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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

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Liberal democracy is not necessarily the final answer

By Bassam Bishuti, Special to Scene

Peter GrosvenorCommunism, military dictatorship and apartheid -- once viable systems of government -- are collapsing all over the world. Taking their place are liberal democratic governments and market economies.

But the victory of liberal democracy has not been free of challenge from the effects of economic globalization and internal political fragmentation on ethnic or religious lines. The question now is, will liberal democracy survive and in what form?

Peter Grosvenor, assistant professor of political science at PLU, presented his views on this question during a lecture Nov. 8. It was titled, "A Precarious Victory: The Liberal Democratic Nation State in the Global Politics of the New Millenium."

He agreed with current ideas that for now and for the foreseeable future, there do not appear to be viable alternatives to liberal democratic politics. He took exception, however, to the argument, by political scientists such as Francis Fukuyama, that liberal democracy represents the end point of humankind's ideological evolution. This idea, he said, may have the paradoxical effect of undermining liberal democracy through complacency.

In his talk, Grosvenor looked at the various practical challenges of economic globalization and political fragmentation that liberal democracy is likely to face in the next century. He also considered the philosophical objections to the notion that human political history culminates in liberal democracy. These objections include the arguments of the cultural relativists, who consider liberal democracy as only one political value system among many, and the anti-historicists who say that there is no identifiable direction and purpose to the course of human history.

Grosvenor concluded that although the victory of liberal democracy over its rivals is real and that we should expect the number of liberal democracies to increase in the 21st century, it is also true that this victory is precarious, and there is nothing inevitable about its survival or its continued spreading. A democratic political culture, he said, is something that requires constant renewal and revitalization.

Grosvenor has taught at PLU since 1995 and specializes in international relations and comparative government. He has written two books and numerous journal articles and papers and currently is working on a book on anti-modernism in 20th-century British political thought. He holds a Ph.D. and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and a B.A. from the University of Wales.

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