Has liberalism won the battle of ideologies?
‘Battle of ideologies’, term has been used to describe the ideological battle between liberalism and socialism which took the form of cold-war. The end of cold-war was described as end of history, which also meant that liberalism has won the historic battle of ideologies.
Similar views were presented by the scholars in 60s through the end of ideology thesis. However it is wrong to say that liberalism has won the historic battle or world has accepted the hegemony of the west.
Liberalism is facing crisis. the biggest crisis started with global financial crisis. The policies of Trump, Brexit, the state of WTO show the collapse of liberal world order. Ideologically liberalism is getting challenge from theories like clash of civilizations, multiculturalism, communitarianism, postmodernism, radical feminism.
However in comparison to any other ideology, it has been the longest ideology, the reason for its longevity/continuity is the liberal character, its adaptability. However at present, it is unfortunate that liberalism has got reduced to market fundamentalism.
End of Ideology thesis
End of ideologies thesis firsts emerged in 1960s. It is a creation of western scholars. The prominent exponents include Daniel Bell & Seymour Martin Lipset.
They held that politics has lost relevance and economics has gained centrality. The important question is not which ideology we follow but whether we have been able to achieve the level of development necessary for dignified life. Hence what matters is development and not ideology or politics.
Though it was a time of cold war, which is also known as ideological battle between the west (capitalists) and the east (communists). However they believed that ideology has lost relevance. Whether east or west, the concern of the people is development. Whether east or west, similar type of administrative system has emerged. (bureaucratic – technocratic). Thus ideologies do not matter much.
They were also influenced by W. W. Rostow – STAGES OF ECONOMIC GROWTH : A NON COMMUNIST MANIFESTO.
According to Rostow, ideology does not matter, all societies pass through the similar stages of economic growth. Western scholars also held that the conflict of ideology has lost relevance even in domestic politics. Welfares state have resolved the contradiction between labour and capital. Liberalism has accommodated the concerns of socialists with respect to poor. Thus they suggested that development and not ideology which matters.
Criticism of end of ideology thesis
End of ideology thesis was seen as an attempt by western scholars to indirectly establish the supremacy of the western way of life. It has been criticized by Marxist scholars. Marxists scholars held that it is wrong to believe that the welfare state has resolved the conflicts. In comparison to Daniel Bell, Lipsey was more explicit in his claim about the supremacy of the western liberal democracy. The end of ideology thesis was criticized as an ideology itself. It is being described as a smart and subtle way of justifying the western way of life. Besides Marxists, liberal egalitarian thinker like C. B. Macpherson, elitist scholar C. Wright Mills also criticized the end of ideology. They believed that it is wrong to think that western societies are egalitarian. Communitarian scholar Alasdair Macintyre called end of ideology as ideology itself.
It is to be noted that ideologies and specifically the ideology of socialism continued to attract people in non western world.
End of history
The end of history is a concept propounded by Francis Fukuyama for the first time in 1989. Gulf war symbolized the end of cold war. Iraq was ally of USSR, yet for the first time USSR did not opposed US led collective security operation against Iraq. This was enough indication of the end of bipolarity. It was enough indication that USSR will not be able to challenge the west. By 1991, Soviet union collapsed. .The collapse of USSR has strengthened Fukuyama’s thesis of the end of history.
Thesis of Francis Fukuyama.
He believed that there is no contender to the western liberal democracy. It automatically proves that liberalism has been the end of history. He claimed that, end of cold war not only symbolize the end of ideological conflict between western capitalism and eastern communism, but it also symbolize ‘the end point of man’s ideological evolution’. It means that there is a global consensus that there is no better way of life than western liberal democratic way.
It is to be noted that after the collapse of USSR, almost every country in the world adopted the neo-liberal economic model and there has been a proliferation of western model of democracy around the globe with the exception of middle-east, known as ‘Arab exceptionalism’.
It is a theory given by western scholars that democracy can come anywhere but not in the Islamic world (Arab world). The principles of democracy and Islam are contradictory to each other.
The theory also justifies USA’s policy in middle east supporting monarchs and dictators. Arab spring was real challenge to the theory of Arab exceptionalism. Arab spring in Egypt and Tunisia alarmed USA and USA ensured that Arab spring turns into Arab summer.
Approach of Francis Fukuyama
He has applied the concept of dialectics given by Hegel as well as Karl Marx to explain the movement of history. If Hegel gives dialectical idealism, Marx gives dialectical materialism. Whether Hegel or Marx, the theme of dialectics is
A] History moves through contradictions.
