How the West Was Lost

The Decline of a Myth and the Search for New Stories

October 2019 9781787381933 344pp


The West is limping along. Weighed down by economic woes, the seemingly endless war on terror, the rise of authoritarian politics and the declining power of religion as a unifying force, the Western crisis is existential and potentially fatal. How did we get here?

Ben Ryan’s diagnosis is simple: the West has lost its purpose. Its defining ideal—a sense of universal morals, and of constant progress towards them—no longer unites or convinces its own people. Following a series of ‘system failures’, Westerners—from urban millennials to post-industrial workers— have lost faith in the West as a moral force. Yet there is a chance for redemption: forging a new shared myth of the West, and reviving its great values for a diverse, forward-looking world.

This smart and thoughtful book explores how the West was lost and how we might save it.


‘[How the West Was Lost is an] urgent, persuasive, densely documented, but eminently readable analysis of the current crisis of the West.’ — Church Times

‘[Ryan’s] approach gives readers hope for progress toward a better future.’ — Foreign Policy

How the West Was Lost is full of smart ideas and lightly-worn learning.’ — The Critic

‘A book of big ideas: an engaging, thought-provoking diagnosis of why, despite living in an era of unparalleled wealth and prosperity, too many have lost faith in the promise of “the West”. Ryan offers a roadmap for how to resurrect faith in its founding ideals, our only hope for rescuing the West from its own demons of self-doubt, demagogic populism, and a loss of moral purpose.’ — Brian Klaas, Washington Post columnist, and author of The Despot’s Accomplice and The Despot’s Apprentice

‘Ben Ryan is one of our most interesting young thinkers. His book shows that we can’t understand the evolution of our politics without looking at Western liberalism’s roots in Western Christianity.’ — David Goodhart, Policy Exchange, author of The Road to Somewhere


Ben Ryan is Head of Research at the think tank Theos. He is the editor of Fortress Britain? Ethical Approaches to Immigration Policy for a Post-Brexit Britain and has authored several Theos reports. He holds degrees in European Politics from the LSE and in Theology and Religious Studies from Cambridge.

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