In the first episode of our series, I pointed out the fear that the “liberal” side of liberal democracy did not match with the “democratic” side, the “liberties” did not match with the “democracy”, that “democracy started to stifle freedoms”, and I quoted some discussions about the future of democracy.
TWO DIMENSIONS OF THE CONCEPT
The culture industry presents liberal democracy as the last stand of the political and social development of humanity (Fukuyama), the regime that all countries, all classes and individuals should aspire to. Liberal democracy can often rise to the position of the “regulatory principle” of US hegemony. When talking about democracy, it is necessary to ask the famous “For whom” question, remembering that Greek sites like Athens have self-government of free and equal citizens (other than slaves and women) through direct (non-representational) elections. Today, we are talking about a democracy shaped according to the form that equality and freedom take in the capitalist mode of production. In this context, the concept of democracy not only describes a state form and exists with the concept of republic, but also emerges as a process of expanding or narrowing the limits of the “speakable” of individual freedoms and rights in capitalist society.
In the first, democracy as a state form is expected to gradually disappear with the state in a communist process that transcends capitalism. In the second, as democracy progresses as the process of expanding the limits of rights and freedoms, of the “speakable”, the capitalist classes begin to act to protect those limits, “liberty” against the “freedoms”.
The first dimension, unlike in the early years of the 20th century, exists today only as a desire for the future, beyond the discussion in this article.
The second dimension is vitally current. The limits of rights, freedoms and the “speakable” are the subject of harsh negotiations that threaten the life styles of ethno-religious communities, LGBTQ+ individuals from the “majority”, and the gains of the working class in long struggles, almost everywhere today.
RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
We can say that liberal democracy, which was shaped as a product of the self-management demands of the capitalist class that emerged while the feudal order was disintegrating, progressed through four channels.
First, it was about blocking the ways of the king/sultan and the state of the clergy from interfering with the rights, freedoms and desires of the new class, gradually separating religion and state-law matters, and redrawing the boundaries of what is “speakable”. This meant the restriction of the rights and freedoms of the palace, the clergy, the expansion of the freedoms of the capitalist class, the beginning of the “speakable” to include the scientific and secular, the freedom of the press, publishing, and criticism from the state and religious authority: We define this as secularism.
Secondly, while the capitalist class elevated individual property to the position of “supreme”, intangible object, it reorganized the living spaces of the individuals of the new class such as family, sexuality and education, and the market relation was being saved from the interventions of the king and the state in general. We define this as “freedom”.
The third channel was concerned with the fear of the “majority” arising from the risks that the will of a “majority” to be formed by individuals, laborers and women who started to “liberate” by getting rid of the pressure of political and religious authority: Private property, free market order (freedom) ” should have been “protected” from their demands expressed directly or in elections. In liberal democracy, bargaining for rights and freedoms, for “the limits of what can be talked about,” was indexed to the needs of the capitalist class; the unique rights and liberties of women, their voices, of other classes and strata were excluded from this bargaining area. Liberal democracy developed from the very beginning with the concern of limiting the freedoms of the “multiple”.
STABILITY OF LIBERAL DEMOCRACY
To this end, the possible effects of elections were limited by a constitution before participation in general elections expanded to include all citizens, surpassing property owners and men. While the constitution determined the permanent principles of the order, it also limited the range of action of those who would be elected to represent the “multiplicity”. The House of Representatives and the daily legislative and executive activities of the governments to be established would be overseen by a trained civil-military bureaucracy and a judiciary composed of experts, similar to the “protectors” described by Plato in his “Republic”. This state and judicial bureaucracy would keep an equal distance from capitalist individuals and political parties, would remain neutral, would not get involved in “business with money”, would not use its duty for economic gain, and would not engage in “corruption” in popular words. We call the separation of powers when the legislature, executive and judiciary are independent from each other.
In short, the stability of liberal democracy depends on keeping the will of the “majority”, rights and freedoms within the limits determined in the constitution, under the supervision of an efficient “separation of powers”, a “dual structure” (elected and appointed) and an “independent” media. When these boundaries begin to narrow, the process moves towards fascism, and when it expands, it moves towards threatening free market and capitalist property relations.