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On the Edifying End of Liberal Democracy

Published on 28th February 2020

OnThe Edifying End of Liberal Democracy

In the summer of July 2014, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivered a speech that many interpreted as the latest confirmation of liberal democracy’s incoming death.[1] In no uncertain terms, Orban declared his intention to create that the “era of liberal democracies is over.” He outlined his vision for a new Hungary, one which he explicitly posed as an alternative to the model of liberal democracy: nationalist, Christian, and most importantly, illiberal. Orban has since fashioned himself into a defender—one might say crusader—of a beleaguered Christian nation, guarding Hunagry’s original heritage against Muslim invaders and the scourge of multiculturalism which spawned them. His talk of illiberalism has been no mere ruse, as the ongoing erosion of press freedom and civil well testify. Yet spite of Orban’s increasingly illiberal—many say authoritarian—tendencies, his electoral victories have been deemed legitimate by outside observers.[2] It is the supposedly democratic roots of Orban’s rule that has made his aggressive, xenophobic nationalism so especially confounding to pro-democracy Western political analysts. Orban appears to have a popular mandate. Perhaps no scene better captures the bizarre paradox of Orban’s rule than his May 10 acceptance speech in Budapest, where, just as he began his fourth term following a landslide electoral victory, he declared that his victory evidenced the Hungarian rejection of a “shipwrecked 21st century liberal democracy.”[3]

Except that there is no paradox. Orban’s consolidation of power, taken in the context of similarly illiberal rulers in Russia and Turkey—both of whom Orban has explicitly cited as inspirations—has led many to warn that liberal democracy is in crisis.[4] I agree. I do think liberal democracy is in crisis. I don’t think, however, that this crisis should be too much of a cause for concern. If anything, the melodramatic handwringing over liberal democracy’s supposedly premature expiration date, and the increasingly frenzied calls to salvage it from the encroaching forces of evil, only illustrate ever more forcefully the dogmatic pathologies that induced its collapse in the first place. To be clear, I am not opposed to democracy. Indeed, as will soon be clear, I am arguing against democracy on democratic terms. My premises are democratic ones. I contend in that in our contemporary situation, liberal democracy has become a contradiction in terms, in that liberalism has come to manifest in forms actively corrosive to democracy. The inherent tension between liberalism and democracy has generated the weaknesses that now threaten to collapse both altogether. Only by problematizing the alliance between democracy and liberalism—by recognizing that they are not natural allies—can we recognize the roots of our crisis, and with it the possibility of developing viable political alternatives. I argue that, contrary to popular belief, illiberal ideologies like nationalism or Islamism are as compatible with democracy as liberalism is as incompatible with it. Once we recognize that a democracy undergirded by nationalist or religious ideologies, though possibly illiberal, is more democratic than one undergirded by liberalism, we open ourselves to new horizons of political possibility.

My aim, ultimately, is not to argue for an illiberal democratic future. My discussion of illiberal democracy is more strategic in nature. Illiberal democracy serves as a particularly valuable case-study because it both exposes liberal democracy’s flaws and illuminates a path towards political arrangements beyond it. A defense of illiberal democracy, because it is at once deeply familiar and deeply alien, represents a powerful starting point for rendering palatable new political possibilities—one amongst many. Our way forward, then, lies not in a rejection of democracy, or even a rejection of liberal democracy, but in an acceptance of its cousins and, perhaps, its enemies. The most practical option for our future political trajectory, I contend, is one that embraces the possibility of multiple modernities—that is, of various co-existing liberal and non-liberal forms of governance. I think, ultimately, that our crumbling faith in liberal democracy is an opportunity for political growth rather than a harbinger of the apocalypse—an occasion for cautious optimism rather than dogmatic pessimism.

