Is It the End of European Liberalism? And If So, What’s Next?
By Dallas Darling
Submitted by Author
Tuesday, Dec 19, 2017
|IIt’s hard to deny that Liberalism appears to be on its last leg in Europe. With the rise of nationalistic movements and a number of strongmen, who perceive too much government intervention, Islam and even the European Union as threats, many liken Liberalism as an attack on national self-determination. Others, meanwhile, think any reform or pretext of progress is a war against their cultural traditions. For many, then, Liberalism’s over-burdensome interventions in protecting and enhancing the freedom of each and every single individual seems to be another form of totalitarianism, only with a human face.
The Sovereign and Independent State Vs. Liberalism
Carl Schmitt, a German political theorist and critic of Liberalism, predicted the downfall of European Liberalism. In addition to maintaining that Liberalism was ill prepared for unexpected events, as a quintessential characteristic of political life, he thought the liberal idea of “law” as always being the best guarantor of individual liberty was too idealistic. What’s more, Liberalism wasn’t designed to deal with “exceptional” circumstances like mass influxes of immigration, cultural and economic upheavals, revolutions and military coups, or external threats such as terrorist attacks and war.
Without a doubt, Viktor Orban and his nationalistic Fidesz party have been trailblazers against European Liberalism. As the first rogue state of the EU, their “Hungary First” policy has in fact been followed by other nation-states. They’ve also taken the lead in discouraging immigration, claiming that building fences is a national responsibility in defending Hungary’s borders and its singular, Christian culture. Their view that Hungary as an “illiberal democracy” which leans towards the sovereign and “independent” state versus the sovereign and “interdependent” individual is indeed a template for others.
To Risk the Lives of Citizens Or Not-That Is Liberalism’s Question
Carl Schmitt also wrote that Liberalism seldom recognized the possibility of enmity while misunderstanding the true nature of insincere politics. Putting the individual and minority rights before the state can moreover risk the lives of citizens, even allowing for extreme and radicalized individuals to roam freely and be potentially dangerous. In the meantime, Hungary’s not the only nation to have welcomed the ultimate guide for the sovereign and sovereign state. Indeed, Slovakia and the Czech Republic believe their nation must also be prepared at all times for the exceptional and above all, be secured.
Slovakia’s Robert Fico and the Czech Republic’s Andrej Babis are both strong nationalists who’ve stood up to Brussels to denounce Islam and Muslim refugees too. With their “Islam has no place” policies, they’ve made it very clear they don’t plan on changing their traditions, traditions which they believe are built on the Christian tradition. As for Andrej Babis and his “ano” acronym, which stands for Action of Dissatisfied Citizens, he and his party is bent on dismantling what he sees as a Liberal Establishment, even abolishing the Senate where laws are made and regional governments.
Liberalism and Politics of Checks and Balances
Calling checks and balances a too “idealistic” invention, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski is another strongman who’s the real power behind the throne. With his Law and Justice Party, which holds a majority, he controls both President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beat Szydlo. He’s also going after the power of judges while taking control of Poland’s public broadcasting media from the leftists. Calling his party the Fourth Republic, he’s also called Europe’s Muslim population a “ticking time bomb.” As for the threat posed by Russia, chants of “Jaroslaw Save Us!” can be heard at his rallies.
Although 31-year-old Austria’s Sebastion Kurz is still in the process of consolidating his authority, he too has already been given power to appoint all the ministers and nominate candidates for parliament-even if they’re from different parties. Known as the Danube Messiah, he’s single-handedly reduced the impact of the migrant crisis which he viewed as a destructive force. In other words, he organized the Balkan states to block refugees traveling from Greece and Turkey toward Austria. His “Austria First” platform and the Kurz’s manifesto has moreover cracked down on political Islam and criminals.
Schmitt’s Fatal Flaw in Critiquing Liberalism
Carl Schmitt finally wrote that in times of exceptional happenings, ultimate authority was needed to dictate when certain laws were to be applied and when they were not. The potential to protect a criminal or refugee, for instance, was never supposed to take precedent over protecting a law-abiding citizen. As a result, true and “good” power always emerged in exceptional times and when Liberalism failed. Such power was always available too to mobilize a population against an external enemy or a threat, or the internal threat of extreme relativism or nihilism which could destroy society.
There was at least one flaw in Carl Schmitt’s critique of Liberalism. To be sure, it didn’t recognize Adolf Hitler or Nazism. In fact, he defended Germany’s new leader who was strengthening the German state and mobilizing for war. Justifying the “Night of the Long Knives” as a means to preserve German culture, he also believed both were acting as true sovereigns, protecting the true state and its citizens under an exceptional situation-Jewish Communism and cultural rot which he thought had threatened the very existence of the state. Since they weren’t as important as Germany, violence was consequently justified.
Trust of the People Vs. Distrust of the People
The political sphere can indeed be an antagonistic world. So too can the reality in the streets, or the perceived realities that exist only in an individual‘s mind-and which always sees the possibility of a perpetually peaceful world at odds with that reality. Given that the state can also become extreme and radicalized, or that it too can become collectively genocidal, Europe should take heed as it enters a post-Liberalism phase. Nor should its laws necessarily be independent from individual liberties. Otherwise, what’s to prevent a state from suspending all laws in an “exceptional” situation for even its own citizens?
For now, Liberalism’s trust of the people tempered by prudence will continue to be an endless battle-and cycle-with the State’s distrust of the people tempered by fear.
Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.WN.com. You can read more of Dallas’ writings at www.beverlydarling.com and www.WN.com//dallasdarling.
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