The Populist Moment, Chapter 3:
Alain de Benoist
Governing Without the People
Introduction here, Chapter 2 Part 2 here, Chapter 4 Part 1 here
Translated by F. Roger Devlin
Books on the crisis or dysfunction of democracy have been multiplying for some time now. Their authors belong to different political families, but many of them are in agreement on at least one point which seems to serve as their central theme: the idea that we have already passed into a realm beyond the democratic model that gradually came to prevail during the modern age. The most frequently expressed idea is that we are entering into a “post-democratic” regime which might just as well be defined as the regime of postmodernity. “My thesis,” writes Matthieu Baumier for example, “is that democracy, if not dead, has undergone a rapid evolution, that it has transformed itself into something other than what we have been familiar with: post-democracy.”
The most visible symptoms of this crisis have often been described: the worldwide discrediting of the political class, abstention from voting, protest voting, a chasm growing between those on top and those below, and a feeling of democratic dispossession. Regarding all these points we are in the presence of pronounced tendencies that continue to become stronger.
Asked in the autumn of 2005 about their perception of the political class, 71% of Frenchmen admitted to having a “poor opinion” of their leaders, 76% stated they have “no confidence” in them, and 49% judge them “corrupt.” According to another more recent poll, 53% of Frenchmen think democracy is “not working well or not working at all” today. Finally, according to a third poll, nearly seven Frenchmen in ten say they have confidence “neither in the Right nor in the Left to govern the country.” Thus, we are confronted with a massive loss of credibility concerning men first of all, but which also extends to institutions. This loss of confidence is expressed both by rising abstention rates and by disaffection with the large political parties, which are increasingly becoming mere electoral committees. Citizens are losing hope in the capacity of a political class which continues to present objectives as achievable but which it never achieves (full employment, for example). People’s attitudes oscillate between lack of interest or rejection, abstention or systematic opposition.
In the presidential election of April 2002, less than half of Frenchmen voted in both rounds. Moreover, in the first round 64% of voters chose neither Chirac nor Jospin. 20 years earlier, in the first round of the presidential election of 1981, the “anti-system” candidates received only 2% of the vote; they reached 34% in 2002. In 2007 and 2012, the figures were scarcely different. The result is that today’s “majorities” are the expression of barely a quarter of the “sovereign people.”
Another poll carried out in 2006 shows that six Frenchmen out of ten are no longer able to tell the Left from the Right. This is obviously a consequence of the recentering of party programs, which is itself merely one aspect of the process of uniformization of political discourse involving, really, its neutralization. This recentering has multiple causes, but results above all from an implicit consensus regarding social ends that prevents any general questioning of the system. Thus, writes Robert Katz, “no opposition party attributes social problems to the political system per se or to the mode of production on which that system is based, but always to their adversaries currently holding the reins of power and to their ‘bad’ policies.” Alternatives thereby become impossible (replaced by mere alternation), and a growing number of voters realize that elections are only free insofar as they assure the reproduction under interchangeable labels of the same dominant class. In other words, the political system is programmed in advance so that only those can win who are certain to change nothing about the system. “Pluralist elections,” writes Robert Charvin, “are only admissible if the voters do not stray outside the implicitly determined framework; they must assure political continuity by keeping variation within a narrow range.” The advertised pluralism is just an illusion.
The discrediting of the system never appeared more obviously than during the referendum on the projected European Constitution held on May 29, 2005. 11 years before “Brexit,” the major government parties, unanimous in support of a “yes” vote, were incapable of convincing the people of the well-foundedness of their choice even as their recommendation was relayed via all the media giants. The “no” vote which finally prevailed was essentially delivered by the “anti-system” political forces which had decided to react against what seemed to them an agreement among the elites to impose liberalism on the people. Paradoxically, this referendum was organized by political leaders who immediately let it be known that the question was only being posed as a pure formality, since one could only reasonably and sensibly respond with a “yes.” They were therefore very surprised to observe that the people considered it a real question, and that one could just as well respond with a “no,” as the majority did.
This gap between the voters and their representatives is matched by an obvious sociological fracture, since it appeared all the larger where the voters’ social situation was difficult or precarious. “The feeling of experiencing a social rise or social decline,” notes François Miquet-Marty, “henceforth explains the vote better than belonging to this or that social category.” The perception of social identity can thus increasingly be derived from the subjective evaluation of an individual’s situation.
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech delivered in Stockholm on December 7, 2005, the dramatist Harold Pinter declared: “The majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lies. ” This is a viewpoint that summarizes the most widespread opinion fairly well. Everything indicates that what has disappeared is the relation of confidence between rulers and ruled. Now, where this confidence no longer exists, no consent is possible, for the former is a necessary condition of the latter.
