The Future of Western Democracies

Ralf Fuecks, President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, gave an enlightening lecture on April 1 about the fate of liberal democracies in the modern era. In 1989, Fukuyama’s “end of history” theory stimulated euphoric sentiments towards the triumph of liberalism and capitalism; this prophecy never materialized, though, as authoritarian regimes continued to thrive across the world. According to Fuecks, however, there is still a lack of theory to assess this unexpected development. Claiming that blaming populists did not address the structural shifts that have occurred in the political system, he said the real problem was a crisis of modernization. All aspects of society have experienced some level of accelerated change, with globalization, global migration, and digital and cultural revolutions contributing to this divergence from liberalism and democracy. Many have been vulnerable to these intense changes and have perceived themselves to be “left behind” from the advancement of the world. Fuecks emphasized the urgency of addressing these root causes due to the fact that any given society must provide equal opportunities for all in order to be truly liberal. Advocating the importance of institutions, education, and public goods in empowering the population to keep up with these changes, Fuecks ended his lecture by declaring that the uncertainty of the future should not be perceived as a fear-inducing threat but, rather, should be viewed with confidence.