Francis Fukuyama wrote that at the end of history, “the state that emerges … is liberal insofar as it recognizes and protects through a system of law man’s universal right to freedom, and democratic insofar as it exists only with the consent of the governed.”[5] Fukuyama, like many of the political commentators who followed him, failed to distinguish between democracy as a mechanism for the legitimate transfer of power and democracy as a set of substantive normative (liberal) commitments. As we shall see, this conceptual failure blinded him and his contemporaries to the possibility of a non-liberal democracy. 

Contrary to Fukuyama’s assertion, a democratic state need not be concerned with “man’s universal right to freedom.” Democracy, in its simplest form, merely refers to the mechanism of competitive elections by which power is peacefully transferred. It implies no normative principles nor does it abide by any philosophical presuppositions. It is amoral, in other words, concerned primarily with ensuring regime change without bloodshed rather than establishing any basic ethical or political commitments. This is the minimalist, Schumpeterian conception of democracy as defended by the likes of Adam Przeworski, who calls it “just a system in which rulers are elected by competitive elections.”[6] Then there is “liberal democracy,” which is what Fukuyama meant when he spoke of democracy. Unlike procedural democracy, liberal democracy is predicated on substantive ethical commitments. Under this definition, democracy is not merely the peaceful transfer of power via competitive elections: it is also characterized by free speech, religious pluralism, and separation of church and state. Fareed Zakaria avoided repeating Fukyama’s error in his book The Future of Freedom when he observed that “this bundle of freedoms has nothing intrinsically to do with democracy” as a mechanism of transferring power based on the popular will.[7] Liberal democracy, in other words, is grounded in principles beyond simple majoritarian rule. The will of the people is to be respected, but the will of the people is also expected to conform to liberal constitutionalism.

Thus we arrive at the tension inherent to liberal democracy. How can we say the people’s will is paramount if we circumscribe it within certain (specifically liberal) parameters? Fareed Zakaria’s recognition of this tension led him to discuss the possibility of “illiberal democracy”: a democracy with free and fair elections that nonetheless does not guarantee the full spectrum of civil liberties expected of liberal democracy. The term “illiberal democracy” has since caught on in academic discourse, though not without its fair share of controversy. Indeed, some commentators have outright rejected the validity of a distinction between liberal and illiberal democracy. Following Fukuyama, they presume that any functioning democracy is necessarily a liberal one. Perhaps Janos Kornai, for whom the concept of illiberal democracy is a “dead end,” voiced this perspective best: “illiberal democracy is like an atheist pope: the adjectival structure itself is contradictory.”[8] It is an “oxymoron.”[9] Jan-Warner Muller, in his piece “The Problem with Illiberal Democracy,” argued that freedom of speech, media pluralism, and minority protection are fundamental rather than incidental to democracy.[10]

The claim that all non-liberal democracies are by definition non-democracies is, ironically, not a very democratic one. It ignores an important reality: that many millions of people do not or are not willing to embrace every tenet of liberal democracy, that indeed many may desire the right to vote without its adjacent normative commitments. These days, disenchantment with liberal democracy is more popular than ever. As Andrew A. Michta has noted, “members of the rising generation increasingly see democracy as either so abstract a concept that it seems to have little direct connection to their experiences or as obstacle to the necessary wholesale transformation, or even abolition, of our obsolescent political systems.”[11] Roberto Stefan Roa and Yascha Mounk, after defining support for democracy in liberal terms—entailing “a commitment to liberal values, such as the protection of key rights and civil liberties, as well as a willingness to use the institutions of liberal democracy to effect political change”—concluded that modern citizens have “become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public opinion, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives.”[12] Clearly the idea of illiberal governance has some mass appeal. I therefore agree with Jeffrey Isaac when he argues that “to stipulate by semantic fiat that the justifications offered by Orban et al are against not just liberal democracy but democracy itself is to refuse to take seriously the potent, if perhaps toxic, ideological brew that many millions of citizens are apparently eager to imbibe.”[13]

The utter unwillingness of (some) Western intellectual elite to entertain the possibility of illiberal democracy evidences the enduring sway of liberal dogma. Perhaps there is no greater illustration of this slavish devotion to liberalism than Fareed Zakaria’s conclusion in his aforementioned The Future of Freedom. Zakaria, after noting the opposition between liberalism and democracy, ultimately concluded that in a contest between the two, liberalism must win out. If both are trapped in a sinking ship, it is liberalism, not democracy, which we should strive to salvage.[14] Liberalism, after all, supplies a moral backbone for a political system, whereas democracy comes with no such guarantees. 