So we are, as has been confirmed by many observers, confronted with a major crisis of representation. This should lead us to ask ourselves about the limits of representative democracy, but also about the relations between democracy and representation.
As Montesquieu reminds us, Antiquity was unfamiliar with any concept of representation. That concept appeared at the very beginning of the Middle Ages, a time when it was formed within the domain of public law under significant influence from private law (representation of the father by his son, or the son by his father, of the slave by his master, of a monastery by its abbot, etc.). Beginning in the eighteenth century, the idea became a key concept for the functioning of “liberal representative” regimes. Montesquieu again is one of the first to defend the argument, made thousands of times since, according to which the people, not well suited to making its own decisions, is perfectly capable of choosing its representatives:
There was a great fault in most ancient republics: that the people had the right to take active resolutions, and which demand some execution, something of which they are entirely incapable. The people should only enter into the government to choose its representatives, something well within its capacity. . . . It is important that the people do by way of a representative all which it cannot do by itself.
The argument, let us notice, does not consist in saying that within collectivities of a certain size the exercise of democracy is technically difficult, or even impossible. It is the aptitude of the people to make decisions itself which is questioned, without taking the trouble to explain how the people, legally declared incapable of deciding for itself, can suddenly magically become capable of choosing those who will have the job of deciding in its place.
For other authors, such as Bejamin Constant, the necessity of representation is derived from the division of labor. The thesis is in any case of liberal origin, since it derived from the representation of interests in private law. A great part of the non-liberal Right will rally to this position later on, often by way of elitism, when democracy has entered into people’s habits: When democracy is summarily defined as consecrating the “law of number,” representative democracy will be perceived as a lesser evil, since it amounts to drastically reducing the number of deciders.
Rousseau defended the converse of Montesquieu’s thesis. An advocate of the imperative mandate, he maintained that a people could only lose its sovereignty the moment it was turned over to representatives. The people must not allow its representatives decide in its place, says Rousseau, for if it “promises simply to obey, it thereby loses its character as a people; from the moment there is a master, there is no more sovereign, and from that time on the political body is destroyed.” The observation is not without its logic. But it is not this point of view which will win out: On August 26, 1789, the celebrated Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is passed by vote of the “representatives of the French people,” and during the whole Revolution, the most respected title will be that of “people’s representative.”
From that time forth, Western democracies have nearly all been representative, constitutional, parliamentary, and liberal democracies. The part played by the direct exercise of sovereignty is negligible to zero, the essential part of the political game being entrusted to representatives, and the prerogative of citizens being limited to designating them in the course of elections. The imperative mandate, consisting in giving representatives precise instructions that they must respect on pain of revocation, does not exist here — it has constantly been prohibited in France since the Revolution on the grounds especially that one elected “by the nation” also represents those who did not vote for him — public opinion only assuring a highly theoretical control of representatives in regard to the accounts they are pleased to give as to the mandate conferred upon them. From the liberal point of view, the representatives are perfectly justified even in contradicting the will of those who elected them provided that the formal procedural rules of their election continue to be respected. This is why, according to Bernard Manin, these democracies ought rather to bear the name of “representative governments” (Raymond Aron for his part spoke of “pluralistic constitutional regimes”).
Proudhon accepts representation, but on the express condition that techniques be employed allowing the “organization of democracy,” specifically to realize as much as possible an identity of interests between voters and representatives, rulers and ruled, in the absence of which this democracy would only be “mystification” or “tyranny”:
If the great act whose object is to produce national representation consists in uniting, once every three or five years, a bunch of designated citizens and having them name a deputy with a blank-check mandate, and who by virtue of this mandate represents not only those who gave him their vote but even those who voted against him, . . . if this is what is understood by universal suffrage, there is nothing to hope for, and our political system is a mystification and a tyranny.
This is why Proudhon rejects the idea of a general mandate granted by the people and wants to replace it with a series of special delegations that seem to him all the more justified given that, in his eyes, the people “is not a homogeneous, compact, undifferentiated entity.”
Not only does representation not form an intrinsic part of the concept of democracy, but many authors have considered that a democracy becomes ever less democratic insofar as it makes greater use of representation. Notably, this is the opinion of Carl Schmitt who, as we know, also defended the thesis of liberalism and democracy’s fundamental incompatibility.
In his Theory of the Constitution, where he distinguishes three different forms of representation, Schmitt emphasizes that the form which corresponds to the liberal conception of the State is directly borrowed from the techniques of private law: The representation of the electorate results from the adoption in the political sphere of the mandate model, allowing the representation (Vertretung) of private interests, either individual or collective. To this liberal conception of representation he opposes the Hobbesian conception (Repräsentation) the people’s political unity must be represented personally “as a whole.”
