Democracy in the age of populism or the self-enmity of democracy.In February 2011, British newspapers carried nervous headlines. Opinion poll on identity and extremism had discovered that a huge number of Britons were ready to support an anti-immigration, nationalist party Nationalist Party
or Kuomintang or Guomindang
Political party that governed all or part of mainland China from 1928 to 1949 and subsequently ruled Taiwan. , so long it was not associated with violence and fascist imagery.
France received its shock a month later when an opinion poll showed that if the elections were to be held that day the far right leader Marine le Pen would win the first round.
And while the rise of the far right in Britain and France is still limited to opinion polls, in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria, it has already been expressed on the elections day. Anti-immigration sentiments are reshaping European politics. Contrary to the expectations of some political observers the economic crisis has not weakened but it strengthened the appeal of identity politics.
In Central and Eastern Europe The term "Central and Eastern Europe" came into wide spread use, replacing "Eastern bloc", to describe former Communist countries in Europe, after the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989/90. where immigration immigration, entrance of a person (an alien) into a new country for the purpose of establishing permanent residence. Motives for immigration, like those for migration generally, are often economic, although religious or political factors may be very important. is still not the major issue, populist uprising take the form of anti-elite and anti-Roma rage. In Hungary, the center-right government of the former dissident Viktor Orban made many in Europe uneasy when it used its constitutional majority to curb the powers of independent watchdogs, to return a censorship in the media and to nationalize na·tion·al·ize
tr.v. na·tion·al·ized, na·tion·al·iz·ing, na·tion·al·iz·es
1. To convert from private to governmental ownership and control: nationalize the steel industry.
2. the private pension funds. In Bulgaria in the last decade twice an extra-parliamentary is winning parliamentary elections on an anti-elite ballot making the country the poster boy for the trend of making elections less of a choice between policy alternatives and more of public executions of parties in power.
There is a feeling that we have reached what Gerschenkron called a "nodal point", a point where in a relatively short period of time we will witness, experience and perhaps even participate in aesthetic, ideological, strategic and finally institutional redefinition of the meaning of democracy. Something more essential than the replaceable part of the democratic machine has worn out.
Democracy--meant to be the self-government of equals--is now universally valued and no powerful alternative exists today to society governed by the will of the people, expressed in free and fair elections but at the same time democracy in crisis in Europe. At present European societies have vague hopes and clear fears. What we observe in Europe is the emergence of "threatened majority" as the major political force in European politics. In the 1990s many Europeans were shocked to realize how important role demographic fears played in the process of disintegration of former Yugoslavia. At present we can observe that demographic statistics Among the kinds of data that national leaders need are the demographic statistics of their population. Records of births, deaths, marriages, immigration and emigration and a regular census of population provide information that is key to making sound decisions about national policy. is becoming a major factor in West European politics too. European political debates are pre-occupied with the birth rates of the different immigrant communities, the percent of immigrant kids who are school dropouts and the number of minority kids in the secondary schools. Ageing European publics are torn by the need to welcome immigrants in order to preserve their welfare state and the fear that the inflow of immigrants will destroy the cultural identity of European societies.
The central political paradox of our times is that the factors that contributed to the success of democracy are the ones that threaten it today. The crisis of trust in democratic institutions in Europe is the outcome not of the failure of the democratization de·moc·ra·tize
tr.v. de·moc·ra·tized, de·moc·ra·tiz·ing, de·moc·ra·tiz·es
To make democratic.
de·moc of our societies, but a result of the success of democratization.
"As I was browsing through The Open society and Its Enemies after many years,"--wrote Polish political philosopher Leszek Kolakowski three decades ago,--"it struck me that when Popper An early Unix POP server, which was written at the University of California at Berkeley. attacks totalitarian ideologies and movements, he neglects the reverse side of the threat. By what I mean what could be called the self-enmity of open society--not merely the inherent inability of democracy to defend itself effectively against internal enemies by democratic means alone, but more importantly, the process by which the extension and consistent application of liberal principles transforms them into their antithesis antithesis (ăntĭth`ĭsĭs), a figure of speech involving a seeming contradiction of ideas, words, clauses, or sentences within a balanced grammatical structure. Parallelism of expression serves to emphasize opposition of ideas. ." Leszek Kolakowski's emphasis on the self-poisoning nature of open societies is critically important to understanding the current troubles in the House of democracy.
The crisis that European democracies are facing today is not a temporary phenomenon--result of the negative effect of the economic crisis or the failure of leadership in our societies. The crisis we face is rooted in the fact that our societies are more open and democratic than ever before but it is precisely this openness that leads to the ineffectiveness and lack of trust in democratic institutions. We probably have reached the moment when "democracies of trust" are replaced by "democracies of mistrust", as Rosanvallon has it. And the question is no longer how elites can restore the trust of the people, the question is how a liberal democracy can function in an environment in which the elites will be permanently mistrusted regardless of what they do or how transparent the mechanism of governing are.