Zakaria, in making this argument, exposes the instrumentalist function that democracy has come to hold for much of the liberal elite. Democracy is good insofar as it legitimates liberal doctrine. Once democracy itself becomes a threat to liberalism, it must go. This conviction that liberalism is the highest political good, one that must defended at all costs, has catapulted liberal democracy into the jaws of crisis.

Cas Mudde, in his excellent book On Extremism and Democracy in Europe, observed that the main contemporary challenges to democracy have come from within rather than from without. While the illiberal actions of mainstream parties like Hungary’s Fidesz obviously share some blame, the more pernicious culprits are the liberal elite, the technocrats and bureaucrats puling the strings from Brussels. Mudde does not hesitate to lay some of the blame for liberal democracy’s decreasing popularity at the feet of these elites’ increasingly antidemocratic tendencies. “By forcing national governments to continue on a path of European integration that is not, or no longer, supported by the majority of their population,” Mudde argued, “they breed and radicalize anti-democratic and anti-EU sentiments.” Indeed, it is the EU elite who “increasingly constrain the already limited avenues for democratic popular control of the process of European integration, most notably by pressuring national governments to refrain from referendums on important EU decisions.”[15] Faced with mass disapproval of their liberal internationalist, globalist capitalist, culturally individualist project, the EU elite have doubled down on the agenda rather than reforming it. Again, the ease with which they are willing to dispense with the “democratic” component of liberal democracy testifies to the dogma of modern liberalism.[16]

So blinded are the elite by their liberal fanaticism that they fail to comprehend its complicity in the rise of authoritarian regimes. As Patrick Deneen noted in Why Liberalism Failed, “today’s widespread yearning for a strong leader, one with the will to take back popular control over liberalism’s forms of bureaucratized government and globalized economy, comes after decades of liberal dismantling of cultural norms and political habits essential to self-governance.” For Deneen, the central premise of the liberal thinking—the primacy of the individual—has fostered society-wide alienation. Economic liberalization has generated a steep inequality of income that has left many in financial limbo, while cultural liberalization has eroded social cohesion. Perpetual mobility is the order of the day, further straining communal bonds. The dissolution of a shared cultural tradition has eliminated normative standards, alienating individuals from one another and engendering a degree of conflict that can only be mediated by an ever-expanding centralized state, one whose coercive apparatus has come to substitute for traditional forms of authority grounded in the community, like religion.[17]

Much of Deneen’s critique was anticipated by Christopher Lasch, who made similar arguments in his seminal The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy. Indeed, despite being put to paper nearly two decades prior, Lasch’s critique is even timelier than Deneen’s, if only because it emphasizes the fundamentally communitarian character of a functional democracy. As Lasch put it, “self-governing communities, not individuals, are the basic units of democratic society.” Contrary to what liberals believe, Lasch insisted, “it is the character of citizens,” not liberal institutions, that sustain democracy. Democracy cannot survive in the absence of civic virtue. Community, with its cultivation of responsibility and accountability, supplies exactly such virtue. As such, “it is the decline of these communities, more than anything else, that calls the future of democracy into question.”[18] In other words, the essential tenet of liberal creed—the sacred autonomy of the individual and the many non-negotiable rights that said autonomy implies—weakens democracy to the extent that it weakens communal bonds. Lasch’s critique is so powerful because it suggests that liberalism disables liberal democracy. Liberal democracy, so long as it does not devise means of mitigating the full impact of its liberal ideals, threatens to collapse into a regime of liberal totalitarianism.

