A Daoist perspective of history imparts a sense of humility on social actors as their power rises and encourages them to avoid the hubris of thinking that historical transformations are driven by some moral rationale.
Dingxin Zhao is a professor in the department of sociology at Zhejiang University and Max Palevsky professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.
During a reading project I undertook to better understand the “third wave of democracy” — the remarkable and rapid rise of democracies in Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa in the 1970s and 80s — I came to realize that this ascendency of democratic polities was not the result of some force propelling history toward its natural, final state, as some scholars have argued. Instead, it was the result of American political influence spreading around the world after the U.S. had established itself as the sole global superpower.
However, the U.S. endeavor to impose its political system in foreign lands where its policymakers did not have much knowledge facilitated the rise of many low-quality democracies, ethnic conflicts and refugee crises and triggered a global resurgence of authoritarianism and conservatism. Adding to such complexity, the crippled democratization movement, promoted under the banner of liberalism, inadvertently eroded the prominence of liberal ideologies — the very bedrock of enlightenment — across the world.