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Democracy and beyond

Democracy has been heavily challenged over the course of history and has found its place in the bedrock of our western ideals. In the various media outlets I have encountered articles stating that so and so leader is damaging the democracy of the nation, or that acts implemented are of authoritarian nature. To be undemocratic is framed one of the biggest crimes of humankind. But as many political philosophers have already pointed out is democracy as a political structure only the least worse of all available options. However, this raises several questions to me. Is there nothing else past democracy that can structure and rule our liberal society? And is democracy not simply past its best time? Is a new political structure, just like creating a new colour, simply unthinkable?


In the graph below you can see what would happen if all the US voters who abstained from voting were counted towards the electoral race anyway. A landslide victory of 445 electoral seats. This quite surprises me, as it is hard to fathom why it is that society, is just not that interested anymore in participating in the governance of their country. Or maybe it is merely that indeed democracy has lost its peak.

[graph] by Philip Kearney

The most famous writer on post-democracy is Collin Crouch who divides the democratic life span in stages These stages are formed in a parabola, where there is build-up, a peak of democracy and decline. The Post-democratic stage is in the decline era, which we now find ourselves in.

"A post-democratic society is one that continues to have and to use all the institutions of democracy, but in which they increasingly become a formal shell. The energy and innovative drive pass away from the democratic arena and into small circles of a politico-economic elite."

Besides for individual countries this can also be said for the EU in its entirety. Habermas for instance states that the because of the rising power of the European council and the undemocratic institutions such as the ECB and the IMF.

To see post-democracy as a stage of democracy itself is one way of defining it, another direction is to view it as something that comes after democracy. For the sake of length, we keep it within the Western concept. Another interesting figure who writes from this direction is Václav Havel, most known for his book The power of the Powerless. He states that the parliamentary democratic ideal is not the only option available to us. A post democratic society:

“Above all, any existential revolution should provide hope of a moral reconstitution of society, which means a radical renewal of the relationship of human beings to what I have called the ‘human order’, which no political order can replace.” A new experience of being, a renewed rootedness in the universe, a newly grasped sense of ‘higher responsibility’, a new-found inner relationship to other people and to the human community – these factors clearly indicate the direction in which we must go. -p.283

This is an interesting yet utopian approach. Can society really transcend political structures? It is hard to envision a harmony so pure all 7 sins have been eradicated from our behaviour. In such a situation it only takes one little lie to upset the balance. If we could bio engineer humans to remove any bad traits, perhaps then we can start seeing beyond governance.

My best bet still would be that this is only possible through technology. When we have reached a form of singularity, political entities will become obsolete. If all beings are one, why do you need an external force to govern itself?