Decline of Liberalism ?

It is time to take stock of problems of liberalism.More and more scholars are writing about the sorry state of affairs of liberalism.Of the many, two are more serious scholars who have come come out with two excellent works on the the decline of liberalism.One is Edward Luce who wrote “The Retreat of Western Liberalism”(2017) and other is Mark Lilla who wrote “The Once and Future Liberal : After Identity Politics “(2017). There is a common thread joining both the books and that is their worry about decline of liberalism. Luce details the decline and Lila provides suggestions to arrest this decline.The debate about the plight of liberalism today is interspersed with cause and symptoms of the gradual decline. In the debate the participants use a reductionist definition of liberalism.Liberalism today is not what John Locke preached in 18th century with emphasis on rights of individual and limit and artificiality of state.The practice of a liberal state has changed with the time. liberalism has become an umbrella concept with lots of variations which are increasing regularly However whatever definition we adhere to the winning of Donald Trump and his counterparts in Europe is a sign of weakening of liberal democracy.But these are not the examples of cause of the decay but rather are the symptoms of this decay.After the demise of Soviet Block in 1991 and the onset of globalization, it was widely accepted that liberal democracy has won for ever. Francis Fukuyama while celebrating victory of liberalism declared the End of History as there were no two classes or ideologies remain to conflict.The years of 90s and the first decade of this century were the golden years of liberal democracy.But gradually things began to change.Financial meltdown of 2008, failure of more than twenty five democracies in the last decade that include Russia, Turkey and Hungary, the footprints of Arab Springs are not traceable except in Tunisia, were the first sign of cracks in liberal democracy and indication of erosion in American Supremacy. Fareed Zakaria conceptualised this changing phenomenon in his thought provoking book “Post – American World” published in 2008 and republished in 2011.Before this saddening situation, people and government in the West arrogantly believed that the rest of the world wants to imitate the West in all perceivable possibilities as the West is an ideal to be emulated.Then what happened to this dream ?The unbridled expansion of globalization has changed the world in a unrecognizable entity in a few years.The rise of China was one such wonders.The phenomenal rise of China in the globalized world and growing dominance of autocratic Putin, rising gulf between Europe and America, the growth of artificial intelligence etc.have all contributed in creating a Post American world.The impact of globalization on the world was positive for developing countries as the process has helped in raising the living standard of the poor in the world.The most recent estimate by UNO suggests the share of the population of the developing countries living below US$1 per day declined from 40% in 1981 to 21% in 2001.In 1978 China’s GDP per capita (these numbers are inflation adjusted) was $600 a year. Today it’s around $6,000.

But globalization, after initial euphoria, resulted in making middle class of USA vulnerable. American middle class enjoyed continuous growth in their income, comfort, old age security, health services resulting in raising their living standard from 1940s to 1970s.This state of elation of middle class started evaporating with increase intensity of globalization since early 90s. The expansion of globalization and development of artificial intelligence adversely affected middle skilled jobs and are being supplanted by low skilled jobs like home nursing or garden landscaping.Because a global market of labor is available, big firms chose to outsource their production units for cheap labor and consequently American blue white labor force loses their jobs hurting middle class in society.This white middle class comprising of white and blue collar jobbers supported Donald Trump when he assured that their jobs will not be allowed to be snatched by non Americans and to ensure that a policy of protectionism will be adopted.This fear of economic insecurity is anguishing middle class in USA as well as in Europe where waves of migration is threatening socioeconomic structure and making migration a major political issue.The recent incident of Charlottesville is indicative of this fear of middle class white population.

Protectionism in the name of nationalism is the new strategy of anti liberals.

Why liberals are losing in this war ? the reasons are many.The growing ignorance about what it took to rebuild society in USA and Europe after Second World War, confidence about invincibility of liberal system and post truth politics that has taken a new low in public life, are some of them.To rebuild American economy and increase employment opportunities , Trump proposed withdrawing from major trade deals including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) By imposing high taxes on imports, Trump sought to increase domestic production and bring jobs back. Liberal democracy also proffered its vulnerability when it allowed or rather encouraged identity politics in the name of protection of marginalized groups in society like racial, women, religious minority groups.Mark Lila has described this problem of identity politics in liberalism in detail and urged liberals to cast off this identity politics to save liberalism.This identity politics is now used by majority to justify their dominance.Rewriting or non corrective history is on the agenda by this anti liberal group.The blame game has started again (after Nazi propaganda to blame Jews for every wrong) and the use of Nazi symbols in the white supremacists, nationalists and far-right rallies at Charlottesville is a clear sign of it.

What is needed is some corrections in liberal practice and the tide will turn again because the ruling ethos and common man ‘s yearning is still liberal values.

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