Mikhail Minakov is Senior Advisor at Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars
The modern history of humanity is driven by several contradictions, one of them being the conflict between universalism and particularism. In a nutshell, numerous universalist frameworks are grounded on the idea that norms and values relate equally to all humans, to all living creatures, or—even more widely—to all forms of being. Universalism strives for unity that transcends all possible differences. Many particularistic agendas do the contrary: they chose a particular quality of one individual group of phenomena, and essentialize that quality. This prescription of essence to a selected group aims at establishing the ontological difference of the chosen faction compared to all other forms of existence.
In today’s world, this contradiction of universalist and particularistic agendas is manifest in many processes, for example: recent globalisation and today’s protectionism, liberal interventionism and conservative sovereignism, new solidarism and reinvented ethnonationalism. And currently, it looks as if particularism—with upstreaming demodernisation , with increasing illiberalism, with declining liberal democracy , with the world fragmented to find local responses to the global pandemic—is winning.