Is Liberalism Doomed?
By the end of the Cold War, liberalism had emerged triumphant around much of the developed world — until the recent rise of populism in Europe and the U.S. Suddenly, the political landscape is looking ominous. What is liberalism's future? A debate among public intellectuals from London's Battle of Ideas Festival.
To many, Brexit seemed like a strange kind of glitch.
But the rise of "illiberal" democracies in Hungary and Poland, and the popularity of an alt-right party in Sweden, are creating a lot of uncertainty around the future of liberalism.
Everybody now is a Democrat...Vladimir Putin? Perfectly democratic. Orban ... Erdogan. They say they are just different kinds of Democrats ... they just don't want the liberal part of democracy.- Dr. Lukasz Pawlowski
As writer James Traub recently asserted in The Atlantic, 'the death of liberalism constitutes the publishing world's biggest mass funeral since the death of God half a century ago'. And he wonders: 'how can the quintessentially rationalist faith of liberalism flourish in an age that systematically demeans rationality?'
U.S. libertarian journalist Nick Gillespie says first we must recognize that we are in crisis — political authority around the world has greatly eroded to the point where what binds us together is weaker than what is pulling us apart.
In Hungary's illiberal democracy, Prime Minister Viktor Orban states that when individual rights and national interests collide, it is national interests that must take precedence. That's why his government has put up billboards and produced radio and TV campaigns with its anti-immigrant message — a message that's now in school textbooks. Mr. Orban's party has also engaged in rewriting the national constitution and reshaping the judiciary. According to The New York Times, President Trump's former strategist, Steve Bannon, describes Orban as: "a hero, the most significant guy on the scene right now."
Dr. Lukasz Pawlowski, managing editor of Poland's leading liberal magazine, reminds us that leaders like Orban say they have been elected, and that being elected nominally makes them democrats. However, Mr. Pawlowski concludes, you can sit in this electric chair called democracy, and be quite comfortable in it — until somebody flicks the switch.
In this third episode from The Battle of Ideas Festival, Dr. Lukasz Pawlowski, Rowena Davis, Nick Gillespie, and Dr. James Panton discuss a central issue of our time: What is Liberalism? The event was held at the Barbican Theatre in London, England.
- Dr. Lukasz Pawlowski, managing editor and columnist for Kultura Liberalna, a leading liberal monthly magazine.
- Rowena Davis, teacher and writer, co-author of Tangled up in Blue: Blue Labour and the Struggle for Labour's Soul.
- Nick Gillespie, U.S. libertarian journalist, editor-in-chief of Reason.com.
- Dr. James Panton, associate professor of philosophy, Open University.
- Selfishness is Killing Liberalism by James Traub, The Atlantic, February 19, 2018.
- In 'The Retreat of Western Liberalism,' How Democracy Is Defeating Itself, The New York Times, June 19, 2017.
- The Rise of Anti-Liberalism by Shadi Hami, The Atlantic, February 20, 2018.
- This is how democracies die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, The Guardian, January 21, 2018.
The Battle of Ideas Festival is presented by the Academy of Ideas at The Barbican in London. Battle of Ideas 2018 will take place on 13 & 14 October.
**This episode was produced by Mary O'Connell.