Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Seymour on the "fear of democracy"

DEMOCRACY IS supposed to mean popular sovereignty, not the unimpeded rule of a no-mandate government. It is supposed to mean that the will of the majority governs, not the interests of the rich. It is supposed to mean at minimum that people get the policies they vote for, not those they are overwhelmingly hostile to.

In liberal democratic theory, the people are sovereign inasmuch as their aspirations and prerogatives are effectively mediated through a pluralist party-political state. They may not get all that they want all of the time, but the decision-making process will be guided by the public mood, which rival parties must compete to capture and express.

Yet this system has only ever been effective to the limited extent that it has been when it has been supplemented by militant extra-parliamentary pressure--by the threat of disruption to stable governance and profit-accumulation. To the extent that the parliamentary system is ever really democratic, it is parasitic on a much more fundamental popular democracy.

Frances Fox Piven (along with her late partner Richard Cloward) has long argued that the electoral-representative system is most democratic when the working class and the poor are deliberately disruptive--when they are organized, but not institutionalized.
Read the rest at SW.org.

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