What is the relationship between liberalism and democracy?
Liberal Democracy Crisis? No! Crisis of individualistic liberalism
The current crisis of liberal democracy is actually a crisis of individualistic liberalism as recent literature shows by its analysis and more often by its example. Whilst social inequality by many authors is seen as the main source of the crisis, it is only the consequence of a contradiction inherent in individualistic liberalism: Equal individual liberty leads to social and in the consequence to political inequality because of the inevitable differences in the use of that individual liberty. However, political equality is a necessary condition of individual liberty as a reciprocal right. Therefore, it is necessary to overcome a purely individualistic understanding of liberty that threatens not only democracy but individual liberty itself.
The political systems of the West seem in crisis, populism and authoritarianism on the rise. This is reflected in numerous publications, most of which appeared in 2018, which, based on the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America, the British vote in favor of Brexit and the rise of right-wing populist parties in almost all western democracies, identify the causes of the stated crisis go to the bottom and look for ways out of it. Even if many of the titles conjure up the crisis of (liberal) democracy, when viewed as a whole it becomes clear: At its core, it is a crisis of liberalism, more precisely a crisis of individualistic liberalism frozen into ideology.
The purely individualistic understood liberalism, the freedom on the negative freedom of the individual as protection of life and property against force and fraud limited, there is an inherent contradiction from the start: the endangerment of individual freedom through its own anti-legal effects. Due to the differences in the use of this freedom, equal individual freedom inevitably creates economic, social and, consequently, political inequality, and by undermining the democratic promise of equal participation endangers its own prerequisites. Just as the 19th century was faced with the 'social question', today we are confronted with a 'global question'. While the problem of the anti-legal effects of individual freedom could be corrected (if not solved) in the national framework by welfare state measures, this is no longer possible to the same extent against the background of global contexts of action. Rather, in the face of unleashed global capitalism, individualistic liberalism, contrary to its own demand for equal freedom, paradoxically favors an elitist, if not authoritarian, political conception.
While the effects of economic (neo) liberalism and its consequences for democracy have already been discussed and criticized many times (in the recent past particularly prominently by Colin Crouch or Wendy Brown, for example), the latest wave of publications shows two peculiarities compared to earlier papers: On the one hand, the authors of the most recent publications are predominantly authors from the (socially) liberal to conservative spectrum. On the other hand, this brings political liberalism into focus more and more directly - but not always also under criticism. Rather, the majority of the titles discussed here are themselves (subtle) expressions of the elitist tendency of individualistic liberalism, if the focus of interest is the threat to liberal achievements by populism, rather than the crisis of individualistic liberalism (and populism as its symptom) to take. This is regrettable insofar as a criticism of the prevailing, political liberalism seems overdue, also because the criticism of economic (neo) liberalism remains incomplete without it. Because: Global capitalism does not actually seem to be the cause of the current crisis, but rather 'only' a catalyst for the anti-Galitarian effects inherent in individualistic liberalism, which under its auspices can no longer be contained by nation-state politics.
In an initial overview, the titles discussed here can be distinguished on the basis of their more systematic-theoretical and historical-empirical arguments. While the systematic treatises look at the concept of liberalism itself or its relationship to the concept of democracy, the historical studies do not question the concept of liberal democracy with western influences and accordingly predominantly take the symptoms of the crisis (which they wrongly name as its causes ) in view.
The predominance of (individualistic) liberalism is only made up of two of the systematically argued titles as the cause of the crisis: Patrick J. Deneens "Why Liberalism Failed"Footnote 1 from a conservative point of view and Salvatore Babone's "The New Authoritarianism"Footnote 2 from a sociological perspective. Yascha Mounk also mention in "The People vs. Democracy"Footnote 3 and William A. Galston in Anti-Pluralism. The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy "Footnote 4 the problem if they analytically differentiate between the concepts of democracy and liberalism and note a development towards illiberal democracies on the one hand and undemocratic liberalism on the other. Despite this clear analysis, however, their concern seems to be a one-sided defense of liberal values against populism.
In this partisanship for liberalism, her remarks are similar to the (ideological) historical or empirical argumentative studies “Democracy and Its Crisis” by A. C. GraylingFootnote 5, "How Democracy Dies" by Steven Levitsky and Daniel ZiblattFootnote 6 and "The Great Degeneration" by Niall FergusonFootnote 7whose declared aim is to save liberal democracy. You see the problem in the deviation from the original form (Levitsky / Ziblatt and Ferguson) or in the inadequate implementation of the ideal form of liberal democracy (Grayling). Even Kishore Mahbubani performs with "Has the West Lost It?"Footnote 8 to save the liberal achievements of the West if he advises the West to make its liberal values institutionally permanent on a global level, before its power is completely gone.
Among the historical and empirical studies, only “How Democracy Ends” by David Runciman turnFootnote 9 and (at least at first sight) “The Road to Unfreedom” by Timothy SnyderFootnote 10 against the assumed historical continuity and instead rely on an alternative historiography. Insofar as Snyder ultimately traces the crisis back to Vladimir Putin in an almost conspiracy-theoretical one-dimensionality and Runciman sees liberal democracy in its midlife crisis and considers its end to be inevitable, they seem to miss the real core of the crisis.
If one expects groundbreaking suggestions for overcoming the crisis from the combined expertise of these books, one will be disappointed. While the description of the symptoms and - in the systematic treatises - partly also the causes (which lie in individualistic liberalism itself) are extremely pointed, the suggestions regarding possible ways out of the crisis - with a few exceptions - require the original state of the Restoring liberal democracy, backward-looking and confined to the nation-state (often in the form of US democracy). This corresponds to the predominant understanding of crisis in the publications, which understands crisis in the sense of decline, decay and loss. There seems to be a historic opportunity in the identified crisis: the opportunity to overcome the inherent contradiction that has been inherent in individualistic liberalism from the outset and which comes into conflict with the democratic promise of equal participation. The current crisis brings this contradiction to light and offers the chance to dissolve obvious incrustations and to keep the promise of liberal democracy for equal freedom, which neither liberalism nor democracy alone can guarantee.
Has liberalism triumphed to death?
