Did Neo-Liberalism Kill Off Democracy?
The Guardian, continuing with its series on Generation Y or “the millennials”, has published a rather disturbing article today: “Have millennials given up on democracy?“. It would be one of the great ironies of Late Modernity (a time full of great ironies in any case), if the greatest accomplishment of neo-liberalism was the total discrediting of the institutions of democracy.
Millennials can, perhaps, be forgiven for their apparent antipathy towards democracy. They have grown up knowing only neo-liberal or neo-conservative regime (equivalent in any case) as being practically synonymous with the meaning of democracy. Thanks to a pernicious propaganda that has managed to make words like “capitalism” and “democracy” equivalent in meaning, I’m not surprised that millennials have developed a great antipathy to democracy.
Not exactly what Mr. Fukuyama expected from his “end of history”. But it brings to mind Nietzsche’s forecast that the triumph of liberal institutions would be a Cadmean victory that would result in their own self-negation.
What’s most disturbing about this antipathy is that it is apparently increasing from generation to generation. So, yes indeed, it is the “end of the Grand Narrative” to all appearances.
We have to soberly face the fact, it seems, that the word “democracy” has become bankrupt of any determinate meaning in a time when every capitalist, communist or fascist regime calls itself “true democracy”. There may be no real way of salvaging the word “democracy” from the wreckage and decadence of democratic institutions, or wrestling it away from the cynicism of the propagandists.
It’s not the ideals of democracy that have become decadent. It’s the institutions and language of democracy. That seems pretty clear from Mr. Safi’s article. The young are still politically engaged. Some sense of social justice still seems to motivate them. But the old language doesn’t speak to them any longer.
Having watched The Big Short last night, I can well understand that growing antipathy to democracy, not to leave unmentioned the Iraq War, which probably did more damage to the meaning of “democracy”, and discredited it even moreso, than the fraud, corruption, delusive thinking and groupthink of the 2008 market meltdown. It’s all a part of “blowback” from the pursuit of a pernicious ideology.
It’s hard to say what the political ideals of the younger generations might be. Mr. Safi doesn’t seem to know or to speak to that. It seems an open question which direction this might take, some form of “technocracy” being one possibility, which I find completely unpalatable as that would imply that the “integral consciousness” might very well be abortive. It could be otherwise, though — something more holistic and ecological.
It’s an open question.