Is Liberalism a Progressive Force?

To answer whether liberalism is a progressive force, it is first important to determine the concept’s meaning. Summarizing key principles of liberalism we can state that they include emancipation of the individual, ensuring the right to an adequate standard of living for everyone, right to private property, tackling in-state discrimination against ethnic, religious and other belief minorities and establishing international organizations to prevent major disagreements between states. There are several quite recent events which support these central points and indicate that liberalism is progressive: Black Lives Matter protests and climate change demonstrations all around the world, anti-vaccine campaigns, marches in favour of unrestricted abortions in Argentina and Poland, demonstrations against abuse of power in Russia and Belarus. People who attend such events, post their views on social media or simply consider themselves liberal in their heads really do make liberalism progressive. However, I believe that liberalism is in crisis and is not developing further.

On one hand people are fighting for their individual rights, however, on the other hand, governments of the most powerful states in the world doing everything to prevent liberalism from developing. For instance, we can take a look at protests in Russia. People of all ages come out to the streets in -20 °C. They do this to support recently jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, to say out loud that people are tired of being lied to during the pandemic regarding government payments to support small enterprises, to say that they are tired of elderly pensions that are just enough to pay bills. What does the government do? They jail those who are protesting in the streets and hurt their own citizens instead of listening to their interests, which also slows the progression of liberalism down even though people are fighting for it. Following this example, we can say that the State now has more power than people, so unless the citizens are heard, there will be no room for liberalism to progress.

The United States, which is still known for its democratic values and liberal world views, is another example of liberalism in crisis. Donald Trump, who really cared about the economy of his country, missed out on all the other variables that link the 'liberal' to the United States. While in office, he continued to make racist remarks, lead the US through the withdrawal of the TPP towards more isolationist politics, quit the Paris Agreement, renegotiated NAFTA, implemented new immigration rules, travel bans,' the wall' and much more. And again, government has prevented liberalism from progression even though people want their voices to be heard by continuous strikes in person and online.

How can we grasp that liberalism is not progressive during the pandemic and the evolution of online life? Teenagers across the globe have begun to recognize themselves as socialists and acknowledge capitalism as the most unjust system of all time. Young people post videos on 'TikTok' lecturing their parents about capitalism's disasters, but also expressing their appreciation for getting their Amazon packages. In addition, they are taunting people dining at the ‘money hungry’ ‘McDonald's’ while drinking ‘Starbucks’ and creating communist handshakes. According to a Gallup Poll survey, nearly 50% of Generation Z respondents held a positive view of socialism. Disregarding class society teenagers believe that everyone has to be equal, no rich should get richer and no poor should get poorer. Modern teenagers are driven towards socialism, but do they really know what socialism is? It is inconsequential if the answer to this question is yes or no since liberalism is still losing its validity and is becoming outdated. Whether this development of socialist views amongst the young generation is influenced by indifferent actions by powerful states or is it just a result of quarantine boredom remains food for thought, but we can for sure declare that liberalism is in crisis.

All in all, the advancement of liberalism is being slowed down by the acts of powerful governments, that shut down the protests of people or simply ignore the wishes of citizens. Furthermore, since young people are only interested in socialism and communism, the concept itself is becoming obsolete. The trend of advancement of liberalism could go downward with teenagers spreading the word online. Therefore, it is clear that liberalism is in crisis and is losing its popularity.

Written by Lana Dolgopolova

Lana Dolgopolova is currently studying International Politics and Sociology at City, University of London.