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The Mock Democracy

The citizens are disenfranchised and conditioned to be politically apathetic consumers. In recent decades, democracy has been replaced by the illusion of democracy. New forms of organization of power and psychological methods for manipulation of our consciousness protect the powerful against the risks of democratic empowerment and strengthen their position.

by Rainer Mausfeld, translated by Terje Maloy

Democracy and freedom. Two words that are charged with unheard-of social promises and that can release tremendous energies of change to achieve them. Today, hardly more than a shadow remains of the hopes originally associated with them. What happened? Never before have two words, to which such passionate hopes were attached, been emptied of their original meaning in such a socially far-reaching way. They have been falsified, abused, and turned against those whose thoughts and actions are inspired by them.

Democracy today really means an elected oligarchy of economic and political elites, in which central areas of society, especially the economy, are fundamentally removed from any democratic control and accountability; at the same time, large parts of the social organization of our own life lie outside the democratic sphere. And freedom today means above all the freedom of the economically powerful.

With this Orwellian reinterpretation, these two words now have a special place in the endless dictionary of falsified words throughout history. With the poisoning of these two words, our hopes for a more humane society and a containment of violent ways of solving things are confused, clouded, broken and almost wiped out from the collective memory. The loss of the civilizing dreams associated with these two concepts makes it hard for us today to politically articulate an attractive, decent alternative to the prevailing power relations, or even worse, think of any at all.

Democracy, which was originally associated with great hopes for political self-determination and a safeguarding of internal and external peace, is left only as a formal shell in the real structure of society. Democracy has been reduced to a staged spectacle of periodical elections, where the population can choose from a given «elite spectrum». Real democracy has been replaced by the illusion of democracy; free public debate has been replaced by opinion- and outrage-management. The guiding principle of the responsible citizen has been replaced by the neoliberal ideal of the politically apathetic consumer.

Of the hopes associated with the concepts of democracy and freedom, only the empty words of a false promise have been retained by the powerful; with these words it is possible to effectively manipulate the consciousness of the subjugated majority.

International law has also today largely developed into an instrument of undisguised power politics. The self-declared ‘Western community of values’ has openly reverted to its almost religious belief in the effectiveness of violence, the wholesomeness of bombs and destruction, drone killings and torture, support for terrorist groups, economic strangulation, and other forms of violence that serve their purposes. This is a political fetishization of violence, whose effects can be seen all over the globe.

Hardly more than a historical memory is left of the great hopes originally associated with democracy and international law, namely, the hopes that civilization could contain power and violence. The populace is all the more being forcefully convinced of the political rhetoric of democracy and international law, with which the economically or militarily strong seek to win the consent or tolerance of the populace for their actual practice of a violent realpolitik. In today’s realpolitik, the right of the strongest has again long been accepted.

Two hundred years after the Enlightenment, which we praise so much our political rhetoric, we live in a time of radical counter-enlightenment. At the same time, when it serves their power interests, the powerful like to refer to the Enlightenment in order to affirm their claimed civilizational superiority over those they consider to be their enemies.

An elitist democracy is a contradiction in terms. While there are formal democratic elements in an elitist democracy, they are structurally kept to a minimum. Despite this minimalistic democracy, from the point of view of the actual economic and political centers of power, democratic elements are not necessarily as risk-free as they would like.

So in order for the present power elite to secure their status, they are dependent on securing themselves against democratic aspirations.

The weak point is now the public debate space, which – especially in the periodic elections – could potentially become a risk against stability. How can this be controlled in an elitist democracy? How can the risk that democracy potentially poses be kept as low as possible? If the remaining democratic residual elements were removed, it would no longer be possible to maintain the democratic rhetoric useful for preventing revolution; for public debate and periodic elections are indispensable even for the mere illusion of democracy. So if the real centers of power want to keep these formalities, they need appropriate ways to build stability that can make democracy risk-free for them.

Over the past few decades, the powerful have made great efforts to develop new ways of securing such stability, in order to protect the democratic residual elements remaining in elitist democracy from the risks posed by democratic empowerment.

These include, in particular, novel structural forms of organizing power, as well as psychological methods for manipulating our consciousness. Of course, the roots of these developments go much further back, but these developments have accelerated rapidly and become institutionally solidified in recent decades. The social transformation process associated with these things is similar to the effects of a «revolution from above», i.e. a revolution that represents a project of the economic elites and serves to expand and consolidate their interests. The transformation process that accompanies this revolution essentially rests on two pillars.

