COVID-19, Politics, Top Stories, World Affairs

COVID-19 Is Not the End of ‘The End of History’

I.

If there were an annual award for the world’s most misunderstood essay, Francis Fukuyama would have won it every year for the past three decades. “The End of History?” was published in the National Interest in the summer of 1989, and it argued that the world was witnessing the “total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.” This observation led Fukuyama to a conclusion that has catalyzed more debate than any other single argument since the collapse of the Soviet Union: “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Fukuyama must have known how controversial this claim was, but he never could have anticipated the impact his essay would have or how grossly it would be misrepresented. What’s remarkable about “The End of History?” is how fundamentally its critics often miss the point. Christopher Hitchens summarized the most common objection in an essay for the Weekly Standard in 2005. The new era of triumphant liberal democracy, he wrote, was “over before it began. By the middle of 1990, Saddam Hussein had abolished Kuwait and Slobodan Milošević was attempting to erase the identity and the existence of Bosnia. It turned out that we had not by any means escaped the reach of atavistic, aggressive, expansionist, and totalitarian ideology.”

But Fukuyama didn’t argue that there would be no more Saddam Husseins or Slobodan Miloševićs, nor did he make the case that violence and oppression were at an end. As he put it: “This is not to say that there will no longer be events to fill the pages of Foreign Affairs‘ yearly summaries of international relations, for the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in the real or material world.”

Over the past several years, article after article has declared “The End of the End of History.” Other recent headlines include “The Man Who Declared the ‘End of History’ Fears for Democracy’s Future” and “Francis Fukuyama Postpones the End of History.” The reasons given for why history is continuing apace are well-rehearsed: the rise of authoritarianism in Europe and the United States, the “decline of democracy,” the Great Recession, the emergence of China as a competitor to the US, Brexit, and other shocks and trends that seem to challenge the status quo in Western democracies. And now there’s COVID-19, which has devastated the global economy and empowered authoritarian governments around the world.

As the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, recently observed: “The health crisis will inevitably subside, but autocratic governments’ dangerous expansion of power may be one of the pandemic’s most enduring legacies.” Roth provides a frightening list of authoritarian measures being deployed in dozens of countries, including restrictions on media organizations and dissidents, a state of emergency in Hungary that allows Viktor Orbán to “imprison for up to five years any journalist who disseminates news that is deemed ‘false,’” and increased digital surveillance in Russia and China. “As occurred after September 11, 2001,” Roth writes, “it may be difficult to put the surveillance genie back in the bottle after the crisis fades.” He also worries about other “long-lasting restrictions on civil liberties” brought about by COVID-19.

Roth is one of many human rights observers raising the alarm about the political fallout of COVID-19. Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, argues that “We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following close if not on the heels of a health epidemic.” Freedom House’s Allie Funk and Isabel Linzer warn that “this crisis could trigger a lasting global backslide in fundamental freedoms—and it’s already started.” Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, points out that “We must be mindful that when we get to the other side of the pandemic, we may be left with a narrative, being written by China, that government control over information was essential to combating the crisis.”

Countless articles are also speculating about the destructive impact COVID-19 will have on globalization—another pillar of the End of History. An article in Foreign Policy declares that the pandemic is “killing globalization as we know it” because it’s empowering nationalists who want to constrict the free movement of people and goods. A headline in Forbes announces that the “Post-Coronavirus World May Be the End of Globalization.” In Bloomberg, Robert D. Kaplan argues that COVID-19 is driving the “second phase of globalization,” which will be a period of great power competition and the rise of authoritarianism, nativism, and populism. According to Kaplan, “Globalization 2.0 will deepen and be with us for years. Only in the fullness of time will it turn out to be just another phase that humanity passes through: not the end of history.” Like many of Fukuyama’s critics, Kaplan uses the phrase “end of history” as a byword for the naivety of anyone who believes humanity is moving in a certain direction.

II.

There aren’t many events like the COVID-19 pandemic in a single lifetime—events like the Kennedy assassination, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the September 11th attacks, which remind us that we aren’t just passive observers of history but active participants in it. It’s no surprise that COVID-19 is making so many people worry about the sustainability of democracy, free markets, globalization, and the other institutions and systems that we often take for granted. And these concerns aren’t limited to intellectuals and activists—Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently questioned the future of the EU without more cross-border solidarity and support: “If we do not seize the opportunity to put new life into the European project, the risk of failure is real.”

