Saturday, January 30, 2016
The Failure of Capitalist Democracy
Of course being inundated with election "politics" American-style makes one prone to the apocalyptic to begin with, but I believe a case can be made that the system, institutions and ideology of capitalist democracy are at a real crisis point. And while one can find plenty of commentary on the deplorable state of human rights or violent conflict in failing states, austerity and neoliberalism,or the impending crisis of climate chaos, there is little in the way of attempted linkage between these narratives, that is, between late capitalism and late democracy. There is a reason critical theory looks at political economy as an amalgamated subject; they are symbiotic and wholly intertwined. A crisis in one sphere reflects a crisis in the other. Yet this type of analysis remains the exception rather than the rule. We read articles on the growing authoritarianism of governments and rise of xenophobic nationalism in populations of eastern Europe, but rarely do we see attempts to link this crisis of liberal democracy with the rise of neoliberal economics. Three of the so-called Visegrad Four, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, are in the grip of reactionary, border-line fascist Parties while many of the more "enlightened" western nations of the EU also face threats from the far right; Le Pen in France, UKIP in Great Britian, the NDP in Germany, racist skin heads and disaffected proles reacting to increased migration and Islamophobia. But what else is happening as the workforce is "modernized" and the crisis of debt becomes permanent? What generation will stand idly by as its prospects are diminished, as it does worse than its parents generation? And then we have all the ink spilled on the Middle East; witness the failed Arab Spring, the 60 million displaced by war or repression, the ultra-conservative Petro States ruthlessly driving out competitors in a price war over a fossil fuel causing ecocide, etc... Not a pretty picture. Turkey in sectarian war with Kurds and the left, Israel mocking the concept of a two-state solution, the rise of ISIS, the failures of Empire building in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and Yemen, the list is actually quite insane when you start to compile it. Democracy can only be spoken of ironically in this context, always with scare quotes. Elections and voting, sure, even women candidates in Saudi Arabia,but it is both farce and tragedy, with limits on speech and a powerful surveillance state always keeping tabs. Economically, however, they are totally integrated into the neoliberal global order, signing trade deals and shipping goods and borrowing from World Banks and international development funds. Even with all this back-sliding toward the totalitarian abyss (we didn't mention Russia), the strange configuration of Communist Party Capitalism in China and the bizzaro rise of right-wing populism (even among union members) a la Trump in the US, the most troubling contradiction and failure of Capitalist Democracy has to be climate change and the inability of markets or government to confront the issue. While every one of those candidates speaks of "free markets" as a sacred emblem, as something Jesus Christ himself proclaimed, at the same time they both denounce democracy and praise it, the true ideological operation par excellance. Faith in the private sector is combined with faith in the "common sense" of the Exceptional American People ( White/ Christian and rural) This faith is profoundly anti-intellectual and wholly dogmatic, relying on a few select (fundamental) texts read literally and interpreted by the prophets of popular culture. liberals shake their heads at such "irrational" behavior and urge centrism. Anarchists Occupy Wall Street or remote wildlife refuges, positive The People will rise up to throw off their fetters and surprised when they are left lonely.