Open society is under pressure all over the world. It is being challenged by an anti-liberal movement from within just as it is by increasingly assertive authoritarian regimes on the international stage. These are openly questioning democratic values and the rules-based international order. The Center for Liberal Modernity offers a forum for nonpartisan debate on the defence and renewal of liberal democracy, develops concepts for social and political participation and promotes cooperation within democratic civil society that transcends national borders. (read also: “Who We Are and What We Want”). Thus, the LibMod contributes to the promotion of democracy and international understanding. We use a variety of formats in our work: debates on websites and on social media, public events and conferences, expert discussions and exchange programmes.
The website www.libmod.de is a forum for debate about the renewal of liberal democracy, about how authoritarian movements and regimes should be understood and how best to deal with them. The debate addresses five subject areas: (1) open society, (2) security in transition, (3) ecology and freedom, (4) the future of the West and (5) the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood. Each week, several debate contributions as well as commentaries on current socio-political and international issues are added to the website. The LibMod is also active on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube).
Security in Transition
The expert commission “Security in Transition” is wrapping up its work with a final report and two specialist conferences in Stuttgart and Berlin. The report offers concrete recommendations to federal, state and local governments on ways to build trust in democratic institutions and open society in times of accelerated change (globalization, digitalization, global migration, new images of gender and family). The commission’s suggestions are aimed at strengthening social and political participation and fostering self-efficacy in the members of our society. They emphasize the significance of public institutions and an active civil society as pillars of social democracy. The project is funded by the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung.
The commission’s report was presented at a press conference with Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann in Stuttgart on the 22nd of March 2019 and at a subsequent symposium. There are plans for another presentation on the 6th of May in Berlin, held in cooperation with the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government.
This will be followed by a three-event series of talks on the general topic of security in transition, held in cooperation with the Bertelsmann-Stiftung. These talks will focus on the challenges that liberal democracy and the social market economy are confronted with as a result of globalization and how they might be shaped to make them better able to deal with the economic and social upheaval of a globalized world.
Liberal Democracy and Its Adversaries (Analysing Adversaries)
The “Liberal Democracy and Its Adversaries” project examines the history of anti-liberal thought from the Weimar Republic to the present day and discusses its relevance for the analysis and treatment of the adversaries of open society today. The aim is to provide material to citizens’ initiatives, schools and other institutions, individuals and organisations in the field of civic education and also to journalists to support their examination of anti-democratic forces. The project is funded by the federal programme “Live Democracy” of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs and by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb).
Critical analyses of 15 influential anti-liberal thinkers and their ideas will be posted on the website www.gegeneranalyse.de. The analyses will also examine the extent to which voices in the current debates echo or depart from these traditions of thought. Four public panel discussions and a final conference will deepen these discussions:
06 Dec. 2018 Project launch: Antiliberal thought from Weimar to the present day (event report)
14 Mar. 2019 Ambivalences of Modernity (event report)
15 May 2019 Roads to Unfreedom — with Timothy Snyder
05 Sep. 2019 Anti-Democratic Voices from the Left
10 Oct. 2019 Final conference
Liberalism Debate / Renewal of Liberal Democracy
While the crisis of liberal democracy is an international phenomenon, the debate over causes and policy responses has been carried out mainly in national contexts. We want to encourage greater “internationalization” of this debate while creating opportunities for liberal actors from a range of political “tribes” in Germany to talk with one another. To this end, the Center for Liberal Modernity both takes part in international conferences and network meetings and holds its own events.
The fundamental question is what can be done to restore the legitimacy of liberal democracy, to improve its abilities to act in a changing environment and to strengthen democratic institutions? Last but not least, we ask to what extent strong public institutions are necessary to guarantee freedom, and how they can do so without restricting the fundamental freedoms of citizens. (see Ralf Fücks: “Liberalism is dead, long live liberalism!”)
We will continue, in cooperation with Das Progressive Zentrum, the “Challenging Democracy” event series, which examines the challenges that populism and anti-liberal movements pose for democracy. We also intend to establish the “Liberal Modernity Salon” in Berlin, to serve as a forum for discussion across party lines.