While the number of liberal democracies in the world (which has surged since the end of the Cold War, despite recent setbacks) is compelling evidence for Fukuyama’s thesis, the argument isn’t strictly empirical—it’s about the success and failure of certain ideas, and what those ideas tell us about how countries will behave in the future. Today, Fukuyama also acknowledges the danger of democratic backsliding: “Twenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward. And I think they clearly can.” In his 2014 book Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy, Fukuyama discusses this theory in detail.

As COVID-19 suffocates the global economy, borders remain closed, and tensions mount between EU countries, the US and China, etc., Fukuyama’s critics are taking the opportunity to dismiss the “The End of History?” while ignoring its basic premises. For example, in an essay for American Greatness about deglobalization and the reassertion of state sovereignty as a consequence of the pandemic, Fukuyama’s Stanford colleague Russell A. Berman wrote:

Capitalists… have indulged in the fantasy of the end of the state, especially in the neoliberal version of an economy free of political constraints. This peculiar fiction grew pronounced in the millenarian hallucination of an “end of history,” which preached that the epochal change of 1989 had ushered in a Kantian era of perpetual peace. Global capitalism was supposed to erase borders, replacing national solidarities with abstract universalism. Genuine conflicts were predicted to dissolve into rules-based competition, while existential threats would dissipate in a thoroughly benign cosmos. After all, with the fall of Communism, all enemies had disappeared, which made states obsolete.

So, the tradition of misreading and misrepresenting “The End of History?” continues. Fukuyama didn’t predict a “Kantian era of perpetual peace”—he explicitly rejected that idea. While he emphasized the “‘Common Marketization’ of international relations, and the diminution of the likelihood of large scale conflict between states,” he argued that this “does not by any means imply the end of international conflict per se.” While it’s true that Fukuyama was too optimistic about the prospects for liberalization in Russia and China, he acknowledged the possibility that both countries would continue to resist reform and “remain stuck in history.” “Conflict between states still in history,” Fukuyama explained, “and between those states and those at the end of history, would still be possible.”

Fukuyama also pointed out that “There has always been a very strong current of great Russian chauvinism in the Soviet Union, which has found freer expression since the advent of glasnost”—a current epitomized by Vladimir Putin’s revanchist attempts to claw back some of Russia’s Cold War territory and international standing. Putin believes the collapse of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, and he defended the invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014 by arguing that Russia was “robbed” and “plundered” at the end of the Cold War. With the fall of communism, Fukuyama didn’t claim that “all enemies had disappeared” and states had become “obsolete.” In fact, he argued that nationalism remained a potential ideological threat to liberal democracy.

However, Fukuyama argued that “nationalism is not one single phenomenon but several, ranging from mild cultural nostalgia to the highly organized and elaborately articulated doctrine of National Socialism. Only systematic nationalisms of the latter sort can qualify as a formal ideology on the level of liberalism or communism.” Fukuyama also observed that most forms of nationalism don’t “offer anything like a comprehensive agenda for socioeconomic organization.”

While it’s true that nationalism can lead to certain socioeconomic policies regarding trade, immigration, and so on, it isn’t an economic or political system in and of itself. This is why Fukuyama argued that nationalism doesn’t necessarily represent an “irreconcilable contradiction in the heart of liberalism.” Still, there’s no doubt that it can be corrosive to liberalism—particularly when it devolves into xenophobia or jingoism, which can threaten marginalized citizens and lead to restrictions on freedoms. Nationalism can create fertile ground for authoritarianism, a reality of which many Americans and Europeans have been reminded in recent years.

There’s a lot of talk about how authoritarianism is on the rise around the world—particularly as COVID-19 gives governments an excuse to suspend elections, shut down courts, and spy on their citizens. But like nationalism, authoritarianism isn’t a self-contained ideology—it’s a phenomenon that can be expressed in many different ways, from President Trump describing journalists as “enemies of the people” and peddlers of “fake news” to the murder of dissident journalists in Russia. While Trump’s behavior is reprehensible and alarming, he’s constrained by the rule of law and democratic institutions that Putin doesn’t have to contend with.

Organizations like Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, and the Committee to Protect Journalists are right to be concerned about creeping authoritarianism around the world during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. While drastic measures are necessary to arrest the spread of the disease, it’s difficult to think of a greater gift to authoritarian leaders than sweeping emergency powers (which are often passed quickly and subject to minimal oversight). The countries that are in the strongest position to prevent these powers from being abused are the ones that have a free and open press, institutions such as an independent judiciary and legislature that check the authority of the ruler, and robust civil society groups like the ones listed above. Liberal democracies, in other words.

