Autocracy and the End of History

April 12, 2022

In his first State of the Union speech, U.S. President Biden warned that democracies need to put up a fight with autocratic states. This is in stark contrast to Fukuyama’s book The End of History and the Last Man, written 30 years ago: “at the end of history, there are no serious ideological competitors left to liberal democracy”. However, since Fukuyama’s work, the global number of people living in a democracy has declined, while the appeal of authoritarian regimes has increased – a process that has been accelerating since 2020, after the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, Western democracies have been destabilized by so-called “illiberal democrats” that go against the founding principles of liberal democracies. 

On a global level, as the appeal of democracies is waning, the powerful autocratic alliance between Russia and China seems to be growing stronger, united in their mutual adversity against the U.S.-led liberal world order. They envision an alternative world order, based not on universalism and unipolarity but on spheres of influence and dominating nation-states. That is why the war with Ukraine is so important for them: it embodies a battle for a cultural sphere of influence while the U.S. hesitates. As such, the ideological confrontation between the liberal-democratic and autocratic world order is on its way to becoming the global political issue of our century. 

Burning questions: 
  • After the fall of the Berlin Wall and China joining the WTO, it seemed that free trade and freedom would conquer the ideological world, reinforcing each other and ushering the world towards the end of history. How should liberal democracies now conduct economic trade in an increasingly authoritarian, less free world? 
  • How could democracies strengthen their global appeal and internal functioning in the face of rising authoritarianism? 

About the author(s)

Pim Korsten has a background in continental philosophy and macroeconomics. At the thinktank, he primarily focuses on research, consultancy projects, and writing articles related to technology, politics, and the economy. He has a keen interest in the philosophy of history and economics, metamodernism, and cultural anthropology.

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