Only two of the titles dealt with here explicitly make political liberalism responsible for the current crisis in the political systems of the West and subject it to systematic criticism: on the one hand, “Why Liberalism Failed” by Patrick J. DeneenFootnote 11, Professor of Political Science at the private Catholic University of Notre Dame and on the other hand with a popular science claim “The New Authoritarianism. Trump, Populism, and the Tyranny of Experts ”by the American sociologist Salvatore Babones, who teaches in Sydney.Footnote 12 Both identify the causes of the current crisis with analytical sharpness. Deneen in particular dissects the self-destructive tendencies of (individualistic) liberalism down to the last detail; but he misses the chance, as demanded by him, to “[to] outgrow the age of ideology” (p. 183), because his attack on liberalism is itself ideologically motivated.
Denen's thesis is initially as clear as it is convincing: "Liberalism [...] has failed because it has succeeded" (p. 3). Liberalism, according to Deneen, has failed because, contrary to its promises of equality, pluralism, human dignity and freedom, "in practice generates titanic inequality, enforces uniformity and homogeneity, fosters material and spiritual degradation, and undermines freedom" (ibid.). Unlike the other two political ideologies - here Deneen names fascism and communism! - Liberalism is particularly insidious by pretending to be neutral, but secretly shaping the world in its own image. On the basis of politics, economics, education, science and technology determined by a wrong idea of human nature, liberalism first produces those isolated, autonomous, unrelated and thus at the same time powerless, lonely monads that it presupposes (p. 16). In order to control this, liberalism demands and needs a strong state (p. 17). He has produced a new aristocracy, “that fights ceaselessly to maintain the structures of liberal injustice” (p. 135) and ultimately generates “demotic demands for an illiberal autocrat who promises to protect the people against the vagaries of liberalism itself” (p 178).
Deneen leaves no doubt that he longs for a post-liberal future. It is true that one cannot pretend that the liberal age never took place and one does not have to deny the liberal achievements. But this, it quickly becomes clear, is ultimately based in Denen's eyes on continuity with the deepest convictions of Western political tradition - namely: "to secure liberty and human dignity through the constraint of tyranny, arbitrary rule, and oppression" - and thus on Values from antiquity and the Christian Middle Ages (p. 19). The achievement of liberalism, understood in this way, shrinks to its claim to help the traditional values to be implemented: “Liberalism was a sign of the profound success of the West's most fundamental philosophical commitments, a manifestation of a widespread demand that daily practices should more closely conform to ideals ”(p. 185). In Denen's eyes, however, liberalism never kept this promise; on the contrary, it betrayed those ideals. The reason for this is - and this forms the core of his criticism of liberalism - a failed anthropology that has undermined the traditional achievements: "Liberalism’s break with the past was founded on a false anthropology" (p. 185). The liberal liberation of man was, from Denen's perspective, a liberation "from the reality of relational life" (p. 188), while his declared aim is to "to [...] build [...] liberty after liberalism" (p. 198) .
Denen's criticism of self-contradicting liberalism is by far the most illuminating thing that the flood of treatises on the current crisis of the political systems of the West has produced; his analysis goes beyond the current crisis; it was also, as the author emphasizes in the foreword, written earlier (p. xiii). But even if Deneen is right and the individualistic liberalism (which he shortens with the Liberalism equates) must be regarded as a failure, mainly because of its anti-legal effects, which the author names, but completely neglected in favor of his actual focus on the revival of cultural norms and local communities. Because his criticism of liberalism is ultimately subordinate to an ideological program, his proposal for the political future misses his own analysis.
Just as the criticism of individualistic anthropology and its unintended consequences is justified and convincing, Deneen becomes entangled in ideological trench warfare when he states that liberalism - like any ideology - fails, "because it is based on falsehood about human nature, and hence can't help but fail ”, because sooner or later the gap between ideological demands and actual experiences of people will become visible (p. 6). The expression of ideology, however, is not first a 'false' anthropology, but any claim - expressed in Denene's assertion of a 'false' anthropology - to have knowledge of human nature and, from this knowledge, the separation between those who know and The ignorant implies being able to derive claims to power or the 'good' and 'just' order.
As expected against this background, Deneen's considerations themselves are based on a substantialist (well-known) anthropology: "the classical and Christian understanding of human beings as fundamentally relational creatures - 'social and political animals'" (p. 185). And even if Deneen speaks of “tentative first steps” (p. 182) with a view to the political future, he derives a very concrete political program from this: “Out of the fostering of new and better selves, porously invested in the fate of other selves - through the cultivation of cultures of community, care, self-sacrifice, and small-scale democracy - a better practice might arise, and from it, ultimately, perhaps a better theory than the failing project of liberalism "(p. 20 ). This is based on an understanding of culture and tradition that seems alien to the postmodern assumption of contingency: “Culture and tradition are the result of accumulations of practice and experience that generations have willingly accrued and passed along as a gift to future generations. This inheritance is the result of a deeper freedom, the freedom of intergenerational interactions with the world and one another "(p. 190) and the assumption that culture is" the soil in which the human person grows and - if it is a good culture - flourishes “[emphasis added. d. Ed.] (P. 110). Deneen does not seem to be irritated by the fact that there were also restrictive traditions and cultural regulations that liberalism resisted enforced adoption: “And as the word [culture] suggests, it is nearly always linked to 'cult', understanding the local to be bound to and ultimately an expression of the universal and eternal, the divine and sublime ”(p. 193).
Against this background, modern democracy also degenerates into a liberal deception and a phenomenon of decay: “the adjective [liberal] not only modifies 'democracy' but proposes a redefinition of the ancient regime into its effective opposite, to one in which people do not rule but are instead satisfied with the material and martial benefits of living in a liberal res idiotica"(P. 154). In contrast, Deneen states in the subsection “Illiberal Democracy, Rightly Understood”, citing Alexis de Tocqueville, that the practices of democratic citizenship in America had already developed before “America's liberal founding” and that their origins lie “in the earlier Puritan roots of the American settlement ", Especially in the" widely shared understanding of Christian liberty "(p. 174). Subsequently, Deneen propagates a contemporary version of this ancient and Christian understanding of freedom, which he in turn sees Tocqueville as its author: “Tocqueville commends a more contemporary articulation of a classical or Christian notion of liberty of doing what is consonant with the 'just and the good' , and not the liberal understanding that defines liberty acting as one likes, as long as no one is physically harmed "(p. 174 f.).
