In contrast to the European tradition of democratic pluralism, John Shattuck points to a new phenomenon in Eastern European states: illiberal democracy. Popularized by authoritarian political discourse in Hungary and Poland, the trend toward illiberalism evidences deep discontent with democracy’s economic, identity, and security implications for Europe. Democracy, however, is capable of reforming itself from the inside, allowing for new structures of participation for its citizens—whereas the strict control of power in illiberal democracy blocks avenues for meaningful change.
Blake’s book conveys a straightforward directive: the foreign policy of liberal states should be guided and constrained by the goal of helping other states to become liberal democracies as well. This much is what we owe to people in other countries—this much but nothing more. The primary addressees are wealthier democracies, whose foreign policy ought to be guided by the idea of equality of all human beings. My approach in On Global Justice bears important similarities to Blake’s, but with those similarities also come equally important differences. The purpose of this piece is to bring out these similarities and differences and in the process articulate some objections to Blake.