The ride of illiberal democracy essay sample

Brief introduction

People around the world have witnessed the historical patterns of restoring and winning democracies. One of which was the fall of the Berlin Wall during the mid-1990’s when East Germany finally united with the West Germany.

Moreover, the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union has broken the silence of the people’s popular struggle for democratic transformation which became a political phenomenon across South East Asia and some other countries in the Middle East and Africa. Basically, this political phenomenon has triggered the democratization and installation of new governments that brought about reforms in various policies and initiated the liberalization of fundamental rights to the constitution of emerging democratic nations.

However, some political figures continue to settle the discourse on the multi-faceted democratic processes which manifest in the people’s democratic practices and political orientation of governments. In this regard, this paper will discuss the essay of Fareed Zakaria, a Political Science professor of Harvard, Columbia and Case Western Universities, using Tom Byrnes’ 5-step process of evaluation.


The article, “ The Rise of Illiberal Democracy ”, will be reviewed and analyzed using the Tom Byrnes’ 5-step process of evaluation. According to Byrne’s the five steps are: (1) intellectual humility, (2) attitude of skepticism and questioning, (3) awareness of bias, (4) intellectual courage, and (5) metacognition. In addition, the paper will use related works to support or challenge the discourse of Zakaria.

Major points of arguments and reasons

According to Zakaria’s essay, despite the emergence of newly-elected democratic governments, the people are still deprived of their constitutional rights. In addition, he described the government as “ a political system marked not only by free and fair elections but also by the rule of law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic liberties, religion and property.”

In other words, the post-scenario or sine qua non of a newly restored democracy will pass through the liberal process of structuring a political system, which is also a democratic process itself. In the US, democracy first prevailed when the Americans won the war with the British. The resumption of achieving the democratic process has paved way to the creation of the Bill of Rights in 1789, wherein American political parties were at the height of liberal deliberations on the 12 Amendments to the Bill of Rights. In the end, only 10 amendments have been passed.

The feudal democracy

Zakaria’s claim basically refers to the technical definition of illiberalism, which means “ a narrowed state.” Meaning to say, it is a political system being separated by those who have the power to participate and those among the majority that has the ability to struggle and survive. In short, the people’s rights that are included in the constitutional provisions are not followed and are not fully implemented.

One of the manifestations of illiberal democracy can be found in the narrowed-state of the so-called third world countries, wherein political orientation is stagnated in their backward economies which is the system of feudalism and separates the political power and status quo between the rich and the poor. Therefore, illiberal democracy is a multi-faceted process that hampers the centralization of liberalism in aspects of materializing the constitutional fundamentals which will manifest a broader-state of alignment to the socio-cultural-economic progress.

In support to Zakaria’s major points of arguments and reasons, a similar claim on the control of upper class relates the feudal system in Pakistan, to cite, that elected members of one political party holds vital seats in the parliament and the Supreme Court to control the function of the government (Khan, S. 2005).

Conquest of Democracy

The US war on Iraq,  which was instigated by the 9/11 tragedy and  by the US-allied governments’ call for disarmament on weapons of mass destruction, has saved Iraq from prolonged tyrannical period of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The US liberation of Iraq has created a perception that democracy is achieved through the conquest of enemies and has propelled democratic transformation towards the allied Arab states. In addition, the US restored democracy and installed a government through enacting the elections. However, the so-called conquest of democracy is not necessarily for the people and has instead triggered more defiance from Islamic leaders as they called for an autonomous democracy.

In this regard, Zakaria, in his essay, believed that a fair structure of governance is more important than the conquest of democracy as this would allow the people to enjoy the rights of citizens. Moreover, according to Zakaria’s essay, economic, civil, and religious liberties make up the core human autonomy and dignity. He argues that although over the years, elections have been the emphasis of a democracy, it is also equally essential to have a functioning constitution in order for any democracy to become liberal. While the US government championed democracy in Iraq, it also created a modern-day colonialism of the Iraqi people which is being opposed by fundamentalist Islamic groups scattered throughout the region.

