Six Pillars of Democracy



Deciphering the riddle, updated in times of fake news, as an antidote to the strategy to destroy – from within – faith in democracy 

After the eighteenth century, with the destruction of the regime founded on heredity, divine right and aristocratic privileges, democracy was linked to the presumption of government by the people for the people. Two centuries later, the Société du Mont-Pèlerin (Hayek, Mises) erected individual freedom as a supreme value. Since then, collective freedoms and equality have been attacked by capitalist domination. Moved by the wild dynamics of accumulation without concern for the climate, history understood as linear progress did not fulfill the promises of equalization, and tore apart inequalities. Based on individual freedom, which the economy translated into laissez-faire, modernization was synthesized in the commandments of the Washington Consensus (1989).

The return to the universalism of the XNUMXth century enlightenment in contemporary thought (see the number of neo-enlightenment publications in the last period) is the reaction to the growing inequality, which Pierre Bourdieu and collaborators bundled in research on exclusion, in The misery of the world. It was the foreshadowing of the disintegrating actions of neoliberalism, driven by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The result was the commodification of humans and nature by (ir)rationality that planted the seed of neo-fascism, to celebrate the free market and reap the obscurantism that exudes hatred under a pseudo-patriotism. Never have so many been so bestialized.

Nowadays, the notion of rights is absorbed by the apology of private property. This is the thesis developed by Alain Touraine, in Critique of modernity, in the topic where he asks what democracy is. Theme that will be dissected by the sociologist in the following year (1994), when he launches a specific work on the subject: Qu'est-ce que la démocratie? Several categories of analysis lend themselves to deciphering the enigma, updated in times of fake news, as an antidote to the strategy to destroy – from within – faith in democracy. A list of constructs parades below.

1) Popular sovereignty. It is claimed by left-wing populism with a democratic inflection by accepting the acceptance of the majority at the polls which, according to Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, can lead to the “tyranny of the majority”. Or in totalitarianism, under Nazi-fascism. In the United States and Brazil, popular sovereignty has been distorted by the enraged claims of far-right populism by invading the Capitol, there, and by defying the Federal Supreme Court (STF), here. The yellow-green epiphany vandalized symbols of republican governance by shouting: “Supreme is the people”. Constitutional deviations that charge swift and severe punishments. On the other hand, in Tel Aviv, 100 thousand demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the reduction of powers of the Israeli Supreme Court, a proposal forwarded by the authoritarian government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The coup semantic war sought to attract a digital following. “If in June 2013, the networks were essential to take people to the streets; on January 8, people took to the streets to get more followers to their social media profiles. The date will go down in history as the first 'instagrammable' event of political mobilization in Brazil. Everything was image production to generate engagement”, says the political scientist Miguel Lago, in the article “Arrest the profiles” (Magazine Piauí, 17/02/2023). Arrogance led to self-incrimination – filming the violation of Praça dos Três Poderes.

The passage from popular sovereignty, from conquest by force to a posture of praising differences and minorities, evokes the tensions that crossed the revolution of customs in May 1968. The negative conception of freedom (not being obliged to do something against will) is one of the pillars of democracy. Unless, if it puts the survival of others at risk, as occurred in the genocidal denialism of the pandemic and vaccination, for general protection against the coronavirus.

2) Social participation. Democracy needs direct intervention in deliberations about political life. The exercise of citizenship (for the ancients a moral obligation, for the moderns an optional practice) reinforces the desire for belonging and cohesion. In multiethnic societies and/or societies marked by deep social divisions, this is an essential step towards recovering lost feelings of common good and common territoriality. The processes of inclusion and social mobility rebuild democracy in fractured nations, with mechanisms capable of triggering more equality and solidarity in the social fabric to generate national awareness.

To be a citizen is to feel responsible for the functioning of institutions that guarantee rights and allow the pluralistic expression of ideas and interests. Democracy must control violence in the four lines of the Constitution. On the day following the terror, the unanimous repudiation by the signatories of the Planalto Palace, the National Congress (Chamber of Deputies and Senate) and the Supreme Court of the Judiciary was the news that warmed the hearts of the democrats. Testimony of a Republic outraged by the audacity of ignorance, frustrated in the conciliation of the democratic rule of law.

The fact relativizes the optimistic narrative of the return to the spirit of the Enlightenment. By extension, it turns on the red alert to regiments with the objective of implanting “illiberal democracy”, a concept formulated by the ultra-rightist Viktor Orbán, in Hungary. The triangle formed by consent around cultural values, the conflict between dissonant positions and the commitment of a resolution in the legal frameworks were exchanged for the tabula rasa of authoritarianism, if not for eschatology. In Brasilia, they pissed and shit on works of art; depredated priceless pieces and documents.

3) Political representativeness. The representation reports the institutionalization of social struggles for the recognition of their legitimacy, to create agreements. This is not a simple accounting method for electing sectoral representatives, but the chance to bring to light the disparities that are rampant in the economic, social and cultural dimensions of society. Differences, when they surface, strengthen the structures of institutionality and the democratic imagination, contrary to what neocolonialist thinking preaches in the name of abstract, fluid totalities, emitted by forceps.

