Liberal democracy: the threat of counter-narratives

The universalism of liberal democracy is under attack. While the number of democracies in the world has increased, the level of freedom in them has declined. Electoral or illiberal democracies only provide the minimum standard of democracy, where individual liberties remain unprotected. Furthermore, these illiberal democracies have developed counter-narratives that attack the liberal international order, and with it, liberal democracy.

These counter-narratives, supported by Russia, China and other undemocratic regimes, confront liberal democracy in three ways: first, they trivialise the violation of individual liberties for the sake of increasing state security; second, the claim of civilisational diversity is used to reject democratic values as incompatible with their culture; and third, they accuse the West of the moral decay of ‘traditional’ values.

Moreover, these authoritarian narratives play to the West’s weaknesses. The West needs to defend its hard-won liberties, rights and values by confronting these counter-narratives. Furthermore, citizens have a moral duty to participate politically in order to ensure that democracy continues to work. The transatlantic community needs to ensure that liberal democracy remains at the top of its agenda.

Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.