Civilization and Liberal Democracy

Civilization and Liberal Democracy

Pabst A.,

University of Kent,

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2021.04.04

For citation:

Pabst A. Civilization and Liberal Democracy. – Polis. Political Studies. 2021. No. 4. P. 26-42. (In Russ.).


Civilization is the new pivot of international relations. Brexit, Trump and the resurgence of Russia, China and India have put culture and civilizational identity at the heart of both domestic politics and foreign policy. From ‘culture wars’ that are sweeping the West to the pushback against Western universalism in much of the non-Western world, civilizational norms speak to people’s hearts, not just their mind, and tap into a desire and need for belonging. This article explores the resurgence of civilization in relation to liberal democracy. Liberal-democratic systems of government are in retreat and in question not only because of external threats but also because of their inner dynamics. Contemporary capitalism and liberalism unleash democracy’s demons – oligarchy, demagogy, anarchy and tyranny. These forces undermine the foundations of Western civilization and cast a shadow on the universality of Western values. In response Russia and China have embraced the model of the civilizational state – a state not defined primarily in ethnic, national or territorial terms but rather as the embodiment of a unique civilization. The rise of civilizational states is not just changing the global balance of power. It is also transforming geopolitics away from liberal universalism towards cultural exceptionalism as we enter what many call a post-American, post-Western world. 

civilization, liberal democracy, civilizational-states, values, norms.


Bauman Z. 2008. Does Ethics Have a Chance in a World of Consumers? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bell D. 2000. China’s New Confucianism, Politics in Everyday Life in a Changing Society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Berlin I. 1969. Two Concepts of Liberty. – Four Essays on Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press. P. 118-172.

Bloom A. 1987. The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Bouvet L. 2015. L’insecurite culturelle: sortir du malaise identitaire francais. Paris: Fayard.

Callahan W.A. 2010. China: the Pessoptomist Nation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Campbell A. 2015. Defining China’s ‘Civilization State’. Where Is It Heading? China Study Centre. Policy Paper Series.

Coker Chr. 2019. The Rise of the Civilizational State. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Collier P., Kay J. 2020. Greed is Dead. Politics after Individualism. London: Penguin.

Curtis H. 2016. Constructing Cooperation: Chinese Ontological Security Seeking in the South China Sea Dispute. – Journal of Borderland Studies. Vol. 31. No. 4. P. 537-549.

Deneen P.J. 2018. Why Liberalism Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Emmott B. 2017. The Fate of the West. The Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea. London: Profile Books.

Fukuyama F. 1989. The End of History? – The National Interest. No. 16. P. 3-18.

Fukuyama F. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: The Free Press.

Goodhart D. 2017. The Road to Somewhere: The New Tribes Shaping British Politics. London: Penguin.

Hoffmann S. 1998. World Disorders: Troubled Peace in the Post-Cold War Era. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Ignatieff M. 1994. Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Ikenberry G.J. 2011. Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis and Transformation of the American World Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jowitt K. 1991. After Leninism: The New World Disorder. – Journal of Democracy. Vol. 2. No. 1. P. 11-20.

Jowitt K. 1992. The New World Disorder: The Leninist Extinction. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Juergensmeyer M. 1993. The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Kantar Public. 2016. Trapped in a Bubble: An Investigation into Triggers for Loneliness in the UK. London: British Red Cross and Co-op.

Kennan G.F. 1960. Russia and the West under Lenin and Stalin. New York: Mentor Books.

Krastev I. 2016. The Unraveling of the Post-1989 Order. – Journal of Democracy. Vol. 27. No. 4. P. 5-15.

Krastev I., Holmes S. 2019. The Light That Failed. A Reckoning. London: Allen Lane.

Lavrov S. 2008. Russia and the World in the 21st Century. – Russia in Global Affairs. No. 3. URL: (accessed 01.10.2020).

Laruelle M. 2015. The “Russian World”: Russia’s Soft Power and Geopolitical Imagination. Washington, DC: Center on Global Interests.

Laruelle M. 2016. Russia as an Anti-Liberal European Civilisation. – The New Russian Nationalism, 2000-15. Ed. by P. Kolsto, H. Blakkisrud. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. P. 275-297.

Light M. 2015. Russian Foreign Policy Themes in Official Documents and Speeches: Tracing Continuity and Change. – Russia’s Foreign Policy Ideas, Domestic Politics and External Relations. Ed. by M. Light. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lilla M. 2017. The Once and Future Liberal. After Identity Politics. New York: HarperCollins.

Linde F. 2016. State Civilisation: The Statist Core of Vladimir Putin’s Civilisational Discourse and Its Implications for Russian Foreign Policy. – Politics in Central Europe. Vol. 12. No. 1. P. 21-35.