So it is important when we speak of the “crisis of representation” to understand from the outset that, from the beginning, representation has above all been a means of preventing the people from expressing themselves directly, and that the crisis in question apparently results from the people beginning to perceive this. This is what Jacques Rancière observes when he writes:
Representation has never been a system invented to relieve inconveniences caused by growing populations. It is not an adaptation of democracy to modern times or larger areas. It is a form of oligarchy plain and simple, a representation of minorities entitled to occupy themselves with public affairs. . . . The assumption that assimilates democracy to the representative form of government resulting from elections is very recent in history. In its origin, representation is the exact opposite of democracy. No one was unaware of this at the time of the American and French revolutions. The Founding Fathers and a number of their French imitators saw in it precisely the means whereby an elite could in fact exercise power in the name of the people, power which the elite is obliged to recognize belongs to the people, but which the people cannot exercise without ruining the very principle of government. . . . “Representative democracy” may sound like a pleonasm today, but at first it was an oxymoron.
Representation is by its very essence an oligarchic system, for it inevitably results in the formation of a dominant group whose members coopt one another into defending their own interests, first and foremost. The entire “elitist” school of political science (Pareto, Michels, Mosca, Wright Mills), moreover, has demonstrated how the system of representative and parliamentary democracy unavoidably leads the representatives to constitute themselves as an elite or oligarchy that gradually becomes more autonomous from those represented. This is one reason why, in a famous text which first appeared in February 1950 and was republished in 2006, Simone Weil advocated the suppression of political parties on the grounds that a party “is an organization constructed so as to exercise collective pressure over thought,” and that “the only goal of every political party is its own growth, and that without any limit.”
Distrust of representation, moreover, was one reason for the hostility to universal suffrage shown in the nineteenth century by the revolutionary and libertarian tendencies within the workers’ movement. “The Elector: Behold the enemy!” proclaimed Libertad in 1906 by means of a poster. In April 1848 Proudhon declared that “the surest means of getting a people to lie down is the institution of universal suffrage.” In his introduction to Reflections on Violence (1908), Georges Sorel wrote: “All deputies say that nothing more closely resembles a representative of the bourgeoisie than a representative of the proletariat.” In democracy reduced to representation, the people can just as well expropriate itself of its own character as a people by means of suffrage. “Democratic method then consists in the consensual renunciation of democracy as content,” remarks Costanzo Preve. Voting in fact is never anything but a technique of aggregating momentary preferences sanctioned by majority rule. And the people under the institution of universal suffrage has never had access to political sovereignty — i.e., to the sovereign capacity for decision — as a result.
Besides, the “people” has been considerably transformed over the course of the last few decades, especially as regards class membership. The near disappearance of “electoral families” of the sociological or religious type, where one voted regularly in the same way from generation to generation, has had the consequence of making the vote more volatile, the same voters successively giving their support to the most different candidates (or even successively supporting all the parties, without thereby considering themselves satisfied). Today, mere socio-professional belonging is not a determining element for electoral behavior any more than religious conviction.
Social classes have certainly not disappeared (in France, the working class still includes six million persons), but they have been restructured in complex strata and lost a good part of their identity, carried off as they have been since the age of the Fordist compromise that led to the middle classes’ inflation, into a vast movement of homogenization of desires or needs in which everyone wants more or less the same thing, but without the same means of getting it. Deprived of their habitus, the way of life, and even language that used to be specific to them, the popular strata have largely lost consciousness of themselves, which correspondingly restricts their capacity for mobilization. This loss of orientation is heightened today by the threats of downward social mobility weighing on the middle class.
Popular demands have thereby been transformed. Christopher Lasch already remarked that “not only do the new social movements — feminism, gay rights, welfare rights, agitation against racial discrimination — have nothing in common, but their only coherent demand aims at inclusion in the dominant structures rather than at a revolutionary transformation of social relations.” In fact, these movements do not aspire at all to a change in society, but on the contrary to ever greater integration into the system already in place. The excluded, one might say, reveal themselves as “included” in their very manner of denouncing exclusion. Demanding rights or recognition from the State, they become at once the State’s creditors and debtors.