In doing so, Deneen not only assumes a dichotomy between old and new, positive and negative understanding of freedom, which in its one-sidedness is not found in thinkers like Tocqueville, above all, he negates the demand for inseparable from the modern understanding of representative democracy and liberal freedom political equality.
As correct as his criticism of individualistic anthropology and its unintended consequences, as correct as his reference to the resulting abbreviated understanding of freedom and the demand for overcoming any ideology, it is not clear why the inadequate implementation of the liberal demand for equal freedom does not Christian-inspired communitarian politics should follow. Even if Deneen repeatedly and rightly denounces that liberalism has led to inequality, equality does not seem to be a central political value for him. The historical innovation of liberalism, however, lies precisely in the fact that it demands 'freedom and human dignity' for everyone equally and thereby enters into an ideal connection with democracy. If liberalism in its individualistic variant fails to achieve this goal, the question arises as to how the same freedom can be guaranteed and thus the democratic negotiation process protected.
Salvatore Babones' perspective seems more logical here. He, too, clearly identifies the predominance of liberal ideology as a problem. But because he does not equate liberalism and (modern) democracy, he draws different conclusions from this. At first, similar to Deneen's diagnosis, Babones states: "If liberal principles seem threatened, it is only because they have been so successful" (p. 6). Babones sees a “new authoritarianism” at work, which paradoxically is a “liberal authoritarianism”, a “tyranny of the experts” (p. 11). But already here, when he speaks not of failure, but of endangering liberal principles, the other perspective becomes clear. Babones, unlike Deneen, sees the problem in an imbalance, more precisely in the victory of liberalism over conservatism and progressivism. This led to liberalism developing from a philosophy of individual freedoms into a philosophy of individual rights, "that take precedence over those of the democratic polity itself" (p. Ix f.). Only in the case of a balance between the three currents is the vitality of democracy given; Abraham Lincoln's often misunderstood dictum expresses this: “Government of the people, of the whole people in a single unified nation, is at the heart of conservatism. Government by the people, ensuring all people their due share in their own government, is at the heart of liberalism. And government for the people, for the benefit of the great majority of the people, is at the heart of progressivism "(p. Ix).
If Babones ’response to the crisis remains at that and is schematic, then his advocacy of strengthening democracy over liberalism as such will be more fair to the problem described than Denen's ideological counter-program. This also seems to be due to the broad perspective of problem diagnosis. Babones overcomes methodological nationalism - at least in his diagnosis of crisis - as one of the few authors discussed here. He sees national democracy in danger primarily through the new liberal authoritarianism of the globalized economy and its experts: “The new liberal authoritarianism, acting at the global level, is perhaps the most dangerous authoritarianism of all […], dangerous for democracy. Whether we prefer to live in good dictatorship or questionable democracies is (perhaps) for us to decide. But global governance is no democracy. It is private preserve of the global expert class "(p. 70). Babones seems to name a central point here. Indeed, the problem of the anti-legal effects of individual freedom has come to a head in the course of globalization. The rise of right-wing populist parties can be understood as a consequence of this ever more evident emergence of the contradiction inherent in individualistic liberalism.
Against this background, Babones rightly understands populism as a democratic corrective, even if he speaks somewhat provocatively of "The Populist Purgative" and states: "Populists are the hooligans who boo the seemingly biased liberal referee" (p. 103). Indeed, the populists' criticism appears to be justified, even if their answer is wrong, because it is inherently contradictory insofar as the alleged separation between elite and people, as homogeneous figures, deepens the criticized split instead of overcoming it. Conversely, the prevailing, liberal view of the populists also confirms the criticized split, insofar as it disqualifies the populists as opponents of the (reasonable) liberal order as unreasonable or, alternatively, uneducated. In this respect, Babones rightly refers to the undemocratic approach of the liberal public to populism: "The democratic principle of one person, one vote is a tonic for humility because it requires politicians to suspend their preconceptions about the intellectual incapacity of ordinary people" (p. 103 ). The concerns of the 'common people', that is, to take seriously the populists they have elected, would in fact mean treating them as equal citizens with equal views.
Cause or effect? Illiberal democracy and undemocratic liberalism
An eloquent example of the liberal view of populism and, at the same time, a subtle expression of the elitist tendency of individualistic liberalism, are two other titles which, through the conceptual separation of democracy and liberalism, also provide analytical clarity with regard to the causes of the crisis: “Anti-Pluralism . The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy ”by William A. GalstonFootnote 13 and “The Decay of Democracy. How populism threatens the rule of law ”by German-American political scientist Yascha Mounk, who works at Harvard.Footnote 14
The strength of the two treatises lies in the analytical separation of the concepts of democracy and liberalism (Galston distinguishes between democracy, liberalism, republicanism and constitutionalism) and the clear description of the apparently contrary phenomena, populism and elitism, from their imbalance. Mounk sees the problem of liberal democracy in the decline of its "unique mixture of the rights of the individual and the will of the people" and the rise of "the illiberal democracy, a democracy without rights, and des undemocratic liberalism, of rights without democracy ”[emphasis added. in the original] (p. 24). Galston names two characteristic deformations of liberal democracy in a very similar way, but, unlike Mounk, places them in a clear causal relationship: “Elitists claim that they best understand the means to the public’s ends and should be freed from the inconvenient necessity of popular consent. They regard themselves as the defenders of liberal values, but they have doubts about democracy. [...]The result has been liberal democracy’s other deformation: the rise of populist movements […] across the West ”[emphasis added. d. Ed.] (P. 4). Galston and Mounk, however, do not draw the conclusion from this clear analysis to ask for a better compatibility of the concepts. Rather, Galston considers the current problems to be inevitable: “The basic structure of liberal democracy creates tension that can never be expunged. At best they can be managed in response to ever-changing circumstances "(p. 5 f.). Mounk also considers the stability of liberal democracy to be an exception that depends on external factors (p. 25). The basic tenor of both essays is: Liberal democracy has become unbalanced due to changed framework conditions such as digitization, mass immigration and growing social inequality, which is why the goal must be to improve the framework conditions. The largely disregarding the role of global capitalism for the developments mentioned not only makes the proposed solutions appear questionable, but is all the more astonishing as populists, with their demand for protectionism, limitation of immigration and strengthening of nationalism, are precisely the liberal ones, which are largely shaped by global capitalism Doubting the world order. Instead of dealing with the problems addressed here, the explanations, in their more or less clear focus on the threat to liberal achievements from populism, subtly confirm the elitist tendency of individualistic liberalism.
