Category Archives: Book reviews

Book review: ‘Identity’, by Francis Fukuyama

Regarded as prescient in heralding the collapse of communism in 1989 as the ‘end of history’, Francis Fukuyama has since become something of an intellectual piñata.

His thesis then was that the triumph of liberal democracy, buttressed by a market economy, represented the ‘end of history’ in the Hegelian sense that other modes of organizing society had been tried, and failed, leaving the strongest standing. Eventually, he expected that it would become ubiquitous. The European Union was hailed as an aspirational model, having put an end to the continent’s centuries of internecine conflict.

So convinced was Fukuyama of the superiority of liberal democracy that, though a Democrat, he aligned himself with the neoconservative movement that provided the intellectual underpinning for George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq.

*** A version of this book review was first published in The Irish Times on 24 October 2018 ***

His two most recent books, The Origins of Political Order and Political Order and Political Decay, were an attempt to clarify and rebut criticism of his ‘end of history’ thesis. Most notably, he dropped the pretense of the finality and inevitability, if not the desirability, of universal liberal democracy. He adapted his thesis to fit the facts on the ground.

Identity, his latest offering, was written for the age of Trump. Addressing the zeitgeist at both ends of the political spectrum for ‘identity politics’, particularly in the U.S. but also across Europe, he does a deep dive into what he sees as one possible mortal threat to liberal democratic institutions – ‘political decay’.

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Definitive take on Ireland’s boom and bust

Insightful if controversial book sets out a hierarchy of blame, with joyriding politicians at the top…

Click here to read my Irish Times review of The Fall of the Celtic Tiger: Ireland & the Euro by Donal Donovan and Antoin E. Murphy.

A Clarion Call to Reject the ‘Axis of Austerity’

This is my review of Gene Kerrigan’s latest book, “The Big Lie: Who Profits From Ireland’s Austerity?”, published in today’s Irish Times.

The Left Must Find Its Voice

Book Review – Ill Fares The Land by Tony Judt

Tony Judt is perhaps best known for ‘Postwar’, the encyclopaedic survey of European history since 1945 which cemented his status among the world’s most eminent historians.

Today, wracked by the same motor-neurone affliction as Stephen Hawking, Judt is confined to dictating his thoughts to an assistant at NYU where he is Professor of European Studies. While his body may be weakened, however, his mind remains piercing, engaging and energetic.

In ‘Postwar’, Judt explored what he called the ‘Social Democratic Moment’, the grand societal bargain which allowed Europe to rebuild from the wreckage of a devastating world war and the Great Depression which preceded it. Continue reading