The Myth of Postmodernity

Takis Fotopoulos


Abstract: In this paper the claim that the advanced market economies have entered a new era of postmodernity (or a postmodern turn) is critically assessed and found to be unjustified by the changes at the economic, political, cultural, or scientific and theoretical levels of the last quarter of a century or so. These changes in no way reflect a kind of break with the past, similar to the one marking the transition from the ‘traditional’ society to modernity. It is therefore argued that advanced market economies, following the collapse of liberal modernity in the 19th century and that of statist modernity (in both its versions of social democracy and Soviet statism) in the 20th,  have, in fact, entered a new form of modernity that we may call neoliberal modernity, rather than a postmodernity. Neoliberal modernity represents a synthesis of the previous forms of modernity and at the same time completes the process which began with the institutionalisation of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ that have been presently universalised in the form of the internationalised market economy and the developing supra-national forms of governance respectively.



1. The shift to modernity

A fruitful way to examine the postmodernist claim that advanced market economies have entered a new era of postmodernity which represents a break with modernity at all levels (economic, political, theoretical, scientific, cultural) is to compare the social and paradigmatic changes that took place in the last twenty five years or so with the corresponding changes from traditional to modern society.

As it is well known, modern society emerged, very unevenly, out of a system of rural societies that had endured 5,000 years. In fact, one may argue that the technology and social organization of the Neolithic revolution remained the basis of all civilization until the coming of industrialism. Industrial production then spread, always very unevenly, from Europe to the rest of the world. However, the identification of modernity with industrialism (in the past propagated only by ‘orthodox’ social ‘scientists’ but today adopted widely even by ‘radicals’ in the ‘new social movements’) is unfounded. The uneven process of industrialization, for instance, cannot be seriously interpreted in terms of the lack of industrialist entrepreneurs, industrial values etc, whereas it is perfectly explainable in terms of a market-based economic development[1]. Therefore, to blame industrialism for the evils of modern society, as many ‘radical’ ecofeminists, Greens, supporters of indigenous movements, some postmodernists, irrationalists (New Agers and the like), even some eco-anarchists do, is at best misguided and at worse misleading. This is because such a view encourages many activists to fight against the wrong targets  (industrial society) rather than against the system of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ which are, in fact, the ultimate causes for the present concentration of economic and political power and, consequently, for the present multidimensional crisis.[2]  

As I attempted to show in Towards An Inclusive Democracy,[3] industrial production constituted only the necessary condition for the shift to modern society. The sufficient condition was the parallel introduction—through decisive state help—of the system of the market economy[4] that replaced the  (socially controlled) local markets that existed for thousands of years before. It was the institutionalisation of this new system of economic organisation that set in motion the marketisation process,[5] whose main characteristic is the attempt to minimise effective social controls over markets for the protection of labour and the environment. In fact, one could argue that had a social revolution accompanied the Industrial Revolution—so that the use of machines, in conditions of large-scale production, could have been made compatible with the social control of production—the present marketisation of society would have been avoided, as well as the huge concentration of income, wealth and economic power that was related to this market-based industrialisation. But, given the class structure of the commercial society which characterised several European societies during the Industrial Revolution, it was not surprising that the organisation of the supply of the services of ‘labour’ and ‘land’ was based on the transformation of human activity and natural resources into commodities, whose supply did not depend on the needs of human beings and the ecosystem respectively, but on market prices.

Furthermore, neither was the system of the market economy  the outcome of some sort of an evolutionary process, as Marxists usually assume, nor was its political complement, representative ‘democracy’,  the result of some kind of evolution in political institutions.  The institutionalisation of both the market system and representative ‘democracy’ was the result of deliberate action by the state, which was controlled by the merchant class --the new economic and political elite that emerged during the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the USA.  It can , also, beshown that there was nothing ‘evolutionary’ about the emergence of the merchant class either. As Polanyi, quoting Pirenne, points out: ‘It would be natural to suppose, at first glance, that a merchant class grew up little by little in the midst of the agricultural population. Nothing, however, gives credence to this theory”.[6]

But, let us see briefly how the two main institutions of modernity, the market economy and representative ‘democracy’  were established. As regards, first, the institutionalisation of the market system, the nation-state, which was just emerging at the end of the Middle Ages, played a crucial role in creating the conditions for the `nationalisation' of the market (mercantilism) and in freeing the market from effective social control (liberal modernity). The emergence of the nation-state, which preceded the marketisation of the economy, had the effect not only of destroying the political independence of the town or village community but, also,  undermining their economic self-reliance. It was only by virtue of deliberate state action in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that the `nationalisation' of the market and the creation of internal trade was achieved.[7] In fact, the 16th century can be summed up by the struggle of the nascent state against the free towns and their federations, which was followed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by further state action involving the confiscation, or `enclosure' of communal lands—a process that was completed in Western Europe by the 1850s.[8] But, the `freeing' of trade performed by mercantilism merely liberated trade from localism; markets were still an accessory feature of an institutional set-up regulated more than ever by society. Up until the Industrial Revolution, there was no attempt to establish a market economy in the form of a big, self-regulating market. In fact, it was at the end of the eighteenth century that the transition from regulated markets to a system of self-regulated ones marked the `great transformation' of society, that is, the move to a market economy. Up until that time, industrial production in Western Europe, and particularly in England where the market economy was born, was a mere accessory to commerce.

Second, as regards the rise of representative ‘democracy, we should go back to the last quarter of the 18th century when the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the US constitution, literally invented representative ‘democracy’, an idea without any historical precedent in the ancient world. Up until that time, democracy had the classical Athenian meaning of the sovereignty of demos, in the sense of the direct exercise of power by all citizens --although, of course, the Athenian democracy was partial, given the limitations it imposed on the right to citizenship which excluded the majority of residents (women, slaves, foreigners). The Founding Fathers considered as completely unacceptable this direct exercise of power, ostensibly, because it was supposed to institutionalise the power of the ‘mob’ and the tyranny of the majority. In fact, however, their real aim was the dilution of popular power, so that the claims of representative ‘democracy’ about equal distribution of political power could be made compatible with the dynamic of the market economy that was already leading to a concentration of economic power in the hands of an economic elite.[9] This was of course a constant demand of liberal philosophers since the time of Adam Smith, who took pains to stress that the main task of government was the defence of the rich against the poor—a task that, as John Dunn points out, is “necessarily less dependably performed where it is the poor who choose who is to govern, let alone where the poor themselves, as in Athens, in large measure simply are the government”.[10]

It should also be noted here that the introduction of representative ‘democracy’ had nothing to do with the size of the population. The Founding Fathers’ argument, as Woods points out, ‘was not that representation is necessary in a large republic, but, on the contrary, that a large republic  is desirable so that representation is unavoidable’. Therefore, the Federalist conception of representation, and particularly that of Hamilton, was intended to act as a filter, i.e. as the very antithesis of isegoria, which means not just freedom of speech –the sine qua non of representative ‘democracy’-- but  equality of speech, which is a necessary requirement of democracy.[11] This way, democracy ceased to be the exercise of political power and was identified instead with the resignation from it and the associated transfer of this power, through the elections, to a political elite. In other words, the Founding Fathers not only saw representation as a means of distancing the people from politics but, in fact, proposed it for the very same reason for which the Athenians were against the institution of election (apart from exceptional circumstances when specialist knowledge was required)  : because it favored the economically powerful. Thus, whereas for the Athenians the regime which was dominated by the rich (by definition a minority) was considered to be oligarchic[12], for the Founding Fathers like Hamilton not only was there  no incompatibility between democracy and the domination of the economically powerful but in fact this was considered to be the rule.

The more or less simultaneous institutionalisation of the system of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’, during the Industrial Revolution in the West, introduced the fundamental element of modernity : the formal separation of society from the economy and the state which has been ever since the basis of modernity. Not only direct producers were not able anymore to control the product of their work but, also, citizens were offered a new form of political organisation called ‘democracy’, in which the direct exercise of political power –the characteristic of classical democracy- was impossible. In other words, the market economy and representative democracy had in fact institutionalised the unequal distribution of political and economic power among citizens. Furthermore, it could be shown that the gradual extension of the right to citizeship to the vast majority of the population –a process that was completed only in the tewntieth century—did not offset the effective loss of the meaning of citizenship, in terms of the exercise of power. Thus, the type of citizenship introduced by representative democracy was a passive citizenship which had nothing to do with the active citizenship of classical democracy. It was therefore not surprising  that the extension of civil rights did not have any marked effect in reducing the concentration of political and economic power which has always characterised modern society, apart from a temporary effect on economic inequality during the statist phase of modernity, as we shall see below.

In this problematique, it was the institutionalisation of the market economy and its political complement in the form of representative ‘democracy’ which were the ultimate causes for the characteristics usually assigned to modern society, such as the replacement of the group or the community (as the  traditional basic unit of society) by the individual; the assignment of specific, specialised tasks to modern institutions within a highly developed division of labour in contrast to the traditional social or political institutions (family, community, king etc) ; the government of the institutions of modern society  by ‘rules’ rather than, as in traditional society,  by custom and tradition, and so on.  

2. Forms of modernity: The liberal and the statist forms

The marketisation process that was initiated by the emergence of the market economy made apparent the contradiction between the requirements of the market economy and those of society. This contradiction was due to the fact that, in a market economy, labour and land had to be treated as genuine commodities, with their free and fully developed markets, whereas in fact they were only fictitious commodities. It was the same contradiction that led to a long social struggle, which raged for over a hundred and fifty years, from the Industrial Revolution up to the last quarter of the twentieth century, between those controlling the market economy, (i.e. the capitalist elite controlling production and distribution) and the rest of society. Those controlling the market economy (with the support of other social groups which were benefiting by the institutional framework) aimed at marketising labour and land as much as possible, that is, at minimising all social controls aiming at protecting labour and land, so that their free flow, at a minimum cost, could be secured. On the other hand, those at the other end, and particularly the working class that was growing all this time, aimed at maximising social controls on labour (not so much on land before the emergence of the Green movement), that is, at maximising society's self-protection against the perils of the market economy, especially unemployment and poverty. The outcome of this social struggle led first to the liberal form of modernity which, after a relatively brief intermission in the form of statist modernity, was succeeded by today’s neoliberal form of it.

At the theoretical and political level, this conflict was expressed by the struggle between economic liberalism and socialism, which constituted the central element of Western history, from the Industrial Revolution up to the mid 1970s. Economic liberalism was the ideology which had as its main aim the justification of the project for a self-regulating market, as effected by laissez-faire policies, free trade and regulatory controls[13]. Socialism, on the other hand, was the ideology which had as its main aim the justification of the project for social control over economic resources in order to cover the needs of all humans (rather than simply the needs of those who can survive competition, as in economic liberalism) and to conserve productive organisation and labour.

During the liberal phase[14] of marketisation in the 19th century, which barely lasted half a century between the 1830s and the 1880s, the first attempt was made to establish a purely liberal internationalised market economy in the sense of free trade, a ‘flexible’ labour market and a fixed exchange rates system (Gold Standard). However, this attempt failed and liberal modernity collapsed as it did not meet the necessary condition for a self-regulating market economy, namely open and flexible markets for commodities and capital, which were not feasible in a period in which big colonial powers like England and France were still exercising almost monopolistic control over significant parts of the globe at the expense of rising non-colonial powers (like the USA) or smaller colonial powers (like Germany).[15] So, after a transitional period of protectionism, the liberal form of modernity was succeeded in the 20th century, with the decisive help of the socialist movement,  by a new form of modernity: statism.

Statist modernity took different forms in the West and the East (namely the regimes of Eastern Europe, China and so on). Thus, in the West[16], statism took a social-democratic form and was backed by Keynesian policies which involved active state control of the economy and extensive interference with the self-regulating mechanism of the market to secure full employment, a better distribution of income and economic growth. A precursor of this form of statism emerged in the inter-war period but it reached its peak in the period following the second world war, when Keynesian policies were adopted by governing parties of all persuasions in the West during the era of the socialdemocratic consensus, up to the mid 1970s. On the other hand in the East[17],  for the first time in modern times, a ‘systemic’ attempt was made to reverse the marketisation process and create a completely different form of modernity than  the liberal or the socialdemocratic one (which, in a sense, was a version of liberal modernity). This form of statism, backed by Marxist ideology, attempted to minimise the role of the market mechanism in the allocation of resources and replace it with a central planning mechanism.

However, statist modernity, in both its socialdemocratic and Soviet versions, shared the fundamental element of liberal modernity, namely, the formal separation of society from the economy and the state. In other words, the basic  difference between the liberal and statist forms of modernity concerned the means through which this separation was achieved: in liberal modernity, through representative ‘democracy’ and the market mechanism, whereas in statist modernity through representative ‘democracy’ and a modified version of the market mechanism (social democracy), or, alternatively, through soviet ‘democracy’ and central planning (Soviet statism). Furthermore, both the liberal and the statist forms of modernity shared a common growth ideology[18]  based on the Enlightenment idea of progress, which has led to the creation of the two types of ‘growth economy’[19]: the ‘capitalist’ and the ‘socialist’ growth economy.

Still, for reasons that I could not expand on here, both forms of statist modernity collapsed. The Western form of statist modernity collapsed in the 1970s because of the fundamental incompatibility that was created by the growing expansion of the state role in the economy and the parallel increasing internationalisation of the market economy  as a result mainly of the activity of the emerging TNCs and their requirements in terms of openness of the commodity and capital markets.[20] On the other hand, the Eastern form of statist modernity collapsed a decade or so later because of the growing incompatibility between the requirements of an ‘efficient’ growth economy and the institutional arrangements (particularly centralised planning and party democracy) which had been introduced in accordance with Marxist-Leninist ideology.[21] The collapse of statist modernity in both its forms was one more indication that the fundamental institutions on which modernity was based, contrary to postmodern arguments, were the market economy and its political complement in the form of representative ‘democracy’ and that any effective interference with the market mechanism was doomed to failure.   

3. Postmodernity or a neoliberal form of modernity?

The change in the ‘objective’ conditions I mentioned in the last section and in particular the growing openness of the commodity and capital markets which led to the present internationalisation of the market economy (incorrectly called ‘globalisation’[22]) as the inevitable result of the dynamic of the market economy[23] was not the only cause of the collapse of the statist form of modernity in the West. The economic crisis which erupted in the 1970s, as a result of the incompatibility between statism and internationalisation (and, not as it is usually stated, because of the oil crisis, which was simply the immediate cause that precipitated the crisis), led also to the rise of the neoliberal movement. The emergence of this movement was not simply expressing the Right’s inevitable backlash, as Left analysts often argue, in the aftermath of the collapse of the New Left following the aborted uprising of May 1968. The rise of the neoliberal movement expressed the need of the economic and political elites to fight statism, in view of the economic problems (inflation and then stagflation) that had been created by the incompatibility between statism and internationalisation and in view also of the change in the balance of power against them that growing statism implied.

Thus, the political program of the neoliberal movement, which rose first in the academia (Chicago school, resurrection of Hayek and so on) and then among the Anglo-American political elites, mainly expressed the new requirements of the economic elites, in view of the aforementioned changes in the objective conditions. In contrast to the Liberal Old Right that was founded on tradition, hierarchy and political philosophy, the neoliberal New Right’s credo was based on the belief of economic ‘democracy’ through the market and individualism,[24] in the sense of the citizen's liberation from `dependence' on the welfare state. Ironically, the main demand of the New Left for self-determination and autonomy was embraced by the neoliberals and was reformulated by them in a distorted form as a demand for self-determination through the market!  In this sense, the neoliberal agenda has a striking similarity with the analysis of the neoliberal trend within the postmodern movement, what we may call ‘neoliberal postmodernism’ (see section 7).

