Global Capitalism and the Demise Of The Left: Renewing Radicalism Through Inclusive Democracy

Recent Theoretical Developments on the Inclusive Democracy Project



The aim of this article is to present briefly the vast amount of theoretical work that has followed the publication of Towards An Inclusive Democracy (TID) more than ten years ago, and its translation in several languages. I thought that, as almost the entire discussion in this book concentrates on TID, the reader should be, also, made aware of the fact that the Inclusive Democracy (ID) project is not just a static theoretical work, but a wide-ranging political project enriched with a dynamic theory, which has been constantly expanding in new areas of research, apart from deepening and widening the areas already covered by TID. Almost all of the recent theoretical developments have been published in the international theoretical journals of the ID project, i.e. Democracy & Nature and its successor, The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy. I have classified the new theoretical developments on the ID project in four main thematic sections, which cover all the main aspects of recent theoretical work.

The first part investigates further certain theoretical issues of the ID project, which were only touched on in TID–if at all. It presents, first, the class theory of the ID project and its view on postmodernism. It, then, proceeds to examine the ID attempt to develop a new liberatory theory of ethics and Paedeia. Next, the work is presented which aims to further delineate democratic rationalism (adopted by the ID project) from irrationalism, objective rationalism, as well as from recent scientific developments like systems theory and complexity. This part concludes with a presentation of the ID view on the ‘neutrality’ and ‘autonomy’ of science and technology.

The second part presents the theory on globalisation developed by the ID project and delineates it from the usual non-systemic globalisation approaches of the Left. It, then, discusses the main aspects of globalisation (economic, political, ideological, cultural) with respect to the main components of the present multidimensional crisis (economic, political, cultural, social and ecological) which were discussed in TID.

Next, the third part attempts to show why according to the ID approach both the old antisystemic movements (Marxism, anarchism) as well as the ‘new’ social movements which developed in the 1960s and the 1970s (Green, feminism, etc.) are either in a stage of decline or simply have been integrated into the System.

Finally, the fourth part aims to briefly delineate ID from other recent radical projects (project of autonomy, communalism, Parecon, de-growth and ecovillage movement). This part concludes with an outline of the ID approach to transitional strategies.


1. The ID class theory and postmodernism

The starting point in the ID class analysis[1] is that the collapse of the socialist project, and the consequent abandonment of ‘grand narratives’, should not be followed by the rejection of every type of class analysis and politics, or, even more so, by the abandonment of every attempt to develop a universal project for human emancipation. Instead, class divisions have to be redefined to extend beyond the original conception of them, which was restricted to the economic sphere, and a new class model should be developed, which would embrace the politics of ‘difference’ and ‘identity’ and, therefore, be appropriate to the era of an internationalised market economy.

Thus, the post-modernist view –that the post-industrial era swept aside not just the notion of a particular type of class society based on economic relations, but, also, any notion of a society split by class divisions, in the sense of systemic social divisions– is contrasted to evidence and shown to be at best a fantasy and at worst an ideological justification of the present class ridden society. Particularly so, when the obvious conclusion of such an analysis is that in a ‘post-class’ society (i.e. a society that is ‘internally’ differentiated in terms of access to economic resources, political power and prestige) there are neither dominant social groups and a ‘ruling elite’ based on them, nor an institutional framework which gives rise to and reproduces them, and that therefore, there is no need to develop an emancipatory politics or to attempt to identify the subject for such a politics. All that is needed, instead, is to reject all ideologies as metanarratives and adopt a kind of politics which would explicitly take into account the above ‘differentiations’ in an effort to achieve progressive equalisation and social harmony.

In this context, the ID approach examines the historical development of economic class divisions, within the framework of the periodisation of modernity which it introduces, namely, liberal, statist and neoliberal modernity. Thus,

  • First, the emergence of economic classes (in the Marxist sense) during the era of liberal modernity is examined and the inadequacies of the Marxist class categories are assessed.

  • Next, the class restructuring of the statist era is described and the effective decomposition of the Marxist class divisions is discussed.

  • Then, the new class divisions of the present neoliberal form are assessed and the conclusion is derived that not only class divisions defined in economic terms (though not necessarily in strict Marxist terms) still exist today, but also new class divisions, classified also as systemic, have been added to them.

  • Finally, it is shown that gender, race, ethnicity and nationality maintained their transclass character throughout the period of modernity following the emergence of classes. A new power-based model of class divisions is developed, which focuses on the unequal distribution of power in all its forms, and at the same time an attempt is made to define the subject of emancipatory politics today.

The postmodernist dismissal of the need for a class analysis today, and the consequent need for a new liberatory project was taken further by a systematic critique of postmodernism[2]. The claim that the advanced market economies have entered a new era of post modernity (or a post-modern turn) was 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. Although it is true that there have been significant changes at these 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 a new era. 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 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, post-modern 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 an emerging dominant social paradigm[3] which is consistent with the neoliberal form of modernity.

In conclusion, the changes in neoliberal modernity could in no way be taken to reflect a kind of break with the past, similar to the one marking the transition from the ‘traditional’ society to modernity. It could therefore be shown, instead, 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 century, have, in fact, entered a new form of modernity that we may call neoliberal modernity, rather than a post modernity. Neoliberal modernity, in fact, 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.

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 post-modern society[4] –like the one proposed by the Inclusive Democracy project.

2. The need for a new liberatory ethics and Paedeia

As it was attempted to be shown in the article on postmodernism, scientism and objectivism in general entered a serious crisis in the present phase of neoliberal modernity (or as postmodernists call it the era of post modernity). This had inevitable consequences on ethics[5], since the ethics of the early phases of modernity, both the orthodox and the liberatory[6] ones, was based on objectivism in general and scientism in particular. Postmodernists were among the first who attempted to theorise the crisis of ‘objective’ ethics, both orthodox and liberatory. No wonder the post-modern approach to morality has often been celebrated as the ‘demise of the ethical’, the substitution of aesthetics for ethics and the consequent ‘ultimate emancipation’.

Thus, whereas modernists assumed that it is possible to create a non-ambivalent, non-contradictory ethical code, so that universal reason could replace universal religious belief in guiding individual and collective morality, postmodernists rejected every kind of liberatory project on the grounds that it is by necessity universalist. In fact, it is the postmodernist rejection of universalism in general and moral universalism in particular, which makes their problematique particularly objectionable from a liberatory viewpoint. This is because postmodernists did not simply criticise the questionable ideology of progress, but proceeded to criticise the universalist projects of modernity and the very idea of the citizen and the polis.

Furthermore, it can be shown that the post-modern claim that present society is not characterised by a universal morality is false. The universalisation of representative ‘democracy’ and the market economy has inevitably been followed by a corresponding universalisation of the culture and the dominant social paradigm, which are compatible with these institutions. In fact, the process of ‘globalisation’, which has characterised neoliberal modernity, has been instrumental in this universalisation process. In this context, the moral pluralism that postmodernists celebrate –taking for granted the present socio-economic system–is in fact a pseudo-pluralism, given that all societies which have adopted a market economy and representative ‘democracy’ show fundamental similarities as regards their core values: individualism, consumer culture, heteronomous morality (either based on religion or some other kind of spiritualism, etc).

Therefore, an autonomous liberatory society should be expected to create its own moral code, with hard-core values which will inevitably be consistent with its fundamental institutions and peripheral values that may vary from society to society. In this sense, it is argued that it is only a worldwide genuinely democratic society, based on universal core values expressing the uncompromising demand for individual and social autonomy and a variety of peripheral values celebrating difference, which could promise peaceful and liberatory coexistence. On the basis of this sort of analysis, the ID project argues that we cannot prescribe the moral code for a genuine democratic society, which is obviously a matter for the citizens’ assemblies of the future to decide.

Still, we can (in fact we should) show the ethics that, in our view is compatible with the institutions of a democratic society. Thus, first, religious ethics, or any ethics based on any kind of irrational belief system, is utterly incompatible with a democratic society, since it is incompatible with the democratic principle of organisation itself. Second, similarly incompatible to democratic ethics is any idealist conception of perennial and universal values, as it is now obvious that values differ in space and time among various communities and societies. This implies that any materialist conceptions of universal values (‘objective’ ethics), which are supposedly derived from some sort of (social or natural) evolutionary process, are also incompatible to democratic ethics.

However, the fact that the project for a democratic society is not objectively grounded does not mean that ‘anything goes’ and that it is therefore impossible to derive a definable body of principles to assess social and political changes, or a set of ethical values to assess human behaviour on the basis of the fundamental criterion of compatibility with the institutions of the democratic society. So, the issue here is: what are those values that express the compatibility of human behaviour to democratic institutions? Of course, we can only outline what might be the content of democratic ethics in the sense of the moral values expressing this compatibility, and it is up to supporters of democratic politics and, in the end, up to the citizens’ assemblies of a democratic society to enrich this discourse. Assuming therefore, that a democratic society will be based on a confederal Inclusive Democracy which is founded on two fundamental principles of organisation, i.e. the principle of autonomy and the principle of community, one may derive a set of moral values that express this compatibility.

