October 1, 2008

Authoritarian capitalism versus liberal democracy

When it comes to intellectual discussions about foreign policy, as recently as 10 years ago the question about the future seemed simple: Fukuyama or Huntington, the end of history or the clash of civilisations?!

When it comes to intellectual discussions about foreign policy, as recently as 10 years ago the question about the future seemed simple: Fukuyama or Huntington, the end of history or the clash of civilisations?!

Authoritarian capitalism versus liberal democracy

When it comes to intellectual discussions about foreign policy, as recently as 10 years ago the question about the future seemed simple: Fukuyama or Huntington, the end of history or the clash of civilisations?!
While 9/11 seemed to vindicate the Huntingtonians, it is now increasingly apparent that conflicts between ideologies, regarded as a thing of the past by Fukuyama, can re-enter the stage. Authoritarian capitalism is emerging as a powerful and lucrative competitor to Western liberal democracy.
During the 1990s, the authoritarian capitalist countries – or the countries that were about to become such – tried to imitate democracies or at least downplay the differences between themselves and democracies. But now things have changed: Russia, to name one, actively promotes its own brand of ‘sovereign democracy’ and is seeking to legitimise this as a system that is not only not inferior to Western democracy, but is much more ‘effective’ too.
As Ivan Krastev correctly notes, the project of faking democracy assumes that the faker accepts the superiority of the model he fakes. Giving up the attempts at fakery and demanding recognition for an alternative model amounts to an open competition.
What is authoritarian capitalism actually about? How does it work? Is it sustainable? How should democracies deal with it – especially if our goal is not to sacrifice the values and principles that make democracies democracies in the first place? We lack definitive answers to most of these questions. But this special issue of Diplomaatia, published on the occasion of the Second Lennart Meri Conference, offers some food for thought.

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