What is post-democracy?

 Ricardo Israel

Every time we put the “pos” or “post” before a word, it is an acknowledgment that we are dealing with a phenomenon or concept for which we do not yet have the elements to define it precisely or it is simply too new. To begin with, it occurs with postmodernity and with another concept with which it is directly related and perhaps is part of it, post-democracy. This is how it has come to stay when describing a recent phenomenon, of this 21st century.

Having made the previous clarification, I can add that post-democracy is one of the main current challenges for democracy. It is not the old communist or fascist revolution of the 20th century. Nor is it Castrochavism, organized crime or religious jihadism. Nor does it seek to destroy the market economic system, since it is a version of the capitalist system. It is a phenomenon of typically Western origin, which considers democracy as we know it to be outdated and “perfected”.

Yes. That traditional democracy without surnames, the one that Churchill sharply said was a bad form of government, except for all the other known ones. That created in antiquity by the Greeks and that acquires an admirable consensus about what it is and what it is not, both in the social sciences and in Law, and thus has been incorporated into various national constitutions as well as in Law. International in instruments such as the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter, especially in its third article, which precisely defines the fundamentals of this form of government (and that unfortunately it does not apply to those who violate it is a serious problem, but different from the content of this column).

Such is the agreement on what should be that every time a surname is added (for example, “popular”) we immediately fall into the suspicion that democracy has little or nothing, except the manipulation of the name.

This is what happens with what is known as post-democracy, a creation of a Western developed country that today has spread throughout the world, fundamentally through the media and social networks, jumping from the marginality of the universities to being an important political alternative to other forces, especially the center and the social democratic left. Today the phenomenon has become strongly present in Latin America and other regions of the world.

Post-democracy is not an alternative to the market system, and on the contrary, it seeks to strengthen it with clear preferences for new technologies and the digital society, and with deep contempt for old technologies and polluting industries and sectors such as fuels. His preference is clear for defining winners and losers in advance, through the use of taxes and subsidies, that is, through public funds and decisions from power.

If it is not a change in the economic system, it does represent a clear political and, above all, ideological position. Post-democracy is a derivation of the so-called progressivism, some of whose sectors moved away from the matrix and became a great challenge to traditional democracy, since they have shown -in the midst of the 21st century- quasi-totalitarian attitudes; newly coined, but they equally despise democracy. In their language, they “perfect and surpass it”.

It is a version of politics where the concepts of left and right have been relativized and have lost the explanatory nature that they had in all discourse after the French Revolution of the 18th century. His fight is against the illustration, that historical process that gave us the initial kick for the concept of the West as we know it, and to which we owe the predominance of the scientific method over religious taboos and freedom of expression, among many other historical achievements. .

And just as Mao’s Cultural Revolution was an attack against the entire heritage of Confucianism in China, that of this current cultural revolution that promotes post-democracy in the West is against the heritage of enlightenment, and it is what is behind some revisions that they are intended to topple statues, and above all, to demolish historical figures for issues that did not look the same in the times they lived in, such as issues of race and gender, given totally different historical contexts and times. It is also what is behind the 1619 project in the United States, which aims to modify the teaching on the origin of that country, starting with race.

Some of the more totalitarian attitudes seem to be taken directly from the book 1984, Orwell’s dystopia. If this corresponds to the most extreme sectors, such as those that make the police their main enemies, if there are characteristics shared by all the factions.

This is how the traditional notion of democracy’s freedom is not only combated, directing it towards a struggle not between equals, but between “good guys” (us) and “bad guys” (the others), so that on the plane of ideas there is no it is about convincing adversaries but about imposing on enemies. The democratic notion of equality is also fought against, the one that sought to put everyone in the same starting place through leveling decisions. It is replaced with the notion of fairness, one for which it is not enough that there is equality of opportunity, but rather seeks to intervene in the process in such a way that the result can be ensured, fundamentally through the imposition of quotas, whether or not they have the skills.

If democracy is conceived as a person equal to one vote, the objective here is to introduce one’s hand to the ballot box, uneven the result through parity and reserved seats by race and gender, as witnessed in what which is perhaps the first draft of a postmodern constitution in its entirety, and which transforms these concepts into rights, such as the project to hold a plebiscite in September 2022, in Chile.