O vieux faleur liberal separates the spheres of the social and the political. “Democracy presupposes civil society associated with political society: both independent. The state sets the agenda of the nation”. In the 1990s, a Toucan representative repressed the wall movement of oil workers against the privatization of Petrobras. “The trade union movement extrapolated. Discussing wages and working conditions is one thing; another is the discussion about privatizations. Topic to be debated by those who hold mandates in the Legislative or Executive. Unionists do not. The strike is illegal”. He used a reasoning very dear to classical liberalism, already unfurled by his French intellectual friend.

It is understandable that Bourdieu and Touraine were on opposite sides in the great mass protest against the neoliberal prescription, staged by the French civil service (1995). While the former lectured in support of the thousands of strikers on the train stations, the latter gave television interviews in favor of Conservative Prime Minister Alain Juppé's austere fiscal measures, with attacks on the Welfare State. He repeated the globalist subalternity of his Brazilian presidential friend.

4) The parties. The choice of rulers through the program of the parties to which they are linked is essential to democracy. But without information about the candidates' economic policy and about the implications in the main domains of collective existence, voters are manipulated by economic power. Demagogues who claim to be independent of particular interests (group, caste or class) are unable to explain how they relate to national and international interests. In the confusion, the neo-fascist wave votes in the political and cognitive waste.

Alain Touraine accuses US democracy (“a country of profoundly democratic culture”) of submitting to the lobbies and surrender to the bureaucratic apparatus of the parties, transformed into electoral machines. Upon discovering the obvious, he didn't like it. As for France, it remained paralyzed by ideologies that served as a transmission belt for political voluntarism. He blamed party leaders who deserved demonization for blurring the boundaries of the social and the political. His theory imprisons the real in the scholastic cage of academicism, in order to reject the practical intersection of spheres, in this case.

O professor he also compares democracy in England (“class society par excellence and mother of democracy”) with France. He classifies the English as strong and the French as weak, since social actors would be subordinated to political agents, in the opposition or in the government. “The revolutionary attitude is not favorable to democracy. It does not address social conflict with political solutions or reforms; points out insurmountable contradictions and the need to eliminate the traitors of the people or the nation, who lead the dream of a socially and politically homogeneous utopia”, he adds. “I talk about conflicts within modernity, not contradictions”. Criticism is aimed at the left.

5) Endogenous growth. The discursive duality (social vs. political) does not reach the “dialectics of the concrete” to remove the veil of alienations, prejudices and deceptive appearances, in Karel Kosik's sense. The theoretical error extends to the overcoming alternatives, in each conjuncture. In Latin America, post-dictatorship redemocratization did not reverse the trend towards neoliberalism. Social marginalization, the informal reserve army and the drama of inequalities increased, as if endogenous growth did not count for a robust democracy. It is not possible to promote the active defense of democracy, if it is submissive – in politics – to the discretion of finance, to the families that control the media and to the impositions of eroded US imperialism.

The local “elites” pretend to be above the struggles between capital and work, which strain the status quo They hide the options for scrapping the acquired advances, along with delivery. The progressives have the task of reorganizing the dammed-up demands of workers at the institutional and extra-institutional political levels, beyond the depoliticization of politics and the economy.

In a historical context of capitalism's offensive, potentiated by neoliberal predatory hegemony, the minimum democratic program gains priority. Starting with the prerogative of autonomously and freely appointing the president. Predicate contested by the Venezuelan lumpembourgeoisie and, in the face of Lula's third electoral victory, by Bolsonarism. It is necessary to tame the despotic drive of the military to undue interference in the theater of politics (the specter of the past). The same with regard to the hyper-individualism that dissolves ties of sociability, expanding the vacuum conducive to anomie.

6) Democratic personality. The support of democracy needs to be prepared early, through education in schools and homes to form individuals with a democratic personality, willing to confront the barriers of colonialism (racism) and patriarchy (sexism). The personality that prevails in our time is authoritarian, racist, sexist, more accustomed to weapons than to books, to intolerance than to tolerance, to the role of consumer than that of citizen. Without the socialization of an egalitarian and plural culture, feminicide will continue to rise; the blacks will still carry the shackles of slavery with their bodies under surveillance, under eternal distrust; LGBT groups will be murdered. It's time to pave the way for freedom and equality, with militant bravery.

It is time to rethink “social reproduction” in egalitarian terms. Resilience in the face of proto-fascist pressures has to create immunizations from early childhood. This is the greatest guarantee to defeat the barbarism that surrounds humanity and planetary biodiversity. It is not enough that the government, now elected and active, encourages citizen participation in the elaboration of public policies and the governance of the people for the people occupies the ministries. The everyday ideological clash cannot be underestimated, rather it needs to be institutionally guided. Democracy is not just a political system. It is guided by the handrails of education and culture. It has a civilizational character.

As in the beautiful poem List of Needs, by Bertolt Brecht: “I know many who walk around with a list / In which is what they need. / What sees the list, says. Is very. / The one who wrote it, says it. It's the bare minimum. // But many proudly show their list / Where they are low”. The suggestion is content with listing popular sovereignty, social participation, political representation, parties, endogenous growth and the democratic personality. In these cares lives the morning.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.

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