This scenario is similar to the religious struggle of Iranian people against the Shah Pahlavi in 1979 has established the autonomous Islamic doctrines of Khomeini. The US government ploy to support Iran through its arms deal with Palestine during the Iran-Iraq war was unsuccessful. It could have been a winning tactical stance for the US to assuage the rule of Khomeini but it was discovered by the Iranian Intelligence community that the US has apparently been “ shooting two birds in one stone” through providing them with armaments while secretly collaborating with Iraq.  The Iranian government and its people have then adopted their autonomous democracy based on Islamic doctrines without applying Western democratic processes.

Attributing factors to illiberal democracy

The trends of illiberal democracy are perceived to have been outlined in the clash between autocracy and democracy and were based on the works of Herodotus. From this point of view, the socialist powers may likewise provide reform and liberalism—where people recognizes liberalism and abhor colonialism as being undemocratic—but instigates the belief that actually opposes liberalism.

One of the historically acclaimed socialist states in the largest West Indies Island of the Caribbean is Cuba. Basically, Cuba has continuously survives the political stronghold of Fidel Castro since he rose to power in 1959. The Cuban socialist-communist government, although appreciating some Western political cultures, has its central governmental function that applies absolute sovereignty.

According to Zakaria, the centralized function may have the tendency to usurp of power and affect the sovereignty of people as it claims to represent the people but in truth, have steadily encroached on the powers and rights of other elements in society. Based on Zakaria’s essay, this is a usurpation that is both horizontal as it covers the branches of the national government and vertical as it also affects regional and local authorities as well as private businesses and other nongovernment groups

Sponsoring Democracy

The commencement of political restructuring in El Salvador was brought about by the US-sponsored election in the 1980’s. According to Tom Byrne’s article, “ Critical Thinking in the Social Sciences”, which was published in 2005, many Americans believed that democracy and people’s sovereignty was restored upon their participation in the elections, and yet many El Salvadoran citizens still questioned why the US sponsored the election. Based on Byrne’s article, it may be recalled that during the turmoil in El Salvador, the United Nations has accounted for a death toll of about 10, 000 people. In addition, according to Byrne, from the time of President Reagan to the present Bush Administration, El Salvador’s gross national product has unable to indicate progress of growth and it has accumulated a large amount of debt.

Basically a review of Byrne’s article, from the experience and perspective of El Salvador, shows the intellectual humility of El Salvadoran people in their submissiveness to the situation of affordable democracy—from the point of view of sponsorship—which they could have hardly earned. However, the people of El Salvador were skeptic as they believe that a long turmoil in El Salvador would resort in insurmountable famine and human casualties. In short, El Salvador was faced with two options: to independently restore their democracy or to accept the sponsorship of election. Although the choice was theirs, due to the worsening circumstances during that time, El Salvador had to choose the latter option.

On the other hand, El Salvador’s intellectual courage led to their realization that the sponsored restoration of democracy through the elections did not effectively reflect a democratic reform in their economic condition. A metacognition or cognitive relevance exemplifying the political and economic condition in El Salvador only relieved the intensity of the turmoil and not the fundamentals or root causes of domestic insurgence.


Upon reviewing and analyzing Zakaria’s paper, it is safe to conclude that liberalism limits the constitutional power. Although liberalism inscribes the fundamental people’s rights through adopting systems of politics and government, it should still ensure that civil and human rights are protected.  On the other hand, illiberal democracy refers to the accretion and utilization of power that may defeat the purpose of envisioning a sustainable democracy.  Therefore, the defects of liberalism results in the attrition of the Constitutional mandate of every government and the rise of illiberal democracy will tarnish the legitimate sovereign people who truly represent the bulwark of genuine democracy.

Works Cited

Byrnes, Tom.“ Critical Thinking in the Social Sciences”. 2005. 08 March 2008

Khan, Sher.“ Review: The Rise of Illiberal Democracy”. 2005. 08 March 2008

Zakaria, Fareed.“ The Rise of Illiberal Democracy”. 1997. 08 March 2008