Do you have your summer reading picked out already? Have you decided which books to take with you to the beach? Maybe we can help! As we head into June, it’s time for another Debating Europe book of the month. Each month, we pick a different book for our Book Club and interview the author, putting questions and comments to them from our readers.

Our book of the month for June is The Fate of the West: The Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea by Bill Emmott, former Editor-in-Chief of The Economist. You can read our summary here, and check out some of the questions and comments from our audience.

So, what did our readers have to say? We had a comment sent in by Franz, wondering if the West is really declining or whether what we’re actually seeing is a rebalancing, as the East reassumes the kind of economic significance its population size demands. Franz points out that Western countries have only really been in the ascendant for a handful of centuries, whereas countries like India and China have been economic juggernauts for most of their long histories.

How would Bill Emmott, author of the Fate of the West, respond to Franz?

Well, I would say certainly Franz is correct that we are seeing a rebalancing of the world. This has been going on for many decades, with the rise of China, and of India, of Korea, of Tawain, of Singapore, of East Asia, and so on. It’s a very welcome rebalancing of the world. As he says, really until the 16th century, but perhaps more reasonably until the 19th century, China was the world’s dominant economy – the biggest economy – that is absolutely true. That was less true of the other countries of Asia, they were not well-developed…

Are we seeing the decline of the West? I would say we are, regardless of the rebalancing of the world economy. The rebalanicng of the world economy is happening, that’s important. But what I’m talking about in The Fate of the West is not a relative phenomenon, it’s an absolute phenomenon. It’s about the weakness – the internal weakness – of the European and American economies and societies as exemplified by and accelerated by the Great Crash of 2008, the worst financial crisis for eight decades, which has had profound consequences on living standards, on faith in capitalism, on faith in political systems…

This decline of the West is not inevitable. It can be reversed, and I hope it will be reversed, but it is essentially an internal problem. So, I think these are two separate phenomena; the rise of the East, the reemergence of the East is true, welcome, and important, obviously in historical terms. The weaknesses of the Western countries are internal phenomena, and they could go either way.

Next up, we had a comment come in from Zap, who argues the problem is that we still have a “West vs. the Rest” mentality, meaning we often sabotage relations with other parts of the world. He argues that Russia is the best example of this, and that there is no reason for the antagonism we see today. Why can’t the West accept that other parts of the world often do things differently, and that liberal democracy isn’t the only (nor necessarily the best) way of organising a society?
Finally, we had a comment sent in by James, who believes that the election of Donald Trump in the US and the vote for Brexit in the UK represent mere “blips” for the West. Trump will, James argues, be constrained by the constitutional limits of the presidency (serving at most eight years before being ejected from office), while Brexit will inevitably lead to some sort of almighty political fudge that nobody is entirely happy with. James is certain that liberal democracy is ultimately “self-correcting”, and we shouldn’t worry too much about its overall health or ultimate fate. Is he right?

Is the West really declining? Or is it just the East is rising? And is liberal democracy in peril, or is it self-correcting? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – videowokart


29 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Ivan

    Thanks to the barking mad left the west is committing cultural suicide.

    • Michael

      Easy as that, is it Ivan? 😁

    • Ivan

      Debating Europe Be happy to.

      The basic principle of Socialism is democracy & capitalism are bad and they should be destroyed by any means necessary and given it’s origins are the same as Nazism it’s easy to see it in practise just on a far larger scale. The only difference being the Nazi committed mass murder based on race while Socialism uses class & race to eliminate its enemies.

      All European countries contain ‘left-overs of earlier inhabitants’, now rightly brought into subjugation by more advanced peoples. Amongst such ‘racial trash’ (Voekerabfall) were listed Scottish Highlanders, Bretons, Basques, South Slavs (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs) and Czechs & all should be eradicated:

      “Until its complete extermination or loss of national status, this racial trash always becomes the most fanatical bearer there is of counter-revolution, and it remains that. That is because its entire existence is nothing more than a protest against a great historical revolution. … The next world war will cause not only reactionary classes and dynasties, but also entire reactionary peoples, to disappear from the earth. And that too is progress”.

      “The classes and the races too weak to master the new conditions of life must give way… They must perish in the revolutionary holocaust”

      Karl Marx ( Marx People’s Paper, April 16, 1856

    • Ivan

      Debating Europe Be happy to.

