Bold political elites and unique forms of social order brought the West to world dominance, but both are weakening dramatically in the contemporary period. The Endangered West makes the case for the continuation of Western power on as wide a global basis as is prudent. Is the survival of Western influence possible, or must we resign ourselves to its eventually being subordinated to more ruthless powers? Higley lays out the main policy lines that successful leadership will have to follow to preserve and strengthen Western societies. These include avoiding futile involvements in the internal problems of non-Western countries and preserving sufficient social order to permit public and private organizations to function. The West will also have to find a way to regularize treatment of the growing number of those who lack employment; invent new forms of useful work for Westerners to perform; inhibit large in-migrations, and discourage population growth. Above all, the West must address the threat of environmental disaster. There is no certain result in the struggle, but such measures will help to prevent a slide into despotism or a lapse into barbarism. Half the battle is to hold on to what the West has and, if possible, extend it. Progress will be made if elites and opinion leaders address societies' problems more competently. If the West's prestige is restored, world tensions may gradually subside, making meeting global problems more possible.
John Higley has long been recognized as one of the foremost scholars of elite studies. The Endangered West is in some respects his magnum opus. While he recognizes that the prosperity and security of western societies is not primarily due to their virtue, he nonetheless sees them as an important human accomplishment that morally requires defending. There is much to be thankful for in this book.
Murray Milner, Jr., University of Virginia, in Contemporary Sociology (Vol. 47, No. 3)
Introduction: Paradigms and Explanation in Social Science
1 Limits to Political and Social Aspiration
2 The West's Accidental and Unique Development
3 Elites and Political Development in the West
4 Ideological Illusions in Western Societies
5 Social Orders in the Post-Industrial West
6 The West in a Threatening World
7 Limits on the West
Epilogue: The Liberal Ideal as a Realistic Political Standard