Brief critique of praised democracy

Image: Magali Magalhães


What kind of democracy do we want and in which democracy do we live?

In these elections, despite the danger of catastrophe if the current president were to win re-election, I saw praise for our democracy. As if she were good, for the simple fact that she exists. To those who praise Brazilian democracy, I ask: which democracy are we talking about? And I add one more question: what kind of democracy do we want for Brazil from now on, after Lula won? These two questions deserve an urgent answer because, regardless of the result obtained in these elections being positive, the political scenario remains unstable. In other words, despite the progressive forces having regained power, it has never been so polarized since the beginning of the last military dictatorship, therefore almost 60 years ago.

Therefore, before imagining what kind of democracy we want, we need to know which democracy we live in. In fact, we never even had the distorted form of democracy, namely, representative democracy. I say distorted, because it is known that representative democracy is far from being a government regime in which the people participate in the most important decisions for their good survival.

Representative democracy masks the power domination of a minority, those who call themselves the best or the most capable, over the great majority of the unfortunate people. Even though the only concrete experience of popular government has failed in the history of the peoples that we know, Athenian radical democracy, it is disastrous for the country that the change of government regime in the homeland, even for a distortion of true democracy, has taken place without popular participation.

In this tune, in Plato, in his book To Republic, democracy is not the main axis of his work. Even so, she ends up being one of the pillars of this idea throughout the story subsequent to it, along with the book. The politics of Aristotle. What is most interesting is that Plato, when discussing the various forms of government for a city-state, takes a stand against the Republic, albeit in part. It is quite possible that his assertion against this regime of government stems from his own oligarchic origins. Aristotle, Plato's most rebellious disciple, was even more emphatic about his position against democracy. For him, this was not a good form of government, as it was not in favor of the whole community, but in the interests of the poor. The principle of this idea, which was indefensible for him, was the simple will of the majority in an arbitrary, brutal way, without any kind of reflection for the greater good of the community: its union.

The word demokatia remained much more a rhetoric in the Greek world, at least most of the time, than a stable government regime, as common sense would have us think. We carry the burden of betting our chips on a form of government that proved to be a failure when, precisely, it had the most prominence. The contemporary democratic State, or post-modern for some, each day more internally fragmented, resorts to just one name with global reach to define the legitimate basis of political authority, even though it is aware of the flaws inherent to that name, exposed in the first instance, and single, who commanded the actions of a body politic of a city-state.

Thus, the main flaw of the democracy it was, by its very nature of political haste, its inability to form citizens who would defend democracy beyond specific interests in determined conflicts, and who were also convinced that any other political form competing with the interests of the social group was illegitimate.

This is also why the legend of a government by/for the people in its most radical form, as was the Athenian experience, can be understood as a permanent state in arms; a military and militarized State, since no appeasing consensus was reached among the social classes, much less among its countless tribes, but a dictatorship of the majority infuriated by centuries of subjugation of the most wealthy part, namely, the oligarchic class of the Alcmaeonids .

It may seem redundant, but only in the French Revolution was it possible to think of democratizing democracy. Indeed, if after the Greek experience, democracy remained in the collective imagination with the potent dubiousness of a political regime of the many, therefore of free deliberation, but dangerous, as it would easily lead to chaos, to popular disorder, it is easy to understand the reasons that led the few who took control of the western world, after the period of collapse of the Athenian maritime military hegemony until the French Revolution, to keep the possibility of a new attempt of this magnitude away from the many.

Consequently, the democracy that arrived in the 2016th century after the Great Wars, and that enters the 33st century of the world in vertigo, is not a political regime that we govern ourselves. As DUNN (XNUMX, p. XNUMX) emphasizes: “Modern representative democracy has changed the idea of ​​democracy to the point of making it unrecognizable. But, in doing so, it ceases to be an idea related to the hopeless losers of history and becomes identified with the most persistent winners”. It is here that Brazilian democracy and its peculiarities come into play in this article. For if the practice of radical democracy, the democracy, in Athens it was a punctual and disastrous experience, in Brazil, even its archetype, that is, the representative democracy that dominates the political actions of the contemporary global capitalist adventure cannot even be named that way.