This becomes particularly clear with Mounk, where it remains unclear at the outset of the relationship between the tendencies towards illiberal democracy on the one hand and undemocratic liberalism on the other. Sometimes Mounk speaks of “two sides of the same coin” (p. 23), then again he seems to blame the illiberal attitudes of the population for the development towards undemocratic liberalism: “While citizens are increasingly doubting liberal institutions and customs , the political elites are trying harder to isolate themselves from this growing displeasure ”(p. 20). Mounk also seems to equate the “current crisis of democracy” with the “rise of populism” (p. 158 f.) And his primary concern is the “fight against populism” (p. 261, 301) and the protection of the rule of law Freedom to be; this is indicated not least by the subtitle, in German: "How populism threatens the rule of law", as in English: "Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It". Because Mounk ultimately confuses the cause and effect of the crisis, he mostly and not very purposefully tampered with the symptoms with a view to his proposed solutions. Mounk sees, classically social democratic, economic stagnation and the associated fear of decline as the reason for the crisis, exacerbated by the triumph of the Internet and social networks as well as the dissolution of monoethical nationalities. In accordance with his crisis diagnosis, Mounk recommends taming nationalism, rehabilitating the economy and renewing belief in democracy: He wants to “curb growing inequality”, emphasize what “unites the members of a multi-ethnic democracy instead of constantly emphasizing it what separates them ”and learn“ to cope much better with the transformative influence of the Internet and social media ”(p. 28). As much as it sounds worthy of approval, in view of the global context of action it seems not only naive, but also a safeguarding of vested interests. Mounk's demand “to take the worries of ordinary people seriously - and to speak their language” (p. 219) reveals a subtle liberal elitism, the problem of which seems to be primarily a problem of mediation, because, apparently to Mounk's regret, no longer "reserved for a small political and financial elite to communicate with the masses" (p. 26). The Internet has shifted the balance of power: "This is another reason why the troublemakers seem to be gaining more and more the upper hand over the forces of continuity" (p. 27). The problem, however, does not seem to open up democratic discourse, but to make it impossible through the targeted use of technical possibilities for manipulating facts, establishing closed parallel publics and anonymous agitation or intimidation of those who think differently.
Galston, too, sees economic stagnation and the associated fears as the main, though expressly not the sole, cause of the crisis; this is based on an astonishingly undemocratic understanding of liberal democracy, according to which it is based on a tacit agreement between the people and the elected representatives as well as the unelected experts (!); the people submit to the elites as long as continued prosperity and steady improvements in living standards are guaranteed (p. 2). Galston now sees this agreement at risk not only through economic developments, but more recently also through mistakes in dealing with the "waves of immigration" and new cultural divisions based on educational differences (p. 3). Although Galston, unlike Mounk, actually understands populism explicitly as a result of the undemocratic tendencies of the liberal elite, his remarks show that he is unable to independently recognize the division between an elite with superior judgment and the people, who are unable to identify their long-term interests on their own is, as such, does not question: “Liberal democracy needs leaders who eschew the extremes of populism and elitism. [...]. Their task is to find effective means for achieving public goals while helping the people better understand their long-term interests ”(p. 6). Rather, for Galston, the crisis is ultimately a crisis of "democratic leadership". The solution lies accordingly in good “democratic leadership”, which must find a balance between “leadership and democratic humility” (p. 121), which must combine ability and legitimacy: “They have the attributes needed to exercise power wisely while respecting the ongoing need for public authorization ”(p. 117). Against this background, the current problems seem manageable: “Public policy can mitigate the heedlessness of markets and slow unwanted change. Nothing requires democratic leaders to give the same weight to outsiders ’claims as to those of their own citizens. [...] Moderate self-preference is the moral core of defensible nationalism. Unmodulated internationalism will breed - is breeding - its antithesis, an increasingly unbridled nationalism ”(p. 5).
Galston himself seems to have doubts as to whether this really works. The collection of essays closes with a chapter on the “Incompleteness of Liberal Democracy”, which reads like a collection of possible problems and answers. Here he criticizes, among other things, liberal anthropology as being shortened, criticizes the suppression of the human disposition to tribalism by liberal democracy, addresses the unresolved ambivalence of freedom and equality, of hierarchy and equality, and the tension between state and market; Even though these points are unsystematically next to one another, central points of the inherent contradiction of individualistic liberalism and the problems resulting from it are addressed here. In the final analysis, Galston contradicts his understanding of liberal democracy as an agreement between citizens and elites to secure prosperity and raise living standards as a construct that only hides the problems but does not solve them.
The elitist tendency of individualistic liberalism, which is only subtly expressed in both essays, is particularly evident at its outermost edge, in the libertarian discourse, where Jason Brennan, for example, in his book “Against Democracy. Why we cannot leave politics to the unreasonable "Footnote 15 demands the rule of the rational elite and comes to the conclusion "that some citizens [...] should have no right to vote or a voting right that is restricted in comparison to other citizens" (p. 8), even though he says he is interested in the right to vote "Because this political right - unlike those rights that I call civil or economic freedom rights - primarily includes the right, Power over others to exercise "[emphasis in the original] (p. 28). But this speaks for the same freedom of everyone, unless one assumes the existence of a higher knowledge that only a few have. In the demand for the rule of the competent, libertarian and authoritarian ideas meet.