Thus, out of the fundamental principle of autonomy one may derive a set of moral values involving equity and democracy, respect for the personality of every citizen (irrespective of gender, race, ethnic identity, etc.) and of course respect for human life itself and, also, values involving the protection of the quality of life of each individual citizen– something that would imply a relationship of harmony with nature and the need to re-integrate society with nature.

Similarly, out of the fundamental principle of community we may derive a set of values involving not only equity but also solidarity and mutual aid, altruism/self-sacrifice (beyond concern for kin and reciprocity), caring and sharing. But, as the ID project stresses, it is the combination of the two principles above, which form the organisational basis of a confederal Inclusive Democracy, that leads to the moral principles mentioned that have always been part of liberatory ethics. In other words, it is only this synthesis of autonomy and community, which could avoid both the Scylla of ‘objectifying’ ethics and/or negating politics and ethical concerns in favour of the coercive harmony of the organic community, and the Charybdis of unbounded moral relativism.

Paedeia[7] will of course play a crucial role in a future democratic society with respect to the internalisation of its values, which, as we saw, would necessarily be the ones derived by its basic principles of organisation: the principle of autonomy and the principle of community. However, the institutions alone are not sufficient to secure the non-emergence of informal elites. It is here that the crucial importance of education, which in a democratic society will take the form of Paedeia, arises. Education is a basic component of the formation of culture, as well as of the socialisation of the individual, i.e. the process through which an individual internalises the core values of the dominant social paradigm. Therefore, culture in general and education in particular play a crucial role in the determination of individual and collective values.

In a heteronomous society, in which the public space has been usurped by various elites who concentrate political and economic power in their hands, education has the double aim of helping the internalisation of the existing institutions and the values consistent with it (the dominant social paradigm) and of producing ‘efficient’ citizens in the sense of citizens, who have accumulated enough ‘technical knowledge’ so that they could function competently in accordance with society’s aims, as laid down by the elites which control it.

On the other hand, in an autonomous society, where politics is meant in its classical sense which is related to the institutional framework of a direct democracy in which people not only question laws, but are also able to make their own laws, we do not talk about education anymore but about the much broader concept of Paedeia in the sense of an all-round civic education that involves a life-long process of character development, absorption of knowledge and skills and –more significant–practicing a ‘participatory’ kind of active citizenship, that is a citizenship in which political activity is not seen as a means to an end but an end in itself. The double aim of Paedeia is, therefore, first, the development of citizens’ self-activity by using their very self-activity as a means of internalising the democratic institutions and the values consistent with them and, second, the creation of responsible individuals who have internalized both the necessity of laws and the possibility of putting the laws into question, i.e. individuals capable of interrogation, reflectiveness, and deliberation.

Finally, we may talk about emancipatory education as the link between present education and Paedeia. Emancipatory education is intrinsically linked to transitional politics, i.e. the politics that will lead us from the heteronomous politics and society of the present to the autonomous politics and society of the future.

As it is clear from the above, a basic tenet of the ID approach is that education is intrinsically linked to politics, as the very meaning of education is assumed to be defined by the prevailing meaning of politics. A democratic Paedeia, therefore, is impossible unless a set of institutional conditions are met which refer to the societal level as a whole, as described in TID, and the educational level in particular (creation of new public spaces in education, free generalised and integral education for life, individual and social autonomy, non-hierarchical relations, balance between science and the aesthetic sensibility), as well as a change in values, as a precondition and consequence of Paedeia.

3. Irrationalism, objective rationalism, systems theory and complexity

Irrationalism and Inclusive Democracy

Democratic Paedeia needs a new kind of rationalism, beyond both the ‘objectivist’ type of rationalism we inherited from the Enlightenment and the generalised relativism of postmodernism. We need a democratic rationalism, i.e. a rationalism founded on democracy, as a structure and a process of social self-institution. Within the context of democratic rationalism, democracy is not justified by an appeal to objective tendencies with respect to natural or social evolution, but by an appeal to reason in terms of logon didonai, (rendering account and reason), which explicitly denies the idea of any ‘directionality’ as regards social change.

However, as it was shown elsewhere,[8] in the last forty years or so, a new irrationalism[9] has flourished both in the North and the South, which has taken various forms ranging from the revival in some cases of the old religions (Christianity, Islam, etc.) up to the expansion of various irrational trends (mysticism, spiritualism, astrology, esoterism, neopaganism, “New Age”, etc.) which, especially in the West, threaten old religions. The distinguishing criterion between rational ideologies (e.g. Marxism) and irrational belief systems (e.g. religious systems) is the source of ‘truth’. If the source of truth of the core ideas is reason/’facts’, then, even if these ideas cannot be shown to be ‘objective’ (in the sense of general acceptability as in natural sciences), we are talking about a rational (and refutable) ideology. On the other hand, if the source of truth of the core ideas is an irrational method (revelation, intuition, etc.) then we are talking about an irrational (and irrefutable) belief system. Of course, what is considered as a rational process of thought varies in time and space. The practical implication of this distinction is that an irrational belief system, although perhaps useful for those that need it (for psychological or social reasons, or because they cannot just accept death as the end of existence, the burden of personal responsibility, etc.), it surely cannot be the basis for any rational interpretation of reality. For a rational interpretation of reality (always, of course, from the point of view of a particular world-view) a rational ideology is needed.

A series of factors could account for the recent rise of the ‘new’ irrationalism, the main ones being the following:

  1. The universalisation of the market/growth economy. Thus, the combination of the uncertainty connected with the rise of unemployment and low paid employment (which marked the emergence of the internationalized neoliberal market economy) with the uncertainty created by the parallel crisis of science and the accelerating cultural homogenisation following the rise of consumer society could go a long way in explaining the rise of irrationalism in this period.

  2. The ecological crisis that led to the development of various irrational ecological approaches, which, instead of blaming the system of the market economy and its by-product the growth economy that led to the ecological crisis, blamed the industrial revolution, Progress and reason itself! For the ID approach, on the other hand, the ultimate cause of the ecological crisis, as well as the crisis at the economic, the political and the broader social levels, is not, as it is usually asserted, the industrial revolution, or technology, overpopulation, productivism, consumerism, etc. From the Inclusive Democracy perspective, all these alleged causes are in fact the symptoms of a much more serious disease, which is, called ‘inequality in the distribution of power’. It is, therefore, today’s concentration of economic and political power, the former as a result of the rise of the market economy and the subsequent growth economy, and the latter as a result of the parallel rise of the present ‘liberal oligarchy’ (to use the late Castoriadis’ characterization of what passes as democracy today), which is the ultimate cause of the present crisis.

  3. The collapse of ‘development’ in the South. The present flourishing of Islamic fundamentalism in the Islamic world is not a unique phenomenon of the South. Similar fundamentalisms prosper, although for different reasons, in the North and, particularly the USA. Nor is this a special phenomenon of the Islamic world. A similar revival of religion, although not as extreme as Islamic fundamentalism, is noted in many parts of the South (e.g., in Latin America). One way to interpret this phenomenon is to refer to the combined effect of the failure of the development model, which was imported by the Third World in the post-WWII period, (i.e. the failure of the market economy models imported from the West, as well that of the planning models imported from the East) and the parallel cultural homogenisation that the universalised market/growth economy imposes. The return to tradition-–and, particularly, to religion-–seemed very appealing to the impoverished people in the South, whose communities and economic self-reliance were being destroyed by the internationalized market/growth economy. Particularly so, when religion was seen as a moral code preaching equality of all men before God set against the injustices of the market/growth economy. Similarly, the return to spirituality looked as the only way to match an imported materialism, which was associated with a distorted consumer society, i.e. one that was not even capable of delivering the goods to the majority of the population, as in the North.

Inclusive Democracy and objective rationalism

However, Inclusive Democracy (which is premised on the constant questioning of any given truth) is not only fundamentally incompatible with irrationalism, i.e. irrational belief systems which take for granted certain ‘truths’ derived through irrational methods; it is also incompatible with objective rationalism in the form of closed systems of ideas, i.e. rational ideologies, which take for granted certain ‘truths’ derived through rational methods, within the framework of ‘objective’ rationalism. This is particularly the case of ‘objective truths’ about social evolution grounded on social or natural ‘laws’.

This means that the democratic institution of society presupposes that the dominant social paradigm, not only cannot be founded on some form of irrationalism, but also on any form of ‘objective’ rationalism (e.g. ‘dialectical materialism’, ‘dialectical naturalism’, etc.).[10] This is because any system of religious or mystical beliefs, but also any closed system of ideas, by definition, excludes the questioning of some core beliefs or ideas and, therefore, is incompatible with citizens setting their own laws and making their own ‘truths’ about their society. However, the fact that democracy is incompatible with ‘objective’ rationalism does not mean that we have to resort to relativism. Democracy is equally incompatible with relativism (in the sense that all traditions, as in this case the autonomy and heteronomy ones, have equal truth-value).

