I have said many times before that I felt that Colin James was THE political journalist in my time. There are many excellent political journos but Colin was for 50 years the writer to read carefully.
Colin has written a summary (he says it is his last, but I don’t believe him) putting the Jacinda Ardern legacy into perspective. Here is a quote from it:
So, too now, as I noted earlier: global rebalancing, instability and a potential serious shock, climate change and ecosystem failures, the digital revolution and genetic and associated technologies which will reshape our societies, potentially enable wider democratic engagement, improve health care and education and make producing things and delivering services easier and more precise. That combination of endogenous and exogenous influences will demand big policy change.
Let us analyse this. The big disruptive events in our society call for greater democratic engagement. This will lead to politicians behaving in a different manner to how they do right now.
I received this from Carl Davidson last week and this adds to what Colin has written above:
Post-democracy was well advanced in most of Europe and North America well before the digital platforms appeared. As the political scientist Colin Crouch defines it, a post-democratic society is one that retains the institutions of mass democracy, but where these have negligible effects on policymaking. It reduces elections to a spectacle of stage-managed debates and poll-driven simulations of ‘voter demand’. Whereas mass democracy means that popular desires and interests have to be taken seriously, post-democracies are in the business of population management. Like cybernetic systems, post-democracies are far less interested in consent than in moderating the behaviour of elements within the system. Like the algorithmic protocols of the digital platforms, they hit below the intellect, working underneath the surface of persuasion, building realities into our everyday experience. It doesn’t negotiate with our wants, it shapes what we are capable of wanting. And, as the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta once put it, ‘everything depends on what the people are capable of wanting.’
The underground persuasion of reality-shaping is what big tech does really well. It is quite different from what used to be called hegemony. Hegemony is a strategy of obtaining leadership of a broad civil society coalition to achieve political goals. It means building alliances with other groups by taking their interests and desires seriously, rather than just coercing them. It means offering moral leadership rather than simply material incentives. At their most successful, ruling groups are able to explain their own interests in terms of an ‘historic mission’ for the whole society. In the Cold War era, the struggle against communism was this sort of mission. While it surveilled and repressed communists, leftwing trade unionists and radical civil-rights activists, it also won broad popular consent.