Post-democracy : there’s plenty familiar about what is happening in Bulgaria | openDemocracy
par Anna Krasteva, une vision de l’évolution depuis la chute du mur en Bulgarie. Très intéressant. Ca recoupe pas mal des choses dites par Gorbatchev dans son dernier livre sur le rôle du néo-libéralisme et des médias dans le retour de l’extrême droite.
Six months, six years, six decades – this is how Ralf Dahrendorf (1990) summed up, in a remarkably succinct way, the post-democratic transition: creating the institutions of parliamentary democracy, laying the foundations of a market economy, building civil society.
The future looked clear and bright as a single three-dimensional transformation joining the ‘end of history’. I want to offer a different idea of the three transformations taking place over the last three decades: post-communist, (national) populist, post-democratic.
“And it should be considered that nothing is more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than to put oneself at the head of introducing new orders,” Machiavelli tells us. What is amazing about post-communist democratization is the exact opposite – how easily the democratic discourse became dominant and how quickly its symbolic-ideological hegemony was established and claimed as an “unparalleled success story.” Democratization was an explicitly formulated and designated political project realized with the consensus and contribution both of elites and citizens.
“In … its frontal attack on the liberal-democratic order and its protagonists, the radical right becomes a transformative force, and can indeed be said to be transforming the transformation” – this is how Мichael Minkenberg diagnosed the reversal of the democratic transformation. National-populism emerged on the Bulgarian political scene in the form of a democratic paradox: in the 1990s, democracy was fragile, but there were no strong radical far right parties; once democracy was consolidated, radical right-wing parties appeared, such as Ataka in 2005, and immediately achieved success. Thereafter we see a multiplication and diversification of far-right political actors, on the one hand, but a single enduring symbolic cartography on the other: identitarianism, post-secularism and statism. The identitarian pole concentrates on the overproduction of Othering (Roma, immigrants, LGBT, etc.) giving rise to a politics of fear.
Another aspect of this mainstreaming of rightwing populism is the transformation of civil society into an uncivil society through the media’s aesthetic glorification of extremist “bad guys.” Vigilantes who catch refugees along the borders, leaders of football hooligans, and young people attending torch-lit marches commemorating fascist leaders have become the darlings of the Bulgarian media. Here, two opposing processes interfere with and intensify each other: ordinary extremists are turned into media heroes; media celebrities are transformed into attractive bad guys.
This is based on Colin Crouch’s concept of post-democracy as a process in which the democratic institutions continue to exist but increasingly turn into a hollow shell, as the engine of development and change shifts away from them and the democratic agora, and towards narrow private non-transparent economic-political circles.
One characteristic manifestation of this third transformation, and a key actor, is the post-democratic party: in it, activists are replaced by lobbyists and campaigns by capital. The post-democratic party maintains close contacts less with the inside circle of its activists than with the “ellipse” of its “rings of firms”. The post-democratic party is an ideal type whose manifestations can be found in a number of parties
An institutional vacuum has been created and it has been filled by non-public (corruption) regulations. The institutions are inactive, except when they are used for resource distribution or private score-settling among rival clientelistic networks (oligarchic circles). These networks, which include criminals, businessmen, politicians, police officers, judges, prosecutors, public figures and religious persons, create a parallel regulatory order. The centre of power in this type of state is outside its institutions. The informal prevails over the public at all levels and in the private lives of people.
This “absent” state, in which institutions formally exist but have been emptied of the common interest and captured by narrow private interests, and in which the different branches of government do not control each other but are intertwined in informal networks which have appropriated the true centre of power, is the manifestation par excellence of post-democratic transformation.
High income inequalities expose the existence of social deficits and imbalances. But abstentionism – both as a protest vote and as self-exclusion from a political process which is perceived as excluding people – is a clear political manifestation of the disengagement of citizens. Since 1990, voter turnout in parliamentary elections has declined both in percentage and absolute numbers: from 1990 to 2017 the total population in Bulgaria declined from 8.7 million to 7 million, while the number of people who voted in parliamentary elections decreased from 6.1 million to 3.4 million.
Post-democracy is the latest wave of post-communist transformation. It is the result of state capture and the alienation of citizens from the democratic project – socially through inequalities and politically through voter abstentionism. Yet the post-democratic transformation is the most invisible because it does not propose a new political project, but leaches away from democracy attractiveness, content, a horizon, a “metaphysic of hope”.
Could the citizens who have constituted themselves as active and engaged citizens in the post-communist period ever succeed in reversing the tendency of erosion of democratization and in opening up a horizon for a fourth, positive, transformation? This remains to be seen.
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