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by Claus Leggewie
Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012 at 10:15 AM
Citizen X is no longer represented by politician U... In the best case, Liquid Democracy can reinvent the vision of deliberative and interactive democracy, giving demonstrators a platform for the public discussion of public problems.
CLICKING AS A FETISH
Liquid Democracy. The liquification of democracy could lead to its liquidation
By Claus Leggewie
[This article published 8/2/2012 in: Freitag is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/ein-fetish-zum-anklicken.]
Liquid democracy would not make the German Bundestag superfluous but could fill it with more life.
“Liquid democracy” is an ambiguous experiment. “Liquidating” can means “liquefying.” Banks are liquidated. This can also mean “hunted down.” Banks go bankrupt. Many pirates and other exponents of the term liquid democracy think of liquefying paralyzed political forms. They see the means as the substance. Whether the trend to post-democracy should be accelerated or overcome should be decided first of all.
The uneasiness over the current operational forms of politics is not unfounded. The “Euro-bailout” is a model in lack of transparency. Neither the Bundestag, the European parliament nor Spanish or Greek representatives can really participate in it, much less the European people who are not asked for their opinion. Crises are “hours of the executive.” Authoritarian politicians and intellectuals have always been celebrated as the pure form of state policy.
WHAT BRINGS INTERACTIVE POLITICS
On the other side, appealing for “stronger citizen participation” is part of every politician’s speech today.” The energy-turn announced by the German cabinet is only possible if the people collaborate. Referendums and citizen initiatives should be recognized as meaningful supplements and not made taboo in the parties as attacks on representative democracy.
Experts and managers shudder. Where only “social acceptance” should be staged, people are now summoned to real democratic legitimation. Where this is lacking, neither nuclear waste nor carbon dioxide will diminish, no power lines will be set up, no airports expanded and no railroad stations modernized.
Since democratic negotiation takes a long time, many critics see the effectiveness and efficiency of politics endangered by “politics behind closed doors.” Amid the energy turn, the time window for successful protection of the atmosphere closes. Unwieldy conflicts loom on the horizon.
Can a remix of representative and direct-democratic elements improve anything? In the past, the strength of party-democracy consisted in uniting effective governing with democratic legitimation. Parties bundled enormously different claims and trimmed them in compromises. In this way, parties were important mediators between state and society and were held in high esteem up to the seventies
This has changed. That “those above” have fallen does not reflect so much a loss of quality or the characterlessness of politicians. Rather it has to do with the objective pre3conditions of the present system: the liquidation of state policy through the privatization, globalization and virtualization of political space.
• Globalization: The financial crisis did not first demonstrate how much nation states of the size of the US and Germany have lost in sovereignty. Many things are long decided when they reach the national parliaments – by “Brussels” or “the markets,” that is a conglomerate of 200 to 500 mammoth corporations. The earth’s overstrained atmosphere and the maltreated tropical forests, nature, rule indirectly. National parliaments often only represent one of the shadows of democratic control. International non-governmental organizations like the WWF, non-parliamentary protest groups like Occupy or councils of experts like the IPCC World Climate Council substitute or simulate popular sovereignty. The parliaments are cut to size as the container of the nation state. Parliaments can hardly react properly to the new challenges.
• Privatization: As the elites in politics and the economy castrate the nation state, they promote private-public networks without intervening in all conceivable areas of life. In the jargon of political scientists, governance takes the place of government, in other words a “fluid” cooperation of private and public actors. This can be very beneficial by giving citizens more freedom and autonomy but can also take Mafia forms.
• Virtualization: The old social democrats were the first “virtual body,” not the pirates. Digital media promote the tendency of informal political participation ad hoc without a clear spatial reference. Liquid Democracy is a consistent expression of this virtualization. Diverse algorithms and follower-paths show the way. Politician U merges in the assumed dream intelligentsia. Citizen X is no longer represented by politician U.
In the best case, Liquid Democracy can reinvent the vision of deliberative and interactive democracy, giving demonstrators a platform for the public discussion of public problems. A border-crossing space of the global commons must be marked out including a freely accessible Internet. Best of all an arena of giving-exchange can be created that frees the world from the stranglehold of bank-driven money transactions.
All this can hardly succeed with today’s form of the Internet – at least as long as the net is in the hands of Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter whose services do not serve a politically defined goal. In itself, these tools are not genuine means of democratizing democracy but are fetishes of a public cut to size by private-commercial interests. These promote what net-critics always fear: an electronic populism that is radical in referendums and on the street. Proponents of a liquid democracy have a change if they find quick and practical answers to two great challenges: organizing a will in the energy turn and the future of European integration.
