Threat to liberal democracy’s primacy overstated?


The fact that the world’s richest country after World War II had a liberal economy and system of government had important implications not only for the creation of an open international economic system, but also for the spread of democratic values and human rights, argues Harvard’s Joseph S. Nye Jr., the author of Is the American Century Over?:

In that sense, despite our flaws and policy mistakes, it mattered that the United States was an open society. American primacy allowed freedom of choice to others and an openness that was not always true of previous forms of hegemony. Had Hitler or Stalin prevailed, today’s world order would look very different.

Authoritarian resurgence, including autocrats’ hijacking of soft power, feature in the National Endowment for Democracy‘s Journal of Democracy (above) this month.

“In fact, the perceived belligerency of this China–Russia nexus is driven by a shared historical and ideological connection, which has manifested in both states adopting an authoritarian style government,” note analysts Michael Clarke and Anthony Ricketts. “Some analysts perceive this rigid style of governing as a representation of their mutual mistrust of the West, and a shared desire to rewrite the rules that shape the global order,” they write for The National Interest:

Yet, as Daniel Brumberg and Steven Heydemann have argued, this is a negatively-oriented alignment derived from “opposition to the universal norms of democracy, global governance, and human rights promoted by the West and by multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court”.

But the threat to U.S. primacy is overstated, Nye contends.

“While American leadership will continue to be important, success in solving the new transnational challenges will require the cooperation of others,” he writes for The Washington Post:

In this sense, power becomes a positive-sum game. If the liberal world order is to continue, it will not be enough to think in terms of American power over others. One must also think in terms of combining strength to accomplish joint goals.


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