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Sobre o populismo, a tecnocracia e a democracia liberal

por Samuel de Paiva Pires, em 14.03.17

Recomendo vivamente o artigo "Will vs. Reason: The Populist and Technocratic Forms of Political Representation and Their Critique to Party Government", da autoria de Daniele Caramani, publicado no mais recente número da American Political Science Review. Podem ler um excerto aqui

Autoria e outros dados (tags, etc)

publicado às 18:23

Populismo, representação, redes sociais e conservadorismo

por Samuel de Paiva Pires, em 01.03.17

roger scruton.jpg

 

Roger Scruton, "Populism, VII: Representation & the people":

 

The fact remains, however, that the accusation of “populism” is applied now largely to politicians on the right, with the implication that they are mobilizing passions that are both widespread and dangerous. On the whole liberals believe that politicians on the left win elections because they are popular, while politicians on the right win elections because they are populist. Populism is a kind of cheating, deploying weapons that civilized people agree not to use and which, once used, entirely change the nature of the game, so that those of gentle and considerate leanings are at an insuperable disadvantage. The division between the popular and the populist corresponds to the deep division in human nature, between the reasonable interests that are engaged by politics, and the dark passions that threaten to leave negotiation, conciliation, and compromise behind. Like “racism,” “xenophobia,” and “Islamophobia,” “populism” is a crime laid at the door of conservatives. For the desire of conservatives to protect the inherited identity of the nation, and to stand against what they see as the real existential threats posed by mass migration, is seen by their opponents as fear and hatred of the Other, which is seen in turn as the root cause of inter-communal violence.

 

(...).

 

The phenomenon of the instant plebiscite—what one might call the “webiscite”—is therefore far more important than has yet been recognized. Nor does it serve the interests only of the Right in politics. Almost every day there pops up on my screen a petition from Change.org or Avaaz.org urging me to experience the “one click” passport to moral virtue, bypassing all political processes and all representative institutions in order to add my vote to the cause of the day. Avaaz was and remains at the forefront of the groups opposing the “populism” of Donald Trump, warning against his apparent contempt for the procedures that would put brakes on his power. But in the instant politics of the webiscite such contradictions don’t matter. Consistency belongs with those checks and balances. Get over them, and get clicking instead.

 

It is not that the instant causes of the webiscites are wrong: without the kind of extensive debate that is the duty of a legislative assembly it is hard to decide on their merits. Nevertheless, we are constantly being encouraged to vote in the absence of any institution that will hold anyone to account for the decision. Nobody is asking us to think the matter through, or to raise the question of what other interests need to be considered, besides the one mentioned in the petition. Nobody in this process, neither the one who proposes the petition nor the many who sign it, has the responsibility of getting things right or runs the risk of being ejected from office if he fails to do so. The background conditions of representative government have simply been thought away, and all we have is the mass expression of opinion, without responsibility or risk. Not a single person who signs the petition, including those who compose it, will bear the full cost of it. For the cost is transferred to everyone, on behalf of whatever single-issue pressure group takes the benefit.

 

We are not creatures of the moment; we do not necessarily know what our own interests are, but depend upon advice and discussion. Hence we need processes that impede us from making impetuous choices; we need the filter that will bring us face to face with our real interests. It is precisely this that is being obscured by the emerging webiscite culture. Decisions are being made at the point of least responsibility, by the man or woman in the street with an iPhone, asked suddenly to click “yes” or “no” in response to an issue that they have never thought about before and may never think about again.

 

Reflect on these matters and you will come to see, I believe, that if “populism” threatens the political stability of democracies, it is because it is part of a wider failure to appreciate the virtue and the necessity of representation. For representative government to work, representatives must be free to ignore those who elected them, to consider each matter on its merits, and to address the interests of those who did not vote for them just as much as the interests of those who did. The point was made two centuries ago by Edmund Burke, that representation, unlike delegation, is an office, defined by its responsibilities. To refer every matter to the constituents and to act on majority opinion case by case is precisely to avoid those responsibilities, to retreat behind the consensus, and to cease to be genuinely accountable for what one does.

This brings me to the real question raised by the upheavals of 2016. In modern conditions, in which governments rarely enjoy a majority vote, most of us are living under a government of which we don’t approve. We accept to be ruled by laws and decisions made by politicians with whom we disagree, and whom we perhaps deeply dislike. How is that possible? Why don’t democracies constantly collapse, as people refuse to be governed by those they never voted for? Why do the protests of disenchanted voters crying “not my president!” peter out, and why has there been after all no mass exodus of liberals to Canada?

 

The answer is that democracies are held together by something stronger than politics. There is a “first person plural,” a pre-political loyalty, which causes neighbors who voted in opposing ways to treat each other as fellow citizens, for whom the government is not “mine” or “yours” but “ours,” whether or not we approve of it. Many are the flaws in this system of government, but one feature gives it an insuperable advantage over all others so far devised, which is that it makes those who exercise power accountable to those who did not vote for them. This kind of accountability is possible only if the electorate is bound together as a “we.” Only if this “we” is in place can the people trust the politicians to look after their interests. Trust enables people to cooperate in ensuring that the legislative process is reversible when it makes a mistake; it enables them to accept decisions that run counter to their individual desires and which express views of the nation and its future that they do not share. And it enables them to do this because they can look forward to an election in which they have a chance to rectify the damage.

