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Stephen Holmes on Liberalism - Dictionary of Arguments

Krastev I 17
Liberalism/post-communist era/Krastev/Holmes: What the breathtaking rise of China suggests is that the defeat of the communist idea in 1989 was not, after all, a one-sided victory for the liberal idea. Instead, the unipolar order became a world much less hospitable to liberalism than anyone had predicted at the time. Some commentators have claimed that 1989, by eliminating the Cold War competition between rival universal ideologies, fatally damaged the Enlightenment project itself, in its liberal as well as communist incarnation. The Hungarian philosopher G. M. Tamás has gone even further,
Krastev I 18
arguing that ‘both the liberal and socialist utopias’ were ‘defeated’ in 1989, signalling ‘the end’ of the ‘Enlightenment project’ itself.(1)
KrastevVsTamás: We are not so fatalistic. (...) the anti-liberal regimes and movements (...) perhaps because they lack any broadly appealing ideological vision, may prove ephemeral and historically inconsequential.
Krastev I 37
Libralism: Massive emigration, especially of the young, has arguably done more to discredit liberalism in the region than virtually nonexistent immigration. As it was understood in the region, (...) liberalism elevated the freedom to cross borders into something of a sacred value. This gave Westernizing and reform-minded leaders no ready language with which to express and take into account demographic fears fueled by outmigration from low birthrate societies. As a consequence, populist demagogues were able to exploit unspoken fears of national extinction to vilify open-border liberalism, to public applause,
Krastev I 38
and claim that the liberal idea has outlived its usefulness in today’s world.
Krastev I 67
Liberalism/Krastev: Liberal democracy offers provisional victories only. It denies the electoral winners the chance for a full and final victory. Poland. Liberal democracy’s renunciation of definitive and decisive victories, as opposed to temporary and indecisive ones, is what makes the allegedly full and final victory of liberal democracy itself in 1989 seem so anomalous and problematic.
PopulismVsLiberalism: How could a political ideology that glorifies ongoing competition, ideological alternatives and merely provisional victories, the populists ask, claim to have done away with all three?


1. Gáspár Miklós Tamás, ‘A Clarity Interfered With’, in Timothy Burns (ed.), After History? (Littlefield Adams, 1994), pp. 82–3.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

LawHolm I
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
The Common Law Mineola, NY 1991

Krastev I
Ivan Krastev
Stephen Holmes
The Light that Failed: A Reckoning London 2019


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-06-15
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