Getty Images

Global Bookmark

The World That Made Trump

A quarter-century ago, the West was riding high: Communism was passé, Europe was uniting, and US global leadership faced no serious challenge. Four new books examine how it all came apart – and what comes next.

For nearly a generation, the West has been experiencing something like progress in reverse. With the fallout from the US-led Iraq War spreading instability from the Middle East to Europe, the 2008 financial crisis undermining voters’ faith in liberal capitalism, and nationalist populism resurgent almost everywhere, anyone pondering the fate of the West in 2017 could be forgiven for seeking some cheer or consolation.

These four new books will not provide it. On the contrary, a cultural historian might one day argue that these offerings, among many others in the publishing pipeline, reflected a morbid state of introspection in the West, sustained by the mounting political and economic challenges of their time.

Bill Emmott, a former editor of the Economist, uses a stream of D-words to describe the West’s current predicament: “demoralized, decadent, deflating, demographically challenged, divided, disintegrating, dysfunctional, declining.” Superficially viewed, Emmott’s book amounts to a seemingly aimless tour of randomly selected countries: one minute we are in Italy or Sweden, and then it’s off to Japan via California. And while Emmott never really explains why Japan is “Western,” China, by contrast, is grouped among the “barbarians at the gates,” along with the Islamic State (ISIS) and Russia. But surely Chinese unilateralism is no match for the “exemptionalism” that has characterized the United States’ approach to international bodies such as the International Criminal Court and the Law of the Sea treaty.

To continue reading, please subscribe to On Point.

To access On Point, log in or register now now and read two On Point articles for free. For unlimited access to the unrivaled analysis of On Point, subscribe now.


Log in;

    The AI Debate We Need

    • Rapid advances in artificial intelligence and related technologies have contributed to fears of widespread job losses and social disruptions in the coming years, giving a sense of urgency to debates about the future of work. 

    • But such discussions, though surely worth having, only scratch the surface of what an AI society might look like.
  2. SOPA Images/Getty Images

    Criminalizing the Truth

    • Why is Poland legislating what can and cannot be said about its Holocaust history? 

    • While one reason is that its leaders don't know enough about the subject, the most important factor is the ruling Law and Justice party's increasingly naked appeal to anti-Semitism.
  3. Chinese Yuan Renminbi and Dollar banknotes Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images

    Could the Renminbi Challenge the Dollar?

    • China’s rapid economic growth, coupled with savvy monetary management by its leaders, has internationalized the renminbi to a degree that scarcely could have been imagined just a few decades ago. 

    • But if China’s leaders ever want to challenge the US for global currency dominance, they will need to think and act more radically.
  4. US President Donald Trump speaks about the passage of tax reform legislation SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

    Economic Policymaking in the Age of Trump

    • For decades, America has suffered from a long-run productivity slowdown that has sapped the economy of its former dynamism, and left median wages stagnant.

    • Will the tax legislation recently enacted by congressional Republicans and the Trump administration finally reverse this trend, or will it make a bad situation worse?