 

That simple observation reminds us that representative democracy injects hesitation, circumspection, and accountability into the heart of government—qualities that play no part in the emotions of the crowd. Representative government is for this reason infinitely to be preferred to direct appeals to the people, whether by referendum, plebiscite, or webiscite. But the observation also reminds us that accountable politics depends on mutual trust. We must trust our political opponents to acknowledge that they have the duty to represent the people as a whole, and not merely to advance the agenda of their own political supporters.

 

But what happens when that trust disintegrates? In particular, what happens when the issues closest to people’s hearts are neither discussed nor mentioned by their representatives, and when these issues are precisely issues of identity—of “who we are” and “what unites us”? This, it seems to me, is where we have got to in Western democracies—in the United States just as much as in Europe. And recent events on both continents would be less surprising if the media and the politicians had woken up earlier to the fact that Western democracies—all of them without exception—are suffering from a crisis of identity. The “we” that is the foundation of trust and the sine qua non of representative government, has been jeopardized not only by the global economy and the rapid decline of indigenous ways of life, but also by the mass immigration of people with other languages, other customs, other religions, other ways of life, and other and competing loyalties. Worse than this is the fact that ordinary people have been forbidden to mention this, forbidden to complain about it publicly, forbidden even to begin the process of coming to terms with it by discussing what the costs and benefits might be.

 

Of course they have not been forbidden to discuss immigration in the way that Muslims are forbidden to discuss the origins of the Koran. Nor have they been forbidden by some express government decree. If they say the wrong things, they are not arrested and imprisoned—not yet, at least. They are silenced by labels—“racism,” “xenophobia,” “hate speech”—designed to associate them with the worst of recent crimes. In my experience, ordinary people wish to discuss mass immigration in order to prevent those crimes. But this idea is one that cannot be put in circulation, for the reason that the attempt to express it puts you beyond the pale of civilized discourse. Hillary Clinton made the point in her election campaign, with her notorious reference to the “deplorables”—in other words, the people who bear the costs of liberal policies and respond to them with predictable resentments.

 

(...)

 

ll this has left the conservative movement at an impasse. The leading virtue of conservative politics as I see it is the preference for procedure over ideological programs. Liberals tend to believe that government exists in order to lead the people into a better future, in which liberty, equality, social justice, the socialist millennium, or something of that kind will be realized. The same goal-directed politics has been attempted by the EU, which sees all governance as moving towards an “ever closer union,” in which borders, nations, and the antagonisms that allegedly grow from them will finally disappear. Conservatives believe that the role of government is not to lead society towards a goal but to ensure that, wherever society goes, it goes there peacefully. Government exists in order to conciliate opposing views, to manage conflicts, and to ensure peaceful transactions between the citizens, as they compete in the market, and associate in what Burke called their “little platoons.”

 

That conception of government is, to me, so obviously superior to all others that have entered the imperfect brains of political thinkers that I find myself irresistibly drawn to it. But it depends on a pre-political unity defined within recognized borders, and a sovereign territory that is recognizably “ours,” the place where “we” are, the home that we share with the strangers who are our “fellow countrymen.” All other ways of defining the “we” of human communities—whether through dynasty, tribe, religion, or the ruling Party—threaten the political process, since they make no room for opposition, and depend on conscripting the people to purposes that are not their own. But procedural politics of the conservative kind is possible only within the confines of a nation state—which is to say, a state defined over sovereign territory, whose citizens regard that territory as their legitimate home.

 

(também publicado aqui.)

Autoria e outros dados (tags, etc)

publicado às 14:04

São os referendos bons para a democracia?

por Samuel de Paiva Pires, em 26.02.17

AC Grayling, "Are referendums good for democracy?":

If you live in a small ancient Greek city with restrictions on who can take part in the political process, referendums are pretty well your only governmental decision-making resource.

But if you live in a populous, diverse and complex society, you do far better to avoid referendums, and instead to devise a representative democracy in which people are elected to act on the populace’s behalf by getting information, deliberating, discussing, listening to different points of view, making sober judgments, and acting on them wisely. If the representatives succeed in this, their electors might keep them in post. If they do not, their electors can throw them out.

There are two great advantages of the representative system. When combined with all the shortcomings of referendums, they show why the vote on 23rd June 2016 was such a farce. Regrettably, with MPs having voted in favour of triggering Article 50 on Wednesday night, the result is now very likely indeed to be acted upon.