The neoliberal movement, when it came to power, first in Britain and the USA and later on (in the form mainly of the present ‘social-liberal’ governments) all over the advanced market economies and beyond, introduced a series of structural changes, which characterise the present neoliberal[25] form of modernity. Such changes were the liberalisation of markets and particularly of the labour market --with the aim to make it ‘flexible’ through the abolition of the full employment commitment, the encouragement of part time and occasional work and so on; the liberalisation of commodity markets through GATT and the World Trade Organisation; the liberalisation of capital markets through the lifting of exchange and other controls; the privatisation of state enterprises --which enhanced the ‘individualistic‘ character of this form of modernity compared with the mildly ‘collectivist’ character of statist modernity; the drastic shrinking  of the welfare state and its replacement by a safety net and the parallel  privatisation of  social services (health, education, social security); and, finally, the redistribution of taxes in favour of high income groups which further enhanced the concentration of income and wealth.

As a result of these changes, by the early 1990s, an almost fully liberal order has been created across the OECD region, giving market actors a degree of freedom that they had not held since the 1920s.[26] At the same time,  the internationalisation of the neoliberal market economy coincided with significant technological changes (information revolution) which marked the shift of the market economy into a post-industrial phase that resulted in a drastic change in the employment (and consequently the class) structure of advanced market economies with significant political and social implications.[27] As a result of these technological changes, the nature of the production process has changed and is characterised today by ‘de-massification’ and diversification, in place of the mass production that was particularly dominant in the era of statist modernity. However, neither “de-massification”, nor the growing diversification of production has affected the degree of concentration of economic power at the company level[28], which has continued growing over the entire period since the emergence of neoliberal modernity. Furthermore, the combined effect of the ‘objective‘ and ‘subjective’ factors I mentioned was that the internationalisation of the market economy has accelerated sharply since the 1970s[29].

It is therefore obvious that this new form of modernity is in a much better position to succeed in creating a self-regulating economy than the previous forms of modernity since the basic factor that led to the collapse of the latter has been eliminated, that is, the restrictions on the markets for commodities, labour and capital that have introduced various degrees of ‘inflexibility’ into them. Such restrictions represented, of course, society's self-protection mechanisms against its marketisation but, as such, were incompatible with the ‘efficient’ functioning of the market economy. Since the present neoliberal consensus (adopted by both conservative and social-liberal parties in government) has eliminated most of these restrictions, a historic opportunity has been created for the marketisation process to be completed.

In this sense and with hindsight, it is now obvious that Polanyi was wrong in thinking that the statist form of modernity was evidence of the utopian character of the self-regulating market and of the existence of an “underlying social process”[30] which leads societies to take control of their market economies. In fact, the statist form of modernity proved to be a relatively brief interlude in the marketisation process and merely a transitional phenomenon, mainly due to the failure of the liberal form of modernity to create a system based on an internationalised self-regulating market economy, and, of course, to the parallel rise of the socialist movement.

In fact, the present form of modernity meets all four conditions which, according to Polanyi, have to be met for a successful self-regulating market economy. Thus, first, the universalisation of the flexible markets for commodities, labour and capital is more advanced than ever before in History; second, the liberal state, in the form of representative ‘democracy’, has today been universalised after its virtual demise in many parts of the world during the statist form of modernity; third, the balance-of-power system,  after the collapse of Soviet statism which was undermining the institutions of modernity, has been re-established; and finally, the international monetary system is moving again,  after the successful launching of the Euro, towards the establishment of some kind of fixed parities between the three major international currencies (Euro, US dollar and yen) in the first instance, and, at the end,  into some sort of an international version of the Gold Standard system--in other words, into a global monetary system (and possibly a single currency) in a new interlinked economic space which would unify the richest parts of the world.

However, the present neoliberal form of modernity should not simply be seen as completing the cycle that started with the emergence of liberal modernity. In fact, it represents a new synthesis, which avoids the extremes of pure liberalism, by combining the essentially self-regulating markets of liberal modernity with various elements of a ‘mild’ statism: safety nets and various controls in place of the welfare state, “new protectionist” non-tariff barriers (NTBs), such as export restraints and orderly marketing arrangements, direct or indirect subsidies to export industries, and so on.

The conclusion from the above analysis is that the neoliberal liberalisation of the market economy and the associated internationalisation of it do not simply represent a change of policy brought about by some cultural decadence but that in fact they express  a significant structural change (although not a break with the past) which marks the entry into a new form of modernity. This is also illustrated by the fact that the basic elements of neoliberalism have already been incorporated into the strategies of the international institutions which control the world economy (IMF, World Bank), as well as in the treaties that have recently reformed the EU (Single Market Act, Maastricht Treaty, Amsterdam Treaty). It is for this reason that once the internationalised neoliberal market economy was institutionalised, the political parties in government, either conservative or ‘socialist’, had to follow the same policies in order to protect the competitive position of the economic elites, on which further growth (and their own political survival) depends.

The present situation, although  not  a break with modernity, it does differ significantly not only from the statist form of modernity, as I attempted to show above,  but also from its liberal form  and this is why it constitutes a new form of modernity.  To mention some significant differences between the liberal and the neoliberal forms of modernity, it is noteworthy that today’s emerging ‘postmodern’ paradigm, unlike that of the liberal (and the statist) form of modernity, is not based on some sort of ‘scientific’ truth.  Also, economic growth, unlike in the liberal form of  modernity (and even more so in statist modernity), is not identified anymore with progress. The idea of progress  is not fashionable anymore after the attacks it received recently from all sources: from ecologists, up to the new irrationalists and Third Wordists. Instead, growth per se, growth for the improvement in material welfare and open consumerism, has become the prevailing ideology today.

In this problematique, I would disagree with the argument that today’s situation is a revival of liberal modernity. Within the same problematique, I would disagree, also, with Arran Gare[31]’ that it was the rise of the postmodern movement, which, expressing a kind of cultural failure and decadence, undermined the radical version of modernism,  promoted the decadence of social democracy and helped facilitate the triumph of neo-liberalism and the reinvigoration and globalisation of the market economy. Gare is of course right in pointing out that that the biggest factor leading to this decadence was today’s concentration of power, although  he does not  take the extra step and examine the relationship between the main political and economic institutions of modernity (representative ‘democracy’ and market economy) and the present concentration of power, which is the inevitable outcome of the dynamics of these institutions. However, to simply blame this decadence for the rise of neoliberalism and postmodernism ignores  the structural changes that led to the present neoliberal form of modernity. Furthermore, although one would agree with Gare that post-modern theory has been used as an ‘ideology’ to legitimise neoliberal modernity, it should not be forgotten that postmodernism developed mostly independently of these structural changes, as the result of a combination of parallel developments at the epistemological level (the crisis of ‘objectivism’ and ‘scientism’), the ideological level (the decline of Marxism that was linked to the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’,) and the ecological level (the vast ecological crisis which cast a serious doubt on the meaning of progress).

So, given that Marxists of almost all persuasions, postmodernists, as well as supporters of the inclusive democracy paradigm, all agree that the 1970s did mark the beginning of a new period, the issue is whether this new period corresponds to a break with modernity, a postmodern era, or whether instead it simply represents a continuation of modernity, what we called a new neoliberal form of it.

For many postmodern theorists the new period represents a rupture, which is as great as the rupture between modern and premodern soci­eties. Paradoxically, however, even founders of postmodernism are sometimes ambivalent about this crucial issue concerning the nature of today’s society. It is indicative for instance that what Perry Anderson[32] calls ‘the first book to treat postmodernity as a general change of human circumstance’, Lyotard’s The Postmodern condition, classifies postmodernism as part of the modern,  (which it considers as a constant state), a kind of internal renewal of it rather than a rupture with it. Thus, as Lyotard puts it: ‘what, then, is the postmodern? What place does it or does it not occupy in the vertiginous work of the questions hurled at the rules of age and narration? It is undoubtedly a part of the modern’.[33] On the other hand, for those of the liberal side of postmodernism, who usually identify modernity with industrialism, the end of statism and the emergence of post-industrial society are synonymous with the rise of a new era of postmodernity, if not with the end of History itself!.

In the Marxist space we may distinguish the following trends. For some Marxists,[34] the rise of postmodernity was marked by the restructuring of global capitalism and the emergence of a new regime of ‘flexible accumulation’ in which autonomous financial markets significantly limited the economic sovereignty of nation–states. For other Marxists[35] the features of flexible accumulation are not as important as to significantly reduce the state’s economic sovereignty, whereas postmodernism in the arts was a figment so that what in fact happened was only a gradual degradation of modernism itself, as a result not of economic or cultural changes but mainly of political changes, i.e. the political defeat of the radical generation of the late sixties. Finally, for Marxists of the ex-New Left variety,[36] postmodernism is a real phenomenon which emerged, also in the seventies, within the context of three new ‘historical coordinates’: first, the virtual extinction of the bourgeois class and its replacement by an ensemble of administrators and speculators of contemporary capital with ‘no stable identities’; second, the technological inventions that transformed again urban life, notably colour television; and, third, the political changes that followed  the political ferment of the sixties and particularly the rise of the neoliberal Right in the USA and UK  that led to the collapse of the regimes in Eastern Europe and the abandonment of the old social democratic goals.

It is therefore clear that the Left, and particularly the Marxist version of it, never grasped the significance of the rise of neoliberalism in the mid 1970s, which, to my mind, marked the start of a shift towards a new form of modernity and not just a change in policy, as Marxists of various persuasions maintain: from Alex Callinicos[37], the theoretical guru of British Trotskyites, at the end of the 1980s, to Eric Hobsbawm, the doyen of Marxist historians, who, together with other equally perceptive former Marxism Today writers, as late as 1998, were still proclaiming the end of neo-liberalism’![38] In fact, recent developments in the internationalised market economy fulfilled the prediction made in TID that, in the competition between the Anglo-American model of capitalism and the European ‘social market’ model, the latter had no chance to survive because, as I put it at the time of writing (1995-1996), ‘it is not a model for future capitalism but a remnant of the statist phase of marketisation which obviously cannot survive the present internationalisation of the market economy’.[39] However, the Marxist Left still seems very surprised by the final predominance of the Anglo-American version of neoliberalism over the European ‘social democratic model’, and the fact that the latter not only did not attempt to undermine the former but also effectively has copied it, to the dismay of the ex ‘New Left’![40] In fact, one may argue that it was this profound failure of the Left to grasp the  fact that neoliberalism represents not just a policy change but a structural change marking the shift to a new form of modernity, and the parallel confusion of modernity with industrialism, that have led to the myth about a new era of postmodernity.

In my view, the significant changes at the economic level I mentioned, as well as the changes at the political, the scientific, the theoretical and the cultural levels I am going to consider in the rest of the paper, in no way constitute a rupture with the past, similar to the rupture marking the move from the traditional to the modern society. Although the present changes do amount to  significant structural changes, they are always changes within the existing structures rather than changes of the structures themselves. But, to talk about a rupture, or a transition towards a new structure, one would have to show convincing signs of new forms of economic and political  organisation beyond the market economy and representative  ‘democracy’, the two fundamental institutions characterising modern society, and such signs are simply non-existent. Far from it, these institutions  are not only still surviving but, in fact, are being increasingly universalised and are spreading all over the world.

Therefore, the hypothesis that advanced market economies have entered a postmodern era, or even a transitional period towards it, is invalid. In fact, the emergence of the internationalised ‘new economy’, as well as that of post-industrial society and  the consequent rise of the ‘knowledge class’,  can simply be seen as a stage in the development of the market economy and industrial society that emerged in the modern era, i.e. as the result of long-term trends implicit in the marketisation process and the science-based industrialization rather than any break with it.

But let us now consider the differences involved in the shift to modernity compared to the shift to the mythical postmodernity at the political, the scientific, the cultural and the theoretical levels.

4. Political structures of modernity and ‘postmodernity’

The starting point in the following analysis, which I expanded elsewhere long before postmodernism became fashionable,[41] is the idea that there can be no ‘general theory’ of History, which could determine the relationship between the cultural and the political or economic elements in society. In other words, the Marxist view that the economic base determines the cultural superstructure, even if it is only ‘in the last instance’, has to be discarded and assumed instead that the dominant element in each social formation is not determined, for all time, by the economic base, or any other base. The dominant element is always determined by a creative act, i.e. it is the outcome of social praxis, of the activity of social individuals.  Thus, the dominant element in theocratic societies like that of Iran or Afghanistan is cultural, in the societies of ‘actually existing socialism’ was political and so on. Similarly, the dominant element in market economies is economic, as a result of the fact that the introduction, during the Industrial Revolution, of new systems of production in the context of a commercial society, where the means of production were under private ownership and control, inevitably led to the transformation of the socially- controlled economies of the past into the present market economies. This is why the members of the ruling elite in modern societies (market economies) are basically drawn from the economic sphere, whereas in premodern societies (pre-market economies) they were drawn from other spheres (political-military, cultural etc).

Still, the existence of a dominant element does not preclude autonomy of the other elements. The relation between the various elements is asymmetrical (in the sense that in market economies the economic element conditions the political element and vice versa in actually existing socialism) but it is also a relation of autonomy and interdependence. In other words, culture, economics and politics are not independent ‘spheres’. In fact, they are interdependent even in market economies where the separation into spheres is obvious. On the other hand, in premodern societies, it is not even possible to distinguish between the various spheres that constitute an integrated totality, and we are only making these distinctions here for systematic reasons.[42] Thus, there was no division between economy and society in premodern societies and even the division between polity and society was not always evident (the 200 hundred history of Athenian democracy is an obvious example) let alone the division between society and other spheres (cultural etc).

In this problematique, there is a definite rupture in the shift from premodern to modern political structures. In premodern societies there was no single form of political structure appropriate to them and as the main element characterising the totality was non-economic the forms of political structure ranged from (partial) democracy in classical Athens to various forms of oligarchic regimes in ancient Rome and the Middle Ages. On the other hand, the typical form of political structure in a modern society, which can be shown to be more consistent than any other political structure form (theoretically as well as historically) with the market economy, is the representative (liberal) ‘democracy’. However, there are significant variations between the various forms of political structures in the era of modernity. Thus, the representative ‘democracy’ of liberal modernity evolved  into a political system of a much higher degree of concentration of political power in the hands of the executive during the statist era, both in the West and, even more so, in the East. This system is presently being replaced by new internationalised political structures to fit the already internationalised economic structures. Thus, in neoliberal modernity, the old Westphalian system of sovereign nation-states is being replaced by a multi-level system of political-economic entities: ‘micro-regions, traditional states and macro-regions with institutions of greater or lesser functional scope and formal authority’.[43]

In fact, the trend toward the accelerating internationalisation of the market economy has already led to a debate about the future of politics and democracy, ‘as we know them’ in modern society.[44] However, although the internationalisation of the market economy does challenge the nation-state that developed in modernity, there is no reason to assume that it also challenges the fundamental political institution of modernity: representative ‘democracy’. Far from it, as we have seen in the last section, this institution has now expanded to the Third World and even to the old Second World, in which a determined  attempt was made to develop new political structures during Soviet statism. So, as the traditional differences between liberals and socialists over the role of the state in today’s’ neoliberal form of modernity are phased out, the consequence is the demeaning of even this distorted form of ‘democracy’, with electoral contests becoming expensive beauty contests between the leaders of bureaucratic parties, characterised by minimal programmatic differences and a common objective: state-craft, that is, the management of power.