The first pillar of this transformation process is that the organizational forms of power are designed more abstractly and with a purposeful diffusion of social responsibility, so that the unease, indignation or anger of those ruled can find no concrete, i.e. politically effective, targets. Thus a will for change in the population can no longer find expression among the actual decision-makers.

This process of transformation consists of a creeping – and for the populace as invisible as possible – creation of suitable institutional and constitutional structures. With these structures, power relations can be stabilized and the redistribution processes permanently removed from democratic access, and thereby be made largely irreversible. For this, the democratic structures historically won after hard struggles must be eliminated or eroded, so that their effectiveness is neutralized.

In addition, domestic and international law must be ‘developed’ in such a way that the centers of economic and political power can legally enforce their interests authoritatively in the legal framework thus created. In particular, a legal framework must be created to enable the transformation of economic power into political power, and to provide a legal framework for the desired or already established upwards redistributive mechanisms, so that the minimum remaining democratic possibilities cannot undo them.

The organized crime of the propertied class is not only legalized by such lawmaking, but also protected for the future and sealed against possible democratic interventions.

The second pillar is the development of sophisticated and highly effective techniques that can in a targeted way manipulate the consciousness of the ruled. Ideally, those who are ruled should not even know that there are centers of power behind the political surface, presented by the media, of seemingly democratically controlled power. The most important goal is to neutralize any social will to change in the population or divert their attention to politically insignificant goals.

To achieve this in the most robust and consistent way possible, manipulation techniques aim for much more than just political opinions. They aim at a purposeful shaping of all aspects that affect our political, social and cultural life as well as our individual ways of life. They aim, as it were, at the creation of a «new human being» whose social life is absorbed in the role of the politically apathetic consumer.

In this sense, they are totalitarian, so that the great democracy theorist Sheldon Wolin rightly speaks of an «inverted totalitarianism», a new form of totalitarianism, which is not perceived by the population as totalitarianism. The techniques for this have been and are being developed for about a hundred years, at great expense and with substantial involvement from the social sciences, whose importance in society is closely linked to the provision of methods of social control.

A central element of these techniques for manipulating the consciousness of the population is the creation of appropriate ideologies that are largely invisible to the population as ideologies and thus provide a barely questionable framework that gives meaning to all the individual’s social experiences.

The core of these ideologies, culminating in neo-liberal ideology in recent decades, is the ideology of an expertocratic «capitalist elite democracy», in which competent and well-committed elites should direct the fate of society in the most efficient manner possible.

Both developments serve to make power unidentifiable and therefore invisible, in order to undermine our natural mental defense mechanisms against being ruled by others. Both are characteristic of the modern forms of contemporary capitalist elite democracies.

We can only develop promising strategies of resistance to the current order based on power and violence if we sufficiently understand these new organizational forms of power. The same applies to the manipulation techniques, through which specific properties of our mind can be exploited for political purposes.

Rainer Mausfeld, born 1949, is professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Kiel (Germany), and a popular lecturer and author. Translated by Terje Maloy as Creative Commons 4.0. from Rubikon.

Terje Maloy is a Norwegian citizen, with roots north of the Arctic Circle. Nowadays, he spends a lot of time in Australia, working in the family business. He has particular interests in liberty, global justice, imperialism, history, media analysis and what Western governments really are up to. He runs a blog, mostly in Norwegian, but occasionally in English. He likes to write about general geopolitical matters, and Northern Europe in particular, presenting perspectives that otherwise barely are mentioned in the dominant media (i.e. most things that actually matter).


  1. David Horsman says

    Before continuing, “freedom and democracy?”

    The word freedom means so many different and contradictory things to so many different people it is meaningless.

    Freedom is the acceptance of your responsibilities (to me.)

    Democracy is better defined in its various forms should it become a possibility. What we have is corporatism evolving into full blown fascism as it recently did in Israel.

  2. A very good piece, although I would have liked more emphasis on the two forms of invisible globalist dictatorship – the now established neoliberal, and the emerging collectivist. Both almost glory in their denial and manipulation of reality, and both behave like the more intolerant forms of religion.
    Technology has overlain this escapism by allowing individuals to find solace in online hermitage rather than social intercourse and communitarian action. The Gilets Jaunes of France are a welcome reaction against the plunder of the Gigarich 3%;

  3. I lost faith in the system some years ago and have stopped voting. I refuse to enable/encourage the political class through the election process when it seems to me the entire charade is simply theatre to give the illusion of choice and input. Left. Right. Centre. It matters not who/what party hold the reins of power. Corruption, nepotism, and criminal behaviour continues without pause.

