Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

The Retreat of Western Liberalism

by Edward Luce

“Insightful and harrowing . . . lucidly expounds on the erosion of the West’s middle classes, the dysfunction among its political and economic elites, and the consequences for America and the world.” —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date April 24, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2819-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date June 13, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2739-6
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $24.00

In his widely acclaimed book Time to Start Thinking, Financial Times chief US columnist and commentator Edward Luce charted the course of American economic and geopolitical decline, proving to be a prescient voice on our current social and political turmoil.

In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Luce makes a larger statement about the weakening of western hegemony and the crisis of democratic liberalism—of which Donald Trump and his European counterparts are not the cause, but a symptom. Luce argues that we are on a menacing trajectory brought about by ignorance of what it took to build the West, arrogance toward society’s economic losers, and complacency about our system’s durability—attitudes that have been emerging since the fall of the Berlin Wall, treated by the West as an absolute triumph over the East. We cannot move forward without a clear diagnosis of what has gone wrong. Unless the West can rekindle an economy that produces gains for the majority of its people, its political liberties may be doomed.

Combining on-the-ground reporting with intelligent synthesis of the literature and economic analysis, Luce offers a detailed projection of the consequences of the Trump administration and a forward-thinking analysis of what those who believe in enlightenment values must do to defend them from the multiple onslaughts they face in the coming years.


“Insightful and harrowing . . . Timely and informed, providing an important overview of the dynamics in an increasingly interconnected and fragmented planet . . . In his prescient 2012 book, Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent, Luce uncannily anticipated the politics of resentment and the bitter fights over immigration that would fuel ‘Brexit’ and last year’s American election. And in this new book, he lucidly expounds on the erosion of the West’s middle classes, the dysfunction among its political and economic elites and the consequences for America and the world . . . he writes, ‘Nothing is inevitable. Some of what ails the West is within our power to fix.’ Doing so means rejecting complacency about democracy and our system’s resilience, and ‘understanding exactly how we got here.’ Luce’s book is one good place to start.” —Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“Many around the globe sense a systemic crisis. To understand the nature of this crisis, we could not find a better guide than Edward Luce’s The Retreat of Western Liberalism . . . Luce writes in fluid prose, moving from a telling statistic to a striking quotation. Throughout, one is struck by his command of the material and the activity of his prose—he is unsparing in his condemnation of the elites who didn’t see this coming . . . The West faces many problems, and Luce outlines them vividly.” —Fareed Zakaria, New York Times Book Review

“In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, he warns that Trumpism could prove less an accident than a portent in the United States and across the West . . . Mr. Luce devotes much of his book to why this global rebellion is happening, and why now. His thesis is straightforward. While the rich enjoy greater opulence, living and working among themselves in isolated enclaves, half to two-thirds of Westerners have been ‘treading water—at best—for a generation’ as globalization and robotics have combined to limit wages and eliminate jobs . . . A compendium of telling anecdotes that enrich our understanding of a long-term trend . . . Mr. Luce offers a useful wake-up call to elites, urging them to focus on the very real struggles of America’s besieged middle class before we all lose the freedom and democracy we cherish . . . [A] concise, accessible and valuable work.” —Lawrence J. Haas, Wall Street Journal

“What the book offers is . . . a panorama of the unravelling world order as riveting as any beach read. Luce’s project is to explain what the recent dark turn in Western politics—the rise of ultranationalism, populist demagoguery, cultural insularity, and social unrest—has to do with global economics. It’s a story of trade balances and technological disruption, but also a withering dismantling of Western liberalism’s faith in progress.” —Elias Muhanna, New Yorker, “What we’re reading this summer”

“Few doubt that something big happened in Western politics during the past 12 months but nobody is sure what . . . Edward Luce, a commentator for the Financial Times in Washington, is well placed to observe the shifts and shocks. The Retreat of Western Liberalism offers a brisk, timely survey . . . Mr. Luce is a shrewd observer who has worked in Asia as well as the West . . . . At rapid pace and with telling statistics, Mr. Luce . . . gives a knowledgeable tour through the unmapped terrain in which Western politicians and governments must now operate.” —Economist

“Luce’s well-crafted book locates the origin of the crisis in declining economic opportunities available to Western middle classes.”—G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs

“Brilliant.”—Charles F. McElwee III, American Conservative

“An informative look at the current state of world politics and economics . . . It’s also a thought-provoking warning that history is not guaranteed.” —Chris Schluep, Omnivoracious

“Luce does a masterful job of describing the contours of the rise of illiberal democracy in the west.” —Benjamin Knoll, New York Journal of Books

The Retreat of Western Liberalism posits a lucid argument in favor of rethinking how we equip ourselves to compete globally and how the fruits of globalization are distributed . . . [Luce’s] points are crisply and compellingly argued.”—Global Atlanta

“Beautifully written.” —Times (UK)

“The great merit of Luce’s brisk, pointed and fascinating book . . . is that it is far more than a disappointed liberal’s angry tirade. His achievement it to put the rise of antiestablishment populism in a broader global economic context . . . In particular, he is memorably and rightly scathing about the self-regard of the Davos elite.” —Literary Review (UK)

“Edward Luce provides a terrifying view of the challenges facing the West. We have to hope that his prophecies are self denying—something that is more likely if his penetrating analysis gets the wide attention it richly deserves.” —Lawrence Summers

“The challenges to the West are outlined in detail—and they mainly come from within . . . For Luce, the combination of rising income inequality, vanishing economic mobility and distant technocracy has led to our moment’s populist resurgence.” —Carlos Lozada, Washington Post

“Read this book: In the three hours it takes you will get a new, bracing, and brilliant understanding of the dangers we in the democratic West now face. Luce is one of the smartest journalists working today, and his perceptions are priceless.” —Jane Mayer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Dark Money

“No one was more prescient about the economic malaise and popular resentment that has hit the United States than Edward Luce in his previous book, Time to Start Thinking. His new book, The Retreat of Western Liberalism, broadens that picture to cover the Western world. It is a must read for anyone trying to make sense of the waves of populism and nationalism we face today.” —Liaquat Ahamed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lords of Finance

“Important . . . Through his deep reporting and clear-headed analysis, Luce explains popular frustration with liberalism, and the resurgence of nationalism.” —National Book Review, “5 hot books”

“What is the future of Western liberal democracy? How did it get into its current mess, and how will those origins shape its forthcoming evolution? This volume is the very best guide for starting to grapple with those questions.” —Tyler Cowen, Founder of Marginal Revolution University

“In just 200 pages, [Luce] surveys economics, history, electoral politics, and international relations to paint a vision of the planet that’s as worrying as it is realistic.” —Harry Cheadle, VICE

“[The Retreat of Western Liberalism] is really, really important . . . We strongly encourage you to buy it.” —David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy’s The E.R. podcast

“Timely . . . [Luce’s] writing has a vigour and sweep all too absent in the deadly prose of social scientists.” —Financial Times (UK)

“Incisive . . . Luce combines some hard, and unsettling, facts about the ‘stagnant’ state of Western economies and societies, with perceptive, even provocative insights into their implications.” —Vikas Datta, Business Standard

“Timely and thoughtful . . . A clear-eyed lament of liberalism’s decline, and America stepping back and turning inward.” —Lloyd Green, American Conservative

“Fantastic. I recommend that everyone buys it.” —James Pethokoukis, American Enterprise Institute


One of Amazon’s Top 10 Best Books of the Month for June 2017
An Amazon best history book of 2017 so far
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice (8/6/2017)