How the history of liberal order and democratic politics since the 1930s explains ongoing threats to democracy and international order
The liberal democratic order that seemed so stable in North America and Western Europe has become precarious. James E. Cronin argues that liberalism has never been secure and that since the 1930s the international order has had to be crafted, redeployed, and extended in response to both victories and setbacks.
Beginning with the German and Japanese efforts in the 1930s to establish a system based on empire, race, economic protectionism, and militant nationalism, Cronin shows how the postwar system, established out of a revulsion at the ideas of fascism, repeatedly reinvented itself in the face of the Cold War, anticolonial insurgencies, the economic and political crises of the 1970s, the collapse of communism, the rise of globalization, and the financial crisis of 2008. Cronin emphasizes the links between internal and external politics in sustaining liberal order internationally and the domestic origins and correlates of present difficulties. Fragile Victory provides the context necessary to understand such diverse challenges as the triumph of Brexit, the election of Trump, the rise of populism, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
James E. Cronin is research professor of history at Boston College and a local affiliate of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Global Rules: America and Britain in a Disordered World. He splits his time between Watertown and Wellfleet, Massachusetts.
“Cronin wisely reminds us that the fates of democracy at home and the liberal international order abroad have long been intertwined—and that we should not complacently assume either is a default setting in the uncertain days ahead.”—M. E. Sarotte, author of Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate
“The peace and prosperity of the postwar decades seems inevitable today, but this book shows how precarious it really was. The lingering disputes of the period laid the foundations for our current disorder. Fragile Victory offers a compelling account of the sources of current international conflict and potentially pathways forward for the United States and its allies. Everyone concerned about the future of peace and democracy should read this powerful book.”—Jeremi Suri, author of Civil War By Other Means: America’s Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy
“Cronin shows how the post–Cold War global liberal order was always contingent and uncertain. By the early 2000s it was already under serious threat. And the most momentous challenges to liberalism and democracy came from within the democratic states themselves.”—Odd Arne Westad, author of The Cold War: A World History
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