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?
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