Global Capitalism and the Demise Of The Left: Renewing Radicalism Through Inclusive Democracy, edited by Steven Best (The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 5, No. 1, special issue winter 2009), 472 pages, PDF file, ISSN 1753-240X

Recent Theoretical Developments on the Inclusive Democracy Project

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The aim of this article is to present briefly the vast amount of theoretical work that has followed the publication of Towards An Inclusive Democracy (TID) more than ten years ago, and its translation in several languages. I thought that, as almost the entire discussion in this book concentrates on TID, the reader should be, also, made aware of the fact that the Inclusive Democracy (ID) project is not just a static theoretical work, but a wide-ranging political project enriched with a dynamic theory, which has been constantly expanding in new areas of research, apart from deepening and widening the areas already covered by TID. Almost all of the recent theoretical developments have been published in the international theoretical journals of the ID project, i.e. Democracy & Nature and its successor, The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy. I have classified the new theoretical developments on the ID project in four main thematic sections, which cover all the main aspects of recent theoretical work.

The first part investigates further certain theoretical issues of the ID project, which were only touched on in TID if at all. It presents, first, the class theory of the ID project and its view on postmodernism. It, then, proceeds to examine the ID attempt to develop a new liberatory theory of ethics and Paedeia. Next, the work is presented which aims to further delineate democratic rationalism (adopted by the ID project) from irrationalism, objective rationalism, as well as from recent scientific developments like systems theory and complexity. This part concludes with a presentation of the ID view on the ‘neutrality’ and ‘autonomy’ of science and technology.

The second part presents the theory on globalisation developed by the ID project and delineates it from the usual non-systemic globalisation approaches of the Left. It, then, discusses the main aspects of globalisation (economic, political, ideological, cultural) with respect to the main components of the present multidimensional crisis (economic, political, cultural, social and ecological) which were discussed in TID.

Next, the third part attempts to show why according to the ID approach both the old antisystemic movements (Marxism, anarchism) as well as the ‘new’ social movements which developed in the 1960s and the 1970s (Green, feminism, etc.) are either in a stage of decline or simply have been integrated into the System.

Finally, the fourth part aims to briefly delineate ID from other recent radical projects (project of autonomy, communalism, Parecon, de-growth and ecovillage movement). This part concludes with an outline of the ID approach to transitional strategies.


1. The ID class theory and postmodernism

The starting point in the ID class analysis[1] is that the collapse of the socialist project, and the consequent abandonment of ‘grand narratives’, should not be followed by the rejection of every type of class analysis and politics, or, even more so, by the abandonment of every attempt to develop a universal project for human emancipation. Instead, class divisions have to be redefined to extend beyond the original conception of them, which was restricted to the economic sphere, and a new class model should be developed, which would embrace the politics of ‘difference’ and ‘identity’ and, therefore, be appropriate to the era of an internationalised market economy.

Thus, the post-modernist view that the post-industrial era swept aside not just the notion of a particular type of class society based on economic relations, but, also, any notion of a society split by class divisions, in the sense of systemic social divisions is contrasted to evidence and shown to be at best a fantasy and at worst an ideological justification of the present class ridden society. Particularly so, when the obvious conclusion of such an analysis is that in a ‘post-class’ society (i.e. a society that is ‘internally’ differentiated in terms of access to economic resources, political power and prestige) there are neither dominant social groups and a ‘ruling elite’ based on them, nor an institutional framework which gives rise to and reproduces them, and that therefore, there is no need to develop an emancipatory politics or to attempt to identify the subject for such a politics. All that is needed, instead, is to reject all ideologies as metanarratives and adopt a kind of politics which would explicitly take into account the above ‘differentiations’ in an effort to achieve progressive equalisation and social harmony.

In this context, the ID approach examines the historical development of economic class divisions, within the framework of the periodisation of modernity which it introduces, namely, liberal, statist and neoliberal modernity. Thus,

  • First, the emergence of economic classes (in the Marxist sense) during the era of liberal modernity is examined and the inadequacies of the Marxist class categories are assessed.

  • Next, the class restructuring of the statist era is described and the effective decomposition of the Marxist class divisions is discussed.

  • Then, the new class divisions of the present neoliberal form are assessed and the conclusion is derived that not only class divisions defined in economic terms (though not necessarily in strict Marxist terms) still exist today, but also new class divisions, classified also as systemic, have been added to them.

  • Finally, it is shown that gender, race, ethnicity and nationality maintained their transclass character throughout the period of modernity following the emergence of classes. A new power-based model of class divisions is developed, which focuses on the unequal distribution of power in all its forms, and at the same time an attempt is made to define the subject of emancipatory politics today.

The postmodernist dismissal of the need for a class analysis today, and the consequent need for a new liberatory project was taken further by a systematic critique of postmodernism[2]. The claim that the advanced market economies have entered a new era of post modernity (or a post-modern turn) was critically assessed and found to be unjustified by the changes at the economic, political, cultural, or scientific and theoretical levels of the last quarter of a century or so. Although it is true that there have been significant changes at these levels in the last quarter of a century or so, these changes in no way justify the view that the advanced market economies have entered a new era. Not only the main political and economic structures, which were institutionalised in the move from the traditional to the modern society, are still dominant in the North, but in fact they are spreading all over the globe at the moment. Also, the changes at the other levels could be shown to represent either an evolution of trends already existing rather than any sort of break or rupture with the past (science), or the development of new trends, particularly at the theoretical and cultural levels, which reflect the emergence of the present neoliberal form of modernity. In this sense, post-modern theory, in all its variants, plays the role of justifying either deliberately, (as in the case of the liberal side of postmodernism), or objectively, (as in the case of mainstream and ‘oppositional’ postmodernism) the universalisation of liberal ‘democracy’ and the present marketisation of the economy and society. In other words, it plays the role of an emerging dominant social paradigm[4] like the one proposed by the Inclusive Democracy project.

2. The need for a new liberatory ethics and Paedeia

As it was attempted to be shown in the article on postmodernism, scientism and objectivism in general entered a serious crisis in the present phase of neoliberal modernity (or as postmodernists call it the era of post modernity). This had inevitable consequences on ethics[5], since the ethics of the early phases of modernity, both the orthodox and the liberatory[6] ones, was based on objectivism in general and scientism in particular. Postmodernists were among the first who attempted to theorise the crisis of ‘objective’ ethics, both orthodox and liberatory. No wonder the post-modern approach to morality has often been celebrated as the ‘demise of the ethical’, the substitution of aesthetics for ethics and the consequent ‘ultimate emancipation’.

Thus, whereas modernists assumed that it is possible to create a non-ambivalent, non-contradictory ethical code, so that universal reason could replace universal religious belief in guiding individual and collective morality, postmodernists rejected every kind of liberatory project on the grounds that it is by necessity universalist. In fact, it is the postmodernist rejection of universalism in general and moral universalism in particular, which makes their problematique particularly objectionable from a liberatory viewpoint. This is because postmodernists did not simply criticise the questionable ideology of progress, but proceeded to criticise the universalist projects of modernity and the very idea of the citizen and the polis.

Furthermore, it can be shown that the post-modern claim that present society is not characterised by a universal morality is false. The universalisation of representative ‘democracy’ and the market economy has inevitably been followed by a corresponding universalisation of the culture and the dominant social paradigm, which are compatible with these institutions. In fact, the process of ‘globalisation’, which has characterised neoliberal modernity, has been instrumental in this universalisation process. In this context, the moral pluralism that postmodernists celebrate taking for granted the present socio-economic systemis in fact a pseudo-pluralism, given that all societies which have adopted a market economy and representative ‘democracy’ show fundamental similarities as regards their core values: individualism, consumer culture, heteronomous morality (either based on religion or some other kind of spiritualism, etc).

Therefore, an autonomous liberatory society should be expected to create its own moral code, with hard-core values which will inevitably be consistent with its fundamental institutions and peripheral values that may vary from society to society. In this sense, it is argued that it is only a worldwide genuinely democratic society, based on universal core values expressing the uncompromising demand for individual and social autonomy and a variety of peripheral values celebrating difference, which could promise peaceful and liberatory coexistence. On the basis of this sort of analysis, the ID project argues that we cannot prescribe the moral code for a genuine democratic society, which is obviously a matter for the citizens’ assemblies of the future to decide.

Still, we can (in fact we should) show the ethics that, in our view is compatible with the institutions of a democratic society. Thus, first, religious ethics, or any ethics based on any kind of irrational belief system, is utterly incompatible with a democratic society, since it is incompatible with the democratic principle of organisation itself. Second, similarly incompatible to democratic ethics is any idealist conception of perennial and universal values, as it is now obvious that values differ in space and time among various communities and societies. This implies that any materialist conceptions of universal values (‘objective’ ethics), which are supposedly derived from some sort of (social or natural) evolutionary process, are also incompatible to democratic ethics.

However, the fact that the project for a democratic society is not objectively grounded does not mean that ‘anything goes’ and that it is therefore impossible to derive a definable body of principles to assess social and political changes, or a set of ethical values to assess human behaviour on the basis of the fundamental criterion of compatibility with the institutions of the democratic society. So, the issue here is: what are those values that express the compatibility of human behaviour to democratic institutions? Of course, we can only outline what might be the content of democratic ethics in the sense of the moral values expressing this compatibility, and it is up to supporters of democratic politics and, in the end, up to the citizens’ assemblies of a democratic society to enrich this discourse. Assuming therefore, that a democratic society will be based on a confederal Inclusive Democracy which is founded on two fundamental principles of organisation, i.e. the principle of autonomy and the principle of community, one may derive a set of moral values that express this compatibility.

Thus, out of the fundamental principle of autonomy one may derive a set of moral values involving equity and democracy, respect for the personality of every citizen (irrespective of gender, race, ethnic identity, etc.) and of course respect for human life itself and, also, values involving the protection of the quality of life of each individual citizen something that would imply a relationship of harmony with nature and the need to re-integrate society with nature.

Similarly, out of the fundamental principle of community we may derive a set of values involving not only equity but also solidarity and mutual aid, altruism/self-sacrifice (beyond concern for kin and reciprocity), caring and sharing. But, as the ID project stresses, it is the combination of the two principles above, which form the organisational basis of a confederal Inclusive Democracy, that leads to the moral principles mentioned that have always been part of liberatory ethics. In other words, it is only this synthesis of autonomy and community, which could avoid both the Scylla of ‘objectifying’ ethics and/or negating politics and ethical concerns in favour of the coercive harmony of the organic community, and the Charybdis of unbounded moral relativism.

Paedeia[7] will of course play a crucial role in a future democratic society with respect to the internalisation of its values, which, as we saw, would necessarily be the ones derived by its basic principles of organisation: the principle of autonomy and the principle of community. However, the institutions alone are not sufficient to secure the non-emergence of informal elites. It is here that the crucial importance of education, which in a democratic society will take the form of Paedeia, arises. Education is a basic component of the formation of culture, as well as of the socialisation of the individual, i.e. the process through which an individual internalises the core values of the dominant social paradigm. Therefore, culture in general and education in particular play a crucial role in the determination of individual and collective values.

In a heteronomous society, in which the public space has been usurped by various elites who concentrate political and economic power in their hands, education has the double aim of helping the internalisation of the existing institutions and the values consistent with it (the dominant social paradigm) and of producing ‘efficient’ citizens in the sense of citizens, who have accumulated enough ‘technical knowledge’ so that they could function competently in accordance with society’s aims, as laid down by the elites which control it.

On the other hand, in an autonomous society, where politics is meant in its classical sense which is related to the institutional framework of a direct democracy in which people not only question laws, but are also able to make their own laws, we do not talk about education anymore but about the much broader concept of Paedeia in the sense of an all-round civic education that involves a life-long process of character development, absorption of knowledge and skills and more significantpracticing a ‘participatory’ kind of active citizenship, that is a citizenship in which political activity is not seen as a means to an end but an end in itself. The double aim of Paedeia is, therefore, first, the development of citizens’ self-activity by using their very self-activity as a means of internalising the democratic institutions and the values consistent with them and, second, the creation of responsible individuals who have internalized both the necessity of laws and the possibility of putting the laws into question, i.e. individuals capable of interrogation, reflectiveness, and deliberation.

Finally, we may talk about emancipatory education as the link between present education and Paedeia. Emancipatory education is intrinsically linked to transitional politics, i.e. the politics that will lead us from the heteronomous politics and society of the present to the autonomous politics and society of the future.

As it is clear from the above, a basic tenet of the ID approach is that education is intrinsically linked to politics, as the very meaning of education is assumed to be defined by the prevailing meaning of politics. A democratic Paedeia, therefore, is impossible unless a set of institutional conditions are met which refer to the societal level as a whole, as described in TID, and the educational level in particular (creation of new public spaces in education, free generalised and integral education for life, individual and social autonomy, non-hierarchical relations, balance between science and the aesthetic sensibility), as well as a change in values, as a precondition and consequence of Paedeia.

3. Irrationalism, objective rationalism, systems theory and complexity

Irrationalism and Inclusive Democracy

Democratic Paedeia needs a new kind of rationalism, beyond both the ‘objectivist’ type of rationalism we inherited from the Enlightenment and the generalised relativism of postmodernism. We need a democratic rationalism, i.e. a rationalism founded on democracy, as a structure and a process of social self-institution. Within the context of democratic rationalism, democracy is not justified by an appeal to objective tendencies with respect to natural or social evolution, but by an appeal to reason in terms of logon didonai, (rendering account and reason), which explicitly denies the idea of any ‘directionality’ as regards social change.

However, as it was shown elsewhere,[8] in the last forty years or so, a new irrationalism[9] has flourished both in the North and the South, which has taken various forms ranging from the revival in some cases of the old religions (Christianity, Islam, etc.) up to the expansion of various irrational trends (mysticism, spiritualism, astrology, esoterism, neopaganism, “New Age”, etc.) which, especially in the West, threaten old religions. The distinguishing criterion between rational ideologies (e.g. Marxism) and irrational belief systems (e.g. religious systems) is the source of ‘truth’. If the source of truth of the core ideas is reason/’facts’, then, even if these ideas cannot be shown to be ‘objective’ (in the sense of general acceptability as in natural sciences), we are talking about a rational (and refutable) ideology. On the other hand, if the source of truth of the core ideas is an irrational method (revelation, intuition, etc.) then we are talking about an irrational (and irrefutable) belief system. Of course, what is considered as a rational process of thought varies in time and space. The practical implication of this distinction is that an irrational belief system, although perhaps useful for those that need it (for psychological or social reasons, or because they cannot just accept death as the end of existence, the burden of personal responsibility, etc.), it surely cannot be the basis for any rational interpretation of reality. For a rational interpretation of reality (always, of course, from the point of view of a particular world-view) a rational ideology is needed.

A series of factors could account for the recent rise of the ‘new’ irrationalism, the main ones being the following:

1. The universalisation of the market/growth economy. Thus, the combination of the uncertainty connected with the rise of unemployment and low paid employment (which marked the emergence of the internationalized neoliberal market economy) with the uncertainty created by the parallel crisis of science and the accelerating cultural homogenisation following the rise of consumer society could go a long way in explaining the rise of irrationalism in this period.

2. The ecological crisis that led to the development of various irrational ecological approaches, which, instead of blaming the system of the market economy and its by-product the growth economy that led to the ecological crisis, blamed the industrial revolution, Progress and reason itself! For the ID approach, on the other hand, the ultimate cause of the ecological crisis, as well as the crisis at the economic, the political and the broader social levels, is not, as it is usually asserted, the industrial revolution, or technology, overpopulation, productivism, consumerism, etc. From the Inclusive Democracy perspective, all these alleged causes are in fact the symptoms of a much more serious disease, which is, called ‘inequality in the distribution of power’. It is, therefore, today’s concentration of economic and political power, the former as a result of the rise of the market economy and the subsequent growth economy, and the latter as a result of the parallel rise of the present ‘liberal oligarchy’ (to use the late Castoriadis’ characterization of what passes as democracy today), which is the ultimate cause of the present crisis.

3. The collapse of ‘development’ in the South. The present flourishing of Islamic fundamentalism in the Islamic world is not a unique phenomenon of the South. Similar fundamentalisms prosper, although for different reasons, in the North and, particularly the USA. Nor is this a special phenomenon of the Islamic world. A similar revival of religion, although not as extreme as Islamic fundamentalism, is noted in many parts of the South (e.g., in Latin America). One way to interpret this phenomenon is to refer to the combined effect of the failure of the development model, which was imported by the Third World in the post-WWII period, (i.e. the failure of the market economy models imported from the West, as well that of the planning models imported from the East) and the parallel cultural homogenisation that the universalised market/growth economy imposes. The return to tradition and, particularly, to religionseemed very appealing to the impoverished people in the South, whose communities and economic self-reliance were being destroyed by the internationalized market/growth economy. Particularly so, when religion was seen as a moral code preaching equality of all men before God set against the injustices of the market/growth economy. Similarly, the return to spirituality looked as the only way to match an imported materialism, which was associated with a distorted consumer society, i.e. one that was not even capable of delivering the goods to the majority of the population, as in the North.

Inclusive Democracy and objective rationalism

However, Inclusive Democracy (which is premised on the constant questioning of any given truth) is not only fundamentally incompatible with irrationalism, i.e. irrational belief systems which take for granted certain ‘truths’ derived through irrational methods; it is also incompatible with objective rationalism in the form of closed systems of ideas, i.e. rational ideologies, which take for granted certain ‘truths’ derived through rational methods, within the framework of ‘objective’ rationalism. This is particularly the case of ‘objective truths’ about social evolution grounded on social or natural ‘laws’.

This means that the democratic institution of society presupposes that the dominant social paradigm, not only cannot be founded on some form of irrationalism, but also on any form of ‘objective’ rationalism (e.g. ‘dialectical materialism’, ‘dialectical naturalism’, etc.).[10] This is because any system of religious or mystical beliefs, but also any closed system of ideas, by definition, excludes the questioning of some core beliefs or ideas and, therefore, is incompatible with citizens setting their own laws and making their own ‘truths’ about their society. However, the fact that democracy is incompatible with ‘objective’ rationalism does not mean that we have to resort to relativism. Democracy is equally incompatible with relativism (in the sense that all traditions, as in this case the autonomy and heteronomy ones, have equal truth-value).

Democracy therefore is compatible with only one form of rationalism, democratic rationalism, namely, rationalism founded in democracy as a structure and a process of social self-institution. This implies that a confederal inclusive democracy is non-viable when some of the communities in the confederation believe in ‘given truths’ (i.e. truths or values not coming out of rational democratic discussion but out of ‘sacred’ laws given by God, or spiritual truths, or even ‘laws’ derived from a specific reading of social and/or natural evolution). In a democratic society, either the majority of citizens accept the principle that every decision affecting social life, including values and ethical codes conditioning individual behaviour, is democratically taken and everybody has to abide by the relevant decisions, irrespective of whether these decisions come in conflict with his/her belief in Christ, Mohammed, Buddha or voodoo, or it is not democratic at all.

Systems theory and complexity: a tool for radical analysis?

The above conclusion about the incompatibility of democracy with objective rationalism is particularly useful if we consider it in the light of the claims made by various quarters in the Left that systems theory and complexity, under certain conditions, could potentially be useful tools for radical analysis of social change.[11] The rationale behind this argument is that one could consider systems theory and complexity as an attempt to transcend the post-modern predicament and show that the end of metanarratives does not mean the end of theory even a General Theory for that matter.

However, a systematic examination of these claims shows the intrinsic problems involved in any such attempt due to the very concepts used by these theories. For a start, the notion of complexity, simple or dialectical, is not useful in either explaining the past or in predicting the future, as far as radical social change is concerned. Even if we accept that change in dynamic physical systems is subject to power laws, which are in principle discoverable, radical social change in a dynamic social system, like the one represented by society, can never be the subject of such ‘discoverable’ laws. Furthermore, Luhmann’s[12] attempt to use the tools of natural sciences in order to ‘scientify’ social analysis could also be shown to be a failure unless, of course, it is simply taken as an attempt to create a new epistemology for the ‘classless’ society that the internationalized market economy supposedly creates. But, in this case, systems theory obviously becomes another ideological weapon in the hands of the ruling elites to perpetuate their privileged position.

Having said this, one can easily notice that the class-undifferentiated conception of society used by Luhmann and other systems analysts make systems theory particularly useful as a new social paradigm for the present internationalised market economy. In such a class-undifferentiated ‘society’, presumably there are no ruling elites, or any ‘overclasses’ and ‘underclasses’ to mention just some of the present class divisions. Furthermore, in such a problematique, there are no power structures and power relations among social groups, while the huge and growing concentration of power (economic, political, social), within and between market economies, seems not to be particularly important. Instead, what seems to matter most is that decision taking is mostly a myth, given the degree of uncertainty involved.

