THE TRAGEDY OF DEMOCRACY
PUBLISHED: 6th November, 2019 | By COVFEFE THE SAXON
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a global paradigm shift materialized as the decades-long ideological dispute of the Cold War had finally come to an end. Western liberal democratic states proclaimed that a great ideological victory had been won against Marxist-Leninism, much like the liberal democratic triumphs following the First and Second World Wars. Consequently, neo-conservatives (particularly those in the Anglosphere), reiterated Francis Fukuyama's dialectical theory of the future belonging to liberal democratic states. and the end of history. However, almost thirty years since the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, the era of liberal democratic expansion has come to its conclusion; we are currently witnessing the rising powers of Russia and China – neither of which are liberal nor democratic – challenge the post-war liberal international order, all the while Western nations incrementally drift away from the quality of democracy. While the end of the Cold War and the triumph of democracy and neoliberalism brought great optimism and promise, it has tragically produced a nefarious elite class of globalist oligarchs bent incessantly on increasing profits and GDP figures at the expense of the cultural traditions, social cohesion, and native inhabitants of Western nation-states.
From Classical Antiquity to the modern era, the cycle of democratic regimes rising and succumbing to an oligarchic elite is rife throughout Western history. In Book VIII and XI of Plato’s ‘The Republic,’ Socrates (Plato’s preceptor) outlines the ‘Kyklos’ – the political cycle of governments – that were observed during the Archaic period of Greece. For Socrates, it was an inevitable phenomenon for city-states to violently transition to democracy from autocracy only to incrementally oscillate back to autocracy under the misdirection and avarice of an elite political class.
Socrates begins by hypothesizing that there inevitably comes a time in each autocracy when capital accumulates amongst a smaller elite, thus producing a society with an enormous socioeconomic gap, where the poor remain economically disadvantageous, while the rich prosper off the blood, sweat, and toil of others. As consequence, Socrates forecasted a polarization whereby the people will cry out for freedom and liberty thereby sewing the seeds of revolution, and from this civil strife, blood will be spilled, lives will be lost, but out of the carnage the people will rally behind one man, or a few men, whom they believe to be their benevolent savior against the people’s oppressors. As the dust settles, the old regime will be overthrown, democracy will be proclaimed, and the people will endow their believed savior and anoint him and a new regime with the responsibilities and powers to bring liberty, equality, and justice for all. However, it is from this phase that Socrates cautions as the most turbulent. Having overthrown the old regime and tasted freedom, Socrates anticipated that the populace, having become intoxicated from their newly found ecstasy, would begin to contest any type of authority all the while demanding ever greater rights and freedoms, even going so far as to disregard all required aspects of social cohesion to attain greater liberty. Whether this occurs in a single generation or over many is not delineated by Socrates, but what is clear is how precarious the situation has become for the newly democratically elected leaders. Realizing the volatility of their situation, the newly elected leaders would distract the people via gratuitous wars, and circus maximus all the while drafting and passing legislation over an incremental period to consolidate and bolster their positions, thus creating a new ruling class. Where once the people initially sought liberty, they instead created a new and insidious ruling class antithetical to their interests. Sound familiar?
It’s easy to fathom why Plato was such an ardent critic of democracy. After all, his compadre and mentor, Socrates, was tried and executed in 399 B.C., under the auspices of Athenian democracy. Consequently, Plato would chronicle the adjudication of Socrates within ‘the Apology.’ Moreover, there’s perhaps an odious analogy to be made after examining Socrates’ assessments. From Classical Antiquity to the modern era, Western political history has been one reminiscent of a Nietzschean eternal recurrence of subjugation, revolution, and again subjugation. Though Socrates and Plato were certainly no advocates of democratic rule as both thought it would create states governed by a duplicitous ruling class; consider the course of Western history since the advent of the Enlightenment.
Following the emergence of popular sovereignty with the American and French revolutions, which were arguably precipitated by the massive socioeconomic gaps between rich and poor as previously delineated by Socrates, Western nation-states sought, and in most cases, succeed in overthrowing Europe’s ancient dynastic regimes all the while replacing them with Constitutional Monarchies or republics founded on liberal axioms. Parallel to the demos of Socrates’ hypothetical city-state, the various nations of Western Europe established new regimes and well-regulated institutions following the Age of Revolution, and while these liberal democratic regimes have endured through two world wars and the subsequent Cold War, the triumph of neoliberalism following the implosion of the Soviet bloc has given birth to an unscrupulous globalist elite class which bears no allegiance to any nation or central authority. These oligarchs operate an international system where the inestimable flow of capital is capable to sew financial chaos and panic which can bring down any nation-state or aspiring political movement that is imprudent enough to challenge it. The free trade and open border policies of the past thirty years have engendered countless negative externalities, all the while provisioning would be geopolitical challengers to Western hegemony. Such policies could not have been implemented by any Western nation-state or government unless the statesmen who legislated such treaties were embroiled in a quid pro quo with these nefarious globalist oligarchs who are resolved on increasing GDP figures at the expense of the cultural fabric and social cohesion of the nation-state.
How does this bode for the future? Not too well, at least initially. I personally suspect that as the decades progress, vicissitudes in demographics, social cohesion, and shifting volatility of global economies coupled with runaway technology will give way to rising existential threats to national security – both domestically and internationally – whereby citizens and governments of Western modernity will find it increasingly tempting and necessary to enact draconian policies, thus heralding the rise of a modern Ceaser to ameliorate the nation’s crises. However, this is just my own opinion.
What is clear is that while liberal democracy is perhaps the 20th century’s most successful political ideology, its ethos is slowly eroding. A void is growing between the people and the designated political elite chosen to represent them. Globalist special interests have corrupted the means by which people are governed, and all around the world, fledging democracies are incrementally yielding to the enticements of nationalism to restore order and the rule of law. The platonic prognosis of democracy leading to states being ruled by contemptible elites bears considerable merit, especially in our current era of incessant globalization. Democracies across the world are suffering at the hands of elites, but the West can reinvigorate itself through a nationalist renaissance. Time will tell whether the West can reassert the general will and principles of civic nationalism or be confined to the whims and yoke of globalist oligarchs.
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