In the 2018 Political Quarterly lecture, Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at Oxford, Guardian columnist and lifelong liberal, addresses one of the central questions of our time.
For at least two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some version of liberalism was ideologically hegemonic in most democracies and largely set the agenda of globalisation. As we now face a global wave of anti-liberal populism and authoritarianism we are bound to ask how far – and in what ways – that liberalism contributed to this dramatic reversal.
Many analysts have pointed to the growing inequality and shattering financial crisis, attributing them to the simultaneous financialisation and globalisation of capitalism, and to policies often characterised as ‘neoliberalism’. But should other, and perhaps deeper, features of contemporary liberalism share some of the blame?
Having made the right analysis, what lessons should liberals (with a small l, including liberal centre-right and centre-left) learn? Do liberals have any good answers to populism at home and authoritarianism abroad? How can we fight back?