This is not surprising given that functionalism and evolutionism, of which social systems theory is a case, are not compatible, as I attempted to show elsewhere,[13] with a liberatory project, like that of Inclusive Democracy. This is for three main reasons: First, because an evolutionist perspective of History is incompatible with History itself, particularly as far as systemic change is concerned. Second, because functionalism, of any kind, is incompatible with the imaginary or creative element in History. Third, because functionalism replaces the subject with structures or values.

Furthermore, at the epistemological level as well, the problems are evident. Supporters of systems theory and complexity claim that this theory is capable of transcending the division between the human and the natural sciences, ignoring the importance of social divisions that characterise the object of study of social sciences itself, as well as the role of the imaginary. The inevitable consequence of this ‘monistic’ world-view is that supporters of this theory believe that we may explain social reality on the basis of the insights of natural sciences, collapsing in the process the economy and society into nature. The use of a class-undifferentiated notion of society is particularly useful for this purpose since, obviously, such an assumption is in fact necessary in any attempt to unify natural and social sciences in a ‘grand’ scientific theory, given that a monistic view of science is only possible when the object of study can be assumed to be similarly socially undifferentiated.

So, the answer to the question whether systems theory and complexity could potentially be useful tools for a radical analysis of social change cannot be positive, as this would neglect the intrinsic relationship that always exists between the tools of analysis used and the content of a radical theory. Instead, according to the ID project, systems theory and complexity are offered as the basis for a new social paradigm that could perfectly become the dominant social paradigm for the internationalised market economy to replace, once and for all, both the liberal and the Keynesian paradigms. In fact, such a new paradigm, unlike the previous paradigms, would be based in a new ‘grand’ synthesis, which could also claim to be ‘scientific’ (in the sense we use the term for natural sciences).

Therefore, although systems theory and complexity may be useful tools in the natural sciences, in which they may offer many useful insights, they are much less useful in the social sciences and indeed are utterly incompatible, both from the epistemological point of view and that of their content, with a radical analysis aiming to systemic change towards an inclusive democracy.

4. Inclusive Democracy, science and technology

The conclusion we have drawn above that what is needed today is not to jettison science, let alone rationalism altogether, in the interpretation of social phenomena, but to transcend ‘objective’ rationalism (i.e. the rationalism which is grounded on ‘objective laws’ of natural or social evolution) has very important implications on technoscience. According to the ID approach on the matter,[14] modern technoscience is neither ‘neutral’ in the sense that it is merely a ‘means’ which can be used for the attainment of whatever end, nor autonomous in the sense that it is the sole or the most important factor determining social structures, relations and values. Instead, it is argued that technoscience is conditioned by the power relations implied by the specific set of social, political and economic institutions characterising the growth economy and the dominant social paradigm. Therefore, a democratic conception of technoscience has to avoid both types of determinism: technological determinism as well as social determinism.

In fact, technology has never been ‘neutral’ with respect to the logic and the dynamics of the market economy. Still, not only socialist statists but environmentalists as well, explicitly, or usually implicitly, assume that technology is socially neutral and that we only have to use it for the right purposes in order to solve not just the ecological problems, but the social problems as well. However, it is obvious that this approach ignores the social institution of science and technology and the fact that the design and particularly the implementation of new techniques is directly related to the social organisation in general and the organisation of production in particular. In a market society, as in any society, technology embodies concrete relations of production, its hierarchical organisation and, of course, its primary aim, which, in the case of a market economy, refers to the maximisation of economic growth and efficiency for profit purposes. So, technology is always designed (or at least those designs are adopted) in a way that best serves the objectives of the market/growth economy.

Similarly, the type of technoscience that has developed in the past two centuries is not an autonomous cultural phenomenon, but a by–product of the power relations and the dominant social paradigm which emerged in association with the rise of the market economy. In this sense, technoscience is not autonomous as Castoriadis, following Jacques Ellul, argues,[15] on the basis of the thesis that present growth and development in effect contradicts the very aims of the market economy system, notably because of the on–going destruction of the environment something that has led Castoriadis to conclude that technology is at present uncontrollable, directionless and aimless. According to the ID project, this may be true only if we take a long–term view of technology. But, in the short to medium–term, technology is very much controlled by the institutions funded by the system of the market/growth economy and guided by the values imbued in this system. If, therefore, in the longer term, technology appears to be directionless and even contradicting the very aims of the system, this is because it is outside the logic of the market economy for those controlling it to think about the long–term implications of their choices. So, although the technological choices seem irrational, they are very much compatible with the values and aims of those controlling the market economy and, as such, rational. Furthermore, to the extent that new ‘green’ technologies satisfy the long–term needs of the system in terms of their ecological implications, and, at the same time, are compatible with the objectives of maximising efficiency, growth and profits, such techniques are being adopted. It is exactly the partial adoption of such green technologies (e.g. ‘green’ fridges), which feeds the environmentalists’ mythology that a ‘green capitalism’ is in the cards.

What is, therefore, needed is the reconstitution of both our science and technology in a way that puts at the centre of every stage in the process, in every single technique, human personality and its needs rather than, as at present, the values and needs of those controlling the market/growth economy. This presupposes a new form of socio–economic organisation in which citizens, both as producers and as consumers, do control effectively the types of technologies adopted, expressing the general rather than, as at present, the partial interest. In other words, it presupposes:

  • a political democracy, so that effective citizen control on scientific research and technological innovation can be established;

  • an economic democracy, so that the general economic interest of the confederated communities, rather than the partial interests of economic elites, could be effectively expressed in research and technological development;

  • an ecological democracy, so that the environmental implications of science and technology are really taken into account in scientific research and technological development; and last, but not least;

  • a democracy in the social realm, that is, equal sharing in the decision–taking process at the factory, the office, the household, the laboratory and so on, so that the abolition of hierarchical structures in production, research and technological development would secure not only the democratic content of science and technology, but also democratic procedures in scientific and technological development and collective control by scientists and technologists.

It should be clear, however, that the democratisation of science and technology should not be related to a utopian abolition of division of labour and specialisation as, for instance, Thomas Simon[16] suggests, who argues that democratising technology means abolishing professionals and experts: “the extent to which a professional/expert is no longer needed is partially the extent to which a process has become democratised. It is the extent to which we are able to make the professional terrain a deliberative assembly.” However, although it is true that the present extreme specialisation and division of labour has been necessitated by the needs of ‘efficiency’ that are imposed by the dynamics of the growth economy, still, there are certain definite limits on the degree of reduction in specialisation which is feasible and desirable, if we do not wish to see the re–emergence of problems that have been solved long ago (medical problems, problems of sanitation, etc.).

The nature of technology to be adopted by a democratic society does not just depend on who owns it, or even who controls it. Not only, as History has shown, it is perfectly possible that ‘socialist’ bureaucrats may adopt techniques which are as environmentally destructive and life–damaging (if not more) as those adopted by their capitalist counterparts, but also the possibility can not be ruled out that citizens’ assemblies may adopt similar techniques. So, the abolition of oligarchic ownership and control over technology, which would come about in a marketless, moneyless, stateless economy based on an inclusive democracy, is only the necessary institutional condition for an alternative technology. The sufficient condition depends, as always, on the value system that a democratic society would develop and the level of consciousness of its citizens. One, therefore, can only hope that the change in the institutional framework together with a democratic Paedeia would play a crucial role in the formation of this new system of values and the raising of the level of political consciousness.

Finally, an important implication of the democratisation of technoscience in the above sense is that such a process has nothing to do with the currently fashionable ‘access to information’ that the modern information technology supposedly secures which, for some authors stressing a view of technology and society in dialectic relationship with one another, may even imply that democratic tools and a democratic society rely on one another for their emergence. As I attempted to show in a relevant exchange,[17] the real issue is not whether an interaction between a democratic society and a democratic science and technology exists (which is true), but whether a democratic science and technology can emerge within the present institutional framework (which is false). As it has been shown in this exchange, a democratic science and technology cannot emerge in an institutional framework of concentration of political and economic power, like the one created by the present institutional framework of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’.


1. The ID approach on globalisation, “Empire” and the reformist Left

The main division in the theoretical analysis of the Left on globalisation and also within the anti-globalisation movement centres around the crucial issue whether the present neoliberal globalisation (which is considered to lead to a growing concentration of economic and political power and to an eco-catastrophic development) is reversible within the market economy system, as theorised by the reformist Left, or whether, instead, it can only be eliminated within the process of developing a new mass anti-systemic movement, which starts building ‘from below’ a new form of democratic globalisation, as the ID approach[18] on the matter suggests.

Systemic approaches

The staring point in the ID approach on globalisation is the delineation it makes between globalisation and internationalisation of the market economy. It is argued that the present process, strictly speaking, should better be described as internationalisation, given that it does not meet, as yet, the production requirements of proper globalisation. However, given that the latter term, albeit wrong, is now dominant we shall keep the commonly used term of globalisation.

According to the ID approach, the confusion about the nature of economic globalisation arises out of the conflicting answers given by the various theoretical approaches to globalisation on the crucial question whether neoliberal globalisation is a phenomenon of a ‘systemic’ nature or not. In the case in which we see it as a ‘systemic’ phenomenon, this implies that we see neoliberal globalisation as the result of an endogenous change in economic policy (i.e. a change reflecting existing trends that manifest the market economy’s grow-or-die dynamic). In this case, neoliberal globalisation is irreversible within the system of the market economy. We may therefore call ‘systemic’ all those approaches to globalisation which, in order to interpret it, refer to the structural characteristics of the existing socio-economic system, either implicitly or explicitly.

On the basis of this criterion, the neoliberal and social-liberal approaches to globalisation, supported by analysts like Anthony Giddens, Amartya Sen, Paul Krugman, et. al. should be seen as ‘systemic’ approaches, since they see it as a phenomenon mainly due to changes in technology and particularly information technology. But, technology, as we saw above, is neither ‘neutral’ nor autonomous. So, when neoliberals and social-liberals take the existing technology for granted and, therefore, irreversible within the market economy system, they implicitly assign neoliberal globalisation to ‘systemic’ factors and, consequently, they also take it for granted and irreversible.

Similarly, the Inclusive Democracy (ID) approach, which explicitly assumes that it is the ‘grow-or-die dynamics’ of the market economy system that inevitably led to its present neoliberal globalised form, is also a systemic approach. For the ID approach, globalisation is irreversible, as no effective controls over markets to protect labour and the environment are feasible within the system of the internationalised market economy. However, although both the neo/social-liberal and ID approaches are systemic approaches (implicitly in the former case and explicitly in the latter), there is a fundamental difference between the two types of approaches. The neo/social-liberal approaches take the existing system of the market economy for granted, while the ID approach does not. As a result, whereas the former adopt globalisation with or without qualifications, the latter looks for an alternative form of social organisation, which involves a form of globalisation that is not feasible within the system of the market economy and statist ‘democracy’

The non-systemic approaches of the reformist Left

In the case in which we see neoliberal globalisation as a ‘non-systemic’ phenomenon, this implies that we see it as the result of an exogenous change in economic policy. In this case, globalisation is a reversible development, even within the system of the market economy. I will, therefore, call ‘non-systemic’ all those approaches to globalisation which, in order to interpret it, refer to various exogenous factors that are not directly related to the structural characteristics and the dynamics of the market economy system. In the same category we may also classify all those views for which globalisation is just a myth or an ideology.

Therefore, the approaches suggested by the reformist Left (i.e. that part of the Left which takes the present system of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ for granted), supported by analysts like Pierre Bourdieu, Immanuel Wallerstein, Noam Chomsky, Samir Amin, John Gray, Leo Panitch, Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson), could be classified as ‘non-systemic’ approaches to globalisation. Thus, although these approaches usually assume that globalisation is an old phenomenon, which was set in motion by the emergence of capitalism an assumption which prima facie gives the impression that they recognise the systemic character of the trends which have led to globalisation still they assign an explicitly non-systemic character to it.

The argument, frequently used to overcome this blatant contradiction, is that the capitalist system was always globalised and what changed recently was only the form of globalisation (i.e. neoliberal globalisation). However, this change in the form of globalisation is assumed to be not the outcome of the system’s dynamics (as one would expect on the basis of their assumption that globalisation is an old phenomenon), but, instead, the outcome of such non-systemic or exogenous developments as the rise of the Right and/or of the neoliberal movement, the historical defeat of the Left after the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’, the degradation of social democracy and so on. Thus, on the basis of hopelessly contradictory arguments of this sort, the reformist Left sees neoliberal globalisation as reversible and amenable to effective reform, even within the system of the market economy provided enough pressure is exercised ‘from below’ so that the political and economic elites are forced to introduce effective measures to protect labour and the environment.

Negri & Hardt’s Empire

Finally, between the systemic and non-systemic approaches stand a number of intermediate approaches that are characterised by a mix of systemic and non-systemic elements and a significant number of analytical differences with respect to the usual approaches of the reformist Left.

Hardt & Negri, for instance, claiming Marxist orthodoxy, adopt a more sophisticated version of the capitalist plot theory according to which capital, faced with a crisis of its ability ‘to master its conflictual relationship with labour through a social and political dialectic’, resorted to a double attack against labour: ‘first, a direct campaign against corporatism and collective bargaining, and second, a reorganisation of the workplace through automation and computerisation, thereby actually excluding labour itself from the side of production’.

The hypothesis that Hardt and Negri make is that “the neoliberalism of the 1980s constituted ‘a revolution from above’”. This ‘revolution’, as they stress in their best-seller[19] (which was massively promoted by the mass media controlled by the transnational elite) was motivated by the accumulation of the proletarian struggles that functioned as the ‘motor for the crisis’ of the 1970s, which in turn was part of the objective and inevitable cycles of capitalist accumulation. The conclusion that Hardt and Negri draw, which is also the main point of Empire, is that contemporary globalisation (which they term “Empire”) establishes no territorial centre of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries and barriers. It is a decentred and deterritorializing apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding frontiers. As such, it should be welcomed, because it is capital’s latest concession to the force of insurgent subjectivity and it contains the seeds of an alternative (communist) globalisation. Our political task, they argue, is therefore not simply to resist these processes, but to reorganize them and redirect them toward new ends.

The interesting aspect of this analysis that is mainly based on unfounded assertions about the nature of the welfare state (which they assume still exists in neoliberal modernity, ignoring the fact that it is being replaced everywhere by a ‘safety net’) and a confused, as well as contradictory, analysis of neoliberal globalisation is that, as I mentioned above, it also ends up (like the reformist Left approaches) with reformist demands and no clear vision for a future society.

This observation notwithstanding, even if we accept their claim that neoliberal globalisation is neither a plot nor irreversible within the market economy system, this does not of course mean that it should be welcome, as Hardt and Negri claim, because it supposedly provides an ‘objective’ basis on which an alternative globalisation could be built reminding us of one of the usual ‘objectivist’ types of analysis about the ‘necessary evils’ supposedly created by the process of Progress. The same applies to neoliberal globalisation which has nothing ‘necessary’ about it, as it is simply the inevitable outcome of an initial choice imposed on society by economic and political elites: the choice for a market economy and representative ‘democracy’. In other words, the class struggle within this system could only slow down this process (as it did during statist modernity) but not stop it unless the outcome of this struggle was the overthrowing of the system itself. Consequently, neoliberal globalisation on no account can be the ‘objective basis’ for a non-capitalist society. The move towards such a society could only represent a break with the past and not an evolutionary process. In this sense, the present neoliberal globalisation is far from being the objective basis for such a society!

2. Political globalisation, the transnational elite and its “wars”

However, globalisation cannot be seen only in terms of trade, investment and communications, but it requires also a political and security dimension, which used to be the domain of national elites and today is that of the transnational elite. Clearly, a transnational economy needs its own transnational elite. The emergence of such an elite has already been theorised both from the Marxist and the Inclusive Democracy viewpoints and the evidence on it has been increasingly substantiated.

The transnational elite may be defined as the elite, which draws its power (economic, political or generally social power) by operating at the transnational level. It consists of corporate directors, major shareholders, executives, globalising bureaucrats and professional politicians functioning either within major international organisations or in the state machines of the major market economies, as well as important academics and researchers in the various international foundations, members of think tanks and research departments of major international universities, transnational mass media executives, etc. The new transnational elite sees its interests in terms of international markets rather than national markets, and is not based on a single nation-state but is a decentred apparatus of rule with no territorial centre of power. Its members have a dominant position within society, as a result of their economic, political or broader social power and, unlike national elites, see that the best way to secure their privileged position in society is not by ensuring the reproduction of any real or imagined nation-state but, instead, by securing the worldwide reproduction of the institutional framework on which the New World Order (NWO) is founded. In other words, the NWO was established after the collapse of the Soviet block and the universalisation through neoliberal globalisationof the system of market economy and representative ‘democracy’.

It is clear that this is an informal rather than an institutionalised elite. Thus, in the same way that economic globalisation expresses an informal concentration of economic power at the hands of the members of the economic elite, political globalisation expresses an informal concentration of political power at the hands of the members of the political elite. In other words, the economic elite constitutes that part of the transnational elite, which controls the internationalised market economy, whereas the political elite constitutes that part of the transnational elite, which controls the distinctly political-military dimension of the NWO. The main institutions securing the concentration of economic and political power at the hands of the transnational elite are the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ respectively, whereas the main organisations through which the transnational elite exercises its informal control are the EU, NAFTA, the G8, Word Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, NATO and the UN.

The ‘wars’ launched by the transnational elite so far, (i.e. the Gulf War which culminated in the invasion and occupation of Iraq[20], the war in Kosovo[21] and the on-going ‘war on terrorism’[22]), are cases substantiating the existence of an informal system of transnational governance, a political globalisation presided over by a transnational elite. The informal character of globalisation is needed, not only in order to keep the façade of a well functioning representative ‘democracy’ in which local elites are still supposed to take the important decisions, but also in order to preserve the nation-state’s internal monopoly of violence. The latter is necessary so that local elites are capable of controlling their populations in general, and the movement of labour in particular, enhancing the free flow of capital and commodities.

No wonder that all the wars launched by the transnational elite are characterised by certain important common features. Such characteristics are:

  • first, the so-called ‘wars’ are decided by the highest echelons of the transnational elite the leading role in this decision-taking process being played of course by the American members of this elite which possess the necessary military equipment and technology. Despite the fact that the regimes which take part in these ‘wars’ are called ‘democracies’ the peoples themselves are never involved directly in these decisions, and even the professional politicians in the respective parliaments are, usually, called to approve these ‘wars’ after they have already been launched;

  • second, the wars are invariably carried out in blatant violation of international law, both when they are formally covered by a resolution of the capitalist-controlled UN Security Council, as in the case of the Gulf War, and when they are not, as in the cases of Yugoslavia, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The doctrine of limited sovereignty, used to justify these wars (see ideological globalisation), is in blatant contradiction to the UN Charter;

  • third, the pattern of military division of labour between the members of the transnational elite, as it emerged from all four ‘wars,’ involves the almost exclusive use of the US military machine, particularly its unrivalled air power, in the first stages of the war, with the military machines of the other members mobilised (usually through NATO) mainly at later stages, for peace-keeping roles, etc.;

  • fourth, any negotiated settlement is ruled out by the transnational elite, which it either sets conditions that no sovereign country could accept, or simply blocks any offers for a negotiated settlement by the country under threat of an attack. The former was the case of Yugoslavia which, according to the Rambouillet proposals, it had to be voluntarily converted into a NATO protectorate to avoid the attack against it. The latter was the case of Iraq in the Gulf war, or of Afghanistan;

  • fifth, the political-military aim of the ‘wars’ is the destruction of the infrastructure of the countries concerned and the terrorisation of their peoples (killing thousands of innocent civilians in the process as ‘collateral damage’), so that they would be ‘softened up’ to accept alternative elites, friendly to the transnational elite. A parallel basic aim is the minimisation of the losses on the side of the transnational elite, so as to undermine the flourishing of any mass anti-war movement, like the one that effectively forced the US elite to stop its war against Vietnam.

The general aim of all these ‘wars’ is that of securing the stability of the New World Order in its economic and political dimensions, through the crushing of any perceived threats against it. The ‘particular’ aims pursued by these wars are:

  • to discourage the flourishing of counter-violence brought about by the growing systemic violence, which is the inevitable by-product of capitalist neoliberal globalisation and its political implications;

  • to secure ‘stability’ in Central Asia and the Middle East, so that the sources of energy (on which the growth of the market economy depends) could be guaranteed;

  • to guarantee the reproduction of the war economy (which went through a ‘raison-d’-etre’ crisis after the end of the cold war) that significantly contributes to the growth of the market economy.