THE FUTURE AS A CHAMBER
People’s representatives and constitutional judges have rightly resisted the governing of the executive in the financial crisis. Their answers hearken back again and again to the nation-state people’s sovereignty – and are speechless regarding the development of European democracy. Net-enthusiasts could build a genuine European public alongside actions for upgrading the European parliament to a full parliament. Europe’s basic law and order are the contemporary objects of a virtual council led by referendums.
This is also true for the energy turn. Activities of net-politics could support the self-image of German and European society – business-as-usual with a capitalism that relies blindly on economic growth or differently with renewable energy, fair trade and democratic peace. Local agenda where digital grids should run for example are just as important as supra-local challenges like locating final disposal for nuclear waste.
The institutions of representative democracy and the parties are not superfluous. But a fourth “future chamber” of citizens could prepare and communicate rational decisions in the context of globalization alongside the executive, legislative and judicial areas. If the pirates or another party succeeds in building a low-threshold participation platform, they will be a counter-weight against the dominant post-democracy. On the other hand, whoever withdraws in the space of the net runs from the challenges of democratic politics.
Seifert – 8/2/2012
Good analysis. “Liquification” of democracy can also mean its ending – particularly when its promoters do not understand the structures on which its contemporary rule is based. The propagandists of liquid democracy hardly oppose anything to the advance of the “markets.” They do not seem to recognize the problem.
In one point, I do not agree with Claus Leggewie. He fears that the “electronic populism” could be “radical” in referendums. The underlying fear is that the lowest instincts of a people could prevail. In this connection, we are often referred to the conditions in Switzerland where an anti-minaret initiative was approved by a majority of the voters. The instruments of direct democracy are not immune from reactionary application – but this is not a reason to end them! Initiatives are a good possibility for citizens submitting a political question for discussion in a broad debate. If forming alliances and opinion-making work succeed, then helping progressive desires become majority desires is also possible.
The idea of a “future chamber” is not new. A quarter of a century ago, the philosopher Rudolf Bahro in his book “The Logic of Rescue” (Logik der Rettung) proposed creating an ecological council. Maybe the time is right to discuss these ideas more extensively than at the end of the 1980s.
Meyko – 8/2/2012
“Proponents of a liquid democracy have a chance is they find quick and practical answers in organizing wills in the energy turn and the future of European integration.”
“Organizing wills” In the population still occurs mainly by means of current media… So-called licensed newspapers were published at the beginning of our post-war democracy. Only media-suppliers well-disposed to the new system could select information and set the tone. As a help to democratization, they were counseled and censored by the allied powers.
The media system installed at that time has grown enormously, still functions today and is a perquisite or vital necessity for diverse democratic developments all over the world. Without information, we do not know whom we should choose or against whom we should wage war. Through their pre-selection of information, our media have the opportunity of controlling social developments and averting possible manipulations based on other interests.
Through the Internet, some information can be gained that is “journalistically unfiltered.” This information may make possible a kind of “base democracy” (“Everyone has the right to free expression of opinion in word, writing and picture…” Art. 5 of the German Basic Law) or substitute for the “functioning media” in the past under circumstances, a vital necessity for our democracy.
Even though it may be a long development process, it seems ignorant and dangerous not to take seriously this new development in political media with all its possibilities. However advocates of such a “democracy movement” will only advance very slowly as long as no “liquid democracy” is specifically desired or sought.
VACATION MAKES WORK
By P. Bourdeau and R. Christin
[This article published 7/13/2012 in: Le Monde diplomatique is translated abridged from the German on the Internet, http://www.monde-diplomatique.de/pm/2012/07/13.monde.Text.artikel,a0051.idx,14.]
Everyone agrees on the theme tourism. Vacations have nothing to do with politics. Politics is strenuous while vacations focus entirely on recovery and pleasure. “The value of vacation is the vacation from values,” it was said when modern tourism was still in its infancy (cf. Edgar Morin, 1965].
The classical advertising motif describes vacation as time out. It’s six of one and half dozen of the other in the advertisement of the Opodo travel agency… According to this representation, vacation fulfills the pressing need to escape social pressures – a kind of collective time out. Ease, amateurism and even cynicism resonate in the slightly disparaging sound of the word “tourist.”
Still all attempts at completely separating the branches from the daily routine are in vain. The passion to fight tourist free time is the same as resisting waste incinerators or freeways. The protest against “free time factories” that in the past only expressed a “not in my house” attitude has long radicalized into the slogan “not here or anywhere.”
The cheerful image of tourism as an environmentally friendly activity creating jobs and promoting local patriotism is not credible any more. Rather we witness increasing work battles for many years in the tourism branch in vacation land France… In tourism, seasonable employment is very widespread and illegal working conditions are often encountered.
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