Liberal and Illiberal Projects in Today's Europe

Conference in English (Conférence en anglais)

This lecture defines liberalism and illiberalism as two distinct responses to the changing demographic structure of European societies. In a democracy, the most existential collective right is the right to exclude. Democracy is preconditioned on the right of the democratic political community to decide who can and who cannot be a member. How you define the right to exclude is what distinguishes liberal from illiberal democracies. The European liberal project focuses on the protection of the rights of minorities as the way to manage diversity at a time when a growing number of migrants are coming from outside Europe. The illiberal project in Europe, associated with the current governments of Hungary and Poland, is about preserving the ethnic state in rapidly diversifying societies. The European illiberalism of the twenty-first century is not the second coming of nineteenth- or twentieth-century European nationalism. It is not about gathering all Bulgarians, Hungarians, or Poles into their own respective territorial political entities. It is about preserving the ethnic homogeneity of the electoral body while accepting the need to open its labor market to foreigners.