Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Democracy vs. liberalism?

The experience of the Tampa saga in 2001 was deeply depressing for the Australian left. Many despaired at popular support for the Howard government. The Herd quoted one poll in their famous song 77%:
77 percent of aussies are racist
And if you're here, I'll say it your faces
Rich redneck pricks still hold all the aces
The Turkish protests raise the question of the relationship between liberalism and 'democracy'. One argument by a critic of the demonstrations argues that poll evidence suggests that Turkish voters do not see a threat to secularism and that 'secularism' is an ideology of the affluent privileged fearful of the mobilisation of the periphery. One wonders if respondents have different interpretations of secularism, to some it might imply the absence of Iranian-style regime (which I suspect has little popular support even among the religious) but to others it might imply a broader range of policies. In the US the issue was raised by Lipset's thesis of working-class authoritarianism, articulated in Political Man, but his argument for the populist origins of McCarthyism were challenged in Rogin's The Intellectuals and McCarthy. More recently populist conservatism has challenged the American left in its heartlands. Thus the only commentator to consider these parallels is an American M. J. Rosenberg who confesses:
I wonder if I'm alone in my conflicted view of all this. I am all for democracy and for the military keeping its nose out of politics. On the other hand, there is something I like about a political order which has secularism as; you'll forgive me, an article of faith.
Perhaps we can resolve this contradiction by recalling the Marxist critique of capitalist democracy, to Marx socialism would be a radicalised democracy that would enable humans to fulfil their full potential through collective self-government. We are not obliged to support capitalist democracy when it reduces the ability of hums to fulfil their full potential. Democracy, as James Bryce noted long ago, has won support as a means to an end. We can however be sure that Communism was a massive regression on capitalist democracy. We cannot be 'all for' democracy as currently constituted.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home