A new kind of authoritarianism

Chinese success has made it painfully clear that globalization of capitalism does not require pluralism or Western standards of legality. Nor has it done much to promote global understanding, in the China Sea or elsewhere in the world. Religious and ethnic divisions are, if anything, ever more pronounced. The failure of the much-heralded Arab Spring to create anything remotely pluralistic epitomizes this trend, leaving the West with the dilemma of selecting which repressive regimes to ally with to defeat even more heinous entities, like Hamas or the Islamic State.

This rise of authoritarianism is not limited to the developing world. In the West, these tendencies are also getting stronger, and from both right and left. One powerful spur has been the growing sense among a once-comfortable middle class – beset by 15 years of flat or shrinking incomes – that they are being “proletarianized.”

Such fear leads normally conservative or moderate people to look at more extreme solutions. Historian Eric Weitz notes that such fears abetted the rise of the National Socialist movement in Germany. Today, across Europe, nativist parties, albeit still far less terrifying than the Nazis, are on the upswing, from traditionally liberal and prosperous Scandinavia to increasingly impoverished Greece.