Friday, July 8, 2011

No! No! No! We Need the Elite!

Peter Gratton has found an exemplary specimen of reactionary republicanism. Today's Der Spiegel has an article by Herfried Münkler entitled "Democratization Can't Save Europe." Münkler argues that:
In light of this failure of the elites, it is hardly surprising that we are hearing renewed calls for the democratization of Europe. Suddenly, the people are expected to fix what the elites have botched. Since they are already being asked to pay for the problems caused by the elites, many believe that the people should have more say in how and by whom Europe is controlled.
As reasonable as this might sound, by no means does it make as much sense as it seems at first glance. Even after the democratization of Europe, the elites in Brussels and Strasbourg will still be in charge. The only option available to the European people, to the extent that they can be referred to as such, would be to react to obvious failure by voting their leaders out of office -- and to vote an opposing elite to take their place. Whether this would fundamentally change anything is open to question. [...]
Pushing for the democratization of Europe is akin to playing a reckless game that can quickly lead to European disintegration. Those who see democratization as a logical reaction to the crisis may not even be aware of this risk. They see democratization as an automatic reflex in response to the crisis. But democracy needs the kinds of conditions that do not exist in Europe today.
Not convinced? Me neither. Peter points out that Münkler has recycled all the usual arguments as to why democracy won't work outside of the Western world, and turned them toward Europe itself. But these claims aren't the only howlers. Without any irony, Münkler points out that Europe has always been run by elites (which is why, apparently, it can't ever change...):
Europe was a project of the elites from the very beginning, but with the proviso that democratization would happen at the next available opportunity.
Of course, all promises of democracy have really been a "proviso" (read "noble lie") to legitimate the European project in the eyes of the people. And yet he concludes with the same promise he's just deflated:
The key step is a political reconstitution of Europe, a reconstitution in which democratization would be a real option and would not pose the threat of decline and disintegration.
This is the world of austerity: the elites fail but don't really fail, finance capital crashes but people's benefits, mortgaged homes, collective bargaining, decent wages and job security are blamed and attacked.

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