  4. Freedom is slavery. Left wing is right wing. Right wing is left wing. Outside of these prodigious metaphors what remains other than human morality and ethics supposedly shared by all parties?

  5. Kathy says

    A good article.
    This democratic process weakens us the the giver and empowers the recipients. It contrives to diminish confidence and trust in our own abilities to self govern and be responsible for our actions as loving human beings collectively. The idea that we could live in harmony and trust. Free of dominance has been conditioned out of people and replaced with mistrust and a suspicion of each other. It is this that has kept us locked in fear of our own human nature and enabled the unscrupulous to dominate. This corruption of power has led to rulers elected to feed off the many and enable and elevate the few. They destroy, murder and enslave. Without reprisals.They do the very thing. The people gave their power away to prevent.

  6. Fair dinkum says

    The One Per Cent are fearful.
    Climate catastrophe is on our/their doorstep and they know that the only way they can maintain control is via totalitarianism.
    Batten your hatches.

    • milosevic says

      Conversely, perhaps social revolution is on their doorstep, and the only way they can maintain control is via threats of climate catastrophe, now that the utterly fraudulent nature of the Terror War is obvious to anyone with eyes to see.

    • Michael Leigh says

      While I am not totally comprehending the antipodean catastrophy you cite or indeed what is “fair dinkum or not in that concern or not ” ?

      But given the incredible climate fears and sums of public money awarded to the actual mass polluters I would say that for them it is ” a fair dinkum “.

  7. milosevic says

    the great democracy theorist Sheldon Wolin rightly speaks of an «inverted totalitarianism», a new form of totalitarianism, which is not perceived by the population as totalitarianism. The techniques for this have been and are being developed for about a hundred years, at great expense and with substantial involvement from the social sciences, whose importance in society is closely linked to the provision of methods of social control.

    A central element of these techniques for manipulating the consciousness of the population is the creation of appropriate ideologies that are largely invisible to the population as ideologies and thus provide a barely questionable framework that gives meaning to all the individual’s social experiences.

  8. mark says

    You could argue that the promotion of apathy and depoliticization has already achieved its objectives.
    In the UK, if you go back to the 1970s both major political parties had memberships of around 2 million. Now it is what – 100,000 geriatrics apiece?
    Trade unions have lost millions of members since that time and become more or less completely emasculated and irrelevant.
    Churches, charities, sports clubs, amateur dramatic groups, used to be mass organisations, the glue that held society and communities together. Ancient history. Now all people want to do is play with their iphones and ipods.
    120 million didn’t bother voting in the 2016 US elections – 48%. I’m not saying they should – voting is totally pointless, and refusing to participate in this way may even be a positive development, denying the ruling elite a measure of legitimacy.
    Nobody could really give a t*ss any more. Everybody realises they have been lied to for years and the MSM and conventional politics are a sick joke.
    Hence the synthetic, manufactured obsession with identity politics as a meaningless diversion from real issues. Rabid feminists, gays, trannies, 57 varieties of perversion and degeneracy, ethnic groups.
    But it could be this descent into meaninglessness and broad farce is something to be welcomed, and a possible solution. A few years ago, MI5 brought out a report predicting that the middle class would become the new revolutionary class. Society depended on the active participation of millions of people to make the system work – people with technical or specialist or managerial experience, skilled workers and so on. But those people were losing everything that the system once offered them – job security, pensions, status and so on. They would just lose interest in a system that no longer had anything to offer them and become apathetic. They would become a revolutionary force, not by storming the barricades or participating in mass demonstrations like Occupy or the 2003 Iraq demonstrations, but just by withdrawing their support and refusing to participate. And this disaffection alone would bring the system down.

    • Ken Kenn says

      Nothing wrong with Philosophy but no one is going to “think” their way out of this Democratic Crisis.

      It’s glaringly obvious in the so called democratic west that the parameters of debate are managed by the politicians who work for the one percent.

      This is nothing new, it’s just that years ago it was carried out silently and now it’s an open secret.

      The question is: how do we get out of bind that the media – politicians and some of the voters impose on political discussion and how do we take on the financial power of the Corporate sector in influencing the debate and even the selections of candidates in each of the nations?

      Not voting is just what they want as the alternative is to vote for the lesser of two evils.It suits the PTB fine if you don’t vote at all.

