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A farewell to democracy

Forfatter: Mikkel Bolt, Dominique Routhier
Forlag: Antipyrine (Danmark)
FREEDOM? / Is voting an isolated individual act that in no way questions the power of the state, but rather confirms it?


Everyone seems to be able to agree immediately to 'democracy' as a form of government. So why even make democracy the subject of a systemic study in a book anthology?

Democracy works like a fool's errand.

Mikkel Bolt and Dominique Routhier will, who begin their anthology with a small quote from Pierre Desproges: «Children believe in Santa Claus, adults vote». Democracyit functions as a trick that keeps us citizens in an illusion about the freedom to take part in and be part of a society. Freedom of assembly, speech and press is one thing. But for discussion only rarely is the 'backstage', i.e. private property rights and the market as 'the great arbiter'. For this – the main point of the author couple – the extensive psychological violence apparatus should also be taken into account: with the advertisements, the built-in obsolescence of the goods and the calls to establish loans, which everyone is subject to on a daily basis (see the essay by Serge Latouche).

Marx, Lefort and Tronti

With subsequent independent contributions by Karl Marx, Claudius The strong and Mario tronti In the preface, the reader is presented with «A farewell to (actually existing) democracy». Actually, it was only after the world wars that the lower social groups became citizens and were included as equal people in the national democracies. And in the World Wars the workers and peasants had shown themselves willing to fight for the fatherland.

William Morris and John Ruskin could have been mentioned in the book as examples of the early socialists who first of all wanted to live – ethically – in a different way. But later the struggle for democracy became a revolutionary movement, where the goal was "the elevation of the proletariat to the ruling class". Democracy became a break with the way society was organized. It was said that proletariatone had to fight for democracy. But the struggle had to be made permanent (Trotsky, Castoriadis), because "without a radical break with the inherited property relations and class antagonisms, it would never be possible to create a life characterized by autonomy and freedom". A reference to Trotsky and Castoriadis could have been mentioned here.

Limited political space

Bourgeois democracy actually encompasses only a very limited political space. Here, neither the market mechanism nor the private property right is up for discussion. Because «voting is an isolated individual act that in no way calls into question the power of the state, but on the contrary confirms it». Today, democracy constitutes the «unfathomable horizon of political thinking».

The class struggle was dead – reformism and democracy merged.

Many workers and peasants were noticeably better off materially after the Second World War. The world had to be rebuilt and "lunches" could be thrown out to the people from an abundant economy. "The colonization of everyday life" (Henri Lefebvre) reflected at one and the same time how the established labor movement channeled, mediated and derailed the demands of vulnerable social groups for a different world. The class struggle was dead – reformism and democracy merged. With the establishment of welfares society, the workers' culture and the remains of an international solidarity disappeared.

The great social machine

Now what must the reader ask?

As isolated consumere, the workers and the middle class became easy victims of the various manipulations of the bourgeoisie. The absence of real alternative political strategies has spawned a whole tsunami of individually experienced social and psychological problems. With the further development of technology, social media and now artificial intelligence and its algorithms, «the system itself» has got a tool in its hands which brings strategies into play that challenge and threaten representative democracy. The extensive infrastructural facilities – necessary for the rapid development of the big cities – are carried out as isolated 'improvements' as if they were a natural necessity. On the 'path of democracy' there is not much help to be had. So at the same time as the hollowness in the democratic processes must be uncovered, it is increasingly required for a new 'avant-garde' in practice to show whether and how 'Another world is possible'.

Perhaps we as individuals in our thought and soul life have already become a fully integrated part of 'the great social machine'?


See also mention of Democracy here.

Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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