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  • Published: 4 April 2024
  • ISBN: 9781802065602
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 400

Age of Revolutions

Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present

The international best-selling author explores the revolutions—past and present—that define the chaotic, polarized and unstable age in which we live

Fareed Zakaria first warned of the threat of "illiberal democracy" two decades ago. Now comes Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present. A decade in the making, the book is based on deep research and conversations with world leaders from Emmanuel Macron to Lee Kuan Yew. In it Zakaria sets our era of populist chaos into the sweep of history.

Age of Revolutions tells the story of progress and backlash, of the rise of classical liberalism and of the many periods of rage and counter-revolution that followed seismic change. It begins with the upstart Dutch Republic, the first modern republic and techno-superpower where refugees and rebels flocked for individual liberty. That haven for liberalism was almost snuffed out by force – until Dutch ideas leapt across the English Channel in the so-called "Glorious Revolution." Not all revolutions were so glorious, however. The French Revolution shows us the dangers of radical change that is imposed top-down. Lasting change comes bottom-up, like the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the United States, which fueled the rise of the world’s modern superpowers and gave birth to the political divides we know today. Even as Britain and America boomed, technology unsettled society and caused backlash from machine-smashing Luddites and others who felt threatened by this new world.

In the second half of the book, Zakaria details the revolutions that have convulsed our times: globalization in overdrive, digital transformation, the rise of identity politics, and the return of great power politics with a vengeful Russia and an ascendant China. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jingping see a world upended by liberalism – and want to turn back the clock on democracy, women’s rights, and open societies. Even more dangerous than aggression abroad is democratic decay at home. This populist and cultural backlash that has infected the West threatens the very foundations of the world that the Enlightenment built – and that we all take too easily for granted.

The book warns us that liberalism’s great strength has been freeing people from arbitrary constraints—but its great weakness has been leaving individuals isolated, to figure out for themselves what makes for a good life. This void – the hole in the heart – can all too easily be filled by tribalism, populism, and identity politics. Today’s revolutions in technology and culture can even leave people so adrift that they turn against modernity itself.

  • Published: 4 April 2024
  • ISBN: 9781802065602
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 400

About the author

Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria is the editor of Newsweek International and writes a weekly column on international affairs. His books include the New York Times bestseller The Future of Freedom and his latest, The Post-American World. He lives in New York City.

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Praise for Age of Revolutions

Powerful ... Zakaria’s book will help readers feel honoured and grateful that we get to be part of this glorious and ongoing liberal journey. He understands that we liberals can’t just offer economic benefits; we also have to make the spiritual and civic case for our way of life

David Brooks, The New York Times

This is the indispensable book for understanding the world today. Fareed Zakaria tackles the central question of our age: What are the causes of the seismic social disruptions we are going through and the political backlashes that have ensued? Connecting five centuries of history to a deep understanding of our current anxieties, he shows how transformations in technology, economics, and politics interact. We are living through one of the most revolutionary ages in history, and the resulting disruptions have led to a clash between those who celebrate progress, open markets, and technology versus those who resist them. Zakaria argues that we must infuse our journey forward with moral meaning and restore a sense of pride in the ideals of freedom, individual rights, and democracy. The result is both a fascinating look at history and an inspiring vision for the future

Walter Isaacson

Zakaria [is] a lively writer and good storyteller ... [he] warns against revolutions that move too fast and displace too many people; it now seems that’s exactly what went wrong in the last 40 years with the rise of the global economy

Tim Wu, The New York Times

Zakaria believes that we can and do make progress. But he is wary of the assumption that history tends to move in the direction of ever-greater human flourishing ... Zakaria’s book represents an attempt to distinguish between revolutions that have inspired thermostatic reactions and revolutions that have endured

Gideon Lewis-Kraus, New Yorker

Zakaria has figured out policy wonkery and TV, and many points between. The Indian-born pundit could thus claim to be America’s best-known tutor on world events. Even by his standards, however, Age of Revolutions is breathtakingly ambitious ... Age of Revolutions successfully bridges the divide between the general reader and the academic. It is an easy read that offers fresh perspective. That is no mean feat

Edward Luce, Financial Times