Democracy therefore is compatible with only one form of rationalism, democratic rationalism, namely, rationalism founded in democracy as a structure and a process of social self-institution. This implies that a confederal inclusive democracy is non-viable when some of the communities in the confederation believe in ‘given truths’ (i.e. truths or values not coming out of rational democratic discussion but out of ‘sacred’ laws given by God, or spiritual truths, or even ‘laws’ derived from a specific reading of social and/or natural evolution). In a democratic society, either the majority of citizens accept the principle that every decision affecting social life, including values and ethical codes conditioning individual behaviour, is democratically taken and everybody has to abide by the relevant decisions, irrespective of whether these decisions come in conflict with his/her belief in Christ, Mohammed, Buddha or voodoo, or it is not democratic at all.

Systems theory and complexity: a tool for radical analysis?

The above conclusion about the incompatibility of democracy with objective rationalism is particularly useful if we consider it in the light of the claims made by various quarters in the Left that systems theory and complexity, under certain conditions, could potentially be useful tools for radical analysis of social change.[11] The rationale behind this argument is that one could consider systems theory and complexity as an attempt to transcend the post-modern predicament and show that the end of metanarratives does not mean the end of theory –even a General Theory for that matter.

However, a systematic examination of these claims shows the intrinsic problems involved in any such attempt due to the very concepts used by these theories. For a start, the notion of complexity, simple or dialectical, is not useful in either explaining the past or in predicting the future, as far as radical social change is concerned. Even if we accept that change in dynamic physical systems is subject to power laws, which are in principle discoverable, radical social change in a dynamic social system, like the one represented by society, can never be the subject of such ‘discoverable’ laws. Furthermore, Luhmann’s[12] attempt to use the tools of natural sciences in order to ‘scientify’ social analysis could also be shown to be a failure –unless, of course, it is simply taken as an attempt to create a new epistemology for the ‘classless’ society that the internationalized market economy supposedly creates. But, in this case, systems theory obviously becomes another ideological weapon in the hands of the ruling elites to perpetuate their privileged position.

Having said this, one can easily notice that the class-undifferentiated conception of society used by Luhmann and other systems analysts make systems theory particularly useful as a new social paradigm for the present internationalised market economy. In such a class-undifferentiated ‘society’, presumably there are no ruling elites, or any ‘overclasses’ and ‘underclasses’ –to mention just some of the present class divisions. Furthermore, in such a problematique, there are no power structures and power relations among social groups, while the huge and growing concentration of power (economic, political, social), within and between market economies, seems not to be particularly important. Instead, what seems to matter most is that decision taking is mostly a myth, given the degree of uncertainty involved.

This is not surprising given that functionalism and evolutionism, of which social systems theory is a case, are not compatible, as I attempted to show elsewhere[13], with a liberatory project, like that of Inclusive Democracy. This is for three main reasons: First, because an evolutionist perspective of History is incompatible with History itself, particularly as far as systemic change is concerned. Second, because functionalism, of any kind, is incompatible with the imaginary or creative element in History. Third, because functionalism replaces the subject with structures or values.

Furthermore, at the epistemological level as well, the problems are evident. Supporters of systems theory and complexity claim that this theory is capable of transcending the division between the human and the natural sciences, ignoring the importance of social divisions that characterise the object of study of social sciences itself, as well as the role of the imaginary. The inevitable consequence of this ‘monistic’ world-view is that supporters of this theory believe that we may explain social reality on the basis of the insights of natural sciences, collapsing in the process the economy and society into nature. The use of a class-undifferentiated notion of society is particularly useful for this purpose since, obviously, such an assumption is in fact necessary in any attempt to unify natural and social sciences in a ‘grand’ scientific theory, given that a monistic view of science is only possible when the object of study can be assumed to be similarly socially undifferentiated.

So, the answer to the question whether systems theory and complexity could potentially be useful tools for a radical analysis of social change cannot be positive, as this would neglect the intrinsic relationship that always exists between the tools of analysis used and the content of a radical theory. Instead, according to the ID project, systems theory and complexity are offered as the basis for a new social paradigm that could perfectly become the dominant social paradigm for the internationalised market economy to replace, once and for all, both the liberal and the Keynesian paradigms. In fact, such a new paradigm, unlike the previous paradigms, would be based in a new ‘grand’ synthesis, which could also claim to be ‘scientific’ (in the sense we use the term for natural sciences).

Therefore, although systems theory and complexity may be useful tools in the natural sciences, in which they may offer many useful insights, they are much less useful in the social sciences and indeed are utterly incompatible, both from the epistemological point of view and that of their content, with a radical analysis aiming to systemic change towards an inclusive democracy.

4. Inclusive Democracy, science and technology

The conclusion we have drawn above that what is needed today is not to jettison science, let alone rationalism altogether, in the interpretation of social phenomena, but to transcend ‘objective’ rationalism (i.e. the rationalism which is grounded on ‘objective laws’ of natural or social evolution) has very important implications on technoscience. According to the ID approach on the matter,[14] modern technoscience is neither ‘neutral’ in the sense that it is merely a ‘means’ which can be used for the attainment of whatever end, nor autonomous in the sense that it is the sole or the most important factor determining social structures, relations and values. Instead, it is argued that technoscience is conditioned by the power relations implied by the specific set of social, political and economic institutions characterising the growth economy and the dominant social paradigm. Therefore, a democratic conception of technoscience has to avoid both types of determinism: technological determinism as well as social determinism.

In fact, technology has never been ‘neutral’ with respect to the logic and the dynamics of the market economy. Still, not only socialist statists but environmentalists as well, explicitly, or usually implicitly, assume that technology is socially neutral and that we only have to use it for the right purposes in order to solve not just the ecological problems, but the social problems as well. However, it is obvious that this approach ignores the social institution of science and technology and the fact that the design and particularly the implementation of new techniques is directly related to the social organisation in general and the organisation of production in particular. In a market society, as in any society, technology embodies concrete relations of production, its hierarchical organisation and, of course, its primary aim, which, in the case of a market economy, refers to the maximisation of economic growth and efficiency for profit purposes. So, technology is always designed (or at least those designs are adopted) in a way that best serves the objectives of the market/growth economy.

Similarly, the type of technoscience that has developed in the past two centuries is not an autonomous cultural phenomenon, but a by –product of the power relations and the dominant social paradigm which emerged in association with the rise of the market economy. In this sense, technoscience is not autonomous as Castoriadis, following Jacques Ellul, argues,[15] on the basis of the thesis that present growth and development in effect contradicts the very aims of the market economy system, notably because of the on–going destruction of the environment –something that has led Castoriadis to conclude that technology is at present uncontrollable, directionless and aimless. According to the ID project, this may be true only if we take a long–term view of technology. But, in the short to medium–term, technology is very much controlled by the institutions funded by the system of the market/growth economy and guided by the values imbued in this system. If, therefore, in the longer term, technology appears to be directionless and even contradicting the very aims of the system, this is because it is outside the logic of the market economy for those controlling it to think about the long–term implications of their choices. So, although the technological choices seem irrational, they are very much compatible with the values and aims of those controlling the market economy and, as such, rational. Furthermore, to the extent that new ‘green’ technologies satisfy the long–term needs of the system in terms of their ecological implications, and, at the same time, are compatible with the objectives of maximising efficiency, growth and profits, such techniques are being adopted. It is exactly the partial adoption of such green technologies (e.g. ‘green’ fridges), which feeds the environmentalists’ mythology that a ‘green capitalism’ is in the cards.

What is, therefore, needed is the reconstitution of both our science and technology in a way that puts at the centre of every stage in the process, in every single technique, human personality and its needs rather than, as at present, the values and needs of those controlling the market/growth economy. This presupposes a new form of socio–economic organisation in which citizens, both as producers and as consumers, do control effectively the types of technologies adopted, expressing the general rather than, as at present, the partial interest. In other words, it presupposes:

  • a political democracy, so that effective citizen control on scientific research and technological innovation can be established;

  • an economic democracy, so that the general economic interest of the confederated communities, rather than the partial interests of economic elites, could be effectively expressed in research and technological development;

  • an ecological democracy, so that the environmental implications of science and technology are really taken into account in scientific research and technological development; and last, but not least;

  • a democracy in the social realm, that is, equal sharing in the decision–taking process at the factory, the office, the household, the laboratory and so on, so that the abolition of hierarchical structures in production, research and technological development would secure not only the democratic content of science and technology, but also democratic procedures in scientific and technological development and collective control by scientists and technologists.