By identifying collectivities, rather than individuals, as the most important ingredient for democratic success, Lasch builds and defends a theoretical foundation for illiberal democracy. He suggests as much with his comments on both nationalism and religion. He argues “middle class nationalism,” for all of its “unattractive features,” ultimately “provided a common ground, common standards, a common frame of reference without which society devolves into nothing more than contending factions.” Nationalism engendered “a highly developed sense of place and a respect for historical continuity.” Nationalism, in other words, helped foster the sort of cohesive community so integral to producing politically engaged citizens invested in the public welfare (a far cry from the liberal elite) and therefore in possession of democratic habits of mind. Religion supplied fertile ground for the production of similar kinds of civic virtue. Indeed, he argues that liberal democracy has historically “lived off the borrowed capital of moral and religious traditions antedating the rise of liberalism.”[19] For Lasch, it is the common moral culture fostered by community—local, regional, national—and the religious traditions embodied by said community that ensures democracy’s survival.

Considering liberalism’s profound ability to effect massive cultural and social transformation—or destruction, depending on one’s point of view—it should come as no surprise that many would resist it. As Mark Lilla noted, many non-American peoples “prize goods that individualism destroys, like deference to tradition, a commitment to place, respect for elders, obligations to family and clan, a devotion to piety and virtue.” The conviction that societies of illiberal dispositions can embrace liberal democracy constitutes “the rocks on which the hopes for Arab democracy keep shattering.”[20]

I want to dwell on this last point—the dismal failure of liberal democracy in the Arab-Muslim world—because it debunks the idea that contemporary Western liberalism is universally exportable. It’s not that Muslims don’t like the idea of democracy; indeed, most contemporary Muslim societies believe that democracy is the best form of government. [21] However, most contemporary Muslim societies also want to mix religion and politics, electing a government that promotes a particularly Islamic vision of the good life rather than merely arbitrating between competing visions a la secular liberal democracy. I therefore concur with Shadi Hamid when he argues that democracy in the Middle East, should it ever take root there, will be illiberal. This might very well be healthy for democracy—as we saw with Lasch, religion supplies the sort of shared moral framework critical for the maintenance of democracy.

Of course, for many liberals, the idea of an Islamic democracy is as much as a non-starter as the idea of a nationalist or managed or any other form of illiberal democracy. A democratic order founded on an Islamic worldview will not feel obligated to guarantee every item on the liberal checklist of non-negotiable individual rights and freedoms. Like any other moral project, an Islamic democratic order will “intrude on private conduct and personal freedoms, on the very choices that citizens made, or didn’t make, on a daily basis.” [22] For example, although Indonesia is often praised as a rare example of secular Muslim democracy, roughly 72 percent of its Muslims favor rule by Islamic law. In some areas of Indonesia, sharia bylaws requiring that female civil servants wear headscarves have already been implemented.[23] Such moral policing may be very far from the liberal ideal, but it may very well be a perfect fulfillment of the democratic one.[24] Not by chance did so many Islamist parties sweep into electoral victory in the early days of the Arab Spring. Consider Tunisia, where the Islamist Ennahda Party won the first elections in a landslide despite boasting virtually no preexisting organizational structures. This almost instantaneous success reflected “a latent Islamization of attitudes and a popular predisposition toward the mixing of religion and politics.” [25] Indeed, if given the choice, the average Muslim would vote an Islamist party into power. History has repeatedly demonstrated the truth of this statement. In 1989, when Algerians voted in local free elections for the first time, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won 62 percent of the popular vote.[26] Iraq’s 2005 parliamentary elections handed the Islamist National Iraqi Alliance roughly 41 percent of the vote against at least a dozen opponents.[27] In 2012, Egyptians voted the Muslim Brotherhood into power with a nearly 52 percent majority.[28] Of course, Arab liberals were not pleased by the success of the Islamists’ democratic strategy, hence the depressing sight of self-identified liberals cheering the brutal military coup that overthrew Egypt’s first-ever (and now last) democratically elected government.[29] Again we see that liberals love democracy only so long as it establishes their preferred regime.

What we’ve found, then, is that contemporary liberalism has undermined democracy and so has been rejected by it. As such, liberal democracy, contrary to the dreams of today’s Western elite, will likely never achieve global hegemony. If liberal democracy is fortunate it may very well survive in parts of the West (key word fortunate), but it is will struggle to find a stable foothold in the rest of the world. In light of these realities, any conception of our long-term global future must be one that accounts for the permanent presence of non-liberal forms of governance. Our way forward lies in accepting as legitimate a plurality of political regimes, liberal or illiberal. As Israeli political theorist Yoram Hazony put it in his book the Virtue of Nationalism, we should strive for a global order wherein “nations are able to chart their own independent course, cultivating their own traditions without interference.”[30] It is exactly to such a non-Eurocentric ideal, “distinctively modern” yet “greatly influenced by specific cultural premises, traditions, and historical experiences,” that Shmuel Noah Eisenstadt referred when he spoke of “multiple modernities” beyond the familiar Western model of secular-liberal modernity.[31]

As counter-intuitive as it might seem, such an outlook does not actually discard the premises of either liberalism or democracy. It is, after all, just a more radical expression of the cultural and ideological pluralism that liberalism claims to champion. In suggesting that every community—or nation—should have the right to choose whatever form of political organization best suits its sensibilities, I am merely transferring the liberal, consent-based model of legitimacy from the individual to the community. Nothing can be more democratic, more so, than accepting the majority opinion of the community wherever it may lead—and nothing is likely to better ensure democracy’s stability. Again, I return to Lasch’s basic insight: “Self-governing communities, not individuals, are the basic units of democratic society.” The West, then, should not expect liberal democracy at the end every societal road anymore than it should expect Islamic democracy at the end of its own. Real tolerance lies not in remaking every people in liberal democracy’s image, but in permitting them to institute a system of governance of which it disapproves. Ironically, the West might be at its most liberal by allowing illiberal forms of government to spring.

To be sure, the notion of a pluralistic world order suffers from serious flaws. It’s easy to say that nations, like the liberal individual, should be free to pursue their self-interest so long as this pursuit does not violate the rights of others i.e. other nations. But who will determine what these rights are, and who will enforce them? A purely particularistic world, where every community abides only by its own morality, threatens to descend into a morass of relativistic nihilism. Should, for example, Egypt’s government feel free to persecute, without any international interference, the country’s Coptic minority if the Muslim majority lives in accordance with an interpretation of Islam that deems such persecution acceptable? Yoram Hazony attempted to address this criticism by positing a “moral minimum” that would bound all nations to a common standard of morality, ensuring that they could not hide behind claims of traditional fidelity or cultural particularity to justify barbarism.[32] But Hazony’s proposal is terribly unsatisfactory, as it runs into the same conceptual problems outlined above. How will all nations come to a consensus as to what this moral minimum is, and who will ensure that it is followed? Is there not a risk that this idea of a “moral minimum” will not simply lead to a recreation of a liberal internationalist order in a different guise?

I don’t have a ready-made solution to this dilemma. But neither does anyone else. As Kian Hudson lamented, although “the West could really use an explanation of how love of one’s country”—or, I submit, love of one’s religion or culture—“can be integrated into a moral framework of universal human dignity…such a book remains unwritten.”[33] That such a book remains unwritten, that there are scarcely any sources to which I can turn to stimulate my thinking on the subject, evidences the intellectual bankruptcy of our contemporary political and academic elite. Convinced of liberal democracy’s self-evident superiority and universal applicability, our capacity for political innovation has effectively died.

