The crisis of capitalist democracy and the continuing relevance of the communist ideal
in The capitalist mode of destruction
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This chapter explores the erosion of democracy as a result of capital’s undemocratic control of the surplus. Departing from the two different meanings of the term “democratization” in scholarly literature, the chapter explores the paradox of liberal democratic institutions spreading around the world even as the ability of ordinary citizens to have a say on the decisions affecting their lives declines. Adding to this book’s argument that, like the other crises facing humanity today, this predicament requires a classless, non-exploitative society that allows ordinary people to democratically control the surplus, this chapter questions the ideological understanding of communism as antithetical to democracy. Fueling this ideological understanding is the identification, in many people’s minds, of communism with the regimes that consolidated themselves in the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Far from disproving the possibility of a democratic classless society, these regimes’ failure merely signified the inability of the new class order these regimes instituted to compete with the capitalist class order they sought to displace. In advancing a critique of the ideological equation of communism with dictatorship, the chapter shows that the many similarities between contemporary capitalism and the unappealing social model that prevailed in the Soviet Union render problematic the view of communism as the “other” of democracy. Rather than a threat to democracy, the struggle to achieve the communist ideal is the best chance humanity has to reverse the hollowing out of democracy that results from capital’s control over the surplus.

The capitalist mode of destruction

Austerity, ecological crisis and the hollowing out of democracy


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