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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

democratic matters « Previous | |Next »
November 7, 2004

Democracy and citizenship are words that rarely mentioned in these conservative times in Australia, other than the celebration of webloggers as embodying the new democratic watchdog spirit vis-a-vis the corrupt corporate media.

So I thought that I'd drop in a few quotes from Cornell West's new book. They are from the book's Preface, which can be found here in the Summer edition of Logos. he says his book will look unflinchingly:

" the waning of democratic energies and practices in our present age of the American empire. There is a deeply troubling deterioration of democratic powers in America today. The rise of an ugly imperialism has been aided by an unholy alliance of the plutocratic elites and the Christian Right, and also by a massive disaffection of so many voters who see too little difference between two corrupted parties, with blacks being taken for granted by the Democrats, and with the deep disaffection of youth."

Like public opinion West sees the American empire under the current Bush administration as devouring American democracy and republic. West says the problems plaguing our democracy are not only ones of disaffection and disillusionment. The greatest threats come in the form of the rise of three dominating, antidemocratic dogmas. These three dogmas, promoted by the most powerful forces in our world, are rendering American democracy vacuous.

"The first dogma of free-market fundamentalism posits the unregulated and unfettered market as idol and fetish...Free-market fundamentalism—just as dangerous as the religious fundamentalisms of our day—trivializes the concern for public interest."

West says that the second prevailing dogma of our time is aggressive militarism, of which the new policy of preemptive strike against potential enemies is but an extension. This new doctrine of U.S. foreign policy goes far beyond our former doctrine of preventive war.

"This dogma posits military might as salvific in a world in which he who has the most and biggest weapons is the most moral and masculine, hence worthy of policing others. In practice, this dogma takes the form of unilateral intervention, colonial invasion, and armed occupation abroad. It has fueled a foreign policy that shuns multilateral cooperation of nations and undermines international structures of deliberation. Fashioned out of the cowboy mythology of the American frontier fantasy, the dogma of aggressive militarism is a lone-ranger strategy that employs “spare-no-enemies” tactics."

West says that the third prevailing dogma in this historic moment is an escalating authoritarianism. This dogma is:

"...rooted in our understandable paranoia toward potential terrorists, our traditional fear of too many liberties, and our deep distrust of one another. The Patriot Act is but the peak of an iceberg that has widened the scope of the repression of our hard-earned rights and hard-fought liberties...The cowardly terrorist attacks of 9/11 have been cannon fodder for the tightening of surveillance. The loosening of legal protection and slow closing of meaningful access to the oversight of governmental activities—measures deemed necessary in the myopic view of many—are justified by the notion that safety trumps liberty and security dictates the perimeters of freedom."

West says that these three dominant dogmas are snuffing out the democratic impulses that are so vital for the deepening and spread of democracy in the world. In short, Americans are experiencing the sad American imperial devouring of American democracy.

I would add that American empire is also devouring Australian democracy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:20 PM | | Comments (0)