In the last few blogs, we examined social realities in our political life. Using the spiral of political maturation we named them and classified them and identified that the West is embarking on a transition--from Plutocratic Pluralism to Conventionalism.
What exactly the next stage of the West’s development will look like is largely speculative, but there are some modern societies from which we can draw inferences and many characteristics that we can safely assume will mark a conventionalist society.
In the end-stages of Plutocratic Pluralism, the people have grown weary of their government’s lack of concern for their well-being; they won’t stand for the widespread corruption and self-serving public policies that ultimately bankrupt their countries. The people finally realize that democracy is a buzzword with no real meaning in their society and that politicians and the elite, in their lust for money and power, have ushered in a cataclysmic, systemic crash.
The crash, hopefully, reveals government for what it really is--an entity of the people, a projection of, created by and for the people, with no power and no money and no legitimacy without the consent of the people. This realization comes with it both hope and despair. With it, people realize that there is no one to blame for their social ills but themselves, as they knew the nature of their government all along and only stood up for change after everything had fallen apart. Still, a new society and a new future await, the nature of which has the potential to force policies for overall good.
To use a Hegelian model, if Plutocratic Pluralism is the thesis, Conventionalism is the anti-thesis. Where decisions were made in a top-down fashion, the lack of trust in politicians, the prevalence of accessible communication technology, and a new outlook towards democracy could result in the opposite--a bottom-up decision process.
Rather than policy coming from the halls of power in capital cities, they will come from living rooms and café patios as psycho-social reality becomes one where widespread political participation is an accepted and reinforced social convention.
We can see examples of modern societies where this is, on a small scale, already the case. In Switzerland, referendums may be held for even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant decisions. Recently, the Swiss people just voted to expel foreign criminals from their country. However, in most Western democracies, despite paying lip-service to democratic ideals, the political elite prefer for most decisions to be made centrally and without consulting the citizenry.
This is, of course and, as the article points out, extremely frustrating to the political elite in surrounding European countries who are affected by Swiss popular decisions and probably cry out to their Swiss counterparts, “You know, you can just tell them what to do!” There is evidence of this in the fact that when referendums are held in EU countries that do not amount to the benefit of the political elite, they are held again until, after much rhetoric and mass media-supported propaganda, the desired result is achieved.
Iceland is attempting to become a Conventionalist society. After complete economic collapse in 2008, Iceland was under pressure to take the route traveled later by some fellow European countries (Ireland, Greece) and privatize their banking industry, take massive IMF bailouts, impose crippling austerity measures, and essentially put their people on the hook for enormous debts accrued by financial and political elites. Icelanders wouldn’t have it, though, and nearly the entire country took to the streets until officials had no choice but to reject outside pressures and now, a new Icelandic constitution is being written online by the people themselves. It is possible, and even likely, that Iceland will ultimately cave to these outside pressures, but we can at least observe a twinkle in the distance of the West’s move towards Conventionalism.
Participation will be key in a Conventionalist society. Determining the course of a nation is a tireless endeavor and politics is messy and incredibly inefficient. People may find themselves exhausted by the constant, relentless decisions that confront them. The urge to return allowing others to make decisions will likely be strong, risking a return to the existence of political elite who, by nature, will serve themselves before they serve the greater society.
Other problems arise in Conventionalism beyond democratic exhaustion: we may see a tyranny of the masses when referendums after referendum are decided by the majority, minority groups become consistently marginalized.
This serves to illustrate that no system is perfect. The spiral and societies are in constant motion, ever-evolving and building on the lessons of previous generations. We are an endlessly fascinating, inherently flawed yet intrinsically beautiful species whose history and future are equally exciting.
- Tom Kershaw
- Hi! I'm Tom and I am a full-time writer, musician, and father to a firecracker of a four year-old. My wife and I lease our house and cars from her in hopes that her considerable talents of mess-making, princess-impersonation, and stuffed animal-whispering will pay off and fund our eventual retirement in the south of France.
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