Tomorrow’s cover today: people are right to be angry. But it is also right to be worried about where populism could take politics.
It was only a matter time before the vaunted “end of history” thesis faced more than a conceptual challenge from theorists and political economists. Have no illusions, the greater capitalist system is currently embroiled in a struggle for its continued legitimacy, and unless the system’s most energized and prosperous militants and beneficiaries concede some meaningful measure of political and economic territory, they run the risk of upsetting capitalism to the benefit of no one.
Let me begin by taking the wind/hot air out of the sails of radicals who, for better or for worse, foresee an end to capitalism. That’s not going to happen. The capitalist mode of production is to entrenched and productive to simply be jettisoned in favour of something else. However, the expansive framework that grew and was consciously built around it will undoubtedly see parts of it shaken to their very foundations.
Things like the idea of corporate personhood, regulatory panopticism (the so-called night watchman state and self-regulation) and anti-regulation (regulations that enshrine an opposition to regulation), runaway spending on state force, and government and state action that intervenes in society for the benefit of promoting the interests of the so-called 1%. These and similar “neo-liberal” ideological strongholds will face highly disruptive challenges, and not because of the direct influence of the Occupy movement.
Save for crypto-plutocrats, the “vanishing middle-class” is a common point of contention across all ideological lines. Once dismissed as a baseless tin-foil hat preoccupation of post-marxism socialists and social democrats, today not one single electable political party can afford to ignore this now mainstream concern. However, all commonalities begin and end here when we start to consider the different levers proposed by these parties.
The Economist is right to warn against populism, but we mustn’t conflate populism with deepening democracy, as the newspaper’s anonymous editors so often do.