This abandonment of any revolutionary perspective goes hand-in-hand with a sectorization and “privatization” of struggles that contrasts with the social movements of the past. We can take the measure of this change by remembering that originally, as Jacques Rancière reminds us,
the dispute regarding salaries was first of all a dispute seeking to deprivatize the salarial relation, to affirm that it was neither the relation of a master to a domestic servant, nor a mere contract signed on a case-by-case basis between two private individuals, but a public concern relating to a collective, and consequently implying forms of collective action, public discussion, and legislative rule. The “right to work” demanded by the workers’ movements in the nineteenth century first of all meant this: not the demand for assistance from a “welfare state” into which one has sought to assimilate, but the constitution of work as a structure of collective life torn free of the mere reign of private interests and imposing limits upon the naturally limitless process of accumulating wealth.
Modernity, born out of industrial capitalism, established itself as a movement that overturned the society of orders, rent, and status. Today we are watching an overturning of this overturning. The tertiarization of societies and the financialization of capital (and private estates[patrimoines]) mean that wealth no longer comes fundamentally from materially productive work: The economy has become “immaterial” and wealth is henceforward obtained by stock purchases, dividends, and monetary changes (in the United States, Bill Gates and Walmart have replaced Ford and General Motors). At the same time, larger States redistribute 15-20% of their budget in the form of financial income. Under such conditions, everyone aspires to recognition of a status. Whereas social conflicts used to be caused by antagonisms of production, today, having departed from the domain of class struggle, they gravitate around the defense of acquired positions and the demand for statutory rights. Teachers, nurses, farmers, railway workers, intermittent workers in the performing arts, and Airbus employees no longer demonstrate to “defend workers” (the working class), but only to defend their own interests in order to be guaranteed employment or better work conditions — i.e., a better status.
These demands are therefore no longer part of a fundamentally oppositional attitude toward the dominant order; on the contrary, they reinforce the public power by providing it with an ever-growing share of manna for redistribution. As Ahmed Henni writes,
Discourse is no longer based upon identifying workers as producers of values harmed by their condition as wage earners. It centers upon the idea that work of whatever sort is a status which deserves consideration and respect. . . . No one struggles any longer to get out of this status, but to remain in it — not get fired — and to extract statutory rights unrelated to the rules or antagonisms of capitalism, nor to any aspirations toward the free development of the individual by means of work. . . . Social struggles are no longer essentially circumscribed within the sphere of material production and aiming at a better financial distribution of the wealth produced between bosses and workers. Such struggles do not so much oppose social groups as express the demand of one group for an improvement in its situation — not to the detriment of another group, but in search of greater social recognition involving better financial returns.
The Left, as has already been said, has cut itself off from the people today. As the Communist Party becomes more social-democratic, the Socialist Party itself has ceased to affirm itself as socialist, limiting itself to wanting to temper the market society by placing greater weight on public action [une valorisation de l’action publique], as the classic concepts regarding capital’s technical and organic composition (labor power, accumulation, surplus value) disappear from its discourse and practice. Under the pretext of “realism” and in conformity with the demands of the “modern world,” the great majority of socialists adhere to all the canons of managerial orthodoxy, while politics becomes nothing more than a set of practices and institutional games [jeux institutionnels] meant to conquer, exercise, and preserve a form of power whose center and peripheries are unstable.
Social democracy, ever since its creation, has proposed an alliance between working parties and certain other social actors because it thought, on the basis of an analysis of social classes, that such an alliance would allow better mobilization regarding the social question and democratic reforms. Socialists today have abandoned that vision because they, too, have become incapable of articulating individual revolt and social mobilization in relation to any genuine collective project. As Roland Guillon observes, “Everything happens as if the directing thought of the Socialist Party were based on the paradigms of territorial governance or expertise instead of a frontal confrontation with one essential aspect of any social reality connected with capitalism: the tensions between the individual and the collective.”
The rise of “social” liberalism has done the rest. Having left the field open to the liberals in the economic and social domains, the “caviar Left,” i.e. the liberal and Leftist grande bourgeoisie, being as morally permissive as it is indifferent to social questions, keeps its distance from popular milieus in which it no longer recognizes itself. “The caviar Left lives geographically far from the poor classes,” admits Laurent Joffrin. By a strange process, it also decided to cut itself off from them politically. This occurred by means of a cultural and ideological operation displaying a tragic frivolity: the spiriting away of the people.”HH
Alexander Zinoviev designated this New Class a “supra-society”; in Russia today, it calls itself the “creative class.” Faced with a people it both fears and despises, it constitutes an oligarchic authority concerned mainly with preserving its privileges and reserving access to power for those who come from its own ranks.
This contempt for the people feeds, of course, on a critique of “populism” which assimilates it to any form of demagogy and mass irrationalism. Having become a political insult, populism is presented as a sort of permanent “infantile disorder” of democracy with a view both to pejorize and disqualify it. Recourse to the term “populism” thus furnishes a theoretical, if not learned, way of justifying dismissal of the people.
