The West is suddenly suffused with self-doubt.
Centuries of superiority and global influence appeared to reach a new summit with the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the countries, values and civilization of the West appeared to have won the dark, difficult battle with Communism.
That victory seemed especially sweet after the turn of China toward capitalism, which many thought presaged a slow evolution to middle-class demands for individual rights and transparent justice — toward a form of democracy. But is the embrace of Western values inevitable? Are Western values, essentially Judeo-Christian ones, truly universal?
The history of the last decade is a bracing antidote to such easy thinking. The rise of authoritarian capitalism has been a blow to assumptions, made popular by Francis Fukuyama, that liberal democracy has proved to be the most reliable and lasting political system.