It should be clear, however, that the democratisation of science and technology should not be related to a utopian abolition of division of labour and specialisation as, for instance, Thomas Simon[16] suggests, who argues that democratising technology means abolishing professionals and experts: “the extent to which a professional/expert is no longer needed is partially the extent to which a process has become democratised. It is the extent to which we are able to make the professional terrain a deliberative assembly.” However, although it is true that the present extreme specialisation and division of labour has been necessitated by the needs of ‘efficiency’ that are imposed by the dynamics of the growth economy, still, there are certain definite limits on the degree of reduction in specialisation which is feasible and desirable, if we do not wish to see the re–emergence of problems that have been solved long ago (medical problems, problems of sanitation, etc.).

The nature of technology to be adopted by a democratic society does not just depend on who owns it, or even who controls it. Not only, as History has shown, it is perfectly possible that ‘socialist’ bureaucrats may adopt techniques which are as environmentally destructive and life–damaging (if not more) as those adopted by their capitalist counterparts, but also the possibility can not be ruled out that citizens’ assemblies may adopt similar techniques. So, the abolition of oligarchic ownership and control over technology, which would come about in a marketless, moneyless, stateless economy based on an inclusive democracy, is only the necessary institutional condition for an alternative technology. The sufficient condition depends, as always, on the value system that a democratic society would develop and the level of consciousness of its citizens. One, therefore, can only hope that the change in the institutional framework together with a democratic Paedeia would play a crucial role in the formation of this new system of values and the raising of the level of political consciousness.

Finally, an important implication of the democratisation of technoscience in the above sense is that such a process has nothing to do with the currently fashionable ‘access to information’ that the modern information technology supposedly secures which, for some authors stressing a view of technology and society in dialectic relationship with one another, may even imply that democratic tools and a democratic society rely on one another for their emergence. As I attempted to show in a relevant exchange,[17] the real issue is not whether an interaction between a democratic society and a democratic science and technology exists (which is true), but whether a democratic science and technology can emerge within the present institutional framework (which is false). As it has been shown in this exchange, a democratic science and technology cannot emerge in an institutional framework of concentration of political and economic power, like the one created by the present institutional framework of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’.


1. The ID approach on globalisation, “Empire” and the reformist Left

The main division in the theoretical analysis of the Left on globalisation –and also within the anti-globalisation movement– centres around the crucial issue whether the present neoliberal globalisation (which is considered to lead to a growing concentration of economic and political power and to an eco-catastrophic development) is reversible within the market economy system, as theorised by the reformist Left, or whether, instead, it can only be eliminated within the process of developing a new mass anti-systemic movement, which starts building ‘from below’ a new form of democratic globalisation, as the ID approach[18] on the matter suggests.

Systemic approaches

The staring point in the ID approach on globalisation is the delineation it makes between globalisation and internationalisation of the market economy. It is argued that the present process, strictly speaking, should better be described as internationalisation, given that it does not meet, as yet, the production requirements of proper globalisation. However, given that the latter term, albeit wrong, is now dominant we shall keep the commonly used term of globalisation.

According to the ID approach, the confusion about the nature of economic globalisation arises out of the conflicting answers given by the various theoretical approaches to globalisation on the crucial question whether neoliberal globalisation is a phenomenon of a ‘systemic’ nature or not. In the case in which we see it as a ‘systemic’ phenomenon, this implies that we see neoliberal globalisation as the result of an endogenous change in economic policy (i.e. a change reflecting existing trends that manifest the market economy’s grow-or-die dynamic). In this case, neoliberal globalisation is irreversible within the system of the market economy. We may therefore call ‘systemic’ all those approaches to globalisation which, in order to interpret it, refer to the structural characteristics of the existing socio-economic system, either implicitly or explicitly.

On the basis of this criterion, the neoliberal and social-liberal approaches to globalisation, supported by analysts like Anthony Giddens, Amartya Sen, Paul Krugman, et. al. should be seen as ‘systemic’ approaches, since they see it as a phenomenon mainly due to changes in technology and particularly information technology. But, technology, as we saw above, is neither ‘neutral’ nor autonomous. So, when neoliberals and social-liberals take the existing technology for granted and, therefore, irreversible within the market economy system, they implicitly assign neoliberal globalisation to ‘systemic’ factors and, consequently, they also take it for granted and irreversible.

Similarly, the Inclusive Democracy (ID) approach, which explicitly assumes that it is the ‘grow-or-die dynamics’ of the market economy system that inevitably led to its present neoliberal globalised form, is also a systemic approach. For the ID approach, globalisation is irreversible, as no effective controls over markets to protect labour and the environment are feasible within the system of the internationalised market economy. However, although both the neo/social-liberal and ID approaches are systemic approaches (implicitly in the former case and explicitly in the latter), there is a fundamental difference between the two types of approaches. The neo/social-liberal approaches take the existing system of the market economy for granted, while the ID approach does not. As a result, whereas the former adopt globalisation with or without qualifications, the latter looks for an alternative form of social organisation, which involves a form of globalisation that is not feasible within the system of the market economy and statist ‘democracy’

The non-systemic approaches of the reformist Left

In the case in which we see neoliberal globalisation as a ‘non-systemic’ phenomenon, this implies that we see it as the result of an exogenous change in economic policy. In this case, globalisation is a reversible development, even within the system of the market economy. I will, therefore, call ‘non-systemic’ all those approaches to globalisation which, in order to interpret it, refer to various exogenous factors that are not directly related to the structural characteristics and the dynamics of the market economy system. In the same category we may also classify all those views for which globalisation is just a myth or an ideology.

Therefore, the approaches suggested by the reformist Left (i.e. that part of the Left which takes the present system of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ for granted), supported by analysts like Pierre Bourdieu, Immanuel Wallerstein, Noam Chomsky, Samir Amin, John Gray, Leo Panitch, Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson), could be classified as ‘non-systemic’ approaches to globalisation. Thus, although these approaches usually assume that globalisation is an old phenomenon, which was set in motion by the emergence of capitalism –an assumption which prima facie gives the impression that they recognise the systemic character of the trends which have led to globalisation– still they assign an explicitly non-systemic character to it.

The argument, frequently used to overcome this blatant contradiction, is that the capitalist system was always globalised and what changed recently was only the form of globalisation (i.e. neoliberal globalisation). However, this change in the form of globalisation is assumed to be not the outcome of the system’s dynamics (as one would expect on the basis of their assumption that globalisation is an old phenomenon), but, instead, the outcome of such non-systemic or exogenous developments as the rise of the Right and/or of the neoliberal movement, the historical defeat of the Left after the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’, the degradation of social democracy and so on. Thus, on the basis of hopelessly contradictory arguments of this sort, the reformist Left sees neoliberal globalisation as reversible and amenable to effective reform, even within the system of the market economy –provided enough pressure is exercised ‘from below’ so that the political and economic elites are forced to introduce effective measures to protect labour and the environment.

Negri & Hardt’s Empire

Finally, between the systemic and non-systemic approaches stand a number of intermediate approaches that are characterised by a mix of systemic and non-systemic elements and a significant number of analytical differences with respect to the usual approaches of the reformist Left.

Hardt & Negri, for instance, claiming Marxist orthodoxy, adopt a more sophisticated version of the capitalist plot theory according to which capital, faced with a crisis of its ability ‘to master its conflictual relationship with labour through a social and political dialectic’, resorted to a double attack against labour: ‘first, a direct campaign against corporatism and collective bargaining, and second, a reorganisation of the workplace through automation and computerisation, thereby actually excluding labour itself from the side of production’.

The hypothesis that Hardt and Negri make is that “the neoliberalism of the 1980s constituted ‘a revolution from above’”. This ‘revolution’, as they stress in their best-seller[19] (which was massively promoted by the mass media controlled by the transnational elite) was motivated by the accumulation of the proletarian struggles that functioned as the ‘motor for the crisis’ of the 1970s, which in turn was part of the objective and inevitable cycles of capitalist accumulation. The conclusion that Hardt and Negri draw, which is also the main point of Empire, is that contemporary globalisation (which they term “Empire”) establishes no territorial centre of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries and barriers. It is a decentred and deterritorializing apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding frontiers. As such, it should be welcomed, because it is capital’s latest concession to the force of insurgent subjectivity and it contains the seeds of an alternative (communist) globalisation. Our political task, they argue, is therefore not simply to resist these processes, but to reorganize them and redirect them toward new ends.

The interesting aspect of this analysis –that is mainly based on unfounded assertions about the nature of the welfare state (which they assume still exists in neoliberal modernity, ignoring the fact that it is being replaced everywhere by a ‘safety net’) and a confused, as well as contradictory, analysis of neoliberal globalisation– is that, as I mentioned above, it also ends up (like the reformist Left approaches) with reformist demands and no clear vision for a future society.