In France, the rallying of a large part of the old working class to the National Front (NF) played a decisive role in this respect. In effect, it allowed the Left to repudiate the people on the pretext that it “thinks badly,” whereas a loudly broadcast but conventional anti-racism allowed it to mask its own ideological meanderings. Anti-LePenism was thus substituted for anti-capitalism, a valuable alibi allowing them to relegate the social question to the background at the very moment it was reemerging with a strength unseen since the post-war era [“Trente Glorieuses”]. That the popular classes vote for the NF makes it possible to hold them responsible for the rise of a party regularly characterized as morally unworthy and politically nefarious. These classes then see themselves being disqualified by contagion. As Annie Collovald writes, “Only socially illegitimate voters can identify with the illegitimate ideas of this party.” By way of contrast, the affluent grande bourgeoisie sees itself issued with a certificate of right-mindedness and moral superiority inherent in its class position: Protected by its standard of living, it is sheltered from the “bad ideas” in which the people take pleasure. At the same time, this allows them to pay no attention to cultural insecurity, social misery, the explosion of inequality, the effects of free trade, stock option scandals, and “golden parachutes.”
This is an attitude which, of course, more than ever masks a diffuse fear of the “dangerous classes.” To fight populism is to ensure that the elites are not threatened by this people which must be neutralized. Such a procedure, writes Jacques Rancière,
both masks and reveals the oligarchy’s great wish: to govern without any people, i.e. without any division of the people; to govern without politics. . . . It allows them to interpret any movement of struggle against the depolitization carried out in the name of historical necessity as a manifestation of a backward fraction of the population or of an obsolete ideology.
This use of the term “populism,” which resembles that of “an amulet used to conjure away evil spirits,” has not escaped the attention of Laurent Joffrin, who observes:
As soon as an idea does not have the establishment’s endorsement, it is tossed aside under the slanderous label “populism.” . . . A strange semantic reaction: The word being at once vague and very pejorative, it amounts to saying that any demand of the people is by definition illegitimate and dangerous. Any idea is populist which comes from the people and displeases progressive elites.
Whence the question posed by Annie Collovald: “Is not the stigmatization of the popular via the ‘populism of the National Front’ the sign of a new intellectual and political configuration in which today’s political elites (and their auxiliaries and advisors) no longer see the popular groups as a cause to be defended, but as a ‘classless people’ which has become a problem to be solved?”
We know that, from the liberal point of view, democracy has never been characterized as the regime that allows the broadest popular participation: Such participation is, on the contrary, perceived as having more inconveniences than advantages. Thus, abstention is not viewed unfavorably by liberals who, in the past, always sought to restrict the citizens’ political capacity whether by opposing the vote for women or by favoring property qualifications.
Today there are several ways of removing the people from politics. The most classic is of course taking recourse to the media and the entertainment business, television, and sports and shows, which obviously allow the people to be “distracted” in the Pascalian sense of the term. The media, moreover, never cease sanctifying the existing order by constantly giving us to understand that we live, if not in the best of all possible societies, at any rate in the least bad. Citizens are systematically diverted or conditioned in order to mask the obvious fact that matters are henceforward being decided without them. Critical thought is thus weakened by removing its raison d’être. The increasing homogenization of ways of life — as “pluralism” and “diversity” are everywhere celebrated — works in the same direction, for it leads the members of society to share the same desires and needs without the difference in their purchasing power altering anything about market demands.
As political life itself is assimilated to a market, and the citizens’ vote becomes an act of purchase, democracy naturally becomes the reign of the consumer “zipping” between party programs as he does between commercial products or television networks. The participation of individuals in public life thus comes about not by political engagement, but through communion with a public opinion shaped by the media in a form which itself witnesses to the disappearance of any social body capable of a collective interpretation of currents events. Media ideology is the vehicle of a representation of the world as homogeneous as it is politically correct, and which substitutes itself for the social conscience as a “false consciousness” of reality. The citizen-people is transformed
into a people of passive and irresponsible spectators. The political spectacle masks basic problems, substitutes charm and personality for political programs, and numbs the capacity for reasoning and judgment for the benefit of emotional reactions and irrational feelings of attraction and antipathy. With media politics, the citizens are infantilized. They are no longer engaged in public life; they are alienated, manipulated by gadgets and images.
