The fall of liberal democracy?

In his book The end of the story and the last man, Francis Fukuyama asserts that with the rise of Western liberal democracy after the Cold War, society has reached a point where ideological change can no longer occur. Liberal democracy has therefore become the definitive form of human government since it offers the conditions through which one can progress towards the establishment of a “universal and homogeneous” society.

About twenty-five years ago, the concept of liberal democracy swept the world, and through mass unrest the center of power shifted from the state to the people – the Soviet Union had shifted collapsed, new democracies were emerging in Europe and the apartheid regime in Africa was disintegrating. It was a giant step towards freedom; or that’s what it seemed.

While the ideals of Western liberal democracy encompass some type of universal framework, i.e. individual freedom as a universal characteristic, the reality today in many parts of the developing world is radically different. This is because freedom and democracy are dialectically opposed. The West mistakenly confuses the two ideas and fails to recognize that liberal democracy only leads to the institutionalization of freedom. Its framework is full of inconsistent theoretical conceptions.

Considering that the very concept of universality has been overturned by post-structuralists (no, not post-modernists), Fukuyama’s claim is only true for some First World countries, where most of the preconditions of basis of democracy, i.e. quality education, free media, etc. have been encountered. But once the veil of ideology is lifted, it becomes clear that this has not been the case either.

Historically, the idea of ​​liberal democracy has been increasingly taken up and used by right-wing populists – here we have to consider that Trump was democratically elected – to make the masses believe in a utopian version of society. For a liberal democracy to achieve its ultimate goal of a cohesive society, it must ensure ultimate freedom and ultimate security for every individual. The nature of politics, however, is not only of the individual per se, but of the individual in relation to another. It is because of this tension that the very idea of ​​liberalism turns into something sinister.

To reassert itself, and for its own survival, liberalism needs an enemy that seriously threatens individual rights and freedoms, whether in the form of Communist China and its BRI or the rise of extremism and weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The annihilation of this other automatically becomes a necessity in the liberal democratic order.

This is how liberalism works as an ideology while creating the illusion of instilling a moral standard. In reality, it is used: to seduce and distract the working class of First World countries through brilliant ideals; and strengthen the mechanisms of capitalism, that is, protect the wealth and assets that countries and individuals have accumulated over the years, either through colonial prosecutions or through relentless exploitation (this is where neoliberalism takes precedence, but it is a subject of separate debate). In the process, individual rights and freedoms are blatantly violated, especially when the system is threatened.

Over the years, liberal democracies have manifested themselves in destructive forms, in turn giving rise to illiberal democracies around the world. Thus, governments and capitalists openly violate the rule of law and deprive citizens of their basic rights and freedoms in order to maintain the status quo. The coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing ecological crisis have highlighted exactly that. In the wake of multiple crises and growing global tensions, one can clearly see the disintegration of the liberal-democratic and neo-liberal order. The billion dollar question now is: what will it replace it with in the years to come? Or will he somehow find a way to strut?

Posted in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2021.

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