Rise Of Global Authoritarianism

Non-fiction Apr 09, 2020

Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by strong central powers and limited political freedoms. An authoritarian leadership style is exemplified when a leader dictates policies and procedures and goals that are to be achieved and directs and controls all activities without any meaningful participation by his subordinates. Such a leader has a vision in mind and must be able to effectively motivate the group to finish the task.

There is a clear divide between the leader and his followers. The leader constructs a gap between himself and his followers with the intention of stressing role distinction. This type of leadership dates back to the earliest tribes and empires nut has seen a comeback in recent times.

On the other hand, democracy is a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. This is a type of government in which people have the authority to choose their legislature.

The majority of the countries are now democracies. The end of the World War I depicted the start of the democratic form of government. Here the citizens vote for officials who represent the citizens’ ideas, Thus the people are given a justified opportunity and a chance of participation where they know that their opinions are a subject matter of concern.

However, world’s trust with democracy is in danger. Authoritarianism is rising in a number of countries. Seems like the wave of authoritarianism is hitting the countries yet  again.

Authoritarianism is on the march not only in relatively poor countries but also in well-off countries including the US, a country that defended and promoted liberal democracy throughout the 20th century.

How are we to understand the resurgence of authoritarianism?

Erica Frantz of Michigan State University sheds light on the ways of contemprorary authoritarians in her short book-‘Authoritarianism- What Everyone Should Know.’ Thus illuminates two points.

First- Nowadays the most common way of emerging authoritarian regimes is to eat away the democracy from within. Second- These new regimes often take what theauthor calls  ‘The most dangerous form of dictatorship.’

As mentioned earlier, in a democracy, the state must allow flow of expression of opinions, a free media and an unbiased election law. Today elections confer legitimacy. For this reason many authoritarians offer pseudo-democracy but not the reality. Pseudo-democracy refers to a less genuine form of democracy where though the elections are held, the citizens are cut off from the knowledge of the activities of those who exercise real power. Thus elections have a become a form of theatre. Historically, the number of regimes peaked in 1980 and then fell sharply reaching a trough in the middle of the last decade. Since then democracy has been in slow retreat.

The global march of authoritarianism is off to a vigorous start this year. In Brazil, a new president with a well documented far-light leanings, immediately mobilized 300 members of the National Police Force to quell violence in  a north-eastern state, even as he vowed to increase security force powers and expand citizens’ gun rights. To the North, in Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales booted out a United Nations Anti-corruption Commission that has been investigating some of his officials and others close to him And in the United States, President Donuld Trump is fanning fears over immigration and considering declaring a ‘national emergency’ to construct a wall on the southern border.

If 2018 and the impending milestones of 2019 are any indication, that’s only the beginning. Across the globe, entrenched authoritarians tightened their grip last year-take China for instance. Relatively new authoritarians extended their crackdowns-for example Hungary, Turkey and the Philippines.  At present, the authoritarianism business is booming. According to the Human Rights Foundation’s research, the citizens of 94 countries suffer under non-democratic regimes, meaning that 3.97 billion people are currently controlled by tyrants, absolute monarchs, military juntas or competitive authoritarians. That’s 53 percent of the world’s population. Statistically, then, authoritarianism is one of the largest-if not the largest- challenges facing humanity.

If injustice and oppression aren’t bad enough, authoritarian governments bear an enormous social cost. Dictator-led countries have higher rates of mental illness, lower levels of health and life expectancy and higher susceptibility to famine. Clearly, the suppression of free expression and creativity has harmful effects on innovation and economic growth. Moreover, the free nations do not go to war with each other whereas dictators are always at war.

The worse the democracies perform, the less attractive that model of governance becomes to their citizens and it is easier for the authoritarians to emerge. As it becomes more obvious that the democracies were poorly equipped to contend with the resurgence of authoritarianism, the leading autocracies were experimenting with more frightening ways of assuming domestic political control. The confluence of authoritarianism gains and a setback of democracy suggests that the modern authoritarianism is a permanent and an increasing threat to the liberal democracies. Authoritarian states are likely to intensify efforts to influence the political choices and government policies of the democracies. Authoritarian leaders can count on the increasingly vocal group of admirers in the democratic states.  The phenomena can be expected to double down on its drive to neuter civil society as an incubator of reformist ideas.

The rewriting of history will become more widespread and will greatly complicate societal efforts to confront both past and political abuses. Authoritarian forces are more likely to gain supremacy in countries where the parties that represent liberal democracy not only lose elections but experience a full-blown political collapse.

-Moksha Sharma

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