This is something Silvio Berlusconi understood well. He twice became Prime Minister of his country, and his ideology, perfected within his private company, permanently based itself on the language of management, i.e. on a collection of beliefs concerning economic efficiency as well as the techniques of a commercial television and spectator sports industry dealing in cheap dreams [dispensatrice de rêves à bon compte]. Not only did politics become with him a sort of continuation of seductive advertising by other means, but it was mainly with reference to his practice as a private entrepreneur that he sought to legitimize himself as the CEO of “Italy incorporated.” “With his entry into politics,” writes Pierre Musso, “didn’t Berlusconi merely push commercial logic to its conclusion by treating the citizen-voter as a telespectator-consumer, i.e. by managing his passage from the shopping cart to the voting booth by way of the small screen?”
Another way of diverting attention consists in rewriting social problems in terms of individual psychology in order to lose sight of responsibilities or real causes. For the State, the loss of control over economic or financial activity over which it previously had authority in effect makes it ever less capable of responding to social demands. Whence the need to “psychologize” social problems in individual terms, which allows the system in place to treat them no longer in a properly political fashion but in a humanitarian and moral fashion, at once compassionate and lachrymose. In a society that proclaims its love of the poor with all the greater strength the more of them it manufactures every day, socialism in practice is gradually replaced by associative charity and the appeal to private generosity, punitive hygienics [l’hygiénisme punitif], and the recipes of self-management. Social struggles are then reduced to claims of victimhood, i.e. to trying to collect dividends from the symbolic preeminence of victim status, with the individual who seeks to identify the parties responsible for his fate finally being referred back to himself.
Liberalism pushes naturally toward this subjectivization of social problems. Robert Kurz observes:
The social system’s dominant order was raised by [liberal ideology] to the rank of a law of nature above all critical evaluation, so the responsibility for any negative experience can only fall on individuals in the immediate framework of their lives. Everyone is therefore personally responsible for his own sufferings and misfortunes. . . . The system per se can never be guilty.
“In sum,” writes Zygmunt Bauman, “individuals are condemned to resolve the system’s contradictions at the biographical level.”
In his book on democracy, Jacques Rancière does not merely develop the idea that “hatred of democracy” is today the result of liberal elites who seek by all possible means to conjure away the specter of a popular power contesting the existing order of things. He very correctly said that this hatred is nourished by a “compulsion to rid oneself of the people, and with it, of politics itself,” and that “under the name of democracy, what is implied and denounced is politics itself.” Slavoj Žižek also speaks of “post-politics”: “In post-politics, the conflict between global ideological visions incarnated by different parties finds itself replaced by collaboration between enlightened technocrats and devotees of liberal multiculturalism; through the process of negotiating interests, a compromise is reached in the form of a more or less universal consensus.”
This post-democracy is nothing but the program of liberal capitalism in its postmodern form. It is a social project whose fundamental raison d’être is to legitimate and keep in place the dominant order by creating conditions that are as favorable as possible for social adjustment in accordance with the planetary expansion of the logic of capital. It is a matter of “reforming” democracy by depriving it of its content to render it compatible with the evolution of the world, dictated by the mutations of Form-Capital. Already in the 1970s, the leaders of the Trilateral Commission asked themselves how they could fight against the “excesses of democracy,” the general idea being that democracy is only “governable” when the people no longer has any means of making itself heard. It is to this task that the theoreticians of governance and the new liberal world order are devoted to this very day, the ideal being to govern without the people — and finally against them.
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 To cite only a few recent titles: Daniel Innerarity, La Démocratie sans l’État (Flammarion); Daniel Bougnoux, La Crise de la représentation (La Découverte); Bernard Stiegler, La Télécratie contre la démocratie (Flammarion);
Raymond Boudon, Renouveler la démocratie (Odile Jacob); Robert Kurz, Critique de la démocratie balistique (Mille et une Nuits) ; Matthieu Baumier, La Démocratie totalitaire (Presses de la Renaissance); Robert Charvin, Vers la post-démocratie (Le Temps des cerises); Samuel Pelras, La Démocratie libérale en proces (L’Harmattan), etc. Cf. also Jean-Pierre Le Goff, La Démocratie post-totalitaire (Paris : La Découverte, 2002); Marcel Gauchet, Comprendre le malheur français (with Éric Conan and François Azouvi) (Paris: Stock, 2016).
 Matthieu Baumier, La Démocratie totalitaire. Penser la modernité postdémocratique (Paris: Presses de la Renaissance, (Paris: 2007), 11. Cf. also Colin Crouch, Post-Democracy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004); and Guy Hermet, “La gouvernance serait-elle le nom de l’apres-démocratie ?”, in Guy Hermet, Ali Kazancigil, &
Jean-François Prudhomme (eds.), La Gouvernance. Un concept et ses applications (Paris: Karthala, 2005, 17-47).
 CSA-Le Parisien poll, October 6-7, 2005.
