Long have I toyed with the idea of trying to formulate what I see as the best approach to counter the populist movement spreading through Europe. What made me pull the trigger to finally put word to paper was a recent statement by Juncker that was highlighted in a Euractiv article. He calls for the EU supporter to stand up against the 'stupid populists'. While I agree that some form of cooperation is needed to tackle this problem, I am rather certain his method is not only counter-intuitive, but also his attitude is actually one of the roots of the problem.
An interesting article was recently posted by theLocal.se that "support for democracy is weak among Sweden's youngsters" which made me wondering if any other form of government would be an improvement. The main consensus seems to be that an aristocracy would be able to deal with this age's issues better than our current political oriented government. Politicians are too focused on their public image, remaining in position, and keeping their donators satisfied. The education of politicians is also something that in a democracy is never put into question. I mentioned in an earlier blog that we do not hold our state's rulers to the same standards as we do of our surgeons. A nice quote from Douglas Adams to summarise this states: "it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. "
A quote from the movie Monty Python; the search for the Holy Grail. Even though a joke of high comedy gold, I still found it a good topic to go back to. What constitutes a good basis for a system of Government? The counter argument in that particular sketch states it should be based on the mandate of the masses, or commonly known as democracy. But are all the other versions forms of repression as the land worker suggests?
Ko, K. (2017). A brief history of imperial examination and its influences. Society, 54(3), 272-278. doi:10.1007/s12115-017-0134-9
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?
Many political philosophers talk about the cycle of political structures, how from a monarchy or authoritarian model a democratic one can be moulded, and in turn also how democracies deteriorate.
The final, and most important key event for a Machiavelli’s reasons for democracy’s decline is the eradication of the rule of law. The EU’s response to crises have always been problematic due to the cracks in the foundation caused by the reliance on the Monnet method. Normally new integration should create future and so on but the response to the EU crisis did not cause new economic centralisation. Due to the enormous pressure to full the functional gap between a single supranational currency and economic policies that was still intergovernmental the EU decided to go outside the constitutional framework to create an emergency credit facilitator. And put other important decision on the ECB’s shoulder which are immune to democratic accountability.
Kreuder-Sonnen, C. (2018). An authoritarian turn in Europe and European Studies? Journal of European Public Policy, 25(3), 452-464