Francis Fukuyama, the University of Stanford maven who famously declared the “end of history” and the victory of liberal democracy after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, has sounded alarm bells for the defeat of liberal democracy by resurgent nationalism and autocratic regimes.
Photo Insert: Francis Fukuyama famously declared the “end of history” and the victory of liberal democracy after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Fukuyama wrote for the May-June 2022 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine that “liberalism is in peril. The fundamentals of liberal societies are tolerance of difference, respect for individual rights, and the rule of law, and all are under threat as the world suffers what can be called a democratic recession or even a depression.”
Freedom House says political rights and civil liberties around the world have fallen each year for the last 16 years. Rather than strengthen the bulwark of liberalism, globalization has sustained autocracies such as China and Russia and democracy has suffered black eyes in Hungary and Turkey, with liberal democracies such as India and the United States also backsliding.
“In each of these cases, nationalism has powered the rise of illiberalism. Illiberal leaders, their parties, and their allies have harnessed nationalist rhetoric in seeking greater control of their societies. They denounce their opponents as out-of-touch elites, effete cosmopolitans, and globalists,” Fukuyama noted.
He stressed, rather belatedly, that this is the reason why it is all the more important for liberals not to give up on the idea of the nation.
“They should recognize that in truth, nothing makes the universalism of liberalism incompatible with a world of nation-states. National identity is malleable, and it can be shaped to reflect liberal aspirations and to instill a sense of community and purpose among a broad public."
He continued: "For proof of the abiding importance of national identity, look no further than the trouble Russia has run into in attacking Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Ukraine did not have an identity separate from that of Russia and that the country would collapse immediately once his invasion began."
"Instead, Ukraine has resisted Russia tenaciously precisely because its citizens are loyal to the idea of an independent, liberal democratic Ukraine and do not want to live in a corrupt dictatorship imposed from without. With their bravery, they have made clear that citizens are willing to die for liberal ideals, but only when those ideals are embedded in a country they can call their own," Fukuyama concluded.