 TNT-Sofres poll carried out March 8-9, 2006.
 Barometre politique français (Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po/Ministry of the Interior), published May 17, 2006.
 Robert Kurz, Avis aux naufragés. Chroniques du capitalisme mondialisé en crise, texts translated by Olivier Galtier et al. (Paris: Lignes-Manifeste, 2004), 49.
 Robert Charvin, Vers la post-démocratie? (Pantin: Le Temps des cerises), 45. The obligation incumbent since 1976 upon candidates for the presidential election, even if they are already leaders of parties representing more than 10 or 15% of the electorate, of finding 500 mayors disposed to sponsor their candidacies draws democracy in an oligarchic direction, since it amounts to according a right of veto to local officials. To give just one example: a CSA poll carried out on January 4, 2006 indicated that 26% of Frenchmen wished that Jean-Philippe Allenbach, founding President of the Federalist Party, which adheres to the ideas of Guy Héraud and Alexandre Marc, might take part in the presidential election of 2007. The same poll revealed an intention of voting for him of about 12%. Unable to obtain the 500 signatures, Allenbach was unable to run.
 The polemics which developed in 2006 concerning the projected Bolkenstein directive were no less revealing: They originated when voters realized that a European Commissioner could, on his own authority and without any debate, make decisions that demanded decisive social and economic regulations. This confirmed that the European project, with no democratic legitimacy, was moving in a direction whose correctness could not be questioned.
 François Miquet-Marty, « Les quatre crises de la représentation politique » in Esprit, February 2006, 83.
 “The ancients were unfamiliar with government based upon a body of nobles, and still less with government based on a legislature consisting of representatives of the nation.” Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, XI, 8.
 Ibid., XI, 6 and II, 2.
 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book I, chapter 1.
 Cf. William L. McBride, “The End of Liberal Democracy as We Have Known It?”, in Synthesis Philosophica, 2005, no. 2, 461-470.
 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, OEuvres completes, vol. 13 (Geneva: Slatkine, 1982), 275-276.
 Ibid., 280.
 Carl Schmitt, Théorie de la Constitution, translated by Lilyane Deroche (Paris: PUF, 1993).
 We will note, however, that a mandatary is normally supposed to be accountable to the person who mandates him and can be recalled in the course of his mandate. This is not the case with a parliamentary representative who, not being subject to an imperative mandate, cannot be recalled over the course of his term of office, is not accountable to his voters, and enjoys an absolute immunity for the legal acts he performs in the exercise of his office. It is with a view to this difference between the deputy and the mandatary in the sense of private law that Carré de Malberg was able to say that in the course of elections, citizens do not so much delegate a power to their representatives as confer a status upon them (whence they derive their power). “The deputy,” he writes, “is neither the mandatary nor the delegate nor the representative of his voters. He is their elected, and not commissioned by them. The same idea has been expressed by saying that what the people give those they elect in an election is not a mandate but their confidence. To characterize elections as an act of confidence is also to note that on the voters’ part it is rather an act of surrender rather than an act of mastery. (Contribution à la théorie générale de l’État, vol. 2 [Paris: Sirey, 1922], no. 347).
 Jacques Ranciere, La Haine de la démocratie (Paris: La Fabrique, 2005), 60-61. Cf. also Pierre Rosanvallon, Le Peuple introuvable. Histoire de la représentation démocratique en France (Paris: Gallimard, 1998).
 Simone Weil, Note sur la suppression générale des partis politiques [1940 in Écrits de Londres] (Paris: Climats, 2006), 35.
 Costanzo Preve, Il popolo al potere. Il problema della democrazia nei suoi aspetti storici e filosofici (Casalecchio: Arianna, 2006), p. 203. Cf. also Pierre Rosanvallon, Le Sacre du citoyen. Histoire du suffrage universel en France (Paris: Gallimard, 1992).
 While the Fordist compromise undeniably homogenized society by integrating the masses into consumption, it did not realize equality of conditions. Rather, it offered a higher standard of living to the greatest number in order to allow an economy to function that permitted a small number to benefit from a standard of living immeasurably higher and thus to reinforce its grip on society.
 Cf. Jean-Noël Chopart & Claude Martin (ed.), Que reste-t-il des classes sociales? (Rennes: éditions de l’École nationale de la santé publique, 2004); Jean Lojkine, L’Adieu a la classe moyenne (Paris: La Dispute, 2005); Louis Chauvel, Les Classes moyennes a la dérive (Paris: Seuil, 2006); Louis Maurin & Patrick Savidan (eds.), L’État des inégalités en France 2007 (Paris: Belin, 2006); Louis Chauvel, La Spirale du déclassement. Essai sur la société des illusions (Paris: Seuil, 2016).
