Liberal democracy is screwed together so that the whole idea is self-destructive

The Demons of Liberal Democracy Author
Forfatter: Adrian Pabst
Forlag: Polity (Storbritannien)
DEMOCRACY: According to Adrian Pabst, we are basically going wrong with a wrong view of liberal democracy.


Democracy is in retreat. In the 1970, many saw democracy as the hope and common future of humanity. It was still alive in the post-war belief that armed conflicts could soon be written into history books, and although the Cold War was still a reality, democracy stood as a guarantor that all disputes would be resolved.

It was, of course, an illusion, which has confirmed itself, especially in recent decades. Emerging democracies such as Turkey and Venezuela seem to be going the other way again, and in China, as many expected, Western democracy would take, a fusion of communist ideology and neo-liberalist economics has so far been achieved. Nor does the West behave as expected. Over the past decades, we have seen a number of trends that are perceived as anti-democratic. In the EU, Hungary and Poland have been met with raised index fingers; Alternative für Deutschland and France's Marine le Pen have totalitarian models; and there is good reason to doubt Donald Trump's democratic mindset.

The problem is partly that we often understand democracy as liberal democracy. This is the model most people hang their hat on, and that is because, according to Adrian Pabst, we are basically going around with a wrong view of democracy. Pabst, who teaches political science at the University of Kent, explains in his latest book how it's run by the track, and it's both worrying and thought-provoking reading. His diagnosis goes much deeper than the usual explanation that the crisis of democracy is simply due to a temporary lapse in populism.

You get a range of impersonal values ​​like global economic
exchange and top-down bureaucratic regulation.

The post-democratic market state. Indeed, liberal democracy is screwed together so that the whole idea is self-destructive.

In this philosophy, globalization has become a holy grail, and it has a number of strongly negative consequences. It puts the development in the hands of multinational companies. In the short term, it will create increased prosperity, but in order to promote it, national governments are shooting themselves in the foot by aiming for deregulation, liberalization and privatization. The nation state is transformed into a market state and as a result the social contact between the citizens and their representatives, ie the politicians, is undermined.

Adrian Pabst

Admittedly, economic liberalism has has led millions of people in China and India to be lifted out of poverty, and in the Western world it has created new opportunities for certain citizens. But the same forces have deprived ordinary workers of their jobs, and, overall, social mobility has become significantly inferior. Today's postulate on maximum freedom of choice and self-interest has left its mark on civil society. There are still dozens of organizations working on citizens' terms, but in general, more and more power is gathering in the central government, which in turn puts decisions in the hands of agencies like the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, and not least supranational phenomena like the G7 or the G20.

Pabst talks about the post-democratic market state. Here, internal solidarity and social ties are suppressed, and instead are given a string of impersonal values ​​such as global economic exchange and top-down bureaucratic regulation. Whatever that means! Indeed, the author traces this development all the way back to the French Revolution, which, as one of the first, abolished all civil society institutions at the citizen level. In 1791 it was abolished by the famous Loi le chapelier all artisan guilds and fraternities and transferred their functions to the central state. Shortly after, other attacks on freedom of assembly followed, and the right to strike was withdrawn. Of course, these rights have come back over time, but the principle of the central state came to stay.


The ordinary citizen can claim his or her democratic rights, but he or she has also lost contact with the decision makers. The central administration has become an elite of powerful specialists working closely with politicians and large capital, and in that analysis, the oligarchy is no longer just a city in Russia. The oligarchy is settling well in Western democracies, and that's in light of populist phenomena like Donald Trump and before him Silvio Berlusconi is getting interesting. With their conspiracy theories and misinformation provided as "alternative truths," they are, in effect, rebelling against liberal democracy – and there alienated citizens find some solace.

It invariably leads the thought of the US presidential election, in which Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. After all, she did not lose because she is a woman or what was otherwise heard of explanations, but because in many people's eyes she stands as the ultimate product of liberal democracy. Hillary belongs to "One Percent America," that is, the closed circle of well-heeled experts. Another word for oligarchy.

The solution, of course, is to get the decisions back to the citizens. More close democracy is needed, Facebook and the multinational giants need to be pushed, and we need to have decision-makers with both legs on the ground and feel with the citizens. Pabst provides an excellent analysis of all the ills of liberal democracy. The book is clear in tone and goes straight to the case. It's enthralling reading. But when it comes to solutions and further perspectives, it seems somewhat predictable. Here you could well call for a little more wingspan – but if you can go beyond that, here you have a solid diagnosis in our time, where the warning lights flash on life loose.

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