Luce E. 2017. The Retreat of Western Liberalism. London: Little, Brown.

Lynn B.C. 2010. Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction. Oxford: Wiley.

Milbank J., Pabst A. 2016. The Politics of Virtue: Post-liberalism and the Human Future. London: Rowman & Littlefield International.

Mishra P. 2017. Age of Anger: A History of the Present. London: Allen Lane.

Norris P., Inglehart R. 2019. Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Orwell G. 1937. The Road to Wigan Pier. London: Penguin.

Pabst A. 2018. Liberal World Order and Its Critics. Civilizational States and Cultural Commonwealths. London: Routledge.

Pabst A. 2019. The Demons of Liberal Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Pabst A. 2021. Postliberal Politics: The Coming Era of Renewal. Cambridge: Polity Press. Pew Research Center. 2019. Trust and Distrust in America. URL:

Porter P. 2020. The False Promise of Liberal Order. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Qing J. 2012. A Confucian Constitutional Order: How China’s Ancient Past Can Shape Its Political Future. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Reeves R.V. 2017. Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to Do About it. Washington DC: Brookings Institution.

Reynolds D. 2013. The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century. London: Schuster & Schuster.

Rieff D. 2005. At the Point of a Gun: Democratic Dreams and Armed Intervention. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Saari S. 2014. Russia’s Post-Orange Revolution Strategies to Increase its Influence in the former Soviet republics: Public Diplomacy po russki. – Europe-Asia Studies. Vol. 66. No. 1. P. 50-66.

Sakwa R. 2016. How the Eurasian Elites Envisage the Role of the EEU in Global Perspective. – European Politics and Society. Vol. 17. P. 4-22.

Sobolewska M., Ford R. 2020. Brexitland. Identity, Diversity and the Reshaping of British Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sommer B. 2010. Prekarisierung und Ressentiments: Soziale Unsicherheit und rechtsextreme Einstellungen in Deutschland. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.

Stoller M. 2019. Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Tocqueville A. de. 1969. Democracy in America. New York: Doubleday.

Trenin D. 2009. Russia’s Spheres of Interest, Not Influence. – The Washington Quarterly. Vol. 32. No. 4. P. 3-22.

Tsygankov A. 2016. Crafting the State-Civilization: Vladimir Putin’s Turn to Distinct Values. – Problems of Post-Communism. Vol. 63. No. 3. P. 146-158.

West Ed. 2020. Small Men on the Wrong Side of History. The Decline, Fall and Unlikely Return of Conservatism. London: Constable.

Williams J.C. 2017. White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Xi Jinping. 2014. Speech at UNESCO Headquarters Paris. URL: (accessed 01.10.2020).

Xi Jinping. 2017a. Address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, 17.01. URL: (accessed 01.10.2020).

Xi Jinping. 2017b. Address to the 19th Communist Party Congress, 18.10. URL: (accessed 01.10.2020).

Zakaria F. 2007. The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Zhang Feng. 2011. The Rise of Chinese Exceptionalism in International Relations. – European Journal of International Relations. Vol. 19. No. 2. P. 305-328.

Zhang Weiwei. 2019. The China Wave. Rise of a Civilizational State. Singapore: WCPC.

Zielonka J. 2018. Counter-Revolution. Liberal Europe in retreat. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Zuboff Sh. 2019. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. London: Profile Books.  

Content No. 4, 2021

See also:

De Vreede E.,
Culture, civilization and identity. – Polis. Political Studies. 2012. No5

Lebedeva T.P.,
Liberal Democracy as Orienting Objective for Post-Totalitarian Transformations. – Polis. Political Studies. 2004. No2

Lane D.,
Civilisation and the Globalisation of Capitalism. – Polis. Political Studies. 2021. No4

Litvinova T.N.,
The Idea of Mongolian Civilization as a Concept of a Multipolar World Order. – Polis. Political Studies. 2017. No5

Round Table of the «Polis» Journal, Kara-Murza A.A., Chugrov S.V., Zubov A.B., Rashkovsky Ye.B., , Zhukova O.A.,
Russian liberalism and christian values. – Polis. Political Studies. 2011. No3



Introducing an article

Polis. Political Studies
1 2024

Axenov K.E.
Symbolic geopolitical capital and urban space

 The article text


   2024      2023      2022      2021   
   2020      2019      2018      2017      2016   
   2015      2014      2013      2012      2011   
   2010      2009      2008      2007      2006   
   2005      2004      2003      2002      2001   
   2000      1999      1998      1997      1996   
   1995      1994      1993      1992      1991