In the 1960s, many liberals feared that democratic institutions were hostage to the authoritarian culture in which they were immersed. Today the problem is the opposite one. The citizens' rights are protected better than ever, people have access to more information than ever, they are free to travel and practice their life styles but there is a growing fear that "the democratization" of society that has taken place in the last 40 years has led to the paralysis of the democratic institutions. Democratic societies are becoming ungovernable and it seems that they have lost the idea of common life and public interest. The trust in politicians has hit rock bottom. The extension of citizens' rights and freedoms has not produced a feeling of empowerment. Democratic institutions are more transparent than ever but they are least trusted than ever. Democratic elites are more meritocratic mer·i·toc·ra·cy
n. pl. mer·i·toc·ra·cies
1. A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.
a. than ever but they are more hated than ever. Managing mistrust is what democracies are about today.
The rise of populism populism
Political program or movement that champions the common person, usually by favourable contrast with an elite. Populism usually combines elements of the left and right, opposing large business and financial interests but also frequently being hostile to established and the mistrust in the elites have reduced European politics to clash between the anti-corruption rhetoric of the public and the antipopulist rhetoric of the establishment. There is no new collective utopia that has captured publics' imagination. Simply majority of people tend to view all that governments do as corrupt, while governments tend to respond to any demand for policy change with accusation of populism. Instead of bringing new life to the political left or the political right, the current economic crisis challenged the very notion of the left-right structured democratic politics. Europe and the world have gone populist. But this is a strange version of populism--people revolt not with the clear idea of what they want to change but with the idea of revenge and punishment. The rebels of today do not oppose the status quo [Latin, The existing state of things at any given date.] Status quo ante bellum means the state of things before the war. The status quo to be preserved by a preliminary injunction is the last actual, peaceable, uncontested status which preceded the pending controversy. of yesterday--they try to preserve it. This pro-status quo radicalism can best be seen on the streets of Paris where last year students protested against the increase in the pension age even though the pension age in France was one of lowest in Europe. One has the feeling that Europe is populated only by immigrants and current or future pensioners. What most people fear is not the status quo--what they fear is change. What we witness is 1968 in reverse. In 1968 students on the streets of Europe declared their desire to live in a world different than the world of their parents, now students are on the street to declare their desire to live in the world of their parents.
In order to make sense of the current state of democracy we should rethink the unintended consequences of the five revolutions that have shattered our world since 1968. First, it is the cultural revolution of the 1960s that put the individual at the center of politics. Second, it is the market revolution of the 1980s that de-legitimized the state as an economic actor. Third, are the Central European revolutions of 1989 that reconciled the cultural revolution of the 1960s (resisted by the Right); and Regan's market revolution of the 1980s (rejected by the Left) and made us believe that liberal democracy is the end of history and the natural state of humanity. Fourth is the revolution in communications brought by the spread of the Internet and the fifth is the revolution in the neurosciences that made political consultants believe that manipulation of the emotions and not rational discussion is at the heart of democratic politics.
In its early stages all these five revolutions were critically important for deepening of our democratic experience. The cultural revolution of 1960s dismantled the authoritarian family and gave new meaning to the idea of free individual. The market revolution of 1980s contributed to the global spread of democratic regimes and the collapse of communism. The revolutions of '89 without being the end of history were a turning point in Europe's experience with democracy. They did succeed in reconciling liberalism and democracy in Europe. The Internet revolution gave a new impulse to civic activism and radically changed the way we think and act. And the new science of the brain brought back emotions in our understanding of politics and political deliberation.
It is these same five revolutions that are the center of the current crisis of democracy.
The cultural revolution of the 1960s led to the decline of a shared sense of purpose. The politics of the '60s devolved into aggregation of individual claims upon society and state. Identity began to colonize col·o·nize
v. col·o·nized, col·o·niz·ing, col·o·niz·es
1. To form or establish a colony or colonies in.
2. To migrate to and settle in; occupy as a colony.
3. public discourse: private identity, sexual identity cultural identity. The backlash against multiculturalism is a direct result of the failure of the 1960s to come with a shared view of society. The rise of anti-immigrant nationalism is a dangerous trend but it represents much more the desire for community and common life than simply resentment against foreigners. It also signals that the clashing demands in modern societies cannot be negotiated and resolved if we try to reduce politics to the politics of rights.
