For a democratic polarization

ImgresJürgen Habermas at Eurozine:

Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik: After 1989, all the talk was of the 'end of history' in democracy and the market economy; today we are experiencing the emergence of a new phenomenon in the form of an authoritarian/populist leadership – from Putin via Erdogan to Donald Trump. Clearly, a new 'authoritarian international' is increasingly succeeding in defining political discourse. Was your exact contemporary Ralf Dahrendorf right in forecasting an authoritarian twenty-first century? Can one – indeed must one – speak of an epochal change?

Jürgen Habermas: After the transformation of 1989-90, when Fukuyama seized on the slogan of 'post-history', which was originally coined by a ferocious kind of conservatism, his reinterpretation expressed the short-sighted triumphalism of western elites who adhered to a liberal belief in the pre-established harmony of market economy and democracy. Both of these elements inform the dynamic of social modernisation, but are linked to functional imperatives that repeatedly clash. The balance between capitalist growth and what was accepted by the populace as a halfway fair share in the average growth of highly productive economies could be brought about only by a genuinely democratic state. Historically speaking, however, such an equilibrium, one warranting the name of 'capitalist democracy', was the exception rather than the rule. That alone made the idea of a global consolidation of the 'American dream' an illusion.

The new global disorder, the helplessness of the USA and Europe with regard to growing international conflicts, is profoundly unsettling; the humanitarian catastrophes in Syria or South Sudan are unnerving, as are Islamist terror acts. Nevertheless, I can't recognise in the constellation you indicate a uniform tendency towards a new authoritarianism; rather, I see a variety of structural causes and many coincidences.

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