The Democracy That Is To Come

Charles Montesquieu

Montesquieu has famously taught that democracy is sustained by the love of equality. The principle of equality is oxygen to democracy. Based on it, inclusivism becomes its ethical code.  Democracy is defined in terms of the will of the people.  This will is inclusive and therefore, the pursuit of common good becomes the way to discern whether democracy is promoting the will of the people. Unfortunately, today most democracies that include the one that we have in our country are based on exclusion of what is deemed as enemy from within.  We seem have become trapped into a form of egocentrism.  Cartesian ego cogitans has evolved into homo economicus or rational utility maximizer.  Paradoxically, this seems to have minimized the room of individual freedoms or liberty and a zone of peace has declined as a kind of cultural uniformity is imposed on the individuals and communities.  Those that do not align with the same are demonized as anti-national.  This seems to have changed the locus of power and sovereignty from the people to the nation-state.  The hierarchical spirit that was set aside to bring to birth symmetrical participation of the citizen seems to have come back into our democracies.  This has allowed and made room for strong and dictatorial regimes to become coterminous with democracy which was one’s upon a time an abomination.  Besides, we have forgotten the principle of equality and there is no ethics of inclusion and our democracies are sinking into the tyrannies of majorities.  Love for equality is no longer tied to love for democracy. The ethical code of inclusion has collapsed and undemocratic elitisms or oligarchies are masquerading as democracies.  

There is no substantive democracy.  Democracy is infected by a virus and is only seen as rational utility maximizer of the interest of the elite. The socio-political universe of democracy has changed. We have failed to nurture democracy and let it be invaded by market forces.  Maybe   Francis Fukuyama’s thesis that proclaims that we have reached an end of history captures what we have done to democracy. This means we assume that we have reached the pick of political organization and there is no democracy to come. At the most some closed teleologies like  Hindu Rasthara have come to dominate us and we live in a permanent state  of exception hoping that one day the  goal of our dream will come. Meanwhile we cope with aberrations, violence, hatred, corruption that will make the way for the actualization of our dream, say Hindu Rashtra.  This is why we are ready to let what may be exceptions become the rule in our quest for the coming of our dreamy telos. It is also this hope of the coming of exclusive future that leads us to believe in strong and dictorial leadership. There is no more democracy to come. Democracy then has become a tool to actualize our closed teleologies. We are then living in a permanent state of exception and tolerate a moral collapse of our society.  Hence instead of thinking that history has come to a dead end, we have the challenge to rekindle the hope of the democracy to come. Democracy has not yet come to the final point of closure and we can still hope to flourish through it as a mode of inclusive participation. 

Claude Lefort

French thinker, Claude Lefort provides us an  insight into our fate today.  He thinks power as an empty place. What we put into the empty place takes control over us.  Thinking in this vein, he taught that democracy has a peculiar ontological deficit. It means it lacks embodiment of ultimate power. In the earlier regimes, the ultimate power rested with the emperors, kings or the princes but in a democracy supreme power is disincarnated and maintains a gap between the symbolic and the real /empirical.  This is why the empty place of power becomes a place maker for the absent authority.  Sometimes oligarchs take the place of the absent present people in whose name the leader exercises power. Populist leaders across the globe are hijacking democracies today.  This is why when market forces begin to run democracy. Elections are fought on the basis of social engineering that functions like advertisements and may not necessarily reflect the truth or reality. Everything then is based on managing perception.   This is why in the lack or the empty place, the interest of the crony can be installed and democracy can be directed to reap benefits to the select cronies of the powers that be.  Therefore,  all democracies require active citizenry and activists to become gate keepers of the conscience of the ruling benches. One of the simplest ways to discern the presence of vested interest is  to determine how what is positioned as interest of the nation or the people promotes inclusive or common good of the people. 

 Today what operates as democracy in several places particularly in our country may be named as couter-democracy.  We have white supramists or Hindu supramists in our empty place of power.  This means we have placed in the disincarnated empty place ‘materialization of people’.  In India, we seem to have placed what appears to be the interest of the majority community. But a counter-democracy has to also appear like a democracy and hence    the majority or the essentialist or supramists whose ideologies or totalogies  that promote feel good in the majority become the vehicle for the promotion of the vested interest of the cronies of the government while the majority  takes  joy rides on the symbolic capital thinking that democracy has become the mode of promoting its interest unaware of the delusion.  Therefore, we have to understand that power as an empty /disincarnated place is fundamental to democracies.  This will make our democracies vibrant and we will hope in the democracy to come. The farmer’s agitation as well as peoples agitations against the three linear projects in our country and Goa respectively are dreams of democracy that is to come. They are not exclusionist closed dreams for select few or majoritarian utopias. They  long for an inclusive  flourishing of all. The democracy that will come is inclusive. Its footprints are in the people struggles. But we have to critically securitize some populist trends that tend to provide cover to the interest of the oligarchs of the Government. It is only on the struggle for coming of democracy that we will show the door to the reigning counter-democracy.  

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao