The widespread, growing criticism of Western hypocrisy is a distinctive characteristic of the world we live in today. It is a powerful expression of the crisis of liberal hegemony. Ivan Krastev, former Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, has researched into the causes and implications of this criticism at the Center for Liberal Strategies (CLS) in Sofia. The results of his work have been published in the policy paper "The Missionary Who has to Become a Monastery".
Tirades against the hypocrisy of the West and liberalism more generally can be heard in different corners of the world. The targets and purposes of these tirades are distinctively different; yet the obsession with hypocrisy is a common trait among political actors as different as the supporters of the radical left and radical right in the EU, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, America’s President Donald Trump, radical Islamists in the Middle East, and anti-imperialists in Latin America.
What are the sources of this hyper-sensitivity about hypocrisy? Is the problem power asymmetries that make relatively less powerful states and societies particularly sensitive to the big boys breaking the rules? Is it the tendency of the US and the EU in the post-Cold War decades, more so than any other global power, to regularly invoke universal principles to justify their conduct of foreign policy? Is it the realization that West’s universalism can be used as a weapon against the West?
Ivan Krastev is the Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia and Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He is a founding board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Board of Trustees of The International Crisis Group and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. As Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow, Krastev spent several months at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.