Back to the roots
The (ideological) historically or empirically argued titles by A. C. Grayling "Democracy and Its Crisis" choose a different starting point.Footnote 16, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt “How Democracies Die. And what we can do about it "Footnote 17 and Niall Ferguson's volume “Der Niedergang des Westens. How institutions decay and economies die ”.Footnote 18 These books are based on similar assumptions: Liberal democracy has strayed from the right path (Levitsky / Ziblatt), degenerated (Ferguson) or was not properly implemented (Grayling) and should be saved by (re) establishing an original or ideal form. Levitsky and Ziblatt not only want to show “How democracies die”, but - as the programmatic subtitle reveals - also “what we can do about it”; Grayling opens his remarks with a clear commitment: “This book is about the failure of the best political system we have: democracy. And it is about how to put it right ”(p. Ix). Ferguson believes that "until we have understood the true nature of our institutional degeneration, we waste our time tinkering with symptoms with quack drugs" (p. 29).Insofar as the treatises see the problem in deviating from a (empirically or theoretically) functioning form that needs to be (re) established, the possibility of a conceptual construction error inherent in liberal democracy is excluded from the start, i.e. the contradiction of the liberal Individualistic democracy is inherent, is overlooked and the problem is reduced to inadequate implementation. The strength of these titles lies in the description of the symptoms of the crisis (which they nevertheless identify as causes), be it from a historical (Grayling), system-comparative (Levitsky / Ziblatt) or economic (Ferguson) perspective.
A. C. Grayling's approach differs from the other two insofar as he also contrasts British and American democracy with a form that is understood as ideal, but does not criticize the decline of a historical implementation of democracy, but rather the inadequate implementation of the theoretical concept. It therefore has a systematic claim and, from an ideological perspective, comes to a result similar to that of Mounk and Galston. Grayling starts with Plato and draws the history of democracy as the history of a dilemma that only the Federalists in revolutionary America as well as Benjamin Constant, Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill in Europe: to realize the claim to rule of the many and thereby prevent the danger of tipping over into an ochlocracy or hidden oligarchy (p. 3). Ultimately, he names precisely those two tendencies or deformations that Mounk and Galston also address, but considers this dilemma to have already been conceptually resolved by the thinkers of the 19th century. According to Grayling, they had reconciled both sides, "that the ultimate source of political authority should lie in democratic assent, and that government should be and could be sound and responsible" (p. 5). The solution to the democratic dilemma lies in republican or representative democracy. It was just not implemented correctly: "[T] he solution to the dilemma of democracy proposed by the thinkers earlier discussed is right, and will work if implemented properly, vigorously, clearly, and fully" (p. 153). Today's representative democracies in Great Britain and the USA, however, according to Grayling's thesis, “have been made to fail” (p. Ix). Grayling sees three main reasons for this, which he tries to substantiate for both systems in his remarks: firstly, the government officials use the institutions for their own or party-political purposes, secondly, there is a lack of political education among the electorate and thirdly, both groups are manipulated by “agencies with partisan” interests who recognize that they are unlikely to get their interests favored in mainstream ways otherwise, and who therefore resort to undemocratic means to get the democracy to deliver their preferred outcomes ”(p. 132).
With all points, Grayling ultimately refers to the problem of the dominance of particular interests in political decisions and thus - even if he does not name it that way - to the central element of the endangerment of individual freedom through its own anti-legal effects. Because the inequalities arising from the different uses of freedom translate into political decisions, because particular interests decide collective affairs, ultimately endangering individual freedom, which is guaranteed by equal participation in liberal democracy. In this respect, Grayling rightly appeals to the very thinkers who tried to limit the influence of selfish interests on politics. However correct the problem is, namely to protect liberal democracy from a tyranny of the majority as well as from a hidden oligarchy, and the correct diagnosis of the dominance of political decisions by particular interests, it is so regrettable that Grayling with a view to overcoming the Crisis with the liberal thinkers of the 19th century relies on the power of education. Although he also makes targeted practical suggestions, such as transparency with regard to campaign donations (p. 186 f.), He not only overlooks the central role of global contexts of action for the dominance of primarily economic interests in the political decision-making process. Because of the strong emphasis on civic education he also adopts the problematic anthropological premise of a higher human nature, which should be developed, among other things, within the framework of political participation - and with it the elitist tendency contained therein, which is also shown in the aristocratic liberalism of Tocqueville and Mills and implies that one should Citizens only need to be properly educated so that they can make the right decisions. This is all the more regrettable as Mill, for example, also found freedom-theoretical considerations independent of the premise of man's ability to develop and aimed at protecting political cooperation from individual arbitrariness.
Unlike Grayling, Levitsky and Ziblatt (as well as Ferguson) see the problem less in the poor practical implementation of the correct theoretical concept than in the degeneration of the originally functioning, empirical democracy. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, professors of government at Harvard, are about to use their expertise from years of research on democracy and authoritarianism to warn of the creeping decline of American democracy. Cases such as Augusto Pinochet's seizure of power in Chile are not used as references, but rather the politics of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela: Democracies, according to the authors, no longer die suddenly from armed violence, but creepily through the erosion of their norms and institutions, not by generals and soldiers, but through elected leaders: "The democratic regression begins today at the ballot box" (p. 13). In historical comparison, a pattern should become visible, on the basis of which the authors develop a “litmus test” that can identify the “would-be autocrats” and, in the best case, keep them from power or, if they have already come to power, effectively counteracting it helps (p. 15). Here, too, the central actors are the political elites and especially the parties: “Although it is also important how the broad masses react to extremist temptations, it is more important whether political elites, and parties in particular, serve as filters. Simply put, parties are the guardians of democracy ”(p. 30). Aside from the weakness of affirmative argumentation expressed here, which is blind to the conceptual reasons for the crisis and once again reveals the elitist tendency of individualistic liberalism, the emphasis on democratic norms for the functioning of a liberal democracy, which the authors call “soft Guardrails ”(p. 120). The American constitution was thus protected for a long time by two basic norms, “mutual respect” and “institutional restraint” (p. 120 ff.), The erosion of which began in the 1980s and 1990s and was only accelerated by Trump: “The demand To view competitors as legitimate contenders for power and not to fully utilize one's institutional rights in the spirit of fair play is not in the constitution. But without these norms, the constitutional separation of powers and mutual control will not function as we expect ”(p. 249).