The intermediate targets and means implied by the above aims are,

  • first, the military crushing of any ‘rogue’ regime or ‘popular terrorism’ organisation around the world and the parallel installation of a vast global network of military bases with the aim to encircle any potentially dangerous regime or country which harbours forms of popular terrorism that threaten the elite’s interests; and,

  • second, the parallel suppression of the radical currents within the new antisystemic movements emerging today and, particularly, the anti-globalisation movement. This is achieved mainly through the introduction of draconian ‘anti-terrorist’ legislation in the North, supposedly to fight terrorism, but, in reality, as an effective means to suppress the collective counter violence against the present intensification of systemic violence. Thus, anti-terrorist legislation ‘deepens’ everywhere (Patriot Act in USA, successive anti-terror laws in UK, etc.).

Clearly, the ID approach on the “wars” of the transnational elite, including the “war on terrorism,” is fundamentally different from the ideology of “clash of civilisations”,[23] promoted by the system’s ideologues, as well as from the “clash of fundamentalisms”[24] thesis, promoted by the reformist Left. According to the latter thesis in particular, what we face today is a conflict between the ‘extremists’ of the West and those of the East, namely, of the political fundamentalism of the Washington neoconservatives versus the religious fundamentalism of extreme Islamists. However, as I showed elsewhere[25], such views are not only completely false and misleading, constituting part of the ‘progressive’ liberal ideology supported by both the centre-Left (in the framework of today’s social-liberal consensus), and the reformist Left, but, also, bear no relation to an antisystemic problematique on this crucial issue. The common denominator of such views is that today’s social resistance movements should turn against both these fundamentalisms, rather than against the system of the capitalist market economy itself and its political complement representative ‘democracy’! It is not, therefore, surprising that analysts of the reformist Left like Tariq Ali and Noam Chomsky ended up with the baseless conclusion that the Left should support the Democratic presidential candidate in the 2004 elections, ‘forgetting’ that when the ‘progressive’ Clinton succeeded Bush senior he went on, as representative of the transnational elite, to bombard Yugoslavia, while preparing the ground for the invasion and occupation of Iraq through a crushing and murderous embargo and remorseless bombardments! Similarly, the same Left went out of its way to support the “progressive” Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential elections, who, immediately after taking over, began bombing intensively Pakistan, as the base of Taliban fighters, and sent another 17,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan in order to continue the “good work” of the transnational elite there and, of course, he and Hillary Clinton sided blatantly with the Zionists against the Palestinian liberation struggle and never condemned the recent Gaza massacre!

3. Ideological globalisation and the mass media

Economic and political globalisation is inevitably accompanied by a kind of ideological globalisation, a transnational ideology that legitimises them. In other words, an ideology to justify, on the one hand, the minimisation of the state’s role in the economy which, in a market economy system implies a corresponding maximisation of the role of the market and private capital and, on the other, the decrease of national sovereignty, which complements the corresponding decrease of economic sovereignty implied by economic globalisation. The core, therefore, of ideological globalisation consists of two basic “dogmas”: the dogma of limited economic sovereignty and the dogma of limited national sovereignty.

According to the former dogma, capitalist neoliberal globalisation imposed by the international economic organisations (International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organisation) on all their members by directly or indirectly forcing them to ‘liberate’ their commodity, capital and labour markets is, supposedly, to the benefit of all, as it leads to more efficient growth, cheaper goods and services, etc. However, the ‘liberation’ of markets in conditions of economic inequality also implies an even greater concentration of economic power at the hands of a few and at the expense of most. It, therefore, implies an even greater concentration of income and wealth, endangering the economic survival, if not the very physical survival, of billions of people all over the world. Still, this is just considered the ‘collateral damage’ of globalisation!

Similarly, according to the latter dogma, there are certain universal values which should have priority over national sovereignty. Thus, when, in the transnational elite’s perception, universal values like that of ‘democracy’ (as defined by the same elite no relation to the classical conception of it!) are violated, then, the international organisations (UN Security Council, NATO, etc.) which express the will of the ‘international community’ read the transnational elite or, if necessary the transnational elite itself headed by the US elite, should impose them with every available means, irrespective of national sovereignty considerations. The core of this new ideology is the doctrine of ‘limited’ sovereignty which is used to ‘justify’ military interventions/attacks against any ‘rogue’ regimes or political organisations and movements. According to this doctrine, there are certain universal values that should take priority over other values, like that of national sovereignty. The five centuries-old concept of unlimited sovereignty is therefore completely abolished in the NWO. And yet, unlimited sovereignty was a principle which nations that participated in the drafting of the UN charter agreed to limit only as regards their right to wage war in case of an attack, in exchange for a promise that the Security Council provide collective security on their behalf (an arrangement blatantly violated by the US’s ‘war’ against Afghanistan and Iraq).

As it was hinted above, the role of the centre-Left and the mainstream Greens as the main promoters of the new transnational ideology has played a vital part in justifying the ‘wars’ of the transnational elite through the doctrine of limited sovereignty. This is not difficult to explain in view of the fact that both the centre-Left and the mainstream Greens have already fully adopted the New World Order in its economic and political aspects. Thus, all major European centre-Left parties (Germany, Britain, France, Italy, etc.) have already adopted the capitalist neoliberal globalisation. Similarly, mainstream Greens have long ago abandoned any ideas about radical economic changes and have adopted instead a kind of ‘eco-social-liberalism’ that amounts to some version of ‘Green capitalism’. It was therefore, hardly surprising that the centre-Left endorsed enthusiastically all four ‘wars’ of the transnational elite, whereas the mainstream Greens, who, at the beginning of the 1990s, were concerned about the ecological implications of the Gulf War, by the end of the decade were dedicated supporters of the war against Yugoslavia, and today have fully endorsed the ‘war against terrorism’!

The Mass Media, particularly the electronic ones, play a crucial role in the manipulation of popular opinion, either by minimising the significance of the elites’ crimes, or by distorting and cutting off the events from their historical context. This is of course not surprising given the crucial role of the Mass Media in the creation of the subjective conditions for neoliberal globalisation itself[26]. This has been achieved through the direct promotion of the neoliberal agenda:

  • by the ideological degradation of the economic role of the state;

  • by the ideological attack against the ‘dependence’ on the state, which the welfare state supposedly creates;

  • by identifying freedom with the freedom of choice, which is supposedly achieved through the liberation of markets, etc.

At the same time, the creation of the neoliberal conditions at the institutional level had generated the objective conditions for the Mass Media to play the aforementioned role. This was, because the deregulation and liberalisation of markets and the privatisation of state TV in many European countries had created the conditions for homogenisation through internal and external competition. It is not accidental anyway that major media tycoons like Murdoch in the Anglo-Saxon world, Kirsch in Germany, or Berlusconi in Italy have also been among the main exponents of the neoliberal globalisation agenda.

4. Cultural globalisation

As is well known, the establishment of the market economy implied sweeping aside traditional cultures and values. This process was accelerated in the twentieth century with the spreading all over the world of the market economy and its offspring the growth economy. As a result, today, there is an intensive process of cultural homogenisation at work, which not only rules out any directionality towards more complexity, but in effect is making culture simpler, with cities becoming more and more alike, people all over the world listening to the same music, watching the same soap operas on TV, buying the same brands of consumer goods, etc.

The flourishing of neoliberal globalisation in the last twenty years or so, following the collapse of the social democratic consensus, has further enhanced this process of cultural homogenisation. This is the inevitable outcome of the liberalisation and de-regulation of markets and the consequent intensification of commercialisation of culture. As a result, traditional communities and their cultures are disappearing all over the world, and people are converted into consumers of a mass culture produced in the advanced capitalist countries and particularly the USA.

Thus, the recent emergence of a sort of “cultural” nationalism, in many parts of the world, expresses a desperate attempt to keep a cultural identity in the face of market homogenisation through neoliberal globalisation. But, cultural nationalism is devoid of any real meaning in an electronic environment, where 75% of international communications flow is controlled by a small number of multinationals. In other words, cultural imperialism today does not need, as in the past, a gunboat diplomacy to integrate and absorb diverse cultures. The marketisation of the communications flow has already established the preconditions for the downgrading of cultural diversity into a kind of superficial differentiation akin to a folklorist type. Furthermore, it is indicative that today’s ‘identity movements,’ like those in Western Europe (from the Flemish to the Lombard and from the Scots to the Catalans), which demand autonomy as the best way to preserve their cultural identity, in fact, express their demand for individual and social autonomy in a distorted way. The distortion arises from the fact that the marketisation of society has undermined the community values of reciprocity, solidarity and co-operation in favour of the market values of competition and individualism. As a result, the demand for cultural autonomy is not founded today on community values which enhance co-operation with other cultural communities but, instead, on market values which encourage tensions and conflicts with them. In this connection, the current neo-racist explosion in Europe is directly relevant to the effectual undermining of community values by neoliberalism, as well as to the growing inequality and poverty following the rise of the neoliberal consensus.

Finally, one should not underestimate the political implications of the commercialisation and homogenisation of culture. The escapist role traditionally played by Hollywood films has now acquired a universal dimension, through the massive expansion of TV culture and its almost full monopolisation by the Hollywood subculture. Every single TV viewer in Nigeria, India, China or Russia now dreams of the American way of life, as seen on TV serials (which, being relatively inexpensive and glamorous, fill the TV programmes of most TV channels all over the world) and thinks in terms of the competitive values imbued by them. The collapse of existing socialism has perhaps more to do with this cultural phenomenon, as anecdotal evidence indicates, than one could imagine. As various TV documentaries have shown, people in Eastern European countries, in particular, thought of themselves as some kind of ‘abnormal’ compared with what Western TV has established as the ‘normal’. In fact, many of the people participating in the demonstrations to bring down those regimes frequently referred to this ‘abnormality’, as their main incentive for their political action.[27]

In this problematique, one may criticise the kind of cultural relativism supported by some in the Left, according to which almost all cultural preferences could be declared as rational (on the basis of some sort of rationality criteria), and therefore all cultural choices deserve respect, if not admiration, given the constraints under which they are made. But, obviously, the issue is not whether our cultural choices are rational or not. Nor is the issue to assess ‘objectively’ our cultural preferences as right or wrong. The real issue is how to make a choice of values which we think is compatible with the kind of society we wish to live in and then make the cultural choices which are compatible with these values. This is because the transition to a future society based on alternative values presupposes that the effort to create an alternative culture should start now, in parallel with the effort to establish the new institutions compatible with the new values.

On the basis of the criterion of consistency between our cultural choices and the values of a truly democratic society, one could delineate a way beyond post-modern relativism and distinguish between ‘preferable’ and ‘non-preferable’ cultural choices. So, all those cultural choices involving films, videos, theatrical plays, etc. which promote the values of the market economy and particularly competition for money, individualism, consumerist greed, as well as violence, racism, sexism, etc. should be shown to be non-preferable, and people should be encouraged to avoid them. On the other hand, all those cultural choices, which involve the promotion of the community values of mutual aid, solidarity, sharing and equality for all (irrespective of race, sex, ethnicity) should be promoted as preferable.

5. Globalisation and the multidimensional crisis

Ten years after the publication of TID the multidimensional crisis has significantly worsened in almost all its main aspects. This becomes obvious by an examination of its main dimensions.

The economic dimension

As regards the economic dimension of the crisis, it can easily be shown that it is the concentration of economic power, as a result of commodity relations and the grow-or-die dynamic of the market economy, which has led to a chronic economic crisis a crisis that today is expressed, mainly, by a huge concentration of economic power. This is shown by the enormous and constantly growing income/wealth gap that separates not only the North from the South, but also the economic elites and the privileged social groups from the rest of society in every single society, all over the world. In fact, even the statistical tricks[28] used by the World Bank and other similar organisations to show the supposed significant reduction of poverty in the world, as a result of neoliberal globalisation, cannot hide the fact that the huge income gap between North and South, and within them, is constantly growing in the era of neoliberal globalisation.

The North, in particular, has yet to recover from the crisis that surfaced in the mid-1970s, as a result of the fundamental contradiction that was created by the internationalisation of the market economy and the parallel expansion of statism, in the sense of active state control aiming at determining the level of economic activity, as well as providing an expanding welfare state. The transnational elite, which began flourishing in the context of the internationalisation of the market economy process, embarked in an effort to shrink the state’s economic role and to free and deregulate markets a process, which has already had devastating consequences on the majority of the population in the North. This drastic reduction in statism turned the clock back to the period before the mixed economy and Keynesian policies were used to create ‘capitalism with a human face’. The result was an initial huge upsurge of open unemployment, followed by today’s period of massive low-paid employment, due to both the liberalisation of labour markets and a determined effort by the political elites to reduce open unemployment, which carried a high political cost and completely discredited the market/growth economy.

This is particularly evident in the USA, the ‘new economy’ par excellence, and the UK, which has been ruled by a succession of neoliberal and social liberal governments for the past 30 years or so. This experience has already been reproduced all over the North, particularly after the collapse of the alternative ‘Rhineland’ model of ‘social market’ capitalism in Germany and the introduction of similar policies all over the EU through a series of Treaties. The fierce competition among the two main economic blocs, (EU and NAFTA), and between them and China/Japan and, increasingly, India can safely be predicted to create everywhere conditions, not so much of massive open unemployment, but of low paid employment in the context of ‘flexible’ labour markets. In Britain, for instance, as Steve Fleetwood[29] of Lancaster University pointed out, ‘what the UK’s flexibility generates are poor jobs, maybe even a new kind of underemployment (…) The UK is not so much solving the problem of unemployment as transforming it into a different one: the problem of poor quality employment’. At the same time, in the South, an even greater concentration of economic power takes place at the hands of the privileged social groups that benefit from globalisation, (as a result of their position in the emerging new local division of labour, which is now an integral part of the international division of labour), at the expense of the rest of society. This is particularly obvious in the new growth ‘miracles’ of China and India, where inequality is now bigger than ever.

It is, therefore, obvious that the decisive element in the economic crisis of the neoliberal globalisation era consists of the fact that the system of the market economy is not inherently capable of creating an economically even world. In other words, it is the dynamics of the market economy itself,[30] in association with the role of the state[31] in supporting this dynamics, which has led, first, to the historical concentration of economic power within each country and, then, to the present internationalised market economy characterised by a gigantic concentration of economic power at the world level, mostly in the hands of the TNCs, and a corresponding concentration of political and economic power in the hands of the transnational elite.[32] Therefore, the outcome of the present universalisation of the market/growth economy in its present neoliberal form necessitated by the opening of the markets due to the massive expansion of transnational corporations in the last quarter of a century or so is the creation of a bipolar world consisting of:

  • one world, which includes the privileged social groups created by globalisation, either in the North or the South; and,

  • another world, which is left out of the supposedly ‘universal’ benefits of neoliberal globalisation, which includes the marginalised majority of the world population, either in the North or the South.

The inherent incapability of the market economy system and its political complement, representative ‘democracy’ (which is the State form, developed in modernity as the most compatible with the market economy system), to create an economically even world is the direct result of the fact that the concentration of economic power and the parallel growing inequality all over the world are not just consequences, but also preconditions for the reproduction of the market/growth economy. In other words, there is an absolute natural barrier that makes impossible the universalisation of the consumption standards which have been created in the North during the capitalist growth process.

Finally, as I tried to show elsewhere,[33] the ultimate cause of the present deep global recession as a result of the financial crisis that began September 2008, which could well end up with a new “Great Depression”is again the huge concentration of income and wealth following the opening and deregulation of world markets. It was this huge concentration of economic power at the hands of the “new North”, either in Wall Street and the City of London or in the sovereign funds of China, India etc., as a result of the opening and deregulation of capital and commodity markets and the creation of flexible labour markets, which led to the creation of a huge financial surplus. Next, the disposal of this financial surplus, through the use of dubious financial practices that were made possible by the deregulation of financial markets, created the huge financial bubbles that effectively undermined the capitalist banking and financial sectors, leading to an unprecedented financial crisis. Finally, it was this financial crisis, which, with the help of globalisation, has ended up with the present global economic crisis.

The political dimension

A similar process of concentration of political power at the hands of political elites has also been going on during the same period, as from the last quarter of the 18th century, when the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the US Constitution, literally invented representative ‘democracy’ an idea without any historical precedent in the ancient world since, until that time, democracy had the classical Athenian meaning of the sovereignty of demos, in the sense of the direct exercise of power by all citizens. It was the dynamics of representative ‘democracy’ that had led to a corresponding concentration of political power.

Thus, the concentration of political power in the hands of parliamentarians in liberal modernity, has led to an even higher degree of concentration in the hands of governments and the leadership of ‘mass’ parties in statist modernity, at the expense of parliaments. In the present neoliberal modernity, the combined effect of the dynamics of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ has led to the conversion of politics into statecraft, with think tanks designing policies and their implementation. Thus, a small clique around the prime minister (or the President) concentrates all effective political power in its hands, particularly in major market economies that are significant parts of the transnational elite and even more so in those governed by a two-party political system (US, UK, Germany, Australia, etc). Furthermore, the continuous decline of the State’s economic sovereignty is being accompanied by the parallel transformation of the public realm into pure administration. A typical example is the European Central Bank, which has taken control of the Euro and makes crucial decisions about the economic life of millions of citizens, independently of political control.

So, a ‘crisis in politics’ has developed in present neoliberal modernity that undermines the foundations of representative ‘democracy’ and is expressed by several symptoms which, frequently, take the form of an implicit or explicit questioning of fundamental political institutions (parties, electoral contests, etc.). Such symptoms are the significant and usually rising abstention rates in electoral contests, particularly in USA and UK, the explosion of discontent in the form of frequently violent riots, the diminishing numbers of party members, the fact that respect for professional politicians has never been at such a low level, with the recent financial scandals in countries like USA, UK, Italy, France, Spain, Greece and elsewhere simply reaffirming the belief that politics, for the vast majority of the politicians liberals and social democrats alike is just a job, i.e. a way to make money and enhance social status.

An important element of the crisis in politics, in the context of the present neoliberal consensus, is the fact that the old ideological differences between the Left and the Right have disappeared. Elections have become beauty contests between ‘charismatic’ leaders and the party machines backing them, which fight each other to attract the attention of the electorate, in order to implement policies constituting variations of the same theme: maximisation of the freedom of market forces at the expense of both the welfare state (which is phased out) and the state’s commitment to full employment (which is irrevocably abandoned). The remaining ‘pockets of resistance’ to this process have been disappearing fast: from Germany and now to France which, after the election of Sarkozy, is set to follow the same path. The German Ifo Institute put the problem blatantly in a recent paper when it stressed that “Europe’s welfare system (…) will not survive globalisation. It may take another decade or two for politicians to understand this, but in the end they will. There is no way to turn back the tide of history”.[34]

Therefore, the growing apathy towards politics does not mainly reflect a general indifference regarding social issues, as a result, say, of consumerism, but a growing lack of confidence, particularly among weaker social groups, in traditional political parties and their ability to solve social problems. It is not accidental anyway that the higher abstention rates in electoral contests usually occur among the lower income groups, which fail to see anymore any significant difference between Right and Left, i.e. between neoliberal and social-liberal parties respectively.

The decline of the socialist project, after the collapse of both social democracy and ‘actually existing socialism’, has contributed significantly to the withdrawal of many, particularly young people, from traditional politics. Thus, the collapse of ‘socialist’ statism in the East, instead of functioning as a catalyst for the building of a new non-authoritarian type of politics which would develop further the ideas of May 1968, simply led to a general trend particularly noticeable among students, young academics and others towards a post-modern conformism and the rejection of any ‘universalist’ antisystemic project. The rest, including most of the underclass, who are the main victims of the neoliberal internationalised economy, have fallen into political apathy and an unconscious rejection of established society a rejection that has, usually, taken the form of an explosion of crime and drug abuse, and sometimes violent riots.

Still, Seattle, Genoa, Paris, Athens, let alone the massive movements in various countries in Latin America, which sometimes have led to insurrections with clear antisystemic demands (e.g. Argentina), are clear indications of the fact that today’s youth is not apathetic towards politics (conceived in the classical meaning of the word as self-management), but only with respect to what passes as politics today, i.e. the system which allows a social minority (professional politicians) to determine the quality of life of every citizen. In other words, what has transformed politics into statecraft, and turned many people away from this sort of ‘politics’, is the growing realisation of the concentration of political power in the hands of professional politicians and various ‘experts’ (as a result of the dynamic of representative ‘democracy’).

