Co-written by Alexander J. Motyl
What a difference 30 years makes. In the early 1990s, thanks to Francis Fukuyama’s celebrated “End of History” thesis, the gist of which was that liberalism had won the war of ideas, and Thomas Friedman’s best-selling Lexus and the Olive Tree, a full-throated paean to globalization, the air was thick with optimism. Liberal democracy and market capitalism were, it appeared, the wave of the future. Democracy promotion was all the rage in think tanks and universities. Linearity seemed to be destin
Now, however, Fukuyama ruminates about democracy’s decline. Friedman, with nary a blush, blames globalization, once his salvationist Zeitgeist, for having produced economic inequality and social disruption. Indeed, dire warnings about democracy’s death (not merely its decline) abound, and talk of “de-globalization” and tariff wars has become commonplace—and in places like Bloomberg.com no less.
In the wake of the pessimism prevalent in the center, a “populist” politics has re-emerged and shaken the world’s democracies. Given that leaders like Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban, Jair Bolsonaro, and Matteo Salvini exemplify the moment, we generally associate this approach with the right. But a similar tendency to suggest simplistic solutions to complex problems can be found as much on the far left. The right typically proposes policies that promise to restore some real or imagined glorious past, while the left typically proffers some future utopia.
Read the full article in The American Interest.