The cumulative effects of Brexit, the resurgence of populist politics in Europe, and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States have given rise to the perception that Western liberal democracies are undergoing profound change, if not a bona fide crisis. Moreover, there is a sense that it is the political liberalism of the post–Cold War period—rather than its far less popular companion ideology of neoliberalism—that finds itself in disarray. As scholars and commentators rummage through their intellectual toolboxes for explanatory frameworks, many are turning to (post)socialist histories and experiences as heuristic devices for making sense of the upheavals in Western politics. In this Hot Spots series, we suggest that the postsocialist transition, as both discursive space and set of practices that attempted to make capitalists out of socialists and liberals out of totalitarians, renders the former socialist world a rich site for understanding the current shifts in the Western political landscape. We aim to make sense of this landscape in a way that is attuned to both long-term processes and to the state of emergency reinforced with each new wave of current events. Even though the ground appears to be constantly shifting beneath our feet, these essays insist that detailed, historically and geopolitically sensitive analysis of actually existing post–Cold War liberalisms is one key approach for making sense of the present.
Dzenovska, D. & Kurtović, L. (2018) “Introduction: Lessons for Liberalism from the Illiberal East” Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology (online series), April 25, 2018: https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1422-lessons-for-liberalism-from-the-illiberal-east