This observation notwithstanding, even if we accept their claim that neoliberal globalisation is neither a plot nor irreversible within the market economy system, this does not of course mean that it should be welcome, as Hardt and Negri claim, because it supposedly provides an ‘objective’ basis on which an alternative globalisation could be built –reminding us of one of the usual ‘objectivist’ types of analysis about the ‘necessary evils’ supposedly created by the process of Progress. The same applies to neoliberal globalisation which has nothing ‘necessary’ about it, as it is simply the inevitable outcome of an initial choice imposed on society by economic and political elites: the choice for a market economy and representative ‘democracy’. In other words, the class struggle within this system could only slow down this process (as it did during statist modernity) but not stop it–unless the outcome of this struggle was the overthrowing of the system itself. Consequently, neoliberal globalisation on no account can be the ‘objective basis’ for a non-capitalist society. The move towards such a society could only represent a break with the past and not an evolutionary process. In this sense, the present neoliberal globalisation is far from being the objective basis for such a society!

2. Political globalisation, the transnational elite and its “wars”

However, globalisation cannot be seen only in terms of trade, investment and communications, but it requires also a political and security dimension, which used to be the domain of national elites and today is that of the transnational elite. Clearly, a transnational economy needs its own transnational elite. The emergence of such an elite has already been theorised both from the Marxist and the Inclusive Democracy viewpoints and the evidence on it has been increasingly substantiated.

The transnational elite may be defined as the elite, which draws its power (economic, political or generally social power) by operating at the transnational level. It consists of corporate directors, major shareholders, executives, globalising bureaucrats and professional politicians functioning either within major international organisations or in the state machines of the major market economies, as well as important academics and researchers in the various international foundations, members of think tanks and research departments of major international universities, transnational mass media executives, etc. The new transnational elite sees its interests in terms of international markets rather than national markets, and is not based on a single nation-state but is a decentred apparatus of rule with no territorial centre of power. Its members have a dominant position within society, as a result of their economic, political or broader social power and, unlike national elites, see that the best way to secure their privileged position in society is not by ensuring the reproduction of any real or imagined nation-state but, instead, by securing the worldwide reproduction of the institutional framework on which the New World Order (NWO) is founded. In other words, the NWO was established after the collapse of the Soviet block and the universalisation –through neoliberal globalisation– of the system of market economy and representative ‘democracy’.

It is clear that this is an informal rather than an institutionalised elite. Thus, in the same way that economic globalisation expresses an informal concentration of economic power at the hands of the members of the economic elite, political globalisation expresses an informal concentration of political power at the hands of the members of the political elite. In other words, the economic elite constitutes that part of the transnational elite, which controls the internationalised market economy, whereas the political elite constitutes that part of the transnational elite, which controls the distinctly political-military dimension of the NWO. The main institutions securing the concentration of economic and political power at the hands of the transnational elite are the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ respectively, whereas the main organisations through which the transnational elite exercises its informal control are the EU, NAFTA, the G8, Word Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, NATO and the UN.

The ‘wars’ launched by the transnational elite so far, (i.e. the Gulf War which culminated in the invasion and occupation of Iraq[20], the war in Kosovo[21] and the on-going ‘war on terrorism’[22]), are cases substantiating the existence of an informal system of transnational governance, a political globalisation presided over by a transnational elite. The informal character of globalisation is needed, not only in order to keep the façade of a well functioning representative ‘democracy’ in which local elites are still supposed to take the important decisions, but also in order to preserve the nation-state’s internal monopoly of violence. The latter is necessary so that local elites are capable of controlling their populations in general, and the movement of labour in particular, enhancing the free flow of capital and commodities.

No wonder that all the wars launched by the transnational elite are characterised by certain important common features. Such characteristics are:

  • first, the so-called ‘wars’ are decided by the highest echelons of the transnational elite –the leading role in this decision-taking process being played of course by the American members of this elite which possess the necessary military equipment and technology. Despite the fact that the regimes which take part in these ‘wars’ are called ‘democracies’ the peoples themselves are never involved directly in these decisions, and even the professional politicians in the respective parliaments are, usually, called to approve these ‘wars’ after they have already been launched;

  • second, the wars are invariably carried out in blatant violation of international law, both when they are formally covered by a resolution of the capitalist-controlled UN Security Council, as in the case of the Gulf War, and when they are not, as in the cases of Yugoslavia, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The doctrine of limited sovereignty, used to justify these wars (see ideological globalisation), is in blatant contradiction to the UN Charter;

  • third, the pattern of military division of labour between the members of the transnational elite, as it emerged from all four ‘wars’, involves the almost exclusive use of the US military machine, particularly its unrivalled air power, in the first stages of the war, with the military machines of the other members mobilised (usually through NATO) mainly at later stages, for peace-keeping roles, etc.;

  • fourth, any negotiated settlement is ruled out by the transnational elite, which it either sets conditions that no sovereign country could accept, or simply blocks any offers for a negotiated settlement by the country under threat of an attack. The former was the case of Yugoslavia which, according to the Rambouillet proposals, it had to be voluntarily converted into a NATO protectorate to avoid the attack against it. The latter was the case of Iraq in the Gulf war, or of Afghanistan;

  • fifth, the political-military aim of the ‘wars’ is the destruction of the infrastructure of the countries concerned and the terrorisation of their peoples (killing thousands of innocent civilians in the process as ‘collateral damage’), so that they would be ‘softened up’ to accept alternative elites, friendly to the transnational elite. A parallel basic aim is the minimisation of the losses on the side of the transnational elite, so as to undermine the flourishing of any mass anti-war movement, like the one that effectively forced the US elite to stop its war against Vietnam.

The general aim of all these ‘wars’ is that of securing the stability of the New World Order in its economic and political dimensions, through the crushing of any perceived threats against it. The ‘particular’ aims pursued by these wars are:

  • to discourage the flourishing of counter-violence brought about by the growing systemic violence, which is the inevitable by-product of capitalist neoliberal globalisation and its political implications;

  • to secure ‘stability’ in Central Asia and the Middle East, so that the sources of energy (on which the growth of the market economy depends) could be guaranteed;

  • to guarantee the reproduction of the war economy (which went through a ‘raison-d’-etre’ crisis after the end of the cold war) that significantly contributes to the growth of the market economy.

The intermediate targets and means implied by the above aims are,

  • first, the military crushing of any ‘rogue’ regime or ‘popular terrorism’ organisation around the world and the parallel installation of a vast global network of military bases with the aim to encircle any potentially dangerous regime or country which harbours forms of popular terrorism that threaten the elite’s interests; and,

  • second, the parallel suppression of the radical currents within the new antisystemic movements emerging today and, particularly, the anti-globalisation movement. This is achieved mainly through the introduction of draconian ‘anti-terrorist’ legislation in the North, supposedly to fight terrorism, but, in reality, as an effective means to suppress the collective counter violence against the present intensification of systemic violence. Thus, anti-terrorist legislation ‘deepens’ everywhere (Patriot Act in USA, successive anti-terror laws in UK, etc.).

Clearly, the ID approach on the “wars” of the transnational elite, including the “war on terrorism”, is fundamentally different from the ideology of “clash of civilisations”,[23] promoted by the system’s ideologues, as well as from the “clash of fundamentalisms”[24] thesis, promoted by the reformist Left. According to the latter thesis in particular, what we face today is a conflict between the ‘extremists’ of the West and those of the East, namely, of the political fundamentalism of the Washington neoconservatives versus the religious fundamentalism of extreme Islamists. However, as I showed elsewhere[25], such views are not only completely false and misleading, constituting part of the ‘progressive’ liberal ideology supported by both the centre-Left (in the framework of today’s social-liberal consensus), and the reformist Left, but, also, bear no relation to an antisystemic problematique on this crucial issue. The common denominator of such views is that today’s social resistance movements should turn against both these fundamentalisms, rather than against the system of the capitalist market economy itself and its political complement representative ‘democracy’! It is not, therefore, surprising that analysts of the reformist Left like Tariq Ali and Noam Chomsky ended up with the baseless conclusion that the Left should support the Democratic presidential candidate in the 2004 elections, ‘forgetting’ that when the ‘progressive’ Clinton succeeded Bush senior he went on, as representative of the transnational elite, to bombard Yugoslavia, while preparing the ground for the invasion and occupation of Iraq through a crushing and murderous embargo and remorseless bombardments! Similarly, the same Left went out of its way to support the “progressive” Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential elections, who, immediately after taking over, began bombing intensively Pakistan, as the base of Taliban fighters, and sent another 17,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan in order to continue the “good work” of the transnational elite there and, of course, he and Hillary Clinton sided blatantly with the Zionists against the Palestinian liberation struggle and never condemned the recent Gaza massacre!

3. Ideological globalisation and the mass media

Economic and political globalisation is inevitably accompanied by a kind of ideological globalisation, a transnational ideology that legitimises them. In other words, an ideology to justify, on the one hand, the minimisation of the state’s role in the economy –which, in a market economy system implies a corresponding maximisation of the role of the market and private capital– and, on the other, the decrease of national sovereignty, which complements the corresponding decrease of economic sovereignty implied by economic globalisation. The core, therefore, of ideological globalisation consists of two basic “dogmas”: the dogma of limited economic sovereignty and the dogma of limited national sovereignty.

