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Despite the doom and gloom of financial crises, global terrorism, climate collapse, and the rise of the far-right, a number of leading intellectuals (Steven Pinker, Hans Rosling, Johan Norberg, and Matt Ridley, among others) have been arguing in recent years that the world is getting better and better. Extreme poverty is nearly eradicated, violence is at historic lows, and only mass pessimism keeps us from realizing how good we have it in the twenty-first century.
The Glass Half-Empty debunks the most important arguments given by these “New Optimists” and exposes their progress narrative as being little more than a very conservative defence of the status quo.
At a time when liberal democracy appears incapable of stemming the tide of authoritarian populism, and when laissez-faire capitalism is ill-equipped to deal with critical socio-economic problems like climate change, inequality, and the future of work, the real advocates of progress are those willing to challenge established orthodoxies rather than hope that the policies that got us this far are the best to lead us into an increasingly uncertain future.
Rodrigo Aguilera is a Mexican-born, London-based professional economist who has worked for Chatham House and The Economist Intelligence Unit with a specialty in economic and political risk analysis and forecasting, particularly on Latin America. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Universidad de las Américas – Puebla in Mexico as well as a master’s degree in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics. Some of his other scholarly interests include twentieth-century history, defense and security issues, international economics and Latin American current affairs. He is a frequent speaker in the UK on Latin American issues (particularly on Mexico) in both academic and business forums, and has been featured in major English-speaking and Latin American media. His writing has appeared in the Huffington Post where he previously had a contributor column and more recently in the London School of Economics LSE Blogs for Latin America and the Caribbean. He also maintains a personal website, Reasonability.org (a cynical thinking blog). He can be found on Twitter @raguileramx
“Since the end of the Cold War, we’ve lived in a world defined by the idea of progress: economies would grow endlessly, war between nations would cease, and the poor world would finally ‘catch up’ with the rich world. The Glass Half-Empty reveals, with surgical precision, what a lie this vision of the world really is. Aguilera exposes the ideological foundations of the progress narrative – an attempt to naturalise or disguise the economic, social and environmental contradictions created by the endless expansion of capitalism. The Glass Half Empty is a highly original, concise and readable polemic that acts as a perfect foil to the confected positivity of the ‘New Optimists’, while reminding us that a better world is, in fact, possible.”