      This all depends on whether we think democracy automatically equals freedom?

      Does it?

      If the answer to that is it doesn’t, then just destroying it ( or boycotting it ) is not the answer.

      The debate in the future is going to be about finding better forms of democracy or it’s complete overthrow.

      Just ignoring ( as in not voting ) or destroying democracy requires that we have to replace it with something else.

      The question is: will the answer come from the left – or the right?

      There is a start in this direction from the left in the UK (Corbyn) and in the US ( Sanders hopefully) but the democratic problem in both cases is that the parties they are in and their leaderships are sabotaged by the politicians and their acolytes within the same parties who don’t want to change the status quo.

      In both cases their opponents are intent on crushing democracy not allowing it to flourish.

      They are fearful of change because their whole world ( materially and ideologically ) will cnage with it.

      We must always bear in mind that there are around 5% of people literally employed by the 1% to protect them and the income/lifestyle they have become accustomed to.

      It is an investment.

      We have to break that chain between the two.

      The next years will be a steep learning curve where we learn what to do and what not to do and it’s already started on the net but one day it may require a physical manifestation.

      Thinking great – no doubt about that but action is greater.

      Macron is not being Twittered into a retreat he is being forced into a retreat for now.

      When the CGT and the truck drivers threatened to join in – that’s when he retreated.

      • David Horsman says

        “We must always bear in mind that there are around 5% of people literally employed by the 1% to protect them and the income/lifestyle they have become accustomed to.”

        That is what is truly relevant.

  9. harry stotle says

    Don’t you just love it when someone can precis complex ideas and make them instantly accessible and understandable.

    Rainer Mausfled captures the political zeitgeist perfectly IMO.
    His diagnosis is spot on although what to do about it is a harder question to answer.

    • George cornell says

      The solution imo to some of the most egregious problems of democracy is more democracy.
      In the US it should be easy to adopt a zero tolerance policy for lobbying. The two party system in which there are only trivial differences between the two is there to protect the interests of the few.

      They need a third party desperately and Perot almost made it happen. The public has been powerless since to prevent an endless succession of increasingly odious Hobson’s choices like Clinton vs Trump. The systematic interference with the media by the 1% can be proscribed. The gaming of drug approval by Pharma could be eliminated. Etc.

      It would take a revolution of sorts to implement these but as the decaying infrastructure continues to rot so that invasions and pillaging of sovereign nations can proceed, eventually there will be a will to do this. America may come down from within, to the betterment of the world.

      • mark says

        I believe the only solution may be a form of direct democracy on something like a Swiss model.
        A few years ago the commander of the Swiss air force said he wanted some new planes.
        They held a referendum on (1) whether to buy some new aircraft or not and (2) if the answer to part 1 was yes, whether to buy US, Swedish or Russian aircraft.

        The referendum result was yes, buy some new US aircraft.

        • If I recall correctly, this was somewhat like the setup in Libya before we liberated them.

  10. Thomas Prentice says

    I just sent this out to my list:

    “Both developments serve to make power unidentifiable and therefore invisible, in order to undermine our natural mental defense mechanisms against being ruled by others. Both are characteristic of the modern forms of contemporary capitalist elite democracies.”

    YOUR JOB, if you choose to accept it, is to make power identifiable and visible in order to undermine power’s natural defense mechanisms against being ruled by the people in a democracy…The secretary will disavow any knowledge bla bla bla bla (After the TV show Mission Impossible. Let’s do Mission POSSIBLE – thom]

  11. The next step – from such observations is to re-educate ourselves – as to OUR own conditioning – that we so readily see in others or the world.

    The need-driven (tyrannous) assertion of and demand for substitution for true relational communication is the masking mind or personality construct. This of course goes ‘deep’ – relative to any surface narrative identification – and is the re-opening of what such a surface mind was invoked to keep denied.

    Addressing the underlying patterns or devices of mind cannot occur or be understood WITHIN the framing OF such a mind. NO ONE ELSE is responsible for your decision to accept the false in place of true and run with it as IF it was. But until the denied or hidden ‘unconscious’ is brought to the light of awareness instead of being protected and kept ‘invisible’ awakening responsibility or freedom is merely an unrecognised and misperceived potential. Misperceived in the framework of a false sense of self in freedom FROM relational being, which is the mind of guilt, fear and blame or penalty.

