On Democracy, Plutocracy and Realpolitik

Which of these definitions most accurately describes the system of government in the UK?

  1. Government by the people; a form of government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
  2. The political control of the state by an oligarchy of the wealthy.

The first definition is for Democracy the second for Plutocracy.

The Condem alliance’s abandoning of  pre-election promises, the events in Greece and Italy and the E.U.’s unprecedented expansion of powers that have been justified by the ‘Euro Crisis‘, has made it all too clear that what we actually have in the UK,  and most Western ‘Democracies”, is a form of elected Plutocracy.

In the UK certainly (and the U.S. definitely) principled political debate about policy is entirely absent from public discourse, why? Because Western style parliamentary democracy is a sham and we are in fact ruled by a wealthy oligarchy, a plutocracy, which have shared interests and thus agree on almost everything of moment.

When we vote at elections all we are deciding is which of these Plutocrats will be the Capo Dei Capi (the boss of bosses) for a brief period. Thus the inevitable descent into ‘personality politics’……… because there is nothing else; there is no real politics only realpolitik.

Elections in western democracies no longer determine future policy. Political parties in the West no longer fell they have any obligation at all to pursue their election manifesto once in office, and the press long ago stopped attempting to hold politicians to their manifesto commitments. As a result no one reads manifestos any more. Manifestos are literally meaningless documents. Once in power governments feel at liberty to do anything, including taking the country into illegal wars despite widespread popular opposition.

New Labour positioned itself in PR terms in opposition to the Conservatives but actually continued Thatcher’s neoliberal privatisation of the Welfare State and deregulation of the financial industries– sometimes openly, sometimes surreptitiously. The ConDems are simply carrying on the project started in 1979.

What confuses many of us is that Miliband and Cameron, Romney and Obama, fight each other with such vehemence it appears as if there is some real point of principle dividing them; it gives the illusion of real politics.

But for Western politicians there is something really, really important at stake – their careers.

They agree on just about everything except which of the privately educated, independently wealthy, member of the ruling elite should be in charge this time.

For them politics is a game, it is about who will win, about who is the ‘winner’. For many in the UK what passes as politics is the playing out of playground or quad squabbles started when the politicians were boys at school or University (see Boris Johnson still jockeying to take the spotlight from David Cameron – they were rivals at Oxford in the ’80’s).

In this regard Western politicians are no different from their comrades in arms in corporate management and the Civil Service. For these men and women, the quest for personal success is by far the most determining of motivations; principles and concepts of justice, equality, service, self-sacrifice and honesty, are readily abandoned in the pursuit of personal ambition but justified in the name of ‘pragmatism’ and ‘realpolitik’.

Modernity is not democracy; machinery is not democracy; the surrender of everything to trade and commerce is not democracy. Capitalism is not democracy; and is admittedly, by trend and savour, rather against democracy. Plutocracy by definition is not democracy. But all these modern things forced themselves into the world at about the time, or shortly after the time, when great idealists like Rousseau and Jefferson happened to have been thinking about the democratic ideal of democracy.

1933G. K. Chesterton, All I Survey, Essay XXIII: On Industrialism


About I Am Not A Number

I Am Not A Number is written by Chris Jury. For 30 years Chris Jury was a TV actor, director and writer best known for playing Eric Catchpole in over 60 episodes of the BBC’s antique classic, Lovejoy, and for directing over 50 episodes of Eastenders. In 2008 he was appointed as the Senior Lecturer in Recorded Media in the School Of Music & Performing Arts at Bath Spa University. He currently presents, Agitpop, a pop & politics radio discussion programme on North Cotswold Community Radio http://www.agitpopradio.org.uk He is currently the Communications Officer for UCU at Bath Spa University and a UCU SW Regional Rep at SWTUC.
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10 Responses to On Democracy, Plutocracy and Realpolitik


  2. moelarrythecheese says:

    Yes, politics is an ugly monster. We just have to keep trying to steer the beast in the proper direction and hope that it evolves into something more of our liking.

  3. xraymike79 says:

    Politics has been financialized. Economies privatized. The common good of society has been slaughtered at the alter of Capitalism. The existence of Democracy is just a myth perpetuated by the corporate-owned mass media and their sock-puppet political figureheads. If you can accept these realities, then your frustrations with a system, broken beyond repair, will be recognized as wasted tears.

  4. Pingback: Cameron Reveals the Second Totalitarian Democracy | Strangely Perfect

  5. moelarrythecheese says:

    The quality of a democracy is degraded when a voter is one of millions, if not billions. Could one say that the quality of a democracy increases as the number of voters decreases?

  6. moelarrythecheese says:

    I’ll answer my own question: yes, duh.

    • Well, the smaller the electorate the more direct the democracy. Which is why many anarchists like me favour anarcho-syndicalism, whereby small workplace or community units are self-governing.

  7. moelarrythecheese says:

    anarcho-syndicalism – I’ll bet you can’t say that three times fast.

  8. Pingback: The State at the End of the Universe – John Malcolm

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