13 February 2010

Article: Is the Age of Democracy Over?

The cover of this week's edition of the major conservative UK magazine "The Spectator" announces in big black letters: "The fall of democracy".

Inside, the magazine carries an article by Francis Fukuyama titled "Is the age of democracy over?"

The article can be read free of charge here:


Lead: "Twenty years ago, Francis Fukuyama forecast the final triumph of liberal democracy and the 'end of history'. As pro-democracy movements falter from Ukraine to China, he revisits his thesis – and asks if history has a few more surprises to spring."

Excerpts: "Over the last decade we have seen the collapse or discrediting of not just the 'Orange' movement, but many of the other so-called 'rainbow revolutions' across eastern Europe: the 'Rose' revolution in Georgia, the 'Cedar' revolution in Lebanon [sic]. Then there's Vladimir Putin's transformation of Russia into an 'electoral authoritarian' state, the undermining of democratic institutions by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and the rise of China as a successful authoritarian moderniser. [...]

"Americans let the collapse of communism go to their heads. [...] They saw the events of 1989 as a triumph, not just for the cause of liberty but of loosely regulated markets at home and muscular self-assertion abroad, unconstrained by international institutions. [...] As the hegemonic power for much of the 1990s and 2000s, the United States was bound to incur a lot of resentment from countries and people who felt they had no way of holding the US accountable for what it did to them economically. [...] So the United State [sic] itself became an obstacle to the spread of its own ideals. [...]

"[D]emocracy remains, in Amartya Sen's words, the 'default' political condition: [...] today's would-be authoritarians all have to stage elections and manipulate the media from behind the scenes to legitimate themselves."

This shoddy little article is summed up nicely in a comment left by a reader: "I was immediately drawn to the interesting-sounding header of this piece. Then amazed at how it could be followed by such a boring, point-missing and turgid article!"

Francis Fukuyama is Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the International Development Program at Johns Hopkins University.

1 comment:

  1. There is a point being missed in this debate. The building of institutions takes time and non-democratic authoritarianism is a natural mechanism through which to do that. Therefore, Russia, China, Central Asia and others are not necessarily 'slipping back' into authoritariasm. They are in transition, believing that their societies are presently best served through this mechanism than through electoral democracy. Some regimes are nastier than others, but this is a similar journey to the one Europe took.

    Humphrey Hawksley