In the recent past, many considered liberal democracy as the epitome of political justice and allure. This viewpoint was most notably encapsulated in Francis Fukuyama’s provocative “end of history” theory. As Kissinger says that the United States embarked on an unselfish quest to redefine International Order based on principles of justice and equality where the ultimate benchmark would be universal peace and harmony. The antecedent equilibrium, found disruption amid the crucible of the Cold War, wherein two nuclear superpowers grappled for hegemonic ascendancy. A failure to partake in this symphony of contention threatened to bestow unbridled dominion upon the unengaged, casting a shadow over the delicate equilibrium that once graced the geopolitical stage.
This transpired in 1990 with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, culminating in Europe falling under the sway and safeguard of the United States. The triumph of Western liberal ideals of Capitalism and democracy marked the unabashed victory of what is referred to as a “free world”. Fukuyama argued in his concept that human race would pace indeterminately into future without undergoing a major change in their political, economic or societal system at large and he advocated Western led capitalistic order as the hallmark of this journey.
However, the shifting currents of history have vitiated these theoretical assumptions. In the contemporary era, a plethora of antithetical ideas have emerged. Some scholars anticipate that as the foundational conditions for liberal democracy dissolve, we may witness its replacement with illiberal democracy, competitive authoritarianism, or even outright tyranny. Yet, these predictions could be as hasty as the previous overly optimistic assumptions. This article delves into the major setbacks faced by Capitalist system in current times ranging from political conflicts to economic blowbacks, great power politics to dramatic shifts in societies and rise of populism and polarization among others.
Democratic Recession & Rise of Populism
With the advent of Globalization and rapid advancement of forces of modernization, the grand expectation that we have entered an era of convergence is flawed. We have rather crossed the threshold of divergence. We are living in a post-truth era and 2016 onwards there is a relative decline in the sole supremacy of United States and Western Order at large. The rise of right wing populism serves as the stark contradiction to the ideals of western liberal democracy. This populist upsurge is running through the entirety of western world and united states being a blatant example where Donald Trump as Newt Gingrich describes him as a “unique extraordinary phenomenon”. Fareed Zakaria in his article “Populism on the March” extravagantly describes why west is in trouble. Donald Trump exhibited hostility towards the already established system voicing the spirit of genuine patriotism with his policy of Make America Great Again. Similarly, these populist fronts are the second or third largest political blocs in countries like France and Germany, Spain and Greece. The pioneers of revisionist ideas are in power in Poland and Hungary. We have resurgent Putin challenging the US hegemony in eastern Europe. The war in Ukraine is an example of that. Then Narendra Modhi in India and Imran Khan are examples of such nativists, challenging the democracy to its core resonating with sentiments of masses.
Rise of China
The rise of China under Xi Jinping is an embodiment of power-politics between two great powers of the world. China rehearses a diverse range of practices and ideologies to uplift its political and economic fabric presenting an alternate to the exploitative global capitalism. The export led economy of China, leading in automation and machine age under authoritarian capitalist system where it endorses mercantilism for protectionist policies, practices a strict authoritarianism at home and deals in free markets globally surpassing the GDP of EU combined.
Strategically, China is enhancing its sphere of influence globally where it mediates in middle east in BRICS, connect corridors through BRI, amass support from Russia, in South Asia China mediates in Afghanistan fiasco, and trade deals with India. Similarly, China warns U.S. not to intervene in Asia Pacific especially in Taiwan and South China Sea. China also secures position in major Bretton wood institutions and is willing to compete by hook or by crook. The Trade War that Trump launched with China by increasing tariffs backfired. Thus China is a contending rival to U.S. led global order.
Post 2016 era unveiled a realm of multipolar world and the mantra of sole hegemony of U.S. is long gone. It’s not just the rise of contenders like China but the loss of U.S. own interest in the rule based system it once promoted, instead drifting away towards a more power based system, operating outside the principle of institutions it once established. For instance, the audacious hypocrisy and double standards U.S. and allies showed in Russo-Ukraine war and now in Israel-Palestine conflict, actively supporting the aggression and oppressor in the latter. As we moved towards service and knowledge based economy, the rising physical and economic insecurity serves as drivers for populist forces. The intra-cultural hostility, ethnic cleansing, social in-cohesion and upsurge of religious fundamentalism among other issues like sectarianism, terrorism, intolerance and skepticism fueled by forces of globalization have made world a chaotic abode and has revealed the flaws of established order, where the orchestrator itself has played a key role in demolishing and sabotaging the foundations of the system. This brings us back to the thesis thus it would suffice to say that this indeed is the end of end of history.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.