The rise of global non-democracy
“How many ‘opportunists’ does it take to stabilize a totalitarian regime? Is moral status of ‘opportunism’ qualitatively superior to that of ‘true believers’ or of those who act out of conviction?” asks Richard Wolin in his excellent book “The Seduction of Unreason” on the origins of the rise of far-right politics in Europe as early as 2004. He particularly refers to the case of Hans Gadamer’s conduct during the 1930s and 1940s which is described by some authors as opportunistic. In fact, those remarks can be generalized for all those who refrain from opposing the rise of authoritarian politics in Europe between two world wars or elsewhere in different periods of modern history for opportunistic reasons. It is also relevant for the ongoing political trend of de-democratization.
Nevertheless, it is not only true for individuals who accommodate themselves to authoritarian rules, but social classes and politics of national interests also pave way for the rise of democracy deficit. It was not only some intellectuals who supported or just kept silent during the rise of the Nazi regime, but it was the vested interests of big industries that enforced the building of the Nazi state. Then, it was not only in the inter-war period in Europe, then-Western liberal states encouraged individual dictatorships and authoritarian currents like right-wing nationalism and Islamism in non-Western countries as a panacea against the supposed threat of communism. It is not that only Western politics have the responsibility of non-Western dictatorships, but it was their cooption with some local power contenders.
In fact, Wolin’s book is more on the intellectual origins of the rise of the far-right after the Second World War and his focus is more on the correlation of the post-war leftist currents with those of the age-old anti-Enlightenment ideas of the right. It is a very illuminating study among the other critiques on the political shortcomings of the postmodern left. It is not to say that it was the postmodern left which is more responsible for the current rise of the right than anything else, on the contrary, he stresses that his intention is not to establish guilt by association. Nonetheless, I think that it is also the political vacuum of critical politics, which is being filled by rightist, nationalist and Islamist currents on the one hand and postmodern anti-Enlightenment and anti-modernist ideas on the other, that promoted the recent disbelief in democracy. In other words, the emphasis on plurality rather than pluralism, collective rights rather than individual freedoms, identity and culture rather than citizenship as the new definition of democracy ended up with the rise of authoritarian politics rather than an advanced form of democracy.
Finally, in all cases of the rising sway toward non-democracy the reason that lies behind is all sorts of cooption of economic interests, ideological delusions and individual opportunisms with authoritarian political views. And the price is higher and it is truer for non-Western countries.