Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Selbourne on Democracy's Collapse.

David Selbourne (a British political philosopher, social commentator, historian of ideas, and writer) published recently an article on the left's failings, and particularly those of the British Labour Party, post-Modern left and such.

There's much I share in Selbourne's criticism. But then again, to point to the many errors of the Left is like shooting fish in a barrel.

There are several things one could comment from Selbourne's rather long article, but I'll touch three only.


Near the beginning of his article, Selbourne writes:
"... today's collapsing liberal democracies cannot be saved from themselves by socialists of whatever stripe or kind. They [i.e. the socialists] had their chances and blew them."
I'm not sure the situation has deteriorated as much as Selbourne implies; but, in any case, I don't think Marxists should feel guilty about liberal democracy's demise. Selbourne knows Marx claimed that capitalism was doomed to collapse, surely? As catastrophic as the loss of democracy would be, liberal democracy is just a piece of the whole building.

It was Keynes, the social democrats, Fabian socialists, Laborites, and liberals (many of them intellectuals much like Selbourne himself) who thought they could keep capitalism from collapsing.

If liberal democracy collapses, as Selbourne fears, it is at them that he should direct his reproach: it is them who had their chances and blew them.


The second thing Selbourne writes (around the middle of the article) and I'd like to comment is:
"Moreover, phoney progressives make their own pick'n'mix selection of ills on which to focus and ignore others, or oppose measures to deal with them."
Considering that Selbourne is providing his own list "of ills on which to focus and ignore others, or oppose measures to deal with them", I trust the irony of that statement will not be lost on his readers.


In closing, I'll pick one among Selbourne's own "pick'n'mix selection of ills" and measures to save liberal/capitalist democracy from itself:
"It is a civic consciousness, not a class consciousness, that we need."
So, let's all together, exploited and exploiters, workers and capitalists, poor and rich, powerless and powerful, light incense sticks, join hands, concentrate intensely, and repeat the mantra "I've got to have civic consciousness".

This, no doubt, will avoid democracy's collapse. Right?

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