BOOK REVIEWS (Anarchy Studies, vol. 5 no 2, October 1997)
Towards an Inclusive Democracy. The Crisis of the Growth Economy and the Need for a New Liberatory Project, by Takis Fotopoulos
London: Cassell, 1997.ISBN 0-304-33627-0 (HB) £55.00; 0-304-33628-9 (PB) £1 8.99. xiv + 401 pp.
The title and subtitle are an accurate summary of what the reader gets. In other words Fotopoulos has told us what is wrong with the world and what needs to be done about it. Do you give a weary sigh at the thought of yet one more account of current problems and how to cure them? If so I assure you that this is a high quality contribution to the genre.
Fotopoulos provides a clear and valuable accoun t of global developments stressing how the internationalisation of markets has forced the abandorunent of full employment, the weakening of the welfare state and the reduced significance of the state as such. Thus it is misleading to think of rich states increasingly dominating poor ones but more accurately of global capital strengthening its grip on global labour. Socialism, of course, was meant to put all this right, but the communist variant produced unchecked concentrations of power whose reality mocked the equality their ideology proclaimed.
Social democracy, meanwhile, kept within constitutional bounds but also within the capitalist context and so has been increasingly undermined by economic competition with the USA and Japan. Anyway, for Fotopoulos, 'the incompatibility of democracy with any form of concentration of power' (p.171) meant that Social Democracy also failed to be satisfactorily democratic.
Fotopoulos proposes an alternative project which has to be based on 'a broad spectrum of radical movements, involving radical ecologists, supporters of the autonomy project, libertarian socialists, radical feminists. libertarian leftists and every other current that adopts the democratic project' (p.28). What they would develop is an inclusive democracy based on the municipality; a democracy that is more than narrowly political, for its considerable decentralisation of state power would be augmented by communal ownership of production.
Fotopoulos is properly aware that the peaceful and gradual revolution he proposes would be vigorously opposed by entrenched elites but thinks there is a chance 'as long as the level of consciousness of a majority in the population has been raised to adopt the principles included in a programme for an inclusive democracy.' (p.299. Emphasis added.)
One precondition, then, seems to be a widespread desire for such change. This may seem implausible now but so was the fall of communism just a mere decade ago. Also, in Italy and, to a lesser extent, in France and Britain the political class has been seriously delegitimised. On the one hand this can produce general political apathy but on the other it can lead to positive proposals for improvement, few of which are likely to be more clearly, fairly and thoroughly argued than the one found here.
Goldsmiths College, University of London