III.

“At the end of history,” Fukuyama wrote in 1989, “it is not necessary that all societies become successful liberal societies, merely that they end their ideological pretensions of representing different and higher forms of human society.” Fukuyama has since revised this view: “If China… remains strong and stable for another generation, then I think there is, in fact, a real alternative to liberal democracy.” To Fukuyama’s critics, this really is the end of the End of History—his essay argued that the world had witnessed the “total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism,” but a viable alternative has emerged.

However, this is another misreading of his argument. Fukuyama never claimed that every country in the world would adopt liberal democracy by a certain date, nor did he think it was inconceivable that an alternative would be developed. He just argued that there were good reasons why liberal democracy was the most sustainable form of government—an argument that hasn’t been decided one way or the other. He points out that we don’t have a definitive answer about whether China’s model will prove to be more durable in the long run, either:

The big question that I think no one can really answer right now is the extent to which this model is sustainable. The economic model, which is based on a lot of debt, is not sustainable. Whether the Chinese Communist Party can continue to produce leadership that’s adequate to the kind of challenges such a large country faces is also not clear. If there is an economic crisis like a big recession, which China has really not experienced since 1978, that will put a lot of stress on the country and so, it’s just not clear how well the system is going to last when it’s stressed. So far, it has done well because there has been stability in the external environment. But that’s not always going to be the case.

With COVID-19 and the massive global economic downturn it has caused, the external environment is less stable than it has been in years. Fukuyama has long argued that China’s rising middle class could become restless in the event of economic stagnation or contraction, which would put greater pressure on Beijing to become more democratic (or at least less repressive). China’s growth rate was slowing before the COVID-19 outbreak and the trade war with the US wasn’t helping. As Fukuyama notes, China also has a high debt-to-GDP ratio due to its massive investments in infrastructure with programs like the Belt and Road Initiative, which could cause fiscal problems over the long term (particularly because foreign investment is inherently less predictable than domestic investment, as Beijing has far less control over events beyond its borders that can lead to instability).

When virtually the entire National People’s Congress voted to amend the Chinese constitution in 2018 to confirm Xi Jinping as president for life, one of the last remaining checks on his power was removed—Fukuyama argues that this will eliminate accountability and lead to destabilizing succession struggles in the future.

While China’s authoritarian model allowed for a robust response to COVID-19, it also coerced and punished whistleblowers like Li Wenliang, whose warnings went unheeded in the crucial early weeks of the outbreak. When hundreds of millions of Chinese suddenly found themselves under lockdown, there was an explosion of outrage at the authorities in Beijing and the provincial government in Hubei, while Dr. Li became a martyr following his death from COVID-19. Counterintuitively, China’s huge surveillance apparatus may have prevented the government from discovering the truth about COVID-19. In an essay for the Atlantic, Zeynep Tufekci argues: “If people are too afraid to talk, and if punishing people for ‘rumors’ becomes the norm, a doctor punished for spreading news of a disease in one province becomes just another day, rather than an indication of impending crisis.”

Tufekci also observes that China’s authoritarian system may have given local officials an incentive to lie to both the public and the central government. This is what happened in the late 1950s when officials across the country convinced Mao Zedong that China was experiencing an agricultural surplus, leading him to encourage Chinese to eat “five meals a day” and export vast amounts of food just before one of the worst famines in human history: “Apparatchiks in various provinces had engaged in competitive exaggeration,” Tufekci writes, “reporting ever-increasing surpluses both because they were afraid of reporting bad news and because they wanted to please their superiors.” Authoritarianism has its strengths, but its weaknesses can be catastrophic.

Talk about the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” and the “final form of human government” seems destined to age poorly. But liberal democracy is the product of centuries of philosophical, cultural, and political development, from the Magna Carta to the Enlightenment to the French and American Revolutions. This is a cartoonishly brief summary of the origin and refinement of liberalism, but it’s only intended to illustrate a broad point: It takes a vast amount of time to build a system capable of enduring for hundreds of years. This is why attempts to do so quickly in places that don’t have long traditions of democratic governance—in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance—can be immensely difficult.

China is a very old civilization, which (as Fukuyama explains in The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution) ironically created some of the core features of liberal democracy, such as the idea of an impersonal state bureaucracy. However, the modern Chinese system is a recent innovation, and it will be a long time before we know whether it’s capable of outperforming—much less replacing—liberal democracy.

