Thursday, 1 December 2011

Frank Furedi on the EU oligarchy´s downsizing of democracy

My favourite academic, University of Kent sociology professor Frank Furedi, is as always spot on in his essay on how the EU oligarchy has downsized democracy and popular so:

Over the past month, it has become clear that the European Union doesn’t simply suffer from a democratic deficit; rather, it has decided that in the current climate of crisis and uncertainty, the institutions of government must be insulated and protected from public pressure. In Brussels, and among an influential coterie of European opinion-makers, the idea that ordinary people have the capacity to self-govern is dismissed as at best a naive prejudice, and at worst a marker for right-wing populism.

As we shall see, this desire to renounce the politics of representation is by no means confined to EU technocrats. To no one’s surprise, many businesspeople and bankers also prefer the new unelected governments of Greece and Italy to regimes that are accountable to their electorates. And such elitist disdain for nations’ democratic representative institutions is also shared by sections of the left and the intelligentsia, too. So in his contribution on the crisis of democracy, Jürgen Habermas, the leading leftist German philosopher, writes off national electorates as ‘the preserve of right-wing populism’ and condemns them as ‘the caricature of national macrosubjects shutting themselves off from each other’.

Indeed, it isn’t the old-fashioned conservative detractors of the multitude who are at the forefront of the current cultural turn against democratic will-formation – no, it is liberal advocates of expert-driven technocratic rule who are now the most explicit denouncers of democracy. The current political attack on the principles of representative democracy is founded on three propositions. First it is claimed that the people cannot be trusted to support policies that are necessary for the preservation and improvement of society. Secondly, it is suggested that there is an important trade-off to be made between democracy and efficiency, and that in a time of crisis the latter must prevail over the former. And finally, anti-democratic ideologues believe that governments, especially democratic governments, have lost the capacity to deal with the key problems facing societies in today’s globalised world.

Furedi ends his essay with the following observation:

The demotion of the role of national government is often presented as an enlightened and progressive thing, a way of challenging outdated and decrepit institutions. However, it is important to understand that the denunciation of the institutions of national government is not simply an attack on national but also on popular sovereignty. The claim that governments do not work is another way of saying that democratic representation within the context of a nation state does not work. The alternative that is proposed is invariably to have less democracy, not more. Habermas’s transnational democracy represents the institutionalisation of the rule of a cosmopolitan elite, which is merely a variant of the technocratic oligarchy that has recently been imposed upon the peoples of Greece and Italy.

Read the entire essay here

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