    Communication is natural to being – and automatic or innate – and so the blocking, filtering and distorting of communication is an ‘un-natural learning goal’ in which we are so adapted as to trust the mind of fear and align in hate for our guidance and protection. But of course we do so within the masking distortions of conflicted private agenda.

    Aligning in the true of our being is radically free of the urge to ‘make or manipulate’ truth – an itch which – if scratched, always generates a dissonant or conflicted result or experience.
    Persisting in and against a sense of dissonance grows a sense of fragmented self in terms of separation-trauma; lack, denial, deprivation, desertion, betrayal and etc – upon or from which a ‘survival strategy’ grows as an adaptation to the ‘social masking’ of a dissociated and displaced humanity.

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

    But note that the funding (taxes) and usurpation of resource (scarcity induced sacrifice) for the futility of such an endeavour as ‘War on (insert feared evil symbol here)’ is never intended to succeed in its stated goal – but to protect the masked or hidden agenda from true resolution.

    And so the ‘matrix’ of lies operates the mind-capture of mis-indentification.

    • So….Binra,
      If we are to assume, as you say…….. we are separated from reality by a convoluted misconception of twisted, circular reasoning flying through an invisible tube of consciousness inside our manipulated mind while flailing to grab coherence from a blur of false premises on a spinning smorgasbord of mind mines and we have made the wrong choice….. what was the right choice? Mormon?

  12. Gary Weglarz says

    Here in the U.S. the institutional forces aligned “against” anything resembling democracy are already hard at work two years before the next national election. The leadership of the Democratic Party are already demonizing anyone who could be considered to the left of the corporate/military interests they so faithfully represent. So although Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America by the polls, the Democratic establishment wants nothing to do with him, and vilifies those who support him as “divisive” and “playing into Trump’s hand,” etc. Remember that Bernie is hardly some revolutionary figure in any sense, and although he advocates for some of the social welfare benefits enjoyed by much of Europe (healthcare, free university), he is also by record a committed U.S. exceptionalist imperialist. In other words, Bernie, while he represents the very far “left” perspective on domestic issues, one that can barely even be “voiced” in public debate in the U.S., simply offers his followers more “endless war and mayhem abroad with free college at home” as his dream for the future.

    As odious as the Orange One is the fact remains that his positions on U.S. foreign military policy put him to the “left” of literally everyone of any prominence in the Democratic Party. The only Democrat in Congress that I am aware of who truly challenges the military/industrial complex is Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii, an Iraq war veteran who actually had the temerity to visit Syria herself, meet with Assad, and afterward to introduce legislation in Congress to “stop funding terrorists” who were attacking Syria. Of course she was ruthlessly attacked in the media by the Democratic Party for being literally the only sane and ethical voice in Congress on the matter. Both U.S. political parties are totally controlled by the oligarchy and the major institutions here and to Israeli foreign policy interests. This is the petri dish in which the Trump phenomenon sprouted and grew in opposition to a political process everyone knows is utterly corrupt. Had the Democratic Party not sabotaged the Bernie Sander’s nomination I’d now be commenting on his foreign policy misadventures since polls showed he would have won the election against any other possible candidate.

    To even speak the word “democracy” in relation to the political process available to the populace of the United States is to engage in utter absurdity. There is one coin, it is owned by the oligarchy, and we the public can call “heads” or we can call “tails” at each election, but now matter how the coin lands (heads vs tails) the oligarchy always wins – well – until the Orange One somehow slipped his own coin into the mix, exploding the Republican Party establishment in the process. I think the Russiagate insanity in Washington media and policy circles the last two years, and now the vociferous bi-partisan attacks in opposition to the U.S. removing troops from Syria, where we have no business being in the first place of course, suggests that the Orange One has at least introduced some “white noise” into the system of business as usual. I do not expect this whole de-escalation of U.S. military insanity in the Middle East to go well for the Orange One given the forces aligned against such a policy change. It should be an eventful new year here in the ‘land of the free” and “the home of the brave” where our matter of fact acceptance of our own “exceptionalism” is as much a tenant of our bizarre surreal collective identity as the Nazi’s embrace of their concept of “master-race.” That a person with as many obvious character flaws as Trump can be the one to engage in the ethical sane response to our out of control U.S. imperialism by removing troops from Syria, and yet be attacked from the “right” by his opposition in the Democratic Party and also attacked roundly by his own party, does not speak well for our future electoral choices here in the “beacon of democracy” that is the U.S. The oligarchy would appear to have three choices, “impeachment, assassination, or capitulation to reigning in our highly lucrative imperialist foreign policy.” I’m not a betting man, but I wouldn’t put my money on that last option.

