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Domenico Losurdo: “The phenomenon of urban jacqueries is set to be repeated in Europe”

Chris Webb10 August 2011

Read an excerpt from Verso author Domenico Losurdo's book Democracy or Bonapartism, which touches on the urban revolts currently sweeping through England, and, as he suggests, soon to ignite the rest of Europe. Translation kindly provided by Gregory Elliott

The 1992 Los Angeles uprising was the flip side of rejection of the principle of proportional representation and of the political decapitation of the subaltern classes. Still subject to a significant degree of racial discrimination; following the victory of the minimalist definition of democracy reduced to a market; no longer regarded as the possessors of social and economic rights; lacking any party organization they could count on; without the possibility of access to the means of information and hampered in their access to the ballot box by voter registration laws; unable, ultimately, to make their voices heard at a properly political level, blacks could protest only by resorting to a kind of urban jacquerie—a furious, destructive rebellion that in no way alters the existing state of affairs.

As demonstrated, in particular, by the example of the French Fifth Republic, in this century too the march of Bonapartism has been punctuated by the imposition of uninominal constituencies. Electoral legislation compounds the effects that derive from the monopoly held by the very wealthy on a mass media apparatus of unprecedented power, accelerating and reinforcing the process of political decapitation of subaltern classes.

With the on-going triumph of the American model, the phenomenon of urban jacqueries is set to be repeated in Europe, fuelled by immigrants, lumpen proletarians, subaltern and marginalized social strata. This is already occurring in England. The process of emancipation, which in the last two centuries forced equal universal suffrage (one person, one vote), required proportional representation in the name of the 'equal representative value' of each individual vote. It challenged the monopoly on representative bodies, however configured and camouflaged, possessed by the wealthy. It linked political rights to social and economic rights. And it perceived and celebrated democracy as the emancipation of classes, 'races' and peoples hitherto kept in a condition of subalternity. But this process seems to have suffered a serious setback. In this sense, we are witnessing a phase of disemancipation—one of those phases that has marked the long, tortuous career of democracy, but of which there is at present no end in sight.

Domenico Losurdo is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Urbino, Italy and the author of Liberalism: A Counter-History

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