The politics he proposes is an identity policy, as a totalizing element and without complexes or mediations, the identity representing another punishment for illustration and its values. By privileging people in terms of, for example, race and gender, the equality delivered by the concept of citizenship ends up being demolished, discovering in the 21st century substitutes for the previous purity, who previously represented the Soviet proletariat or the Maoist peasantry. .

As part of the ideological struggle, a culture of cancellation is used against those whose opinions we find unacceptable. It is a freedom of expression full of limitations, bumps and obstacles through a true police of language and thought.

This fight takes place in the context of the internet and social networks, where the greatest example of totalitarianism is manifested in language, which is wanted to control. Not only is a metalanguage completely rejected by the Royal Academy of Language and its equivalents in France and other countries proposed, but by controlling what is acceptable and unacceptable, one can finally control one’s own thought, since, if something is not there is a word, in the end what it represents does not exist either, from the moment the name disappears.

Post-democracy attacks one of the greatest riches of traditional democracy, which is the peaceful resolution of the natural conflicts of any society through the search for consensus and agreements, since here it falls into self-censorship and mono discourse, from the moment that many fear cancellation due to its effects on the personal and professional lives of those who are “cancelled” by mobs on social networks, including many comedians, since, as in the dictatorial experiences of the 20th century, to humor may be unwelcome.

It is a revolution without armies and without assaults on the Bolshevik equivalent of the Winter Palace. It is not the dictatorship as we knew it, but it can have a drift towards authoritarianism and the personalization of power. Victimization is also promoted as an element in the search for backing and support, since emotion is more than reason, as another direct attack on illustration, of which rational predominance was one of its symbols. The other side of the cancellation coin is the maximization of indignation, not as an ethical element, but as a weapon of ideological and political domination, with which it becomes a non-proportional weapon, without flexibility and that exceeds the response .

Being directly linked to postmodernity, postdemocracy is also a sign of disenchantment not only with the idea of ​​the West, but also with its product, that is, with modernity itself, which explains the way in which the coloniality of power has prevailed. in the Chilean constitutional convention and has also been present in the electoral triumphs of Castillo, Boric and Petro, just to mention South America.

Another worrying element of this ideological battle is the loss of importance of a key notion, that Democracy is not only a form of government, but mainly a form of control of power, of all power, to avoid both its concentration and its exercise. arbitrary, that situation so present in Latin America, where you can be elected democratically, but lose that legitimacy due to the abuse that is carried out by the government. That is, for democracy it is not enough to be elected, but also the way power is exercised.

If anything characterizes post-democracy, it is the total adoption of wokism in economic terms and goodism as international politics, both closely related to identity politics. The wokismo (derivation of the “awake”) is an ideological transfer to companies and the market of racial awareness and social justice, and the goodness appeared as a way of characterizing a thought that postulates that, to solve many problems, it would be enough with the good will, a scheme that is aided by the bureaucracy of international organizations.

Post-democracy brings with it its own groups of power, a new oligarchy and a cultural revolution promoted by new elites, notably in large technology companies, where owners and executives feel they have the power to selectively censor as it happened in the 2020 election in USES. However, the most undemocratic way to avoid the debate is to reject with previous qualifiers (misogynist, racist, etc.) those who think differently, as a strategy of division between good and bad, that is, politics appears as a new religion, although this time without God.

Thus, the roots of democracy are affected since the rival is not seen as an equal, which also happens with the notion of citizenship, since the political process is no longer presented as an expression of the general will, but that aspires to win elections and control power through the sum of minorities, which is not the same, neither practically nor conceptually.

Democracy has always had adversaries, enemies and alternatives. Not only in its modern version, but also in classical Greece, with Sparta as the rival of Athens, which represented the “other” model, a militaristic one. However, what in my opinion does not change is its superiority, especially in ethical principles and its privileged relationship with human rights.

Hence the fear caused by what we are witnessing with post-democracy, as a (sometimes successful) rival and alternative in the 21st century.

“The opinions published here are the sole responsibility of their author.”