However, it is interesting to note that it is not the Left anymore which attempts to degrade representative ‘democracy’. The Left-- from Bobbio, who characterised liberal democracy as the ‘only possible form of an effective democracy’[45]  to Habermas and from mainstream Greens to postmodernists-- has wholeheartedly nowadays embraced liberal ‘democracy’. Thus,as Perry Anderson, the New Left Review editor, points out referring to the adoption of representative ‘democracy’ and the market economy by prominent Left figures like Lyotard, Habermas, Hassan and Jencs:[46]

common to all was subscription to the principles of what Lyotard —once the most radical— called liberal democracy, as the unsurpassable horizon of the time. There could be nothing but capitalism. The postmodern was a sentence on alternative illusions

Today, it is the turn of  the economic elites which control the market economy to downgrade representative democracy in favour of the markets and the ‘new social movements presumably as less threatening to their power than even representative ‘democracy’ is using in the process of doing so the postmodern discourse.

Thus, as Thomas Frank argues in a recent book on what he calls ‘market populism’[47], the new ideology promoted by the economic elites is that markets is a far more democratic institution than representative ‘democracy’ because, in addition to mediums of exchange, they are mediums of consent, a powerful tool of economic democracy!  Furthermore, management theory of the 1990s, using language reminiscent of postmodern theory, defines the problems of the corporation as those arising because of the fact that the individual worker is voiceless, oppressed by bureaucratic unions-- the real problems of today being on how to ‘empower the individual’ and to fight against ‘certainty’ and elitism. Not surprisingly, Demos[48] writer Charles Leadbeater, also embracing the market economy, uses postmodern theory to celebrate the intrinsic link between the dawning ‘knowledge economy’ (which thrives on a culture of dissent, dispute, disrespect for authority, diversity and experimentation’) and ‘democracy’, and concludes that to fully swallow the ways of ‘the New Economy’ (i.e. the neoliberal form of modernity) we would have to adopt a new narrative, ‘an engaging and compelling account of the future that captures the popular imagination , and which people can buy into, endorsing and enacting in their own lives’.[49]

Finally, Newsweek, celebrating  the end of the twentieth century, did not hesitate to call it ‘the people’s century’, on account of the fact that, as its columnist Kenneth Auchincloss put it, for once in human history ‘ordinary folks changed history’. Of course, these ‘ordinary folks’ were not the Russian workers who took part in the 1917 uprising, nor the Spanish anarchists and other radicals who fought in the civil war, not even the students and workers who took part in the May 1968 uprising but, instead, the feminists, the anti-war and civil rights movements and…entrepreneurs like Bill Gates!

It is not, of course, surprising that the ‘new social movements’ do not seem threatening to the ruling elites. The neoliberal form of modernity is associated with the fear of unemployment and uncertainty concerning the ability to adequately cover basic needs (health, education, housing). This uncertainty, in turn, has contributed significantly to the retreat of radical currents within the feminist movement, the withdrawal of students from public life, the withering away of labour militancy and so on. At the same time, the hope invested in the Green movement has already faded, since the dominant trends within it do not challenge the fundamental institutions of the market economy but, instead, either adopt the social-democratic ideology of enhancing the civil society and resort to environmentalism (Europe) or, alternatively, turn to irrationalism and mysticism (USA). The active role that the disgraceful European Green parties played in NATO’s crime against the people of Yugoslavia[50], which, as it is now revealed, implicitly agreed even to the use of a form of nuclear weapon (depleted uranium) in NATO’s bombardments (whereas they still protest against nuclear energy!) has effectively extinguished any hopes that the Green movement could play a liberatory role in today’s society.

5. A paradigm shift in science?

The strongest claims in favour of the view that advanced market economies have entered a postmodern era, or at least a postmodern turn, are made with respect to science, the arts, theory and culture generally. As Best and Kellner[51] point out in their excellent presentation of the case  for a postmodern turn:

‘The scientific developments we just described have significant similarities to recent changes in the arts and social theory, leading us to believe there is a postmodern paradigm shift taking place in multiple fields of knowledge and the arts. It appears that the epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical as­sumptions about the nature of the world are rapidly changing in all fields, creating new configuration of thought, what Kuhn calls a “paradigm shift.” In his most general sense of the term, a “paradigm” is an “entire constellation of beliefs, values, techniques, and so on shared by the members of a given com­munity”. We have argued in the previous chapters that we are currently undergoing a major paradigm shift within the culture at large, par­allel to the shift from premodern to modern societies and from medieval to modern theory’.

One immediate point that should be made here is that, as I argued in the last section, there is no causal relationship, even an indirect one, between changes in the economic and political structures and changes in the scientific, theoretical or cultural levels. Therefore the structural changes in the economic and political structures which mark the move to the neoliberal form of modernity (or to ‘postmodernity’ according to postmodernists) do not necessarily imply corresponding changes in science or culture and, vice versa, any changes in the latter do not necessarily imply changes in the former, as –rather inconsistently with the core of postmodern theory--some postmodernists seem to imply in their effort to justify their thesis for a move to a postmodern society. Here however a brief digression is needed  to introduce the concept of the ‘‘dominant social paradigm’’ (which has to be distinguished from culture that is a broader term[52]).

We shall define the ‘dominant social paradigm’ as the system of beliefs, ideas and the corresponding values, which are dominant (or tend to become dominant) in a particular society at a particular moment of its history, as most consistent with the existing political, economic and social institutions. The term ‘most consistent’ does not imply of course any kind of structure/superstructure relationship a la Marx. Both culture and the social paradigm are time- and space-dependent, i.e. they refer to a specific type of society at a specific time. Therefore, they both change from place to place and from one historical period to another and this makes any ‘general theory’ of History, which could determine the relationship between the cultural  and the political or economic elements in society, impossible. Culture, exactly because of its greater scope, may express values and ideas, which are not necessarily consistent with the dominant institutions. In fact, this is usually the case characterising the arts and literature of a modern society, where, unlike the case of  feudal societies before, artists and writers have been given a significant degree of freedom to express their own views. But, this is not the case with respect to the ‘dominant social paradigm’. In other words, the beliefs, ideas and the corresponding values that are dominant in a market economy, have to be consistent with the economic element in it, i.e. with the economic institutions. This has always been the case in History and will also be the case in the future. No particular type of society can reproduce itself unless the dominant beliefs, ideas and values are consistent with the existing institutional framework.

But, let us come back to the recent paradigmatic changes. There is little doubt that there have been significant recent developments in the scientific, theoretical and cultural fields. However, as I argued above--and on this many postmodernists would agree—even if the aforementioned developments amount to a paradigm shift in the Kuhnian sense, namely, in the sense of a break, or rupture with the previous paradigm, a paradigm shift by itself, does not indicate a move to a new era. This is particularly so if the present paradigm shift does not bear any comparison with the major break that characterised the move from premodern to modern society, as I will argue below. In that case, the paradigm shift could, at most, justify an hypothesis about a move to a new form of modernity –an hypothesis which would be further validated if it could be shown that this paradigm shift is consistent with a move of this nature and that the  paradigm itself, in its new form, is fast becoming the dominant social paradigm in today’s neoliberal modernity. The fact that within the postmodern paradigm there are ‘oppositional’ currents arguing against the symptoms (but usually not against the institutional causes) of neoliberal modernity, does not of course invalidate this hypothesis. Similar dissenting voices-- in fact much more radical-- were also present during the previous forms of modernity (libertarian and statist socialists, anarchists and so on)

The move from premodern to modern society represented not just a radical change in society’s political and economic structure but also a similar break at the scientific, the theoretical, and the cultural levels. The work of Newton, Copernicus, Kepler, Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes was not simply important per se, i.e. for their fundamental contributions to science, but because it established the authority and autonomy of reason, which dominated all philosophising and theorising of modern society since then. Reason, of course, was not discovered in the Enlightenment era. The philosophers of ancient Greece had first explored the powers and uses of reason that was the basis of both ancient Greek philosophy and democracy, which, not accidentally, flourished, together in classical Athens. However, apart from this relatively brief historical interval, the dominant social paradigm of premodern society was not based on reason but on irrational beliefs of various kinds (religions, superstitions, animistic beliefs etc), whereas in the Middle Ages, religious  irrationalism in the form of Christianity constituted the main element of the dominant social paradigm. In fact, it was in reaction to theolog­ical ‘explanations’ of the world that scientific explanations were developed in the Enlightenment, on the assumption that knowledge should be used not to serve God but, rather, to serve the needs of human beings.

The revival of reason was based not simply on the propaganda of people like Descartes and Leibniz but mainly upon the conviction that for the intellectual conquest of the natural world reason had really worked. It was the enthusiasm born out of these scientific successes that gave rise to the second main element of the Enlightenment: the idea of progress. However, the fact that progress was identified with economic growth had nothing to do with reason, or with science for that matter. Progress  wqs identified with growth when the grow-or-die dynamic of the market economy, which was established during the Industrial Revolution and  the scientific discoveries of the 18th century and their technological applications,  gave rise to the growth ideology. So, as I attempted to show in TID,[53] it is not the ‘growth ideology’, which is the exclusive or even the main cause of the emergence of the growth economy, as most Greens, ecofeminists and various irrationalists (New Agers and the likes) argue. The growth ideology has simply been used to justify ‘objectively’ the market economy and its dynamics—a dynamics that inevitably led to the capitalist growth economy.

However, the facts that the same idea of progress (as development of productive forces) has also been adopted by radical modernists like Marx and that the growth ideology became the ultimate ideological foundation for all forms of modernity, liberal or statist, had the result that the same ethic to dominate Nature, which led to today’s’ ecological crisis, became part of the dominant social paradigm’ in both the East and the West. This was a fact of tremendous importance given that, as Marxists of the Frankfurt School[54] and libertarians like Murray Bookchin[55] have shown, there is an intrinsic relationship between the domination of nature and the domination of human beings in a subject-object relationship in which men are the subjects, while nature, women, slaves are the objects of domination.

So, the fact that the modern scientific paradigm was both anthropocentric and patriarchal, or generally based on the idea of domination, was not the cause of the dominating character of modernity, as Greens, feminists and others in the ‘new social movements’ naively (or often deliberately in order to avoid marginalisation by the establishment) assume. Modern scientists were simply adopting the ‘dominant social paradigm’, the main values of which were anthropocentric, patriarchal and were extolling progress in the form of growth. The very fact that the so-called ‘postmodern’ scientific paradigm is much more Nature-friendly and much less patriarchal than the modern one, although it is still based on the same principles of reason and  growth, is a proof of this.

Still, the fact that the scientific paradigm, on which the scientific successes of modernity were based, was a mechanistic one, based on certainty and objective truth, had very important implications. As it is well known, the major architects of the modern world-view (Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, and Newton) saw the cosmos as a vast machine governed by universal and invariable laws, which function in a stable and order­ly way that can be comprehended and controlled by the rational mind. A side effect of the predominance of this mechanistic paradigm was that even the radical critiques of modernity, notably by Marx, were also based on the same mechanistic paradigm. This was inevitable in view of the fact that for many Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thinkers, the project of establishing a science of history and society presupposed the ability to formulate hypotheses and laws of an explanatory power analogous to that attained by theories in the physical sciences. In their effort to transcend religious and metaphysical conjectures concerning the destiny of human affairs, radical critics of modernity took it for granted that their task was one of constructing, upon the basis of hard observable facts, interpretations that would not only rescue the human studies from ignorance, uncertainty, and primitive superstition but also give them an instrument (complete with ‘its own ‘laws’) for predicting and controlling the future. Thus, the modern paradigm adopted by both supporters of liberal modernity and its critics was deterministic, ‘objectivistic’ and, mechanistic, in an explicit attempt to be taken as seriously as the  scientific paradigm.

It was in reaction to the mechanistic and deterministic worldview of Newtonian Physics that a series of developments took place in the twentieth century which, for postmodernists, mark the emergence of a postmodern paradigm based on concepts such as entropy, evolution, organism, indeterminacy, probability, relativity, complementarily, chaos, complexity, and self-organization. Furthermore, as Best and Kellner point out, ‘in significant ways this new mode of thought is congruent with changes that have occurred in social theory, and it also overlaps with recent shifts in the arts, suggesting that the postmodern turn is not merely a sign game, struggle for cultural capital, or frivolous fad but, rather, concerns the construction of a new transdisciplinary paradigm.[56] These developments, according to the same authors, refer to at least five major areas, some of which emerged in the 19th century but most flourished in the 20th century: thermodynamics; evolutionary bi­ology and ecology; quantum mechanics and relativity theory; cybernetics and information theory; and chaos and complexity theory. As a result of such changes, Best and Kellner argue, a transition has been effected ‘from mechanical dynamics to thermodynamics, from a static and deterministic view of life to a new theory of  “dissipative structures” based on principles of complexity, self-organiza­tion, and order emerging from the “chaos’ of nonequilibrium conditions. Change and time introduce instability and disorder into the world, but these in turn create new and more complex forms of order’.[57] Also, postmodernists argue, it was as a result of such scientific developments as the development of the framework of entropy, that the idea of progress has been challenged in the present period —although one may argue here that the framework of entropy was developed much before the supposed beginning of the postmodern shift in the 1970s and that it was the massive realisation of the eco-catastrophic implications of growth in the period of neoliberal modernity that effectively challenged progress rather than any scientific developments.

However, despite the fact that, as a result of these developments, science today is much less mechanistic than it used to be, it would be wrong to conclude that today’s’ world is not organised anymore around  science and quantitative reasoning, or even that it is showing tendencies to move away from science and quantitative reasoning, when in fact computer science, celebrated by postmodern writers as the science of the future, is very much based on them. Furthermore, ‘instrumental knowledge’, (i.e., knowledge for the sake of domination), is still the prevailing type of knowledge and is bound to be so in the future, as long as the economic and political institutions of modernity (market economy, representative ‘democracy’) prevail, irrespective of scientific or theoretical developments like the ones emphasised by postmodernists. Best and Kellner[58] themselves also notice the continuities between modern and ‘postmodern’ science, although, of course, they give much more emphasis to the significant shifts involved:

At a general level, there are some significant continuities between modern and postmodern science, but there are also fundamental shifts and reversals, involving tenets of modern science that postmodern science repudiates. Both modern and postmodern science utilize experimental and empirical methods of hypothesis, observation, experiment, and prediction; both are interested in detecting order, in control, and in discovering laws and regu­larities.

But, apart from the continuities, it is not accidental that accidentally, some important tools of ‘postmodern’ science, like systems theory and complexity, have already been used widely to legitimise the neoliberal form of modernity.[59] Particularly so if, ,  as I attempted to show elsewhere,[60] one may raise serious reservations on whether such tools may offer useful insights in the interpretation of social  reality (as opposed to that of natural reality) and whether they are compatible at all, both from the epistemological point of view and that of their content, with a radical analysis aiming to systemic change towards an inclusive democracy. 

Similarly, the fact that, according for instance to Bohr’s theory of complementarity, reality is irreducibly plural and complex and no single theoretical description can exhaust it—a fact, which implies that various languages and perspectives are needed in the analysis of reality -- could not be used to justify the postmodern view that social reality as well cannot be explained in terms of a single tradition (the Lyotardian idea that the world is frag­mented into a plurality of discourses each local and autonomous). This could easily end up with the sort of conformism characterising most postmodern theorists. Clearly, even if the theory of complementarily is a useful tool in the analysis of natural reality, the same cannot be held with respect to the analysis of social reality, unless we assign to this theory a status of ‘objectivity’, so much despised by postmodernists. But, if we reject this status and we have to deliberately select the criteria we use to interpret social reality, in full knowledge that our criterion of choice is axiomatic and that our conclusions do not claim any ‘objective’ validity,[61] then, obviously, we cannot rely on a multi-perspective interpretation of social reality (can we use both the autonomy and the heteronomy tradition, or both the socialist and the fascist ideology to interpret social reality?)

It is perhaps in only one sense that ‘postmodern’ science does break from modern science. This is the sense defined by Griffin[62], according to whom, ‘postmodern science seeks to loosen the boundary between scientific and “non-scientific knowledge” in order to incorporate other realms of knowledge and value in the sciences, involving “a new unity of scientific, ethical, aesthetic, and religions intuitions” and a “creative synthesis” of premodern, modern, and postmodern ideas.’ But, if this is the only sense in which so called postmodern science really breaks from modern science, then, those in the Marxist[63] or anarchist[64] side who criticise postmodernism as a form of irrationalism  are right. Similarly, one may argue that if all postmodernist critique amounts to is basically a denunciation of progress, ‘objectivity’ and’ certainty’, this is no reason either to go back to irrationalism. Without retreating to primitive ways of thinking we can still achieve the same result by resorting to an analysis based on reason[65]  rather than one based on the insights of Taoism or Zen! As Guy Debord[66], the founder of situationism, aptly put it referring to the crisis of (but also the need for) science:

When official science has come to such a pass, like all the rest of the social spectacle… It is not surprising to see a similar and widespread revival of the authority of seers and sects, of vacuum packed Zen or Mormon theology. Ignorance, which has always served the authorities well, has also always been exploited by ingenious ventures on the fringes of the law.

In fact, the irrational element, despite the efforts of rationalist postmodernists (usually of the post-Marxist variety) to downgrade it, exercised  a decisive influence in the postmodern paradigm.  Jeremy Rifkin’s New Age ecometaphysics and mystical tendencies that ‘wax poetically about love, the “timeless” realm of the spirit, and the ‘natural goodness of the cosmic process’[67] are well known. Furthermore, it is not accidental that postmodern science has been linked with ecology mainly through deep ecology, which is considered a form of postmodern ecology, but which at the same time, as Best and Kellner admit, is ‘typically mystical, and its deification of nature usually leads to neglect of the socio-economic forces that are destroying nature’.[68]

It is obvious that the irrational trends in ecology and postmodernism in general have their origin in the collapse of the myth of progress. However, the collapse of this myth does not mean that we have to go back to forms of irrationalism in order to criticise the modern techno-science, or that, alternatively, we have to fall into the trap of positivism. The alternative to objective rationalism, ‘certainty’, and’ objectivity’, as well as to irrationalism  is not, as I attempted to show in TID[69], a ‘postmodern’ relativism which equates all traditions, either they are based  on philosophy, (which to be true to itself has to be based not on ‘given’ truths but on constant questioning), or to some form of closed system.

The real alternative to positivism and irrationalism is the development of a democratic rationalism[70] that transcends both, namely, a rationalism founded on democracy as a structure and a process of social self-institution, which implies the democratic adoption of those traditions and body of  knowledge which have their sources on (and are processed by) reason, rather than on religious or other intuitions. This means that the only admissible ‘truths’, including values and ethical codes conditioning individual behaviour, are those rationally derived (i.e. through reason and open discussion rather than through Revelation, intuition, myth, or a closed system of ideas or ‘scientific’ truths)  and democratically decided on. In fact, if there was any progress in the last quarter of the century this was perhaps due to the fact that it is now widely recognised that the content of progress itself can only be determined through a conscious choice between  various traditions. To my mind, the only tradition which could determine the content of progress in a way that is compatible  with freedom itslef is none other than the democratic tradition which is based on individual and social autonomy.

Finally, democratic rationalism also differs radically from postmodernism with respect to the issue of how ideology can be fought today. It is of course true that (positivist) ideology today, in the way it has moved from the pages of books proper and expanded into everyday culture (through  television, newspapers, magazines, school and college textbooks, even academic social science), has become domination. It is also true, as I argued above, that  ideology cannot be challenged by an appeal to ‘objective’ rationalism and ‘science’ since, as regards social reality in particular, there can never be any ‘objective’ or ‘scientific’ way to ‘represent’ it. However this does not mean, as postmodernists suggest, that ideology can only be challenged by alternative ‘rhetorical versions  that acknowledge their grounding in non-logocentric language,’[71] on the assumption that method and science do not play a much different role today than  ideology and mythologyor even advertising. Although it is true that positive science does play this role in the so-called social ‘sciences’, it would be a sweeping generalisation to extend this characterisation to all kinds of kinds of science, if not to reason itself, as most postmodernists do. This could easily lead us again—particularly today!-- to the paths of irrationalism (religious or otherwise) from which some parts of Humanity emerged just a couple of hundreds of years ago.  

So, the only rational way to fight ideology is through the use of alternative versions of reality, which, though not founded on any ‘objective’ science or analysis, still, are not just based on a ‘non-logocentric language’ but on  an alternative view of social reality, which we grasp  through a ‘subjectively’ rational analysis of it. ‘Subjectively’, because we use a particular criterion we have selected in advance  to do it. ‘Rational’ because our analysis uses only reason in the processing of data and the assessment of alternative descriptions of reality rather than intuitions or other irrational ways of thinking.

6. A Postmodern art and culture?

Similar observations to the ones made in the last section about science could be made about ‘postmodernism’ in the arts. The fact that the label ‘postmodernism’ has been given to certain currents in architecture and that some artists prefer to call themselves postmodernists does not of course, by itself, establish a postmodern trend in the arts, if by this we mean a new form of art which breaks with the past, in this case with modern art. At most, such events may simply indicate the development of just one more art ‘school’, to be added to the pleiad of schools which proliferated throughout the modern era and which did not have the luck to discover the term ‘postmodern’.

So, the fact that some recent currents in various arts express different themes than, say, the themes of liberal or statist modernity, and/or use new styles does not justify the title of  ‘postmodern’ --unless it can be shown that such currents really represent a rupture, in a similar way that modern art could be shown that it broke with tradition both in content and in form. And there is little doubt that modern art did represent a huge break with traditional art. The freedom that modern artists acquired from a stupefying tradition that, for hundreds of years, had their imagination ‘corseted’ by silly religious themes —miracles, saints and the like led to radical innovations, in content and in form, during the era of modernity.  Furthermore, History has repeatedly shown that significant artistic development has invariably been related to ruptures at the broader social level: from the artistic achievements of classical Athens up to the flourishing of the arts in every revolutionary period since then.

No one doubts, of course, that ‘postmodern’ arts do reflect the prevailing themes of today (anti-narrative, individualism, privacy etc) and that sometimes use different styles from those of the modern arts. But, again, this event, by itself, does not legitimise the use of the term ‘postmodern’. In fact, supporters of the hypothesis  of a postmodern turn also  admit this when they state that ‘although advocates of the postmodern like to champion it as a break from the modern, there are very few “postmodern” elements that are com­pletely new or innovative’.[72]

Furthermore, the break of modern art with tradition extended much beyond the themes and form of traditional art. Artists in the modern era, as every other producer and creator, had, for the first time in History, to create for an anonymous self-regulating market, whose rules had to obey, -- a fact which often put obstacles to originality and the free expression of thought. Today, not only the market constraints on artists that were introduced in the modern era are still with them, but they are also reinforced  to an unprecedented degree. Art in all its forms has today been more commercialised than ever before, as a result of the fact that social (usually state) subsidies have been drastically reduced, in the content of the neoliberal form of economic organisation —a development which often forces artists to self-censor themselves in their struggle to get support from the economic elites. As a consequence, art has become even more profit-oriented than in the previous forms of modernity. The inevitable outcome of this development was that the arts have now been deluged by the trivial, which  attracts ‘customers’ more easily than the avant-garde. Therefore, what postmodernists celebrate as today’s’ ‘popular’ character of art, the ‘sharp break from bourgeois elitism and avant-garde art’, or the ‘aesthetic pluralism and populism’ is usually nothing more than an expression of the anguish of today’s artists in their struggle to survive by attempting to attract customers, from every source possible[73].

Likewise, the internationalisation of the market economy in neoliberal modernity made culture even more commercialised and, at the same time, homogenised, adding further constraints to the artist’s creativity. The internationalisation of culture is particularly obvious in consumer and computer culture (with the internet playing a crucial role in instantaneously conveying global cul­ture), pop music, film and video, but also in areas like architecture.[74] In fact, the institutional changes effected by neoliberalism play a crucial role in the marketisation of culture, since the recent liberalisation and de-regulation of markets has contributed significantly to the present cultural homogenisation, with traditional communities and their cultures disappearing all over the world and people being converted to consumers of a mass culture produced in the advanced capitalist countries and particularly the USA.

In the film industry, for instance, even European countries with a strong cultural background and developed economies face today a drastic shrinking of their own film industry, unable to compete with the much more competitive US film industry.[75] In fact, the recent emergence of a sort of “cultural” nationalism in many parts of the world expresses a desperate attempt to keep a national cultural identity in the face of the cultural homogenisation imposed by neoliberal modernity—a vain attempt, within the existing institutional framework in which over 75 percent of the international communications flow is controlled by a small number of multinationals[76]. The degradation of the film industry, which is now effectively monopolised by the US film industry through its huge control of distribution networks, the similar degradation of the pop music industry (no wonder old pop music hits are back in fashion—a sure sign of stagnation), the lack of any artistic achievements similar in importance to the earlier forms of modernity, are all sure signs of the general retreat in the arts that one observes in what is called ‘postmodern art’,[77] or what I would call ‘art in the neoliberal era of modernity’.

The film industry in particular can, also,  be used as a useful example to discuss the issue whether today’s trends in the arts represent a break with the past, or just an evolution of modern trends. Boggs & Pollard,[78] in their excellent analysis of today’s’ Hollywood, put forward the case that a ‘new’ postmodern cinema has been created in the last quarter of a century or so, which reflects the main elements of today’s reality: i.e. the deepening of the multidimensional crisis, particularly at the social level (films on crime and drugs), the political level (films on the cynical manipulation of the electorate by the political elites and the  mass depoliticization), the ecological level (films on ecological themes) and, finally,  the cultural level (although in the latter case the crisis is –unintentionally-- reflected by the films themselves rather than by their themes and  the emphasis they give on technique over content). However, although I would agree with the authors’ conclusion that the ‘new’ Hollywood cinema does express, deliberately or not, the main elements of today’s multidimensional crisis that concern film goers and therefore represent a potential source of profit for film makers, I would disagree with the characterisation of this cinema as a kind of ‘new’ cinema representing some sort of break with the past.

I would argue instead that  the main  trends of modern  Hollywood cinema are reproduced today, so that the characteristics the authors assign to this  ‘new’ cinema fit much better to a neoliberal cinema reflecting the present form of modernity rather than to a postmodern cinema representing a supposed break with modern cinema. The familiar apolitical culture of Hollywood (mainly due to the direct control that the economic elites have always exercised over its financing) is surely reproduced in this ‘new’ cinema, even though sometimes it gives the impression that it deals seriously with social and political issues. A closer examination however reveals the superficial way in which such issues are treated by Hollywood, which trivialises them and invariably emphasises the role of the individual as against collective political action[79]. A comparison with the way in which some European directors (some of them still financed by state-controlled institutions) deal with the same problems of neoliberal modernity (fear of unemployment, homelessness, lack of safe jobs leading to ‘unsocial’ behaviour —the Belgian film Rosetta being a beautiful example), is revealing. It is indicative that even when the economic, or political, or media elites are featured in Hollywood films usually it is the ‘bad guys’ within the elites who are blamed for the abuse of their power and not the system itself (which concentrated the various forms of power at their hands in the first instance and conditioned them to behave the way they do). It is then left to the ‘good guys’ to fight them, so that any malfunctioning of the system can be eliminated. The ‘heroes’ who dominated modern Hollywood still exist in ‘postmodern’ Hollywood -- only this time they are not gangsters or cowboys anymore but policemen, congressmen, even Presidents (Independence Day, Air Force One)!

In fact, the distinction drawn by postmodernists between a ‘ludic postmodernism’ and a ”postmodernism of resistance”, or oppositional postmodernisrn[80] does accurately reflect the deeply conservative nature of today’s Hollywood cinema. Hollywood productions nowadays reflect both these two trends, namely that of ludic postmodernism, which seeks just pleasure, and that of ‘postmodernism of resistance’, which is ‘modestly’ oppositional.[81] 

To my mind, the neoliberal form of modernity today has created both the objective and the subjective conditions for the deeply conservative nature of today’s Hollywood cinema, which, to a significant extent, is also reflected in other forms of art as well, despite appearances to the contrary. The objective conditions refer to the globalisation of this industry, the need to attract customers with as many different tastes as possible and the parallel almost complete ‘marketisation’ of it (lack of any social controls even to restrict the brutal violence for its own sake that is portrayed in most Hollywood films, despite its obvious social effects). On the other hand, the subjective conditions refer to the postmodern ideology which we shall consider in the next section. 

Finally, it is again doubtful, to say the least, that the emphasis given by ‘postmodernism’ on cultural politics and the thematization of culture as a crucial terrain of power and struggle does indeed represent a break with modernity rather than a further development of the modern trends, which were set in motion by  the surrealists in the interwar period and the Situationists in the after war period. But, whereas Situationists, for instance, were clearly aware of the fact that a cultural revolution, which is a necessary element of a systemic change, attains its real significance only within the context of an anti-systemic struggle, i.e. the struggle for a general social revolution that would overthrow the  society of the spectacle, postmodern cultural and identity politics is ‘localised’ and fragmented —a point that Best and Kellner[82] admit and rightly emphasise: 

Without this systemic emphasis, cultural politics and iden­tity politics remain confined to the margins of society and are in danger of degenerating into narcissism, hedonism, aestheticism, or personal therapy, where they pose no danger and are immediately co-opted by the culture in­dustries. In such cases, the political is merely the personal, and the original intentions of the 1960s goal of broadening the political field are inverted and perverted

Furthermore, whereas Situationists like Debord lamented the postmodernist ‘end of History’) postmodernists like Baudrillard celebrated it. Thus, as Debord put it: ‘spectacular domination’s first priority was to eradicate historical knowledge in general[83]...’in Greece history and democracy entered the world at the same time. We can prove that their disappearances have also been simultaneous.[84]

One may therefore conclude that perhaps, the main common concern of Situationists and postmodernists was their concern about the ‘mediated’ society and the passive spectator, as against the active subject/citizen. However, one may point out here that the passive spectator, as well as the society of the spectacle itself, is nothing more but the inevitable outcome of the disappearance of the active citizen. In other words, the passive citizen that representative (i.e. mediated) ‘democracy’ had created was bound to lead to the passive spectator of today,  as soon as technology allowed it.      

7. Postmodern theory as the emerging paradigm of the neoliberal form of modernity

At the theoretical and ideological level we may distinguish various forms of ‘‘dominant social paradigms’’ (as defined in section 5). In premodern (pre-market) societies, the ‘dominant social paradigms’ were characterised by mainly religious ideas and corresponding values about hierarchies, although of course there were exceptions like the Athenian democracy. Furthermore, in premodern, as well as in modern societies alternative paradigms had emerged which however never, or very briefly, became dominant.

The various forms of modernity have created their own dominant paradigms which in effect constitute sub-paradigms of the main paradigm, as they all share a fundamental characteristic: the idea of the separation of society from the economy and polity, as expressed by the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ (with the exception of Soviet statism in which this separation is effected through central planning and Soviet ‘democracy’). On top of this main characteristic, all forms of modernity share, with some variations, the themes of reason, critical thought and economic growth.

