The original assembly in 12th century Spain was not a space for popular democracy, but for tough bargaining and long distance government. After 800 years of evolution and facing civilizational challenges, parliaments need to further transform to meet the moment and deliver on the promise of inclusion. Can watchdog parliaments gather enough steam to effectively restrain those in power?
is Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and Forschungsprofessur at the WZB, Berlin. His latest books are The Shortest History of Democracy (Old Street Publishing, 2022) and The New Despotism (Harvard University Press, May 2020).
Although it makes for a great dramatic effect, the theories of the sudden death of democracy disregard the gradual erosion and capture of institutions, and the role of the populace – argues political scientist John Keane.
A reply to James Miller
A reductionist definition of democracy as ‘people power’ fails to grasp democracy’s political evolution as guarantee against tyranny. Giving a voice to the biosphere extends this principle and is not to negate democracy’s own conditions.
Sudden death stories of democracy do us a disservice. The truth is that democracy can be destroyed in multiple ways, at different tempos. The slowest of these – environmental degradation – is a consequence of the anthropocentric ideal underlying democracy itself.
War becomes the twin of communication: the development of media has not only changed how warfare is reported, but also how it’s fought. The working rule of the warriors is to spread strategic information and disinformation at every instant. And media workers are culpable too, for abusing the genre of breaking news reporting to magnetise audiences and advertisers, doing it at a great symbolic cost.
Talk of a new Cold War between the US and China emphasizes military capacity and economic prowess. Warrior discourse presents a mono-dimensional situation in which conflict is inevitable. But couldn’t China’s stratospheric rise be better understood and handled by looking at the cultural complexities behind its advances?
Australia’s recent bushfires are the country’s ‘most serious environmental disaster since colonization’. John Keane considers this megadisaster the product of democracy failure, rather than natural forces, which raises questions about political culpability, economic impacts, deep environmental damage and cultural accountability.
Sensationalism has focused on fistfights over toilet rolls, but the real story is the withdrawal of democratic oversight, and how little public resistance there is to the declaration of martial law. Power granted is power conceded; and power relinquished is power reclaimed with difficulty.