New Global Order — New Systems Competition?
With a conference held in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Defence in May or June of 2019, we intend to consider the question of whether a new competition between systems exists at the international level – i.e., with liberal democracies on the one side and authoritarian regimes on the other – and how democratic Europe can assert itself effectively in this confrontation. Russia and China will be discussed as examples in this context. An accompanying series of articles on www.libmod.de is envisaged.
Russia and Europe
In recent years, the Kremlin’s foreign and domestic policies have strayed ever further from the values of democracy. The level of repression directed against democratic forces has increased substantially. In supporting anti-liberal forces and stoking the flames of political polarization in the EU, the Kremlin is pursuing a deliberate strategy. Systematic propaganda and efforts to influence elections and referendums in the West are intended to damage trust in democratic processes and institutions. At the international level, the Kremlin has overwritten the rules of international law with a “might makes right” policy. The military intervention in Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea constitute a breach of the European peace order. The Center for Liberal Modernity wants to contribute towards a realistic Russia policy while promoting dialogue with Russian civil society.
An international symposium held in January 2019 considered whether a “new Ostpolitik” would encourage the return to a system of common security and cooperation in Europe.
A new Internet activism project to support democratic actors in Russia is under preparation. The Internet is one of the last refuges of the critical public in Russia, one increasingly limited by state censorship and threatened with criminalization. The project aims to open opportunities for journalistic and technical training for decentralized Internet projects and activists in Russia and to bring them together with relevant Internet projects in Germany. The programme includes workshops, public discussion events and training events.
Ukraine and Us
Ukraine is a key for the future development in Central and Eastern Europe: the success or failure of its democratic transformation and European integration will have a major impact on the entire region, including Russia. Our “Understanding Ukraine” project is making the case for clear-eyed empathy with Ukraine and democratic reformers, who are wrestling with the reactionary forces of the old regime with the country’s future at stake. The “Understanding Ukraine” project provides information about domestic and foreign policy issues relating to Ukraine. The project’s website, www.ukraineverstehen.de, reports on the status of reforms, the human rights situation in the war zones in East Ukraine and in the Crimean Peninsula, five year’s after its Russian annexation. A series of expert discussions will bring experts from Ukraine and representatives of the political arena, think-tanks and civil society together in Berlin. This year’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine and their impact on the country’s transformation processes are a major focus of the project for 2019.
A parallel project on memory preservation is aimed at revealing the largely unknown fate of the Jewish population of Ukraine during World War II. While most people associate the Holocaust with extermination camps like Auschwitz, the scale of extermination perpetrated locally during Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union has yet to establish itself in the public consciousness. The aim of the project is to keep alive the memories of the destruction of European Jewry and the crimes of National Socialism in Ukraine.
Last year, the Center for Liberal Modernity, in cooperation with five of Germany’s political foundations, the chorus Bremer RathsChor and representatives of Ukraine, held a memorial event in Odessa recalling the massacre there in 1941, when more than 20,000 people were murdered.
There are plans for another memorial event in 2019 in the Ukrainian city Chernivtsi.
In cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, we are publishing a multi-author volume on the ecological modernization of the social market economy. The fundamental question addresses the policy and regulatory framework necessary for ecological transformation: how can climate protection and the preservation of bio-diversity be combined with a dynamic economy and high levels of prosperity. The contributions to the publication will be discussed and further developed at a joint conference.
Sylke Tempel Fellowship
In cooperation with the German-Israeli Future Forum, the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and the German Association for East European Studies (DGO), we will be awarding fellowships to fund work contributing to greater German-Israeli understanding. The fellowships commemorate Sylke Tempel, former editor-in-chief of the journal Internationale Politik, who was involved in the founding of the Center for Liberal Modernity before losing her life in a tragic accident.
Our annual reception brings together representatives from the spheres of politics, business, research, media and civil society. The reception centres around a keynote address delivered by a prominent guest and the discussion that follows. Last year, Timothy Garton Ash spoke about “What went wrong with Liberalism and what should Liberals do about it?”