For nearly 10 years now, the global systemic crisis has been composing an impressive symphonic « canon » in which the financial crisis, the economic crisis, the social crisis, the political crisis, the ideological crisis and the geopolitical crisis, all of them of a global dimension, play similar melodic lines sequenced one after the other.
We’ve been repeating it for months: it’s the political aspect of the crisis which currently dominates the global agenda in an increasingly worrisome manner. The weakening of states as a result of these political crises, combined with geopolitical or economic shocks suffered by these states, leads to national retrenchment and hardening that does not bode well for democracy, from a domestic point of view, or for peace, from an international point of view. We’ve already seen all this in detail. However, we should analyse carefully the characteristics of this multi-directional national retrenchment.
Serial political crises and the weakening of states, to begin with
The most emblematic of these political crises is currently provided by Brazil and the second attempt by the country’s political class to impeach their democratically elected president. Such a situation, though in this case it concerns a modern and important country, is far from being singular. Quasi-simultaneously, another attempt of impeachment, in the end aborted, struck Jacob Zuma, the South-African president. Before that, though based on more popular dynamics, we witnessed violent political questioning of leaders like Erdogan in Turkey and Putin in Russia. Of course, the case of Yanukovych in Ukraine must be placed in this category of impeachments or impeachment attempts on elected heads of State. Even Europe has its case with Italy, a country governed by a non-elected leader since Enrico Letta was compelled to resign in 2014 (outside any popular demand, in this case). These disturbances find their model in the Arab springs, even though it appears clearly that expelled leaders are anchored in less and less arguable democratic systems…
In general, this trend must be related to the obligation of transparency conveyed by the internet, as well as to the imperative need to reinvent democratic methods, something which we often highlight in these pages. Indisputably, at the age of the internet and of ultra-connected and globalised social fabrics, the former system of democratic validation of political leaders by means of periodical elections is no longer efficient in creating the legitimacy needed to govern. Many intellectuals are working on this reinvention of the tools of political legitimation worldwide, but at this stage nothing impressive is to be seen, apart from new parties emerging, elected leaders being overthrown, and meaningless referenda taking place. The reform expected on this major issue goes much further than that.
Hardening of states, and withdrawal from democracy and openness, as a second step
With no solution in sight, increasingly severe political destabilisation provides perfect conditions for a hardening of states, withdrawal from democratic principles and subduing, by local interests or not, of national societies. Between foreign tutelage and old-style nationalism, people are far from having a say in the public debate for the years to come in those countries where upheavals take place at the top