PURPLE PATCH: Democracy and the people

Eric Hobsbawm

Daily Times – Pakistan
November 24, 2008

Read it


(…) it is now clear that the utopia of a stateless, global laissez-faire market will not arrive. Most of the world’s population, and certainly those under liberal-democratic regimes deserving of the name, will continue to live in operationally effective states, even though in some unhappy regions state power and administration have virtually disintegrated. Politics will therefore continue. Democratic elections will go on.

In short, we shall face the problems of the 21st century with a collection of political mechanisms dramatically ill-suited to dealing with them. They are, in effect, confined within the borders of nation states, whose numbers are growing, and confront a global world that lies beyond their range of operations. It is not even clear how far they can apply within a vast and heterogeneous territory that does possess a common political framework, such as the European Union. They face and compete with a world economy, operating through quite different units to which considerations of political legitimacy and common interest do not apply — transnational firms. Above all, they face an age when the impact of human action on nature and the globe has become a force of geological proportions. Their solution, or mitigation, will require measures for which, almost certainly, no support will be found by counting votes or measuring consumer preferences. This is not encouraging for the long-term prospects of either democracy or the globe.

In short, we face the third millennium like the apocryphal Irishman who, asked for the way to Ballynahinch, pondered and said: “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.”

But here is where we are starting from.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: