Fukuyama: liberalism "is not obsolete" and "is necessary"

Francis Fukuyama during his conference at the Rafael del Pino Foundation / RC

“The global democratic recession threatens liberal political systems”, denounces the political scientist and thinker in his new essay

Michael Lorenci

"Global democratic recession threatens liberal political systems around the world." But liberalism "is not obsolete" it is "necessary" and although it requires sacrifice, it will once again be the pillar of democracies. It is the thesis that Francis Fukuyama (Chicago, 69 years old) maintains in his new essay, 'Liberalism and its disillusioned' (Deusto). 'How to defend and safeguard our liberal democracies' is subtitled by this apostle of "classical liberalism", a renowned political scientist and thinker, one of the most renowned and famous theorists in the world. He presented it to the Spanish reader this Monday with a conference at the Rafael del Pino Foundation.

Fukuyma notes how rights and freedoms "suffer" in recent years, and how the coming to power of leaders like Trump, Bolsonaro, Orbán or Kaczyński "carries a violation of the separation of powers, judicial independence and attempts to control the media.

He argues that the expansion of these "illiberal democracies" is the result of the inability of liberal regimes to deal with the inequality brought about by globalized capitalism. He analyzes the objections to liberalism, "seriously threatened throughout the world" from conservative and progressive positions, to conclude that his problem "is not really in fundamental weaknesses of his doctrine." What generates the growing discontent is "the wrong way in which liberal systems have evolved since the 1970s."

But however great the discontent, he argues that the liberal option "remains superior to the illiberal alternatives." The political scientist thus ensures that liberalism, contrary to what Vladimir Putin maintains, "is not obsolete, but continues to be necessary, today more than ever, in a diverse and interconnected world." But he knows that defending liberal democracy is "costly" and requires "sacrifice and solidarity."

His controversial essay 'The End of History' and the Last Man' (1992), a contemporary classic, made Fukuyama famous. He argued that the fall of communism marked the end of an ideological battle and the universalization of Western liberal democracies »which are now in question. But the story continued and he wrote new and dark chapters. After 9/11 and the crash that followed the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008, came the rise of populism and the hardening of the Chinese and Russian regimes.

Now Fukuyama warns of the dangers of this liberal decline, a doctrine harassed by populism and "which has paid dearly for its errors." But he believes that liberalism is "the only effective formula to manage diversity" when homogeneous societies with a single culture or religion have ended.


He regrets that liberalism is confused with capitalism and does not believe that a modern and prosperous society can exist without a market economy, property rights and business freedom protected by legal certainty. He also confuses liberalism with the ideas of Milton Friedman who led economic policy leaders like Reagan or Thather, who deregulated, privatized and increased inequality.

He argues that unscrupulous ultraliberalism is the germ of current populism, which feeds on the discontent of those who feel mistreated by inequality and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. He also sees a threat in "tech giants that grow on the sacrifice of citizens and governments." He does not deny having veered to the left in recent years. It is an “honest way”, he says, of reacting to events such as the First Iraq War or the global financial crises, both the result of “disastrously wrong approaches”.

"Long-term optimist," he acknowledges that the last 15 years have been "catastrophic" for democracies and have encouraged the rise of authoritarianism. He believes that Russia has made a "historical geostrategic mistake" with the war in Ukraine. He sees it as "crucial" to send weapons to Ukraine to avoid "the fatal freezing" of the conflict. He believes that Putin, whose tone is "more fascist than anything else," is trying to reverse the democratic contamination of Eastern Europe after the collapse of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall. He added to an increasingly autocratic China and with its stagnant economy "the current situation could be the beginning of the resurgence of liberalism."

Fukuyama is now a professor at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and directs its Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. He was a professor at John Hopkins University and the George Mason University School of Public Policy. He has been a researcher at the RAND Corporation and deputy director of Policy Planning at the US Department of State.

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