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Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Rich

As the world grapples with multiple, compounding economic and political crises, Western intellectuals provide little cause for optimism. Two new books paint a bleak picture of a disintegrating liberal international order and a future shaped by warring powers and digital serfdom.

LONDON – Reading this fall’s selection of new nonfiction books, one cannot help but recall W.B. Yeats’ prescient lines from The Second Coming: “The falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” As the liberal international order is beset by domestic and global challenges, the values that have shaped the West’s socioeconomic landscape since the Enlightenment appear to be in decline. The somber tone of Western intellectuals suggests that we may need to turn to China to find the falconer capable of bringing stability back to our world.