Arguing the legitimacy of illiberal democracy, as I have attempted to throughout this essay, is but a first step to freeing ourselves from this intellectual bondage. In suggesting that illiberal democracy both exposes and remedies the fatal flaws of contemporary liberal democracy, I am not arguing that the future should be one of illiberal democracy (although I am arguing that it cannot be one of liberal democracy). Rather, I’m simply demonstrating the sort of “radical” thinking needed to navigate our way out of our current socio-political impasse. Liberal democracy may continue to exist, but it must settle for a slice of the global pie rather than the whole upon which its advocates currently insist. If we are to survive in a post-liberal world without descending into a nightmare of reactionary global authoritarianism, we must revitalize our political and moral imagination. I want to end by quoting from Mark Lilla’s excellent article, “The Truth About Our Libertarian Age,” which he published a mere month before Viktor Orban declared the end of the liberal democratic age. Lilla’s scathing words are a warning to my generation and those who will follow it. Only time will tell if we heed it.

“The next Nobel Peace Prize should not go to a human rights activist or an NGO founder. It should go to the thinker or leader who develops a model of constitutional theocracy giving Muslim countries a coherent way of recognizing yet limiting the authority of religious law and making it compatible with good governance. This would be a historic, though not necessarily democratic, achievement. No such prize will be given, of course, and not only because such thinkers and leaders are lacking. To recognize such an achievement would require abandoning the dogma that individual freedom is the only or even the highest political good in every historical circumstance, and accepting that trade-offs are inevitable.”[34]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Lasch, Christopher. The Revolt of the Elites And the Betrayal of Democracy. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1996.

Deneen, Patrick J. Why Liberalism Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018.

Mudde, Cas. On Extremism and Democracy in Europe. New York: Routledge, 2016


Hazony, Yoram. The Virtue of Nationalism. New York: Basic Books, 2018.

Zakaria, Fareed. The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. W.W. Norton & Co., 2007.

Kirkpatrick, David. Into The Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East. Viking, 2018

Michta, Andrew A. "The Sources of the West's Decline." The American Interest. February 22, 2019. https://www.the-american-interest.com/2019/02/22/the-sources-of-the-wests-decline/

Eisenstadt, S. N. "Multiple Modernities." Daedalus 129, no. 1 (2000), p.1-2. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20027613.

Foa, Roberto Stefan, and Yascha Mounk. "The Danger of Deconsolidation." Journal of Democracy27, no. 3 (July 2016): 6-17. doi:10.1353/jod.2017.0000.

Gray, John. "The Rise of Post-truth Liberalism." UnHerd. September 05, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2019. https://unherd.com/2018/09/the-rise-of-the-post-truth-liberals/.

Hamid, Shadi. "The Future of Democracy in the Middle East: Islamist and Illiberal." The Atlantic. August 25, 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/05/democracys-future-in-the-middle-east-islamist-and-illiberal/361791/.

Isaac, Jeffrey C. "Is There Illiberal Democracy?" Public Seminar. July 13, 2017. http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/07/is-there-illiberal-democracy/.

Deutsche Welle. "Viktor Orban: Era of 'liberal Democracy' Is over | DW | 10.05.2018." DW.COM. Accessed March 27, 2019. https://www.dw.com/en/viktor-orban-era-of-liberal-democracy-is-over/a-43732540.

"Dispatches: The End of Liberal Democracy in Hungary?" Human Rights Watch. July 30, 2014. https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/29/dispatches-end-liberal-democracy-hungary.

Santora, Marc, and Helene Bienvenu. "Hungary Election Was Free but Not Entirely Fair, Observers Say." The New York Times. April 09, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/world/europe/hungary-election-orban-fidesz.html.

Tóth, Csaba. "Full Text of Viktor Orbán's Speech at Băile Tuşnad (Tusnádfürdő) of 26 July 2014." The Budapest Beacon. October 23, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2019. https://budapestbeacon.com/full-text-of-viktor-orbans-speech-at-baile-tusnad-tusnadfurdo-of-26-july-2014/.