Thus, the dominant (sub)paradigm in liberal  modernity features, also, the belief in a mechanistic model of science, objective truth, as well as some themes from economic liberalism such as laissez faire and minimisation of social controls over markets for the protection of labour. Similarly, the dominant (sub)paradigm in the statist period still features the same characteristics involving a belief in objective truth and (a less mechanistic) science, but also certain elements of the socialist paradigm and particularly statism, in the form of a socialdemocratic statism based on  Keynesianism in the West, or Soviet statism based on Marxism-Leninism in the East. Finally, the present form of modernity is characterised by the emergence of a new social (sub)paradigm which tends to become dominant, the so-called ‘postmodern’ paradigm, whose main elements are a critique of progress (but not of growth itself), of mechanistic and deterministic science (but not of science itself), of objective truth, as well as some themes from neoliberalism such as the minimisation of social controls over markets, the replacement of the welfare state by safety nets and the maximisation of the role of the private sector in the economy.

Still, the fact that there are certain common elements which characterise those subparadigms does not mean they are monolithic. There is a diversity of  postmod­em theories, in exactly the same way as there was, for instance, a diversity of statist theories (Keynesian and Marxist the main ones). So, there are significant variations within what is called the postmodern paradigm. The main stream of postmodern theory consists of what has been called ‘deconstructionist postmodernism’ that we are going to consider next, which has its own ‘Right’ (what we may call ‘neoliberal postmodernism’) and ‘Left’ (what has been called ‘oppositional’ or ‘’reconstructive’ postmodernism). The common element in all forms of postmodernism is that none, in effect, challenges the fundamental characteristic of modernity, i.e. the separation of society from the economy and polity in the form of the market economy and representative democracy. Instead, postmodernists either enthusiastically adopt it (neoliberal side), or take it for granted (deconstructionists), or finally criticise it, but do not in effect challenge it, and suggest, instead, various reformist ways to improve it rather than to replace it with a new society based on alternative institutions (reconstructionists).

The main characteristics of ‘neoliberal postmodernism’, as expressed in the work of Daniel Bell,[85] Francis Fukuyama[86] and the likes, is the identification of postmodern society with post-industrial society, the view that  the present form of society, as expressed by representative ‘democracy’ and the market economy, represents the end of History and a strong critique of statism in general and the welfare state in particular, which is blamed for having led to the expansion of an uncontrollable hedonistic consumerism -- with the inevitable proposal for the effective elimination of the welfare state and the minimisation of social controls over markets. It is obvious that neoliberal postmodernism is the ideology par excellence of the neoliberal form of modernity and, in this sense, it already constitutes the dominant social paradigm today, at least as far as politics and economics is concerned.

At the other end of the spectrum is the whole body of ideas that constitute what  may be called ‘oppositional’ or ‘reconstructive’ postmodernism, which we shall consider in more detail in the next two sections. Briefly, this brand of postmodernism attempts to reconstruct Enlightenment values and socialist politics using the postmodern critiques of essentialism, reductionism, and foundationalism.

The above brief discussion of the main brands of postmodernism makes it obvious that the fundamental division I mentioned in the second section between liberalism and socialism runs through postmodernism as well. Thus, the neoliberal theories, which were  developed by those postmodernists inclined towards the liberal side, form the main core of the dominant social paradigm. On the other hand, the theories developed by those postmodernists inclined towards the socialist side, like postructuralist Marxists, as well as by several supporters of ‘identity politics’, form the core of ‘oppositional’ postmodernism. I would therefore agree with Best & Kellner[87] when they state that:

Though there are pronounced anti-Enlightenment and anti-modern ten­dencies in some versions of postmodern theory, as well as strong forces of irrational­ism and radical individualism, one cannot, with Habermas and Gallinicos, tar all postmodernists with the same brush as modalities of irrationalist con­servatism since there are conflicting tendencies among them and within the works of individual theorists themselves, mixing conservative and radical elements.

However, all this statement implies is that there are many variants of postmodern theory and that therefore we cannot criticise postmodern theory in general. In this light, having already considered the main elements of neoliberal postmodernism when we examined the neoliberal ideology, we may now proceed to consider  the development of  mainstream or ‘deconstructive’ postmodernism, which, has obviously influenced both the neoliberal and the oppositional sides of it.

To assess the significance of mainstream postmodernism it would be useful to examine first the conditions within which this new movement emerged. To my mind, two crucial events led to the emergence of the postmodernist movement, which however was a separate development from the parallel rise of the neoliberal form of modernity that we considered in section 3.

The first was a historical event: the collapse of the May 1968 uprising in France, in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Socialisme ou Barbarie group, the ideas of which played a significant role in this uprising, in contrast to postmodernism which, as Bookchin[88] points out, had nothing to do intellectually with it. It is noteworthy that activists sympathetic to this group like Daniel Cohn-Bendit (who later turned from a revolutionary into a middle-of-the-road professional politician that played a leading role in the West’s ideological campaign in favour of the criminal NATO bombardment of the Yugoslav people), as well as writers like Jean Francois Lyotard ( a member of the group), or Jean Beaudrillard (associated with the group), played a significant role in the events of May 1968 and the theoretical development of postmodernism respectively. A common characteristic in the views of these postmodernists associated with  the SoB group[89] is that they retained from its ideology only the attack against Soviet statism, while they quickly became adapted to the market economy and representative ‘democracy’. Although this attitude (shared by most postmodernists) was motivated by the French Communist party’s stand during the uprising, their fury against Marxism and Soviet statism —in the mid of the Cold War obviously helped significantly  the promotion of their views by the establishment media, as well as of their careers in politics or the academia[90]. Clearly, these ex-libertarians were frustrated by the fact that the aborted uprising did not induce people to  choose the freedom of anarchy and, instead, had finally opted for the status quo. So, instead of revising their utopian dreams about revolution and ‘spontaneous’ revolutionary consciousness (which they seriously expected to mature within the short period of the uprising!) they preferred to blame the workers for the failure, and, throwing away the baby with the bath water,  theorise  about the impossibility of a total change in society. 

The second was a theoretical development and was related to the collapse of Marxism in the 1970s, particularly in its dogmatic form of Marxist structuralism, as developed by Louis Althusser[91] and his disciples like Nikos Poulantzas. This development  gave rise to another version of postmodernism, in the form of post-structuralism, developed by the likes of  M. Foucault and J. Derrida, who, drawing on  the irrational elements of the thought of Nietzsche and Heidegger respectively, attacked not just objective rationalism, on which the Marxist ‘grand narrative’ their favourite target was based, but rationalism itself, as well as the modern visions of revolution and emancipation, turning instead to individualist programs of liberated sub­jectivity.

It is also important to note that, even after the collapse of actually existing socialism, following the decline of Marxism as an ideology, the focus of the postmodernists’ attack against ‘grand narratives’ remained unchanged, despite the fact that one of them had emerged victorious out of the Cold War, as Perry Anderson pointedly observed:[92] 

Far from grand narratives having disappeared, it looked as for the first time in history the world was falling under the sway of the most grandiose of all — a single, universal story of liberty and prosperity, the global victory of the market.

Thus, this historic event not only did not deter postmodernists like Lyotard from continuing talking about the end of grand narratives but induced him instead to characterise the victory of the market economy as the outcome of a process of natural selection that pre-dated human life itself! Even entropy was invoked by Lyotard,  in his opportunistic about turn from a thinker fighting for true socialism and autonomy as a member of the SoB group to an apologist of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’. According to the ‘reborn’ Lyotard, in a cosmos where all bodies were subject to entropy and external energy was limited, living systems had to compete with each other, in a perpetually fortuitous path of evolution. In this context, ‘various improbable forms of human aggregation arose, and they were selected according to their ability to discover, capture and save sources of energy’, and after some millennia punctuated by the Neolithic and industrial revolutions, ‘systems called liberal democracies’ proved them­selves best at this task, trouncing communist or islamist compet­itors, and moderating ecological dangers.[93] This is why for Lyotard, the ultimate motor of capitalism is not thirst for profit  but rather development as neguentropy. In the process, he manages to turn History upside down by arguing that it is not the system of the market economy whose dynamic has led to the present eco-catastrophic growth economy. Instead,  development is seen by him not as an invention of human beings, but, on the contrary,  human beings are seen as an invention of development(!)[94]

The above make clear that the main focus of mainstream postmodernists has never been the fundamental characteristic of modernity, the separation of society from state and the economy itself, but only in so far as it concerned the statist (particularly in its Soviet version) form of modernity.

But, let us now turn to the main themes of mainstream (‘deconstructive’) postmodernism that, to a significant degree, characterise also oppositional postmodernism. Following Best and Kellner,[95] we may sum up these themes, as follows:

  1. rejection of an overall vision of History as an evolutionary process of progress or liberation,

  2. rejection of totalising universal schemes and ‘grand narratives’ in favour of plurality, fragmentation, complexity and ‘local narratives’

  3. rejection of closed systems, essentialism and determinism in favour of  uncertainty, ambiguity and indeterminacy

  4. rejection of ‘objectivity’ and ‘truth’, in favour of relativism and perspectivism

  5. rejection of strict boundaries within and among different disciplines in favour of a transdisciplinary approach, which aims at new forms of discourse, on the explicit assumption that truth is conditioned by language and culture.

As regards first the postmodern view of History, as we saw in precious sections, the idea of progress  constituted not only the core of the Enlightenment but also of the two ideologies that were born out of it and have dominated since then all forms of modernity: liberalism and socialism. The fundamental principle of the Enlightenment was that the rational human being’s aims are determined by themselves rather than by some ‘sacred’ scripts and are summed up by the triptych ‘knowledge-freedom-prosperity’. It was the successful application of scientific knowledge in technology a knowledge derived through rational methods (reason, experiment etc) rather than through ‘intuition’, feeling and other irrational methods that created the myth of the continuous (linear or dialectic) progress. The fact that the idea of progress was embraced by the privileged social groups of the emerging market economy and soon became the core of the liberal ideology is not, of course, surprising, given that the dynamics of the market economy, namely economic growth, was perfectly compatible with the idea of progress. What is surprising is the fact that the same idea was embraced by the non privileged social groups which were fighting liberal modernity and  also  by radical theory. Thus, the idea of progress was adopted not only by the  socialist ideology and particularly Marxism which identified it with the development of productive forces[96], but also by eco-anarchist theory, in an effort to show a dialectical process synthesising natural with social evolution within the context of a ‘directionality’ towards an emancipatory post-scarcity society.[97]

However, in the last quarter of the twentieth century the growth ideology and particularly the association of progress with growth were severely criticised (not only, of course, from the postmodernist viewpoint[98]), as a result of a series of changes, both ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’. The former refer to the shift in the scientific paradigm from the ‘certainty’ and ‘objectivity’ of the mechanistic Newtonian model to the uncertainty and inter-subjectivity which characterises today’s probabilistic models and the theory of chaos and complexity -- the first victim of this shift being the ‘objective truth’ that scientific theories (liberal or Marxist) were supposed to express about social and economic development. The latter refer to the fact that the dynamic of the market economy led not only to a very uneven economic development characterised by a huge economic inequality and concentration of wealth between and within countries,[99] but also to the emergence of the growth economy (directly, in the case of the ‘capitalist’ growth economy in the West and, indirectly, in the case of the ‘socialist’ one in the East), which  initiated a massive damage to the environment that surpassed the damage to it over the entire human History before modernity.

As a result of these trends, there has been a shift in advanced market economies from the modern belief in inexhaustible resources to the present realization of scarcity and the need for an ethic of conservation, ‘sustainable development’ and ‘environment-friendly’ technology. Not surprisingly, every self-respecting director of a multinational gives nowadays lectures about ‘sustainability’, the institutions controlled by the political and economic elites (World Bank, the European Union bureaucracy etc) produce dozens of corresponding reports, organise conferences and subsidise research on sustainable development and conservation, whereas postmodern scientists theorise about the role of postmodern science, within the context of a nonexploitative relationship to nature and other human beings,  a process of “re-enchanting nature”[100]. Given that mainstream green parties already share government positions in several European countries, it is obvious that the paradigm of sustainable development has already taken the form of a ‘dominant social paradigm’. However, as Serge Latouche[101] aptly points out, this is only a bogus sustainability :

the concept of sustainable development is but the latest attempt to allay the “bad” sides of economic growth. The integration of environmental elements into economic calculating does not modify the nature of market economy nor the logic of the modernity.

It is therefore obvious that the myth of a science-based growth, as the realisation of the idea of progress that characterised the previous forms of modernity, has been replaced today by the myth of a science-based sustainable development (minus progress) , rather than by any  break leading to a re-enchantment of nature, as some postmodernists fantasize. This is of course not surprising in view of the fact that many postmodernists do not even criticise the present structures of concentration of power and particularly the market economy and, worse, take for granted the supposed  neutrality of science and technology. But, as I attempted to show elsewhere[102], if the neutrality hypothesis is challenged, then, the entire idea  of a ‘green’ techno-science, let alone that of a ‘green’ capitalism, becomes another fantasy! Still, the end of the myth of progress does not mean, as postmodernists of all persuasions seem to believe, that we should resort to a kind of ‘political agnosticism’ according to which all historical periods and previous societies are of equal value.          

Coming now to the rejection by postmodernists of totalising universal schemes and of grand narratives in favour of plurality, complexity and ‘local narratives’, it is true that a series of recent developments have indeed induced the double need to abandon ‘grand narratives’ and, also, to recognise the importance of social divisions beyond those of strict economic class divisions, which marked the previous forms of modernity. Such developments were  the collapse of Soviet Marxism, the decline of social democracy and parallel technological developments that led to the drastic reduction of the working class and the rise of the ‘new social movements’.

However, recognition of such developments in no way legitimises the stand adopted by many in the (postmodern) Left in favour of  abandoning any ‘universal’ project of human emancipation. To my mind, it is this stand which leads them to submit to the ‘inevitability’ of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’, and, in the interest of the politics of ‘difference’ and  ‘identity’,  dispose  also of any notion of class divisions.  Instead,  as I attempted to show elsewhere,[103] class divisions have to be redefined  (beyond the original conception of them which was restricted to the economic sphere) and a new universalist project of emancipation should be adopted  that would incorporate a new model of social divisions, which would embrace the politics of ‘difference’ and ‘identity’.

Furthermore, the recognition of plurality and difference in no way represents any kind of break with modernity, as Best & Kellner[104] also admit:

Both modern theory and postmodern theory are in agreement that con­temporary society and culture is wracked with fragmentation, conflicts, con­tradictions, and disorder. Modern theory and politics wants to discover resolutions to these conflicts, to (re)create harmony and order. Some versions of postmodern theory and politics, by contrast, live within the fragmentation and disorder, affirming positive possibilities within the whole, devising more modest survival strategies for life in the fragments, or attempting to solve piecemeal problems.

It seems therefore that the postmodern emphasis on plurality and ‘difference’, in combination with the simultaneous rejection of every idea to develop a universal project for human emancipation, in effect, serves as an alibi for abandoning liberatory analysis and politics and conforming to the status quo.

Now, as regards  the rejection of essentialism, postmodernists, yet again, throw away the baby with the bath water. It is of course right to reject Marxist essentialism that subsumed all forms of oppression to economic domination and exploitation, i.e. to the economic form of power, which however, as I pointed almost twenty years ago,[105] is only one form of power among an ensemble of numerous other sources of power characterising every form of collective life. But, to draw the conclusion out of this rejection of Marxist essentialism that there is no centre, or essence of power, is a very big jump indeed. In fact, as I attempted to show elsewhere[106], there is a unifying element which may unite members of the subordinate social groups around a liberatory project like the inclusive democracy project: this is their exclusion from various forms of power—an exclusion which is founded on the unequal distribution of power that characterises today’s main political and economic institutions  and the corresponding values. This means that the postmodern fragmentation and ‘localisation’ of social struggle around ‘local’ social divisions, namely, divisions determined by identities something that  inevitably leads to reformism and conformism is neither necessary nor desirable.

