This is not an attack on Democracy by the way- I can think of no better system for the governance of nations. However, there is a real question about the operation of our own democracy and the symbiotic relationship between democratic states and rampant consumer capitalism.
The relationship is so strong that it is not really possible to imagine democratic state that does not organise its fiscal matters according to the rules of international capital. Neither the other way round. Ah- but what about China, I hear you ask? Here is Slavoj Žižek from The Guardian, Sunday 17 February;
When, during a recent TV debate in France, the French philosopher and economist Guy Sorman claimed democracy and capitalism necessarily go together, I couldn’t resist asking him the obvious question: “But what about China?” He snapped back: “In China there is no capitalism!” For the fanatically pro-capitalist Sorman, if a country is non-democratic, it is not truly capitalist, in exactly the same way that for a democratic communist, Stalinism was simply not an authentic form of communism.
This is how today’s apologists for the market, in an unheard-of ideological kidnapping, explain the crisis of 2008: it was not the failure of the free market that caused it, but the excessive state regulation; the fact that our market economy was not a true one, but was instead in the clutches of the welfare state. When we dismiss the failures of market capitalism as accidental mishaps, we end up in a naive “progress-ism” that sees the solution as a more “authentic” and pure application of a notion, and thus tries to put out the fire by pouring oil on it.
When you think about it, the co-existence of capitalism and democracy is a strange pairing. Hitler used to say that the logical end result of democracy was communism. Marx suggested the same, from a rather different perspective. Both seem to have been proved entirely wrong. The end result of inequality, globalisation, banking crises, depressions, high unemployment, destruction of the environment is- more capitalism. And we all vote for the party that strong arms our austerity packages that supposedly free up the market to solve our problems for us.
Why do we do this?
I am just reading Tony Benn’s book ‘Letters to my Grandchildren’.
Benn is quite clear that our democracy is not- well, not democratic. It never has been- it allows for endless manipulation by those in power. The rhetoric of democracy is simply that- rhetoric. He lists some methods of control often employed;
- Via employment- fear of unemployment
- Fear of dangerous enemy- USSR, Terrorism, Hitler, Kaiser etc
- Fear of immigration
- Fear of crime
- Demoralisation- a feeling that only the ruling educated elite have the skills to run things
- Cynicism- in all the media- ‘they are all the same’ ‘nothing ever changes’ etc.
There are many more means of control. The strange thing is that I do not even think that these are always deliberately exercised. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Rather I think that we have made a monster that constantly feeds itself- and we sit at it’s feet, hoping to get fat on the scraps- or at very least hoping that it does not notice us and devours someone else.
What to do about it? That is the question…