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Is the West Disintegrating?

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    With populism and authoritarianism on the rise in various parts of the world, the West needs to change and its political elites must appropriately address social problems in order to salvage the principles liberal democracy.

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Marine Le Pen, French National Front political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, waves to supporters at the end of a political rally in Metz
Front National leader Marine Le Pen has become the smiling face French jingoism. Source: Reuters.

The fundamental orientation of our Western social model is rapidly losing its implicit value in way the world has never seen. There are many reasons for this, including right-wing nationalists in western Europe and left-wing populists such as Syriza and Podemos in southern Europe.

Elsewhere, authoritarian shift in parts of eastern Europe, as well as the failure of the Arab spring, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s shift away from Europe and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on the post-1990 political order have proven especially fatal.

But the most critical factor is the isolationist development in the United States, as expressed in President Donald Trump’s economic nationalism. Together, these factors are coalescing in previously unknown ways.

Anyone who believes that we are merely dealing with political interests, questions of suitable representation, or normal issues surrounding the balance of power, is seriously mistaken.

The explicit rejection of the “trans-Atlantic West” — expressed, for example, by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and European right-wing populists — attempts to place the cooperation among nations at a level based purely on power and interests — one that hearkens back to the 19th century.

The same can be said for the implicit rejection of the trans-Atlantic West, such as Mr. Trump’s criticism of free trade and globalization, as well as Mr. Erdogan’s plans for broad constitutional amendments.

In fact, today’s rejection of Western values is a rejection of what has normatively and historically bound us together, beginning in 1776 and cemented 1789: that is, inalienable human rights, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the sovereignty of the people and representative democracy.

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