Finally, I would not raise any objections concerning the rejection of closed systems and ‘objectivity’ in favour of  indeterminacy, uncertainty, ambiguity, as well as of a transdisciplinary approach based on the assumption of a language and culture-conditioned truth (particularly as regards the interpretation of social reality), as this is obviously the core of the epistemological basis of the inclusive democracy paradigm.[107] However, this does not imply that we have to adopt the postmodern relativism which equates all traditions and all kinds of reason, nor does it mean that, without some kind of ‘objective’ criterion, our choice for freedom becomes an arbitrary one, ‘a mere matter of opinion’.[108] As I attempted to show in TID[109], the choice for freedom is not an arbitrary utopia but is based on the chronic multi-dimensional crisis that emerged since the rise of the modern society, as a result of the concentration of power to which the institutions of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ had, inevitably, led.

8. Postmodern or liberatory politics?

A similar division to the one we examined in the last section as regards postmodern theory arises, as one might expect, with respect to postmodern politics. For those on the liberal side of postmodernism the policy implications of their theoretical conclusions about the need to further ‘liberalise’ markets and relax social controls over them are obvious and, in fact, have already been implemented by governments of all persuasions in advanced market economies, in the last twenty years or so.

As regards mainstream postmodernism as well as oppositional postmodernism, we may distinguish the following categories of postmodern politics, following Best and Kellner.[110]

First, there is the anti­politics of Baudrillard and his followers, who reject any  possibility of emancipatory social transformation being stranded at the end of history (a theme later taken on board by Fukuyama).

A second form of postmodern politics advanced by Foucault, Lyotard, and Rorty, though not agreeing with Boudrillard’s nihilism, also rejects as utopian any global politics of liberation and  systemic change in favour of a reformist pol­itics at the local level aimed to enhance individual free­dom —a kind of politics that the authors of the  Postmodern Turn characterise as ‘a refurbished liberal reformism that fails to break with the logic of bourgeois individualism and subverts attempts to construct bold visions of a new reality to be shaped by a radical alliance poli­tics’[111].

A third form of postmodern politics is what is known as “identity politics’, which originated in the ‘new social movements” of the 1970s and 1980s. This  is the main form of Left politics today competing with the anti-globalisation ‘movement’ which, however, as I attempted to show elsewhere[112] is neither a movement in the proper sense of the word, nor possesses any clear anti-systemic nature, let alone a comprehensive political program for systemic change. Identity politics is not of course a ‘postmodern’ phenomenon, although it is true that it came into prominence in the last quarter of a century or so, as a result of the collapse of the working class movement. Both the feminist and the  Green movements started as radical modern movements with ‘universalist’ demands to change society, as the only way to abolish the domination of man over woman and nature. It was the rise of neoliberalism and the emergence of the neoliberal form of modernity that created the conditions for the conservative currents within these movements to dominate and convert them into today’s fragmented ‘identity’ movements. The identity politics movement is, today, the form of postmodern politics par excellence, as its politics of promoting the special interests of specific groups (feminist, gay ethnic minorities and so on) fits well to the anti-universal character of postmodern theory. Thus, today’s ‘identity’ movements, despite the radical critique they raised against specific hierarchical structures, (like those based on gender, race, sexual repression and repression of minorities), never  advanced any comprehensive political project for systemic change their fragmented nature does not allow such a program anyway but instead promoted cultural and personal identity issues..

But, let us come to the fourth type of ‘oppositional’ postmodern politics, which is advanced by Laclau and Mouffe, among others,  and represents the most radical form of postmodernism.  This version of postmodernism adopts several elements of modernism in a synthesis between the  postmodern critiques of essentialism, and reductionism on the one hand and the Enlightenment values  on the other. In this problematique, Laclau and Mouffe embrace the “new social movements” of the 1970s and 1980s as multiple sources of radical change that can bring about ‘radical democracy’.  However, the authors, instead of attempting to develop a new ‘class’ analysis around new ‘universalist’ class concepts that would transcend the narrow and outdated Marxist ones and at the same time integrate the ‘politics of difference’,  they simply abandon universalism altogether and therefore any idea of a liberatory project. Inevitably, this ‘synthesis’ ends up with a reformist politics  defined as ‘radical democracy’, which we shall consider in the next section.

The kind of politics suggested by postmodern theorists, which is in sharp contrast to the anti-systemic politics adopted by radical critics of liberal and statist modernity, was not, of course, unexpected, in view of the postmodernist critique against ‘universalism’, ‘essentialism’ and the ‘grand narratives. And it was not surprising either that this stance inevitably ended up with the generalised conformism characterising postmodernism in all its variants, so aptly criticised by Castoriadis[113]. In fact, this generalised conformism today pervades the entire  Left in the West,  from Bobbio to Habermas and from the postmodernists to the Greens. The abandonment of any idea for a systemic change is obvious, for instance, in the new direction that the main organ of the New Left of the 1960s has recently taken. As Perry Anderson[114] stresses,  the political defeat of the late sixties meant something much deeper: it meant ‘the cancellation of politi­cal alternatives’. This is a theme repeated by him in an editorial accompanying the ‘new’ New Left Review for the new century, in which the talk is not anymore about systemic change, (as he pointed out  elsewhere,[115] the Left is not capable today in imagining any alternative to the existing social order), but about what euphemistically he calls an ‘uncompromising realism’. This ‘realism’ would involve ‘support (for) any local movements or limited reforms, without pretending that they alter the nature of the system’, on the basis of the hypothesis which is obviously much closer to the pious hope of a demoralised Left rather than to any ‘realistic’[116] assessment of the situation— that ‘capitalism may be invincible, but might eventually prove soluble, or forgettable, in the waters of profounder kinds of equality, sustainability and self-determination’.[117] And, to dispel any illusions about the reformist turn of the new NLR, he concludes ‘only in the evolution of this (capitalist) order could lie the secrets of another one’.[118]

No wonder that for some postmodernist Marxists like Jameson there is a natural kinship between one of the most extreme versions of neo-liberalism —the universal modelling of human behaviour as utility-maximization by the Chicago economist Gary Becker— and socialism, in so far as both do away with the need for any political thought. As Perry Anderson again points out referring to Jameson, ‘the neo-liberal belief that in capitalism only the market matters is thus a close cousin of the Marxist view that what counts for socialism is planning: neither have any time for political disquisitions in their own right’.[119] Thus, for this new breed of postmodern marxism, the idea of an economic democracy, in which a synthesis is achieved between politics and economics, is inconceivable. Instead, the division between the economy and society is fully adopted, the only difference between a market economy and a socialist economy now being that in the former the running of the economy is left to the market forces and the economic elites benefiting from them, while in the latter it is left to the ‘experts’!

To conclude, the neoliberal politics of today is neither the outcome of a kind of ‘plot’ of the economic and political elites, as some crude ‘libertarian’ analysts maintain, nor a kind of deliberate choice by decadent politicians of the socialdemocratic Left, but it simply represents the kind of politics which is compatible with the present neoliberal form of modernity. Therefore, the truly radical objective is not just to fight for the creation of an ‘anti-neoliberalism’ front movement (as some in the Left suggest) or even an anti-globalisation movement, since neither neoliberalism nor globalisation could be stopped in the present institutional framework of the market economy and liberal ‘democracy’. To my mind, the truly radical objective today is to fight for the creation of a new anti-systemic movement aiming at the equal distribution of political and economic power. This implies the need for a new liberatory politics, like that proposed by the Inclusive Democracy project, that would be a synthesis of the ‘universalist’ politics that characterised the radical movements of modernity with the ‘politics of difference’, which came into the forefront in the last quarter of a century with the emergence of the ‘new social movements’.

9. Beyond ‘objective’ universalism and  postmodernism: the inclusive democracy approach

The clearest indication of the fact that  oppositional postmodern theory and politics essentially denotes a move by some radicals (particularly ex-Marxists that used to support a radical alternative  paradigm during the previous form of modernity) towards critically adopting a version of the presently dominant social paradigm is the kind of post-Marxism adopted by writers like Laclau and Mouffe. Post-Marxists are not only (rightly) throwing away historical materialism and (wrongly) ‘universalist’ politics in favour of the politics of difference and identity, but they also, in effect, embrace the main institutions of modernity, as we described them in this paper: representative ‘democracy’ (which they rename as ‘radical democracy) and the market economy. In this sense, as I will attempt to show in this section, post-Marxism is the final symptom of the bankruptcy of Marxist Left which, after the collapse of (theoretical and Soviet) Marxism has either moved to essentially embrace the dominant social paradigm, or remains fixed to an outdated Marxist dogma (Trotskyites and the likes).

Simon Tormey’s and David Ingram’s important contributions in this issue could be used to highlight the fundamental differences between the postmodern conception of democracy and the inclusive democracy conception that has been developed in this journal. Tormey’s[120] starting point is the usual postmodernist rejection of  ‘metanarratives’, like the Marxist philosophy of History, and the parallel rejection of the critique raised against post-Marxists (usually by traditional Marxists) for their adoption of the politics of ‘identity’ and ‘difference’. As he stresses: “After a century of disastrous political ‘holisms’ masquerading as the universal, nothing in my view could more damage the left radical cause…(than the idea) that the goal of left radicalism must be the transcendence of particularity, ‘identity’, difference”.

Of course, supporters of the inclusive democracy paradigm fully recognise the importance of particularity, ‘identity’ and difference, as well as the need to develop a new model for today’s class divisions which would reject an objective rationalism and the consequent philosophies of History, while at the same time it would  embrace the politics of ‘difference’ and ‘identity’ into a new  project of human emancipation.[121]  However,  at this point  the paths of the supporters of the inclusive democracy paradigm separate radically from those of the postmodernists.    

The ‘postmodern’ paradigm, unlike the inclusive democracy one (and also the autonomy project developed by Castoriadis who is wrongly classified by Tormey as a kind of postmodernist!) is not a ‘universalist’ project. This is a crucial difference from which emanate all other differences between the postmodern and the inclusive democracy paradigms we examined in this paper. The fact that the postmodern paradigm is not a universalist one implies, as Tormey points out, that ‘post-Marxists are deeply hostile to the idea of collective ‘interests’ and ‘needs’, indeed of any form of collective identity moving beyond that which is self-chosen or self-constructed by members of a given collectivity.’ On the other hand, the inclusive democracy approach, although it is also hostile to any form of collective identity beyond that which is self-chosen by individuals,  attempts to locate these identities into the power structures of the socio-economic system itself.   

Briefly, the main thesis of the Inclusive Democracy paradigm is that  the hierarchical totality that constitutes today’s society consists of a multiplicity of hierarchical sub-totalities defined on the basis of economic, political and social criteria --each totality with its own dominant and subordinate social groups. The present social divisions between dominant and subordinate social groups in the political sphere (professional politicians versus the rest of citizenry), the economic sphere (company owners, directors and managers versus workers, clerks etc) and the broader social sphere (men versus women, whites versus blacks, ethnic majorities versus minorities and so on), as well as within them,  are based on hierarchical structures that institutionalise an unequal distribution of power in all its forms, as well as on the corresponding cultures and ideologies. In modern society, the main structures which institutionalise the unequal distribution of power are the market economy and representative democracy, although other structures which institutionalise the unequal distribution of power between sexes, races, ethnicities etc cannot just be ‘reduced’ to these two main structures. However, as the economic element, in a market economy, is the dominant one, we may assume that although material interests alone are not enough in determining identities, still, the individual’s position within the economic sphere is the necessary condition in determining one’s own identity, whereas its position within the other sub-totalities, defined on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity etc, is the sufficient condition.

The ‘class’ position of an individual in such a hierarchical totality is therefore determined by its position within the ensemble of  social groups constituting society, namely by its membership in a number of social groups, either in a dominant or in a subordinate position. The individuals’ class position affects their politics in the sense that the way, for instance, women, racial or ethnic minorities behave is determined not only by their gender, racial, or cultural identity respectively, but also by their overall position within the ensemble of social groups and, particularly, by the degree of political and economic power they share, which affects also their position within the ‘identity’ social group in which they classify themselves. Furthermore, the class position of an individual affects its life chances, its access to education, health, housing etc, as well as its general social status. The unifying element that may unite those in subordinate position around a liberatory project is their exclusion from various forms of power. At the same time, the differentiating element which differentiates members of the various social groups is not just the attitude of their members towards the established system, as Castoriadis[122] argues, but also the very basis of their subordination, i.e. whether their subordinate position is founded on the unequal distribution of political, economic, or social power in general.

It is therefore clear that the inclusive democracy paradigm, while recognising the different identities of the social groups that constitute various sub-totalities, at the same time locates these differences into an overall socio-economic system which institutionalises the concentration of power between and within various social groups. In other words, it is the concentration of power in all its forms, as a result of the prevailing power relations and structures, which, according to the inclusive democracy paradigm, defines the ‘universalist’ character of the social struggle today, as against  the hierarchical structures based on identities, which,  according to the postmodernist paradigm, define the ‘particularist’ character of the localised struggles around identities.

As one could expect,  the adoption, or correpondingly the rejection  of  ‘universalism’ by the inclusive democracy and the postmodern paradigm respectively is crucial both with respect to the  politics proposed by the two paradigms, as well as to the conception of democracy, which they correspondingly adopt.

As regards, first, the politics suggested by post-Marxists and supporters of the inclusive democracy paradigm, it is not accidental that the former propose “alliances and coalitions between and amongst groups otherwise engaged in ‘single issue’ politics,”[123] whereas the latter propose the building of a massive programmatic political movement which would unite all the subordinate members of society[124]  on the basis of a comprehensive programme for systemic change that reintegrates society with economy,  polity and Nature, through the institutionalisation of the necessary (but not sufficient) conditions for the equal distribution of power at all levels.

The rationale behind the post-Marxist proposal for alliances and coalitions is based on the belief that the participants in universalist movements like the Marxist  movement have no validity as a separate category of social existence, whereas the participants of ‘localised’ struggles will safeguard the sense that individuals really are constituted as a sum total of ‘subject positions’ and, at the same time, preserve the sense that  they are part of a broader struggle for self-determination and equality. However, it is obvious that, the lack of any common anti-systemic aim, in combination with the composition of such alliances, which would unavoidably consist of heterogeneous movements with sometimes conflicting aims, is bound to lead them across the well-trodden path of reformist politics that are hopelessly inadequate to deal with the multidimensional crisis we face in today’s’ internationalised market economy. The anti-globalisation movement (mentioned by Tormey as an example of postmodern politics), which is already facing a split between, on the one hand,  the anti-systemic currents within it and, on the other, the ‘middle of the road’ protesters from mainstream Greens, NGOs, trade unions and so on, is a case in point. It is obvious that the occurrence of such a split would also fulfil the elites’ aim of marginalizing the radical currents and integrating the rest, converting the anti-globalisers  into one more painless ‘pressure group’, like the mainstream Green movement.

On the other hand, supporters of the inclusive democracy paradigm, explicitly recognise the multiple ‘subject positions’ of individuals participating in various social groups and consequently support localised struggles —provided, however, that they are an integral part of a political movement for anti-systemic change that would involve the equal distribution of power at all levels. Therefore, the problem in emancipatory politics today, according to this approach, is how all the members of social groups who potentially form the basis of a new liberatory subject would be united by a common worldview, a common paradigm, which sees the ultimate cause of the present multidimensional crisis in the present institutionalised structures (and the corresponding value systems) that secure the concentration of power at all levels.