Take a moment to consider the shocks and crises liberal democracy has endured over the past quarter of a millennium: the US Civil War, the Great Depression, two World Wars, a Cold War against an implacable nuclear-armed adversary. This history should put COVID-19 and the rise of authoritarianism—frightening as those things are—in perspective. At a time when every glance at the headlines reminds us that we’re living through history, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the fact that a debate over whether liberal democracy represents the “final form of human government” is still worth having.

 

Matt Johnson has written for Stanford Social Innovation Review, the BulwarkEditor & PublisherAreo MagazineArc DigitalSplice TodayForbes, and the Kansas City Star. He was formerly the opinion page editor at the Topeka Capital-Journal. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjj89.

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash.

Comments

  1. I have certain doubts.

    Ancient Roman Republic had existed about five hundred years. By the way, around the middle of this time period, Qin Shi Huang created the Chinese empire.
    The Roman Republic did not become the end of history.
    Liberal democracy, in the form we know it, has existed for about three hundred years.
    People’s Republic of China was created about 70 years ago.

    Perhaps we should be more careful in our discussions about the end of history. I’m not sure that the history develops thanks to those who believe they know its direction, especially if they put themselves on the right side of it.

  2. It’s no surprise that COVID-19 is making so many people worry about the sustainability of democracy …

    It’s no surprise because we live in a 24hr news cycle of clickbait articles that politicize and demonize everything while aiming for the bottom of the slippery slope, aggravated by a poor understanding of how written or unwritten constitutional processes work.

    Once-in-a-generation disasters happen: the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, an Asiatic plague. It is a testament to the strength of western democratic governments that the leaders are basically committed to constitutional ideals and forms. While it’s chic to call the democraps “commies” and Trump a “fascist”, this is just politics as usual.

    Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and deported a hostile newspaper publisher across to Confederate lines – attacking two of the touchstones of western liberty, yet freedom of the press and jurisprudence thrived after the war emergency ended. These are extreme examples, but the men who wrote the Constitution also understood what most commentators don’t – no constitutionally guaranteed liberty is absolute, that all liberties are balanced against other personal liberties and/or government interests and that the art of governing lies in knowing where the fulcrum is. They can’t take away your AR platform but you’ll never privately own a 155mm howitzer in California; you can demand that Hillary be locked up but you can’t do that with a bullhorn outside my window at midnight. You have a right to assemble under the First Amendment but the government can temporarily restrict that right to no more than 10 people and shut down the economy because assembly is, for the moment, of less importance than the personal rights of others not to be infected by a highly contagious dangerous disease and the government’s interest in slowing down a spreading epidemic. That’s how the fundamental rights are guaranteed in America and other civilized nations, such as Australia and the UK, and, possibly, France.

  3. I really had read it as well as his book Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity – I remember very well how in this book he gave examples of how religiosity allows to establish trust between completely unfamiliar businessmen (I agree, this is correct).
    He was also among forty co-signers of William Kristol’s September 20, 2001 letter to President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks that suggested the U.S. not only "capture or kill Osama bin Laden, but also embark upon “a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq” – Good advice from someone who is on the right side of the history.
    Than in his endorsement of Obama he wrote “It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush”. This time the right side of the story was different, but he was already there.
    Now you can see him frequently on CNN.
    I’m impressed by such ability perennially to be on the right side – this reminds me joke popular in the USSR: “I never deviated from the (Communist) Party’s line, I always deviated together with the (Communist) Party’s line”.

  4. Fukuyama was right, if a little unclear in his language. History DID end thirty years ago, in the sense of Hegelian history, the superseding of one political paradigm by another. Hegel wierdly saw Prussian autocracy as the ultimate paradigm. Fukuyama more correctly awarded that distinction to liberal democracy. And indeed no other system has emerged to supersede it, only regressions to earlier systems like authoritarianism and totalitarianism and tribalism. When history reached its end the only way to go was backward, if one dislike where it had arrived, as many people obviously do.

    Fukuyama’s main error is about China. It’s totalitarian system, basically the old pre-democratic Taiwan writ large, is certainly no competitor to liberal democracy. Fukuyama was right thirty years ago and should listen to his younger self.

  5. One of the assumptions of cosmopolitan liberalism is that it presumes a level of human universalism which simply doesn’t exist. Different cultures lead to different modes of thinking and different philosophies which may alter the way any given culture reacts to the institutions and foundational philosophy of the West.

