Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Demos vs. Democracy

Our French Member of the TransAtlantic Assembly Raphael Paour suggested I read this book: Pierre Rosanvallon, Le People Introuvable, Galimard, Paris, 1998. (here) I did and I warmly recommend it to all of you. Here is a short digest of this interesting piece. For Political Philosophers and Legal Theorists who are too busy to read "other" stuff, to put it in an awkwardly, I would suggest The Introduction, First Chapter and The Conclusion. But if you have time, by all means, read it all.

Social contract theory and the fiction of the “People” that it created is the main culprit for what Pierre Rosanvalon calls, the “malaise” in democracy. In order to acquire a new legitimacy for the system, social contract theorists as well as revolutionary politicians at the end of the nineteenth century France and United States, driven by the imperative of equality, created an individual based concept of the people abstracted from the social reality and divisions. For this reason democracy seems always not achieved, argues the author, and this is not only because of the, so to speak, operational weaknesses of the system, such as abstention or non-inscription, the danger of populism that leads to drifting of votes towards the extremes or the inherent problem with representative democracy in which exists a radical split between the people and the political elite.

The culprit for the malaise in democracy is an inherent tension between the philosophical definition of democracy and the conditions for its instrumentalization.The Revolutionary Jacobin model of the one and undividable republic considered anachronistic any substantial institutional recognition of the social divisions. However, this move towards formal (legal) equality had serious weaknesses. For example, lower classes of the society remained heavily unrepresented. As a result working class movements asked for separate representation. This proposal met with an outright rejection by the ruling elite.

Today, only France seems to be more or less loyal to the Jacobin ideal, while many other liberal democracies recognized that abstracted concept of the People, refusing to account for the social divisions within the state, rather than assuring equality, breeds inequality. As a result today we have federal states, confederations, multinational states, multicultural states and finally supranational states such as the European Union. We don't have separate representation for the workers. Does the working class (or better its political representation) exist in modern TransAtlantic Politics?

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