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Reactionary Democracy

Reactionary Democracy

How racism and the populist far right became mainstream. By Aurelien Mondon and Aaron Winter. Verso 2020

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Democracy is not necessarily progressive, and will only be if we make it so. What Mondon and Winter call “reactionary democracy” is the use of the concept of democracy and its associated understanding of the power to the people (demos cratos) for reactionary ends. The resurgence of racism, populism and the far right is not the result of popular demands, it is the logical conclusion of manipulation by the elite of the working class to push reactionary ideas. These narratives portray racism as a popular demand, rather than as something encouraged and perpetuated by elites, exonerating those with the means to influence and control public discourse through the media in particular. This has legitimised the far right, strengthened its hand and compounded inequalities.

These actions divert us away from real concerns and radical alternatives to the current system. Through a careful and thorough deconstruction of the hegemonic discourse currently preventing us from thinking beyond the liberal vs populist dichotomy, this book develops a better understanding of the systemic forces underpinning our current model and its exploitative and discriminatory basis. The book shows us that the far right would not have been able to achieve such success, either electorally or ideologically, were it not for the help of elite actors like the media, politicians and academics. While the far right is a real threat and should not be left off the hook, the authors argue that we need to shift the responsibility of the situation towards those who too often claim to be objective bystanders despite their powerful standpoint and clear capacity to influence the agenda, public discourse, and narratives, particularly when they platform and legitimise racist and far right ideas and actors.

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