    In the West, for example, the primary method of social cohesion is the guilt/forgiveness model (although social media has put this precept under threat), whilst in Asian and other cultures honour/shame is the dynamic. This can lead to a form of institutionalised suicide, where no option for redemption presents itself, and the burden of dishonour becomes too much.

    If the basic building block of the West is the sovereignty of the individual, then how are we to take the realisation that the basic cultural building block in China, and many other parts of world, is the family, and more particularly the extended family? This may be one of the reasons why China tends to emphasis stability over liberty as an aspiration- with their fear of the negative consequences of instability, well-grounded in the disasters of historical susceptibility to the four horsemen.

    But a better way to evaluate the differences between peoples, is to look at the Moral Foundations Theory developed by Jonathan Haidt, Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham. It basically looks at why Western Educated Industrialised Rich and Democratic cultures seem to develop a class of people who have a fundamentally different moral psychology, to everyone else in the world. It is important to note that even within the West, this psychological liberalism is confined to generally affluent and educated people from comfortable and secure backgrounds.

    Despte being widely accepted, recently Moral Foundation Theory has come under question from certain circles. This article from Behavorial Scientist shows one such attempt:

    The problem is it’s a return to universalism, and does nothing to explain why cosmopolitan liberals differ so fundamentally in the way they perceive the world and human society, from virtually everyone else in the world. This recent paper from the University of Stirling may shed some light on the issue:

    It shows that whilst the dual liberal obsessions of care/harm and fairness can be influenced by mass media and other external mechanism, the more conservative Moral Foundations found in C2 and DE backgrounds and throughout the rest of the world- namely Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity- are mainly transmitted by family and extended family. This may well be why migrant communities tend to cluster for several generation and why religion tends to be insoluble, as an import into Western culture- because these Moral Foundations are communicated by family and can only soften to fit the culture of the host nation over time.

    All of this calls into question the free movement of peoples and the aspiration towards a One-World megaculture so beloved by cosmopolitan liberals for cultural reasons, and neoliberals for economic motives. Instead of multiculturalism, the umbrella of shared National Identity with common cultural values, may be the only way to foster a sense of belonging for the second generation and beyond. It might also be the reason why those immigrants who integrate most fully, acclimating to local custom, might also be the ones who show the greatest upward social mobility.

    Many European countries have failed to reproduce the models of more successful American and British inward migration in the past. This may well be because universalism itself, is a uniquely Western cultural value. When we value our culture with the minimalist assumptions of tolerance, equality under the Law, pluralism, adaption to local custom, adoption of common language and the maintenance of the social contract, integration can be seamless, whilst simultaneously enriching the host culture with culturally distinct cuisine and musical influence. But when we denigrate the host culture and dismiss the fruits of the Enlightenment and its values of pluralism and tolerance as human universals, then successive waves of migration flounder, because they are not given the tools of integration and the sense of belonging which comes from shared National Identity.

    One of the reasons why immigration might have become such a hot-button issue, is because on a local level a high proportion of migrants can be seen as a threat to cultural identity. Our obsession with history is by no means incidental- it allows us a form of limited immortality beyond our physical existence. This may be one of the reasons why, two decades ago, when my brother wanted to study ‘A’ level Maths as a precursor to making the move from Actuarial Technician to Actuary, he was unable to find a single adult education course in the subject in the whole of Norfolk, whilst virtually every venue offered History courses in every conceivable format.

    In a recent Google Zeitgeist appearance Niall Ferguson posited that although Western cultures can be uniquely welcoming to migration in numbers, there are limits to this culture of inclusion. He noted that the more nativist urges of Populism tend to appear when the levels of foreign born citizenship reach around 14%, and all that is required to voice to these fears of cultural displacement is an economic downturn. This graph shows historic migration to the US and may well account for a sizeable portion of Trump’s popularity:

    Of course, it doesn’t help that migrant communities tend to cluster and self-segregate out of a sense of their own need for shared culture and community cohesion. Large scale community displacements are at the heart of the desire to see immigration limited. This may also be why higher skilled and higher knowledge migration seems to be so much more successful- because like a University, shared intellectual pursuits and the common currency of ideas typical in such individuals, tends to dissolve difference, through a mechanism very similar to the umbrella of National Identity.

