East and West Books has just released a new book. It is a collection of articles on the East, the West and the Rest that were published on the online publication East and West and the newspaper East & West / Восток и запад between 2016 and 2021. WITH AN EXCLUSIVE AFTERWORD.
The world has changed dramatically since 1991. Most people in the West have not entirely realized that. In this book subjects like international relations, history, and new geopolitical realities are discussed extensively.
East & West started with a special focus on Central and Eastern Europe. In places like Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and Russia historical conversation has the power to sow irreconcilable discord and provoke misunderstandings and deep hatred to this day. In the West history is seen as little more than remembering stories from many years ago. It does not belong to the good and cultured tone to judge and attack countries and entire peoples for what happened 80 years ago. In Central and Eastern Europe instead history with all its burdens and painful memories lives on.
America and Europe‘s prosperity, until recently practically unrivalled by the rest, seemed to be an incontrovertible proof that only the West was truly successful. It was successful because it was liberal and democratic, that is the justest and most humane of all possible worlds. At least since the financial crisis of 2008 and the rise of China these claims of universality and unshakable self-assuredness seem to have been questioned a bit. Maybe the West is not so successful after all. Maybe the Western model is not the universal road to the good life. The utopian belief in the end of history, which persisted in the minds of many, appears naive now.
The idea that the entire world is bound to become like the West and that this is an ultimately desirable and good thing has shown its limits. But many Westerners continue to glee at the pictures of protests in Hong Kong or Belarus, imagining that these people “just want to be like us”. Maybe not everything is perfect in the West, like most Westerners would have believed only a few years ago, but the sight of people wanting to join the West and fighting for freedom and democracy gave the Westerner some kind of complacent pleasure. It feels good to feel privileged after all.
Even after the Iraq and the Syrian wars, even after the financial crisis and China‘s increased influence, and for different reasons even after Donald Trump, to most people in the West Western dominance across the globe (that is US dominance) still seems to be the most natural thing in the world.