Illiberalism: A Conceptual Introduction

by Marlene Laruelle


The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural contexts, their intellectual genealogies, the natures of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene. It aims at 1) Promoting a multidisciplinary approach combining political science, sociology, political philosophy, cultural studies and international relations, 2) Addressing questions related to democratic backlash, the spread of authoritarianism, post-liberalism, the far right, populism and nationalism, 3) Serving as a platform for debating the future of the liberalism / illiberalism relationship and engaging scholars, practitioners and activists.

Marlene Laruelle interviews scholars on their ongoing research related to illiberalism


Definition of illiberalism

By illiberalism, we define a strain of political culture, a set of institutional reforms (such as assaults on an independent judiciary) and broader societal processes (such as declining trust in liberal democratic institutions) that, over the past two decades, has emerged in response to liberalism as experienced by various countries. Adherents of illiberalism argue that, in the face of a liberalism that has “gone too far,” it is time to reassert the rights of the collective, or of an alleged silent majority, by restoring national sovereignty in various spheres: politically, by rejecting supranational and multilateral institutions in favor of the nation-state and preferring a strong leader with large powers over a parliamentary system; economically, through at least partial protectionism; culturally, by refusing multiculturalism and minority rights in favor of an essentialist definition of the nation, its members, and its genuine cultural attributes.