 Christopher Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (New York: Norton, 1995), 27. Cf. also Serge Denis, L’Action politique des mouvements sociaux d’aujourd’hui. Le déclin du politique comme proces de politisation ? (Sainte-Foy, Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2006).
 Jacques Rancière, La Haine de la démocratie, 63-64.
 Ahmed Henni, « Fin de la modernité ? Une mutation capitaliste: le retour des sociétés de statut et de rente », in Les Temps modernes, September-October 2006, 200-202.
 Cf. « Mais ou est passée la gauche ? », in Éléments, no. 99, November 2000, 23-44.
 Roland Guillon, Les Avatars d’une pensée dirigeante. Le cas du parti socialiste (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2005), 40.
 The same phenomenon has occurred in the United States, where for some time we have been witnessing a real transformation of the Democratic Party. Under the influence of political correctness and rampant matriarchy, it now devotes itself to a lifestyle politics that amounts to abandoning the people to the Republicans.
 Laurent Joffrin, Histoire de la gauche caviar (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2006).
 “According to this conception,” writes Guy Harmet, “we must remain as much as possible among ourselves, among competent, professional people, by removing troublemakers” (« Nous sommes en 1775. Gouvernance et apres-démocratie », in Catholica, Summer 2005, 12). Cf. also Nathalie Brion & Jean Brousse, La Bulle. La France divorce de ses élite (Paris: La Table Ronde, 2006).
 Annie Collovald, « Le populisme : de la valorisation a la stigmatisation du populaire », in Hermes, no. 42, 2005, 156. The author of an essay in which she disputes the label “national populist” given to the National Front, especially by Pierre-André Taguieff (Le « populisme du FN » : un dangereux contresens [Broissieux: éditions du Croquant, 2004), Annie Collovald also reminds us that historically speaking, “populism” is a current clearly associated with the Left, and that the “appeal to the people” was originally “a strategy aiming to give authority and dignity to social groups excluded from political representation, and along with them, to secure a hearing for the social and political causes they defended” (art. cit., 159).
 Jacques Ranciere, La Haine de la démocratie, 88.
 Laurent Joffrin, Histoire de la gauche caviar.
 Annie Collovald, Le « populisme du FN » : un dangereux contresens, 159.
 Cf. François Brune, De l’idéologie, aujourd’hui (Lyon: Parangon, 2005), 141-145; « L’idéal démocratique dévoyé », in Le Monde diplomatique, May 1997.
 Gilles Lipovetsky, L’Empire de l’éphémère (Paris: Gallimard, 1987), 236. Christopher Lasch makes the same observation: “When politicians and administrators have no other aim than to sell their leadership to the public, they deprive themselves of intelligible standards by which to define the goals of specific policies or to evaluate success or failure.” (The Culture of Narcissism, 78). On this subject cf. also Javier Barraycoa, Du pouvoir dans la modernité et la postmodernité, translated by Emmanuel Albert (Paris: Hora Decima, 2005), 134-135; and Bernard Stiegler, La télécratie contre la démocratie. Lettre ouverte aux représentants politiques (Paris: Flammarion, 2006).
 Pierre Musso, « Le phénomene Berlusconi : ni populisme ni vidéocratie, mais néo-politique », in Hermes, no. 42, 2005, 177. He adds that “the stainless smile and permanent tan of the Cavaliere” go back to the “playful creativity promoted by neomanagement. . . . His smile also covers grief: that of the ‘seriousness’ of the State and its institutions, and social and cultural mediation originating in Fordist capitalism. This cult of the smile is one of the signs of televisual and managerial training of the ideal body: young, sporty, happy, triumphant. . . . Berlusconi’s wager is that of affirming that the symbolic body in the age of neopolitics is no longer that of the State, but that of the CEO and the television host” (ibid., 178).
 Robert Kurz, Avis aux naufragés. Chroniques du capitalisme mondialisé en crise, 47-48.
 Zygmunt Bauman, La Société assiégée, translated by Christophe Rosson (Rodez: Le Rouergue-Chambon, 2005), 271. Cf. also Caroline Eliacheff & Daniel Soulez Larivière, Le Temps des victims (Paris: Albin Michel 2007).
 Jacques Ranciere, La Haine de la démocratie, 89 and 40.
 Slavoj Žižek, Plaidoyer en faveur de l’intolérance (Castelnau-le-Lez: Climats, 2004), 39.
 This term defined in Chapter 5 as “[c]apital insofar as it forms global society, and insofar as it becomes the general form of that society.” — Tr.
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