In 1992, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama came up with a new book ‘The End of History and the Last Man’. In the book, he argued that with the disintegration of Soviet Union and collapse of the Warsaw Pact bloc in 1991, the western liberal democracy triumphed as a victor in the ideological war against the communist empire. He described this scenario as the end of history arguing that the western liberal democracy will remain invincible and there will be no challenge from any quarters to this liberal order. The book indeed stirred political academia worldwide but its hangover evaporated within a few decades, as the liberal order came under assault from within itself and from its messiah.
With the demise of Soviet Union, the bipolar world changed into the unipolar and the United States turned out to be the sole dominant superpower. The West mainly the United States set the rules of the international system, which continues even today, although the newly emerged global powers have recently started to challenge the domination of the West. However, the rules of international order continue to be as it was devised by the power constellation of the immediate aftermath of the World War II.
Power structure The global power structure has changed. The Western power including the United States and its European allies, Japan and Australia are in the one side whereas China and Russia are on the other side. But China and Russia are not strategic allies. Russia is a military power, which is a clear challenger of the United States and the Western countries in Europe but Russia still falls behind the United States’ military strength whereas economically it stands nowhere in comparison to the Western bloc.
China’s case is unique as it has achieved a miraculous economic growth within a short span of a few decades. China is already an economic superpower only next to the United States in terms of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) but lags far behind from the standpoint of per capita income. In the military strength and technological prowess, China’s achievement is impressive and is trying to catch up with the United States. But China’s military capability also does not match with the strength of the United States.
The Western world more particularly the United States went into a deep slumber for the last couple of decades since 1990 believing Fukuyama’s notion of ‘end of history’ and ultimate victory of the Western world and their liberal order. The United States and the West suddenly woke up to find several other countries fast rising both economically, technologically and even militarily over this period. Now the United States takes China as its rival. Given the present situation, Fukuyama’s thesis of the ‘end of history’ seems to be far from reality. History is the ongoing process and does not end. History does not repeat exactly in the older form but takes different turns and twists. One thing what Fukuyama says is definitely true that the Western liberal democracy has earned worldwide acclaim in the political lexicon. Liberal democracy carries several virtues like individual freedom, competition, rule of law and equality before the law, etc.
However, liberal democracy too is not free from flaws. Even Winston Churchill famously and critically said ‘democracy is the worst form of government- except for all the others that have been tried’. The growing inequality, income disparity, climate catastrophe are what have discredited capitalist political system or the liberal democracy.
In the 20th century, Karl Marx’s proposition, known as Marxism, earned popularity in much of the newly liberated and poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In the mid-20th century, when the Soviet Union was powerful, its model based on Marxism was viewed by many, who were inimical to capitalist democracy, as a better alternative political model. However, the socialist model failed in several countries including Soviet Union itself within 70 years of its experiment. Only a few countries like China, Vietnam, and Cuba alike have been able to save and sustain the communist system.
With the rise of China as an economic superpower, some even propagate the Chinese system, which is a mix of capitalism and communism (politically communist and economically capitalist) as an alternative development model of the 21st century. The ultra-capitalism definitely failed to solve the pressing problems of the majority of the people. Only a handful of rich and privileged ones having control over resources benefited the most while majority of the working class people — peasants, workers, small businesspeople, artisans alike — got alienated from the mainstream politics and development.
On the other hand, the socialist or communist system had stark democratic deficit as people were denied of freedom and franchise. Given these drawbacks in these models, the Nordic countries have a developed an alternative way called the Nordic Model or social democratic model -- a kind of successful amalgamation of capitalist and socialist models. Politically, the Nordic model is liberal democracy with the guarantee of individual liberty and democracy.
Economically, it promotes free market economy ensuring necessary policy and legal mechanisms as well as incentives to the private sector for growth and productivity, while, at the same time, it seeks to have strong safety net for people — job guarantee, basic standard wages and working hours, free health care and free education, pension system, elderly care, and progressive taxation. As a result, Nordic countries — Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden -- have the least income inequality and social disparity, while inequality is rising in the rest of the world.
Twin pillars The Constitution of Nepal in Article 4 states ‘Nepal is an independent, indivisible, sovereign, secular, inclusive, democratic, socialism-oriented, federal democratic republican state’. Similarly, Nepal’s major political parties have, in way or the other, adopted democracy and socialism as the basic foundation of their political ideology, although neither our constitution nor political parties have clearly defined what the socialism means. The constitutional provision and ideological documents of the political parties seem to have adopted democracy and socialism as the twin pillars of our political system, which is akin to the Nordic Model. Perhaps, at this moment, the social democracy is the best way with which Nepal can move ahead ensuring individual liberty and also social justice as well as welfare of the people.