The Promise and Peril of Democracy

Twenty-five years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, why is European democracy in flux?

Freedom is addictive. So when the Soviet Union made a small opening for the goods and ideas of a democratic West, it did not take long for Central and Eastern Europeans to want more.

Communist dictatorships toppled like dominoes in 1989, giving way to a new game – capitalism. It was hailed as “the end of history,” the beginning of a new era in liberal democracy.

Twenty-five years later, it appears that “end’ may have been an illusion.

Russia’s authoritarian leanings and fervent nationalism are catching on across Europe, where radical right-wing parties are making significant election gains. Hungary, hit hard by the global economic crisis, is leaning away from Western-style democracy towards a more Putin-like system.

But it is not just impoverished countries that are embracing ultraconservative platforms. The xenophobia of far-right parties transcends borders and economic conditions, rising in more prosperous countries like Austria, Sweden and France.

So what does this mean for European democracy? Is it in crisis? And if so, is it reversible?

Marwan Bishara investigates if democracy is being eroded by neoliberalism and globalisation, and asks if economic stability is more addictive than freedom.

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