    In the long run, these very normal and human tendencies towards ingroup preference will have to be addressed by cosmopolitan liberal class. They cannot continue to ignore the concerns of the less well-privileged within their own societies. Apart from anything else, a failure to understand the underlying psychology which characterises both lower SES Western classes and migrant communities, impedes the ability of both to thrive in the cosmopolitan utopian world liberals would have us live in. Without this understanding, this utopia has every chance of becoming a dystopia in which only cosmopolitan liberals are comfortable, safe and secure.

  6. & Lincoln got shot in the head.

  7. It was a good article, but in the rush to wedge supposed Trumpian authoritarianism into the narrative, the author misses that the real frightening authoritarian figures in the US are the Democratic governors and mayors who have imposed draconian measures outside of any semblance of reason.

  8. Yes, I also think the people who love to call Trump fascist have little understanding or experience of what fascism actually entails. For example, Kathy Griffin might of caused controversy when she held up a severed dummy head of Trump, but she didn’t face jail or death or even a fine. If she did the same trick in Iran with the Ayatollah’s head, her real severed head would have been tweeted the next day. I’m using fascism in the layman’s version of the term. “Liberals” have really no understanding of freedom. But they do know they don’t want the rest of us to have it

  9. I found it surprising that in the list provided here in the article of examples of truly alarming authoritarian behavior Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, was not included.

  10. Q could be described as conservative to the extent it aims to conserve yesterday’s progressivism. The people who describe themselves as “center right” are the same way----“I like capitalism, but of course some sensible, reasonable regulation is necessary.” @Stephanie nailed it, the default theme is ‘I am of the left, but this is fucked up.’ By “this” is meant the variety of things the leftist establishment comes up with for consumption by the low IQ, voter class-----“people of color” substantially.

  11. How Do People Become W.E.I.R.D.? Migration Reveals the Cultural Transmission Mechanisms Underlying Variation in Psychological Processes.

    Let me ask you to pay attention to some statements from this article

    «British Bangladeshis provide a good example of a community originating in a less-WEIRD society (i.e. coming from a non-Western country that, compared to Western countries, has historically had relatively less formal education, less industrialisation, lower wealth, and less democracy—albeit all of these enforced or caused by Western colonialism»

    The word “colonialism” here definitely has negative connotation.

    Few lines above we are reading

    «Modern Bangladesh achieved independence from Pakistan in 1971 following a bloody conflict, and since then has experienced periods of parliamentary democracy interspersed with military rule»

    This happened more than twenty years after the end of the era of colonialism. The question that arises here is quite closely related to such a hot topic as “racism” in the USA:

    How long will the generalized West consider itself morally guilty for everything that happens in Third World countries?

    PS. I must add that this is a rather strange mixture of sanctimony with ultimate arrogance. For example, judging by some discussions, it seems that the African Americans are absolutely incapable to solve their problems without the help of woke white people.

  12. he correctly understood the end of the Cold War, but didn’t always draw right conclusions from it about the future

    Which isn’t an easy business:

  13. I remember reading a quip a few years ago about how the US is the only country where you could be a conservative and a (classical) liberal at the same time. Meaning, the US was founded as a classically liberal country, and many people want to “conserve” that.

  14. Yes, I remember reading that article by Kramer. He was exactly correct. The New Left and postmodernists were well into the mode of obfuscation, denial, and changing the subject already by the 1970s. They failed to directly attack our politics and were and are utterly wrong about everything that matters. Yet they managed to take over much of our educational system and culture and have spent two decades attempting breakout into the larger culture.

  15. let me know if your version of the constitution allows you to scream “fire” in theatre if there’s no fire […] These are important benchmark questions

    […]

    But those who quote Holmes might want to actually read the case where the phrase originated before using it as their main defense. If they did, they’d realize it was never binding law, and the underlying case, U.S. v. Schenck, is not only one of the most odious free speech decisions in the Court’s history, but was overturned over 40 years ago.

    First, it’s important to note U.S. v. Schenck had nothing to do with fires or theaters or false statements. Instead, the Court was deciding whether Charles Schenck, the Secretary of the Socialist Party of America, could be convicted under the Espionage Act for writing and distributing a pamphlet that expressed his opposition to the draft during World War I. As the ACLU’s Gabe Rottman explains, “It did not call for violence. It did not even call for civil disobedience.”

    […]

    The crowded theater remark that everyone remembers was an analogy Holmes made before issuing the court’s holding. He was explaining that the First Amendment is not absolute. It is what lawyers call dictum , a justice’s ancillary opinion that doesn’t directly involve the facts of the case and has no binding authority. […]

Continue the discussion in Quillette Circle

127 more replies

Participants