Democracy under siege

[La democracia sitiada]

Osvaldo Guariglia
Centre for Philosophical Research (Argentina)
National Research Council for Science and Technology (Argentina)
Miñones 2073, C1428ATE, CABA, Argentina

Modern democracy attempted to solve the dilemmas posed by opposing features from various traditions through two strategies: representation, which allowed it to incorporate citizens’ conflicting interests within a restricted collegiate group that permitted deliberation and agreement, on one side, and universal choice of representatives and governments for limited periods of time, on the other. Since the first decades of the 20th century, this notion of democracy within the framework of a republican constitution was opposed by another one that rejected all forms of parliamentarianism, discussion and public deliberation in the name of a “democracy” based on the identity and homogeneity of a mass of people under the hegemonic leadership of a party, centered around the will and decisions of a managing elite and a charismatic leader, viewed as the sole representative of the people themselves. Both forms of democracy –strict and perverted – are being harassed by the powers unleashed by globalization and transnationalisation that are becoming alien oligarchies, opposed to the notion of citizenship and restrictive of its rights.

In liberal parliamentary democracies the functional imperative issued by the financial sector is channeled through a crisis cabinet that assimilates demands and transforms them by managing an ever-changing budget whose aim is to add new sufferings to the bulk of the population that can only counteract through protest. Given the constitutional backdrop of these societies, with their deep democratic network, the gradual transformation of the European Union into a transnational arena fuelled by “a club of chiefs of state” has only made yet more patent the oligarchic turn of its post-crisis evolution.

In plebiscite democracies the turn was operated through a sovereign entrenchment of the power of the oligarchy on the pretext of resistance to the pressure set by globalization. Since the onset of the 90s, Latin America as well as countries in Eastern Europe have witnessed a gradual turn toward what O’Donnell has termed “delegative democracies”, or neo-populism, according to other authors. These regimes are characterized by exalting a populist leader, upholding him as a savior who will gauge the needs and wishes of the mass of individuals without intermediaries, focusing mainly on those who feel excluded from the mainstream of institutionalized democracy. This ensures feedback to populist regimes supported by a hegemonic political party that lives on State resources and on the rampant corruption it protects in order to finance ‘clientelism’ among those excluded from the system by the policies of the State itself.

Key words: Democracy – Oligarchy – Globalization – Finantial Capitalism – Crisis – Populism

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