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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Democracy getting beating!

French Revolution that lasted from 1789 to 1799 with the motto, “liberty, equality, fraternity” brought far-reaching changes in France, in particular, and Europe in general: it introduced democratic ideals across the Continent. And, by the middle of the 20th century, democracy was firmly established in North America and Europe. One of the primary reasons for this movement was the economic development fostered by mass production and mass consumption by the so-called Fordist methods of production. This phenomenon has also for the first time proved that the prosperity of the mass of wage-earning people is possible under capitalism.

This, of course, had necessitated to strike a certain compromise between the capitalists’ business interests and the working class: businesses exercised certain restraint on the use of their ‘power’ to calm the protests of working class against the likely inequalities produced by capitalism. This was indeed guaranteed by the democratic political power which was concentrated at the level of nation states by ensuring that corporates remained subordinate to the authority.

Come 70s, this equation started changing.   With the advent of the oil crises of the 70s and the resulting rise in inflation, Keynesianism was crushed, for neo-liberal economic theory had stepped in to manage soaring inflation. As a result, capitalism changed its course—‘market economy’ started taking roots. At the same time, service sector rose to the center stage altering the significance of physical work and massive democracy. Over it, by the late 80s financial markets got deregulated globally. Added to this, convergence in computation and communication technologies had made the migration of capital, technologies/information and people across the national borders so easy that the model of ‘democratic-economy’ was hit hard: Corporates had shifted their attention to maximization of shareholder value.

As globalization took to wings, the economic dynamism of corporates has simply shifted from mass production/consumption onto stock markets. The elite managing these corporates have given off the restraint that they have hitherto practiced and instead took an active role in the economic policy making process of the nations. Added to this, globalization had shifted key decisions to international levels beyond the reach of democracy that remained bound to the nation state. These dramatic developments have simply made nation states mere passive onlookers. Indeed, they have not only given off their responsibility of overseeing the corporates under the mythical belief that free markets will regulate themselves more efficiently and effectively but also become lax in playing their role of ‘welfare state’.

Cumulatively, this tweaking of the ‘democratic-economy’ had simply resulted in growing economic inequality between generations, territories and groups, while  “politics and government”, as Colin Crouch said, “are increasingly slipping back into the control of privileged elites in the manner characteristic to pre-democratic times.” This crucial imbalance between corporative interests and the interests of all other social groups resulted in: weakening of democracy in North America and Europe. The global financial crisis of 2008 is an apt reflection of this phenomenon. Indeed, the fact of Central banks of western democracies bailing out many of the defunct corporates with taxpayers’ money is nothing but a “paradoxical return to the corporate political privilege under the slogan of free markets”.

According to sociologists, in the course of these developments, ‘egalitarian causes’ have lost their space in the agenda of democratic governments. Thus, as post-democracy arrived at the gate, democratic politics, as Crouch observed, has become “a kind of game, managed by economic and political elites”—a kind of reversal to the pre-democratic status where ordinary people remained powerless. That aside, along with ‘Post-Democracy’, national identity emerged more salient perhaps, because of globalization, immigration, refugee crisis and Islamic terrorism noticed in Europe.

There is also growing belief that post-2008 economic crisis, democratic establishments in the nation states in Europe are weakened by the super imposition of governing models by the external bodies like EC, ECB and agencies such as global corporates, institutional investors, etc., that too overlooking the local elected parliaments.

Today, the youth in Europe and north America appears to be disillusioned by the political system and losing their faith in democratic institutions even. In a survey carried out in the US enquiring about the level of confidence that the responds have in Congress, it was revealed that their confidence is fallen precipitously. The survey report opines that “more broadly, fewer than one in five Americans now believe that ‘you can trust government in Washington to do what is right’”.  The survey also indicated that the population in the US “has grown fiercely critical of democracy—and surprisingly open to autocracy.”

But history of the last 300 years proved that democracy is the best government when it works well but only turns devilish when plagued by divisiveness, disorganization and corruption.  So what needs to be done is: “…we must learn to cope with it—softening, amending, sometimes challenging it [post-democracy]—rather than simply accepting it.” To put it otherwise, people must raise their voices /protests and demand that the democratic institutions are made more functional. For tyranny of majority is always better than tyranny of one individual, perhaps.


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