Defending Freedom – An Appeal to Action

In his book Defending Freedom - How We Can Win the Fight for an Open Society”, Ralf Fücks sheds light on the underlying causes of the crisis of liberal democracy and the erosion of the political center. He concludes that our societies are undergoing a crisis of modernization triggered by four main fundamental changes:

  • Economic globalization
  • Growing influx of immigrants
  • Fundamental transformation of gender relations
  • Digital revolution

In his book, Ralf Fücks calls for action and offers a series of proposals for the renewal of the democratic republic, strengthening public institutions and reaffirming the promise of equal opportunities for all. 

  • Social safety net as a guarantee against marginalization and exclusion

We need to build new forms of social participation that are better suited to the emerging digital revolution and to the global economy: introducing the basic right to continuing education, providing access to broad segments of the population to capital ownership and strengthening entrepreneurship and the non-profit sector.

  • Strengthening of republican institutions

We should invest more in public institutions like day-cares, schools and higher education, theaters and museums, railways and public transport. These allow for social participation and are at the same time republican institutions in which citizens see themselves represented, creating a sense of belonging to one and the same political community.

  • Education as the main pillar of participation

Education is the key instrument for social advancement as well as, alongside the family, the most important resource that can give an individual the inner sense of security and self-worth required to see themselves as an agent of their own biography and not as a mere pawn of exterior forces and powers. To achieve this, a society needs both: systems of collective security and the type of security that can only come from within a person.

  • Renewing democratic patriotism

Liberal democracy revolves around the individual, the citizen, with its rights and responsibilities. But the democratic republic thrives on the common action of its citizens and their active involvement in public affairs. We should counter the divisive rhetoric of the anti-liberals with a renewed “democratic patriotism”, based not on ethnicity and shared beliefs, but on common political values and shared institutions.

  • Appeal to the Left

The Left must discard its general reservation against the “bourgeois republic.” The central axis of conflict in modern history is not between capitalism and socialism but between democracy and authoritarianism (be it from the right or the left).

  • Defending freedom, not the status quo

There is a lot to defend, indeed: constitutional democracy, separation of powers, freedom of expression, cultural diversity, individual self-determination and the European community. At the same time, we can only preserve the achievements of liberal democracy if we do not limit ourselves to defending the status quo and instead advocate the renewal of democracy, social participation and opportunities for all. In order to counter the politics of fear offered by right wing populists we need to develop a new spirit of confidence in progress.  

  • Green industrial revolution

Sustainable innovation can become the thrust for a new economic dynamism and for a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Decarbonization, the decoupling of economic growth from resource consumption, is the central pillar for a new green industrial revolution. In other words, instead of focusing on scaling back production and restricting modern lifestyles, we should unleash the creative potential of liberal societies in a competition for the best solutions.

  • Reform the European Union

We should abstain from the idea of ​​a European central state without abandoning the European project.  Instead of promoting a “one fits for all”-model of European integration we should pursue a more flexible architecture of cooperation: A Europe of different speeds and differentiated integration in specific areas such as defense, energy, refugees and migration. At the same time we must strengthen global governance, since global markets require transnational rules as well as basic social and environmental standards.


The book was published on March 13, 2017 in German under the title “Freiheit verteidigen - Wie wir den Kampf um die offene Gesellschaft gewinnen by Carl Hanser Verlag.

Ralf Fücks is the President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, former federal chairman of the Green Party and former Senator for Environment and Urban Development in Bremen. He is regarded as a pioneer in advancing the green agenda and has been a strong voice in public debate for many years. The English edition of his book “Green Growth, Smart Growth” was published in 2015 by Anthem Press, London.