wars and died for governments that didn’t care about the people, but the idea of patriotism can be stronger than any political or thought ideology. Most of us seem to seek and want religion and authoritarian rule and others are doing this in many parts of the world. If you watch two children playing together, the most desirable toy is the one that the other child possesses rather than the choice of all the others that are freely available. We are nothing more than the stories we tell ourselves to ourselves about ourselves that forms the psyche that has its own narrative. If you tell people they are free even if you press them and tell them they should say that they are free, it doesn't make them free or feel free but actually fills them with resentment. Just because you feel free and you have the democracy system that you want in place, doesn't free you from the control that the captain of your mind creates. Beliefs and blind faith via religion or tribal ideology that can trump any idea of rationality and thus lead any country to its conclusion. And so it is with life. I grew up with Irish relationships and in the grip of catholic religion, and these things combined, overruled many a rational, liberal and kind thought to the tyrany of hell fire and god's judgement, often made in the ideal of what certain people thought. But it also gave unity, a sense of purpose and kind people encouraging others to good deeds. We respond not to logical thoughts or reason but to a responsive and innate knee jerk or emotion. Most of us are instinctive rather than rational decision making machines. These things help me understand the themes in this book. And this book helps explain why national, patriotic, authoritarian and populism rule is becoming the norm as it has been for most of the last 20000 years - the light of empathy, tolerance and fairness and rights for all have been a brief light and others don’t share these rules, feel they make countries great and when so many Countries such as those in Eastern Europe have been drained by so many of the young people immigrating to the west (sometimes up to 1 in 4 almost have left some countries) that the vacuum is left for others who are older and more set in their ways to begin re-electing populist leaders who exploit imaginary fears (eg the influx of Muslims that aren’t arriving in their country) to hide their real fears (eg the loss of their most intelligent and young people leaving their own country). In the same way that once you start supporting a football team we will stick with it no matter how bad the team are performing, and so it is with political thought making and decision-making. Keep your argument simple, sell a fear, propose a solution no matter how invasive so long as you tap into that fear and maybe you’re probably going to win over the people that have control over. This book’s main theme is the idea that many countries imitate other countries ideologies and ideas. After 1945, every country wanted to imagine imitating America, which meant taking on democracy, it’s buildings, it’s ideas and it’s liberal thinking while China was promoting Maoism, communism and one state rule. Most countries chose to imitate America’s ideas as they appeared the strong and wealthy country but slowly they have been more of the shift because Chinese colonialism and one party rule is more in line with their wish of governments to rule with totality whilst selling partroism, authoritarian rule and even dictatorship whilst saying their a democracy, especially of China who now just practising capitalism and building new roads in areas such as Asia and Africa and no longer exploiting a model (ie communism) to copy. And as America changes, people are no longer imitating the American model for changing the ideas within their own countries. This book looks at Hungary, Russia, America and China and these ideas of imitation – or in China’s case, no longer trying to inflict or care about others imitating it or forcing an ideology on others. It’s a powerful book that has done more to explain what is happening in our world than most others. As Napoleon once said it's not what's true that matters it's what people think is true that matters. Other thoughts from this book: A liberal is a man who cannot take his own side in an argument. So true. Is the reason that Liberal Democrats have failed is because it hasn’t given people what they want but only made them see what other people have got. This then leads to envy, jealousy and the desire for a type of revenge. Populist often take one version of the past such as we were born 11,000 years ago when we were part of a mythical past and don’t need to be influenced by people who speak another language and do not share our views to sell their message that what they are striving for is right. However, many countries have many different pasts that often contradict one another. In England of the past there was the aristocracy and everyone else were labourers, serfs or servants which changed during the First World War and then people seek some golden age which was either between two world wars or just after one. And now people are angry with the current regime of liberal democracy and that choosing populism, nationalism, tribalism and conservative thinking might be better and fitmore with their narrative or the ones that their peers hold and share. But their invented past isn’t a reality, just their own version of their narrative. But it can be easier to explain and share. Examples of stories we tell ourselves: Americans are never referred to as immigrants even though they're nation of immigrants who never go anywhere, but those who live abroad are not referred to as immigrants but are known as expats. Yet the Chinese will even call people in another country that they are living or working in as foreigners. One last thought in this book is that war is the most imitated form that mankind indulges in.

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Original and Insightful

A must read for students of populism. Linking the rise of Orban, Trump and Putin it traces the rise of populism to the hubris engendered by the collapse of Soviet Communism. It provides invaluable insights into the utility of blatant lying, the them and us xenophobic world view, and inclusiveness and exclusion. An important contribution to the growing study of anti-liberal populism.