The social dimension

The ‘growth economy’ has already created a ‘growth society’, the main characteristics of which are consumerism, privacy, alienation and the subsequent disintegration of social ties. The growth society, in turn, inexorably leads toward a ‘non-society’, that is, the substitution of atomised families and individuals for society –a crucial step to barbarism. The social crisis has been aggravated by the expansion of the market economy into all sectors of social life, in the context of its present internationalised form. It is, of course, well known that the market is the greatest enemy of traditional values. It is not, therefore, surprising that the social crisis is more pronounced in precisely those countries where marketisation has been well advanced. This becomes evident by the fact that neither campaigns of the ‘back to basics’ type (Britain), nor the growth of religious, mystic and other similar tendencies (United States) have had any restraining effect on the most obvious symptoms of the social crisis: the explosion of crime and drug abuse that has, already, led many states to effectively abandon their ‘war against drugs’.[35]

In Britain, for instance, it took 30 years for the crime rate to double, from 1 million incidents in 1950 to 2.2 million in 1979. However, in the 1980s, the crime rate has more than doubled, and it reached the 5 million mark in the 1990s to approach the 6 million mark at present! The ruling elites respond to the explosion of crime by building new jails. Thus, the prison population in England and Wales increased from 64,000 at the beginning of the decade to 77,000 a couple of years ago and almost 82,000 at the end of 2007,[36] whilst recent Home Office projections forecasting a jail population of up to 90,000 by 2010 seem already outdated![37] Similarly, it took the United States 200 years to raise its prison population to a million, but only the last 10 years to raise it to over two million. Thus, according to the latest estimates, the number of prisoners in federal and local jails grew to 2.3 million, out of the country’s adult population of 229.8 million, with China coming poor second with 1.5 million prisoners out of a population which is 5.5 times higher than that of the USA. This means that one in 99 adults is behind bars in the USA turning the “land of the free” rapidly into the land of more prisoners on Earth, with 750 out of 100,000 of its residents incarcerated![38]

So, the concentration of economic power, as a result of the marketisation of the economy, has not only increased the economic privileges of the privileged minority. It has also increased its insecurity. This is why the new overclass increasingly isolates itself in luxury ghettos. At the same time, marketisation and in particular the flexible labour market, has increased job insecurity a phenomenon that today affects everybody, apart from the very few in the overclass. No wonder the International Labour Organisation Report 2000 has found that the stress levels in advanced market economies have reached record levels, because of the institutionalisation of flexible labour markets that increased employers’ pressures for greater labour productivity.

The ecological dimension

Last, but not least, is the ecological dimension of the crisis, which presently constitutes perhaps the clearest example of the worsening crisis. The upsetting of ecological systems, the widespread pollution, the threat to renewable resources, as well as the running out of non-renewable resources and, in general, the rapid downgrading of the environment and the quality of life[39] have made the ecological implications of economic growth manifestly apparent in the past 30 years. But, it is the greenhouse effect as well as the consequent climate change which has now made abundantly clear to all the degree of deterioration of the environment. In fact, the recent publication of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finally brought the ecological crisis to the status of universal front-page news. The catastrophic climatic change, threatening us all because of the greenhouse effect, becomes obvious once we take into account that, even if we take the best-case scenario of a 2.2C rise in temperature this century (while a 4.4C rise is much more likely!), this would mean according to the European Commission that an extra 11,000 people in Europe will die within a decade, and from 2071 onwards there will be 29,000 extra deaths a year in southern Europe alone, on top of 27,000 extra deaths in northern Europe. However, the Report in effect simply confirms using indisputable evidence the worst predictions of the anti-systemic Left and ecologists which, until now, have been dismissed by the elites and the reformists as ‘scaremongering’!

And yet, the elites, unable to take effective measures within the neoliberal globalisation framework to even reduce the effects of the crisis, have resorted, through the mass media controlled by them, to an entire mythology on the causes of the deepening ecological crisis and the ways out of it. This mythology is being reproduced, not only by the political and economic elites, but also by reformists in the Left and the Green movement, who declare that ‘the crisis belongs to all’ (governments and civil societies alike).[40] Thus, according to the main myth reproduced by the system, it is ‘human activity’, or ‘man’ in general, that are responsible for the greenhouse effect. But, it is now indisputable that the ecological crisis has not been caused by human activity in general, but by the human activity of the last two hundred years or so since the Industrial Revolution. Others argue that it is the Industrial Revolution, as well as industrial civilisation and its values, i.e. what we may call the ‘growth economy’, which is to blame for the current crisis. But, it can be shown that the rise of the growth economy was not simply the result of changes in values, the imaginary, or ideology, but it was, instead, the result of the dynamics of a concrete economic system in interaction with the outcome of social struggle.

From such myths, which share the characteristic that they all take for granted the present socio-economic system of the capitalist market economy and its offspring, the growth economy, there arises a series of proposals, which supposedly will help us to transcend the deteriorating ecological crisis. The common element of such proposals is that the crisis can be overcome as long as, on the one hand, governments take various measures to restrict the greenhouse emissions, encourage renewable sources of energy and adopt various technological fixes and, on the other, global civil society changes its values and way of life.

In fact, however, the cause of the greenhouse effect is the very pattern of living, implied by the growth economy, which in turn has been determined by the dynamic of the market economy and, in particular, the concentration of income and wealth between and within countries, the consequent urban concentration, the car culture and so on. But, the pattern of living cannot change through exhortations by the elites and rock concerts, since it is very much conditioned by the very institutional framework that caused the ecological crisis: the system of the market economy and its political complement which led to the present power concentration at all levels.

This brings us to the third part of this survey of recent theoretical developments in the ID project, which examines the reasons for the failure of the old antisystemic movements, as well as for the decline of the “new” antisystemic movements which emerged in the 1960s and the 1970s.


1. The causes of the decline of antisystemic movements

The nature of traditional antisystemic movements

The starting point of the ID approach on the nature of antisystemic movements[41] is the clear distinction it makes between antisystemic and reformist movements on the basis of their aims, rather than (as usually) the methods they use. Thus, we define as antisystemic those movements which explicitly aim at the replacement of the main socio-economic institutions and corresponding values with new institutions and values, and, correspondingly, we define as reformist those movements which implicitly or explicitly aim at simply improving the existing institutions (‘deepening democracy’, better regulating the market economy, etc). It is, therefore, clear that the above differentiation differs from the usual distinction drawn between revolutionary and reformist movements in which the former aim at a rapid, precipitous change of institutions and values, whereas the latter aim at a slow, evolutionary change a taxonomy based on the means used to achieve social change and not on the goal itself that may, still, be either systemic or reformist.

In the past, movements like the communist and the anarchist ones, were classified as revolutionary, in contrast to movements like the social-democratic one which was characterised as reformist as it was rejecting revolution as a way of imposing social change. But, although the classification of a movement as a revolutionary or, alternatively, a reformist one, during the 19th and most of the 20th century, would give the same results as our own distinction between antisystemic and reformist movements, this is no longer so in the neoliberal era of modernity. Today, as we shall see next, movements, that may still call themselves communist or anarchist, have converted into pure reformist movements with regards to their intermediate and sometimes even their ultimateaims, even though they may still keep the rhetoric of revolution. On the other hand, it is possible to envisage an antisystemic movement which, aiming at a radical rupture in the system and revolutionary changes in institutions and values, uses non-violent methods for this goal and resorts to violence only in case that it is attacked by the ruling elites, in the transition towards the new society. This is the case of the Inclusive Democracy (ID) project, which aims at a systemic change through the establishment of new institutions (and corresponding new values) that would reintegrate society with the economy, polity and Nature.

The main point stressed by the ID approach is that in order to explain the rise of antisystemic movements in the 19th and 20th centuries and their subsequent decline in the era of neoliberal modernity, we have to refer not just to the change in the systemic parameters over time, but also to the very nature of these movements. The fact, in particular, that traditional antisystemic movements had adopted a one-dimensional conception about the ‘system’, which typically saw one form of power as the basis of all other forms of power, is crucial in understanding the nature of these movements as basically challenging a particular form of power rather than power itself. Thus, Marxists define the ‘system’ as “the world system of historical capitalism which has given rise to a set of antisystemic movements”,[42] based on economic classes and status-groups aiming at the replacement of capitalism with socialism. In other words, for Marxists, the defining element of the system is the mode of production an element which refers to the distribution of economic power[43] in society which, in turn, determines, or at least conditions, the distribution of other forms of power. On the other hand, for anarchists, the defining element is a political one, the State, which expresses par excellence the unequal distribution of political power[44] and determines, or decisively conditions, the distribution of other forms of power.

However, today, we face the end of this kind of ‘traditional’ antisystemic movement which used to challenge one form of power as the basis of all other forms of power. The question is not anymore to challenge one form of power or another, but to challenge the inequality in the distribution of every form of power, in other words, power relations and structures themselves. It is this collapse of the traditional antisystemic movements which raises the need for a new type of antisystemic movement, as the ID approach stresses.

The change in the systemic parameters

There is little doubt that the traditional antisystemic movements, both old (socialist and anarchist) and ‘new’ (Green, feminist, etc.) are in a stage of serious, if not terminal, decay. Although these movements are still around, they have predominantly lost their antisystemic character and continue to exist either as explicitly reformist movements (most communist parties, many anarchist currents and all the ‘new movements’) or as supposedly antisystemic moments, which however do not raise any explicit antisystemic demands, adopting instead the familiar ‘popular front’ practice of the Left around a program of reformist demands (Trotskyites and others). In fact, the only significant anti-systemic forces until recently, which directly challenged the ‘system’ (i.e. the market economy and representative ‘democracy’) used to be some currents within the anti-globalisation movement in the broad sense, which functioned outside the clearly reformist World Social Forum. The issue arising, therefore, is how we may explain this effective collapse of antisystemic movements today and how we may assess the perspectives for a new type of antisystemic movement for the 21st century.

According to the ID approach, it is the change in the systemic parameters in the post Second World War modernity, which could explain the present decline of antisystemic movements. Such changes are, on the one hand, the changes in the class structure (and their political implications) as a result of the shift from statist to neoliberal modernity and, on the other, the parallel ideological crisis and the related rise of postmodernism and irrationalism.

Changes in the class structure and their implications

First, the shift from statist to neoliberal modernity had very important implications on the class structures, particularly of the North, but also of the South, although the peripheral character of the market economy in the South has led to the creation of some significant differentiations on their class structures with respect to those of the North. The neoliberal internationalisation of the market economy, in combination with the significant technological changes (information revolution), marking the transition of the market economy to a post-industrial phase, have led to the creation of new ‘class divisions’ both at the economic and the non-economic levels, as it was shown above. At the economic level, the combined effect of these developments was a drastic change in the employment structure which reduced massively the size of the manual working class. For instance, in the ‘Group of 7’ countries (minus Canada), the proportion of the active population employed in manufacturing fell by over a third between the mid-seventies and the mid-nineties a fact which had significant implications on the strength and significance of trade unions and social-democratic parties. At the same time, new ‘classes’ have been created on either side of the class spectrum as a result of the marketisation process of neoliberal modernity: at one end, a new underclass consisting mainly of the unemployed and those of the inactive and the underemployed (part-timers, casual workers, etc.) who fall under the poverty line and, at the other end, a new overclass consisting of the upper class and the upper middle class. Between these two poles are the ‘middle groups’, which, in the North, constitute the majority of the population.

Inevitably, the effects of these changes in the systemic parameters were significant not only at the economic level, but also at the political level. Social divisions based on gender, race and other ‘identity’ categories, (e.g. the national identity), which throughout modernity did not take the form of class divisions in the Marxist sense, but were nevertheless simmering, became even more important in the era of neoliberal modernity, due to the changes I mentioned above. Thus, hierarchical structures, like patriarchal family structures, not only remained unaffected by the rise of classes, but, in effect, were interacting with class structures and became a basic means of reproducing them. Similarly, the rise of the nation-state in early modernity set the foundations for conflicts of nationalist character. Finally, a new development in late modernity, the ecological crisis the inevitable outcome of the growth economy added one more ‘transclass’ problem: the problem of the environment and quality of life. These developments at the non-economic level are crucial in explaining the rise of the ‘new social movements’ (ecological, feminist, ‘identity’ movements and so on) in neoliberal modernity.

However, the fact that dominance and conflict are being socially constructed today around such diverse focuses as racism, sexual preferences, gender discrimination, environmental degradation, citizen participation, ethnic self-determination and religious commitments, rather than economic class issues, does not mean of course the end of class divisions, as some have assumed. What it does mean is that the class struggle (which may perhaps better be called ‘the social struggle’ to take into account the conflict arising from all forms of unequal distribution of power), is not anymore exclusively or even mainly about ownership of the means of production, but about control of oneself at the economic but, also, at the political and the broader social level. This is a matter which, directly or indirectly, raises the issue of democracy, as it was clearly expressed first in May 1968 and today again with the emergence of various movements around the world (Commons movements, the antiglobalisation movement, etc.).

The ideological crisis and the effects of the rise of irrationalism and postmodernism

Second, the above changes in the structural parameters were accompanied by a parallel serious ideological crisis, which put into question not just the political ideologies, (what postmodernists pejoratively call ‘emancipatory metanarratives’), or even ‘objective’ reason, but reason itself, as shown by the present flourishing of irrationalism in all its forms. Thus, not ignoring some positive aspects of postmodernism, one may argue that postmodernism and irrationalism (the rise of which is not irrelevant to the flourishing of postmodernism) have become the ‘two curses’ which constitute the most serious ideological enemies of any kind of antisystemic movement. In fact, as the ID approach stresses, the influence of postmodernism and irrationalism is crucial in explaining the loss of the antisystemic nature of both the old and the new social movements.

Having said this however, one should not ignore the fact that religious fundamentalist movements in the South, today, play a significant role against the New World Order. Yet, such movements could hardly be characterised as antisystemic (let alone democratic, given their espousal of religion the very definition of heteronomy!) as they are not against the system of the market economy itself, nor against hierarchical structures at the political and social levels. But, given that the necessary condition for any systemic change is the elementary freedom of a people to determine their own future, it is obvious that the liberation struggle against an occupying force (in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.), even if this struggle is carried out by a religious fundamentalist movement, has to be supported by all genuine antisystemic movements all over the world. Despite this obvious conclusion, there are several supposedly antisystemic movements, as we shall see next, which implicitly or explicitly support the New World Order, under the pretext that they cannot support instead fundamentalist movements, or what the transnational elite calls “rogue” regimes even if such regimes were fighting against their domination by this elite (e.g. the Milosevic or Saddam regimes)! Clearly, the main enemy of any genuine antisystemic movement is the New World Order (as expressed by neoliberal globalisation and representative “democracy”), which is administered by the transnational elite and the dependent on it local elites respectively. When the immense power of the transnational elite and the associated local elites to impose their will on peoples, ends, the struggle to create a real democratic world order beyond any kind of irrationalism, which would be based on the equal distribution of every form of power among all citizens of the world, will begin!

2. The decay of ‘old’ antisystemic movements

Antisystemic movements are very much a product of modernity. It was the separation of society from polity and the economy, heralded by the modern era, which created for the first time in History a ‘system’ controlled by political and economic elites. The emergence of correspondingly organised social movements against the system, i.e. against the control of political and economic power by elites, was therefore inevitable.

The two main forms of the ‘old’ antisystemic movements were born in the context of the split between statist and libertarian socialism a split which reached its climax in the dispute between Marx and Bakunin within the First International. Today, almost a century and a half since this debate, the socialist project is in ruins after the collapse of both versions of statist socialism (the form of socialism which has been dominant within the socialist movement since then), i.e. the ‘actually existing socialism’ of the East and social democracy of the West. Furthermore, despite the fact that libertarian socialism is still untried, (after the most serious attempt to implement its principles, during the Spanish Civil War, was stifled by the fascist hordes, which were acting under the tolerant eye of Western ‘democracies’), the collapse of the statist version of socialism has not led to a revival of its libertarian version. Instead, the institutional framework defined by modernity (i.e. the market economy and liberal ‘democracy’) has become universal; consequently, the chronic multidimensional crisis (political, economic, ecological, social and cultural) which arose with the emergence of this institutional framework has also been universalised and exacerbated.

The cataclysmic event, which led to the final collapse of socialist statism as an antisystemic movement, was the passing away of ‘actually existing socialism’. Most supporters of antisystemic socialist statism, instead of learning the lessons of the failure of socialist statism, either abandoned any antisystemic goals for good, or simply covered up this choice under the well known ‘popular front’ strategy around reformist demands. Eric Hobsbawm, the doyen of Marxist historians, put it clearly when, as early as 1992, declared the end of the marketless and moneyless ‘utopia’ of old socialists including Marx: “socialists of all varieties have ceased to believe in the possibility of an entirely non-market economy (…) the debate between liberals and socialists today (…) is about the limits of capitalism and the market uncontrolled by public action”.[45]

Today, therefore, most Marxists have joined various forms of postmodernism, rejecting any idea of a ‘universalist’ antisystemic project. What, however, is ironic and, at the same time, disturbing for the future of the alternative libertarian traditionis the development of a similar ‘pragmatism’ among several currents in the libertarian Left. In fact, the decline of the anarchist movement began earlier than that of the socialist statist movement. The last historically significant appearance of this movement was in the Spanish Civil War, when it was subjugated by the fascist forces (often with the significant contribution for their own reasons of socialist statists), sealing its fate as a mass antisystemic movement. In the post-war period, if we exclude the events of May 1968, which were more influenced by libertarian democratic ideas rather than by the classical anarchist ideas, the anarchist movement has been fractionalised and marginalized, whereas, lately, significant parts of it are even becoming reformist! All this, at the very moment when, for the first time in History after the split in the First International, the anarchist movement had a real chance to ‘take its revenge’ and prevail over statist socialism.[46]

In fact, one may argue that perhaps the only anarchist trend which has a clear antisystemic character, in the sense that it tries to build a programmatic antisystemic movement, is Murray Bookchin’s Social Ecology, sometimes called Confederal Municipalism, Libertarian Municipalism and, lately, Communalism (see the next section for a critique of Communalism). However, these are not the dominant views among American, or generally Anglo-Saxon, anarchists, as Bookchin himself recognised when in his late years explicitly broke with anarchism and unequivocally condemned individualistic anarchism, postmodernism and irrationalism, the main trends in today’s anarchism.[47] Another indication of the same bankruptcy is the present flourishing of individualistic anarchism with its offspring ‘life-style’ anarchism, pragmatic anarchism, etc. Finally, as regards the other major trend within present anarchism, direct action, whose major expression used to be in the anti-globalisation ‘movement’, although it is true that some of the anarchist trends within this movement did raise ‘anti-systemic’ demands, still, they never functioned as catalysts for the formation of a new democratic movement for systemic change. Instead, the reformist trends within the antiglobalisation movement in the form of the World Social Forum, as we shall see next, eventually prevailed and led to the effectual demise of the entire anti-globalisation movement!

In conclusion, the general picture emerging, as far as post-war anarchism is concerned, is one characterised by the inability or unwillingness of anarchists to build a programmatic movement, with its own antisystemic project, i.e. a concrete analysis of the situation and long term goals and strategy. This fact constitutes the fundamental cause for the present withering away of the anarchist movement as a significant antisystemic movement. Therefore, unless the radical elements within the anarchist movement which is presently torn between direct action, for its own sake, and life-style anarchism manage to overcome their present inability and unwillingness to function as catalysts for a new antisystemic democratic movement (missing in the process the historical chance, that the collapse of the project for statist socialism has created), they are bound to confirm the present trend towards the terminal demise of anarchism as an antisystemic movement.

3. The decline of ‘new’ antisystemic movements

Whereas the ‘old’ antisystemic movements were very much the product of ‘liberal’ and ‘statist’ modernity, the ‘new’ social movements (student, black, feminist, Green), which emerged since the late 1960s, as well as the antiglobalisation movement in the 1990s, were correspondingly expressions of late (‘neoliberal’) modernity. As such, they clearly reflect the changes in the systemic parameters, which I considered above, and in particular the changes in the class structures brought about by the rise of neoliberal modernity, as well as the parallel ideological crisis which was accompanied by the flourishing of postmodernism and irrationalism. Thus, it was the rise of the middle classes in the 1960s and the 1970s, specifically the expansion of the salaried professionals and of women service sector employees, which provided the “objective” basis for the emergence of these movements, particularly the Green and the feminist movements. Also, the influence of the ideological crisis in general, and of postmodernism and irrationalism in particular, was manifested in several ways. Specifically, it was manifested in the rejection of universalist projects that resulted in the fractionalized character of these movements, in the frequent adoption of reformist demands, as well as in the irrational elements that characterise the ideology of several currents within these movements.