Sitaraman, Ganesh. "The Three Crises of Liberal Democracy | Ganesh Sitaraman." The Guardian. March 17, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/17/the-three-crises-of-liberal-democracy.

Hudson, Kian. "Is It Possible to Reconcile Nationalism and a Commitment to Universal Human Dignity?" Public Discourse. October 09, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2019. https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2018/09/39663/.


“Islamist Democracies: The West’s Worst Nightmare?” The Globalist. August 05, 2017. https://www.theglobalist.com/islamist-democracies-the-wests-worst-nightmare/.

Kirkpatrick, David D. “Mohamed Morsi of Muslim Brotherhood Declared as Egypt’s President.” The New York Times. June 24, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/world/middleeast/mohamed-morsi-of-muslim-brotherhood-declared-as-egypts-president.html.

Lilla, Mark. "The Truth About Our Libertarian Age." The New Republic. June 18, 2014. https://newrepublic.com/article/118043/our-libertarian-age-dogma-democracy-dogma-decline.

“Egypt, Democracy and Islam.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. January 31, 2011. http://www.pewglobal.org/2011/01/31/egypt-democracy-and-islam/.

Fukuyama, Francis. "The End of History?" The National Interest, no. 16 (1989): 3-18. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24027184.

Przeworski, Adam. “Minimalist Conception of Democracy: A Defense,” p. 23-55, 1999

[1] "Dispatches: The End of Liberal Democracy in Hungary?" Human Rights Watch. July 30, 2014. https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/29/dispatches-end-liberal-democracy-hungary.

[2] Santora, Marc, and Helene Bienvenu. "Hungary Election Was Free but Not Entirely Fair, Observers Say." The New York Times. April 09, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/world/europe/hungary-election-orban-fidesz.html.

[3] Deutsche Welle. "Viktor Orban: Era of 'liberal Democracy' Is over | DW | 10.05.2018." DW.COM. https://www.dw.com/en/viktor-orban-era-of-liberal-democracy-is-over/a-43732540.

[4] Sitaraman, Ganesh. "The Three Crises of Liberal Democracy | Ganesh Sitaraman." The Guardian. March 17, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/17/the-three-crises-of-liberal-democracy.

[5] Fukuyama, Francis. "The End of History?" The National Interest, no. 16 (1989): 3-18. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24027184.

[6] Przeworski, Adam. “Minimalist Conception of Democracy: A Defense,” p. 23-55, 1999

[7] Zakaria, Fareed. The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. W.W. Norton & Co., 2007.

[8] Isaac, Jeffrey C. "Is There Illiberal Democracy?" Public Seminar. July 13, 2017. http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/07/is-there-illiberal-democracy/.

[9] "The Oxymoron of 'Illiberal Democracy'." Brookings. July 28, 2016. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-oxymoron-of-illiberal-democracy/.

[10] Müller, Jan-Werner, Princeton University and Institute for Human Sciences. "The Problem With 'Illiberal Democracy." Social Europe. January 27, 2016. https://www.socialeurope.eu/the-problem-with-illiberal-democracy.

[11] Michta, Andrew A. "The Sources of the West's Decline." The American Interest. February 22, 2019. https://www.the-american-interest.com/2019/02/22/the-sources-of-the-wests-decline/

[12] Foa, Roberto Stefan, and Yascha Mounk. "The Danger of Deconsolidation." Journal of Democracy 27, no. 3 (July 2016): 6-17. doi:10.1353/jod.2017.0000.

[13] Isaac, Jeffrey C. "Is There Illiberal Democracy?" Public Seminar. July 13, 2017. http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/07/is-there-illiberal-democracy/.

[14] Or, as he put it: “What we need in politics today is not more democracy, but less.”

