Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What would be required for democracy to be genuinely realized

Perverse Egalitarianism from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

Setting aside the possibility of moral realism (which is a position I reject due to it’s commitment to transcendence), what might lead to the conclusion that democracy– which I do not believe has ever existed –is the one true form of politics? If democracy is the one true form of politics, then this is because it is that form of the political where relations of power are least obfuscated.

Here my inspiration is Feuerbachian. Feuerbach famously argued that God is nothing but alienated man. That is, we project our highest aspirations and desires onto another being, but then experience these qualities not as existing in itself, but in something else. God is thus an alienation and distorted image of our own essence or nature. Something similar seems to occur in the case of political systems.

Let us take the example of a monarchial system. In a monarchial system I experience power as residing elsewhere in the figure of the monarch. The monarch possesses some enigmatic feature that grants the monarch a power that other subjects do not possess. However, just as the protagonist of Kafka’s Before the Law is the secret of the law, the source of the law’s power, so too can the monarch only be a monarch if his subjects recognize him as a monarch. In short, the source of the monarch’s power is the monarch’s subjects, yet the monarch’s subjects do not recognize themselves as the ones who give the monarch his power, but instead, like Feuerbach’s religious subjects, see the power of the monarch as a mysterious and enigmatic property that is “in the monarch more than himself”.

In light of this line of reasoning, democracy would be the “true” form of politics insofar as it is that form of politics where the social relations underlying power are no longer obfuscated, but are now encountered directly and immanently. Under democracy social subjects encounter themselves as both the source of power and the principle of their own constraint. Or to put the point a bit differently, every form of politics is democratic since every social organization only sustains itself through the consent of the demos, but only democracy reveals this truth in and for itself.

In this connection, rather than claiming that democracy is the “true” politics, it could instead be said that democracy is the real of the political, or the truth of the political. The question would then become that of what would be required for democracy to be genuinely realized. Negri and Hardt have a great deal of interesting things to say, for example, about the problems of representation with regard to radical democracy in Multitudes. At any rate, perhaps others could explain to me why I’m suspicious of this argument or why I should be suspicious of this argument.

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