The book Darkness at Noon is probably my favourite book. The main character is being persecuted under the regime he was instrumental in establishing. He is the sort of leader I’ve come to romanticise in the old left who rule the country by day and engage in deep philosophical issues by night.
His dieing intellectual contribution (if you will) – the one he never gets a chance to properly establish – was that of the Maturity of the Masses. His argument being that a dictatorship is needed in the initial phases of the revolution so that they can then educate the masses and raise their consciousness so that the society can then run without dictatorial rule and evoke a genuinely democratic society.
If we overlook the dictatorship part for a moment the idea is quite nice. It is essentially about consciousness raising. I’m arguing that we are undergoing a massive structural change in the world. I guess I have a great hope that this has a profound influence on people’s thinking and raises consciousness – ie so they give a fuck.
In addition civil society has probably never been more active – no, in Australia we don’t give a fuck but the rest of the world does increasingly and I’m not just talking about the Majority world here, it’s OECD countries as well (Quebec and Seattle are obvious examples).
If people want Cigars and Gay Porn that is ok but I wonder about the fundamental principle (often used by liberals and utilitarians) that “liberty as long that doesn’t infringe on the liberties of others.” I can’t help but feel there is some infringement here but this is another argument. I also would like to strive for a more enlightened society and furthermore simply remind you that no system is perfect – there will probably always be porn in one for more another, gay or otherwise.
Secondly, Roland, I must say (unless I’ve miss read) I completely reject your definition of ‘Civil Society’. Civil society is not ‘elite’ – at least the way that term is now used, particularly by the right, and it is in fact the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ that is the elite (as their hip pocket is testament to). Civil Society is made up of far more ‘lay’ people than academics (although academics play a very important role). In fact as it generally is ‘grass roots’ it is largely uneducated people (think Majority world) who have had their consciousness awakened and are pissed off. In addition, Civil Society is ‘Civil’ society because it is separate from the Economic and Political societies. In fact, by and large, modern day civil society actively rejects all institutional political processes – the exception perhaps being the Union movement but I would argue that it simple moves in both realms. There’s a really nice quote for this by Marcos but the book is at home so I can’t quote form it. I’ll post it at some other date.
This is, I think a fairly significant point of departure and seems to rebut most of what you have argued (correct me if I’m wrong).
However if I may continue, this Cacophonous Democracy is really spawned from ideas coming out of the Majority world (I much prefer majority world to developed or third as it reminds us all that this is the majority of the worlds population and that has positive undertones – maybe).
So, if I read you correctly, what you are arguing is that, for example, religious groups don’t want to get involved in the political process and simply want to worship. I argue that by simply doing this they are belonging to a community group and their voices are therefore represented in the cacophony. If a government, or other, does something to infringe on the liberties of this particular religious group then presumably the organisation would be vocal in opposing this – in their own self interest. Yes, this means a greater material security. Everyone wants greater material security, and should be entitled to this. In fact simply ensuring the democratic right of these people to pursuer their religious interests is central here.
Rol, it is ok for people to be apathetic – that’s their democratic right. However I’m assuming that they are engaged in civil society in one way or another because they are a member of the local footy club or church group. What I am arguing for is a) a greater level of participation on behalf of the individual but I believe that this will be a cultural (or hegemonic) development and b) that community organisations, which represent the interest of all people, be in control of the destiny of that group and that these groups have considerable political influence which is what I call ‘deep democracy’. There is nothing ‘cultural’ about it and each group will be culturally specific to the community it represents. As individuals we are the spokes that link the hubs which are community groups.
This is distinct from our current system where corporations have a highly undemocratic level on influence on the governing of our country.
If you want possible issues, it is in the fact that I am focusing on community groups (or NGOs). Quite simply these groups are increasingly vehicles for corporations to push their views. Their influence lies in their funding of these groups who are particularly venerable due to their inherently meager existence. For example the Ford Foundation provided significant funds for the 2003 World Social Forum and corporations certainly paid for the attendance of many people at the 2004 forum.
In addition, as you point out, people are looking for a greater material equity. Is this incompatible with my environmental concerns. I don’ think so and I think this opinion is unimaginative but it is a criticism that is worth while keeping in mind. More on this later.