Democracy against Neoliberalism – Paradoxes, Limitations, Transcendence

Procedural (formal, liberal, capitalist or bourgeois) democracy is the political form of neoliberalism, and it dominates political thought and state practice today. This modality of management of class relations is currently in crisis, expressed through the evacuation of politics, the erosion of civil liberties and the emergence of authoritarian governance. This article offers a Marxist critique of neoliberal democracy, concluding that neoliberalism is incompatible with the expansion of democracy into key areas of social life. This is expressed by six paradoxes of democracy. Conversely, the expansion of democracy can provide an effective lever for the abolition of neoliberalism. This approach is promising for three reasons: first, the expansion of democracy is valuable in itself. Second, the contradictions between economic and political democracy illuminate the limitations of contemporary capitalism. Third, struggles about the nature and content of democracy can throw into question the limitations of capitalism as a mode of production. The incompatibility between (capitalist) market relations and the democratization of social relations is expressed, at different levels, by the paradoxes of democracy identified in this article. For example, the concentration of economic power facilitates the domination of the political process by the rich, and limits the capacity of the majority to influence the economic policies. This article has also shown that neoliberalism has captured the political process and placed it at the service of capital. This capture has weakened conventional democracy beyond repair. On the one hand, pre-neoliberal civil liberties will not be restored easily. On the other hand, authoritarian modalities of governance have emerged both within and outside neoliberalism.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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