The Light That Failed: A Reckoning
Published by Allen Lane/Penguin Random House Canada
Year: 2020
Shortlisted

This book, full of sparkling insight and subtle analysis, explains why liberal democracy failed to become a universal ideology despite its victory over communism. The authors show how Western triumphalism of the 1990s failed to take into account the distinctive history and culture of states that were seeking to imitate and embed democracy. Although the peoples of former communist countries joined the EU and NATO and signed up to liberal values and the rule of law, they became alienated by the corruption and inequality that followed. The analysis of politics and culture in the former Eastern Europe is original and riveting. Krastev and Holmes show how Russia and China learned from a West that betrayed its own values and broke its own rules. This account of how liberalism lost its way is candid and incisive, but it is not pessimistic. There is no reason why illiberalism and nativism should continue if ‘chastised’ liberals learn from their mistakes and The Light that Failed will surely help them do so. An original and important book for our times.