Liberalism is hegemonically connected to democracy, despite the long tradition of representative liberal democracy constructing a limited conception of the citizen, occurrences such as the Second World War saw what was meant to be a citizen expand because of the mass mobilisation of different groups of people during the war effort. The Marxist and Athens style attack of liberal democracy was therefore undermined, as the nation states developed and the movement away from the city occurred.
It is true to say, however, that we are now witnessing a new attack upon liberal democracy, associated with capitalism and neoliberalism’s inadequate and unequal conception of democracy, as it largely undermines the consideration of the structural inequalities associated with our current global Westernised political economy. In the 1960s and 1970s there was a re-emergence of critique against liberal democracy by groups such as the New Left, with roots in current challenges against capitalism developing with limits to growth, feminism, civil rights campaigning and the anti-globalization movement worth while examples.
However, for many, the 1980s development of New Right Thatcherism and Reaganism was a moralist right-wing backlash to the progress and development of critiques of liberal democracy and associated capitalism. The same can be said of today’s government, which are regressing the rights of groups such as the disabled whilst attacking human rights by wanting to replace the Human Rights Act with a ‘British’ Bill of Rights and cutting at unprecedented levels as borrowing actually however goes up beyond Labour’s projected amount even though leaders continue to preach the virtues of liberal economics.
The Occupy Movement is a perfect example of the growing critique of liberal democracy and capitalism, with the promotion of participatory democracy, economic redistribution and equality alongside localised political and economic units. The global scale of the movement demonstrates the growing voice across the world against the current economic, social and political relations. It is the developing countries that are told to adopt the Westernised democratic structures, despite the fact countries such as USA had a President, President Bush, ‘elected’ for both terms through evident electoral fraud and manipulation. The flaws of a liberal democracy that often falls short of a substantive democracy, in favour of a minimalistic practice is being continually highlighted by a growing movement of ordinary people around the world.
Even world leaders are criticising debt. Cameron said a while back that reducing debt on credit cards was a means to undermining the economic crisis. Hello. Wake up. Capitalism NEEDS debt. It is based on debt. It NEEDS credit cards so that people spend countless amounts of money investing in false needs to sustain a system that only ends up screwing the many over in benefit of a few. To then blame those in personal debt and to argue that we have a debt crisis – when debt has always existed in capitalism, as the system relies upon it – is farcical, and illustrates the problems of liberal democracy and the ignorance of the capitalism crisis. Representation, liberal democracy is based upon, is often shamed as despite there being a worldwide movement against capitalism the channels for such representation, be it through media or Parliament, are restricted and barely existent. Again, this highlights the sham of mainstream politics and why more and more people are working outside mainstream channels.
It was only this week that France saw their credit rating downgraded, despite undertaking historical level cuts. The sense of parasitic agencies floating around ready to sting as soon as they get the chance is another symptom of a system unequal for the majority. Credit rating agencies do nothing but instill fear in the global economic system, despite countries doing what agencies want and cutting at disgusting rates. Greece have tried and failed to bailout alongside implementing massive cuts twice. But still, liberal democracy and neoliberal capitalism is advocated as the solution.
Aspects of liberal democracy, such as the focus on rights, is important. But what is more important is how substantive and existent these rights are. In a global capitalist system where poverty, inequality, greed and corruption are ripe, how can we say that mass ordinary systems have their democratic rights protected? What we need to do is continue to nurture the ongoing attack upon liberal democracy and the growing movement towards a different political and economic system, one where participation and co-operation are at its centre.