The approaches to overcoming the crisis, like the search for the cause - largely ignoring the role of global capitalism in the crisis of national democracies - predominantly relate to the USA and, in accordance with the assumption of the central role of the parties in their reform, begin. Above all, the republican party, which the authors hold primarily responsible for the political split, must reform itself, with the renewal of the CDU after 1945 serving as an example (p. 263 ff.). But the authors also see a need for action with the democrats: "It is absolutely necessary, however difficult it may be, for the democrats to take up the issue of inequality, because it does not only concern social justice: the well-being of our democracy depends on it" ( P. 270). The authors attribute the problem of the extreme division of the country, the polarization and the hostility of the political camps to a connection between social inequality and the “race question” (p. 267 f.). Like Mounk and Galston, Levitsky / Ziblatt see a large part of the solution in welfare state measures, here "following the example of the Scandinavian countries" (p. 269). In view of the US political culture, this not only seems very optimistic, but also ignores the fact that countries with a comprehensive welfare state are faced with similar problems, which, not least, the isolated treatment of the crisis as a crisis of the US system appears questionable leaves. And even if Levitsky and Ziblatt in the end, with a view to the new challenges, hold on to only renewing the liberal ideals of a bygone era, it is not enough, how it should be possible to "unite democracy and ethnic diversity" (p . 272).
Niall Ferguson, a historian specializing in financial and economic history at Harvard, also wants to save western-style liberal democracy (and the western predominance associated with it in his eyes) by returning to the liberal tradition. “The decline of the west. How institutions decay and economies die "Footnote 19 resembles Levitsky / Ziblatt's analysis of the assumed degeneration of the formerly successful political system. The work, written against the background of the financial crisis, focuses more on the economic dimension of the crisis, but here too - and here particularly irritatingly - the view of the nation state, i.e. national economies, remains limited. The starting point of Ferguson's considerations is economic stagnation in the sense of Adam Smith's “'stage of standstill', [...] that state of a previously rich country that has stopped growing” (p. 17), the cause of which Ferguson, following Smith in, decrepit institutions and laws sees: "The Great Recession is just a symptom of a profound Great Degeneration" (p. 19). According to this understanding, democracy, capitalism, the rule of law and civil society as complex collections of institutions in the fields of politics, economics, law and society were decisive for the success of the West, because only a good combination of institutions provides the right incentives (whereby the concept of institutions is very broad and accordingly remains vague (p. 21 f.)). With recourse to the classics of conservative liberalism, Ferguson tries to illustrate the degeneration of the institutions and to point out ways out of the crisis: He sees the national debt as a symptom of the dissolution of Burke's social contract between the generations (p. 59), speaks to Walter Bagehot opposes complex state market regulation (p. 90 f.), Sees the rule of law degenerating into the rule of lawyers (p. 124) and, with Tocqueville, calls for a strengthening of civil society through less government activity and more initiative (p. 139 ff. ). How he imagines this is illustrated by an anecdote of a beach clean-up campaign that he initiated (p. 127 ff.) And the call for the privatization of schools (p. 142 ff.). Above all, Ferguson wants to open his eyes: The "stationary state", the debts, the growing inequality are due to the degenerate institutions and must be solved accordingly. He sees the key to this in civil society: “Our task in the years to come is to restore them [the institutions] - to reverse the Great Degeneration - and to bring back those basic principles of a truly free society for which I - with help some great thinkers of the past - advertised in the previous chapters. In short, it is time to clean up the beach ”(p. 152). Whether Ferguson's advocacy for that big society and so that the attempt to simultaneously enable greater individual freedom and to create more common sense are productive, seems more than questionable against the background of the anti-Galitarian effects of individual freedom. Such thinking is based on the assumption that individual freedom creates unintended social added value. However, this assumption seems to be part of the problem rather than the solution in the current crisis.
The diagnosis of the economic decline of the West is also at the center of “Has the West Lost It? A Provocation ”by Kishore Mahbubani, political scientist and former Singapore ambassador to the UNFootnote 20who already takes the preponderance of liberalism for granted or seems to support it. Although his perspective is an outside perspective and Mahbubani, unlike Ferguson, considers the decline of the West to be inevitable and welcomes it, he nevertheless evaluates the development from a purely economic logic of progress and counts on a victory of the Western neoliberal utopia understood in this way, if not through Western dominance and - in its understanding of liberalism as neoliberalism consequently - not necessarily in association with democracy.
Mahbubani's pamphlet is a guide in Machiavellian style, addressed to the West. The author advises facing the facts and making the best of the situation: The economic and, as a result, political decline of the West or its supremacy is inevitable, its dominance is only a historical blink of an eye, but he can use the remaining power to save his utopia in a Machiavellian way. The West had given the rest a gift, "the power of reasoning" (p. 11), which initially triggered three silent revolutions in Asian societies (and now, through their example, is radiating to Africa and Latin America), which is why the development in many Countries are much more positive than the pessimistic view of the West suggests. The political revolution has led to the fact that most Asian leaders have realized that they are responsible to their people, even if there is no democratic participation (for Mahbubani, however, this seems to be dispensable as long as the standard of living rises) (p. 12 ff.) ; the psychological revolution lies in the belief in a better future (p. 15 f.) and the third revolution has led to the conviction among current political leaders that “that good governance will transform and uplift their societies” (p. 17). Mahbubani warns not to gamble away these successes (which he measures almost exclusively in terms of economic prosperity); the West is closer than ever to realizing its utopia (here he cites the decline in violence and poverty as evidence). Mahbubani advises the West to abandon its aggressive interventionism and submit to multilateral rules in order to set the standards for the time after Western dominance: “A simple dose of Machiavelli is what we need to save the West and the rest. Otherwise "the West really has lost it" (p. 91).
History is what we make of it
A wake-up call is also understood to mean two other historically argued titles that differ from the other historically argued treatises in that they question the historical continuity and understand the crisis as an opportunity for a new beginning. While the historian Timothy Snyder with “The way into bondage. Russia - Europe - America "Footnote 21 David Runciman, a political scientist from Cambridge, breaks more radically with liberal democracy in “How Democracy Ends” primarily wants to question the inevitability of recent history and ultimately seems to hope for a revival of liberal democracy.Footnote 22 With the assumption that liberal democracy will end like any other form of government, Runciman questions the implied inevitability of the restoration of the liberal ideal.
