Michael Burleigh

Crash of the Titans

The Fate of the West: The Battle to Save the World's Most Valuable Political Idea

By

The Economist Books 257pp £20 order from our bookshop

The former editor of The Economist Bill Emmott has had the very good idea of diagnosing the ills besetting the West, though one should immediately note that his idea of the West also takes in Japan. The book will no doubt do very well, not least because of the anxieties arising from America’s ‘presidicament’. 

Japan is generously treated. Emmott explores the country’s chronic economic stagnation and how it copes with an ageing and shrinking population. There are currently 65,000 centenarians in Japan, compared to just 153 in 1963, when such statistics were first collected. This kind of detail typifies Emmott’s engaging approach, and his book is cogently argued. His knowledge of Japan is matched by what he knows about Italy or Sweden, say, and such general trends as the rise of AI and robotics. I was surprised to learn that in the USA, home of capitalism red in tooth and claw, 30 per cent of jobs require an occupational licence from the local, state or federal government (these are often denied to convicted felons and former prisoners – some 17.2 million males in total). Bizarrely, Emmott informs us, ‘it takes more time to become a cosmetologist than to become a lawyer, and the hours of instruction to become a manicurist are double those needed by a paramedic’.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,