Yet, there were, also, several ‘antisystemic’ currents within the new movements and particularly within the student, feminist, black and green movements. However, the ‘new’ social movements, after reaching their peak in the 1970s up to the mid-1980s, they started to decline not in the sense of disappearing, but rather in the sense of becoming part of established interest-group politics, following a trajectory similar to that followed earlier in the last century by the labour movement. Thus, by the 1990s, the ‘new’ social movements had been transformed into ‘identity politics,’ i.e. the kind of postmodern politics which implies a turn away from general social, political, and economic issues towards concerns related to culture and identity. As a form of postmodern politics, ‘identity politics’ express a disdain to modern reductionism, universalism, and essentialism. The decline of the ‘new’ social movements gave rise to what some consider an offspring of them, i.e. the various Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) which have rapidly proliferated in the era of neoliberal modernity. Yet, NGOs are not antisystemic social movements, both because they are reformist and because they are financed mostly by the political and economic elites.

The Green movement is a clear example of the above trends concerning the ‘new’ social movements. The promise of the Green movement in the early seventies was of a new and, predominantly, antisystemic movement that saw the ecological crisis as the inevitable outcome of the ‘growth economy’. In fact, the more radical currents within the movement viewed the ecological crisis as the by-product of the ‘grow-or-die dynamic’ of the market economy, whilst others viewed it as the outcome of industrialism and consumerism. This radical view was contested by the ‘realists’ within the movement, who blamed the technologies used, or the prevailing values and the corresponding government policies as if they were all somehow independent from the economic system!

However, once this division between radicals and realists, (in the German Green party it was formalised as the division between ‘fundis’ and ‘realos’), which roughly corresponded to a division between antisystemic and reformist currents, ended up with the outright victory of the latter over the former, the transformation of Green organisations into ‘normal’ parliamentary parties or generally reformist organisations was inevitable. Thus, today, the dominant trends within the Green movement do not challenge the fundamental institutions of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ but, instead, they either adopt the social-democratic ideology of enhancing the civil society, embracing various forms of environmentalist reformism (European Greens) or, alternatively, stress the importance of changing cultural values, which they consider as being amenable to change even within the existing institutional framework (USA). The disgraceful role that the European Green parties played in NATO’s criminal bombing of the Yugoslavian people,[48] and their involvement in the machinations of the transnational elite to smash the antiglobalisation movement,[49] are clear indications of the end of the Green movement as an antisystemic liberatory force.

Likewise, the trajectory followed by the feminist movement was very similar to that of the Green movement. Thus, in the same way that the victory of ‘realos’ over the ‘fundis’ led to the end of the Green movement as a potentially antisystemic movement, the victory of ‘insiders’ (i.e. the liberal feminist groups oriented toward gaining position and power within the system) over the ‘outsiders’ (i.e. the autonomous womens’ movements oriented to revolutionary change) led to the end of the feminist movement as a potentially antisystemic movement. Furthermore, in exactly the same way as the decline of the Left in general, which began in the early 1970s, had induced many anarchists to substitute lifestyle for politics and ‘spirituality‘ for rational analysis, the decline of the feminist movement induced many feminists to substitute ‘cultural feminism’ for radical feminism and spiritualism for rationalism.[50]

In conclusion, there has been such a wide-ranging shift of the political spectre to the Right during the era of neoliberal modernity that, today, there is hardly any movement that could be characterised as antisystemic. Thus, the old social-democratic movements and their political expressions have adopted social-liberalism (i.e. joined the ideology of neoliberal modernity with some minor qualifications) whereas the old anti-systemic Left movements supporting state-socialism have moved to occupy the space left vacant by social-democracy and are now keen supporters of a mixed economy. At the same time, the antisystemic currents within the new social movements have withered away, whereas some anarchist currents, which are still raising antisystemic demands, in no way constitute (nor they wish to!) a movement.

In fact, the only significant antisystemic currents which could be found until recently were those within the antiglobalisation ‘movement’. However, the antiglobalisation ‘movement’, which was examined in detail elsewhere,[51] is neither a ‘movement’ nor an antisystemic one. Briefly:

  • it is not a movement, because the heterogeneous nature of those participating in the antiglobalisation activities (who are mainly activists belonging to other movements and organisations anarchists, communists, Greens, feminists, nationalists, etc. united by their opposition to neoliberal globalisation), does not allow the formation of a common outlook on society and a common set of values; and,

  • it is not an ‘antisystemic’ movement, because most of those involved do not even see neoliberal globalisation as a systemic phenomenon but, usually, see it as just a matter of policy, if not a capitalist plot and, as such, reversible within the market economy, provided appropriate pressure is put on the elites.

One could, therefore, foresee (as I did in my 2003 article on antisystemic movements[52]) that the antiglobalisation ‘movement’ would either be phased out or be transformed into another kind of ‘new’ social movement, (like, for instance, the Green movement), later to be gradually integrated within the ‘system’. This is particularly so given that the antisystemic elements within the ‘movement’, which could potentially function as catalysts for the creation of a true antisystemic movement, did not have any clear vision for a future society and therefore a long-term strategy and a short-term program. In short, the problem was that the antisystemic currents within the antiglobalisation ‘movement’, either because they were strongly influenced by the postmodern hostility against ‘universalist’ projects, or, because they preferred direct action for its own sake, were not interested in building an antisystemic movement. Their implicit assumption was that, through direct action and the inevitable state repression, the situation would be revolutionised and then, ‘spontaneously’, the movement itself would, somehow, generate the analysis needed for the present situation, complete with a clear vision of the structure of future society, the transitional strategy, etc.

Obviously, this was a romantic and historically false view about how societies change, that puts us back to the period before people discovered, as I explained in the first section, that organised antisystemic movements are needed to replace a system, and that the majority of the population should have developed a clear antisystemic consciousness, through actually living within the institutions of a new society, before the actual transition to it takes place. History has taught us that this is the only way to avoid another totalitarian experiment. No wonder that the antisystemic trends within the antiglobalisation movement and the movement itself have now effectively disappeared, exactly at the very moment when the deteriorating global economic crisis has been creating the conditions for the development of a massive antisystemic movement against neoliberal globalisation!

This brings us to the last part of this survey of recent theoretical developments in the ID project which aims, on the one hand, to delineate the ID project from other recent projects like the autonomy project, social ecology/communalism, Parecon, de-growth and ecovillages and, on the other, to make proposals for a new kind of antisystemic movement, whose transitional strategy is based on a parallel change of institutions and the corresponding values and meanings, within an interacting process that breaks with the past.


2. The Autonomy project and Inclusive Democracy

Cornelius Castoriadis’ project of Autonomy has some significant similarities with the ID project, but as I attempted to show elsewhere, the differences between them are fundamental, despite the attempts of some supporters[53] of the Autonomy project to minimise these differences in order to derive a distorted view of the ID project as a kind of a by-product of Castoriadian thought! In fact, however, the ID project represents the synthesis as well as the transcendence of existing traditions (one of which is the tradition of autonomy) and movements. It expresses a synthesis of the classical democratic and socialist traditions, whilst also encompassing the antisystemic trends within contemporary movements for emancipation (Greens, feminists and others). As such, the ID project is not a ‘model’ to be copied, but simply defines the institutional preconditions for the equal distribution of all forms of power, (i.e. for individual and collective autonomy) and at the same time describes how an economy, based on such an institutional framework, could function in a way covering the needs of all its citizens.

The Castoriadian vs. the ID economic proposals

Castoriadis never produced a new visualisation of his economic system, consistent with his late project of autonomy, leaving the impression that the same economic model, which he formulated in the 1950s for his early socialist project, still applied to his new project, despite the obvious differences between the two projects as regards the workers’ role in the management of the economy! As I showed elsewhere,[54] in the 1970s, there was a significant shift in Castoriadis’ problematique, which involved a move from his notion of socialist workers’ self-management to that of an autonomous democratic society. Yet, although he adopted a new conception for a future society, he did not disown his early formulations for a socialist model of workers’ management, despite the obvious contradictions created by the significant differences between the citizens’ democratic self-management, implied by the Autonomy project of late Castoriadis, and the workers’ (self) management implied by the socialist project of early Castoriadis. However, as I attempted to show in my aforementioned exchange with David Ames Curtis, people in a democracy should take the major decisions to run it not just as producers (which is the idea behind workers’ management) but as citizens, which is a much broader category than that of a producer. In fact, the late Castoriadis himself seemed to be concerned with this, when he stressed that in services it may not always be possible to create workers’ councils based on working unity and a shared life, but, instead, it may be necessary to rely on associations or co-ops based on occupation. However, if we take into account that in today’s societies (unlike in the nineteen fifties) the vast majority of the active population is employed in services, the proposal of early Castoriadis for workers’ self-management seems not only incompatible with the project of autonomy of late Castoriadis but, also, completely outdated.

Starting, therefore, first with the differences at the economic level between the Autonomy and the ID theoretical projects, if we contrast the early Castoriadis’ visualisation of the future economy with that of Inclusive Democracy, there are two major areas of difference between the two types of proposals:

  • First, Castoriadis’ proposal presupposes a money and real market economy, whereas Inclusive Democracy, following the libertarian tradition, presupposes a marketless and moneyless economy and,

  • Second, the allocation of scarce resources in Castoriadis’ economy takes place through a socialist planning mechanism, controlled by the decisions of workers’ councils, and through a real market based on impersonalised money; on the other hand, the allocation of resources in Inclusive Democracy takes place through a democratic planning mechanism, controlled by the decisions of citizens’ assemblies (citizens are in a much better position to express the general interest rather than workers) and through an artificial market based on personalised vouchers (or special credit cards).

However, the real market cum money economy, suggested by Castoriadis, leads to serious problems and contradictions, as it cannot avoid the problems that any real market creates, irrespective of whether it is capitalist or not. Thus, Castoriadis, ignoring the crucial differentiation introduced by Polanyi between the (pre-capitalist) “market” and the (capitalist) “system of market economy”, assumes that in the present capitalist system there cannot be a ‘genuine’ market controlled by society (“where there is capitalism there is no genuine market and where there is a market there can be no capitalism”).[55] This of course contradicts the experience of social-democratic statism (which, by the way, Castoriadis contrasts favourably to the present “planetary casino”), which showed that a form of social control of the capitalist market economy, under specific historical conditions, is feasible. So, Castoriadis is presumably unable to grasp that it was not just the private ownership of the means of production, which led to the present system of the internationalised market economy, but the dynamics of the market itself which, in conditions of private ownership of productive resources, will inevitably lead to such a system and that, therefore, the only genuine market, which can exist in an internationalised economy like the present one, is the present system of neoliberal globalisation.[56] In other words, competition develops in any real market and not just in a capitalist pseudo-market, as Castoriadis seems (erroneously) to assumeand it is the combination of the market with the commodification of the means of production that has led to the present system of the capitalist market economy, and not just the latter alone[57].

Furthermore, the Castoriadian model, in order to avoid the huge inequalities that the dynamics of a real market will inevitably create, has to assume wage equality an arrangement, which ignores the huge inequalities in satisfaction drawn from various types of work. Thus, in the Castoriadian system, the miner and the dustman, who can draw a very limited if anysatisfaction from their work, are rewarded the same as the actor and the university professor, who can draw a much higher degree of satisfaction from their work. The consequence of such a complete disregard for citizens’ desires, under the guise of the ‘equality’ established by equal wages, is that the proposed economic system ends up with no automatic mechanism at all for the allocation of work! This is because equal wages, in practice, would either imply the need for some kind of external force, or the compulsory rotation of tasks, so that some could be ‘persuaded’ to do the necessary work for society’s survival, which inevitably involves also arduous or boring tasks. In contrast, the ID proposal aims at the full satisfaction of citizens’ basic and non-basic needs and the parallel meeting of their real desires as regards the kind of work they wish to do, without any external compulsion and social waste.[58]

The significance of ‘subjective’ factors vs. ‘objective’ factors in the Castoriadian system and the ID

But, even more important differences between ID and Castoriadis’ Autonomy project arise at the philosophical level. As I showed elsewhere,[59] although both projects agree on the proposition that it was the outcome of the social struggle that determined, in each historical period, the nature and main characteristics of modernity, the controversial issue is what was the conditioning influence of ‘objective’ versus ‘subjective’ factors, as regards the final outcome of this struggle. For Marxists, objective factors, like changes in technology, play a crucial role in this outcome, if they do not determine History itself (‘in the last instance’). On the other hand, for supporters of the autonomy/democratic tradition like Castoriadis, subjective factors, such as the ‘social imaginary’, play an equally crucial role leading to an indeterminate outcome.

There is no doubt, of course, that ‘objective’ factors were at work during the entire history of the market economy system, although not in the rigid sense assumed by the Marxist ‘science’ of the economy (‘laws/tendencies’ of the falling rate of profit, ‘phases of accumulation’ and the like), but rather in the general sense of the ‘grow-or die’ dynamic of the market economy. But, although such objective factors could explain the motives and actions, particularly of the economic elites, the eventual economic and social outcome of the ensuing social struggle has always been both indeterminate and unpredictable, since this is not determined by objective factors alone, not even in the last resort. This is why the ID approach adopts the stand that it is the interaction between equally important ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ factors which conditions historical development an interaction which (unlike the Marxist ‘dialectical’ relationship) always leads to indeterminate outcomes.

Still, as it would be wrong to overemphasize the role of ‘objective’ factors in the history of the market economy at the expense of the ‘subjective’ factors, so it would be equally wrong to do the opposite and overemphasize the role of the ‘subjective’ factors at the expense of the ‘objective’ ones, as it happened with the Castoriadian conception, which led him to clearly flawed, if not unacceptable, appreciations and positions, because of his overemphasis of the imaginary element in History (subjective factors) and the corresponding underestimation of the ‘systemic’ elements (objective factors).

The ID approach, therefore, is based on the assumption that, even though the eventual economic and social outcome of the social struggle is always undefined and unforeseen, the reason for this is not the fact, as the Castoriadian project maintains, that “society is the ‘work’ of the institutioning imaginary”, which means that social action, in general, and social struggle, in particular, is determined by the social imaginary[60] a position that essentially consists the antipode of the Marxist position that the “laws of the social development are always objective and function independently of the peoples’ will”[61]. For the ID project, the reason that the outcome of the Social Struggle is unforeseen is the very fact that historical development is always the result of the interaction between equally important ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ factors.

Thus, one could argue that some superficially inexplicable and far from radical, theoretical or political positions of Castoriadis could well be explained on the basis of his overemphasis of the imaginary element in History (subjective factors) and the corresponding underestimation of the ‘systemic’ elements (objective factors). To mention just a few striking examples, we may refer to his positions on neoliberal globalisation and present capitalism, the causes of underdevelopment, USSR and the war in the Gulf.

The flawed Castoriadian stand on neoliberal globalisation and South’s underdevelopment

As regards neoliberal globalisation, his thesis was basically that capitalism today has turned against its own ‘logic’ when, by opening and deregulating markets, it has turned the global economy into a “planetary casino”.[62] Thus, starting from the assumption that nobody controls today’s economy, he derived the conclusion that “nobody can say today that the functioning of the economy corresponds to clearly defined interests, if not of specific capitalists, of the capitalist class in general, since what is happening at this moment, with the chaos that exists in the world not in the interest of the capitalist class but it simply expresses its impotency in directing its own system”[63].

But, as I put it elsewhere, “one may counter-argue here that the present ‘chaos’ of the world economy is in fact the inevitable outcome of the liberalisation of markets and particularly of the capital markets, which, far from being undesired, meets perfectly the needs of the present internationalised market economy.[64] This is a fact, which was anyway abundantly confirmed by the boost in capitalist profitability before the present bursting of the financial bubbles.[65] It is obvious here that Castoriadis emphasises again the imaginary element (i.e. that the capitalist crises are short-term phenomena that usually affect only sections of the capitalist class, which have an obvious aversion against the “casino-capitalism”) at the expense of the ‘systemic’ fact (i.e. the fact that the marketization of the economy is a long-term trend favoured by the capitalist class as a whole, as this is a precondition of further concentration of economic power at the hands of economic elites).

Then, as regards the case of underdevelopment, for Castoriadis, the basic obstacle to the spreading of the growth economy to the South, (and, by implication, to its non-”development”, which led to the present widening gulf between the North and the South), has been the fact that “this extraordinary spreading of the West had to face societies with completely different imaginary institutions which, as a result, have created anthropological types of a very different type than the type of the Western citizen, as described by the Declaration of Human Rights, or the type of the industrial worker and entrepreneur”.[66]

It is obvious that such an approach ignores the catastrophic impact of the spreading of the market economy and the subsequent growth economy on the self-reliant communities of the South and, as a result, exonerates the system of the market economy itself, in order to blame the “imaginary institutions” that developed in the South compared to those in the North! No wonder that, in this problematique, the way out of the present global crisis can only emerge in the West: “I think that only a new development of the liberation movement in the West could change the parameters of the problem, i.e. could in some way ease the penetration at least up to the point requiredof the traditional institutions and traditional religious imaginary significations that today are dominant in most of the countries of the Third World”.[67]

The unacceptable political stand of Castoriadis on USSR and the Gulf War

Castoriadis’ controversial stand (to say the least) on USSR was widely criticised even by Marxist critics of the Soviet system. Thus, at the very moment a huge campaign had been launched by the US elite to initiate the collapse of USSR through an arms race, designed (and proved eventually highly successful) to bring USSR on its knees from the economic point of view, Castoriadis was arguing that “of the two super-powers facing each other only Russia has the capability to carry out at this moment an aggressive policy,”[68] and further on that “at all levels before a total nuclear war there is no …balance of power but a massive imbalance in favour of Russia”.[69] Obviously, this position which had hardly any relevance to reality, as it was also proved by the dilapidated state of USSR’s army which was forced out of Afghanistan by the Mujahideenwas massively exploited by Western establishments in their Cold War rhetoric (and, as a by–product, ended the relative obscurity of Castoriadis, who, up to that time, was unknown to the wider public beyond certain Left circlesand made him a widely known intellectual).[70] Furthermore, although his critique of the totalitarian bureaucracy in the countries of ‘existing socialism’ was basically correct, any serious member of the antisystemic Left could only express disbelief at the fact that Castoriadis completely ignored the fact that the USSR, as the product of a socialist revolution had, after all, succeeded in meeting (even at a very low level) the basic needs of all its citizens (employment, health, education, housing, food), as it was tragically illustrated by the catastrophic regression, as far as the universal covering of these needs, which followed the integration of the country to the internationalised market economy.[71]

Finally, one should mention his stand on the Gulf War, which was completely unacceptable for a self-declared member of the antisystemic Left, when, in contrast even to reformist analysts of the Left like Noam Chomsky (also, an enthusiastic admirer of the collapse of USSR!) did not take an unequivocal stand against this criminal war, which paved the way for the eventual destruction of Iraq but, instead, he adopted an indirect ‘equal distances’ approach towards the victim (Iraqi people) and the victimizer (transnational elite). Thus, after dismissing oil as the basic cause of the war in the Gulf (and later, by implication, of the invasion of Iraq something that nowadays has been acknowledged even by the then head of the US Federal Reserve System![72]), went on to suggest a sort of Castoriadian version of the ‘clash of civilisations’ approach, later to be developed fully by Samuel Huntington! This was, in effect, a disguised ‘equal distances approach’ towards the victim and its victimizer (i.e. the usual approach adopted by the reformist Left on all the recent wars of the transnational elite):

“The conflict already goes well beyond the case of Iraq and Saddam Hussein. It is in the process of transforming itself into a confrontation between, on the one hand, societies held in the grip of a tenacious religious imaginary, now reactively reinforced, and, on the other, Western societies which, somehow or other, have been delivered from this imaginary but have revealed themselves incapable of transmitting to the rest of the world anything other than the techniques of war and the manipulation of opinion.”[73]

No wonder that in the 1990s Castoriadis, as far as I am aware, had never uttered a single word against the catastrophic Western embargo of that country which led, according to UN estimates, to the death of half a million Iraqi children, or against the murderous bombings of the country ordered by the Clinton administration). Needless to add that an ‘equal distances’ approach, similar to the one adopted by Castoriadis and the reformist Left,[74] in effect implies an indirect support of the ruling elites and their ‘wars’!

The unacceptable theses emanate from the philosophical core of the Castoriadian thought

The above Castoriadian theses, in effect, do not simply reflect errors in political judgement, as a superficial reading of his work might imply, but directly emanate from the philosophical core of his thought and, in particular, the stand he adopts on the relationship between radical imaginary, social imaginary and institutions. According to this stand, “it is the work of the radical imaginary as instituting, which brings itself into being as instituted society and as a given, and each time specified, social imaginary”.[75] In my view, the reduction of institutions to the radical imaginary is, both epistemologically and ontologically, faulty although, as I have stressed elsewhere,[76] there is no impenetrable barrier separating epistemology from ontology.