In this sense, Brazil became a Republic without being prepared to be a democracy, in practice being an oligarchic Republic of rights (it is not by chance that the definition “Democratic Republic of rights” only appears from the 1988 Constitution). Incidentally, this oligarchic advent is not associated with the republican period, but, on the contrary, since the invasion of these lands by the Portuguese. As COMPARATO (2017, p. 18) says: “The colonial regime, established in Brazil in the early 2022th century, was fundamentally marked by the donation of public lands to private landlords, and by the commodification of public offices, thus forming a regime binary oligarchic: or, if you prefer, mixed, that is, public-private, associating private economic potentates with the main agents of the State”. If we make a time frame for the year XNUMX, it is necessary to ask: are we that far from the XNUMXth century?

It is quite possible that we are living in a kind of “necrodemocracy” since the parliamentary coup against President Dilma Rousseff, in 2106. In fact, the election of the obscure federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil in 2018 only completely revealed the cruelest face of an anachronistic political system that has prevailed in this country since forever. In it, the ruling class, but also a large portion of the middle class, idiotized by the eternal dream of climbing the social ladder at all costs, took on the frightening discourse that the ends justify the means, that is, that it was necessary to eradicate from life Brazilian politics the main leader of the great mass that terrorizes the economic oligarchic elite of “Faria Lima”: Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva.

That said, it is now worth repeating our second question: what kind of democracy do we want for Brazil from now on, in the third decade of the XNUMXst century, after Lula won? With more than two hundred million inhabitants, the utopia of true radical participatory democracy is out of the question. Incidentally, this utopia put an end to technological globalization that brought together more than seven billion human beings on an already overpopulated planet.

There is no numerical comparison between the approximately forty thousand Athenian citizens at the time of the Peloponnesian War and the millions of citizens in today's countries. Thomas More's own utopia written in the sixteenth century is riddled, paradoxically, with prejudiced lines. Therefore, if human society wants to see the birth of another century in relative harmony, it will be necessary to reinvent the wheel, that is, to make the moribund representative democracy a new less unequal democracy.

Brazil, as a peripheral country since always, is even more at the mercy of this dying representative democracy. The Brazilian democratic model, beyond its intrinsic contradiction as a form of government, slipped into the absurdity of that historical period. In this perspective, a parliamentary coup – disguised as a democratic replacement, since authorized by law – was launched against the country's governance, legitimized by highly dubious political forces, involved in several scandals of active and passive corruption, and "supported" by members, if not for entire sectors, of the Judiciary.

The PT government was no better than previous governments in terms of political conspiracies/collusions to “make the Brazil agenda viable”. It's not about absolving anyone. But I don't believe that the real culprits will ever pay, regardless of party and ideology, if anyone in this country actually has any, other than the fetishist ideology of the Market. The paradox was taking a political class out of power to put an even worse one in its place. A class that, like a phoenix, rose from the ashes of the basements of the National Congress, to provoke a new assault on the finances of a country already weakened by so many adverse scenarios, whether political or economic. The result of all this seems to have been, to translate in one word, “Bolsonarism” and all sorts of barbarism resulting from it.

It never hurts to remember that the Brazilian constitution enacted in 1988, nicknamed the “citizen constitution”, is quite emphatic about the system/regime of government (in allusion to the Republic, even in contradiction to the Platonic utopia). There it is very clear, in the first article, that the Federative Republic of Brazil, formed by the indissoluble union of the States and Municipalities and of the Federal District, constitutes a democratic state of law and is based on: (i) sovereignty; (ii) citizenship; (iii) the dignity of the human person; (iv) the social values ​​of work and free enterprise; and (v) political pluralism. In its fifth article, it goes further and states that all are equal before the law, without distinction of any kind, guaranteeing Brazilians and residents in the country the inviolability of the right to life, liberty, equality, security and property.

