Can liberal democracy survive the 21st century?

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Can liberal democracy survive the 21st century?



I was reading a recent issue of Newsweek on a night bus to Santiago, and it had a ЁglobalЁ poll of confidence in world leaders. The theme of the story was that strongmen like Jintao and Putin did well, but not democrats like Sarkozy. Gordon Brown was the third most popular leader among those available to chose.

Itґs already under attack at home, with elements such as the patrio act in the USA and the police state in the UK. In Europe, thereґs a growing disregard for democracy, as the continent shifts power from elected asemblies to appointed bureaucrats in Brussels.

What seems like a more serious threat is international competition. Certain states that are not liberal democracies such as the united arab emirates, China, Russia are doing very well... if they keep it up, they will be on ЁtopsЁ, and then their way of doing thing will be the model to follow and the model that is followed.

It will be a historically interesting year as it will be the first one in like six, seven or eight hundred years that the occident is not dominant.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture


The question is often asked: given the explosion of capitalism in China, when will democracy assert itself there, as capital’s ‘natural’ political form of organisation? The question is often put another way: how much faster would China’s development have been if it had been combined with political democracy? But can the assumption be made so easily? In a TV interview a couple of years ago, Ralf Dahrendorf linked the increasing distrust of democracy in post-Communist Eastern Europe to the fact that, after every revolutionary change, the road to new prosperity leads through a ‘vale of tears’. After socialism breaks down the limited, but real, systems of socialist welfare and security have to be dismantled, and these first steps are necessarily painful. The same goes for Western Europe, where the passage from the welfare state model to the new global economy involves painful renunciations, less security, less guaranteed social care. Dahrendorf notes that this transition lasts longer than the average period between democratic elections, so that there is a great temptation to postpone these changes for short-term electoral gain. Fareed Zakaria has pointed out that democracy can only ‘catch on’ in economically developed countries: if developing countries are ‘prematurely democratised’, the result is a populism that ends in economic catastrophe and political despotism. No wonder that today’s economically most successful Third World countries (Taiwan, South Korea, Chile) embraced full democracy only after a period of authoritarian rule.

Following this path, the Chinese used unencumbered authoritarian state power to control the social costs of the transition to capitalism. The weird combination of capitalism and Communist rule proved not to be a ridiculous paradox, but a blessing. China has developed so fast not in spite of authoritarian Communist rule, but because of it.

There is a further paradox at work here. What if the promised second stage, the democracy that follows the authoritarian vale of tears, never arrives? This, perhaps, is what is so unsettling about China today: the suspicion that its authoritarian capitalism is not merely a reminder of our past – of the process of capitalist accumulation which, in Europe, took place from the 16th to the 18th century – but a sign of our future? What if the combination of the Asian knout and the European stock market proves economically more efficient than liberal capitalism? What if democracy, as we understand it, is no longer the condition and motor of economic development, but an obstacle to it?

[url=]Slavoj Ћiћek, in a letter to the London Review of Books.[/url]


There's something about China's rapid development, unprecedented in world history, which capitalists would prefer to go away. And it's a part of our own recent economic history they've been trying to bury here. Needless to say, China did not follow the NeoLiberal voodoo like Russia during perestroika, or Thailand, Nicaragua, South Africa, Argentina etc. And neither did the other Asian tigers follow Washington consensus for economic reform.



Originally posted by 500_Apples:
[b]...What seems like a more serious threat is international competition. Certain states that are not liberal democracies such as the united arab emirates, China, Russia are doing very well... if they keep it up, they will be on ЁtopsЁ, and then their way of doing thing will be the model to follow and the model that is followed...[/b]

Baguettes and poutin are [i]so[/i] early 21st century. Best learn how to cook rice, time is running out!


That article calls the relationship between capitalism and totalitarianism a “weird” relationship. But is it really a surprise that Capitalism works well in China’s situation? I’m of the assumption that capitalists and host totalitarian states can be a bit like two pees in a pod. Democratic triggers come from outside that relationship. And I don't perceive capitalism as a natural precursor for democracy. I’m surprised at the article author’s surprise since capitalism can thrive in any situation.

[ 09 July 2008: Message edited by: sknguy ]


Their premise is that neoLiberal doctrinaire and economic austerity measures are highly unpopular but nevertheless necessary in creating free markets. Since foolish voters would never support their policy diktats if we knew exactly what they are up to, then such policies must be forced on whole populations for a decade or two before efficient and self-regulating markets are able to function smoothly. Something about an immediate shock and short-term pain for the majority of slobs in order to produce long-term gain for corporations and global financial elite, or iow's, Liberal-fascism.

What they've refused to admit is that China has basically followed Keynesian ecomomics to build up the country rapidly. And since developed countries handed money creation and issuance of credit to the private banking cabal from the 1980's to 90's, it doesn't help their agenda to point to Keynesian growth rates in China of anywhere from 6% to 11% for the last 22 years in a row, while we sputter along at 2% and maybe 3% anemic growth and struggle thru hundred billion dollar infrastructure deficits, Dickensian job creation, low-low personal savings rates, and unprecedented personal indebtedness to the private banking cabal.