From ‘End Of History’ To ‘End Of Democracy’ – Why Fukuyama Et Co Now Like China

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In the past week, comments have surfaced from Francis Fukuyama – aka the man who propheceyed that the perceived ascendency of ‘liberalism’ in the late 80s and early 90s meant history was now ‘over’ – claiming Chinese system is a “real alternative” to ‘Western democracy’

I am SHOCKED, SHOCKED I TELL YOU , that the man who thought Neoliberal Technocracy had ‘won’ history … is keen to endorse a Neoliberal Technocracy.

I mean, leaving aside the argument that this is actually a dialectical situation in and of itself – the PRC in its present state representing a ‘continuance’, a ‘furtherance’ of the developmental trajectory that Fukuyama mistakenly assumed would end with a ‘Whiggian’ victory, rather than a ‘merger’ with something that had previously been ‘beaten’ …

I suspect that this position, all-up, is going to become an increasingly common one within the circles of those who, twenty to thirty years ago (or even, in some parts, five years ago) were the most ardent defenders of “Liberal Democracy” [uber or unter alles].

The reasoning for this is quite simple. Democracy, when actually practiced, is “messy”. It features arguments, debates. The clash of ideas at its finest .. the clashes of print-barons at its lowest .. and the clash of ‘mobs’, variously motivated, at some (all?) points in between.

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It throws up potentially ‘unpredictable’ outcomes – the recent #Brexit referendum result, for example. Or Trump. Or the referendum and more recently poll results in the now-former Soviet Bloc and Russia respectively about preserving/resurrecting the USSR.

Here in New Zealand, it threw up blatantly predictable outcomes, in 1990 say, when it came to opposing and thence rolling back the Neoliberal Revolution here. Which could not be allowed to stand, by the neoliberal technocrats of their (our 🙁 ) day.

And that’s actually at the heart of each one of those ‘unpredictable’ outcomes I just cited two paragraphs up. They were all arguably “predictable”. If not in their precise minutiae nor actual scale of achievement – then at the very least, in the large-scale and shouted from the rooftops and across the town square volume of their systemic discontent with the extant (and “unchallengeable”) status quo.

This, you see, is why the Technocrat both fears and loathes Democracy.

Because not only do they find themselves confronted by a patently superior power, insofar as it is ‘unmanageable’ except on the broadest possible terms – like poking and prodding some great and ineffable beast, hoping it’ll go in the right direction rather than kick back against the goad-wielder … but because, as part and parcel of this, that, it refuses to just lie down and submit to the “superior logic” of whichever teleological fad-ridden moribund die-deology we find ourselves confronted with today.

Hence the ongoing efforts at every possible turn to try and neuter it, to invert it. To insist that “some things are too important to be left to the people” [so can, will, and must be left to the unelected economists and policy-wonks instead].

Now, it is a curious thing – in the mid-late 1990s, and more especially earlier, “Liberal Democracy” was conceived of as being … if not the “antidote” to Democracy, then at the very least, as a worthwhile ‘salve’ for its wilder potential impulses. You could corall and constrain and thence restrain and ‘restructure’ [a gloriously internally contradictory Neoliberal term to effectively mean to “destroy” something whilst simultaneously pretencing at maintenance of its key elements of integrity] Democracy – the actual, untrammelled popular will – and thus straight-up subvert it with the material trappings of the late Capitalist mid Neoliberalist Age.

The idea, then, was that people would not willingly nor knowingly vote to preserve their own voices, or the Post-War Economic Consensus, etc, provided you dangled enough shiny in their faces. Whether the pyrite of “prosperity” [selectively trickluar – both in the sense of ‘trickle’-down, but more directively, a “trick”], or the understandable, yet often equally illusory promises of the most recent generations of “rights”.

Except it didn’t quite work out that way.

And now, nearly three decades on, the very structures that were supposed to provide some sort of bulwark against the Hearing of the People Sing – indeed, against the People stirring to Song in the first place – have proven repeatedly to have failed at this very endeavour.

There are still anti-democratic forces and structural conceits in play, of course – and one only has to look at exactly what happened to Greece around its own referendum on Austerity some years ago, to see just this sort of thing in motion.

But overwhelmingly, the sense is that this “Democracy” thing … produces loud, uncouth, and “I refuse to accept that what you’re telling me is The Only Way” approaches that won’t just lay down and go with the fundamental paradigm of endless wars of ‘humanitarian intervention’, of ever-tighter state budgets yet ever looser financial controls, and some sort of inexorable doom-march back to the darkest reaches of the 1920s drug-capitalism [by which I don’t directly mean alcohol-running: I mean quite directly “This Is your Economy On Drugs”, in terms of its shaping and essential performative/irrationalizing characteristics. Some sort of delusory, dissociative, and fundamentally health-wrecking, life-ending concoction of the bath-salts of the bastargeoise, one presumes] .

So what do we get instead? The casting about to find an ‘alternative paradigm’. One that still combines the vague glitzyness of “proven economic success”, yet without that ‘troublesome’, quarrelsome “Democracy” thing to upset whomever’s carefully laid get-rich-long-term scheme. [Like a “Pyramid Scheme”, except it’s actually an Aztec Ziggurat … replete with the “trickle down” of the blood of young “necessary casualties”, required to keep the whole thing lubricated and in sun-raising ‘running’ order]

Where’s got this? The People’s Republic of China, apparently.

And I would be very surprised if their ongoing Soft Power offensive at providing various incentives to people to Say Nice Things About Them, had absolutely nothing to do with Fukuyama’s remarks now entering the public arena.

