Policy_Paper_Ivan_Krastev

Policy Paper by Ivan Krastev resulting from the "Hypocrisy, Anti-Hypocrisy and International Order" project

The widespread, growing criticism of Western hypocrisy is a distinctive characteristic of the world we live in today. It is a powerful expression of the crisis of liberal hegemony. “Tear off the Masks!” is a slogan with only limited appeal in most societies, writes historian Sheila Fitzpatrick, “as it operates on the assumption that civilization requires a certain amount of masking. In revolutions, however, that assumption is suspended.” If Fitzpatrick is right, we are living in revolutionary times.

Tirades against the hypocrisy of the West and liberalism more generally can be heard in different corners of the world. The targets and purposes of these tirades are distinctively different; yet the obsession with hypocrisy is a common trait among political actors as different as the supporters of the radical left and radical right in the EU, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, America’s President Donald Trump, radical Islamists in the Middle East, and anti-imperialists in Latin America.

What are the sources of this hyper-sensitivity about hypocrisy? Is the problem power asymmetries that make relatively less powerful states and societies particularly sensitive to the big boys breaking the rules? Is it the tendency of the US and the EU in the post-Cold War decades, more so than any other global power, to regularly invoke universal principles to justify their conduct of foreign policy? Is it the realization that West’s universalism can be used as a weapon against the West?  

You could also be interested in

Renewing Multilateralism with Cultural Values

Multilateralism appears more beleaguered than ever. But new outcroppings of civil society across the globe offer a powerful mandate for the renewal of multilateralism. The Covid-19 pandemic provides a unique window of opportunity that can pave the way for...

Read more

Beyond the Right Side of History

Thirty years ago in 1989, Francis Fukuyama published his famous essay “The End of History?” Fyodor Lukyanov is editor of Russia in Global Affairs and chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, an independent organization providing...

Read more

What Belarus Needs

As Belarus's peaceful protest movement continues to challenge Aleksandr Lukashenko's dictatorship, pressure is building not just on the regime but also on outside powers. While the world must tread carefully, it also can and should do more than simply cheer...

Read more