    • milosevic says

      The oligarchy would appear to have three choices, “impeachment, assassination, or capitulation to reigning in our highly lucrative imperialist foreign policy.” I’m not a betting man, but I wouldn’t put my money on that last option.

      Kennedy tried to normalize US relations with Russia, and Nixon tried to normalize US relations with China. What happened to them?

      • mark says

        Moore is a faux left arsehole, cheerleading for Clinton. He was trying to portray her as a cross between Mother Teresa and Jesus. He is worth over $100 million and owns several mansions. It can be very lucrative being an “Ordinary Joe” and a “man of the people.”

  13. Frankly Speaking says

    If you are not already acquainted with him, I strongly recommend that OG readers research the founder of the term “inverted totalitariansm”, the late Sheldon Wolin:

    Also read his book: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

    He truly saw what was coming and what is now occuring. It’s frightening and difficult to see how societies can now reject it, it’s become so pervasive, so dominant, even in the UK.

    • Frankly Speaking says

      …actually should have written “ESPECIALLY in the UK”.

  14. BigB says

    This is one of the more important political philosophy essays OffG has published. Thank you.

    I get it, people don’t do philosophy, but maybe they should. Philosophy is the developmental psychology (psychology and philosophy = psychosophy), which is the idealist foundationalism of our societies. If, in Arendt’s view, the raison d’etre of politics is freedom – then political theory is an epic human failure. If we want to know why, and propose a remedial politics – we need to understand the ‘psychosophy’ of political freedom.

    Democracy and freedom are a priori transcendental idealisms: as such, they are metaphysical truth claims that exist mind-independently and prior to knowledge. Because they they are mind-independent and disembodied: they cannot be fully realised. The only means of realisation is through our flawed senses, irrational mind (when Reason is clouded with emotion), and educated, entitled, and privileged elucidation …i.e. the ‘democratic’ morality must be interpreted by the intellectual minority (a ‘noocracy’), and dispensed for the uneducated masses. In other words, these Ideals (of which Democracy and Freedom are two key concepts) are accessible to the (privately – i.e. superiorly) educated few. Thus we have an “aristocratic police state”, to borrow from Kant – which is neither democratic or free.

    These idealisms: being quasi-eternal (always existing laws of knowledge – not directly, but indirectly being conferred to the Universal Transcendent Mind (God)); as such, they cannot decay. Clearly our, or ‘their’, interpreted versions can, and have, decayed, inverted, and subverted our political philosophy. The reason for this, I would propose, is that if we have transcendent Ideals we cannot ever ’embody’ (instantiate, realise, actualise, make fully present) – then we are each made the subjugated Other to an external and eternal mind – independently existing – that we cannot fully know. We have entered into a Social Contract the determines the right of others to interpret these Transcendent Idealisms for us. Then we wonder why this is not working out?

    At what point do we question the very process of appealing to substantive a priori concepts and principles (universalised Laws) as logically (and epistemologically) flawed? Kant also intimated that we must be completely free of political principles in order to discuss – in the public sphere of debate – the very principles of politics. Having mind-independent, disembodied principles interpreted for us is a form of totalitarianism. An existential totalitarianism. We are perpetually infantalised and subjugated by a priori concepts and principles (universalised Laws) …to the point that we are excluded from the debate by our own internalisation of these conceptual principles. We are not just not part of the interpreted process: we are not even part of that interpreted reality. We have been a priori ruled out of political existence.

    How do we switch the debate away from the pseudo-intellectualised interpreted exclusive fictionalle? I would propose that our own experience is the key. By moving away from the pre-conceptual and conceptual (pre-ontological and ontological) to an embodied reality makes a priori knowledge redundant. Having the socio-political basis of our experience dictated to us becomes impossible if we know who we are. We are experiencing our experience as an embodied reality now. Who can tell us what to think about who we are: when we are who we are?

    By penetrating deeply into the embodied lived experience: a new political theory arises. One, not built on a priori principles: one built on actualisable, existential, experiential principles. Not theory, Praxis. The democratic praxis of Freedom is from the tyranny of an misinterpreted a priori freedom …to the instantiated reality of actualisable Freedom.

