This famous book by two prominent intellectuals, Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes, completely reshapes our understanding of the crisis of liberalism and answers the question of why the West, after winning the Cold War, lost its political balance.

In the early 1990's, the spread of liberal democracy to the East was expected. Yet the transformation of Eastern European countries has spawned a bitter rejection of liberalism itself, not only in the East but also in the heart of the West. The authors, however, believe that the end of the age of imitation does not mean that people will stop appreciating freedom and pluralism, that liberal democracy will disappear, or that reactionary authoritarianism and nativism will rule the world. This means a return, but not to the world conflict of two missionary nations, one liberal and the other communist, but a return to a pluralistic and competitive world, where no center of military and economic power will seek to expand its own value system around the world. Such an international order is by no means unprecedented, given that the main feature of world history has been cultural, institutional and ideological diversity, not uniformity – an observation that suggests that the end of the age of imitation is also the end of an unfortunate historical anomaly.

The end of the age of imitation is a brilliant work from the sphere of political history in which Krastev and Holmes prove that the supposed end of communism is only the beginning of the age of autocrats. Looking back at historical events in the last thirty years, the authors also show that the greatest strength of the wave of populist xenophobia in Eastern Europe stems from resentment imposed by the imitation of the West after the 1989 changes.

The book The Light that Failed: A Reckoning won the Lionel Gelber Award for 2020.


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While the citizens of other countries know a lot about Americans, Americans have little idea of how the rest of the world thinks and lives. Americans have never heard of non-Anglophone movie stars and have only the vaguest idea of what’s at stake in other countries’ political conflicts. This gross asymmetry of understanding creates a strategic vulnerability.

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What distinguishes the national populists is that they never apologize for anything their nation has ever done in its entire history. To behave like a villain while presenting oneself as a victim is the nationalistic populist’s signature conceit.

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Central European elites, at first, genuinely embraced imitation of Western values and institutions as the quickest path to political and economic reform. They were aspiring converts, whose identification of normalization with Westernization eventually allowed a reactionary counter-elite to capture the most politically potent symbols of national identity. 


  • ISBN: 978-953-8075-84-1
  • Dimensions: 142x205 mm
  • Number of pages: 264
  • Cover: paperback
  • Year of the edition: 2020
  • Original title: The Light that Failed: A Reckoning
  • Original language: English
  • Translation: Marko Maras

„The main qualities of this work are: a detailed analysis of the contemporary political and social situation in various countries, in which transition has become an ideologue that has lost both its explanatory power and political appeal; an original comparative link based on the concept of „political imitation“; finally, revealing the diversity of the political phenomenon, which in particular in the analysis of democratic processes shows that the goal of staying in power is often more important than other goals, including the participation of citizens and wider civil society in important decisions for the country and the entire international order.“

prof. dr. sc. Vjeran Katunarić

„Krastev and Holmes interpret the present in an innovative and accessible way from the perspective of the young and stumbling post-communist democracies of the former Eastern Europe, calling it the age of imitation. Eastern Europe initially tried to imitate Europe, but eventually, instead of westernization, there was a proliferation of illiberal political and social processes as we know them from the east of the continent (Poland, Hungary, Russia...) and in the old, western democracies.“

doc. dr. sc. Višeslav Raos