What If Liberal Democracy Can’t Resolve Today’s Political Standoffs?

What If Liberal Democracy Can’t Resolve Today’s Political Standoffs?
Planes from the Battle of Britain memorial flight pass over Arromanches, France, during a service to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, June 6, 2019 (Press Association photo by Gareth Fuller via AP Images).

Can the norms and institutions of liberal democracy still effectively arbitrate the issues driving debate in Western democracies?

The ideological movements roiling politics throughout Europe and the United States have been seen as a popular backlash against the elite technocratic policy consensus of Third Way globalization. But in some ways, they portend a new form of contesting politics that is fundamentally incompatible with the premises on which liberal democracy is based. These movements may be working within the system to achieve their aims for now, but in the long run, the battles they seek to join could represent existential threats to the system itself.

The tenets of liberal democracy are anchored by a quasi-religious commitment to political pluralism—the peaceful coexistence of opposing views, with decisions determined through votes and not violence. The spectrum of desired outcomes ranges from consensus at one extreme to alternating political power between ideological competitors at the other, with negotiated settlements among opposing interests somewhere in the middle. A school of thought known as agonism has also emerged to suggest that unresolved political tensions and conflict can contribute positively to the health of a democracy, provided they remain in the political arena.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.