Epistemologically, because such an approach attempts to interpret the social dynamics using tools of psychoanalytical theory, i.e. an essentially closed theoretical system, something that I consider incompatible with the project of autonomy. In fact, as Castoriadis himself put it: “Democracy is the project of breaking the closure at the collective level. Philosophy, creating self-reflective subjectivity, is the project of breaking the closure at the level of thought…both are expressions, and central embodiments, of the project of autonomy.”[77] However, the Castoriadian adoption of an essentially psychoanalytic interpretation of the socialisation process implies also an adoption of the Freudian psyche theory, which, even after its amendment by Castoriadis, still is a closed theoretical system (Castoriadis himself also stressed Freud’s determinism and positivism![78]). This conclusion is further confirmed by the fact that, according to many scientists on the field, recent developments in neuroscience make psychoanalytic theory obsolete and irrelevant although of course the psychoanalytic camp (which, according to Foucault, has become a centre of power) with vested interests on psychoanalysis, will never accept this fact! As Paul Broks, a senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant neuropsychologist, based at the University of Plymouth, stresses[79]:

“We know a great deal more than Freud ever could about how different neural systems construct the perceptual world from the raw materials of sensation, and we are mapping the mechanisms that control language, memory, and voluntary action. Brain circuits underlying emotional and motivational states are also under close scrutiny. The study of emotion, in particular, has been reinvigorated over the past decade, so much so that there is talk now of an “affective revolution”, echoing the “cognitive revolution” of the late 1950s and 1960s. Evolutionary theory and experimental neuroscience have combined to produce a framework for understanding the emotions at every level, from the chemical to the cultural”.

To my mind, the adoption of a closed system for the interpretation of social phenomena, like socialisation, is clearly incompatible with both the Autonomy project, and that of Inclusive Democracy. In other words, the Castoriadian use of social imaginary significations, instead of the broader concept ‘dominant social paradigm’[80] that I adopted, does not allow him to make clear the role of the elites in the socialisation process, (through the conditioning role they play in the formation of the dominant social paradigm) a fact which frequently leads the late Castoriadis (in contrast to the early Castoriadis of Socialisme ou Barbarie) to talk about a class undifferentiated ‘society’ and ‘its’ imaginary. On the other hand, the ID project interpretation of the same social dynamics through the introduction of the concept of the ‘dominant social paradigm’ in the socialisation process brings back the crucial class divisions into the analysis of social dynamics.

Ontologically, the attempt to reduce social institutions to the radical and social imaginary is also faulty, because the Castoriadian thesis reduces the institutions to the imaginary of a class-undifferentiated society, which, in effect, exists only in the ideology of today’s elites! Thus, according to this thesis, “the institution of society is in each case the institution of a magma of social imaginary significations, which we can and must call a world of significations”.[81] This thesis could, also, account for the above mentioned ‘flawed’ or unacceptable political stands of Castoriadis, which, in effect, emanate from his position that the institutions in each case express ‘society’ and ‘its’ imaginary. This thesis is based on the assumption that there are no ‘objective’ class divisions in today’s society. As he put it: “Quite evidently there are, from several standpoints, sizeable differentiations among wage earners, but they do not furnish us with a division into classes”.[82] Furthermore, retreating from the dividing line, he had stressed in his early works, between directors and executants, and admitting that this dividing line is tending to become less and less relevant because the categories of pure directors and pure executants are, numerically speaking, less and less sizeable, he concludes that:[83]

“The sole criterion of differentiation within the mass of wage earners that remains relevant for us is their attitude towards the established system. That boils down to saying that one must abandon ‘objective criteria’ of whatever kind they may be (my emphasis). With the exception of the tiny minority at the summit, the whole of the population is just open or closedto a revolutionary outlook. It is possible that, conjuncturally speaking, this or that strata or category plays a larger role; but one can no longer maintain the idea that the proletariat is ‘the’ depository of the revolutionary project.”

On the other hand, according to the ID approach, although class divisions, today, are much less economic (in the Marxist sense) than they were at the beginning of modernity, they still exist and extend to almost every social level, apart from the economic one.[84] This implies that there are more than one social imaginaries, reflecting in each case the various social classes and generally the division between ruling and ruled classes and groups rather than a single class-undifferentiated social imaginary, as Castoriadis assumes. In the ID problematique, which ‘imaginary’ prevails in each case and determines the social institutions depends on the outcome of the social struggle between the ruling and the ruled social classes or groups. In much of modernity, this struggle was expressed by the Marxist class struggle, mainly in the economic level but not anymore. Therefore, the thesis about the existence of a ‘social’ imaginary which is the product of a class-undifferentiated ‘society’ is totally incompatible not only with the ID project but, to my mind, with the Castoriadian project of Autonomy itself.

So, according to the ID approach, the institutions simply represent, in each case, the ruling classes and groups, as well as their own imaginary. The same classes and groups in a heteronomous society ‘legitimise’ these institutions, through a process of socialisation and the exercise of various forms of violence (physical, economic, etc.). For instance, today’s prevalence of neoliberal institutions and neoliberal globalisation in general is not the result of the mysterious ascendancy of a neoliberal imaginary, but simply the outcome of the prevalence of the economic elites’ neoliberal ideology, as a result of historical changes in the last three decades or so, which led to the defeat of the dominated classes and groups in the ensuing social struggle. Such changes were the huge and growing concentration of economic power at the hands of economic elites through the expansion of transnational corporations, technological changes, which have led to the decimation of the working class, and the consequent emasculation of its syndicalist organs, the collapse of ‘actual existing socialism’, etc.[85] Similarly, the present rise of Islamic fundamentalism cannot be explained in terms of a sudden change of the Arab world’s social imaginary, but it can be adequately explained in terms of the failure of Arab socialism and Arab nationalism, the successive crushing defeats of the Arab nation at the hands of Zionists and the transnational elite and so on.

In conclusion, in every society characterised by class divisions, and at every historical ‘moment’, various ‘social imaginaries’ co-exist side-by side, expressing the main class divisions, and particularly the division between ruling and ruled classes and groups, with dominant in each case the imaginary of the ruling classes and groups, which is then formulated accordingly in the ‘dominant social paradigm’ and is legitimised through the socialisation process (education, mass media, economic and physical violence, etc.). On the other hand, during revolutionary periods, it is the ‘imaginary’ of the dominated classes and groups which eventually prevails and becomes the dominant social paradigm and then ‘legitimises’ the corresponding institutions, as it happened during the various attempts for an autonomous society (Athenian democracy, Soviet Revolution of 1917, Spanish civil War).

A moral relativism?

Finally, Castoriadis’ reluctance even to attempt to consider the sort of ethical values that he thinks are consistent with an autonomous society, as when, seemingly raising his hands, he declares, “we will always still have to make our lives under the tragic conditions that characterize those lives, for we do not always know where good and evil lie, either on the individual level or on the collective level,”[86] justifiably raised Murray Bookchin’s strong criticism that “in the absence of rational objective standards of behaviour, imagination may be as demonic as it may be liberatory when such standards exist; hence the need for informed spontaneity and an informed imagination”.[87]

On the other hand, the ID approach, recognising the problem with the Castoriadian stand that it can easily lead to a post-modern type of moral relativism i.e. to a ‘moral arbitrariness’, as Bookchin calls it, covered by democratic proceduresalthough it also rejects any kind of ‘objective’ ethics, at the same time it does explore the sort of moral values that are consistent with the institutional framework of a genuinely democratic society and proposes some specific guidelines for the development of a democratic ethics[88].

From the ‘rising tide of insignificancy’ to reformism

According to Castoriadis, there is no “crisis in the proper sense of the word, that is, a moment of decision”, because “in a crisis there are opposite elements which fight against each other while, what precisely characterises modern society is the absence of social and political conflicts”,[89] but just a “rising tide of insignificancy” and what is required is, “a new imaginary creation… that would put at the centre of human life other significations than the expansion of production and consumption”: [90]

“If one considers the present-day situation, a situation not of crisis but of decomposition, or dilapidation of the Western societies, one finds oneself faced with an antinomy of the first magnitude. Here it is: What is required is immense, it goes very far and human beings, such as they are and such as they are constantly being reproduced by Western societies, but also by the other societies, are immensely far removed from that. What is required? Taking into account the ecological crisis, the extreme inequality of the division of wealth between rich countries and poor countries, the near-impossibility of the system to continue on its present course, what is required is a new imaginary creation of a size unparalleled in the past, a creation that would put at the centre of human life other significations than the expansion of production and consumption, that would lay down different objectives for life, ones that might be recognized by human beings as worth pursuing. That would evidently require a reorganization of social institutions, work relations, economic, political, cultural relations. Now, this orientation is extremely far removed from what humans today are thinking, and perhaps far from what they desire.”

On the other hand, on the basis of the ID analysis, the present crisis of values and meanings reflects, in fact, the deteriorating crisis of the social, economic and political institutions in neoliberal modernity, as a result of the universalisation of the multidimensional crisis, following the corresponding universalisation of the modern economic and political institutions: the internationalisation of the market economy and the institution of representative ‘democracy’. So, according to the ID approach, the present deepening crisis of Western societies is not just due to a crisis of ‘imaginary significations’ and a crisis of values and meanings, (i.e. what Castoriadis calls “the rising tide of insignificancy”), but it is, primarily, due to the systemic changes marked in neoliberal modernity. Even the ecological crisis cannot just be attributed to the crisis of growth ideology and the meaning of Progress but to the universalisation of the growth economy and, consequently, the consumerist pattern of living, through the internationalization of the market economy. No wonder that the present crisis of the growth ideology, due to the widespread acknowledgement of the ecological implications of the growth economy, has simply led to various attempts to replace the old growth ideology based on ‘progress’ with a new one based on the conception of some sort of ‘sustainable development’ that will accommodate the continuation of economic growth and consumerism a pure contradiction in terms!

All this has very important theoretical and practical implications regarding the struggle for a new society and the transitional strategy towards it.

At the theoretical level, the late Castoriadis’ elimination of class divisions from his analysis has, inevitably, led to his identification of the imaginary of society as a whole with that of the ruling classes and groups (which was then imposed, through the socialisation process, to the ruled classes and groups) and the elimination from the picture of any alternative social imaginaries expressing other classes and groups! This is how he ‘managed’ to omit from his analysis the change in objective and subjective conditions that led to the rise of neoliberal globalisation, or to the corresponding emergence of Islamic fundamentalism, ending up with a monstrous interpretation of the criminal Gulf War in terms of a ‘clash of imaginaries’, and an ‘equal distances’ approach towards it, which, in fact, amounted to an indirect justification of the war, as we saw above. Furthermore, by reducing every aspect of the present multidimensional crisis to the ‘rising tide of insignificancy’, as it is expressed by the disappearance of meanings, of significations and the almost absolute wearing down of values, he also managed to avoid any reference to the systemic factors which have led to this crisis and particularly the dynamics of the system of market economy and of representative ‘democracy’, which is the ultimate cause for the present huge and growing concentration of power at every social level!

No wonder, therefore, that the late Castoriadis does not talk about a revolutionary change of institutions which, in interaction with the corresponding change of values and ideas, would lead to a new revolutionary society (as the ID approach suggests) but, instead, he adopts the reformist stand for the need to somehow change values and imaginary significations first in the form of a sort of cultural revolutionwhich would then lead to a change in institutions! This stand is of course identical to the approaches suggested by the reformists in the Green movement and the Left, who attempt to radically change values in a way that would effectively lead to a new society, taking the existing system of market economy and representative ‘democracy’ for granted. It is not, therefore, surprising that the late Castoriadis, unlike the early one and despite the pathetic efforts of his disciples like David Ames Curtis to deny the obvious early/late Castoriadis dichotomywas fully embraced by the international (and Greek) status quo and their mass media, in a (negative) ‘honour’ that was rarely, if ever, assigned by the elites to any truly revolutionary figures in the past!

2. Social Ecology/Communalism/ Libertarian Municipalism (LM)

Despite the influence that parts of Castoriadis’ autonomy project and Bookchin’s Social Ecology/Communalism/Libertarian Municipalism (LM) have had on the ID project, (or, similarly, the strong influence of Kropotkin’s or Arendt’s work among others on Bookchin and Castoriadis respectively), the ID project’s analysis of modernity and its periodisation, globalisation, classes and the present multidimensional crisis completely differentiates it from both the Castoriadian and Bookchinist conceptions. Thus, apart from the fundamental philosophical, political and economic differences between the ID project and the autonomy project that I considered above, there are similar fundamental differences between the ID and LM projects, which I am going to briefly consider here. No wonder, therefore, that the proposed way out of the present crisis in terms of an Inclusive Democracy, in general, and an Economic Democracy, in particular, differs fundamentally from both a workers’ councils economy based on a real market (early Castoriadis) or a ‘moral economy’ based on post-scarcity (Bookchin).

The differences, as in the case of the autonomy project, arise at both the philosophical and the economic levels.

Philosophical differences between ID and Communalism/Social Ecology

At the philosophical level, as I attempted to show in Towards an Inclusive Democracy (TID) (ch. 8), the project for a democratic society can neither be grounded on an evolutionary process of social change, nor a teleological one (such as Marx’s dialectical materialism). However, although Bookchin’s dialectical naturalism[91] is explicitly described as a non-teleological view of natural and social evolution, still, it does assume a ‘directionality’ towards a democratic ecological society a society that may never be actualised because of ‘fortuitous’ events. Thus, Bookchin, after explicitly acknowledging that social evolution is profoundly different from organic evolution, characterises social change as a process of Progress, defined as “the self-directive activity of History and Civilisation towards increasing rationality, freedom”.[92] In the same theoretical framework, society is seen as developing both in continuity with nature and as its antithesis ‘until the two are sublated into ‘free nature’, or ‘Nature’ rendered self-conscious, in a rational and ecological society’[93]

Yet, although the hypothesis about a rational process of natural evolution may not be groundless, the hypothesis about the existence of a rational process of social evolution, i.e. the view which sees History as a process of Progress, the unfolding of Reason a view which assumes that there is an evolution going on towards autonomous, or democratic, forms of political, economic and social organisationis, to my mind, both untenable and undesirable.[94]

  • It is untenable, because Social Ecology’s view of History is hardly supported by History itself! History does not justify the view of an evolutionary process of Progress towards a free society, in the sense of a form of social organization which secures the highest degree of individual and social autonomy at the political, the economic and the social levels: what we may define as an inclusive democracy. Although the historical attempts to establish autonomous forms of political, social and economic democracy did not, of course, appear ab novo, they cannot, nevertheless, be fitted into any grand evolutionary process. This is clearly indicated by the fact that such attempts took place in specific times and places and as a break with past development, rather than in several societies at the same stage of development and as a continuation of it. Therefore, although the ideals of freedom may have expanded over time, (the last 25 years or so notwithstanding!), this expansion has not been matched by a corresponding evolution towards an autonomous society, in the sense of greater participation of citizens in decision taking. In fact, the undermining of communities, which intensified by the emergence of the market economy 200 years ago and accelerated by the development of the present internationalized market economy, as well as the growing privacy and self-interest of individuals encouraged by the consumer society, are clear indications of a trend towards more heteronomous forms of society rather than the other way round.

  • It is undesirable, not only because it creates unintentional links with heteronomy (since it, implicitly or explicitly, rejects the fundamental fact that History is creation) but, also, because it may easily lead to inadvertent affinities with intrinsically anti-democratic eco-philosophies. Thus, the attempt to establish a directionality in society could easily create and it did create!undesirable affinities with deep ecology. Although such affinities are utterly repugnant to social ecologists, they are, nevertheless, implicit in the fact that both deep ecologists and social ecologists adopt a process of evolutionary unfolding and self-realisation and ground their ethics on scientific observations about the natural world, on natural ‘tendencies’ or directionalities. This fact, as I pointed out elsewhere[95] could go a long way in explaining the various hybridized approaches of social/deep ecology developed by, among others, John Clark[96] and Peter Marshall.[97]

It is the very philosophical grounding of democracy on dialectical naturalism, so cherished by both Bookchin and Clark, which creates a gap between social ecology and the democratic tradition. This is because democracy, as a process of social self-institution, implies a society which is open ideologically namely, one which is not grounded on any closed system of beliefs, dogmas or ideas. In fact, one may add here that committing oneself to a closed system of ideas, like dialectical materialism (or dialectical naturalism for that matter) is not that different from committing oneself to a closed set of religious or irrational beliefs and dogmas. This fact alone could go a long way in explaining the present convergence of the thought of some Marxists with religion, or of several anarchists with various forms of irrationalism (Taoism, New Age etc).[98]

It is for these reasons that the ID approach on History adopts neither grand evolutionary schemes, which depend on specific (supposedly “objective”) interpretations of natural or social change (as Marx, Kropotkin and Bookchin attempted to do), or of human nature,[99] nor approaches which, going to the other end, overemphasise the imaginary (‘subjective’) element in History and under-value the ‘systemic’ (or ‘objective’) elements (as Castoriadis attempted to do) ending up, as we saw above, with serious misinterpretations of History. Instead, the ID approach, attempting to strike the right balance between ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ factors, views History as the continuous interaction between creative human action and the existing institutional framework, i.e. as the interaction between the ‘imaginary’ and the ‘systemic’ elements, the outcome of which is always unpredictable. It is in this sense that the democratic society is seen as a rupture, a break in the historical continuity that the heteronomous society has historically established.

Economic Democracy vs. Communalism’s “moral” economy

The differences between the project of Inclusive Democracy and that of Social Ecology, concerning the philosophical grounding of democracy, have important repercussions on the respective conceptions of democracy itself. This is because Bookchin’s evolutionary perspective has important implications, first, on the issue of the existence of material preconditions of freedom and, second, on the concept of democracy itself, making the concept of economic democracy redundant.

Material preconditions of freedom

Thus, Bookchin, assuming that progress has already led to the “threshold of a post-scarcity society” in the sense of developing “a technology of abundance that is capable of providing, for the first time in history, the material basis for liberation,”[100] in effect, sees no need for an economic democracy in a liberated society. In other words, Bookchin adopts the communistic fiction of a post-scarcity society in which no economic-decision taking about the allocation of resources is, in fact, required. All that is required in this vision is, basically, a set of moral principles guiding sharing.[101] This is why the Social Ecology project, in contrast to the autonomy project, Parecon, and the Inclusive Democracy project,[102] does not propose any mechanism for the allocation of resources and Bookchin himself insists, instead, that in a communistic post-scarcity society “the very idea of an economy has been replaced by ethical (instead of productive) relationships; labour units, Proudhonian contracts, Rawlsian justice, and the like would not even be relevant”.[103]

However, there is a crucial negative implication to be drawn from this conception of a democratic society: it presupposes the existence of material preconditions for freedom. The entrance to the realm of freedom depends on ‘objective’ factors, like the arrival of the mythical state of affairs of material abundance. But, the level of development of productive forces, that is required so that material abundance for the entire population on Earth can be achieved, makes it at least doubtful that such a stage could ever be achieved without serious repercussions on the environment unless, of course, ‘material abundance’ is defined democratically (and not ‘objectively’) in a way which is consistent with ecological balance.

Therefore, the communist stage of post-scarcity is, in fact, a mythical state of affairs, as it presupposes an ‘objective’ definition of needs and scarcity, and reference to it could simply be used (and has been used) to justify the indefinite maintenance of state power and power relations and structures. Even if it was possible to define basic needs objectively, it is certainly impossible to define objectively satisfiers, i.e. the means to satisfy them, let alone non-basic needs, which have become increasingly important in today’s advanced societies. So, the fulfilment of a post-scarcity society is not just a matter of redistribution of wealth, as it is naively assumed by many libertarians and social ecologists, who argue that “the promise of post-scarcity…has not been fulfilled, not because the technology is base, but because the social arrangements that use it are base”.[104]

Clearly, within the problematique of the Inclusive Democracy project, the link between post-scarcity and freedom is broken. The abolition of scarcity, and consequently of the division of labour, is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for democracy. Therefore, the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom should be de-linked from the economic process. Yet, from Aristotle, through Locke and Marx, to Arendt and Bookchin, the distinction between the ‘realm of necessity’ (where nature belongs) and the ‘realm of freedom’ has, always, been considered to be fundamental. However, although this distinction may be useful as a conceptual tool in classifying human activities, there is no reason why the two realms must be seen as mutually exclusive in social reality. Historically, anyway, there have been several occasions when various degrees of freedom survived under conditions that could be characterised as belonging to the ‘realm of necessity’. Furthermore, once we cease treating the two realms as mutually exclusive, there is no justification for any attempt to dominate Nature an important element of Marxist growth ideologyin order to enter the realm of freedom.