According to the former dogma, capitalist neoliberal globalisation imposed by the international economic organisations (International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organisation) on all their members –by directly or indirectly forcing them to ‘liberate’ their commodity, capital and labour markets– is, supposedly, to the benefit of all, as it leads to more efficient growth, cheaper goods and services, etc. However, the ‘liberation’ of markets in conditions of economic inequality also implies an even greater concentration of economic power at the hands of a few and at the expense of most. It, therefore, implies an even greater concentration of income and wealth, endangering the economic survival, if not the very physical survival, of billions of people all over the world. Still, this is just considered the ‘collateral damage’ of globalisation!

Similarly, according to the latter dogma, there are certain universal values which should have priority over national sovereignty. Thus, when, in the transnational elite’s perception, universal values like that of ‘democracy’ (as defined by the same elite –no relation to the classical conception of it!) are violated, then, the international organisations (UN Security Council, NATO, etc.) which express the will of the ‘international community’ –read the transnational elite– or, if necessary the transnational elite itself headed by the US elite, should impose them with every available means, irrespective of national sovereignty considerations. The core of this new ideology is the doctrine of ‘limited’ sovereignty which is used to ‘justify’ military interventions/attacks against any ‘rogue’ regimes or political organisations and movements. According to this doctrine, there are certain universal values that should take priority over other values, like that of national sovereignty. The five centuries-old concept of unlimited sovereignty is therefore completely abolished in the NWO. And yet, unlimited sovereignty was a principle which nations that participated in the drafting of the UN charter agreed to limit only as regards their right to wage war in case of an attack, in exchange for a promise that the Security Council provide collective security on their behalf (an arrangement blatantly violated by the US’s ‘war’ against Afghanistan and Iraq).

As it was hinted above, the role of the centre-Left and the mainstream Greens as the main promoters of the new transnational ideology has played a vital part in justifying the ‘wars’ of the transnational elite through the doctrine of limited sovereignty. This is not difficult to explain in view of the fact that both the centre-Left and the mainstream Greens have already fully adopted the New World Order in its economic and political aspects. Thus, all major European centre-Left parties (Germany, Britain, France, Italy, etc.) have already adopted the capitalist neoliberal globalisation. Similarly, mainstream Greens have long ago abandoned any ideas about radical economic changes and have adopted instead a kind of ‘eco-social-liberalism’ that amounts to some version of ‘Green capitalism’. It was therefore, hardly surprising that the centre-Left endorsed enthusiastically all four ‘wars’ of the transnational elite, whereas the mainstream Greens, who, at the beginning of the 1990s, were concerned about the ecological implications of the Gulf War, by the end of the decade were dedicated supporters of the war against Yugoslavia, and today have fully endorsed the ‘war against terrorism’!

The Mass Media, particularly the electronic ones, play a crucial role in the manipulation of popular opinion, either by minimising the significance of the elites’ crimes, or by distorting and cutting off the events from their historical context. This is of course not surprising given the crucial role of the Mass Media in the creation of the subjective conditions for neoliberal globalisation itself[26]. This has been achieved through the direct promotion of the neoliberal agenda:

  • by the ideological degradation of the economic role of the state;

  • by the ideological attack against the ‘dependence’ on the state, which the welfare state supposedly creates;

  • by identifying freedom with the freedom of choice, which is supposedly achieved through the liberation of markets, etc.

At the same time, the creation of the neoliberal conditions at the institutional level had generated the objective conditions for the Mass Media to play the aforementioned role. This was, because the deregulation and liberalisation of markets and the privatisation of state TV in many European countries had created the conditions for homogenisation through internal and external competition. It is not accidental anyway that major media tycoons like Murdoch in the Anglo-Saxon world, Kirsch in Germany, or Berlusconi in Italy have also been among the main exponents of the neoliberal globalisation agenda.

4. Cultural globalisation

As is well known, the establishment of the market economy implied sweeping aside traditional cultures and values. This process was accelerated in the twentieth century with the spreading all over the world of the market economy and its offspring the growth economy. As a result, today, there is an intensive process of cultural homogenisation at work, which not only rules out any directionality towards more complexity, but in effect is making culture simpler, with cities becoming more and more alike, people all over the world listening to the same music, watching the same soap operas on TV, buying the same brands of consumer goods, etc.

The flourishing of neoliberal globalisation in the last twenty years or so, following the collapse of the social democratic consensus, has further enhanced this process of cultural homogenisation. This is the inevitable outcome of the liberalisation and de-regulation of markets and the consequent intensification of commercialisation of culture. As a result, traditional communities and their cultures are disappearing all over the world, and people are converted into consumers of a mass culture produced in the advanced capitalist countries and particularly the USA.

Thus, the recent emergence of a sort of “cultural” nationalism, in many parts of the world, expresses a desperate attempt to keep a cultural identity in the face of market homogenisation through neoliberal globalisation. But, cultural nationalism is devoid of any real meaning in an electronic environment, where 75% of international communications flow is controlled by a small number of multinationals. In other words, cultural imperialism today does not need, as in the past, a gunboat diplomacy to integrate and absorb diverse cultures. The marketisation of the communications flow has already established the preconditions for the downgrading of cultural diversity into a kind of superficial differentiation akin to a folklorist type. Furthermore, it is indicative that today’s ‘identity movements’, like those in Western Europe (from the Flemish to the Lombard and from the Scots to the Catalans), which demand autonomy as the best way to preserve their cultural identity, in fact, express their demand for individual and social autonomy in a distorted way. The distortion arises from the fact that the marketisation of society has undermined the community values of reciprocity, solidarity and co-operation in favour of the market values of competition and individualism. As a result, the demand for cultural autonomy is not founded today on community values which enhance co-operation with other cultural communities but, instead, on market values which encourage tensions and conflicts with them. In this connection, the current neo-racist explosion in Europe is directly relevant to the effectual undermining of community values by neoliberalism, as well as to the growing inequality and poverty following the rise of the neoliberal consensus.

Finally, one should not underestimate the political implications of the commercialisation and homogenisation of culture. The escapist role traditionally played by Hollywood films has now acquired a universal dimension, through the massive expansion of TV culture and its almost full monopolisation by the Hollywood subculture. Every single TV viewer in Nigeria, India, China or Russia now dreams of the American way of life, as seen on TV serials (which, being relatively inexpensive and glamorous, fill the TV programmes of most TV channels all over the world) and thinks in terms of the competitive values imbued by them. The collapse of existing socialism has perhaps more to do with this cultural phenomenon, as anecdotal evidence indicates, than one could imagine. As various TV documentaries have shown, people in Eastern European countries, in particular, thought of themselves as some kind of ‘abnormal’ compared with what Western TV has established as the ‘normal’. In fact, many of the people participating in the demonstrations to bring down those regimes frequently referred to this ‘abnormality’, as their main incentive for their political action.[27]

In this problematique, one may criticise the kind of cultural relativism supported by some in the Left, according to which almost all cultural preferences could be declared as rational (on the basis of some sort of rationality criteria), and therefore all cultural choices deserve respect, if not admiration, given the constraints under which they are made. But, obviously, the issue is not whether our cultural choices are rational or not. Nor is the issue to assess ‘objectively’ our cultural preferences as right or wrong. The real issue is how to make a choice of values which we think is compatible with the kind of society we wish to live in and then make the cultural choices which are compatible with these values. This is because the transition to a future society based on alternative values presupposes that the effort to create an alternative culture should start now, in parallel with the effort to establish the new institutions compatible with the new values.

On the basis of the criterion of consistency between our cultural choices and the values of a truly democratic society, one could delineate a way beyond post-modern relativism and distinguish between ‘preferable’ and ‘non-preferable’ cultural choices. So, all those cultural choices involving films, videos, theatrical plays, etc. which promote the values of the market economy and particularly competition for money, individualism, consumerist greed, as well as violence, racism, sexism, etc. should be shown to be non-preferable, and people should be encouraged to avoid them. On the other hand, all those cultural choices, which involve the promotion of the community values of mutual aid, solidarity, sharing and equality for all (irrespective of race, sex, ethnicity) should be promoted as preferable.

5. Globalisation and the multidimensional crisis

Ten years after the publication of TID the multidimensional crisis has significantly worsened in almost all its main aspects. This becomes obvious by an examination of its main dimensions.

The economic dimension

As regards the economic dimension of the crisis, it can easily be shown that it is the concentration of economic power, as a result of commodity relations and the grow-or-die dynamic of the market economy, which has led to a chronic economic crisis –a crisis that today is expressed, mainly, by a huge concentration of economic power. This is shown by the enormous and constantly growing income/wealth gap that separates not only the North from the South, but also the economic elites and the privileged social groups from the rest of society in every single society, all over the world. In fact, even the statistical tricks[28] used by the World Bank and other similar organisations to show the supposed significant reduction of poverty in the world, as a result of neoliberal globalisation, cannot hide the fact that the huge income gap between North and South, and within them, is constantly growing in the era of neoliberal globalisation.

