Simon Reid-Henry shows how liberal democracy, and western history with it, was profoundly reimagined when the postwar Golden Age ended. As the institutions of liberal rule were reinvented, a new generation of politicians emerged. This is the story for those asking how we got to where we are.
Empire of Democracy gives us a detailed account...telling us how we got to where we are today and tracking the rise and fall of an economic, social, and political order that now seems to be under fundamental and potentially lethal pressure. Despite the convincing nature of his overall diagnosis of the strengths and weaknesses of neoliberalism, however, there are many problems with how Reid-Henry tells this story, starting with the narrative style in which he has chosen to cast it. To put it bluntly, he doesn’t seem to be aware of even the most basic rules of historical narrative. Individual actors in the story, from Mitterrand to Trump, are introduced with only scant background information; important dates are missing in dense chapters; and statements and observations are ventured without any attempt to ground them in evidence ... There are more substantive problems as well. For quite long stretches of the book, I found it difficult to understand the sweeping generalizations that pepper the text ... Often, Reid-Henry’s use of the passive voice disguises an almost complete absence of detail ... In many sections, the book reads more like a commentary on events than an analytical narrative ... There are still many passages in this book that can be read with considerable profit ... The book offers a wide-ranging narrative of what happened in one part of the world, but because its scope is restricted by its reliance on the outdated notion of the West, the full story of today’s crisis remains to be told.
... elegantly written and often intelligent, yet remains a fragmentary, incomplete and at times stunningly imprecise book ... Reid-Henry narrates this story with elegance and gusto. He strives to leave no base untouched and jumps confidently from examining western Sydney’s urban transformation to commenting on Verona’s communist social clubs. Unfortunately, this confidence seems often unwarranted, and the book is marred by inexcusable factual mistakes ... The paperback edition that this book deserves will certainly need much more thorough editing and fact-checking ... covers an impressive array of issues and national examples, although it tends sometimes to lump together, often under vague labels such as 'neoliberalism' or 'monetarism,' experiences that were much more dissimilar than Reid-Henry would have us believe.