But let us come now to the issue of the conception of democracy. Tormey points out that ‘one of the features of Post-Marxist theorising that appears to irritate left critics the most is their steadfast defence of ‘bourgeois rights’, indeed of constitutionalism and the rule of law more generally as part of - if not the whole story about - ‘democracy’. Of course, he is right. It is the conception of political and economic democracy adopted by post-Marxists and ‘oppositional’ or ‘reconstructive’ postmodernists that clearly shows why their rejection of any kind of universalism (even if it is based on self-reflective choice —as is the case of the inclusive democracy paradigm --rather than on an ‘objective’ rationalism) is bound to lead to the direct or indirect endorsing of the dominant social paradigm. The post Marxist defence of ‘rights’ is nothing else but the inevitable outcome of their adoption of representative ‘democracy’ and the passive citizenship implied by it.

Starting point in the post-Marxist analysis of the need for economic democracy is the rejection of  the fiction of ‘post-scarcity’, which indeed turns politics into ‘the administration of things’. The adoption of this fiction by Marxists, as well as by most anarchists,[125] renders economic democracy obviously redundant —a point correctly grasped by post-Marxists. Of course, this is also a basic position of the inclusive democracy paradigm which has been developed in this journal since the early 1990s.[126] In other words, the Inclusive Democracy paradigm explicitly recognises that Politics --in the proper, classical, sense of the word which identifies it with direct democracy rather than with the statecraft of representative ‘democracy’ that passes as politics today-- has to be conceived in conditions of scarcity, (which, for the reasons I developed in TID,  is  going to be with us for ever), rather than in a communist nirvana of post scarcity. Furthermore, in this problematique, democracy is inconceivable if it is not also economic democracy. This is because in the move to  modernity there was a definite shift of the economy from the private realm into what Hannah Arendt called the "social realm" –a shift which, as I put it in TID,[127] ‘today makes hollow any talk about democracy that does not also  refer to the question of economic power; to talk about the equal sharing of political power, without conditioning it on the equal sharing of economic power, is at best meaningless and at worse deceptive’.

Post-Marxists seem on the surface to recognize all this, as Tormey’s paper shows, but then they go on to define economic democracy as a market economy plus ‘a democratic control of the means of production’! The justification of this conclusion is what they describe as ‘the unavailability of models of economic interaction within a modern industrial setting’ that do not ignore the heterogeneous and plural character of ‘needs’, (which are themselves only a reflection of the plural and heterogeneous character of modern ‘subjects’), and the parallel failure of the Marxian model of economic planning, which was based on observable or anticipated ‘social’ (i.e. collective) needs and interests. However, readers of this journal are of course well aware of the availability of exactly the sort of model[128] that Tormey describes, which assumes neither a Marxian model of planning, nor a real market economy--as post Marxists do, in a fundamental retreat from any attempt to develop an antisystemic political project.

Furthermore, given the post-Marxist embracing of the market economy, it is no wonder that they adopt a narrow conception of economic democracy which implies the institutionalisation of the minimisation of socio-economic differences, particularly those  arising out of the unequal distribution of private property and the consequent unequal distribution of income and wealth. On the other hand, in the inclusive democracy paradigm, economic democracy is defined in a similar way as political democracy. Thus, if political democracy means the authority of the people (demos) in the political sphere—a fact that implies political equality—then economic democracy could be correspondingly defined as the authority of demos in the economic sphere —a fact that implies economic equality in the sense of equal distribution of economic power— not just of income and/or wealth. And, of course, we are talking about the demos and not the state, because the existence of a state means the separation of the citizen body from the political and economic process. Economic democracy therefore implies the institutionalisation of the integration of society and the economy and of the equal distribution of economic power. This means that it is the demos which ultimately controls the economic process, within an institutional framework of demotic ownership of the means of production.

However, such considerations are obviously anathema to post-Marxists like Tormey who characterise them as ‘abstract enthusiasm’:[129]

The ‘postmodern imagination’ is one fuelled by the desire to change that which exists concretely by reference to that which exists only abstractly, namely universal values. Change albeit of an incremental nature that increases the self-sufficiency and well-being of individuals, that enhances their access to education, housing, health services, that means they have to work in less demeaning, less alienated ways, earn more, take more power over key decisions, resist exploitation is little more than a ‘distraction’ (even an unwelcome one) to the ‘abstract enthusiast’. To the ‘concrete enthusiast’, however, such measures represent the progressive actualisation of a ‘horizon’ that will never finally be actualised, of social relations that will never finally be constructed, of values that will never finally be realised, of a ‘promise’ that will never be redeemed .

The above extract  makes clear not only the sheer utopianism of  post-Marxists, who seem to believe that an effective social control of the internationalised market economy is still possible, but also the fact that they have effectively moved today to occupy the position vacated by traditional socialdemocrats, who, more realistic than post-Marxists and recognising the significance of the internationalisation of the market economy, have moved to social-liberalism.

But, let us now move to compare and contrast the postMarxist conception of political democracy with that envisaged by the Inclusive Democracy project. Chantal Mouffe is particularly explicit on the fact that the ‘radical’ democracy adopted by postMarxists is, in essence, a variation of liberal ‘democracy’. This is obvious when she argues, for instance, that a ‘radical’ democracy perspective ‘does not imply the rejection of liberal democracy and its replacement by a completely new political form of society, as the traditional idea of revolution entailed, but a radicalisation of the modern democratic tradition.”[130] Furthermore, as the following extract shows, the postmodern idea of ‘radical democracy’ is even more conservative than the evolutionist idea of radical democracy promoted by Habermas. Thus, as Mouffe stresses, referring to the Habermasian version of radical democracy[131]: 

Those (Habermasian) universalistic versions of radical democracy are grounded on an evolutionistic and stagist conception of moral development, and they require the availability of an ‘undistorted communication’ and of a final rational reconciliation of value claims. In other words, they envisage the possi­bility of a politics from which antagonism and division would have disappeared. Our understanding of radical democracy, on the contrary, postulates the very impossibility of a final realization of democracy. It affirms that the unresolvable tension between the principles of equality and liberty is the very condition for the preservation of the indeter­minacy and undecidability which is constitutive of modern democracy. Moreover, it constitutes the principal guarantee against any attempt to realize a final closure that would result in the elimination of the political and the negation of democracy.

It is therefore obvious that within this problematique not only any movement towards a ‘true’ democracy is out of the question, but even the very possibility of such a democracy is denied, as the same author makes clear:

any attempt to bring about a perfect harmony, to realise a ‘true’ democracy can only lead to its destruction. This is why a project of radical and plural democracy recognises the impossibility of the complete realisation of democracy and the final achievement of the political community. Its aim is to use the symbolic resources of the liberal democratic tradition to struggle for the deepening of the democratic revolution knowing that it is a never ending process’.[132]

It is clear that these conclusions are based on the  assumption of an ‘unresolvable tension’ between equality and liberty. However, this is an untenable assumption which post-Marxists are able to make because they conveniently ignore the fact that what they call an ‘unresolvable’ tension  between equality and liberty is, in reality, the inevitable outcome of a particular system: a system, which institutionalises the concentration of the various forms of power, and particularly of political and economic power, in the hands of various elites, through the separation of society from the state and the economy. It is obvious that no such ‘unresovable’ tension could exist in a true democracy which secures the equal distribution of political and economic power.

It is therefore not surprising that within this pseudo-democratic problematique, which takes the existing system of liberal democracy for granted, it is argued that ‘political and economic liberalism need to be distinguished and then separated from each other”.[133] This is an obvious attempt by Mouffe to reconcile the political liberalism (representative ‘democracy’) she adopts with economic liberalism (market economy) and liberalism in general with autonomy. However, as I attempted to show in TID[134], the fact that political and economic liberalism have always been inseparable is not a historical accident. This is why, as I mentioned in the first section of this paper, representative  (liberal) ‘democracy’ has always functioned as the necessary complement of the market economy. In fact, the marketisation of the economy, i.e. the  lifting of social controls on the market in the last two centuries, was exactly based on the ideal of a ‘free’ (from state controls and restrictions) individual. It is therefore clear that Mouffe’s version of  ‘radical’ democracy is grounded on an individualistic conception of autonomy that is assumed separate from social autonomy, and a negative conception of freedom.

Furthermore, Mouffe, confusing the fact that democracy is indeed a process (in the sense that divisions among citizens will always exist and will continue necessitating a deepening of democratic consciousness and paedeia[135]), with the meaning of democracy itself, ends up by defining radical democracy in terms of ‘extending and deepening” the present ‘liberal oligarchy’ (in the apt expression of Castoriadis, or ‘liberal democracy’ (in the inept expression of Mouffe),  rather than in terms of the institutional preconditions of democracy. It is therefore obvious that, within the postmodern problematique of radical democracy, there is no scope for an anti-systemic political project, like that of inclusive democracy, and for a corresponding political movement that would fight to create the necessary (but not sufficient) conditions for eliminating the tension between equality and liberty.[136]

David Ingram’s[137]’ discussion of the vexed question of the minority groups’ rights is  based on a  similar conception of (‘participatory.) democracy in which the state is, again, separate from both society and the economy. It is therefore obvious that the entire discussion is of little relevance to the inclusive democracy problematique that presupposes reintegration of society with economy and polity. However, this conceptual difference concerning the meaning of democracy has crucial implications with respect to the issue of (individual or group) ‘rights’. It is clear that it is only in forms of social organisation in which society is separate from polity and the economy that the issue of rights arises in the first place. This is because it is only in such societies, in which there is the potential for the concentration of power in the hands of economic and political elites, that the need for protection against the elites which control the state machine and/or the economy is created. On the other hand, in a society that reintegrates society with polity and the state, which, by definition involves the equal sharing of power, most of the discussion about ‘rights’ becomes irrelevant. Therefore, Ingram’s discussion as to which model of statist democracy (the liberal model of ‘overlapping consensus’ versus the Habermasian model of ‘communicative consensus’) is more appropriate in securing effective protection of rights without compromising ‘identities’ and ‘differences’ (based on gender, race or culture) refers basically to contradictions created by the present institutional framework. It is, also, clear that many of the contradictions created by the ‘incommensurability’ between cultural values are, in fact, created as a result of the unequal distribution of power that characterises such societies. It is this power inequality  that allows minorities to impose on society their own conceptions of the ‘appropriate’ values, beliefs and so on, and classify citizens accordingly as first, or second  class citizens.

Once however institutions that secure the unequal distribution of power have been eliminated, then, these cultural differences assume their proper dimensions. In other words, although the problem of cultural differences does not disappear in an inclusive democracy, which, far from being an undifferentiated society, it celebrates plurality and difference, it is set on a completely different basis. It is not anymore a problem of protecting some freedoms from abuses by the state or the economy, within an institutional framework securing a passive citizenship, but a problem of creating the necessary institutional arrangements to protect minorities, even of one, from the ‘tyranny of the majority’, within an institutional framework securing an active citizenship. In other words, within an institutional framework which creates the necessary conditions for the absence of a conflict between democracy and freedom of the social individual. And, in fact, as I attempted to show in TID,[138] there are several institutional arrangements that could be introduced with this intent, ranging from exceptional majorities and separate minority assemblies giving minorities a veto “block” vote up to the use of geographical segregation, wherever this is possible.

However, institutional arrangements create only the preconditions for freedom. In the last instance, individual and social autonomy depends on the internalisation of democratic values by each citizen. Therefore, paedeia plays, again, a crucial role in this connection. It is paedeia, together with the high level of civic consciousness that participation in a democratic society is expected to create, which will decisively help in the establishment of a new moral code determining human behaviour in a democratic society. I suppose it will not be difficult to be shown that the moral values that are consistent with individual and social autonomy in an inclusive democracy are those that are based on co-operation, mutual aid and solidarity. The adoption of such moral values will therefore be a conscious choice by autonomous individuals living in an autonomous society, as a result of their fundamental choice for autonomy, and not as the outcome of some divine, natural or social ‘laws’, or tendencies.

It was in this problematique that I stressed, in an extract taken out of context by David Ingram, that  ‘no democracy can exist and reproduce itself if it consists of diverse sets of people with significantly different value systems, arising from a variety of belief systems, which they consider unalterable’. It is this ‘unalterableness’ that makes such a democracy non-feasible and not simply the existence of different belief systems, which are of course presupposed in a democracy. However, a crucial distinction should be made between rational and irrational belief systems. The former, even if they are closed systems based on some sort of ‘objective’ rationalism, are alterable, given that supporters of such belief systems can always alter their views when faced with alternative rational arguments, while irrational belief systems (based, for instance on religion, myths etc) are by their nature unalterable. This means that no rational argument is possible with supporters of irrational belief systems, and democracy itself is not feasible, if the majority of citizens adhere to such belief systems. Most postmodernists, as we saw in this paper, do not draw any distinction between rational and irrational belief systems and therefore are not in a position to assess the crucial difference between alterable and unalterable belief systems. It is this postmodern failure that leads Ingram to conclude that ‘rational autonomy as they (Fotopoulos and Lyotard) understand it - requiring as it does the relentless criticism of all particular, dogmatic beliefs and identities - does indeed designate a particular identity, lifestyle, and faith alongside and relative to other 'traditional' identities. The fact (however ironic) that it is also critical of particular identities, lifestyles, and faiths yields an additional reason for not ascribing it to universal reason’[139]

The cause of the postmodern failure to draw this crucial distinction is that postmodernists, usually implicitly rather than explicitly, adopt a generalised relativism that includes philosophical relativism. This means that for many postmodernists a tradition, either it is based on reason or on irrational sources (Revelation and so on), is of equal value and does not give any scope for distinguishing between them. However, as I stressed in TID, there is a strong case for distinguishing  between democratic and philosophical relativism[140]:

discarding scientism (Marxist or otherwise) should not push us to the alternative trap of general relativism and irrationalism. As regards relativism, first, we should make an important distinction between political and democratic relativism on the one hand and philosophical relativism on the other. It is obvious that democratic relativism[141], i.e., that all traditions, theories, ideas, etc., are debated and decided upon by all citizens, is an essential element of democracy. The same applies to political relativism, i.e., that all traditions have equal rights. Still, a strong case can be made against philosophical relativism, i.e., that all traditions have equal truth value, in the sense of all being accepted as equally true or false. This is particularly the case when philosophical relativism contradicts democratic relativism.[142]

In other words, it should be clear that a society based on an inclusive democracy can only be founded on the expressed will of the majority of citizens that all traditions, values, ideas, etc. that influence collective decion-making, are debated and decided upon by all citizens and that those traditions drawing their origin on exogenous forces (supposedly God’s will and so on), are tolerated as minority views but  cannot be the basis of rational discourse and therefore the object of democratic decision-making. Unless therefore the majority of citizens ascribe  reason itself to a ‘universal’ rather than to some kind of a ‘particular’ reason, the talk about democracy is meaningless.


As I attempted to show in this paper, although  it is true that there have been significant changes at the economic, the political, the scientific, cultural and theoretical levels in the last quarter of a century or so, these changes in no way justify the view that the advanced market economies have  entered an era of postmodernity, or even a ‘postmodern turn’. Not only the main political and economic structures, which were institutionalised in the move from the traditional to the modern society, are still dominant in the North but in fact they are spreading all over the globe at the moment. Also, the changes at the other levels could be shown to represent either an evolution of trends already existing in modern society rather than any sort of break or rupture with the past (science), or the development of new trends, particularly at the theoretical and cultural levels, which reflect the emergence of the present neoliberal form of modernity. In this sense, postmodern theory, in all its variants, plays the role of justifying either deliberately, (as in the case of the liberal side of postmodernism), or objectively, (as in the case of mainstream and ‘oppositional’ postmodernism) the universalisation of liberal ‘democracy’ and the present marketisation of the economy and society. In other words, it plays the role of the emerging dominant social paradigm which is consistent with the neoliberal form of modernity,

It is therefore obvious that today the chronic multi-dimensional crisis (political, economic, ecological, cultural and social in a broad sense) that was created during the modern era, which has worsened rapidly in the present neoliberal form of modernity, creates the need, more than ever before during modern times, for a new universal project that would represent a synthesis of the best traditions of the premodern and modern eras: the classical democratic tradition,  the socialist tradition, as well as the radical currents in the Green, the feminist, and the other identity movements. The aim of such a project can be no other than the creation of a truly postmodern society[143] like the one proposed by the inclusive democracy project.