Snyder wants to win back the present for history and thus history for politics. His thesis: The USA and Europe, with the "politics of inevitability" that prevailed following the story of the end of history - whose positive future prognoses have proven to be invalid in view of the financial crisis of 2008, growing inequality and a lack of social security - for those of Russia propagated "politics of eternity" made vulnerable (p. 14 ff.). According to Snyder, both abolish the story (p. 16). By analyzing recent history, Snyder's aim is to make it clear that inevitability and eternity, progress and doom are not history itself, “but ideas within history, possibilities of experience in our time that accelerate trends while slowing our thinking "(P. 293). In contrast, history is "what we do ourselves" (ibid.).The author wants to expose and empower, to show that it is in our hands: “A story of loss thus becomes a proposal for reconstruction” (ibid.).
As refreshing as Snyder's basic statement is that his (initially apparently) emancipatory understanding of history is in the face of a policy that is accelerating, constantly under pressure to act and therefore apparently lacking alternatives and, in principle, the widening of the view beyond the nation state, it is quite exciting Reading and fact-rich book in its one-sided tracing back of all evil to Putin and its influence by Ivan Ilyin, bordering the conspiracy theory. Snyder's look at the more recent Russian, Ukrainian, European and American past is intended to help uncover the political problems of the present; Ultimately, however, he writes a story of the growing Russian influence on the West, in a dramaturgical sequence beginning with Putin's election of the fascist philosopher Ivan Ilyin as the ideological leading figure, through the collapse of democratic politics in Russia, Russia's attack on the EU, the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, the Russian information war in Russia, Europe and America and finally culminating in the Russian-influenced election of Donald Trump. At the end of this “path into bondage” stands the hope of the resurrection of liberal democracy from the “virtues of equality, individuality, succession, integration, innovation and truth”. All of which, according to Snyder, “depend on human decisions and actions” (p. 293), but then suggest an inevitability that seems to contradict the previous criticism: “The ultimate truth is unattainable in this world, but striving for it leads the individual away from bondage. […] Authoritarianism begins when we can no longer tell the difference between what is true and what is pleasing ”(p. 294).
David Runciman, on the other hand, emphasizes the open outcome of current developments. He explicitly denies any historical analogy: "History does not go into reverse" (p. 4); Above all, he finds, “we ought to get away from our current fixation with the 1930s” (p. 8 f.). He sees three fundamental differences between the current situation and earlier crises in liberal democracy: firstly, political violence has decreased, a coup is unlikely, rather democracy is being undermined from within; the symptom of this is the spread of conspiracy theories (Chapter 1); secondly, catastrophes such as nuclear wars and global warming would have led to collective mobilization in the past, but now create passivity (Chapter 2); third, the effects of the digital revolution undermined democracy in many ways (Chapter 3). As a result of his diagnosis, the author sees the problem as a slackening of strength; democracy is in its midlife crisis, the outcome of which is open (p. 5). Runciman can also be read as a wake-up call: We have the future in our hands; Even if the western democracies have passed their zenith and lost their ability to revive themselves, we should look ahead: “Western democracy wants to survive its mid-life crisis. With luck, it will be a little chastened by it. It is unlikely to be revived by it. This is not, after all, the end of democracy. But this is how democracy ends ”(p. 218). As sensible as Runciman's reference to the limits of comparison with previous crises is, it is not only the global climate protests that speak against his diagnosis; like other transnational protest movements (and also populism) they seem to be signs of a revival of democracy against its (neo) liberal undermining by the globalized economy.
But Runciman is not only convinced that “there are better options than contemporary democracy”, his hope rests in “liberated technology” (p. 205); digital technology opens up the opportunity to revolutionize political organization. Here he follows Philip N. Howard's vision from “Pax Technica”: “He envisages two levels of politics in the future. [...] It leaves technical governance on one side and direct political action on the other. There is little need for anything in between ”(p. 197 f.). Runciman claims no inevitability of development: "It includes all sorts of potential futures: some wondrous, some terrible, and most wholly unknowable" (p. 205). You can follow this or not, Runciman's willingness to approach something new and the accompanying description of the emotional state in the prevailing crisis discourse is refreshing. There is nothing left but to try, but that is better than wallowing in the past and loss: “To get the best possible future we have to run the gauntlet of the worst […]. The democracy that many have grown to dislike and distrust remains a comfortable and familiar place to be, compared with the prospect of the unknown. This is our mid-life crisis. We may prefer to wallow on it ”(p. 206).
Free democracy without ideology
The current crisis of liberal democracy is based on the dominance of the liberal over the democratic element, as the titles discussed here show through their analysis and / or more often through their example. While the description of the symptoms and partly also the causes of the crisis is convincing, the approaches to overcoming it are either - as a result of an only superficial diagnosis - backward-looking and related to the nation-state or - for different ideological reasons - do not draw the consequences the established development of an anti-legal or undemocratic liberalism.
Only Deneen points to the self-destructive tendency of individualistic liberalism (which he shortens with the Equates liberalism), its unintended anti-Galitarian effects and also the shortened individualistic understanding of freedom. However, his answers can be explained less by his accurate analysis than by his political preferences: instead of overcoming the ideological age, as demanded by Deneen himself, his aim is to transform one (the liberal) ideology into another (conservative-communitarian) ideology replace. If one takes the demand to overcome ideology seriously and does not claim to have knowledge of human nature and the corresponding, true political order, then promoting community can only mean democracy as a form of negotiating common values and convictions take seriously and protect equal freedom as a prerequisite for this negotiation process. If, however, liberal freedom is self-destructive in its individualistic conception because it fails to achieve the goal of mutual guarantee of equal freedom due to its anti-legal effects, then the central question is: How must freedom be designed so that it fulfills the requirement of equality necessary for its mutual guarantee Fulfills?
