Unanimous democracy

Submitted by Anonymous on June 29, 2005.English

El Pais Spain | JOSÉ VIDAL-BENEYTO

The modern democratic credo - worship of liberties, enshrinement of human rights, exaltation of humanitarian liberalism and "soft" consensus - occupies a central position in the thought system that reigns over the ideological and political landscape of our time.

What on the one hand represents a highly positive option, on the other hand entails, as do all façades of consensus, a certain falsifying trivialization of the values it proclaims. This is particularly true in the case of democracy - which is not a set of permissive privileges, but an exercise in excellence which implies a demanding commitment. In any case, the rhetoric of the single thought system has become a potion that cures everything. Even Bush has discovered the advantages of using it in large doses, and liberally laces his doctrinal pronouncements with references to democracy. Of course he does this without backing down, in any field, from the policy of the neocons. In the environment, the American government persists in rejecting any control of atmospheric pollution, and refuses to sign the Kyoto Accord, while continuing the aggressive exploitation of the oil reserves in the Arctic, and the connivance at the deforestation of the Amazon basin, and so on. In foreign action, unilateralism is still preached, one of its exponents being the subculture that opposes the Unesco Convention on cultural diversity - one more piece of evidence that the neocons have not desisted from their aims. In international policy, there is the permanent declaration of war on the "axis of evil."

Bush has not modified one iota of his policy, but, with a cynical opportunism which other states tolerate, and some even welcome, he has begun a public relations operation in which he presents himself as a defender of human rights, while the concentration camp at Guantanamo remains full of prisoners illegally held, and torture has become a regular resource of the US Army. By bringing into his government and into the major international organizations - something essential on a tactical level - some individuals of supposedly moderate outlook whom he believes he will be able to control, Bush has been trying to give a more acceptable face to his policy.

The two most significant cases have been Rodrigo Rato as the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pascal Lamy in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet the most perverse effect of the omnipotence of the single thought system is that it only tolerates actions of the most innocuous nature. One recent example is the Granada Declaration on Globalization, in which a group of major philosophers, with Jürgen Habermas at their head, offer us what amounts to a compendium of just about all the terms of denunciation in use concerning the globalization processes now under way. These terms have long been common currency among all those who do not serve in the ranks of concealment. But, in omitting to say who its authors are and who its beneficiaries, the Declaration loses any bite it may have had, and forfeits its potential as a weapon of combat.

The human urge for solidarity and humanitarian action, which is also an essential component of the single thought system, is easily seduced and won over by the desire to be useful, and partakes of the logic of productivity, leading to what Pierre Bourdieu has called the world market of solidarity. Its most determinant actors, which are foundations and major NGOs, have carried out a thorough takeover operation on the real grassroots protagonists, which are the local NGOs, pushing them to join up so as to be able to present collective projects oriented toward "responsible" themes and immediate results.

This has led to the conversion of anti-system movements into pragmatic action groups which confirm the status quo, such as those launched by the Ford Foundation by means of the Environment Defense Fund. These groups encourage ecologists to negotiate with industrialists - a negotiation in which only one side can prevail. Concerning this problem, Yves Dezalay and Brian Garth, in their 2002 book Global Prescriptions, offer arguments and data on how to stay out of this co-opting process.


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