Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Liberalism runs into national populism

The Russian President statement just before the G-20 meeting saying ‘liberalism' as ‘obsolete' has brought in a wider debate.
By IASToppers
September 02, 2019


  • Introduction
  • What is liberalism?
  • Types of liberalism
  • The Russian President’s attack on ‘liberalism’
  • What was his criticism?
  • Why did the Russian President speak about the liberalism?
  • How can we say that western liberalism is declining?
  • Other countries criticising the western liberal policies
  • Conclusion

Liberalism runs into national populism

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The statement of Russian President that liberalism has become ‘obsolete’ and his opinion that many western nations also admit that multiculturalism is no longer can be defended has created a buzz across nations.


The swift response from the President of the European Council made it clear that whoever against liberalism is against the rule of law and human rights too.

What is liberalism?

  • Liberalism is a political doctrine that takes protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central problem of politics.


  • Liberalism has been the dominant socio-political ideology in the West since the end of the Second World War, where it has been regarded as the norm until recently. 

Types of liberalism:

  • The economic liberalism, which ‘emphasizes free competition and the self-regulating market, and which is commonly associated with globalization and minimal state intervention in the economy’.
  • The political liberalism which is founded on ‘belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human being, the autonomy of the individual, and standing for political and civil liberties’ as laid out in various United Nations Covenants.
  • The social liberalism, which is linked to the protection of minority groups, and such issues like ‘LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage’.

The Russian President’s attack on ‘liberalism’


  • His comment on liberalism as ‘obsolete’ is the criticism of western government approaches concerning immigration, multiculturalism and LGBTQ issues which comes under social and political liberalism.
  • It can be said his focus was on social and political liberalism.

What was his criticism?

He criticised the following incidents that took place in the name of liberal policies:

  • In Germany, the acceptance of refugees went, according to him, against the majority of the population of the country.
  • The US uses liberalism topics such as immigration and minority issues to increase its core support in the country.
  • In European countries, the Italy, Greece and Germany have become an entry point of asylum seekers and now the regulations have been made tough in these countries which shows the failure of its liberal policies.
  • Poland and Hungary do not favour the admission of refugees even fleeing from violence and war which represents some countries non-acceptance of liberal thoughts and policies.
  • In the UK, even though gender parity issues are strongly promoted, incidents of LGBTQ discriminations are popping out lately. The question arises why these incidents are happening in the country even after the liberal thoughts of government and people.
  • Europe has badly mismanaged the question of admission of refugees, which in turn has led to questioning the very basis of Europe’s integration project.

Why did the Russian President speak about the liberalism?

  • He wanted to convey that in his country, sovereignty wins over democracy and national unity and stability trumps over human rights.
  • This Russian style of government provides an alternative to western liberalism policy today.
  • The western liberalism where individual rights are given more importance than society, pose a challenge to the Russian style of government.

How can we say that western liberalism is declining?


  • The western liberalism is seeing a decline which is proved from the fact that people voted in support of Brexit in the UK or are voting in support of populist leaders in the US, Hungary, Italy etc.
  • The voters everywhere increasingly dislike and distrust elected representatives because western democracy based on liberalism has ceased to work and failed to deliver.
  • The current status of globalization is on the decline and the countries are leading towards protectionism, stronger nation-state ideas.
  • The liberalism urgently needs to justify itself by addressing issues of inequality and the loss of a sense of community among people.

Other countries criticising the western liberal policies

  • The leaders of India, China, Turkey, Brazil, the Philippines and several others, even in Europe, believe that highly centralised political systems work better for political stability and economic progress than western liberal democracies.


  • The freedom to protests in unauthorised demonstrations, the willful destruction of economy and tourism as in Hong Kong or the freedom to bear arms enshrined in the US constitution shows that liberty has limitations.
  • No country has found the golden mean between free-range liberalism and statism.
  • It is, probably the correct time that the Russian President made out his statement when the concept of liberal government and liberal policies are under pressure even in western countries.


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