The De-politicization of Politics

Taylor_200x232Slawomir Sierakowski and Charles Taylor over at Eurozine:

Slawomir Sierakowski: Don't you have the impression that liberal democracy is dead? Dead, I mean, in the same way that God is dead in the writings of Nietzsche. The realization has dawned that it was always just a myth. Not only do we now know that there has never been a time when democracy existed – democracy defined not only as an act of voting, but also as genuine participation, as a situation in which the demos truly organizes around a political community – but we have also learned to accept this fact.

Charles Taylor: I definitely think that democracy, liberal democracy, is more alive when it's establishing itself. When there's such a thing as demos that is taking power from the elites or former rulers – what we might call the Tahrir Square phase. Then we have high participation and a very good understanding what the problems are. But, as we can see in American history and that of several Western European countries, this moment can go on for long. These countries had higher participation during periods when a sort of class war was being fought: Labour and Conservatives in Britain; Socialists and Gaullists in France, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats in Germany, and so on. So there was a struggle of a people, a demos: peasants and workers against the others, and these others mobilized themselves too. This led to the posing of clear alternatives, a high level of participation. The same thing is happening in India today. Among the Dalits – the lowest strata of the Indian caste system – there's this tremendous sense that democracy is a chance for them to make this very inegalitarian society less so. In the West, the more rich and educated you are, the more you vote; in India, the less you have, the less educated you are, the more you vote: Dalits and women vote more than other social groups. So the challenge for liberal democracy is to remain liberal democracy – particularly with regard to participation – when it has passed beyond the phase of struggle against the various kinds of structures that benefit the elites. Most Western democracies are at this stage and the level of participation is falling.