The market revolution of 1980s made societies wealthier than ever but it broke the positive connection between the spread of democracy and the spread of equality. From the late 19th century until the 1970s, the advanced societies of the West were all becoming less unequal. Regan's revolution of greed reversed this trend and led to obsession with wealth creation and cultivated anti-government passion that are at the core of the crisis of governability of Western democracies today. People's revolt against the elites that is at the core of the populist condition of today is a direct result of the fact that the majority of the citizens tend to perceive the political and social changes accompanying the "neo-liberal decades" as a time of emancipation but not emancipation of the masses but emancipation of the elites. In the new brave markets regulated world the elites broke free of ideological, national and community constrains. The rise of the off shore elites was the dark side of the success of the market revolution of the 1980s.
By declaring democracy the normal state of society, the Central European revolutions of '89 dramatically raised our expectations about democracy's deliverables thus sowing the seeds of the future dissatisfaction. It was common after 1989 to believe that the introduction of free elections and adoption of liberal constitutions are enough to secure peace, enhance economic growth, reduce violence and corruption. But reality turned out to be more complex. China demonstrated that authoritarian states have the capacity to deliver high levels of growth over a long period of time. The failure of democratization in many Third world countries has demonstrated that free elections are not enough to bring order and prosperity. And the experience of Eastern Europe Eastern Europe
The countries of eastern Europe, especially those that were allied with the USSR in the Warsaw Pact, which was established in 1955 and dissolved in 1991. signals that the border between democracy and authoritarianism is the least protected border in Europe. The euphoria, and afterwards the frustration, that the color revolutions in the post-Soviet space succeeded in generating is the best example that the utopia of normalcy that was at the heart of the revolutions of 1989 is ill-suited for the world of 21st century.
The Internet revolution fragmented the public space and redrew the borders of the political communities we have chosen to belong to. The paradox of the Internet revolution is that while it guaranteed open flow of information, it stimulated the emergence of echo chambers that threaten to disintegrate dis·in·te·grate
v. dis·in·te·grat·ed, dis·in·te·grat·ing, dis·in·te·grates
1. To become reduced to components, fragments, or particles.
2. the public space. While the Internet revolution empowered people to stand against those in power it did not contribute to strengthening the deliberative de·lib·er·a·tive
1. Assembled or organized for deliberation or debate: a deliberative legislature.
2. Characterized by or for use in deliberation or debate. nature of the democratic process.
Least noticed were the effects of the new studies of brain and new marketing technologies on reshaping our view of democracy. The new science of the brain helped us to better understand how people think but they also became an instrument to manipulate people. When mourning the decline of the public intellectual or the anti-intellectual nature of today's democratic politics, we should remember that one of the key discoveries of the new brain science in the words of Drew Westen Drew Westen is Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, an M.A. in Social and Political Thought from the University of Sussex (England), and a Ph.D. is that "the dispassionate dis·pas·sion·ate
Devoid of or unaffected by passion, emotion, or bias. See Synonyms at fair1.
dis·pas mind of the 18th century philosophers allows us to predict between 0.5 and 3 percent of the most important political decisions people will make in their lives." The revolutionary discoveries in the brain sciences resulted in radical break from the tradition of ideas-based politics. Karl Rove The external links in this article or section may require cleanup to comply with Wikipedia's content policies. (George Bush's political consultant) has replaced Karl Popper Noun 1. Karl Popper - British philosopher (born in Austria) who argued that scientific theories can never be proved to be true, but are tested by attempts to falsify them (1902-1994)
Popper, Sir Karl Raimund Popper
philosopher - a specialist in philosophy as the new prophet of democratic politics.
In short, the world we live in is no longer structured around a clear-cut opposition between democracy and autocracy AUTOCRACY. The name of a government where the monarch is unlimited by law. Such is the power of the emperor of Russia, who, following the example of his predecessors, calls himself the autocrat of all the Russias. ; it is the internal contradictions of democratic societies that should worry us. What we should fear is the self-enmity of democracy. So, it would be a major mistake to analyze the current rise of populism in Europe as a kind of pathology or as temporary phenomenon. Populism is here to stay (?). We live in the age of populism and the tensions between the directions of democratization of society and their impact on the effectiveness of democratic governance will be the principal tensions shaping the future of democracy.
Ivan Krastev is a Chairman of Board of the Centre for Liberal Strategies. He is a permanent fellow at the IWM IWM Imperial War Museum (UK)
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IWM Interactive Workflow Manager , Vienna. Mr. Krastev is a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an influential and independent, nonpartisan foreign policy membership organization founded in 1921 and based at 58 East 68th Street (corner Park Avenue) in New York City, with an additional office in Washington, D.C. and a Council member of the International Institute for Security Studies IISS--London. Krastev is the editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Bulgaria and associated editor of Europe's World.