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Politics, the ecomony, civil society & emergent totalitarianism PDF Print E-mail
The Labour Movement-Economy

peopleanxiThe existence and circulation of political money, and of market money, is shaping a new dynamic in the field of civil society which is pointing us in the direction of new social fields, beyond those of the market. These have always been there throughout history, but it is simply that they are for the first time entering an institutional framework.

The existence and circulation of political money, and of market money, is shaping a new dynamic in the field of civil society which is pointing us in the direction of new social fields, beyond those of the market. These have always been there throughout history, but it is simply that they are for the first time entering an institutional framework.

In the past, these fields communicated by osmosis with politics and those in power; they shaped and regulated situations in the direction sometimes of democratic development and sometimes of totalitarianism.
Furthermore, they acted as a catalyst through the influence of ideas on the handling economic developments.
The potential which is being developed by the pluralism of the 'third pillar', that is to say, of civil society, and the ceding of power to it, has a definitive role to play. Over and beyond the conflict of societies, states, and capitalist competition, a competition which is structured within the ranks and players of civil society can now be seen.

We have become accustomed to dwell only on the positive aspects of political terminology which is being introduced. The term 'civil society' may be relatively new, but the concept was diffused through forms of social organisation and action even in the ancient past. It could be said that there are new features which render the term more complicated and more difficult to incorporate into political analysis.

The term 'civil society' should in no circumstances be interpreted exclusively and only on terms of positive democratic constructive expression. Civil society - like everything else in a human society - may evolve into a factor which can at some point torpedo democratic evolution. This deviation could occur either if it distances itself from the eye of anthropological self-criticism, or if it fails to establish a correct means of communication and osmotic contact in the political community and between citizens and politicians. As Carl Jung remarks about the dangers of periods of social and other crises:
"If the affective temperature rises above this level the possibility of reason’s having any effect ceases and its place is taken by slogans and chimerical wish-fantasies. That is to say, a sort of collective possession results which rapidly develops into a psychic epidemic. In this state all those asocial elements whose existence is merely tolerated under the rule of reason come to top. [ ... ] In a state of 'collective possession' they are the adapted ones and, consequently, they feel quite at home in it. They know from their experience the language of these conditions and they know how to handle them. Their chimerical ideas [ ... ] find fruitful soil there, for they express all those motives and resentments which lurk in more normal people under the cloak of reason and insight." [1]

As with everything in human life, the danger lurks here also of a revival of totalitarianism through the chaotic dynamic which we encounter today in civil society. This dynamic may, when we first approach it, seem attractive and fruitful, but, when at some moment it forms 'conditions of massification', there is a danger of it mutating and giving rise to totalitarian characteristics. And this is a new parameter in the analysis of civil society and in the assessment of its prospects, given the excessive optimism which has been cultivated as to its role. But this certainly does not justify a 'necessity' for a super-conservative dynamic and accumulation of a right to power in the existing political parties and the party system.

Within the framework, then, of communication (of the three pillars, and of a fourth which should begin to appear) which has as its aim political, economic, and sustainable development, the need arises for a new contract, a new memorandum of co-operation and means of communication which regulates developments constructively, is committed to the dialogue, and shapes a new institutional field of democratic and open society.

Our problem lies in the fact that, in civil society, irrational and anachronistic trends may make their appearance, because it is not only trends towards progress which are observable. Nor could it be otherwise. Often, moreover, these trends towards progress may be slender. It is simply that, up to now, we happen to have mapped as civil society (in the first wave of the term's use) those trends which have been progressive. However, the real breadth of the term covers the fact that everyone is a citizen, and society is any schema of relations within the multitude. In this sense, all the other trends are also inherent in civil society. It is precisely for this reason that the emergence of a fourth pillar, that of comprehensive quality of the spirit and of synthesis, is a necessity.

What we call the first pillar - and this is a modern title for political regulation in itself, institutional power, and the parliamentary state - contains within it the potential for the separation of powers among themselves and of delimitation between human rights and the law.
It must have been this which Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in the view of many the most important proponent of modern parliamentarianism, when he describes: "My object is to discover whether in civil polity there is any legitimate and definite canon of government, taking men as they are and laws as they might be. In this inquiry I shall uniformly try to reconcile that which is permitted by right with that which is prescribed by interest so as to avoid the clash of justice with utility." [2] 

In this field, mentality is an active factor and can become definitive in the strongest possible way within the framework of developments and give rise to an 'internal loss' - as we could call it - of democracy, an internal circumvention of it by the very processes of democracy.

The second pillar, that of the market, represents the autonomy of economic development. Given, moreover, that economic development is both the foundation and the field of feedback of political regulations, it affords a guarantee of the democratic development of a system.
The mechanism which propels the operation of the market is described succinctly by Adam Smith: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." [3]

And this pillar, insofar as it has within it elements of power both as a result of the interconnection and through the use of the idols of power, can operate decisively in a dangerous 'close embrace' of the democratic process. From here phenomena of the abuse of power from which conditions of inequality come into being may also arise.

