Half a century ago, at the height of the Cold War and amidst a world economic crisis, the Western democracies were forced to undergo a profound transformation. Against what some saw as a full-scale 'crisis of democracy' - with race riots, anti-Vietnam marches and a wave of worker discontent - a new political-economic order was devised and the post-war social contract written anew.
In this epic narrative of the events that have shaped our own times, Simon Reid-Henry shows how liberal democracy, and Western history with it, was profoundly re-imagined when the post-war Golden Age ended. As the institutions of liberal rule were reinvented, a new generation of politicians emerged: Thatcher, Reagan, Mitterrand, Kohl. The late twentieth-century heyday they oversaw carried the Western democracies triumphantly to victory in the Cold War, ushering in an economic boom and a new spirit of optimism by the millennium. But the war on terror and the high drama of the financial crisis in 2007/8 shone a different light upon the decisions taken to secure capitalist democracy in the 1970s, laying the basis for the anti-liberal surge of recent times: from Viktor Orban and Marine le Pen, to Brexit and Donald Trump.
The present crisis of liberalism demands us to revisit these unscripted decades. The era we have lived through is closing out; democracy is turning on its axis once again. As this gripping history reminds us, the choices we make going forward require us first to understand where we have been.