What lies behind the surge in populist movements?

The Fate of the West book coverThe Fate of the West: The Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea
By Bill Emmott
Published by The Economist, £20
(Buy on Amazon)

The assumption that “Western values” – such as liberal democracy, free markets and globalisation – would triumph over other political systems has been called into question recently. We’ve seen a surge in support for populist movements, and a significant section of the population expressing open admiration for authoritarian leaders. In this wide-ranging book, Bill Emmott, the former editor of The Economist, investigates what lies behind the shift.

After a short opening section looking at the problems of inequality and special interests, he moves on to trends within individual countries and regions, examines the impact of themes such as automation and an ageing population on society, and considers the rising influence of China and Russia. Finally, he presents the five main lessons that Western leaders need to take on board in order to restore trust in their model.

Emmott’s solutions seem sensible, if a bit vague at times. He deserves credit for recognising that globalisation and openness need to have some sort of limit if they are to gain acceptance and makes interesting points about how well-intended policies can increase inequality. My only real criticism is that the book could have benefited from being a bit longer, as it tries to cram a lot of material into 200 pages.