      The basic principle of Socialism is democracy & capitalism are bad and they should be destroyed by any means necessary and given it’s origins are the same as Nazism it’s easy to see it in practise just on a far larger scale. The only difference being the Nazi committed mass murder based on race while Socialism uses class & race to eliminate its enemies.

      All European countries contain ‘left-overs of earlier inhabitants’, now rightly brought into subjugation by more advanced peoples. Amongst such ‘racial trash’ (Voekerabfall) were listed Scottish Highlanders, Bretons, Basques, South Slavs (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs) and Czechs & all should be eradicated:

      “Until its complete extermination or loss of national status, this racial trash always becomes the most fanatical bearer there is of counter-revolution, and it remains that. That is because its entire existence is nothing more than a protest against a great historical revolution. … The next world war will cause not only reactionary classes and dynasties, but also entire reactionary peoples, to disappear from the earth. And that too is progress”.

      “The classes and the races too weak to master the new conditions of life must give way… They must perish in the revolutionary holocaust”

      Karl Marx ( Marx People’s Paper, April 16, 1856

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQqnNqVDlig&t=24s

    • Josh

      “Cultural suicide” is Alex Jones speak for Muslims are scary, immigrants are scary and I don’t like it.

    • Debating Europe

      Hi Ivan, could you please elaborate on “the destruction of Western democracy is the foundational goal of Socialism”?

    • Ivan

      Josh Nolan Except of course the reality is very different from your claim it’s just a right wing dog whistle, or have you not noticed what is going on across Western Europe ? But nice attempt at deflection though.

      ‘The old saying ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is still a socialist mantra.

    • Ivan

      Josh Nolan Except of course the reality is very different from your claim it’s just a right wing dog whistle, or have you not noticed what is going on across Western Europe ? But nice attempt at deflection though.

      ‘The old saying ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is still a socialist mantra.

    • Ivan

      Josh Nolan .

      You might want to check your genealogy before nailing your flag to the Socialist cause comrade because as far as the ideology is concerned ‘you’ are are just one of the ‘useful idiots’ on their hit list.

      ‘The Slavs, the natives of India and China (“heredity stupidity”), Irish (“little above the savage…favoring drunkenness… a people related in their whole character to the Latin nations, to the French, and especially to the Italians”), Scandinavians (“rudeness… perpetual drunkenness”), Balkan peoples (“This miserable debris of former nations, Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks and other thieving rabble, whom the liberal Philistine raves about in the interest of the Russians, deny each other the very air they are breathing, and have to slit each others’ greedy throats.”), Turks (“This splendid territory has the misfortune to be inhabited by a conglomerate of different races and nationalities, of which it is hard to say which is the least fit for progress and civilization and therefore should be irradicated.”

      -Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels.

  2. Michael

    Both are true. The West is declining because it is renouncing the legacy of the Enlightenment and falling back into the old habits that defined it during the Middle Ages.

    • Anonymous

      Bullshit. West is declining because it is adopting this neo marxist world fiew. Europe is commiting cultural suicide and people like you cry that conservatism is on the rise. Oh give me a brake! Maybe people are becoming more conservative because modern liberalism is driving the west to its own demise, and classical liberalism is too weak to stop it?

  3. Chris

    Asia is rising faster due to western autocatastrofic decline. China got Piraeus & fertile landfills the moment EU talks about gay,cannabis, illegal emigrants, prostitution,currencies etc

  4. Josh

    Depends what you mean by decline and what you mean by “west” – America specifically is in decline because it’s suffering from many democratic issues and income inequality not seen since the French Revolution – and I suspect it will either need to reform drastically or face a similar outcome.

    As for “the west” as in western culture; I have never subscribed to the view that immigrants are a threat to any culture, and neither is “the west” a unified culture. Irish culture is a culture in the West but few Irish people would agree that Irish people share exactly the same culture as English people.

    Nor am I particularly fond of the phrase “Cultural genocide” in relation to immigrants because it’s childish, exaggerated and insensitive to to victims of actual genocide. Just because a Pakistani family moved in next door does not mean you’re suffering like the victims of the Bataan Death March. I suspect if anyone using those phrases took up volunteering in Rohingya, maybe witnessed the effects of an actual genocide, they’d learn a bit of perspective.

