In June 2019, Putin gave an important interview to The Financial Times. In it he proclaimed that political liberalism was an obsolete ideology, that it no longer responded to the interests of the majority of the people. Leaders like Putin and events like the storming of the Capitol are provoking a welcome backlash in defense of liberal democracy. A sample is the recent book by Francis Fukuyama. Liberalism and its disenchanted constitutes a reasoned defense of political liberalism, the ideological current that is the backbone of liberal democracies.
Attacks on liberalism come from both ends of the political spectrum. The radical right blames liberalism for two great evils, precisely those that the Russian leader highlighted in the interview. In the first place, his opening to the world, to immigration and to multiculturalism. A universalism that could endanger historical identities and cultures. The second criticism focuses on moral individualism. For the most conservative politicians, individual moral freedom can favor ethical relativism and erode the traditional values of society, especially in matters of family and gender.
From the left the attacks against liberalism are also formidable. The most extreme deny that liberal democracies, even with a generous welfare state, constitute political regimes in which true freedom prevails. For these currents, it is a purely formal freedom, since the dominant powers control not only economic resources and their distribution, but also language and communication, managing to manipulate reality. Liberalism is also being harassed by the more moderate left given that, despite high levels of social spending, economic and social inequalities persist in many democracies.
Fukuyama's book offers a good diagnosis of the threats facing political liberalism. Hopefully it constitutes a stimulus so that, both from political praxis and from the world of thought, a forceful and tenacious defense of liberal democracy is promoted. I believe that progress needs to be made in two key dimensions. The first is how to make individualism, the protection of the individual sphere and the freedom that it entails, compatible with the achievement of the objectives of the entire community, of the common good. The second, the determination precisely of what we understand as a political community. Liberalism entails the primacy of the person, whatever their origin, and respect for their dignity, but in practice it is necessary to define the scope of the political group in which citizen rights and duties are generated and a common good is shared. It is not an easy task as shown, for example, by the difficulties in deploying a single migration policy in the European Union.