In the 2016 CBC Massey Lectures, former Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General and international relations specialist Jennifer Welsh delivers a timely, intelligent, and fascinating analysis of twenty-first-century geopolitics.
In 1989, as the Berlin Wall crumbled and the Cold War dissipated, the American political commentator Francis Fukuyama wrote a famous essay, entitled “The End of History,” which argued that the demise of confrontation between Communism and capitalism, and the expansion of Western liberal democracy, signalled the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural and political evolution, and the path toward a more peaceful world. But a quarter of a century after Fukuyama’s bold prediction, history has returned: arbitrary executions, attempts to annihilate ethnic and religious minorities, the starvation of besieged populations, invasion and annexation of territory, and the mass movement of refugees and displaced persons. It has also witnessed cracks and cleavages within Western liberal democracies as a result of deepening economic inequality.
The Return of History argues that our own liberal democratic society was not inevitable, but that we must all, as individual citizens, take a more active role in its preservation and growth.
Welsh's book, part of the CBC's erudite Massey Lecture Series, is insightful, frighteningly timely, and highly accessible. With four broad, well-examined analyses of the rise of ISIS, global displacement and refugee crises, the resurgence of the Cold War, and growing institutional inequality in the West Welsh (At Home in the World) refutes political scientist Francis Fukuyama's premature 1989 declaration of the triumph of Western liberal democracy and advent of global peace. Welsh's impressive body of published geopolitical and international relations commentary and work as an adviser to the U.N. Secretary General make her the ideal writer to do so. Her astute, concise observations and wealth of knowledge in her field let her frame an argument for eschewing complacency and a cogent, extremely well annotated call to arms. Her central thesis can, perhaps, best be espoused by this line from "The Return of Mass Flight" section: "Narratives of fear are crowding out our humanitarian obligations." But despite the dire, and apt, nature of her warnings, Welsh recommends hope and action: "Draw attention to injustice... demand greater equality... stand up for fairness." She skillfully answers realpolitik questions with a seamless, finely honed argument deserving of broad readership and study.