Discussion Group December 5, 2022: Liberalism and its Discontents

Our next discussion group meeting will be on Monday, December 5th at 5:00 p.m. PST with the topic of Liberalism and its Discontents, following on the November 14 luncheon presentation by Francis Fukuyama.

Classical liberalism is in a state of crisis. Developed in the wake of Europe’s wars over religion and nationalism, liberalism is a system for governing diverse societies that is grounded in fundamental principles of equality and the rule of law. It emphasizes the rights of individuals to pursue their own forms of happiness free from encroachment by governments.

Renowned political philosopher Francis Fukuyama spoke on this topic at our November luncheon. He drew upon his new book, Liberalism and Its Discontents, to discuss how liberalism has been pushed to new extremes by both the right and the left in recent decades. The result, he argues, has been a fracturing of our civil society, placing our democracy in increasing peril. He touched on how this profoundly affects our current political discontents, from immigration to the invasion of Ukraine.

Francis Fukuyama is the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and Director of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy, also at Stanford. A political scientist, political economist, and international relations scholar, Dr. Fukuyama has written widely on issues in development and international politics.

Some questions to help guide our discussion:

1. Why is liberal democracy important and what are the alternatives for organizing society? What are the implications for individuals and social groups?

2. Why has there been a shift away from liberal democracy toward more authoritarian regimes in varying degrees (e.g. China, Hungary, India, Russia, Turkey, Venezuela) and populism (e.g. France, Italy, USA) in the past decade?

Two sets of suggested resources are provided as background for our discussion:

First, Francis Fukuyama’s viewpoint, in three presentations

A. Liberalism and its Discontents. Francis Fukuyama, WACMB Luncheon Lecture on 14 November 2022. Podcast (31 min) at https://www.wacmb.org/member-resources/, password: Gibraltar

B. More Proof That This Really Is the End of History. Francis Fukuyama, The Atlantic, 17 October 2022, at https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/francis-fukuyama-still-end-history/671761/?utm_source=copy-link&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share

C. “It’s a different kind of world we’re living in now”—Interview with political scientist Francis Fukuyama. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 9 November 2022, at https://thebulletin.org/premium/2022-11/its-a-different-kind-of-world-were-living-in-now-interview-with-political-scientist-francis-fukuyama/#post-heading

Second, three critiques of Fukuyama’s viewpoint.

D. Free & Uneasy. Richard V. Reeves, Literary Review (UK), March 2022, at https://literaryreview.co.uk/free-uneasy

E. The End of History and The Last Man and Liberalism and Its Discontents. Pierre Lemieux, Université du Québec, in Cato Institute – Regulation, Fall 2022, at https://www.cato.org/regulation/fall-2022/fukuyama-interesting-books-some-baggage

F. Francis Fukuyama Plays Defense. Krithika Varagur, The New Yorker, 25 May 2022, at https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/francis-fukuyama-plays-defense?utm_source=onsite-share&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker