In his famous 1989 essay, U.S. political scientist Francis Fukuyama celebrated the triumph of liberal democracy and free market capitalism after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and proclaimed the “end of history.” The collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite states fostered hopes of a post-ideological era – in which universally accepted values would prevail and constitutional democracy and civil rights would become the international norm.
The “end of history,” we thought, would be a peaceful period of cooperation that would go on and on. The era of wars and battles would be followed by a communal ordering of the world according to Western sensibilities, in a constant refinement of global governance.
It seemed the most gratifying moment of the 20th century – and what a mistake it was. Today, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West is on the defensive almost everywhere. Militarily stretched, financially exhausted and ideologically drained, its attractiveness has diminished in the eyes of the world.
According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, most democracies suffered some kind of setback between 2011 and 2013. India and Brazil are rejecting the rules of Western-dominated organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In Japan and Turkey, militant cultural nationalism is widespread. In China, Communist party cadres refuse to be preached to about freedom and civil rights. In Russia, Vladimir Putin brings his nation’s testosterone into play against everything he denounces as liberal decadence. And in the Middle East and Africa, religious fundamentalists feel only hate and contempt for our notions of tolerance and pluralism.