The North, in particular, has yet to recover from the crisis that surfaced in the mid-1970s, as a result of the fundamental contradiction that was created by the internationalisation of the market economy and the parallel expansion of statism, in the sense of active state control aiming at determining the level of economic activity, as well as providing an expanding welfare state. The transnational elite, which began flourishing in the context of the internationalisation of the market economy process, embarked in an effort to shrink the state’s economic role and to free and deregulate markets –a process, which has already had devastating consequences on the majority of the population in the North. This drastic reduction in statism turned the clock back to the period before the mixed economy and Keynesian policies were used to create ‘capitalism with a human face’. The result was an initial huge upsurge of open unemployment, followed by today’s period of massive low-paid employment, due to both the liberalisation of labour markets and a determined effort by the political elites to reduce open unemployment, which carried a high political cost and completely discredited the market/growth economy.

This is particularly evident in the USA, the ‘new economy’ par excellence, and the UK, which has been ruled by a succession of neoliberal and social liberal governments for the past 30 years or so. This experience has already been reproduced all over the North, particularly after the collapse of the alternative ‘Rhineland’ model of ‘social market’ capitalism in Germany and the introduction of similar policies all over the EU through a series of Treaties. The fierce competition among the two main economic blocs, (EU and NAFTA), and between them and China/ Japan and, increasingly, India can safely be predicted to create everywhere conditions, not so much of massive open unemployment, but of low paid employment in the context of ‘flexible’ labour markets. In Britain, for instance, as Steve Fleetwood[29] of Lancaster University pointed out, ‘what the UK’s flexibility generates are poor jobs, maybe even a new kind of underemployment (…) The UK is not so much solving the problem of unemployment as transforming it into a different one: the problem of poor quality employment’. At the same time, in the South, an even greater concentration of economic power takes place at the hands of the privileged social groups that benefit from globalisation, (as a result of their position in the emerging new local division of labour, which is now an integral part of the international division of labour), at the expense of the rest of society. This is particularly obvious in the new growth ‘miracles’ of China and India, where inequality is now bigger than ever.

It is, therefore, obvious that the decisive element in the economic crisis of the neoliberal globalisation era consists of the fact that the system of the market economy is not inherently capable of creating an economically even world. In other words, it is the dynamics of the market economy itself,[30] in association with the role of the state[31] in supporting this dynamics, which has led, first, to the historical concentration of economic power within each country and, then, to the present internationalised market economy characterised by a gigantic concentration of economic power at the world level, mostly in the hands of the TNCs, and a corresponding concentration of political and economic power in the hands of the transnational elite.[32] Therefore, the outcome of the present universalisation of the market/growth economy in its present neoliberal form –necessitated by the opening of the markets due to the massive expansion of transnational corporations in the last quarter of a century or so– is the creation of a bipolar world consisting of:

  • one world, which includes the privileged social groups created by globalisation, either in the North or the South; and,

  • another world, which is left out of the supposedly ‘universal’ benefits of neoliberal globalisation, which includes the marginalised majority of the world population, either in the North or the South.

The inherent incapability of the market economy system and its political complement, representative ‘democracy’ (which is the State form, developed in modernity as the most compatible with the market economy system), to create an economically even world is the direct result of the fact that the concentration of economic power and the parallel growing inequality all over the world are not just consequences, but also preconditions for the reproduction of the market/growth economy. In other words, there is an absolute natural barrier that makes impossible the universalisation of the consumption standards which have been created in the North during the capitalist growth process.

Finally, as I tried to show elsewhere,[33] the ultimate cause of the present deep global recession–as a result of the financial crisis that began September 2008, which could well end up with a new “Great Depression”-–is again the huge concentration of income and wealth following the opening and deregulation of world markets. It was this huge concentration of economic power at the hands of the “new North”, either in Wall Street and the City of London or in the sovereign funds of China, India etc., as a result of the opening and deregulation of capital and commodity markets and the creation of flexible labour markets, which led to the creation of a huge financial surplus. Next, the disposal of this financial surplus, through the use of dubious financial practices that were made possible by the deregulation of financial markets, created the huge financial bubbles that effectively undermined the capitalist banking and financial sectors, leading to an unprecedented financial crisis. Finally, it was this financial crisis, which, with the help of globalisation, has ended up with the present global economic crisis.

The political dimension

A similar process of concentration of political power at the hands of political elites has also been going on during the same period, as from 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 since, 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. It was the dynamics of representative ‘democracy’ that had led to a corresponding concentration of political power.

Thus, the concentration of political power in the hands of parliamentarians in liberal modernity, has led to an even higher degree of concentration in the hands of governments and the leadership of ‘mass’ parties in statist modernity, at the expense of parliaments. In the present neoliberal modernity, the combined effect of the dynamics of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ has led to the conversion of politics into statecraft, with think tanks designing policies and their implementation. Thus, a small clique around the prime minister (or the President) concentrates all effective political power in its hands, particularly in major market economies that are significant parts of the transnational elite and even more so in those governed by a two-party political system (US, UK, Germany, Australia, etc). Furthermore, the continuous decline of the State’s economic sovereignty is being accompanied by the parallel transformation of the public realm into pure administration. A typical example is the European Central Bank, which has taken control of the Euro and makes crucial decisions about the economic life of millions of citizens, independently of political control.

So, a ‘crisis in politics’ has developed in present neoliberal modernity that undermines the foundations of representative ‘democracy’ and is expressed by several symptoms which, frequently, take the form of an implicit or explicit questioning of fundamental political institutions (parties, electoral contests, etc.). Such symptoms are the significant and usually rising abstention rates in electoral contests, particularly in USA and UK, the explosion of discontent in the form of frequently violent riots, the diminishing numbers of party members, the fact that respect for professional politicians has never been at such a low level, with the recent financial scandals in countries like USA, UK, Italy, France, Spain, Greece and elsewhere simply reaffirming the belief that politics, for the vast majority of the politicians –liberals and social democrats alike– is just a job, i.e. a way to make money and enhance social status.

An important element of the crisis in politics, in the context of the present neoliberal consensus, is the fact that the old ideological differences between the Left and the Right have disappeared. Elections have become beauty contests between ‘charismatic’ leaders and the party machines backing them, which fight each other to attract the attention of the electorate, in order to implement policies constituting variations of the same theme: maximisation of the freedom of market forces at the expense of both the welfare state (which is phased out) and the state’s commitment to full employment (which is irrevocably abandoned). The remaining ‘pockets of resistance’ to this process have been disappearing fast: from Germany and now to France which, after the election of Sarkozy, is set to follow the same path. The German Ifo Institute put the problem blatantly in a recent paper when it stressed that “Europe’s welfare system (…) will not survive globalisation. It may take another decade or two for politicians to understand this, but in the end they will. There is no way to turn back the tide of history”.[34]

Therefore, the growing apathy towards politics does not mainly reflect a general indifference regarding social issues, as a result, say, of consumerism, but a growing lack of confidence, particularly among weaker social groups, in traditional political parties and their ability to solve social problems. It is not accidental anyway that the higher abstention rates in electoral contests usually occur among the lower income groups, which fail to see anymore any significant difference between Right and Left, i.e. between neoliberal and social-liberal parties respectively.

The decline of the socialist project, after the collapse of both social democracy and ‘actually existing socialism’, has contributed significantly to the withdrawal of many, particularly young people, from traditional politics. Thus, the collapse of ‘socialist’ statism in the East, instead of functioning as a catalyst for the building of a new non-authoritarian type of politics which would develop further the ideas of May 1968, simply led to a general trend –particularly noticeable among students, young academics and others– towards a post-modern conformism and the rejection of any ‘universalist’ antisystemic project. The rest, including most of the underclass, who are the main victims of the neoliberal internationalised economy, have fallen into political apathy and an unconscious rejection of established society –a rejection that has, usually, taken the form of an explosion of crime and drug abuse, and sometimes violent riots.

Still, Seattle, Genoa, Paris, Athens, let alone the massive movements in various countries in Latin America, which sometimes have led to insurrections with clear antisystemic demands (e.g. Argentina), are clear indications of the fact that today’s youth is not apathetic towards politics (conceived in the classical meaning of the word as self-management), but only with respect to what passes as politics today, i.e. the system which allows a social minority (professional politicians) to determine the quality of life of every citizen. In other words, what has transformed politics into statecraft, and turned many people away from this sort of ‘politics’, is the growing realisation of the concentration of political power in the hands of professional politicians and various ‘experts’ (as a result of the dynamic of representative ‘democracy’).