Furthermore, in the ID conception, not only there are no material preconditions for freedom, but also nor does the entrance to the realm of freedom depend on a massive change of consciousness through the adoption of some form of spiritualistic dogma, as proposed by some deep ecologists and other spiritualistic movements. Therefore, neither capitalism and socialism, on the ‘objective’ side, nor the adoption of some kind of spiritualistic dogma, on the ‘subjective’ side, constitute historical preconditions to enter the realm of freedom. In other words, the democratic principle is not grounded on any divine, natural or social ‘laws’ or tendencies, but on our own conscious and self-reflective choice between the two main historical traditions: the tradition of heteronomy which has been historically dominant, and the tradition of autonomy.

Inclusive Democracy is, therefore, a much broader conception than the usual libertarian conception of a future society (proposed by Bookchin and other writers) expressed in terms of direct democracy plus a municipalised ‘moral economy’ based on a post-scarcity society. This is so, not only because Inclusive democracy incorporates political and economic decisions taken by confederated community assemblies, as well as decisions taken by assemblies at the place of work, education etc. An even more crucial reason is that economic decisions, taken in an inclusive democracy, involve critical decisions about the allocation of scarce resources and not just, basically, administrative decisions in a society where machines do most of the work, as social ecologists maintain, assuming that technologically we have already reached a post-scarcity potential.[105]

All this implies that for any liberatory project to look realistic and not just a utopia it has to include a visualisation of the institutions, which would allow a democratic decision-taking in the context of a scarcity society. It is, therefore, utterly inadequate for a realistic liberatory project just to be involved in wishful thinking about how a moral economy will solve, more or less automatically, all economic problems (if the term is appropriate) of a mythical post-scarcity society.[106] It is now obvious that, if an alternative to the presently universalised market economy form of social organisation is to inspire today’s demoralised peoples, the feasibility of such an alternative society has to be clearly shown.

This means that the crucial issues related to the allocation of scarce resources in a new society, which will meet the basic and non-basic needs of all citizens, have to be dealt with, first in theory, and then in everyday practice, in an economic democracy which has to start being built here and now by a new massive antisystemic movement.[107] As regards theory, an economic democracy based on a scarcity society is perfectly feasible and, as I have attempted to show elsewhere,[108] it is indeed possible to develop a model of economic democracy which shows the feasibility of democratic decision taking, not in the framework of a mythical post scarcity economy but in that of a real scarcity society. As regards practice, the need for building such a new massive antisystemic movement is now imperative if we wish to stop the present catastrophic descent of humanity into a new barbarity.

Concept of democracy

Given what was said above, it is not surprising that Bookchin’s scheme involves a narrow conception of the public realm, which could and should be expanded, if our aim is to transcend the limited conception of democracy, which first flourished in classical Athens. Thus, to develop a new conception of inclusive democracy we may start by distinguishing between the two main societal realms, the public and the private, to which we may add an ’ecological realm’, defined as the sphere of the relations between the natural and the social worlds. The public realm, contrary to the practice of many supporters of the republican or democratic project (Arendt, Castoriadis, Bookchin et al) includes in this conception not just the political realm, but also the economic realm, as well as a ‘social’ realm, in other words, any area of human activity where decisions can be taken collectively and democratically.

The political realm is defined as the sphere of political decision-taking, the area where political power is exercised. The economic realm is defined as the sphere of economic decision-taking, the area where economic power is exercised with respect to the broad economic choices that any scarcity society has to make. Finally, the social realm is defined as the sphere of decision-taking in the workplace, the education place and any other economic or cultural institution which is a constituent element of a democratic society.

I think that the extension of the traditional public realm to include the economic, ecological and ‘social’ realms is an indispensable element of the inclusive democracy conception, and offers significant assistance in defining its constituent elements: political, economic, ecological and ‘democracy in the social realm’. Thus, political, economic and democracy in the social realm may be defined, briefly, as the institutional framework that aims at the equal distribution of political, economic and social power respectively, in other words, as the system which aims at the effective elimination of the domination of human being over human being. Correspondingly, we may define ecological democracy as the institutional framework that aims at the elimination of any human attempt to dominate the natural world, in other words, as the system which aims to reintegrate humans and nature.[109]

In an Inclusive Democracy, therefore, any type of decision (political, economic, social, relating to the environment) which can be taken collectively, should be part of the democratic decision-taking process. This is not obvious in the case of social ecology, which centres its conception of democracy on the political realm, at the exclusion of the other realms. No wonder that economic democracy is not part of the socio-ecological conception of democracy.

3. Participatory Economics (Parecon)

Following the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism’ and the huge doubts that this historic event cast over the very possibility to organise a post-capitalist society, it has become more urgent than ever before to consider the concrete forms that a post-capitalist society could take. Michael Albert’s and Robert Hahnel’s “vision” of Parecon[110] and the complementary ideas developed by themselves and others on the corresponding political institutions are steps in this direction but, as I tried to show elsewhere,[111] although this model may represent the best effort so far in socialist planning and in assimilating the lessons taught by the latter’s historical failure, still, in no way could secure the institutional preconditions required for the creation of a new form of social organization, which re-integrates society with economy, polity and Nature.

At the outset, Parecon, in contrast, for example, to the Marxist proposals for a socialist society, Castoriadis’ autonomy project, Bookchin’s communalist project or that of Inclusive Democracy, is not a fully-fledged political project with its own historical analysis of present reality, but simply, a narrow economic model for an alternative economy, which recently and belatedly has been supplemented, (perhaps also in response to the ID critique about the complete silence of Parecon on political institutions, and similar criticisms from other sources), with some half baked ideas about the political institutions which are compatible with Parecon a sort of so-called “participatory democracy”.

Thus, Parecon is not backed by any political, historical or philosophical analysis which would attempt to justify it, but simply relies on the author’s rejection of certain elements of the present system, as well as on the values he drew from “the aspirations and the insights of a huge range of activist efforts”[112]. In other words, Parecon does not justify the need for a post-capitalist society on the basis of, for instance, a dialectics of History (as dialectical materialism does), or a dialectics of Nature (as Social Ecology’s dialectical naturalism does), or, perhaps, an axiomatic choice between the autonomy and heteronomy traditions (as the autonomy project and with some important deviations the Inclusive Democracy project do).

However, a serious proposal on the form of a future post-capitalist society cannot just be the object of some intellectual’s vision and the moral values he draws from social struggles. Such a proposal, if it is to be credible, must constitute a fully-fledged political project, which, integrated into one of the historical traditions of the Left, draws the organisational principles of the future society from a systematic analysis of present society and the trends within it. From this point of view, the antisystemic Left does not need to adopt supposedly pluralistic visions which could only serve as significant contributors to the present postmodernist ideological soup, or perhaps as ideological models of the “alternative world which is possible” that the World Social Forum (WSF) preaches.

Yet, Albert does not hesitate to state that his model comprises socialist or direct democratic values and to characterise it as an “anarchistic economic vision”. However, despite the fact that Parecon talks about workers’ councils, it cannot be classified in the socialist tradition, since these councils do not constitute the exclusive source of power, as in socialist models, but they simply share power with consumers’ councils, albeit the respective powers of each type of council are not even clearly delineated. Similarly, the communist principle “from each according to his/her ability to each according to his/her need” is bypassed (Parecon characterises the problem as a matter of compassion to be sorted out through the free provision of some social services like health and a minimum income) in favour of the supposedly more “advanced” principle of remuneration for effort and sacrifice! Likewise, the critical issues of the transition strategy and revolution are also bypassed, while WSF’s reformist anti-globalisation strategy is adopted. And, of course, Parecon does not belong to the Marxist tradition, since it talks about a “vision” and, as mentioned above, does not possess any historical analysis of the present society. Parecon does not share the Marxist definition of classes and does not even specify the form that social ownership of the means of production will take in an obvious effort to appeal to as many parts of the broad Left as possible.

At the same time, Parecon cannot be classified as belonging to the libertarian or the autonomous-democratic tradition, since the main collective decision-making bodies in it are clearly defined within the economic sphere. Thus, the concept of citizen was totally absent in the original Parecon scheme and was replaced by the concepts of the worker and the consumer thereby introducing into the proposed post-capitalist society the economic dualism of modern man that capitalist society established and, at the same time, adopting the present division of society into economic and political spheres! No wonder that Parecon ends up with a distortion of the concept of direct democracy, as I have attempted to show elsewhere,[113] which, however, it invokes.

Nonetheless, in a belated attempt to describe the political institutions, which are compatible with the Parecon economic institutions,[114] the concept of citizen was introduced, albeit as a supplementary concept to that of workers and consumers who take the important economic decisions. In this scheme, the consumer councils, under the name now of “popular councils” or just “councils”, are responsible for political decision-taking, so that consumers, as citizens this time, take political decisions, as opposed to the purely economic decisions on allocation of resources they take as members of consumer councils.

There would be primary-level councils that would include every adult in the society. The number of members in these primary-level councils would be somewhere between 25-50. Each primary-level council would choose a delegate to a second-level council. Each second-level council would also be composed of 20-50 delegates (probably the same size as the primary councils, but not necessarily so.) Likewise, each second-level council would choose delegates to third-level councils, and so on, until there was one single top-level council for the entire society.

But, the proposed legislative system would not only institutionalise a kind of “bureaucratic democracy” (no wonder Parecon was aptly characterised by John Crump, a libertarian academic of Anarchist Studies, as “participatory bureaucracy”!),[115] but also a highly hierarchical one, given that the “delegates” to the councils “would be charged with trying to reflect the actual views of the council they came from and they would not be “mandated”, i.e. councils at every level would be deliberative bodies. It is not difficult therefore to imagine that the members of each higher level council will concentrate a higher degree of power than those at lower level councils, culminating in the highest level of council, which to all intents and purposes would play the role of a kind of Central Committee on legislation! The ultimate cause of all this high degree of concentration of power has of course to do with the fact that Parecon is based on a centralised economy and society, in contrast to the radically decentralised economy and society envisaged by the ID project.

On the other hand, in a real democracy like the one proposed by the ID project, all important political, economic and social decisions are taken directly by citizens in demotic assemblies, which are the ultimate policy-making decision bodies. Wherever decisions have to be taken at a higher level (regional, confederal), it is assemblies of recallable delegates with specific mandates, who coordinate the decisions taken locally, and administer and implement them at the regional or confederal level. This means that the regional and confederal assemblies are simply administrative councils, rather than policymaking bodies as all representative bodies are.

It is therefore clear that Albert (as well as Habermas, Bobio and other supporters of the ‘civil society’ approach), sees direct democracy not as a regime, but simply as a procedure, which in fact is readily replaced by its opposite, i.e. representation, whenever direct democracy is not compatible with Parecon’s prescriptions! This is particularly the case if one takes into account that Parecon adopts an “instrumentalist” conception of politics, according to which people have a say in decisions only in proportion to the degree to which the outcomes affect them, in other words, they take part in the decision-taking process not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. This is of course similar to the present society’s conception of politics in which one engages in political action simply to promote one’s welfare, and not in accordance with the principles intrinsic to political life, such as freedom, equality, justice, solidarity, courage and excellence.

Another important difference between Parecon and ID is that the latter, following the distinction it adopts between basic and non-basic needs, proposes the principle of remuneration ‘according to need’ for basic needs and ‘according to effort’ for non-basic needs. This way, it is explicitly recognised that meeting basic needs is a fundamental human right that cannot be denied to anybody, as long as one offers the minimal amount of work required for this unlike Parecon where the satisfaction of such needs is left to a few goods declared public, as well as to compassion.

Another crucial element of Parecon is the organisation of work according to “work complexes”, which is offered as a kind of panacea securing equal empowerment and equal job desirability. However, as I showed elsewhere,[116] not only job complexes would inevitably have a limited applicability in a modern economy where technological changes have led to a high job differentiation on the basis of training, skill, dexterity, talent, etc., but also their effects on empowerment and job desirability are highly questionable. As regards empowerment, for instance, given the differences in training, experience, natural skills and so on, it is almost impossible to create “comparably empowering work lives” simply by introducing job complexes, as Albert and Hahnel assume who seem to think that the division between manual and conceptual work is the only cause of hierarchical divisions, whereas, of course, the ultimate cause of hierarchical divisions is the unequal distribution of institutionalized power among citizens.

So, although it is true that the division between manual and conceptual work is significant in creating hierarchical divisions, it would be highly simplistic to assume that this is the only cause of them, given that the ultimate cause of hierarchical divisions is the unequal distribution of institutionalized power among citizens. Therefore, the equal distribution of political and economic power, which the institutions of an inclusive democracy secure, is a crucial step in the abolition of hierarchical divisions. These institutions however should include not just assembly decision-taking but also the abolition of any de jure hierarchical divisions at the workplace, the educational place and so on what the ID project calls democracy at the social realm.

Finally, given that Parecon, like socialist planning and the market economy systems, share the same overall objective of economic growth, as well as the implied meaning of efficiency, it is not surprising that it treats ecological problems as a problem of externalities, (exactly as orthodox economists and environmentalists do!) which can supposedly be solved by involving more consumer councils rather than just the ones where proposals for collective consumption originate. This way, ecological problems are in effect reduced to secondary ones like those caused by pollution, which can indeed be taken into account through the procedure suggested. However, the main ecological problems, like that of the greenhouse effect, whose solution requires a change in the very lifestyle of citizens, necessitate abandoning economic growth as the main objective of production. Furthermore, the complete silence of Parecon on the need for radical decentralization (a decision that obviously cannot be taken by workers councils or consumers councils alone) makes clear that the concentration characterising both the market and the centrally planned economies a basic cause of the present ecological crisis is not even viewed as a problem by Parecon!

Last, but not least, Parecon, unlike ID, relies exclusively on planning for the allocation of resources. This, on top of the fact that it does not make any distinction between basic needs and non-basic needs, implies that Parecon cannot secure self management for either workers or consumers. In fact, no kind of economic organisation based on planning alone, however democratic and decentralised it is, can secure real self management and freedom of choice.

4. De-growth and ecovillages

As it was pointed out elsewhere in an assessment of the de-growth project from the ID’s point of view,[117] the emergence of the De-growth project developed by Serge Latouche, at a time when the greenhouse effect and climate change have become front page news following the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Fourth Assessment Report, which definitely linked the clear signs of global climate change with increases in man-made emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gaseswas a significant development in relation to Green politics and thought. This is because it showed that the Green movement, after its rise as an antisystemic movement in Germany in the 1970s and its subsequent integration into mainstream politics as a kind of reformist Left party or lobby, could still play a role at the boundaries between a reformist and an antisystemic movement.

At the same time, the De-growth project shows significant similarities, both at the theoretical and the strategic levels, with the “Simpler Way” approach suggested by Ted Trainer, which, like the De-growth approach, involves “mostly small, highly self-sufficient local economies; economic systems under social control and not driven by market forces or the profit motive and highly cooperative and participatory systems”, as well as the associated “eco-village movement.”[118] However, the De-growth project stresses that the transition process involves not just the creation of “eco-villages”, mainly outside the main society, but, instead, the creation of “urban villages,”[119] which involve the development of a high degree of decentralisation within the main society itself. In other words, unlike the supporters of eco-villages who, even when their aim is the creation of a new social movement and not just a life style change, aspire mainly to a movement based on communities outside the main society, supporters of the De-growth project explicitly aim to create a new social movement within the main society as the traditional Green parties have always attempted to do.

The rationale of the De-growth project is the familiar radical Green one. Growth for growth’s sake is unsustainable as it pushes the limits of the biosphere. Although there have been some improvements in ecological efficiency they have been offset by growth. As a result, the ecological crisis, particularly as far as the greenhouse effect is concerned, which threatens with a catastrophic climatic change, has been worsening all the time. It is now well established that continuous expansion has been at the expense of the quality of life in terms of clean water, air and the environment in general if not of life itself, first of animals, and then increasingly of human beings themselves. Therefore, De-growth, in terms of downscaling our economy, seems necessary and desirable. The aim should therefore be a non-growth society to replace the present growth society.

However, although, the project of De-growth is seen by its supporters as “a political project, in the strongest sense of the term, that of the construction, in the North as well as in the South, of convivial, autonomous and economical societies (and) does not come within the area of professional politicians’ politicking”[120], it is clear that it mainly aims at only one aspect of the present multi-dimensional crisis: the ecological aspect. Yet, even though this is a very important aspect of the crisis, equally important are the other aspects of this crisis. In other words, the De-growth project, unlike the ID project, is not a universalist project for human liberation, but a one-issue project. This is not surprising given Latouche’s distrust for universalist projects, which may be motivated by the postmodernist aversion to any kind of universalist project the same aversion which has led to the abandonment, by most of the Left, of any problematique for a systemic change, and to what Castoriadis rightly called ‘generalized conformism’. Apart, however, from this basic difference as regards the nature of the De-growth and ID projects, there are significant theoretical and strategic differences between them, which of course do not diminish their important similarities as regards the aim they share, as far as the main objective of economic activity in general and production in particular is concerned through a move away from the present growth economy and society and, also, concerning their common means of achieving this aim through radical decentralisation and localism.

The market/growth economy and the concentration of economic power are opposite sides of the same coin. This means that neither the concentration of economic power nor the ecological implications of the growth economy are avoidable within the present institutional framework of the internationalized market economy. However, the De-growth project does not seem to reject either the system of market economy or its political complement, representative ‘democracy’, something which clearly implies that the cultural revolution imagined by it does not imply a systemic change, but merely the “decolonization of the imaginary”, i.e. a change in values and ideas. In fact, even when talk is made about changes in the institutions, in the form of changes in the legal system and the relations of production, it is clear that these do not involve changes in the ownership of means of production and the market allocation of resources.

Still, Latouche is right, when he argues that “the creation of democratic local initiatives is more realistic than that of a democratic world government”, particularly if it takes the form of a confederation of Demoi, as proposed by the ID project, which Latouche discusses in some detail.[121] However, localism, either takes the form of urban villages and participatory democracy (Homs), or even of a confederation of Demoi within a reformed market economy and representative ‘democracy’ (Latouche), clearly could not lead to a de-growth society on the basis of the above analysis. This is because this sort of ‘ecological democracy’ in no way solves the problem of concentration of economic and political power the root cause of the present multidimensional crisis.

Similar considerations apply to Ted Trainer’s Simpler Way, which involves the development of “non-affluent (but quite sufficient) material living standards, mostly small, highly self-sufficient local economies”, through a profound change in values and world view, away from some of the most fundamental elements in Western culture, especially those related to competitive, acquisitive individualism. Trainer argues that “our best chance will be through an attempt to work here and now on the transformation of existing towns and suburbs towards being ‘eco-villages’ of a kind” a process which, he suggests, could begin as of now, through small local groups beginning to take more control over their local economies. This, he concludes, could be achieved with no fight against capitalism: “The Simpler Way is death for capitalism, but the way we will defeat it is by ignoring it to death, by turning away from it and building those many bits of the alternative that we could easily build right now”.[122]

However, as I have pointed out in reply to this argument[123], only if present antisystemic activities prefiguring the system become an integral part of an antisystemic movement, could they be part of a solution to the critical problem we face today rather than part of the problem itself. This process involves not just the creation of eco-villages (mainly outside the main society) but, instead, the creation of local ‘inclusive democracies in action’ which would gradually move resources out of the capitalist market economy and create new political, economic and ecological institutions to replace the present ones. In other words, the core of the transitional process should involve a change of institutions at the local level which, through an interplay with a consequent change in values, would lead to a new culture rather than, as Trainer seems to argue, the whole process could simply be effected through a radical change in culture that is not necessarily connected with any parallel institutional change.

According to the ID approach therefore, it is only through a transitional strategy, which would aim to create new democratic political and economic institutions and, through Paideia, which would aim to make hegemonic the corresponding values, that we could realistically hope to create the conditions for the emergence of an economy and society not based on economic growth: a real ecological democracy, as an integral part of an Inclusive Democracy. And this brings us to the crucial issue of transitional strategies.

5. The need for a new transitional strategy

As it was stressed above, the fact that we face today the end of antisystemic movements, as well as the end of class politics, does not mean that there is no ‘system’ anymore as such, or ‘class divisions’ for that matter. What it does mean is that today we face new ‘class divisions’, a fact which clearly implies the need for an antisystemic movement of a new type.

In the ID problematique, the phasing out of economic classes in the Marxist sense simply signifies the death of traditional class divisions and the birth of new ‘holistic’ class divisions, i.e. divisions which are located into the power structures of the socio-economic system itself and not just to some aspects of it, like economic relations alone, or alternatively gender relations, identity politics, values and so on. Therefore, although it is not meaningful to talk anymore about monolithic class divisions, this does not rule out the possibility that, when the subordinate social groups develop a shared consciousness about the values and institutions which create and reproduce structures of unequal distribution of power, they may unite, primarily, not against the dominant social groups as such, but against the hierarchical institutional framework and those defending it. The unifying element which may unite members of the subordinate social groups around a liberatory project like the ID project is their exclusion from various forms of power an exclusion which is founded on the unequal distribution of power that characterises today’s institutions and their corresponding values.

