In This Review

Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West Since the Cold War, 1971–2017
Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West Since the Cold War, 1971–2017
By Simon Reid-Henry
880 pp, Simon & Schuster, 2019
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In this massive, kaleidoscopic history of the current democratic age, Reid-Henry finds the roots of the crisis of modern liberal democracy in the early 1970s. He argues that a series of small changes in economic, social, and political life across the Western world conspired to erode the consensus-oriented model of democracy that had emerged after World War II. The Bretton Woods regime collapsed, triggering shifts in how governments cooperated and managed their economies. The OPEC oil shocks ushered in stagflation and an end to the early postwar commitments to full employment. New forms of identity politics followed the cultural upheavals of the 1960s. Crucially, centrist forces and institutions across the Western system began to break up in this era as the old compromises between labor and capital frayed. In the battle of ideas, the postwar Keynesian consensus gave way to conservative theories about monetarism and the deregulation of markets. Many of these stories are familiar, but Reid-Henry is particularly good at revealing the subtle social and cultural transformations that unfolded in dozens of countries, including some often overlooked places.