Will Liberalism Last Through the Current Crises?

The outgoing year was not only difficult in terms of challenges and crises. It also marked a point where, maybe for the first time since the end of the East-West Conflict, liberalism came under significant pressure.

Let’s assume that liberalism rests most of all on three assumptions: One, the international system should rest on a set of rules of behavior that is guaranteed by the United Nations. Two, domestic constraints and structures matter a lot for the policies pursued by a respective government. Three, democratic peace is an assumption that has been proved right mostly. So the furthering of democracy, transparency, the division of powers and the protection of minorities’ rights are not just fancy ideas, and not only the foundational principles of the EU, but the pillars of a healthy way of interaction between actors in the global landscape in general.

Now, in 2015 there were remarkable challenges to these ideas. That Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi hold on to different ideas was no big surprise. But a number of European leaders are also thinking along similar lines – most prominently, the Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, and the Turkish President Erdogan. The new Polish government may be added to this list. And we cannot forget about radical populist movements and parties, most prominently in France and Sweden, but also in the Netherlands and Finland, as well as to some extent in Greece, Spain, and Italy. Muslim fundamentalism constitutes another, maybe even more formidable challenge to a liberalist order.

So the first question of the New Year is:
Is Fukuyama’s idea about the end of the ideational development of history finally outdated? Or is liberalism still a valid roadmap for social and political developments?

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  1. Dimitrios Triantaphyllou 2 years ago

    Yes, there is a decline of liberalism across the globe. In fact, according to democracy expert Larry Diamond, since 2006 “the expansion of freedom and democracy” in the world has come to a halt. This trend very much coincides with the G Zero world thesis propounded by Ian Bremmer that the US-led geopolitical order is in decline. As a result, the G 7 context becomes irrelevant and is replaced by the rise of a number of 2nd tier nations (many of which belong to the G20) that are in growing disharmony among themselves. The danger is that this pushback is occurring in a number of key strategic states like Turkey, Ukraine, South America, Korea, and South Africa among others.
    The contestation to the liberal order also comes from within as the European Union and its member states have had to deal with the sustained presence of economic troubles and the rise of populism with the far right and far left of the political spectrum gaining greater traction than ever before in a number of European countries. The populist entrenchment in the Republican Party also suggests that the Unites States is not immune to the populist backlash.
    On the other hand, while liberal democracy seems to be backtracking in many countries and there is a resurgence of authoritarianism across the globe, the alternatives to liberalism are not necessarily inspiring or stable substitute models of governance. It may be thus be too early to throw in the towel while keeping the faith and staying the course may be the best approach.

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  2. Sergei Medvedev 2 years ago

    The end of the End of History does not mean the end of ideology. Having lost its Universalist ambition, liberalism has survived as one of the many ideologies, alongside nationalism, religious fundamentalism, Communism… This is no longer a late modern liberal utopia, but a postmodern pluralist and relativist mosaic.

    The ideational development of history is far from over; rather on the contrary, nations and groups are more than ever motivated by contested ideologies, identities and beliefs. In a sense, this resembles the ideological pluralism in Europe at the dawn of Modernity, in the 17th-18th centuries. Liberalism has once again to prove its value and attractiveness, also on its home turf, in Europe and in the US. It has new interesting perspectives at the digital frontier, in the new economy and the network society, as well as in the identity games on the ideological marketplace. As one of the foundational principles of the Western (and global) society, liberalism is contested and challenged, but far from finished.

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  3. Justas Paleckis 2 years ago

    For several decades after the breakup of the USSR and the collapse of the Soviet communism Fukuyama’s conclusion about the end of history and the triumph of liberalism had its reason to be believable. Though, even during that period there were some violations of the UN Charter.
    It is getting increasingly clear that the year 2008 – the beginning of the global financial-economic crisis – marked a borderline of the period when the world was bogged down into permanent crisis. In this situation first of all the UN and regional international organizations should be strengthened. In reality things are quite the opposite. Before 2008 the EU was an example for the other continents. Current conflicts that can destroy this so necessary and never before seen formation in world history, send an alarm message to other continents. Voices which are getting louder and louder and speak about a multi-speed Europe: countries that violate “the rules of the game” (Hungary, Poland – there will probably be more, including old EU states) should be left in the rear-guard.
    It will be necessary, perhaps, to get used to the fact that the territories of the “classical liberalism” countries will not expand but shrink on the world map. Maybe this would not be so bad, if there will be established a greater variety of models which would ensure basic human and nations rights even in a broader interpretation; if the world’s countries with the initiative of the great powers will have the determination to rebuild the UN and to give them more authority in response to the new and very dangerous challenges. Otherwise the prospects may be bleak.

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  4. Frauke Austermann 2 years ago

    The current challenges to liberalism do not imply liberalism’s “game over”.
    In fact, liberalism has never been uncontested, even when Fukuyama was still fashionable.
    Let’s just think of 9/11, the conflict in Ukraine, or the – in our liberal eyes – meager results of the Arab Spring. All this happened before anyone ever heard of ISIS / Daesh. The problem is that not everybody benefits (subjectively or objectively) from (neo-)liberal ideas and their empirical consequences. Therefore, people look for other ideas or ideologies to make sense of their lives. All this is not new.
    What’s rather new (and worrying) is the decline of liberalism within the political construct that fundamentally embodies liberal ideas, not least since the Copenhagen Criteria were formulated: the European Union and its member states, established and new. Proofs are the rise of the Front National in France, Victor Orban’s regime in Hungary, or the Polish authoritarian turn under the PIS party. The same goes for fractions of the so-called “Alternative for Germany”(AfD) and the large-scale PEGIDA demonstrations in (mostly but not exclusively) Eastern Germany. All these parties, groupings and initiatives claim to save liberal values through clearly illiberal means. This is contradictory to say the least. Most of all, it’s dangerous.

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  1. Ye Shengxuan 2 years ago

    There is no need to worry about this desperating situation, because the world politics is full of undoing and instability. All we need to do are just to strength the capacity of nations, and unify the peace-loving and righteous powers to build a better world.

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  2. taneczne 2 years ago

    I know this website presents quality based posts and extra data, is there any other web page which offers these stuff in quality?

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  3. Nanli 2 years ago

    Even if the liberal democracy camp continues to expand, the struggle of human pursuit of their self recognition never ends in liberal democracy, but also, this pursuit of human self recognition never stops, or converted to a particular form.”It came from a Chinese newsweb,which I can’t agree more.

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