    The Mock democracy is over as soon as we want it to be …as soon as enough people realise exactly what it means to be free. That is: to understand the ‘psychosophy’ of political freedom. Or better still, the Ecosophy of political freedom. The first major hurdle is in knowing that is not going to work out the way they, the pseudo-aristocratic ‘noocracy’, want it to. We just need to work out how we want it to work out: by enacting the embodied principles of the lived experiential.

  15. Peter Charles says

    The only criticism of this article I have is that there is nothing new about ‘mock’ democracy, it has always been so. We have always been ruled by “…. an [elected] oligarchy of economic and political elites.” The individual components of those elites wax and wane in power and influence and there are political and governmental policy drifts in response to those changes. There are outside pressures that arise among the populace that can also force such drifts. Notable was the post WW2 social and welfare changes although that had more to do with the fear among the then economic and political elite that a returning, disciplined and confident soldiery may decide to violently ‘take’ their due if ‘they’ were seen as reluctant to grant it.

    Similarly the 1960s economic boom and shortage of labour (although that was as much a consequence of overmanning and restrictive work practice implemented after WW2 as it was a true shortage) empowered the workforce such that they were able to get a substantial rise in wages, the first time the general workforce in the UK had a real and dependable disposable income. This in turn led to the social revolution that also caused policy to drift.

    But make no mistake, it was not democracy that caused those changes, it was the economic and political elite responding to outside influence in the way they thought the best to maintain their position. On those occasions it was to the benefit of the average man, next time it most likely will not be, just as the response to the last financial crash was to ‘save’ the economic elite at the expense of everyone else.

    • The post WW2 consensus was that government policy shoyld be directed at maintaining full employment. Thus resl wage growth and the rise of broad middle class prosperity.

      Neoliberalism changed all that in the mid 70s and to this day the fiction of fiscal balance rules the political discourse.

      Economics went backwards (to pre 1929) and stayed there.

    • Toby says

      I’ve listened to a few of Mausfeld’s lectures, and would say that he would agree with your main point; that it has, more or less, always been this way. On why that might be, I am finding “On Kings” (by David Graeber and Marshall Sahlins) to be very insightful. I’ve just started reading it, but even the introduction is very eye opening.

      In essence, regardless of the social mode humans live in – be it hunter-gatherer “egalitarian” bands, pre-state tribes or modern corporatocracies –, there is invariably a super-powerful external “monopoly on force” meting out reward and punishment in an almost arbitrary way. The arbitrariness is a kind of logical corollary of the necessarily external nature – the foreignness – of said monopoly. Foreignness makes ‘impartiality’ feasible, e.g., justice is blind. However, blind power will cause terrible tragedy from time to time. On the other hand, it is its enormous, life-and-death power that makes it so attractive in a Hobbesian way; it can tame the wild in all of us, civilise us, keep enemies at bay. So kings are often, in their origin myths, from somewhere else, wild and unpredictable, extremely dangerous and thus very well equipped for crushing all enemies (but also, sometimes, unpredictably, their own subjects). This cartoony dynamic is true of ‘democratic’ governments too, to differing extents. With hunter-gatherers, it is wild, unpredictable nature in the form of thunder, hurricane, flood, etc. And to appease that power, to get the best possible (far from perfect) treatment, one must obey.

      A very rough sketch, but food for thought I hope.

      As for a way out, my sense is that only ethical evolution via emotional maturity and information transparency as the focal points of social institutions has a chance. For us to want that, I suspect there must first be a deep collapse of the current system. That gives the small chance that we, addicts all in various ways, see the source of our addiction – let’s say sugar-daddy conveniences like gadgets, Netflix and holidays in the sun – and want it no more. Or, want emotional maturity more, in the manner of alcoholics who have experienced enough self-destruction to do what it takes to grow up.

      • Peter Charles says

        It is very difficult for it to be otherwise. Human-kind is fundamentally a pack species, maybe ten percent of the population have the ‘Alpha’ genes that drive them to dominate and the rest are generally ‘hard-wired’ to to obey and follow the Alpha. Well, so long as they maintain their position and strength, if they don’t another will take their place, or they would if our advanced society did not protect them far beyond their sell date.

        Unfortunately Alpha does not equate to intelligence and ability, although such traits are usually important if they are to hold their position. Even more unfortunately careers like politics and teaching attract Alphas and Alpha wannabees and tend to be even more protected so that even when their mediocrity is exposed they still cling on like **** to a blanket.

  16. curri says

    “The core of these ideologies, culminating in neo-liberal ideology in recent decades, is the ideology of an expertocratic «capitalist elite democracy», in which competent and well-committed elites should direct the fate of society in the most efficient manner possible.”

