Illiberalism: A Worldwide Crisis?



Today’s illiberals are less likely to be organized around systematic philosophies like Fascism and Communism than was the case in the years between the two world wars—the last time liberalism appeared this vulnerable, the Wall Street Journal’s Sohrab Ahmari contends. In our time, illiberal forces are disparate, instinctual, inchoate, more likely to be local in focus, and internally divided. Often various illiberalisms are locked in combat against one another, he writes for Commentary.

Nevertheless there are common patterns that range vastly different geographies and political contexts, suggesting that this illiberal ascendance will be a defining feature of the 21st century, Ahmari adds:

  • nostalgia: the restoration of a prouder, more wholesome, more coherent past;
  • aggrieved nationhood: collective grievance and a desire for national recognition;
  • hunger for authentic politics: a desire that politics reflect the dark realities of the present.

“These are the three psychological planks on which all such movements rest, and understanding them is essential to defending liberalism against this fresh assault—not least by rejiggering the liberal program in areas where the new illiberals have a point but offer solutions that are monstrous, irrational, or, well, illiberal,” he adds:

The main ideological struggles of this century will pit liberalism against illiberalism. True defenders of freedom must recognize that the battlefront cuts across the traditional left–right divide and will have to act accordingly.


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