The first such advantage is that the representative system allows the rest of us to get on with our lives, jobs and families without having to think about the minutiae of such things as legislation on health and safety in the gas industry, or amendments to §5(c)(ii) paragraph eight of the Heathlands and Waterways (Protected Fowl) Act of 1953. Much in the business of legislating involves equal quantities of boredom and expertise, each a great barrier to agora-style approaches to democracy, and they are peculiarly unfitted for them therefore.

The other advantage is that representative democracy is indirect democracy. The ignorance, self-interest, short-termism, emotion, prejudice and occasional knuckle-headedness of which almost all of us are capable are—or in the ideal should be—filtered out by the institutions and procedures of representative democracy, which are designed specifically for that purpose, and which accordingly allow mature intelligence to be focused on the business of government. Party politics interferes with this desirable arrangement, of course, and the result is not only that partisan interests and knuckle-headedness too often fail to get filtered out, but the very institutions and practices that exist to minimise such failure can be manipulated. But the system works often enough, at least for less contentious matters, and that is a good thing.

Referendums are in general inconsistent with this process. They bypass the institutions and procedures designed to optimise decision-making, and go straight for the opposite, posing a simplified question inviting a yes-no answer to a body of people among whom very few have given the matter much thought, or thought anything like informed and dispassionately enough. In handing decision-making over to a referendum, politicians thereby abdicate responsibility, and there is little guarantee that the outcome will be the most considered possible alternative.

 

(também publicado aqui.)

Autoria e outros dados (tags, etc)

publicado às 12:56

O regresso dos partidos de quadros?

por Nuno Castelo-Branco, em 11.09.08

 O inelutável processo de esvaziamento dos partidos a que temos assistido, parece apontar para uma nova forma de democracia representativa. Garantindo a democracia formal e todos os direitos constitucionais a ela inerentes, o sistema foi cedendo o caminho  a um novo mundo que deixou há décadas de ser bipolar. Os partidos não conseguiram  conceber modelos alternativos ao hegemónico neo-liberalismo que de Los Angeles a Moscovo e até Pequim, esfacelou dogmas ideológicos, derrubou alianças militares e tornou o negócio, como o exclusivo centro do debate na sociedade.

 

O efeito da mudança torna-se notório em Portugal, quando os dois principais partidos da rotação em nada se distinguem na sua praxis e nos projectos de gestão corrente do Estado. Assim, parece que evoluiremos para um sistema onde as eleições beneficiarão aquele que estiver em melhores condições tácticas e isto significa antes do mais, a possibilidade de influenciar através da paternal mão do aparelho do Estado e consequentemente, o decisivo peso junto das empresas que no nosso país, históricamente sempre muito dependeram dos serviços públicos. Entramos de forma assumida, num círculo vicioso de comprometimentos que garantem o status quo. Para o sector empresarial privado, a titularidade do poder político já não é um problema que se coloca, pois a existência de apenas um modelo possível de gestão - por que é disso mesmo que se trata -, atenua as velhas querelas entre "direita e esquerda", cada vez mais submissas a conjuntos normativos globais, inteiramente gizados extra-fronteiras.

 

O eleitorado compreende instintivamente os novos tempos e desinteressa-se da vida interna dos partidos que outrora eram olhados com apaixonada devoção. O outrora visível e centralizado poder político que parecia conformar todos os aspectos da sociedade, está hoje mais pulverizado e deloca-se lentamente das agremiações partidárias, para uma multiplicidade de agentes que vão influenciando através dos novos meios de comunicação postos à disposição de todos pela tecnologia. O próprio sistema económico global trouxe novas preocupações de satisfação do consumo - a grande obsessão do século - e a dívida surge desta forma, como a intransponível barreira, mitigando até ao nível da ninharia, o conflito ideológico que enlanguesceu por aparentemente já não ter razão de existir. Nesta realidade à qual não nos podemos subtrair, concluiremos que a possível modificação da representatividade parlamentar da qual saem os governos, será num futuro pouco distante, ditada apenas por meros factores acessórios, como a eficácia do marketing, o fulanismo de uma liderança, ou o simples cansaço do eleitor que por vezes deseja promover uma cara nova. Não será anacrónico colocar a hipótese de a futura realidade política e social, levar á própria reformulação do conceito de representatividade democrática, pois tendo-se alargado a participação através da informação, a democracia parece ter extravasado os até agora normais limites partidários  parlamentares. E aqui apresenta-se-nos  mais uma dificuldade difícil de ultrapassar, pois a percepção que hoje temos dos partidos do poder, consiste na certeza do progressivo estiolar da dinâmica de outrora, transformando-se aqueles em clubes de correligionários de banquetes, cerimónias e sobretudo, de lugares rendosos. De facto, a demonstrada mobilidade de titulares de órgãos de soberania em direcção aos conselhos de administração das grandes empresas, parece comprovar essa mútua dependência que conformou o sistema. Vivemos já o alvorecer de uma nova ordem.

Será o regresso dos velhos partidos de quadros de há cem anos? Se assim for, é a vingança da História.

Autoria e outros dados (tags, etc)

publicado às 10:47






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