The social dimension

The ‘growth economy’ has already created a ‘growth society’, the main characteristics of which are consumerism, privacy, alienation and the subsequent disintegration of social ties. The growth society, in turn, inexorably leads toward a ‘non-society’, that is, the substitution of atomised families and individuals for society –a crucial step to barbarism. The social crisis has been aggravated by the expansion of the market economy into all sectors of social life, in the context of its present internationalised form. It is, of course, well known that the market is the greatest enemy of traditional values. It is not, therefore, surprising that the social crisis is more pronounced in precisely those countries where marketisation has been well advanced. This becomes evident by the fact that neither campaigns of the ‘back to basics’ type (Britain), nor the growth of religious, mystic and other similar tendencies (United States) have had any restraining effect on the most obvious symptoms of the social crisis: the explosion of crime and drug abuse that has, already, led many states to effectively abandon their ‘war against drugs’.[35]

In Britain, for instance, it took 30 years for the crime rate to double, from 1 million incidents in 1950 to 2.2 million in 1979. However, in the 1980s, the crime rate has more than doubled, and it reached the 5 million mark in the 1990s to approach the 6 million mark at present! The ruling elites respond to the explosion of crime by building new jails. Thus, the prison population in England and Wales increased from 64,000 at the beginning of the decade to 77,000 a couple of years ago and almost 82,000 at the end of 2007,[36] whilst recent Home Office projections forecasting a jail population of up to 90,000 by 2010 seem already outdated![37] Similarly, it took the United States 200 years to raise its prison population to a million, but only the last 10 years to raise it to over two million. Thus, according to the latest estimates, the number of prisoners in federal and local jails grew to 2.3 million, out of the country’s adult population of 229.8 million, with China coming poor second with 1.5 million prisoners out of a population which is 5.5 times higher than that of the USA. This means that one in 99 adults is behind bars in the USA turning the “land of the free” rapidly into the land of more prisoners on Earth, with 750 out of 100,000 of its residents incarcerated![38]

So, the concentration of economic power, as a result of the marketisation of the economy, has not only increased the economic privileges of the privileged minority. It has also increased its insecurity. This is why the new overclass increasingly isolates itself in luxury ghettos. At the same time, marketisation and in particular the flexible labour market, has increased job insecurity –a phenomenon that today affects everybody, apart from the very few in the overclass. No wonder the International Labour Organisation Report 2000 has found that the stress levels in advanced market economies have reached record levels, because of the institutionalisation of flexible labour markets that increased employers’ pressures for greater labour productivity.

The ecological dimension

Last, but not least, is the ecological dimension of the crisis, which presently constitutes perhaps the clearest example of the worsening crisis. The upsetting of ecological systems, the widespread pollution, the threat to renewable resources, as well as the running out of non-renewable resources and, in general, the rapid downgrading of the environment and the quality of life[39] have made the ecological implications of economic growth manifestly apparent in the past 30 years. But, it is the greenhouse effect –as well as the consequent climate change– which has now made abundantly clear to all the degree of deterioration of the environment. In fact, the recent publication of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finally brought the ecological crisis to the status of universal front-page news. The catastrophic climatic change, threatening us all because of the greenhouse effect, becomes obvious once we take into account that, even if we take the best-case scenario of a 2.2C rise in temperature this century (while a 4.4C rise is much more likely!), this would mean –according to the European Commission– that an extra 11,000 people in Europe will die within a decade, and from 2071 onwards there will be 29,000 extra deaths a year in southern Europe alone, on top of 27,000 extra deaths in northern Europe. However, the Report in effect simply confirms –using indisputable evidence– the worst predictions of the anti-systemic Left and ecologists which, until now, have been dismissed by the elites and the reformists as ‘scaremongering’!

And yet, the elites, unable to take effective measures within the neoliberal globalisation framework to even reduce the effects of the crisis, have resorted, through the mass media controlled by them, to an entire mythology on the causes of the deepening ecological crisis and the ways out of it. This mythology is being reproduced, not only by the political and economic elites, but also by reformists in the Left and the Green movement, who declare that ‘the crisis belongs to all’ (governments and civil societies alike).[40] Thus, according to the main myth reproduced by the system, it is ‘human activity’, or ‘man’ in general, that are responsible for the greenhouse effect. But, it is now indisputable that the ecological crisis has not been caused by human activity in general, but by the human activity of the last two hundred years or so since the Industrial Revolution. Others argue that it is the Industrial Revolution, as well as industrial civilisation and its values, i.e. what we may call the ‘growth economy’, which is to blame for the current crisis. But, it can be shown that the rise of the growth economy was not simply the result of changes in values, the imaginary, or ideology, but it was, instead, the result of the dynamics of a concrete economic system in interaction with the outcome of social struggle.

From such myths, which share the characteristic that they all take for granted the present socio-economic system of the capitalist market economy and its offspring, the growth economy, there arises a series of proposals, which supposedly will help us to transcend the deteriorating ecological crisis. The common element of such proposals is that the crisis can be overcome as long as, on the one hand, governments take various measures to restrict the greenhouse emissions, encourage renewable sources of energy and adopt various technological fixes and, on the other, global civil society changes its values and way of life.

In fact, however, the cause of the greenhouse effect is the very pattern of living, implied by the growth economy, which in turn has been determined by the dynamic of the market economy and, in particular, the concentration of income and wealth between and within countries, the consequent urban concentration, –the car culture and so on. But, the pattern of living cannot change through exhortations by the elites and rock concerts, since it is very much conditioned by the very institutional framework that caused the ecological crisis: the system of the market economy and its political complement which led to the present power concentration at all levels.

This brings us to the third part of this survey of recent theoretical developments in the ID project, which examines the reasons for the failure of the old antisystemic movements, as well as for the decline of the “new” antisystemic movements which emerged in the 1960s and the 1970s.


1. The causes of the decline of antisystemic movements

The nature of traditional antisystemic movements

The starting point of the ID approach on the nature of antisystemic movements[41] is the clear distinction it makes between antisystemic and reformist movements on the basis of their aims, rather than (as usually) the methods they use. Thus, we define as antisystemic those movements which explicitly aim at the replacement of the main socio-economic institutions and corresponding values with new institutions and values, and, correspondingly, we define as reformist those movements which implicitly or explicitly aim at simply improving the existing institutions (‘deepening democracy’, better regulating the market economy, etc). It is, therefore, clear that the above differentiation differs from the usual distinction drawn between revolutionary and reformist movements in which the former aim at a rapid, precipitous change of institutions and values, whereas the latter aim at a slow, evolutionary change–a taxonomy based on the means used to achieve social change and not on the goal itself that may, still, be either systemic or reformist.

In the past, movements like the communist and the anarchist ones, were classified as revolutionary, in contrast to movements like the social-democratic one which was characterised as reformist as it was rejecting revolution as a way of imposing social change. But, although the classification of a movement as a revolutionary or, alternatively, a reformist one, during the 19th and most of the 20th century, would give the same results as our own distinction between antisystemic and reformist movements, this is no longer so in the neoliberal era of modernity. Today, as we shall see next, movements, that may still call themselves communist or anarchist, have converted into pure reformist movements with regards to their intermediate–and sometimes even their ultimate–aims, even though they may still keep the rhetoric of revolution. On the other hand, it is possible to envisage an antisystemic movement which, aiming at a radical rupture in the system and revolutionary changes in institutions and values, uses non-violent methods for this goal and resorts to violence only in case that it is attacked by the ruling elites, in the transition towards the new society. This is the case of the Inclusive Democracy (ID) project, which aims at a systemic change through the establishment of new institutions (and corresponding new values) that would reintegrate society with the economy, polity and Nature.

The main point stressed by the ID approach is that in order to explain the rise of antisystemic movements in the 19th and 20th centuries and their subsequent decline in the era of neoliberal modernity, we have to refer not just to the change in the systemic parameters over time, but also to the very nature of these movements. The fact, in particular, that traditional antisystemic movements had adopted a one-dimensional conception about the ‘system’, which typically saw one form of power as the basis of all other forms of power, is crucial in understanding the nature of these movements as basically challenging a particular form of power rather than power itself. Thus, Marxists define the ‘system’ as “the world system of historical capitalism which has given rise to a set of antisystemic movements”,[42] based on economic classes and status-groups aiming at the replacement of capitalism with socialism. In other words, for Marxists, the defining element of the system is the mode of production –an element which refers to the distribution of economic power[43] in society– which, in turn, determines, or at least conditions, the distribution of other forms of power. On the other hand, for anarchists, the defining element is a political one, the State, which expresses par excellence the unequal distribution of political power[44] and determines, or decisively conditions, the distribution of other forms of power.

However, today, we face the end of this kind of ‘traditional’ antisystemic movement which used to challenge one form of power as the basis of all other forms of power. The question is not anymore to challenge one form of power or another, but to challenge the inequality in the distribution of every form of power, in other words, power relations and structures themselves. It is this collapse of the traditional antisystemic movements which raises the need for a new type of antisystemic movement, as the ID approach stresses.

The change in the systemic parameters

There is little doubt that the traditional antisystemic movements, both old (socialist and anarchist) and ‘new’ (Green, feminist, etc.) are in a stage of serious, if not terminal, decay. Although these movements are still around, they have predominantly lost their antisystemic character and continue