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Liberal Constitution

The tribulations of wishy-washy Liberalism

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Liberalism, perhaps the dominant political ideology in the modern world, is under attack everywhere these days. Its core ideas – namely, constituting the political community in a manner that protects fundamental human rights, liberty and equal opportunities for all citizens – are being rudely dismissed. The norms that it cherishes and promotes – for instance, a public sphere that promotes free and open debate and discussion of the great issues of the day in a manner that is respectful of all participants – are being ridiculed by sundry boors, thugs, and loudmouths with megaphones. Within liberal constitutional democracies, the challenge is coming from populists and nativists. Outside these democracies, the challenge is coming from autocracies… a growing band of hard men and maximum rulers. In Africa, for instance, rather than the building of vital and strong institutions we have the saddening return of the Big Men. They win power and refuse to leave, even when they become doddering old fools.

I submit that all this would not matter that much if Liberalism itself were in rude health. But it is in a bad way. The following are some of the reasons why this is the case.
 

Liberal Constitutions and Elections Won't Do the Job

Sina Odugbemi's picture

This piece was originally contributed to the Governance for Development Blog.

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The entity often known as ‘the international community’ has a touching faith in standard liberal constitutions and one-person-one-vote elections. Now, while those are outstanding human inventions, it is becoming clearer every day that in plural, deeply divided societies these inventions alone will not lead to settled systems of governance.