    • Stef

      You should really study history. Of course english culture is different from irish one but people across Europe have shared more or less the same values based on western Enlightenment philosophers and christian traditions. They’re not all objectively good per say but our societies function objectively better than say African nations. There is a cultural and even philosophical gap between nations and only a fool would deny it.
      As to diversity and migration history shows us that or the people have to assimilate in the host culture or they impose their values and culture. Diversity isn’t a stable system. It is futile to throw away resources in trying to sustain it. Sooner or later the disbalance will tip the scales and I’m not gonna tell you what happens then…

    • Maxime

      By West: western civilization. By decline: get worse. Income inequality is irrelevant. It s a byproduct of freedom. If left free ppl will make different choices. Some will produce much more than others. Western civilization as a whole is rejecting what made it different from all other cultures: reason, individualism and individual rights. And we are a seeing the results in front of our eyes: absolute garbage is presented as art, the backward genocidial, homophobic, misognist religion that is islam can demand and achieve respect, individual rights are violated on a daily basis in the name of the collective…

    • Ivan

      Josh Nolan You are conflating pure racism will cultural reality comrade, while some small differences can be accommodated by a society as a whole others are a disaster for the host culture.

      For instance: I have little doubt you would allow your daughter to marry anyone she wished and maybe you would even be OK with a son of yours marring another man but for your Pakistani neighbour both would be grounds for their son & daughter to be at best ostracised and at worse the victim of an honour killing.

      So the question is : ‘What wouldn’t you allow to achieve your socialist utopia ?’

  5. Larry

    I would say neither, wrong perspective. The world is balancing itself. Before technological evolution of the past century, regional isolation was natural in the sense that communication and transportation was constrained by distances/cost.
    However, now, communication between anyone in the world is instantaneous, at no cost, and transportation cost/time have fallen to make it extremely affordable. Therefore the world functions as a whole and previous unbalanced tend to dilute. This is a natural behaviour in a social, symbiotic system, which is what life on earth is.

    So, no, it’s not about east goes up west goes down or vice versa, is just the world balancing itself and it’s natural in the current context and there is nothing anyone can do, unless you wipe-out all the knowledge and roll back the world to the medieval times.

  6. Peré

    The east is rising and with it comes a decline of western influence and relative dominance of the world. In time they wil catch up on us and we are screwed. Only thing we can do is leverige our power and influence together so we can maintain parity. Because alone non of the individial western countries can keep up.

    • Ivan

      We do ‘ influence together’, its called NATO. The EU is a liability for the future, it is not your saviour.

    • Peré

      Ivan Burrows from a militairy perspective sure. But that’s only one degree of international relations. Nato does not give us the ability to use our economic power as a single force. China does noy need to start a war to defeat us. It can use it’s economic power to influence individial smaller countries. Playing divide and conquer.

    • Ivan

      Peré Kox The only Nation capable of taking China on at trade is the Americans so are you suggesting your country joins the USA ?

  7. randomguy2018

    Both West is declining and East is rising.
    The West has lost its morals. Only money money and materialism. EU seems to be pulled by strings from a continent away.
    The European leaders absolutely hate native Europeans. They accept big money from financiers from ocean away. They prefer hordes of foreigners.
    Do nothing for traditional values or to help families.

    Its quite sad. All just to make a tiny amount of people “happy”.
    Wont name them here cause this website loves to protect them.

  8. catherine benning

    Is the West really declining? Or is it just the East is rising?

    The West is being assimilated into third world culture. And it is doing so willingly. The West no longer considers its people or the culture of those people worthwhile. For some extraordinary reason it is determined to obliterate its exceptionalism to become second rate in all things intellectual. Now why is that?

    Our schools and those who teach in them are unfit for purpose. The stultified vocabulary and barely audible diction makes it impossible, even for so called bright children, to comprehend any kind of advanced teaching. How we are sending our children to these hell holes is an enigma. Where is our money going? Billions being wasted on what? This is more than a farce.

    The way we were.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMUJKH1fFF0

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejzh1gbGdgI

    https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jun/05/grammar-schools-bbc-documentary-divisive

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b614rl/grammar-schools-who-will-get-in-series-1-episode-2

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