DEMOCRACY & NATURE: The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY
vol.8, no.1, (March 2002)
One critical component of any project aiming at an alternative society is the transition strategy, which is the main theme of this issue. Furthermore, a topic which is also directly related to this theme is the form that radical movements should take in consistency with this strategy, something that constitutes the second theme of the present issue. Thus, following the discussion that was initiated in the previous issue about the form radical movements take in the era of neoliberal modernity, which had as its main reference the movements in the North, we continue in this issue with an examination of radical movements in the South and particularly those in Latin America.
The aim of my contribution (Takis Fotopoulos) is twofold. First, to critically assess the various transitional strategies for radical social change which have been proposed in the past, as well as some recently developed strategies, like the civil societarian approach, the Libertarian Municipalism strategy and the ‘lifestyle’ strategies. Second, to propose a new transitional strategy which aims at the transition to a confederal Inclusive Democracy. In this context, the emancipatory subject in present society is discussed, a new type of politics and political organisation is suggested, and a series of steps for the transition to a political, economic, ecological democracy, as well as a ‘democracy in the social realm’ is proposed.
Iain Watson offers an examination of the Zapatista experiment, an experiment which seems to still attract some in the Left, particularly the reformist part of it. However, the author, although obviously sympathetic to this movement, has no illusions about its nature and he explicitly states that it is basically ‘representing a politics of resistance to globalisation that cultivates a project of radical democracy’ which, as such, has little in common with the inclusive democracy project. In D&N’s problematique, as expressed in the programmatic text OUR AIMS, the ‘radical democracy’ conception not only has little to do with the classical conception of democracy but it is also both ahistorical and utopian in the negative sense of the word. This is because the ‘radical democracy’ conception , far from aiming at creating new institutions to replace the present bankrupt institutional framework, simply proposes ‘deepening’ representative ‘democracy’ (or, as Marcos put it in proposing a similar conception, creating a ‘more balanced’ representative democracy) and a ‘different’ globalisation through the introduction of social controls on the market economy. However, the fact that the antiglobalisation movement, as far as it is dominated by the reformist currents within it (ATTAC etc), as well as the Zapatista movement itself, presently show clear signs of being marginalized, or worse, being integrated within the existing institutional framework, provides a clear illustration of how effective a politics of resistance to globalisation based on radical democracy conceptions is in drastically altering the course of neoliberal globalisation, let alone in functioning as a transition strategy to an alternative society.
Alexandros Gezerlis’s article on the present Latin American movements offers an excellent analysis of the institutional framework within which these movements emerged, paying (rightly) particular attention to the causes of the failure of the market economy in the periphery. His critical assessment of popular movements is especially important in assessing movements like that of the Zapatistas which, as the author argues, far from being an antisystemic movement is in fact what may be called ‘the first ever postmodern guerrilla army’. Gezerlis’s analysis is also useful in clearly linking the issue of the radical movements in today’s era with the discussion over the transition strategy and, in this sense, continuing the debate on antisystemic movements which D&N started in the last issue. In this context, the author stresses that the present decline of antisystemic movements, in an area in which such movements were flourishing just a few decades ago, represents in fact the decline of the old type of antisystemic movement and the urgent need to build a new type of antisystemic movement that would lead the Latin American peoples (who suffer the consequences of neoliberal globalisation even more than those in the North, as the recent riots in Argentina showed), out of the present multidimensional crisis.
Guido Galafassi’s paper in a sense complements Gezerlis’s analysis as it clearly shows that the ecological implications of Latin American ‘development’ are equally dire as the well known social and economic implications. As one could expect, Latin American ‘development’ is not only a bad copy of economic development at the centre but, also, an even worse copy of ecological development, as the author shows in his well researched article. Similarly, neoliberal globalisation brought about not only a general deterioration in socio-economic conditions but also in environmental conditions. But, given the importance of socio-economic conditions for survival itself, it is not surprising that radical social movements in Latin America are much more concerned with the abysmal socio-economic conditions which affect most of the population rather than with the ecological conditions, which though important, mainly concern the middle classes at the moment. However, the fact that the author does not make it clear whether or not ‘a social and ecological integrated and democratic development’ is feasible within the existing framework of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ leaves one unclear on the crucial issue whether what is wrong with Latin American development is the ‘wrong’ kind of policies and models adopted by the elites, as the reformist Left suggests, or whether instead it is the dynamics of the market economy itself which has inevitably led to the present situation .
A dominant element of the transition debate is the importance of values versus structures, i.e. whether institutions have to change first, for values and ideologies to follow, or whether instead values have to change first to be followed ultimately by a change in structures. The former is adopted by Marxists whereas the latter is supported explicitly by eco-libertarians like Ted Trainer and, implicitly, by theoreticians strongly influenced by the Hegelian tradition and systems theory like Arran Gare, who offers a powerful illustration of this view. For Gare, economics is so fundamentally flawed and so completely dominates the culture of late modern capitalism (or post modernity) that a new master human science is required to displace it, both as a means to interpret reality and as an alternative basis for formulating public policy. The alternative science he proposes is human ecology, ‘a social science that would totally reorient public policy from a domain for power elites to a domain for genuinely democratic societies to define and control their destinies’. However, the implication of Gare’s analysis is that economics with its mechanistic world-view of human society came first and the market economy followed -- something that does not correspond to historical reality. In fact, it was the development of modern society, which was characterised by the emergence of the market economy and its political complement - representative ‘democracy’ - that gave rise to liberal (neoclassical) economics, as an ideology to justify the new economic system and not vice versa. It is well known, for instance, that when Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, the market economy was already a living reality. Similarly today it was the globalisation of the market economy and the corresponding business requirements to open and liberalise markets that led to the emergence of neoliberal economics (Chicago school etc) as an ideological justification of neoliberal globalisation and not the other way round. This means that the dominant social paradigm would inevitably reflect the prevailing socio-economic system, although not in the strict Marxist sense of economic base/superstructure but in a much more roundabout and complicated way. One, may therefore argue that human ecology could become the hegemonic social paradigm only in parallel with a change in structures and then, following a change in the institutional framework, it could become the dominant social paradigm.
The second part of this issue hosts a rich dialogue section which involves also some further discussion on the topics that were raised in the first part. Thus, Ted Trainer defends his view that ‘only the Simpler Way centred on more materially simple, co-operative and self-sufficient ways within a zero-growth economy can solve the major global problems’ and that the implicit strategy of the Global Alternative Society ‘Movement’ constitutes the best way available to us now to start building a mass movement for the transition to an alternative society. On the other hand, Thomas Martin returns to his defence of the irrational trends within the anarchist movement in general and myth in particular. Finally, Carlo Corsi takes up some of the editorial criticisms raised against systems theory.