Epilogue  to  Towards  an  Inclusive  Democracy



The collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’ led the Left to  abandon  any idea of a free society which, as I tried to show in the preceding chapters, is incompatible with the market economy and liberal democracy. Thus, the various forms of  ‘radical‘ democracy that are advocated by the Left and the mainstream Greens  are based on the enhancement of the ‘civil society’ and propose various combinations of the market economy with liberal ‘democracy’. The market economy is adopted because it has supposedly proved its ‘efficiency’ over planning, whereas the liberal democracy is embraced  because it supposedly secures individual autonomy.

In fact, as shown in the preceding chapters, neither of these suppositions is valid. The market economy and the consequent growth economy is far from efficient in securing human welfare, either in terms of satisfying even the basic needs of the majority of the world population, or in terms of meeting the requirements of quality of life for everybody—apart perhaps from the one percent or so of the world population which constitutes  the ‘overclass’. Also, liberal democracy has led to the present concentration of power in the hands of elites who control political power with the help of  the mass media, which play a crucial role in manufacturing consent and legitimising  the choices of the elites.[1]

Furthermore, as the book has attempted to demonstrate, the Left’s proposals for the enhancement of the civil society are utterly utopian in the present context of the internationalised market economy. As long as political and economic power is concentrated, through a system that has built-in mechanisms to enhance this concentration further, there is no arrangement from within the system to force radical decentralisation in the direction desired by the supporters of the civil-societarian approach. And, as I have tried to show, the acceleration of internationalisation leads to significant changes  in the economic and political structures, which only further the concentration of economic and political power. In fact, the present degree of internationalisation of the market economy implies not only that the model of the market economy that has the best chance of being universalised  will be the most competitive one, but also that the type of civil society which will eventually prevail will be the one  most compatible with this model. As we have seen in the preceding chapters, this is the model which imposes the fewest social controls on markets, that is, the most marketized one.

To put it simply, on the basis of present trends, the type of economy and society that will become universal is not the ‘social market’ and/or corporatist models of Germany and Japan, on which civil societarians placed their hopes after the collapse of the Scandinavian model. The world seems to be moving to a new, even cruder, world order than the present one, which has little to  do with the pious hopes of the civil-societarian Left for a more democratic world where the various elites will be much more accountable to the civil society than at present. This new world order implies that, at the centre, the model thathas the greatest chance of being universalised is the Anglo-Saxon model of massive low-paid employment , with poverty alleviated by the few security nets  that the ‘40 percent society’ will be willing to finance, in exchange for a tolerable degree of social peace which will be mainly secured by the vast security apparatuses being created by the public and private sectors. As regards the periphery, parts of it will continue with their present ‘industrialisation’, creating the illusion of economic development, whereas in fact they will be merely providing the location for cheap (in terms of labour costs) and dirty (in terms of environmental costs) production so that the growth economy in the centre and its bad copy  in the periphery may be reproduced.

The development of this new world order cannot be attributed to the ‘greed’ of neoliberals or the ‘betrayal’ of social democrats. Within the present institutional framework, the policy options of the elites (either of the neoliberal or social-democratic variety) are severely restricted. Within an internationalised market economy, the introduction of effective social controls to protect the underclass and the marginalised, or to preserve the environment, will create serious comparative disadvantages for the nation-state or economic block that will embark on such policies. In this context, with crude dilemmas such as that of ‘jobs or the environment’ emerging all the time, not only the privileged ‘40 percent society’ but even parts of the underclass and the marginalised could be easily persuaded that the only realistic policies are the ones followed by their elites. And in a sense these policies are indeed realistic. In other words, within the constraints imposed by the institutional framework of the internationalised market economy, the elites are right in stressing that ‘“there is no alternative’.

This means that the lists of institutional arrangements proposed by the civil societarian ‘Left’ today in order to impose effective social controls on the national or international markets, which, they hope, under the pressure of an enhanced ‘civil society’ will one day become a reality, represent nothing more than the wishful thinking of a demoralised ‘Left’ that has abandoned any vision of a radical transformation of society. The only feasible controls  today are, as it has been argued in this book, those of a regulatory character, mostly in the interest of those controlling the economy, whereas  any effective social controls in the interest of the rest of society are not feasible anymore, within the context of an internationalised market economy. This is why the various versions of ‘radical’ democracy are  much more unrealistic than the proposal for an inclusive democracy presented in the preceding chapters.

This book has one aim and one ambition. The aim is to show that the way out of the present multi-dimensional crisis can only be found from without rather than from within the present institutional framework. The  ambition is to initiate a discussion concerning the need for a new liberatory project and the strategies for implementing it.

[1]  For an excellent description of this process, see Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988).