[1] See Takis Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, (London & N.Y: Cassell, 1997), ch 3.

[2] See about the present multidimensional crisis, Takis Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy,  ch 4

[3] Takis Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 1

[4] This is defined as  the self-regulating system in which the fundamental economic problems --what, how, and for whom to produce-- are solved `automatically', through the price mechanism, rather than through conscious social decisions

[5] This is defined as the historical process that has transformed the socially controlled markets of the past into the ‘market economy’ of the present,

[6] Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, the Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Beacon Press, 1944/1957), p. 275.

[7] Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, pp. 63-65.

[8] Pëtr Kropotkin, Selected Writings on Anarchism and Revolution (Cambridge and London: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1970),  pp 245-53.

[9] E.M. Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 214-15


[10] John Dunn, “Conclusion” in Democracy, the Unfinished Journey, 508 BC to AD 1993, ed.  by John Dunn ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 251.

[11] E.M. Wood, Democracy Against Capitalism, p.216


[12] As Aristotle points out, the election by voting was considered oligarchic and was not allowed but in exceptional circumstances (usually in cases where special knowledge was required), and only appointment by lot was considered democratic, Aristotle, Politics, Book IV, 1294b, John Warrington, ed. (London: Heron Books)

[13] These are controls aiming to create a stable framework for the smooth functioning of the market economy without affecting its essential self- regulating nature

[14] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 14-21

[15] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 17-21

[16] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 21-33

[17] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 75-79

[18] The growth ideology may simply be defined as the ideology founded on the social imaginary signification that the unlimited growth of production and of the productive forces is in fact the central objective of human existence.

[19] The ‘growth economy’ is defined as the system of economic organisation which is geared, either “objectively” (through the market mechanism) or deliberately (through the planning mechanism), to the maximisation of economic growth (See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 62-73

[20] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy pp 28-32 & 85-100

[21] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 73-85 and 100-104

[22] See on the internationalisation vs. the ‘globalisation’ of the market economy, T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 46-50

[23] As I pointed out in Towards An Inclusive Democracy (p. 29), ‘The institutional arrangements adopted in the post-war period to liberalise the markets for commodities and capital, at the planetary level (GATT rounds of tariff reductions), at the regional level (the European Economic Community [EEC], European Free Trade Association [EFTA]) and at the national level (abolition of capital and exchange controls in the US and Britain in the 1970s etc.) mostly institutionalised rather than created the internationalised market economy . It was the market economy’s grow-or-die dynamic that created it’.


[24] Bosanquet, After the New Right (London: Heinemann, 1983), p. 126.

[25] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 33-46

[26] Eric Helleiner, “From Bretton Woods to Global finance: a world turned upside down” in Richard Stubbs and Geoffrey R.D. Underhill, Political Economy and the Changing Global Order, (London: Macmillan, 1994)

[27] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Class Divisions Today-The Inclusive Democracy Approach’, Democracy & Nature, vol 6 no 2 (July 2000) pp 211-252

[28] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy pp 67-73

[29] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy pp 46-56

[30] Polanyi, The Great Transformation, p. 29.

[31] Arran Gare, ‘Postmodernism as the decadence of the social democratic state’ (in this issue)

[32] Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity, (London: Verso, 1998) p 26

[33] J-F Lyotard: The Postmodern condition (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1984, p. 79

[34] e.g. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989)

[35] notably Alex Callinicos, Against Postmodernism, (Oxford: Polity Press, 1990)

[36] Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity, pp. 84-91

[37] Alex Callinicos, Against Postmodernism, (Oxford: Polity Press, 1990)

[38] Perry Anderson, New Left Review no 1 (new period), Jan/Feb 2000, p 10

[39] T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy pp 97-98

[40]  Perry Anderson, New Left Review, pp. 10-11

[41] Takis Fotopoulos, ‘The concept of dependence’, Oikonomikos, 23 September 1982

[42] Although one may agree that, ontologically, the division between social spheres may not be valid as such divisions were not always present, methodologically, it makes sense to distinguish between the various 'elements' in every society and attempt to explain social divisions in them on the basis of which particular element constituted the dominant one-- which in turn defines the dominant social groups.

[43] Robert W. Cox “Global Restructuring: Making Sense of the Changing International Political Economy,” in Richard Stubbs and Geoffrey R.D. Underhill, Political Economy and the Changing Global Order, p. 53.

[44] See the debate on this in T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy pp 53-56

[45] See Perry Anderson, ‘The affinities of Norberto Bobbio’, New Left Review, no 170 (July-August 1988) p 21

[46] Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity, p.46

[47] Thomas Frank, One Market Under  God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy, (Secker & Warburg, 2001)

[48] Demos is a London-based think-tank, very close to the Blairite government but also to postmodern theory and its ‘radical democracy’ discourse.

[49] Charles Leadbeater, Living on Thin Air, (Penguin, 2000), quoted by Thomas Frank, The Guardian, 6 January 2001

[50] See T.Fotopoulos, ‘The First War of the Internationalised Market Economy’, Democracy & Nature, vol 5 no 2 (July 1999) pp. 357-383

[51] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, (New York: Guilford Press, 1997), p. 253

[52] Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Mass media, Culture and Democracy’, Democracy & Nature, vol 5 no 1, (March 1999), pp 33-64

[53] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 62-67

[54] See Theodor W. Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, (London: Verso, 1997)

[55] See Murray Bookchin, The Philosophy of Social Ecology (Montreal: Black Rose, 1995)

[56] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, pp 195-96

[57] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 203

[58] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 224

[59] Ibid. See also S. Best & D. Kellner, ‘Kevin Kelly’s Complexity Theory: The Politics and Ideology of Self-Organising Systems’, Democracy & Nature, vol 6 no 3 (November 2000), pp 375-400

[60] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Systems theory and complexity: a potential tool for radical analysis or the emerging social paradigm for the internationalised market economy?’, Democracy & Nature, vol 6 no 3 (November 2000), pp 421-446

[61] See for further development, T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 8

[62] David Ray Griffin, The Re-enchantment of Science (Albany: State University of NY Press, 1988) and Spirituality and Science (Albany: State University of NY Press, 1988) quoted by Best & Kellner, p. 242

[63] See for example J. Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1987) and Alex Callinicos, Against Postmodernism

[64] See Murray Bookchin, Re-enchanting Humanity, (London: Cassell, 1995)

[65] The work for instance of Castoriadis or of Kuhn is of particular relevance here. See C. Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997) and T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970).

[66] Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, (London: Verso, 1998) pp. 41-42

[67] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p.267

[68] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 269

[69] Takis Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 8, pp. 340-349

[70] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 8, pp.350-351

[71] Ben Agger ‘Are Authors Authored? Cultural Politics and Literary Agency in  the Era of the Internet’ (in this issue)

[72] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 135

[73] This is also implied by statements like the following one by Best & Kelner:

Indeed, the later postmodern turn to individual feeling, to aestheticization, to pleasure and indulgence and difference and fragmentation, advances the contemporary capitalist agenda of generating a more aestheticized and eroticised world that will promote more individual­ized consumption, more segmented markets, with new choices, pleasures, and services, thus, once again, serving the agenda of capital that requires a new ideology convincingly served up by postmodernism, Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 147

[74] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 188

[75] Thus, in the early 1990s, US films' share amounted to 73% of the European market. Also, indicative of the degree of concentration of cultural power in the hands of a few US corporations is the fact that, in 1991, a handful of US distributors controlled 66% of total cinema box office and 70% of the total number of video rentals in Britain. (see T Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, p. 40


[76] As K. Gouliamos, a Canada-based professor on mass media, stresses in the Athens daily TO VEMA (9 Feb. 1992).

[77] Best & Kellner recognise this: ‘During the past decade, the postmod­em turn has not produced many new art heroes, canons, or monuments’ Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 188

[78] Carl Boggs and Tom Pollard, ‘Postmodern cinema and Hollywood culture in an age of corporate colonization’ (in this issue)

[79]  On this, Boggs and Pollard also agree when they refer to supposedly ‘critical’ Hollywood films:  ‘Yet only rarely do such films, shaped by culturally radical sensibilities as they might be, embrace any distinctly political conclusions or alternatives; like so much of American society itself, they remain depoliticised to the extent their artistic insurgency is hardly ever translated into a political radicalism’ (ibid.)

[80] ‘Ludic postmodernism’ indulges in aesthetic play for its own sake while distancing itself from a troubled world or even lending tacit or explicit support of the status quo, whereas ”postmodernism of resistance” or oppositional postmodernisrn acknowledges its self-referential status but also seeks to en­gage political issues and to change the existing society, Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 137

[81] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 190

[82] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 278

[83] Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, p. 13

[84] Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, p. 20


[85] Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, (London: Penguin, 1976)

[86] Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (London: Penguin, 1993)

[87] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 36

[88] M Bookchin, Re-enchanting Humanity (London: Cassell, 1995), p. 174

[89] The fact that significant members of this group were involved in the development of the postmodern movement may go some way in explaining why several postmodern theoreticians attempt today to classify Castoriadis, a prominent member of the SoB group and a fierce opponent of postmodernism (see, for instance, his ‘The Retreat from Autonomy: Postmodernism as Generalised Conformism’ -in this issue) into their ranks.

[90] On this I would agree with Bookchin’s observation: ‘I am not claiming that postmodernists necessarily bear a personal intention of becoming ideological supports for any social system or that they are the mere creatures of capital. But what makes any given body of ideas acceptable or academically respectable more often has to do with the social functions it serves rather than with the quality of the insights it offers’ M Bookchin, Re-enchanting Humanity, p.175

[91] See, for instance L Althusser and E. Balibar, Reading Capital (London: New Left Books, 1970)

[92] Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity, p 32

[93] Moralités Postmodernes, (Pans 1993, pp. 80-86) -- quoted in P. Anderson’s The Origins of Postmodernity, p. 33

[94] ‘Une fable postmoderne’ in Moralités Postmodernes, pp.86-87

[94] Moralités Postmodernes, (Pans 1993, pp. 80-86) -- quoted in P. Anderson’s The Origins of Postmodernity, p. 34

[95] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, pp. 255-58

[96] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 62-67

[97] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 328-340

[98] See C. Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991) ch 9

[99] T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 67-73

[100] I. Prigogine & I Stengers, Order out of chaos (New York: Bantam, 1984) p. 36 (quoted by Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 267)

[101] Serge Latouche, ‘The paradox of ecological economics and sustainable development’, Democracy & Nature, vol 5 no 3 (November 1999), p. 501

[102] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Towards a democratic conception of science and technology’, Democracy & Nature, vol 4 no 1(1998), pp 54-86

[103] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Class divisions Today-the Inclusive Democracy Approach’, Democracy & Nature, vol 6 no 2 (July 2000), pp. 211-252

[104] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 262

[105] Takis Fotopoulos, ‘The concept of dependence’, Oikonomikos, 23 September 1982

[106] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Class divisions Today-the Inclusive Democracy Approach’

[107] T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 8

[108] Murray Bookchin, The Philosophy of Social Ecology, (Montreal: Black Rose, 1995) p. xix

[109] T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, chs 5 &  8

[110] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, pp. 272-273

[111] Steven Best & Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn, p. 272

[112] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘The limitations of Life-style strategies: The Ecovillage “Movement” is NOT the way towards a new democratic society’, Democracy & Nature, vol 6 no 2 (July 2000) pp 287-308

[113] C. Castoriadis, ‘The Retreat from Autonomy: Postmodernism as Generalised Conformism’ (in this issue)

[114] Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity p. 92

[115] Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity pp.136-37

[116] Perry Anderson, ‘Renewals’, New Left Review no 1,Jan-Feb 2000, p. 14

[117] Perry Anderson, ‘Renewals’, New Left Review, pp 15-16

[118] Perry Anderson, Renewals’, New Left Review, p. 17

[119] Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity p. 128

[120] Simon Tormey ‘Post-Marxism, Democracy and the Future of Radical Politics’ (in this issue)

[121] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Class Divisions Today-The Inclusive Democracy Approach’

[122] C. Castoriadis’ introductory interview in The Castoriadis Reader, edited by David Ames Curtis, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997) pp.26-27

[123] Simon Tormey ‘Post-Marxism, Democracy and the Future of Radical Politics’. A similar proposal is made by Best and Kellner who advocate a politics of alliance and solidarity that builds on both modern and postmodern traditions based on coalitions and multifront struggle. (Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, ‘Dawns, Twilights, and Transitions: Postmodern Theories, Politics, and Challenges’ (in this issue)

[124] In other words, the victims of the market economy system in its present internationalised form, i.e. the unemployed, low-waged, farmers under extinction, occasionally employed; workers and clerks who are exploited and alienated by the hierarchical structures at the workplace; citizens, particularly those belonging to the ‘middle groups’, who are alienated by the present statecraft which passes as “politics”; women who are alienated by the hierarchical structures both at home and the workplace; ethnic or racial minorities who are alienated by a discriminatory ‘statist’ democracy which divides the population into first and second class citizens;  those concerned about the present eco-damaging process to which they have no real ‘say’ and so on. See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Class Divisions Today-The Inclusive Democracy Approach

[125] See, for a relatively recent anarchist exposition of the post-scarcity myth,  Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism’, (London: Wildwood House, 1974)

[126] See, for instance, T. Fotopoulos, ‘The Economic Foundations of An Ecological Society’ Society & Nature (the former title of Democracy & Nature), vol 1 no 3 (1993), pp. 1-40

[127] T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, p. 210

[128] See T. Fotopoulos, ‘Outline of an Economic Model for an Inclusive Democracy, Democracy & Nature, vol 3, no 3 (1997) and also Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 6

[129] Simon Tormey ‘Post-Marxism, Democracy and the Future of Radical Politics’

[130] Chantal Mouffe, “Democratic Politics Today” in Dimensions of Radical Democracy, (London: Verso, 1992) p. 1.

[131] Chantal Mouffe, “Democratic Politics Today” in Dimensions of Radical Democracy, p. 13

[132] Chantal Mouffe, “Democratic Citizenship and the Political Community” in Dimensions of Radical Democracy, p. 238.

[133] Chantal Mouffe, “Democratic Politics Today” in Dimensions of Radical Democracy, p. 2.

[134] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 199-206

[135] Paedeia is not just education but character development and a well-rounded education in knowledge and skills, i.e. the education of the individual as citizen.

[136] T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 7

[137] David Ingram, ‘Can Groups Have Rights? What Postmodern Theory Tells Us About Participatory Democracy in the Era of Identity Politics’ (in this issue)

[138] T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp 230-33

[139] David Ingram, ‘Can Groups Have Rights?

[140] T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 347-48

 [141] P. Feyerabend, Farewell to Reason, (London: Verso: 1987) p. 59.

 [142] Even Feyerabend, a strong supporter of relativism, does not go as far as to adopt philosophical relativism (P. Feyerabend, Science in a Free Society, (London: New Left Books, 1978) pp. 82–83.

[143] Although one may raise serious reservations against the modern/postmodern typology, as Castoriadis pointed out, see C. Castoriadis, ‘The Retreat from Autonomy: Postmodernism as Generalised Conformism ‘