Western ideologies have always been considered superior, and people always have taken them with blind faith, particularly the American Liberal Democracy. But it is high time we take a deeper look into the system and how it is not at all what the West has made it out to be.
Democracy is where sovereignty is held by the people’s representative. Liberal democracy, also known as a western democracy, is a form of government in which representative democracy functions or operates under the essence of liberalism.
There is a growing agreement that American Democracy is at risk. A UK-based institute called Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) put together the Democracy index, which measures the state of democracy in countries, categorized the United States democracy as a “flawed democracy”. The Financial Times’ Ed Luce writes that liberal democracy is “closer to collapse than we may wish to believe”.
People are starting to realize that liberal democracy is no longer delivering on its core promises. It is just filled with hollow promises; many Americans feel as if the government has become unresponsive to their needs. The privileged access of the rich allows them to get richer; using their connections to promote their own interests while the poor keep getting poorer because of political and selfish interests being put above their needs.
In the face of the health crisis, America’s incompetent response demonstrates exactly why people are losing faith the American Liberal Democracy. Even after almost after a year of the start of the crisis, there is no clear anti-virus strategy. China, on the other hand, acted promptly making sure that everyone cooperates. China’s effective response to the containment of the health crisis and being one of the first countries to start its economic recovery shows its institutional advantages. Westerners are reluctant to admit that other forms of government such as the Chinese social governance model, to be effective and efficient because of their complacency and blind faith in an already failing system.
Francis Fukuyama, an American Political Scientist, who is best known as the author of the book “The End of History and the Last Man” presented grand theories of how the 21st century would turn out. He argued that liberal democracy has vanquished all other ideologies and has become the ultimate form of human government. He predicted that after the end of the cold war, liberal democracy would sweep through the world. From his perspective, he thought that the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that communism had failed as the other obvious ideological alternative. Other political systems, such as political Islam, would never be likely to produce more than minority support. He thought the world in the 21st century would experience a new world order based on a single global system of democracy, individualism, and free markets. However, if we look at the situation now, these grand theories have not become a reality, nor are they playing out the way as Fukuyama anticipated. Fukuyama was betting on the then-present trends continuing (the collapse of the Soviet Union played to his advantage) which is a big gamble in the world of international politics. However, he did acknowledge that many things could go differently; countries could regress economically or morally and that there would be many bump and U-turns in the future.
In 2020, Fukuyama was not even sure liberal democracy existed in the US anymore. Under Donald Trump’s presidency, Fukuyama said that the US government has become of the worst kind. He believes that a democratic system with accountability would be better. The newly elected President Joe Biden and a new government in January show that the system can correct its mistakes. But who is being held accountable? The system under which more than 330,000 lives were claimed because of its incompetency or any institutions, officials or politicians? The obsession of the West as a liberal democracy to be superior has enabled it to turn a blind eye to the problems in its system.
Another American Political Scientist, Samuel P. Huntington, made predictions about the 21st century. His theory of “Clash of Civilizations” stated that people’s cultural and religious identities would be the main reason for conflict in a post-Cold-War world. These conflicts would be particularly between Islam and the West. Such differences would push the 21st century towards inter-civilizational war. His theory seemed to have some merit after the 9/11 attack. The tensions of hijab and the status of Muslim Women and Western countries, amongst other things, may have led people to believe that there was indeed a tension between the West and the Islamic world. However, a vast number of scholars are not convinced that happenings in the world are due to such conflicts.
However, it should be noted that “liberalism” and “democracy” are not synonyms for each other. It is difficult to explain the concept of Liberal Democracy when no one is on the same page about what it means and what it stands for. One political scientist defines as something, and the other defines it something else. All of this is more than just semantics; Confusion of terms leads to confused thinking. What principles will be followed if one fails to understand the meaning behind what they are following? It is important to go beyond these terms; it is important to understand the implications of people hiding behind these ideologies.