In the past week, comments have surfaced from Francis Fukuyama – aka the man who prophesied that the perceived ascendancy of ‘liberalism’ in the late 80s and early 90s meant history was now ‘over’ – claiming Chinese system is a “real alternative” to ‘Western democracy’.
Fukuyama’s comments can be, ‘read’ here: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3003547/chinas-authoritarian-way-can-rival-liberal-democracy-if-it
I am SHOCKED, SHOCKED I TELL YOU , that the man who thought Neoliberal Technocracy had ‘won’ history … is keen to endorse a Neoliberal Technocracy.
I mean, leaving aside the argument that this is actually a dialectical situation in and of itself – the PRC in its present state representing a ‘continuance’, a ‘furtherance’ of the developmental trajectory that Fukuyama mistakenly assumed would end with a ‘Whiggian’ victory, rather than a ‘merger’ with something that had previously been ‘beaten’ …
I suspect that this position, all-up, is going to become an increasingly common one within the circles of those who, twenty to thirty years ago (or even, in some parts, five years ago) were the most ardent defenders of “Liberal Democracy” [uber or unter alles].
The reasoning for this is quite simple. Democracy, when actually practiced, is “messy”. It features arguments, debates. The clash of ideas at its finest .. the clashes of print-barons at its lowest .. and the clash of ‘mobs’, variously motivated, at some (all?) points in between.
It throws up potentially ‘unpredictable’ outcomes – the recent #Brexit referendum result, for example. Or Trump. Or the referendum and more recently poll results in the now-former Soviet Bloc and Russia respectively about preserving/resurrecting the USSR.
Here in New Zealand, it threw up blatantly predictable outcomes, in 1990 say, when it came to opposing and thence rolling back the Neoliberal Revolution here. Which could not be allowed to stand, by the neoliberal technocrats of their (our 🙁 ) day.
And that’s actually at the heart of each one of those ‘unpredictable’ outcomes I just cited two paragraphs up. They were all arguably “predictable”. If not in their precise minutiae nor actual scale of achievement – then at the very least, in the large-scale and shouted from the rooftops and across the town square volume of their systemic discontent with the extant (and “unchallengeable”) status quo.
This, you see, is why the Technocrat both fears and loathes Democracy.
Because not only do they find themselves confronted by a patently superior power, insofar as it is ‘unmanageable’ except on the broadest possible terms – like poking and prodding some great and ineffable beast, hoping it’ll go in the right direction rather than kick back against the goad-wielder … but because, as part and parcel of this, that, it refuses to just lie down and submit to the “superior logic” of whichever teleological fad-ridden moribund die-deology we find ourselves confronted with today.
Hence the ongoing efforts at every possible turn to try and neuter it, to invert it. To insist that “some things are too important to be left to the people” [so can, will, and must be left to the unelected economists and policy-wonks instead].
Now, it is a curious thing – in the mid-late 1990s, and more especially earlier, “Liberal Democracy” was conceived of as being … if not the “antidote” to Democracy, then at the very least, as a worthwhile ‘salve’ for its wilder potential impulses. You could corall and constrain and thence restrain and ‘restructure’ [a gloriously internally contradictory Neoliberal term to effectively mean to “destroy” something whilst simultaneously pretencing at maintenance of its key elements of integrity] Democracy – the actual, untrammelled popular will – and thus straight-up subvert it with the material trappings of the late Capitalist mid Neoliberalist Age.
The idea, then, was that people would not willingly nor knowingly vote to preserve their own voices, or the Post-War Economic Consensus, etc, provided you dangled enough shiny in their faces. Whether the pyrite of “prosperity” [selectively trickluar – both in the sense of ‘trickle’-down, but more directively, a “trick”], or the understandable, yet often equally illusory promises of the most recent generations of “rights”.
Except it didn’t quite work out that way.
And now, nearly three decades on, the very structures that were supposed to provide some sort of bulwark against the Hearing of the People Sing – indeed, against the People stirring to Song in the first place – have proven repeatedly to have failed at this very endeavour.
There are still anti-democratic forces and structural conceits in play, of course – and one only has to look at exactly what happened to Greece around its own referendum on Austerity some years ago, to see just this sort of thing in motion.
But overwhelmingly, the sense is that this “Democracy” thing … produces loud, uncouth, and “I refuse to accept that what you’re telling me is The Only Way” approaches that won’t just lay down and go with the fundamental paradigm of endless wars of ‘humanitarian intervention’, of ever-tighter state budgets yet ever looser financial controls, and some sort of inexorable doom-march back to the darkest reaches of the 1920s drug-capitalism [by which I don’t directly mean alcohol-running: I mean quite directly “This Is your Economy On Drugs”, in terms of its shaping and essential performative/irrationalizing characteristics. Some sort of delusory, dissociative, and fundamentally health-wrecking, life-ending concoction of the bath-salts of the bastargeoise, one presumes] .
So what do we get instead? The casting about to find an ‘alternative paradigm’. One that still combines the vague glitzyness of “proven economic success”, yet without that ‘troublesome’, quarrelsome “Democracy” thing to upset whomever’s carefully laid get-rich-long-term scheme. [Like a “Pyramid Scheme”, except it’s actually an Aztec Ziggurat … replete with the “trickle down” of the blood of young “necessary casualties”, required to keep the whole thing lubricated and in sun-raising ‘running’ order]
Where’s got this? The People’s Republic of China, apparently.
And I would be very surprised if their ongoing Soft Power offensive at providing various incentives to people to Say Nice Things About Them, had absolutely nothing to do with Fukuyama’s remarks now entering the public arena.
My point is: I understand why it was that these sorts were so keen on “Liberal Democracy” twenty to thirty years ago. Just as I understand why they’re already so keen on what they perceive to be its antithesis [see?There’s that Dialectic again!] today, and just as they seemed to be so enthusiastic about the fruits of “Illiberal Democracy” [think Singapore] perhaps five to fifteen years ago.
It’s because, deep down, they want “control”. And they don’t want to have to “waste time” explaining to the people being controlled as to why whatever counter-intuitive, counter-productive, counter-cosmological contrivance they’ve pledged undying allegiance to this time is actually a Really Good Idea despite all available lived experience evidence to the contrary.
For this, the “Chinese Model”, is a spectacularly immanent success.