The Myth of Bourgeois Democracy

Andreas Møller Mulvad, Rune Møller Stahl

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    Abstract

    This paper argues that the Left should move beyond the commonplace understanding – upheld by Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek - that parliamentary democracy is essentially of a bourgeois nature.
    We show first how the introduction of parliamentary democracy – defined as constitutionalization of state power under a legislative body, with regular elections and universal suffrage – was everywhere a result of the pressure of social movements from below against the aspirations of both conservatives and liberals. Second, we reread Marx on the Paris Commune to discover how Marx wanted to radicalize representative democracy - not abolish it. Third, we highlight how Leninists and liberals have unknowingly colluded to sustain the myth that parliamentary democracy is essentially liberal.
    Finally, turning our attention to the current neoliberal conjuncture, we argue that Badiou’s and Žižek’s notion of a structural complicity between capitalism and parliamentary democracy, while problematic even when applied to the Fordist epoch, is today becoming increasingly counterproductive for the Left.
    In a situation when popular control over states is gradually being eroded by emerging ‘authoritarian neoliberal’ policies across the globe, the Left condemns itself to political irrelevance if it follows Badiou and Žižek in denying the relevance of representative democratic institutions. The common denominator of protest movements of the post-crisis world is precisely the demand for real democratic representation and participation against the illegitimate rule of oligarchic elites. The task of the Left is to affirm and radicalize these demands, and in doing this, to rediscover the radical republican lineage of Marx and Engels as a philosophical basis for a parliamentary democratic project to overturn capitalism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date27 Sep 2014
    Number of pages27
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2014
    EventCrisis and Social Change: Toward Alternative Horizons - University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    Duration: 26 Sep 201427 Sep 2014

    Conference

    ConferenceCrisis and Social Change
    LocationUniversity of Cambridge
    CountryUnited Kingdom
    CityCambridge
    Period26/09/201427/09/2014

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