Now, if the “democratic rule of law” that we are talking about is, or should be, “the government of the people”, and if this political regime is no longer taken seriously by several “players” in the more developed western countries (see Russia, China, Boris Johnson's England, Donald Trump's USA, Giorgia Meloni's current Italy, etc.), what to say about an underdeveloped State, which, in order to meet the emergency needs of allocating capital surplus and externalizing costs productive sectors submit their faltering sovereignty to the moods of the transnationalized financial market? The big problem is that, even in these brief periods that I call direct elections – and I provocatively do not write the word democracy –, the force was not in politics, that is, there was almost never a Brazilian population that practiced politics in their daily lives, within at home, in factories or public bodies, in the streets anyway.

If it were the case to remember, we can point out isolated episodes, such as the “directs now” in 1984, the street demonstrations for the impeachment of Collor de Mello in the early 1990s, the demonstrations of 2013 for the pass that degenerated to the agglomerations asking for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and now with the polarization of the electoral process between Lula and Bolsonaro. Perhaps we can count on our fingers some more relevant manifestations of Brazilian society as a whole that may have occurred since the last dictatorship. Note dear reader that these events are not the true spirit of the policy. The critical debate about the primary problems of the population was not promoted by itself, within the various possible agoras, except in a university there, a factory floor here, a basement there. The so-called democracy has always come to us in the sense that Aristotle wrote about politics[I] generally speaking, a mixture of oligarchy and democracy.

The authors Dardot and Laval, in the book The new reason of the world,[ii] already warned of these directions: the State is no longer just or simply the vigilant guardian of the reforming liberalism of the early XNUMXth century, but the State itself, in its action, is subjected to the norm of competition. Thus, Kurz will affirm, right in his first level on the economic functions of the modern State, that is, the process of “juridification”,[iii] that the State became the permanent legislative machine, since all relations were transformed into contractual relations in the form of merchandise.

Therefore, the greater the quantity of commodity and money relations, the greater the number of laws or regulatory decrees, aiming to place all actions and social relations in the abstract form of Law, with the purpose of being legally codified. Hence, it is easy to understand that Brazil, like other countries, has become part of the market, that is, a “private society”, in which it, the State, no longer has any reason to be an exception to the rules of right which he himself is responsible for enforcing. It is now a question of speaking of the rationality of neoliberalism as the reason for contemporary capitalism.

Fortunately, as Norberto Bobbio said,[iv] the history of human rights is the history of long times. There is still time to transform the country into a fairer and more egalitarian nation, as long as we really think about concrete measures to eradicate such social inequality and, most importantly, put these measures into practice, without forgetting to consider in the process of analysis of the commodity form and the fetish of capital, because, without a proper understanding of the fundamental contradiction in the accumulation process – the systemic risk –, we will be forgetting Benjamin's warning: “to do more of the same”.[v]

To this end, I wish this new Lula government that it really fulfills its promises made on top of a platform on the crowded avenue of São Paulo, on the same night he was elected, almost at midnight, when he stated that the absolute priority of his government will be the most needy. Currently 77 years old, he will end his new term at the age of 80. It's time for Lula, undeniably the greatest popular leader ever lived among us, to go down in history as a legend.

*Andre Marcio Neves Soares is a doctoral candidate in social policies and citizenship at the Catholic University of Salvador (UCSAL).


Aristotle. The politics. Rio de Janeiro. Ed. New Frontier. 2017.

BOBBIO, Norberto. The Age of Rights. Publisher Campus, 2004.

COMPARATIVE Fabio Konder. The Brazilian Oligarchy: Historical View. São Paulo. Contracurrent Publisher. 2017.

DARDOT, Pierre & LAVAL, Christian. The New Reason of the World – Essay on Neoliberal Society. Boitime, 2016.

DUNN, John. the history of democracy. Unifesp. 2016.

KURZ, Robert. The Last Fights. Editora Vozes, 1997.

LOWY, Michael. Walter Benjamin: fire warning. Boitime, 2005.


[I] Aristotle, Politics, Chapter III.

[ii] Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval. The New Reason of the World – essay on neoliberal society. Boitempo, 2016.

[iii] Robert Kurz. Os Últimos Combates, Part II: The lack of State autonomy and the limits of politics: four theses on the crisis of political regulation. Editora Vozes, 1997.

[iv] Norberto Bobbio. The Age of Rights, p.230. Campus. 2004.

[v] Michael Lowy. Walter Benjamin: fire warning. Boitime, 2005.

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