Freeing those who govern from the constraints of democracy

From Zizek’s Trouble in Paradise, pg 35. As he goes on to say on pg 107, “the ‘eternal’ marriage between democracy and capitalism is nearing divorce.”

These elites, the main culprits for the 2008 financial meltdown, now impose themselves as experts, the only ones who can lead us on the painful path of financial recovery, and whose advice should therefore trump parliamentary politics, or, as Mario Monti put it: ‘Those who govern must not allow themselves to be completely bound by parliamentarians.’ 

 What, then, is this higher force whose authority can suspend the decisions of the democratically elected representatives of the people? The answer was provided back in 1998 by Hans Tietmeyer, then governor of the Deutsches Bundesbank, who praised national governments for preferring ‘the permanent plebiscite of global markets’ to the ‘plebiscite of the ballot box’. 

Note the democratic rhetoric of this obscene statement: global markets are more democratic than parliamentary elections since the process of voting goes on in them permanently (and is permanently reflected in market fluctuations) and at a global level –not only every four years, and within the confines of a nation-state. The underlying idea is that, freed from this higher control of markets (and experts), parliamentary-democratic decisions are ‘irresponsible’.

This is a worryingly plausible account of how outwardly post-democratic regimes in former liberal democracies could seek legitimacy. From pg 107:

The paradox is that, precisely because it lacks democratic legitimacy, an authoritarian regime can sometimes be more responsible towards its subjects than one that was democratically elected: since it lacks democratic legitimacy, it has to legitimize itself by providing services to the citizens, with the underlying reasoning, ‘True, we are not democratically elected, but as such, since we do not have to play the game of striving for cheap popularity, we can focus on citizens’ real needs.’ A democratically elected government, on the contrary, can fully exert its power for the narrow private interests of its members; they already have the legitimacy provided by elections, so they don’t need any further legitimization and can feel safe doing what they want –they can say to those who complain, ‘You elected us, now it’s too late.’

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