Saturday, March 25, 2017

Paul Robinson — From Russia with love – lessons for today from a revolution 100 years ago

In liberal thought, legitimacy derives from elections, the state’s respect for its citizens’ human rights, open and transparent government, a free press and so on. According to these criteria, the provisional government ought to have been more legitimate than the unpopular monarchy it replaced. But it wasn’t. The legitimacy of the state proved to be inseparable from the person of the czar.
To understand why, one must look to an alternative concept of legitimacy. This sees legitimacy as deriving from history, tradition, nationalism and religion, as well as from force rather than from popularity and individual freedoms. Russians had regarded the czar as legitimate because the monarchy embodied centuries of Russian history, a sense of the Russian nation, and the idea of Orthodoxy. The monarchy was also feared. When it was gone, all that was left was an abstract commitment to liberal values. This was not sufficient. The result was the eventual triumph of Bolshevism.

This story continues to be repeated in countries across the globe today: Again and again, regime change leads not to liberal democracy but instead to civil war.
Despite this, many in the West continue to believe in the value of overthrowing what they consider to be corrupt or autocratic regimes, without in many cases taking due regard of the ways in which existing regimes have a form of legitimacy which is not easily replaced.
Too often, a mere public commitment to Western values proves to be an insufficient replacement for power, tradition, religion or nationalism. Unless we can redefine our understanding of legitimacy in order to take such factors into consideration, our efforts to reshape the world are all too likely to continue to end up creating only chaos.
Ottawa Citizen
Robinson: From Russia with love – lessons for today from a revolution 100 years ago
Paul Robinson | Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa

1 comment:

Ryan Harris said...

Massive Navalny anti-corruption protests across Russia and ongoing protests in Minsk. Have to wonder if this isn't Eu-rranged as payback for what Eu-Leaders see as meddling in their Western affairs. Merkel is angry and threatened as her poll numbers slide.