Against this background, the analytical separation made by Mounk and Galston between the concepts of democracy and liberalism appears extremely profitable and the development they noted towards undemocratic liberalism on the one hand and an illiberal democracy on the other handful. But their focus on the threat to the rule of law posed by populism (and thus illiberal democracy) not only shows a liberal gesture of superiority, they also seem to confuse the cause and effect of the crisis. Social inequality, digitization and migration are by no means, as assumed here, the causes of the crisis, they are rather symptoms of the unrestrained anti-Galitarian effects of individualistic liberalism or, in other words: of undemocratic liberalism, in the face of unleashed capitalism. Babones, one of the few authors discussed here, who also thinks about the global dimension, succinctly names the actual problem and its practical cause: the threat to democracy from a new liberal authoritarianism of a globalized economy and its experts. However, one must differentiate here: global capitalism itself is not the cause of the crisis; The anti-Galitarian effects inherent in individualistic liberalism are “only” unrestrained under its conditions, because economic inequality can no longer be contained by nation-state mechanisms and is thus freely translated into political inequality. The self-destructive force inherent in individualistic liberalism is only revealed against the background of global capitalism as unleashed. The emergence of right-wing populist parties as well as transnational protest movements can be understood as a consequence of this development. Both pursue the same goal, albeit with a completely different political intention: to protect democracy from the liberal authoritarianism of a globalized economy and to strengthen it. The decisive difference is that the transnational protest movements only want to rebalance liberalism and democracy, while the right-wing populists question the liberal framework of democracy as such and thus do not solve the problem, rather they seek to unilaterally resolve the imbalance (vice versa).
The danger of the elitist tendency, the development of an undemocratic liberalism or the establishment of a hidden oligarchy or even a liberal authoritarianism, however, does not lie in the liberal framework (or legal restriction) of democracy as such, but in the individualistic understanding of freedom on which this framework is based. The liberal democracies of western character are based on the idea that the liberal balance of individual interests leads to the common good and the participation of all guarantees freedom at the same time. The fact that some interests are not even heard while others have a disproportionately large influence on political decisions shows that this balancing of interests does not work as a guarantee of freedom. With the dominance of particular interests in political decisions, Grayling points to the central element of the endangerment of liberal democracy or - if not so named by him - individual freedom through its own anti-Gallitarian effects. He also clearly states the objective, namely: the protection of liberal democracy from a tyranny of the majority as well as from a hidden oligarchy. His approaches to a solution, however, with the emphasis on education, promote the elitist tendency rather than prevent it and thus miss the cause: The individualistic conception of freedom undermines the promise of liberal democracy for equal freedom by making it one-sided in favor of the individual freedom of some dissolves and thus helps the elitist tendency inherent in liberalism to break through.
Liberalism is epistemologically based on the assumption that man on the one hand qua Reason recognizes the need to share power, but on the other hand, concrete political cooperation must be protected from the power instinct of the individual. That is why liberal rule is depersonalized rule; it is not people, but procedures and institutions such as the separation of powers or constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights that are intended to prevent the abuse of power. However, it is not just people who design the procedures and institutions - the liberal theorists - but also people who keep these institutions and procedures running. The split between reason and (power) instincts inevitably translates into a split between a rational elite that protects the liberal ideals and a mass that is led by this elite and tends to be irrational. Liberalism, like every ideology, is based on the assumption of a higher truth and thus an elitist tendency based on a split between those who know about the respective truth and those who are (still) ignorant. In the case of liberalism, the split between the rulers and the ruled based on ideological truth contradicts its own demand for equal freedom, for whose implementation it must therefore necessarily enter into a connection with democratic as an egalitarian form of rule.
Within the framework of representative democracy, the split inherent in liberalism is neutralized or translated into an only temporary split between representatives as experts in politics and those represented as the mass of those treated by this policy, so that political equality is guaranteed through the potential change between rulers and rulers. The problem arises because the change between the governed and the governing, which is central to representative democracy, is undermined by the social and economic inequality resulting from the different use of individual freedom under the conditions of individualistic liberalism. If the social and economic inequality is not mitigated (even if not resolved) by welfare state measures - as was the case for a long time - the ideological character of liberalism comes into play, which, contrary to its own demand for equal freedom, is dominated by a supposedly reasonable elite favored, to the detriment of the democratic participation of the supposedly unreasonable. The social and economic inequality that necessarily follows from individualistic liberalism is then translated into political inequality.
Despite the justified criticism of the populists against this background, their (more or less open) demand for an illiberal democracy fails. Insofar as democratic rule itself contains an ideological element with the decision of the majority, the consequence of the preponderance of the liberal element cannot be to question the liberal (or legal) framework of liberal democracy as such. In its pure form, democracy is confronted with the problem of the tyranny of the majority, which in turn means the rule of one (many) over the other (few). Once again it becomes clear: Liberalism and democracy are not connected by chance, not only historically, but rather ideally. Because the democratic decision presupposes the same freedom, this must itself be withdrawn from the democratic decision. Conversely, equal democratic participation is not only an expression, but also a guarantee of the same individual freedom. Political equality is a necessary requirement of freedom as a right that we mutually guarantee one another.
Against the background of what has been said, the challenge seems to be to rethink freedom. If one wants to protect the freedom of everyone equally so that the ideological temptation of democracy (tyranny of the majority) and liberalism (authoritarianism of the sensible) neutralize each other as far as possible, it is essential to protect negative freedom social dimension to expand. It is not only the individual sphere that has to be protected from arbitrary state decisions; political cooperation must also be protected from arbitrary arbitrary behavior. Because if the individual (often economic) interests of a few dominate political decisions, then this endangers the individual freedom of all in the long term. Social freedom indirectly protects individual freedom, but not the individual freedom of some, but that same individual freedom for everyone! For a political liberalism extended by a social dimension of freedom, the capitalist economic system is not as sacrosanct as it is for individualistic liberalism; rather, it is itself the subject of democratic negotiation and is consequently subject to social freedom. At the global level, the structures for this have so far been lacking; the first thing to do here must be to oppose something politically to the globalized economy; At the national level, with a view to social (as a prerequisite for individual) freedom, much would be gained if the activities of lobby groups, party donations, the linking of political office and post in the economy and the like were regulated, controlled or banned in such a way that the The influence of organized individual interests on political decisions is excluded as far as possible. Just one democratic liberalismwhich guarantees both individual and social negative freedom, can do justice to the liberal demand for equal freedom, instead of solidifying into ideology, as in its individualistic form, and thereby undermining democracy and at the same time its own livelihood.
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Ferguson: decline (see note 7).
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Snyder: way (as note 10).
Runciman: Democracy (see note 9).
Open Access funding provided by the DEAL project.
University of Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany
Correspondence to Frauke Höntzsch.
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