Monday, September 27, 2010

The Reproduction of Democracy

Democracy is seen as the only legitimate form of expression or decision-making power with very little explanation of how or why that came to be. Humans today live in democracies or in countries under economic and militaristic dominion of democratic countries. Given these two options, it seems reasonable to conclude democracy means freedom and happiness. Here in the United States, democratic indoctrination begins with grade school elections, morning flag adoration, and sing-song pledges. However, the existence of one status quo does not negate the past or future existence of other conditions, and we should apply our critical thinking the ways democracy posits itself as the necessary first condition of freedom.

When democracy frames our discussion and forces us to argue in its terms, all actions to change the socio-political environment must happen via its means and achieve only those ends it will sanction. For these reasons, democracy reproduces itself with little special effort from the ruling class. A democratic system of "majority rule" encourages the alienated and exploited class to feel like they have control while it actually remains safely in the hands of the alienating and exploiting class. Even the most obvious contradictions get overlooked because the system has equated its existence with freedom and so places its existence outside the realm of contestable ideas. By claiming itself as a priori or the first principle of individual and social liberty, democracy appears like a tolerant and pliable source of the public good beyond all scrutiny.

Meanwhile, the very notions of one man-one vote or "majority rule" imply that We the People have the power no matter how much evidence accumulates to the contrary. It follows logically that when The People don't affect changes in our system, we must not want to change it. Hypothetically, we believe in justice, freedom, etc. or we would not have formed a democracy. Since we freedom-loving, democratic people would naturally act to end oppression as soon as we found it out,it follows that if a policy, law or practice does not change then it must not truly oppress people. Clearly, this train of thought has not, does not and will never transport us to a genuinely free and equal society.

Yet rejecting this logic without adopting a more general critique of democracy leads us to another suspicious conclusion often voiced by progressive, liberal factions in the United States. It sounds to the tune of, our government fails us because we the people are too apathetic, or too unaware, or too stupid, or too anything at all to yield our immense power as we ought. If we progressives could only mobilize, inform, or educate the public, then everything would work out beautifully. And so one sees presumably intelligent people tieing themselves in knots, trying to reform a system that in its best and most functional form can only hope to oppress everyone, equally, an equal percentage of the time. Again, the ruling class can rest easy as long as we place blame on ourselves and not them for our alienated position in modern society and that will continue until we realize the intrinsic flaws in the concept of democracy itself and refuse to reproduce it.

We reproduce democracy by supporting it with our vote and our daily subservience to the outcome of elections. If you understand that democracy will never let you act outside its narrow parameters and you accept our critique of majority rule, then voting and elections merely serve to reaffirm and legitimate state power no matter how one votes. In voting, you might initiate or overrule any policy, practice, or person except the system itself. For that reason the ruling class of a democratic government as whole finds no real threat in suffrage, even though individual politicians might suffer public disfavor.

Many political historians have pointed out that government extended suffrage to disenfranchised groups during periods when it needed mass support to accomplish some end, usually militaristic, rather than during periods when the public demanded it most vocally. It's the classic, if ya wanna get a little, ya gotta give a little strategy. Furthermore, providing suffrage enabled the government to channel the energies of mass movements that might have posed a real challenge to state power into a safe form of action--voting--that reduced the speed and magnitude of the desired changes while simultaneous reproducing democracy. The major suffrage movements in the United States only succeeded in making races and women "free" from official marginalization to engage in a system of marginalization. As a result of their efforts, all United States citizens have an equal right to participate in an oppressive system and hope it works out in their favor. In fact, an astute observer would see any public debate about who can or cannot vote as a red herring. The government uses voting to mitigate minority demands and sap the energy building around direct action. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and where there's suffrage, there's motivated marginalization.

When we swallow the government's bait by voting, we give them the power to reel in our potential to take control over own lives in their full breadth and scope. Elections tend to put people in passive mode, to offer salvation through belief in majority wisdom rather than through self-directed action. A division between leaders and followers develops where voters stand aside as spectators of their own government, not agents in their own right. Political systems of all types exclude the opportunity for direct action, but democracy's insidious ability to reproduce itself as a restrictive system while continuously incorporating more people into its "let freedom ring" rhetoric makes it especially sneaky.

From: An Anarchist Critique Of Democracy

1 comment:

  1. On this, check out my blog, the "Anti-Democracy Agenda":



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