    James Burnham wrote about this (with the exception of the part about neoliberalism) in his well known !940 book, The Managerial Revolution.

  17. “We can only develop promising strategies of resistance to the current order based on power and violence if we sufficiently understand these new organizational forms of power.”

    This is, unfortunately, not the whole answer. Knowledge is most certainly not power, at least not in the present climate, just as the fate of Wikileaks’ project was that the truth won’t set one free.

    All the understanding in the world will not free a single individual. Only a massive social movement inoculated against all the state’s arsenal of dirty tricks and thuggery can accomplish the task. It’s probably impossible at this moment in history.

    As for genuine popular anger at declining living standards/life opportunities, the elites cater to this with counter-revolutionary populists like Trump who can progress more swiftly the radical remaking the author describes.

    • RealPeter says

      Mausfeld’s description of the two pillars of neo-totalitarian transformation applies very well to France – for example, the first pillar (the creation of diffuse power structures with no clear political responsibilities) precisely mirrors the last 30 years’ local government reorganization whereby the directly-elected councils and mayors of cities, towns and villages have seen their powers progressively stripped away to the benefit of giant, indirectly-elected conglomerates called ‘communautés de communes’, remote from citizens, who are no longer sure about who does what. Out of habit, citizens with complaints (e.g., about rubbish collection or a problem created by a new set of traffic lights or whatever) go to their mairie (town hall), only to be told that the responsibility has been transferred to the communauté de communes, which nobody knows anything about.

      In addition, there were formerly 22 ‘regions’, each with an elected council and responsibilities, which have now been reduced to just eight, once again distancing citizens from political decision-making.

      Meanwhile, unpopular government measures are blamed on ‘Brussels’ or other vague foreign entities, even completely abstract ones like ‘international competitivity’.

      The result of these changes is increasing helplessness, the feeling that nothing can be done by ordinary citizens, but this also creates frustration and resentment – all of which inevitably lead to anger. This at last seems to have broken out with the gilets jaunes protests, which are proving to be more resilient and determined than I’d personally expected – these people have, for once, not gone on holiday during ‘les fêtes de fin d’année’, but are still out there in the cold manning (and womanning! – one of the most striking aspects of the movement is the number of women involved) traffic roundabouts and motorway toll stations. And, despite the constant media denigration (‘populism’, racism, extremism, violence, and of course ‘anti-Semitism’ and conspiracy theories), their popularity has not significantly decreased.

      In addition, Boy Wonder Macron has plans to reduce the number of députés (MPs) and abolish the Senate, the upper house of the French parliamentary system. According to opinion polls, these measures would be popular, but I feel this is only because politicians in general are so reviled. The French parliament is already incredibly weak, and one wonders why Macron doesn’t just come out into the open and abolish the whole useless charade. Too cowardly?

      Mausfeld’s second pillar (manipulation of the consciousness of the ruled) applies of course to the entire MSM discourse extolling ‘our democratic freedoms’, i.e., mass consumerism and entertainment – supermarkets, professional sport, the music industry, TV series, reality shows, cooking shows, toothless comedy, celebrities, juicy rapes and murders, terrorism, the oppression of LGBTIs by any handy bogeyperson such as Muslims; in short, anything to distract the populace from the important issues. Bread and circuses – there’s nothing new under the sun.

      Finally, there is little MSM debate in France on macro-economic issues and none whatsoever about geopolitical ones, just discussions between ‘experts’ who disagree only on points of irrelevant detail. It would be called propaganda, except that propaganda is only what evil enemies like Russia and China indulge in. Trump’s decision (whatever it actually turns out to mean) to get US troops out of Syria was greeted in the French MSM with the same wide-eyed horror as in the US and the Guardian. France’s military presence there is simply never discussed, indeed is practically never even mentioned.

      Mausfeld has found the right term for all this – mock democracy.

      To conclude, a word of congratulations for what seems a pretty competent translation for a non-native English speaker. Sorry for being so long. I could have gone on for longer.

      • @RealPeter: “France’s military presence there [in Syria] is simply never discussed, indeed is practically never even mentioned.”

        I have just now read in SyrPer that the Syrian Army is moving into Manbij, and the Frogs leaving with the Yanks.
        Another climbdown by Presidenh Micron.

    • Norcal says

      I agree axisofoil, this brief, well written book explains much about why we are in our current dilemma. I will also link F. William Engdahl’s web page for other important articles.

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