[15] Mudde, Cas. On Extremism and Democracy in Europe. New York: Routledge, 2016, p. 82

[16] Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, dogma has been the name of the day. Most Western political observers struggled to imagine, as the Berlin Wall crumbled, that the future could be anything but an extension of the present—democratic, capitalist, and multicultural. There can be nothing “after” liberal democracy. It is the end of the road. Anything else must necessarily lead to the abyss beyond the edge. Frankly, there is no greater testament to the durability of Fukuyaman blindness than our inability to conceptualize a tolerable alternative to liberal democracy.

[17] Deneen, Patrick J. Why Liberalism Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018.

[18] Lasch, Christopher. The Revolt of the Elites And the Betrayal of Democracy. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1996, p. 8

[19] Ibid

[20] Lilla, Mark. "The Truth About Our Libertarian Age." The New Republic. June 18, 2014. https://newrepublic.com/article/118043/our-libertarian-age-dogma-democracy-dogma-decline.

[21] “Egypt, Democracy and Islam.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. January 31, 2011. http://www.pewglobal.org/2011/01/31/egypt-democracy-and-islam/.

[22] Hamid, Shadi. "The Future of Democracy in the Middle East: Islamist and Illiberal." The Atlantic. August 25, 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/05/democracys-future-in-the-middle-east-islamist-and-illiberal/361791/.

[23] Hamid, Shadi. Islamic Exceptionalism: How the struggle over Islam is reshaping the world. New York: Saint Martins Griffin, 2017.

[24] The example of Islamic democracy is a particularly useful one for this discussion because it preempts arguments that dismiss illiberal politics as fundamentally dishonest. A common refrain amongst opponents of illiberal democracy is that its advocates are merely using the language of democracy to justify authoritarianism. These critics can only approach the democratic rhetoric peddled by the likes of Orban, Putin, and Erdogan with a hermeneutics of suspicion. To an extent, I share this wariness of Orban and his peers. Certainly their sincerity is difficult to gauge, as are their claims to truly represent the people. But I find it difficult to ascribe such opportunism to Islamist parties like the Muslim Brotherhood, who in the aftermath of the Arab Spring felt certain that the best way to establish a legitimate Islamic order was through genuine democracy. Many of the Brotherhood leaders Shadi Hamid interviewed stressed that the expansion of political freedom would necessarily bring about Islamization. “Islam didn’t need to be enforced,” Hamid was told. “The people, to the extent they needed to, would enforce it themselves—through the binding nature of the democratic process.” As noted above, reality demonstrated the truth of this prediction.

[25] Hamid, Shadi. "The Future of Democracy in the Middle East: Islamist and Illiberal." The Atlantic. August 25, 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/05/democracys-future-in-the-middle-east-islamist-and-illiberal/361791/.

[26] “Islamist Democracies: The West’s Worst Nightmare?” The Globalist. August 05, 2017. https://www.theglobalist.com/islamist-democracies-the-wests-worst-nightmare/.

[27] “Iraqi parliamentary election, December 2005.” Wikipedia. November 16, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_parliamentary_election,_December_2005#Full_result

[28] Kirkpatrick, David D. “Mohamed Morsi of Muslim Brotherhood Declared as Egypt’s President.” The New York Times. June 24, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/world/middleeast/mohamed-morsi-of-muslim-brotherhood-declared-as-egypts-president.html.

[29] Kirkpatrick, David. Into The Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East. Viking, 2018

[30] Hazony, Yoram. The Virtue of Nationalism. New York: Basic Books, 2018, p.3

[31] Eisenstadt, S. N. "Multiple Modernities." Daedalus 129, no. 1 (2000), p.1-2. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20027613.

[32] Hazony, Yoram. The Virtue of Nationalism. New York: Basic Books, 2018, p.24

[33] Hudson, Kian. "Is It Possible to Reconcile Nationalism and a Commitment to Universal Human Dignity?" Public Discourse. October 09, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2019. https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2018/09/39663/.

[34] Lilla, Mark. "The Truth About Our Libertarian Age." The New Republic. June 18, 2014. https://newrepublic.com/article/118043/our-libertarian-age-dogma-democracy-dogma-decline.



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