Monday, January 23, 2012

Democracy is just a new name for plutocracy

From two different vantage points, Naidu and Reddy have now been espousing the cause of the farmers in Andhra Pradesh. To say that the espousal of the cause of the farmers is an electoral gambit is stating the obvious.  Electoral politics by their very nature demand that political parties and their leaders be in touch with their constituents.  Irrespective of the next election in Andhra Pradesh being mid-term or on schedule, it is increasingly clear that the separate Telangana is not happening before that. … So what does this tell us about democracy?  It tells us that democracy is actually a surrogate for plutocracy, where the rich in order to control society and become richer still co-opt or coerce other sections of the populations in to their scheme of things by promising the earth, sky, moon and the stars. … Politicians apparently pay lip service to those sections of society that are in distress and chalk out a strategy much like a macro-marketing strategy to draw the votes of those in distress.  So in India, democracy is a plutocracy of people who become legislators by hook sometimes and by crook oftentimes but claim to have the legitimate support of the people.

So is this peculiar to India then?  The answer will be an emphatic no.  The answer is so emphatic not because I have any first hand experience of politics in other countries but because I have studied the evolution of modern day democracy.  The Greeks equated democracy to mob rule, it was only in the modern capitalist period that democracy found some respect.  The champions of modern capitalism such as John Locke and Adam Smith were also champions of democracy, but they never believed in or advocated the concept of Universal Suffrage or Universal Adult Franchise.  What they had advocated was a democratic plutocracy in which only the propertied and the rich would have any rights and say in decision making for society.  It is for this reason that they advocated concepts of free markets and limited governments.  Over the years, some sections from the mobs that the Greek political philosophers feared, were able to find their way into the process of democracy.  Once such people find entry into the democratic process, they lose no time in dissociating themselves from the mobs to which they once belonged and aspire to be plutocrats.  

Therefore, theorists such as Hamza Alavi and Samir Amin are right when they say that politicians constitute a separate class much like the traditional intellectuals (to borrow a term from Antonio Gramsci) think of themselves as a distinct class. The difference is that intellectuals play around with words and concepts and feel gratified if somebody notices what they say (they do not do anything, and I know I am implicating myself here even though I don't see myself as an intellectual in anyway) while the politicians find economic and financial gratification; something that is far more tangible. People's aspirations incidental to this grander scheme of politicians and some benefits that sometimes get passed on to some people are also incidental and just by products of the games that politicians play.  To conclude then, democracy is not will of the people, democracy is not fairness, democracy is not justice, democracy is not empowerment of all; modern democracy is just a new name, a legitimation for plutocracy and the furtherance of the agendas of the rich, be they individuals or corporations.

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