My point is: I understand why it was that these sorts were so keen on “Liberal Democracy” twenty to thirty years ago. Just as I understand why they’re already so keen on what they perceive to be its antithesis [see?There’s that Dialectic again!] today, and just as they seemed to be so enthusiastic about the fruits of “Illiberal Democracy” [think Singapore] perhaps five to fifteen years ago.

It’s because, deep down, they want “control”. And they don’t want to have to “waste time” explaining to the people being controlled as to why whatever counter-intuitive, counter-productive, counter-cosmological contrivance they’ve pledged undying allegiance to this time is actually a Really Good Idea despite all available lived experience evidence to the contrary.

For this, the “Chinese Model”, is a spectacularly immanent success.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Curwen said; – “For this, the “Chinese Model”, is a spectacularly immanent success.”

    Yes as an ‘expansionist empire’ builder in a ‘colonialist’ model, after the British and other former empires have been. now China is “exerting it’s power” over all asian and former British colonies to become the new global colonist empire.

    A threat to us all.

  2. Democracy works because the masses are often right about things.

    People protested in London against Tony Blair supporting the Iraq invasion. He ignored them, went in, the war was a disaster for the west as well as Middle East, many people killed their lives ruined, and of course the public were right.

    People were against the Springbok tour and apartheid in South Africa while the government arrested the protestors. The public were right.

    People were against glass milk bottles being phased out for plastic cartons that ‘industry’ said were better. Now 20 years later the oceans and landfills are full of plastic. Fish and sea life are dying because of plastic ingestion and plastic is now everywhere and very difficult to dispose of. The public were right, industry wrong.

    People protested against climate change, TPPA, privatisation, giving away water bottling rights and so forth. All their protests have been ignored for years and now NZ is becoming more and more a divided place economically and socially while the government ignores the public and breaks promises such as reducing immigration down and not signing the TPPA .

    Our government has taken a land of milk and honey for all and sold it globally to the highest bidders which now makes profits one of our highest exports.

    Even though we let in a paltry 1000 or so refugees into NZ per year, we allow over 200,000+ new residents and work permits into NZ per year with knowingly turning a blind eye to the growing frauds on labour and education freely operating here and nearly 4 million tourists, (that the existing residents are expected to provide the infrastructure for). So our immigration policy is nothing to do with human rights but all to do with a neoliberal slant to destroy NZ as a welfare state, lower wages and conditions, introduce more drugs into NZ, (give drug smugglers permanent residency in jail), and overload the entire country with more and more beneficiaries… this was warned about nearly a decade ago http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1110/S00572/grey-power-warns-of-impact-of-high-immigration-rates.htm but now we have new residents now sponsoring other aged residents into the country …https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/376220/10k-11-days-and-one-failed-deportation

    Too many screw ups to list, when the government fails to listen to the public and instead relies on themselves, MSM and echo chambers to ram through their bad decisions or do nothing about clear unfair policy here…

  3. Well let the debate begin.

    The Chinese path is one that should be considered by every developing nation, keen to bootstrap itself up out of misery and poverty and exploitation by the West

    Those in the West have nothing to worry about. The Chinese will not start wars to ram their system down anyone’s throat.

    Unlike the West which has caused untold misery all over the world to do just that (or at least claim to do just that)

    • @Mark, All very well if peace is Xi Jinping’s intention. But when he leaves as China’s president, there might be another Chinese president who might have different intensions against the world. This then affects the world if China has too much control over other countries and business .

      Power corrupts. You see that everywhere. It is nothing to do with nationality but more that people in power need to have some controls on them and a mechanism of responsibility for their actions.

      There might be some bad decisions made through democratic means but at least the people can throw the people who make them out, within 3-4 years and that is not possible in China or Russian or many places in the Middle East.

      It is very sad that someone like Liu Xiaobo dies in Chinese custody. As is other democratic activists like Peng Ming also dead in a Chinese prison. There is something wrong when freedom of speech is unavailable in a country and a jail able offence.

      In another non democratic situation, look at the Jamal Khashoggi murder and torture in cold blood and the person who ordered it, will get away with it because they have the state power to do so.

      As for being a nation of engineers.

      Before the end of last year, the group estimated that China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would rise by 4.7 percent, with a possible range of from 2.0 percent to 7.4 percent.

      Coal’s share of China’s primary energy mix dropped to 59 percent last year, down 1.4 percentage points from 2017 as renewable energy made gains, the NBS said. But coal consumption rose 1 percent, growing more than twice as fast as it did a year before.

      The smaller share and the larger volume are both possible because total energy use rose 3.3 percent, according to the agency’s preliminary estimate.

      https://www.rfa.org/english/commentaries/energy_watch/china-increases-coal-use-03252019111254.html

      Increasingly the individuals and businesses are making profits and gaining power in harmful ways around the world. They can then use those profits to influence and gain power and get more control on other countries resources.

    • “The Chinese path is one that should be considered by every developing nation, keen to bootstrap itself up out of misery and poverty and exploitation by the West.”

      Rampant corruption and pollution, live organ harvesting from political prisoners and the suppression of ethnic minorities in concentration camps. Yeah, sounds like bliss.

  4. And what is wrong with a ‘technocracy’

    China is ruled by engineers – and it works well that way.
    We get lawyers and communication studies majors.

    Let smart people rule for the benefit of all

    • I’ve never understood why you haven’t taken the opportunity to move to China yourself Mark – since you’re so adamant that it’s a wonderful place.
      Is it because you’d be arrested and imprisoned almost immediately for exercising the freedom of speech you enjoy here in Aotearoa?

  5. Some of the thinking mentioned in this article seems parallel to the “dark enlightenment” people who started out as libertarians and now want fascism because the have realised that democracy is never going to give them libertarianism.

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