B] Negativities get negated.
C] History ends when contradictions end.
According to Hegel, history will end in the supremacy of Prussian state, according to Marx history will end in the establishment of Communism. Applying same ideas Fukuyama established that the laws of history show that ultimately history ended in the victory of liberal democracy / capitalism.
Fukuyama was also influenced by Alexandre Kojéve. Alexandre Kojéve predicted that history will end in the establishment of ‘universal and homogeneous state’. This concept is based on Christian mythology that ultimately entire world will come under the kingdom of Jesus. Fukuyama influenced by Kojéve, indirectly established the supremacy of USA.
However in his later works he clarified that European Union and not USA was his vision of ‘universal and homogenous state’.
Modification by Fukuyama in his own thesis.
The ‘end of history’ thesis has been interpreted as the establishment of US Hegemony and the unipolar world order. However since USA’s war on Afghanistan, there has been a question mark on US hegemony.
Francis Fukuyama has expressed dissatisfaction with USA’s foreign policy. He blamed foreign policies of George Bush responsible for the decline of US Hegemony. Had USA not started 2 wars simultaneously, it would not have resulted into the decline of US Hegemony or the question mark on Liberal democracy and capitalism as end of history.
Difference between end of ideology and end of history.
Both theses indirectly establishes supremacy of west. However in comparison to end of ideology, end of history has been more explicit and arrogant assertion of supremacy of western liberal democracy.
Major Criticism of End of History.
The thesis of ‘clash of civilizations’ given by Samuel P Huntington. (He was teacher of Francis Fukuyama)
According to him, the end of history thesis is not the correct description of the post cold war world order. History never ends, it repeats. The post cold war world order will reflect the image of pre cold war world order. Throughout history, there has been clash of civilizations. History will repeat and clash of ideology has given way to clash of civilizations.
Francis Fukuyama’s thesis for the first time published in 1989 and Samuel P Huntington’s thesis was published in 1993 for the first time. His thesis got special recognition after the incident of 9/11 terror attack.
Clash of civilization thesis.
Throughout history there has been clash of civilizations. Culture has been an essential part of man’s ideology. Our ideology may change, but our identity does not change. The politics of the present will be determined not by what ideas we have but who we are.
Globalization has made the world closer. Since we are interacting more, there is a greater consciousness of identity hence there is a greater scope for the clash.
Samuel P Huntington mentions 9 major civilizations. 5 civilizations out of these have core states.
He talks about 2 types of conflicts
1] Core conflicts – between core states. The biggest possibility of conflict is between USA and China.
2] Peripheral conflicts or fault-line conflicts – e.g. the conflict between western civilization and Islamic civilization. It is peripheral because Islamic world does not have any core state. They are internally divided.
According to Samuel P Huntington, Islamic world can be managed very easily, the bigger challenge is China.
However he does mention about the Islamic challenge. Islam is known as religion of swords. It has expanded through its missionary zeal. It is for this reason Islamic world has bloody borders. Followers of Islam as well as followers of Christianity are bound to collide, as both are missionary religions. Islamic threat can be managed so long no core state emerges.
Samuel P Huntington gives following reasons for the rise of Islamic world.
The most important reason is USA’s policies in the middle east. Middle east has been unstable from the beginning. USA has supported the dictators, prevented the emergence of democracy. Islamic world passing through the state of frustration. Young population but lack of employment.
USA’s use of Islamic fighters Mujahideen’s, have instilled a new confidence among Muslims. Mujahideen’s were able to challenge Russia. Russia could not defeat them in Afghanistan. They played most important role in collapse of USSR. This has given a new confidence to the Islamic world. If they can bring the collapse of one superpower, they can also challenge the other superpower. They can establish the kingdom of Prophet.
Samuel P Huntington has also warned against the possibility of emerging nexus between China and Islamic world. It will become the real challenge.
Criticism of Clash of civilization
According to the critics, the so called clash of civilizations between liberal and fundamentalists is the clash between two fundamentalists. Market fundamentalists vs Religious fundamentalists. Similarly the reason behind the conflict between USA and China is not civilizational, it is a conflict of economic interest. Thus the clash of civilizations as well as end of history both are the discourses, and aim to establish US hegemony.
According to the critics, Samuel P Huntington takes a simplistic view of history and civilizations. Civilizations are too heterogenous. Clash of civilization thesis cannot explain the following developments.
Civil wars, western support to Turkey and Pakistan, Brexit – British public opposing European union, Conflict in Sudan etc.