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Chapter 1 alone......

Chapter 1 alone of this book is a brilliant summary of how the political and social balance has changed in Europe between 1989 and 2019 and should be essential reading for any students of Politics and Sociology and anyone else with the faintest interest in how European history may be written over the next 20 years. Brilliant book.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-07-20

Fundamental truths and wrong conclusions

In trying to explain the crisis of modern liberal democracy in Europe and the growing divide between the East and West part of the continent, "The Light That Failed" presents some fundamental truths and, regrettably, comes to some fundamentally wrong conclusions. It's a narrative that is deeply flawed by, what I suspect are Mr. Krastev's writing contributions, incessant criticism of the political course undertaken by Hungary and Poland, while completely glossing over the rest of the region. In fact, throughout the book the supposed divide in modern Europe is presented as between the West and those two particular states, the rest of the East being reduced to short remarks such as "and other countries." Many of the factors that have lead to the rise of autocratic populism in Eastern Europe nowadays are correctly determined by the authors - the clash of cultural values stemming back from the Great Schism of Christianity and Europe, the historical fate of eastern nations being subjugated by empires for centuries and lacking strong institutions, the prevalent corruption that is part of national psyche, the precipitous demographic decline, and especially the deep disappointment of the transition to capitalism and the huge inequalities that it brought to these societies. Yet, where all of these factors are common throughout the region, the narrative keeps the focus strictly on the "troubled members" of the EU - Poland and, in particular, Viktor Orban's Hungary. Yes, you will hear criticism of Orban frequently and throughout the book, turning what should be an objective analysis of liberal democracy's decline into a treatise of subjective criticism. What makes Poland and Hungary, two countries with significantly higher freedom of speech ratings, social mobility index, median per capita GDP and overall standard of living objectively "worse liberal democracies" and the targets of vehement liberal criticism by the authors than, say, Borisov's Bulgaria - a country roiled in excessive corruption, embezzlement, disruptive socio-economic divisions, and disastrous freedom of speech rating? One who's personally familiar with Eastern Europe's modus vivendi, whether due to being a resident of the region (as myself, being a Bulgarian) or a researcher, would remain with the strong sense that what Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev point as the biggest issue of modern European liberalism is daring to voice criticism of the Brussels' brand of liberalism and not what amounts to trumping liberal values underfoot while keeping a strong declarative stance in support of it - as many autocratic Prime Ministers and Presidents other than Duda and Orban do. And where this tragic hypocrisy of the West supporting Eastern Europe's current autocratic, corrupt, declarative style-over-substance brand of pseudo-"liberalism" should be the conclusion of the book, it instead divulges into prolonged criticism of just a particular facet of the issue that's easier to swallow for the Western reader/listener. What you can take from "The Light that Failed" is some excellent insight into the political turmoil now engulfing the EU, made possible by great effort and research, and some thoughtful insight - and end up with some terrible conclusions that will grossly skew your understanding of the underlying issue. Excellent narration by John Sackville! 5/5 for narrator performance.

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  • Yulian
  • 29-05-20

The painful story of liberalism’s decline

This is probably the most insightful book on geopolitics that I have read since Huntington’s Clash of civilizations. A briliant analysis of the post cold war world dynamics, as well as interesting perspectives on Trump and China.

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  • Amnon Danzig
  • 10-03-20

Thought-provoking book. Great

Many new insights to grasp. For me, represent counter-intuitive thinking based on thorough research. Well done!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 22-02-20

Huh?

Just how the hell, did these, supposed experts, imagine that a book on the demise of liberal hegemony should center on how stupid those people who ended it are? Am I to understand that the ones protecting the established hegemony were so stupid that they underperformed the very stupid people who bested them?! Silly. Despite the excellent performance of the narrator, this book is not worth the space it will take up on your device.

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  • James
  • 01-01-20

Solid review of current political trends.

The book definitely is worth listening to for it’s summary of current political trends mainly in Europe and the US over the last 10 years. The strength is in their reviews of the weakness inherent in both the current “liberal” and “populist” beliefs. Make no mistake, the authors are clearly of the left and believers of the current liberal order but they are able to point out the problems and contradictory ideas of the liberal order. Much of the book is spent criticizing Russia and Putin and making statements such as “Putin’s war on gays” which can be interpreted as a subjective statement presented as proven fact that needs no further discussion. While the book is strong on evaluation the authors really offer no solutions but instruct one to support the liberal agenda regardless of all it’s weaknesses that they have just spend hours noting where it goes wrong. Narration is adequate but not especially enjoyable.