The example of the USA, the country of capital and of strong democratic institutions, is typical, and is described by the former Vice-President of the United States Al Gore as follows: "There are today in the United States branches in which competition is in effect limited to those corporations which have enough capital to fund major advertising campaigns. [ ... ] The inevitable result is that of all this is the concentration of economic power and wealth in the hands of a few large groups and enterprises, together with the concentration of political power in the hands of ever smaller groups of the population." [4]

This passage supports the general feeling that in the market and in the allotment of power which it involves, there is that which we could call a 'democratic organisation of anti-democratism'. And this is because we cannot devise within the framework of the market a means of safeguarding a democratic organisation of democratism with a view to social justice; all we can do is to function in a regulatory and normative way in the direction of more democratic solutions for the product in the media produced and the manner (attention should be paid to this point) and quality of its consumption. Intervention can no longer be only in production, in the creation of the production, but must also be in the way it is promoted, in the way in which the product is made attractive, beyond the commercial mediation for its wide distribution and consumption in the market.

The demand for a pillar of quality
Neither the first pillar, that of institutional power, nor that of the market are on their own sufficient to render civilisation sustainable and just. As regards the inadequacy of the third pillar, civil society, a society which is absolutely essential because it interpolates the human factors in a much more direct way, by employing the dynamic of democratic principle of subsidiarity and locality, we have to do here with practices of 'normalisation' and 'familiarisation' with power.

Power cannot be alienated from civil society. Nor can the market. A point of 'inner return' both of power and of the market to man must be discovered. It is a field of reference of the two pillars to the base of society, to the base of citizens and their agencies, but also the point at which the mentality of people and agencies is also definitively given expression.
It is precisely here that we come into contact, on the one hand, with the functioning of the superstructure of consciousness, and, on the other, with the experiential foundation of the system of political management and the market. In this sense, then, we have to do with a field which is par excellence anthropological.
If Marx had in fact turned his attention to this, he would have been innovative on the level of anthropology as well, as the insightful thinker Berdyaev would more or less have wished.
Civil society is the field par excellence in which we should expect enlightenment to take on flesh and blood. But this is the most difficult of undertakings and becomes even more difficult if we consider that in civil society (apart from its indisputably constructive aspects) the populism of power, as well as the consumer model of the market can be structured and this is happening. This is inevitable because of the given anthropological background of civilisation.

The problems which relate to civil society must be assessed in the longue durée and not by the naturalisation, of short duration and viability, of the term 'civil society'. 'Civil society' is a term which must be seen over time, in a sense which involves a contract as to power, social or otherwise. In general, we must advance with political concepts which have a large thematic spread over time and in quality. And now - as Edgar Morin has noted: "Barbarism is never a simple feature which accompanies civilisation, but is an integral constituent of it" since often "totalitarianism has risen up beyond all predictions",[5] and "a war of religions or a cultural war, a war of civilisations is probable"5 - the time is ripe for a quest for a fourth pillar, a factor of synthesis, an evolutionary asset which will constantly consummate the best features of the past and the present in a sustainable future.

Of this definitive regulatory pillar of quality we shall speak in Part Three.

_______________________
[1] Jung, Carl, The Undiscovered Self [Greek edition], publ.
Iamvlichos:
"Rational argument can be conducted with some prospects of success only so long as the emotionality of a given situation does not exceed a certain critical degree. If the affective temperature rises above this level the possibility of reason’s having any effect ceases and its place is taken by slogans and chimerical wish-fantasies. That is to say, a sort of collective possession results which rapidly develops into a psychic epidemic. In this state all those asocial elements whose existence is merely tolerated asocial the rule of reason come to top. Their mental state is that of a collectively excited group ruled by affective judgements and wish-fantasies. In a state of 'collective possession' they are the adapted ones and, consequently, they feel quite at home in it. They know from their experience the language of these conditions and they know how to handle them. Their chimerical ideas ... appeal to the collective irrationality and find fruitful soil there, for they express all those motives and resentments which lurk in more normal people under the cloak of reason and insight. They are, therefore, despite their small number in comparison with the population as a whole, dangerous as sources of infection, precisely because the so-called normal person possesses only a limited degree of self-knowledge. Most people confuse 'self-knowledge' with knowledge of their ego personalities."
[2] Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, The Social Contract [Greek edition], publ. Polis.
[3] Cohen, Daniel, The Prosperity of Vice: A Worried View of Economics [Greek edition], publ. Polis.
[4] Gore, Al, The Assault on Reason [Greek edition], publ. Kathimerini.
[5] Edgar Morin on Europe, Civilisation, and Barbarism [in Greek], publ. Eikostos Protos.

 

Ioannis Zisis, writer

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