Summary of Counter-Revolution

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Why has populism flourished in Europe in recent years? In this clear-eyed account, academic Jan Zielonka analyzes why the continent’s politics have taken such a hard turn. His conclusion: Mainstream political leadership has grown cynical and complacent, and democratic institutions seem increasingly indifferent to the will of the people. At the same time, Europeans have become more anxious and fearful. Voters in France and Belgium, worried about terror attacks, are increasingly skeptical of the liberal prescription of open borders and multiculturalism. In Greece, Portugal and Poland, citizens fret about their jobs and wonder why their leaders don’t feel their pain. Despite his harsh critique of Europe’s system of liberal democracy, Zielonka is no populist. He repeatedly argues that he has no love for the counter-revolution, which he considers misguided. But Zielonka does see value in self-scrutiny, and he makes a strong case that liberalism – and the tolerance and rationality that accompany it – will survive only if its supporters understand and work to change what has gone wrong in recent years. getAbstract recommends hearing him out.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why European liberalism has fallen on hard times,
  • How misguided policies opened the door to the counter-revolution and
  • How populists play on voters’ fears.
 

About the Author

Jan Zielonka is professor of European politics at the University of Oxford and Ralf Dahrendorf Professorial Fellow at St. Antony’s College. He also has held posts at the University of Warsaw, the University of Leiden and the European University Institute at Florence.

 

Summary

An Assault on Liberalism

A generation ago, Europe was in the midst of a full-fledged revolution, one that sought to extend liberalism to the formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe. In the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, newly democratic nations built welfare systems and regulated markets. Openness and rule of law were the talking points of the day. Today, however, a reversal of this revolution is underway. Across Europe, countries are systematically dismantling their welfare states and de-regulating their markets. Debate in Europe is focused on shrinking states and rebuilding walls.


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