The comprehensive character of the Inclusive Democracy conception and its analysis of today’s ‘class’ divisions indicates that the antisystemic movement envisaged by the ID project differs radically from the traditional antisystemic movements and offers a conception for a new type antisystemic movement. Thus, the movement envisaged by the ID project differs fundamentally from the old reformist movements, like the social democratic movement, as well as the revolutionary movements, like the communist or anarchist movements, both with respect to the goals pursued and also the means used to achieve these aims.

As far as the goals are concerned, although the ID movement is, like the communist and anarchist movements, antisystemic, still, there is a crucial difference: the communist visions (Marxist or anarcho-communist), unlike the ID project, presuppose a post-scarcity society and, therefore, rule out the idea of economic democracy, whereas the anarcho-syndicalist versions are based on workers’ councils rather than, as the ID project, on citizens’ assemblies, i.e. a collective unit of decision-taking of a far broader scope.

As far as the means are concerned, the revolutionary strategy adopted by both communist and anarchist movements is rejected by the ID movement because, as I pointed out elsewhere[124], the major problem of any revolutionary strategy, either ‘from above’ (as envisaged by Marxist movements) or ‘from below’ (anarchist movements), is the uneven development of consciousness among the population. In other words, a revolution, which assumes a rupture with the past both at the subjective level of consciousness and at the institutional level, takes place in an environment where only a minority of the population has broken with the dominant social paradigm. Then,

  • if it is a revolution from above, it has a good chance to achieve its first aim, to abolish state power and establish its own power. But, exactly because it is a revolution from above with its own hierarchical structures, etc. it has no chance to change the dominant social paradigm, but only formally, i.e. at the level of the official ideology.

  • If, on the other hand is a revolution from below, although this is the correct approach to convert people democratically to the new social paradigm, it suffers from the fact that the uneven development of consciousness among the population may not allow revolutionaries to achieve even their very first aim of abolishing state power and, even if they manage to do so, the very rapid and precipitous character of revolutionary change guarantees that the uneven levels of consciousness will mark the first crucial stages after the revolution.

The rationale behind the ID transitional strategy is that, as systemic change requires a rupture with the past which extends to both the institutional and the cultural level, such a rupture is only possible through the development of a new political organisation and a new comprehensive political program for systemic change that will create a clear anti-systemic consciousness at a massive scale. This is in contrast to the statist socialist strategy which ends up with the creation of a clear anti-systemic consciousness only with respect to an avant-garde, or to the life-style activities which, if they create any antisystemic consciousness at all, it is restricted to the few members of various libertarian ‘groupuscules’.

However, the creation of a new culture, which has to become hegemonic before the transition to an inclusive democracy could be effected, is only possible through the parallel building of new political and economic institutions at a significant social scale. In other words, it is only through action to build such institutions that a mass political movement with a democratic consciousness can be built. Such a strategy creates the conditions for the transition, both the ‘subjective’ ones, in terms of helping the development of a new democratic consciousness and the ‘objective’ ones, in terms of creating the new institutions which will form the basis of an inclusive democracy. At the same time, the establishment of these new institutions would crucially assist here and now the victims of the concentration of power which is associated with the present institutional framework and, particularly, the victims of neoliberal globalisation to deal with the problems created by it.

The objective therefore of an ID strategy is the creation, from below, of ‘popular bases of political and economic power’, that is, the establishment of local inclusive democracies, which, at a later stage, will confederate in order to create the conditions for the establishment of a new confederal inclusive democracy. Therefore, a crucial element of the ID strategy is that the political and economic institutions of inclusive democracy begin to be established immediately after a significant number of people in a particular area have formed a base for ‘democracy in action’ preferably, but not exclusively, at the massive social scale that is secured by winning in local elections under an ID program. Clearly, such a strategy implies a redefinition of the emancipatory subject[125] to take into account the systemic changes that lead to a new map of class divisions today. It also implies the need for a new kind of politics, (instead of what passes as “politics” today) and political organisation, similar to the ones proposed by the ID project.[126]


[1] See T. Fotopoulos, “Class divisions today-the Inclusive Democracy approach,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 6, No. 2 (July 2000).

[2] T. Fotopoulos, “The Myth of Post modernity,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 7, No 1 (March 2001).

[3] The dominant social paradigm is defined as the system of beliefs, ideas and the corresponding values, which are dominant in a particular society at a particular moment of its history, as consistent with the existing institutional framework; see T. Fotopoulos, “Mass media, Culture and Democracy,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No. 1 (March 1999).

[4] Although one may raise serious reservations against the modern/postmodern typology, as Castoriadis pointed out, see C. Castoriadis, ‘The Retreat from Autonomy: Postmodernism as Generalised Conformism’ in World in Fragments, ed. by David Ames Curtis (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997) pp. 32-43.

[5] see T. Fotopoulos, “Towards a Democratic Liberatory Ethics,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 8, No. 3 (November 2002)

[6] By liberatory ethics we mean the approaches to ethics proposed by radical theorists of the ‘antisystemic’ Left which aim to assess from a radical viewpoint explicitly challenging the present form of socio-economic organisation based on the market economy and representative ‘democracy’the ethics of various societies in the present/past and suggest the normative ethics of a future liberatory society.

[7] See T. Fotopoulos, “From (mis)education to Paideia,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 9, No. 1 (March 2003); John Sargis, “Liberatory Ethics, Education, Paedeia and Democracy: experiences of the US education system Ibid. For an updated version see The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 2, No. 1 (September 2005); David Gabbard & Karen Anijar Appleton “The Democratic Paideia Project: Beginnings of an Emancipatory Paideia for Today,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 2, No. 1 (September 2005).

[8] see T. Fotopoulos, “The rise of new irrationalism and its incompatibility with Inclusive Democracy,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 4, Nos. 2/3 (1998); see also the exchange with Thomas Martin on the incompatibility of myths with ID in Democracy & Nature, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March 2002).

[9] We may generally define an irrational belief system as a system whose core beliefs are not derived by rational methods (i.e. reason and/or an appeal to ‘facts’) but by intuition, instinct, feeling, mystical experience, revelation, will, etc. As such, these beliefs are therefore outside any rational discourse. This is particularly true for all religions which have always been characterised by the existence of a set of irrational core truths (God, immortal soul, karma and so on) which are usually inscribed in a sacred text like the Gospel, Koran, Veda, etc.

[10] For a critique of objective rationalism, see the exchange on Marx vs. Proudhon in Democracy & Nature, Vol. 6, No.1 (March 2000).

[11] See the special D&N issue on systems theory and complexity in Democracy & Nature, Vol. 6, No. 3 (November 2000).

[12] Niklas Luhmann, Social Systems (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995).

[14] See T. Fotopoulos, “Towards a democratic conception of science and technology,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 4, No. 1 (1998).

[15] Cornelius Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy (Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 271.

[16] Thomas W. Simon, “Beyond Technological Things,” in Renewing the Earth, John Clark, ed. (London: Greenprint, 1990), p. 112.

[17] See the dialogue on science, technology and democracy with Matt Hern and Stu Chaulk, Democracy & Nature, Vol. 6, No. 1 (March 2000).

[18] See T. Fotopoulos, ‘Globalisation, the reformist Left and the Anti-Globalisation “Movement”,’ Democracy & Nature, (Vol. 7, No 2 (July 2001).

[19] Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001); see also by the same authors, Labor of Dionysus (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1994). For a detailed critique of this book from the ID perspective see the review article entitled ‘Hardt and Negri’s Empire: A New Communist Manifesto or a Reformist Welcome to Neoliberal Globalisation?,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 8, No. 2 (July 2002).

[20] See T. Fotopoulos, “Iraq: the New Criminal ‘War’ of the Transnational Elite,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 9, No. 2 (July 2003).

[21] See T.Fotopoulos, ‘New World Order and NATO’s war against Yugoslavia,New Political Science, Vol. 24, No.1 (March 2002).

[22] See T. Fotopoulos, ‘The global “war” of the transnational elite,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 8, No. 2 (July 2002).

[23] Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations (London: Simon & Schuster, 1997).

[24] Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms (London: Verso 2003).

[25] T. Fotopoulos, “The Myth of the Clash of Fundamentalisms,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 1, No. 4 (July 2005)

[26] See T.Fotopoulos, ‘Mass media, Culture and Democracy,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No. 1 (March 1999).

[27] This psychological need to conform and be “normal” at the social level, in general, and the political level, in particular, was beautifully portrayed by playrights like Ionesco (Rhinoceros, 1959) and film directors like Bertolucci (The Conformist, 1970).

[28] See T. Fotopoulos, “The Elimination of poverty,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, vol.4, no.1, (January 2008).

[29] Steve Fleetwood, ‘Less unemployment, but more bad employment’, The Guardian (13/09/1999).

[30] See T. Fotopoulos, The Multidimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy (Athens: Gordios, 2005), ch. 1.

[31] This is in contrast to ill-conceived modern ‘anarchist’ approaches, which blame for everything the state, ignoring the crucial role of the dynamics of the market economy itself in bringing about a particular form of social structure, which then led to the concrete form of modern state whose main role is to promote and reinforce this dynamics. According to one of these approaches (indirectly also adopted by Chomsky. See T. Fotopoulos, Chomsky’s capitalism, Albert’s meta-capitalism and Inclusive Democracy, Athens, 2004) it is only 20th century corporate capitalism that has to be blamed for the present situation and not the free market ! For an economistic type of ‘anarchist’ analysis, blaming exclusively the state for the present situation and adopting a ‘free market anticapitalism’(sic!), see, e.g. Kevin A. Carson, Mutualist Political Economy (2006).

[32] See T. Fotopoulos, ‘Globalisation, the reformist Left and the Anti-Globalisation ‘Movement’,Democracy & Nature, (Vol. 7, No. 2 (July 2001).

[33] see T. Fotopoulos, “The myths about the economic crisis, the reformist Left and economic democracy,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 4, No. 4 (October 2008).

[34] Hamish Mcrae, ‘Why there will be many more angry voters and hung elections in Europe’, Independent (12/04/2006).

[35] See T. Fotopoulos, ‘Limiting the Damage: the Elites’ New Approach to the Drug Problem,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 3, No. 3 (July 2007) see also T. Fotopoulos, Drugs: Beyond penalisation and liberalisation (in Greek) (Athens: Eleftheros Typos, 1999).

[36] Ian Loader, ‘We lock people up with no thought and to little effect’, The Guardian (23/11/2007).

[37] Sam Jones, ‘More than half of jails in England are too full’, The Guardian (13/08/2005).

[38] Ed Pilkington, “US prison population hits new high: 1 in 100 adults jailed”, The Guardian (01/03/2008).

[39] An important aspect of this deterioration in the quality of life is the ‘biological crisis’, aptly described by Dr. Coumentakis in this volume. Also, the catastrophic effects of the industrialisation of the food production chain on animal welfare have been brilliantly described by Steve Best and other supporters of the Animal Liberation Movement. See on the significance of this movement the dialogue on animal liberation in The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 2, No. 3 (June 2006).

[40] See T. Fotopoulos, ‘The Ecological Crisis as Part of the Present Multi-dimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 3, No. 3 (July 2007).

[41] See T. Fotopoulos, “The End of Traditional Antisystemic Movements and the Need for A New Type of Antisystemic Movement Today,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 7, No. 3 (November 2001).

[42] Giovanni Arrighi, Terence K. Hopkins & Immanuel Wallerstein, Antisystemic movements (London: Verso, 1989), p. 1.

[43] Economic power is identified not with concentration of income and wealth but with the capacity of a set of social groups to control the economic process and particularly the production and distribution processes.

[44] Political power is defined as the capacity of a set of social groups to control the political process, which is defined in a broad sense to include political institutions (government, parliament, etc.) as well as cultural/ideological institutions (education, church, mass media, art, publishing) and repressive institutions (army, police, prisons and so on).

[45] Eric Hobsbawm, ‘The Crisis of today’s ideologies’, New Left Review, No. 192 (March-April 1992, pp. 55-64.

[46] See for a detailed analysis of the decay of the present anarchist movement in T.Fotopoulos, “The End of Traditional Antisystemic Movements and the Need for A New Type of Antisystemic Movement Today”.

[47] Janet Biehl, “Bookchin Breaks with Anarchism”, Communalism, Issue # 12 (October 2007).

[48] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘The First War of the Internationalised Market Economy,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No. 2 (July 1999), pp. 357-383.

[49] The proposal for the creation of a European riot police, in the aftermath of Genoa, to smash the antiglobalisation protests, came from the German government in which the Green party was playing a crucial role. Furthermore, the European Green parties which shared governmental power, after the 9/11 attacks, had fully participated in the campaign to curb civil liberties within Europe, as part of the anti-terrorist campaign.

[50] See T. Fotopoulos, “The End of Traditional Antisystemic Movements and the Need for A New Type of Antisystemic Movement Today,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 7, No. 3 (November 2001) and a dialogue on this issue in Democracy & Nature, Vol. 9, No. 2 (July 2003).

[51] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Globalisation, the Reformist Left and the Anti-Globalisation Movement,’ Democracy & Nature Vol.7, No.2 (July 2001).

[52] see “The End of Traditional Antisystemic Movements and the Need for A New Type of Antisystemic Movement Today”.

[53] see my exchange with David Ames Curtis, the editor and English translator of most of Castoriadis’ works,,“On a Distorted View of the Inclusive Democracy Project,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No. 1 (March 1999).

[54] “Towards a Democratic Liberatory Ethics,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 8, No. 3 (November 2002).

[55] see C. Castoriadis, “Done and To Be Done” in The Castoriadis Reader (ed. by David Ames Curtis) (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), p. 412.

[56] see T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy (London/New York: Cassell/Continuum, 1997), ch. 1.

[57] ibid.

[58] ibid., ch. 6.

[59] T. Fotopoulos, The Multidimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy (IJID, Aug. 2005), ch. 2.

[60] see C. Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p.145.

[61] see Herbert Marcuse, Soviet Marxism (London: Routledge,1958) p.151.

[62] see “The rationality of capitalism” in Figures of the Thinkable ed. by Werner Hamacher (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2007).

[63] Castoriadis interviewed by channel 3 of Greek State TV (ERT 3) in 1993; see also C. Castoriadis, ‘“The Rationality’ of Capitalism” in Figures of the Thinkable.

[64] T. Fotopoulos, “Castoriadis and the democratic tradition,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Issue 10) (1997), pp. 157-163.

[65] see about the bursting of the financial bubbles T. Fotopoulos, “The myths about the economic crisis, the reformist Left and economic democracy”.

[66] C. Castoriadis “The West and the Third World” in the Greek edition of World in Fragments (Athens: Upsilon, 1992), p. 91.

[67] Ibid., p. 96. See, also, C. Castoriadis, “Reflections on ‘Rationality’ and ‘Development’,” in Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy, ed. by David Ames Curtis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 199-218.

[68] C. Castoriadis, Facing the War (Athens: Ypsilon, 1986) translation of Castoriadis’ text under the same title (1980), p. 19.

[69] ibid., p. 37.

[70] see e.g. World Revolution, “Death of Cornelius Castoriadis: Bourgeoisie pays homage to one of its servants” (December 12, 2004). Also, Castoriadis became widely known among British intellectuals and the public, after he was presented to the British viewers, in a main TV intellectual program of the BBC, by Michael Ignatieff, the well known stooge of the transnational elite and supporter of all its recent wars, who is about to be rewarded with the Canadian Prime Minister title shortly!

[71] see Takis Fotopoulos, ”The Catastrophe of Marketization”, Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No. 2 (July 1999).

[72] Richard Adams, “Invasion of Iraq was driven by oil, says Greenspan,” The Guardian (17/09/2007).

[73] C. Castoriadis, “The Gulf War Laid Bare” (first published in French in Libération (Paris), February 5, 1991: 14).

[74] For a critique of Tariq Ali’s similar myth of ‘clash of fundamentalisms’, which also ends up with an ‘equal distances’ approach, see “The Myth of the Clash of Fundamentalisms,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 1, No. 4 (July 2005).

[75] see C. Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy (Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 145.

[76] see the Greek ID journal Periektiki Dimokratia, No. 8 (September 2004).

[77] C. Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy, p. 21.

[78] see e.g. “Psychoanalysis and Philosophy” (1996) in The Castoriadis Reader, p. 355.

[79] “The ego trip”, Essay by Paul Broks, The Guardian (06/05/2006).

[80] The dominant social paradigm is defined as the system of beliefs, ideas and the corresponding values, which are dominant in a particular society at a particular moment of its history, as consistent with the existing institutional framework; see T. Fotopoulos, “Mass media, Culture and Democracy,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No. 1 (March 1999).

[81] see C. Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997), p. 359.

[82] C. Castoriadis’ introductory interview in The Castoriadis Reader, edited by David Ames Curtis, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), pp.26-27.

[83] C. Castoriadis’ introductory interview in The Castoriadis Reader, p. 27.

[84] see T. Fotopoulos, “Class Divisions Today: The Inclusive Democracy approach,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 6, No. 2 (July 2000).

[85] see Towards An Inclusive Democracy, chs. 1-2.

[86] C. Castoriadis, World in Fragments (Stanford Univ. Press, 1997), p. 122.

[87]M. Bookchin, The Philosophy of Social Ecology (Montreal: Black Rose, 1995), p. 178.

[88] see T. Fotopoulos, “Towards a Democratic Liberatory Ethics”.

[89] Cornelius Castoriadis, La Montée de l’insignifiance (Paris : Seuil, 1996). For an unauthorised translation see The Rising Tide of Insignificancy (December 2003) ”translated from the French and edited anonymously as a public service”.

[90] ibid.

[91] See, M. Bookchin, The Philosophy of Social Ecology, Introduction.

[92] Ibid. p. xii.

[93] ibid. p. xi.

[94] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp 328-340

[95] T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, p. 330.

[96] See e.g. John Clark, ‘The Politics of Social Ecology: Beyond the Limits of the City,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No. 3 (November 1999).

[97] Peter Marshall, Nature’s Web (London: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 426.

[98] See T. Fotopoulos, ‘The Rise of New Irrationalism and its Incompatibility with Inclusive Democracy’ Democracy & Nature, Vol. 4, No. 2/3 (1999).

[99] see e.g. Towards a New Political Humanism by Barry F. Seidman and Neil J. Murphy (Prometheus Books, 2005).

[100] M. Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism (London: Wildwood House, 1974), p.12.

[101] Janet Biehl, The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism (Montreal: Black Rose Press, 1998), chs 10 & 12

[102] See for a proposed mechanism of allocating resources in an economic democracy, Takis Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 6.

[104] Janet Biehl, The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism, p. 98.

[105] Janet Biehl, The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism, p. 132-37.

[106] Ibid. See, also, pp. 111-120.

[107] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Transitional strategies and the Inclusive Democracy project,’ Democracy & Nature, Volume 8 Number 1, March 2002.

[108] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 6.

[109] See T. Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 5.

[110] see Michael Albert, Parecon Life After Capitalism (London: Verso, 2003).

[111] T. Fotopoulos, “Inclusive Democracy and Participatory Economics,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 9, No. 3 (November 2003).

[112] see M. Albert, Parecon, Life After Capitalism (London: Verso, 2003), p. 13.

[113] see T. Fotopoulos, Chomsky’s capitalism, Albert’s post-capitalism and Inclusive Democracy (in Greek) (Athens: Gordios, 2004).

[114] See Stephen R. Shalom, “ParPolity: Political Vision for a Good Society,Z Magazine/ZNet (November 2005).

[115] John Crump, “Markets, Money and Social Change”, Anarchist Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring 1995), pp. 72-73.

[117] T. Fotopoulos, “Is de-growth compatible with a market economy?,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 3, No. 1 (January 2007); see also the debate on de-growth in the same issue with articles by Serge Latouche and others.

[118] See Ted Trainer, “Renewable Energy: No Solution for Consumer Society,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 3, No. 1 (January 2007) and also the dialogue on ecovillages, The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 2, No. 3 (June 2006).

[119] Clement Homs “Localism and the city: the example of ‘urban villages’,” in The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 3, No. 1 (January 2007).

[120] Serge Latouche, “Degrowth: an electoral stake?,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 3, No. 1 (January 2007).

[121] Serge Latouche, “Will the West actually be happier with less? The world downscaled”, Le Monde diplomatique, December 2003.

[122]Ted Trainer, “On eco-villages and the transition,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 2, No. 3 (June 2006).

[123] Takis Fotopoulos, “Is the eco-village movement a solution or part of the problem?,The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 2, No. 3 (June 2006).

[124] T. Fotopoulos, “Transitional strategies and the Inclusive Democracy project,Democracy & Nature, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March 2002).

[125] ibid.

[126] ibid.