We need to start talking about democracy again and what it means – what it really means.
There is no agreed word yet to describe the developments in the 21st Century – in Europe above all but increasingly common elsewhere – that have allowed those who govern us to do so in a way that appears broadly democratic, but in an ever more limited fashion.
British sociologist Colin Crouch coined the term ‘post-democracy’ in 2005 to describe a state conducted under democratic rules, but whose application is progressively limited. At the same time, such states do not maintain the authoritarian trappings of a military dictatorship or totalitarian regime. This seems to me to be an appropriate enough expression to cover the whittling away of realms in which democratic command remains in the EU and a European political class that is isolated from its public. Indeed, German political theorist and arch-federalist Jurgen Habermas has embraced precisely this term to categorise the bloc’s eurozone crisis response.
In this blog, I’m not so much going to be exploring the suicidal economic policies of European austerity. There are more than enough excellent heterodox economics bloggers and commentators out there exposing the problems with this course of action.
What I will be exploring instead will extend what I was doing with many of my splenetic wee essays over the last few years critiquing the hollowing out of democracy that has accompanied the EU crisis response. I also hope to take a broad look back through history at the development of democracy and its different varieties (as all of this relates to European construction) – and why democracy has always been and remains the cardinal political prize.
Throughout it all, I hope to show that one can still support the idea of a European Union, and recognise that international governance – even global governance – structures are necessary, but that it is non-negotiable that they be anything other than built from the ground up by ordinary people and in our own interests.