вторник, 25 марта 2014 г.

Talks on TED. Ivan Krastev: Can democracy exist without trust?

   This talk was presented at an official TED Conference. Ivan Krastev is the chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, and permanent fellow at the IWM Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna. He is a founding board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the advisory board of the ERSTE Foundation and a member of the global advisory board of the Open Society Institute. He is also associate editor of Europe's World and a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Democracy and journal Transit – Europäische Revue. His latest books in English are The Anti-American Century , co-editors with Alan McPherson, (CEU Press, 2007) and Shifting Obsessions: Three Essays on the Politics of Anticorruption (CEU Press, 2004). He is a co-author with Stephen Holmes of a forthcoming book on Russian politics.    So from his home base in Bulgaria, Ivan Krastev thinks about democracy — and how to reframe it.
    Political scientist Ivan Krastev is watching the Euro crisis closely, fascinated by what it reveals about Europe's place in history: What does it mean for the democratic model? Will a fragmented Europe return to nationalist identity politics?
     In his latest work, Krastev places recent events on a continuum of five revolutions over the past decades:

* The socio-cultural revolution of the 1960s. 
* Market revolutions of the 1980s. 
* Central Europe in 1989 (which brought socio-cultural and market revolutions together). 
* The communications revolution. 
* And finally the revolution in neurosciences, which lays bare the irrationality and emotional manipulation in popular politics.

    As a result of these five great changes, we've become extremely open and connected, while on the flipside cementing a mistrust of elites. Can democracy flourish when a mistrust of elites is a permanent feature? This is an extremely important issue.

     So, five great revolutions have shaped political culture over the past 50 years, says theorist Ivan Krastev. He shows how each step forward — from the cultural revolution of the ‘60s to recent revelations in the field of neuroscience — has also helped erode trust in the tools of democracy. As he says, "What went right is also what went wrong." Can democracy survive? Ivan Krastev thinks yes, but democracy is in crisis.

      One of the things that Ivan Krastev wanted to question in his speech is this very popular hope these days that transparency and openness can restore the trust in democratic institutions.   

     Krastev gave an example: there is an election day in any country. People came to vote. And when the votes had been counted, three-fourths of the people have voted with a blank ballot. The government and the opposition, they have been simply paralyzed. Because you know what to do about the protests. You know who to arrest, who to negotiate with. But what to do about people who are voting with a blank ballot? So the government decided to have the elections once again. And this time even a greater number, 83 percent of the people, voted with blank ballots. Basically they went to the ballot boxes to tell that they have nobody to vote for. According to Ivan Krastev, it very well captures part of the problem that we have with democracy in Europe these days. On one level nobody's questioning that democracy is the best form of government. Democracy is the only game in town. The problem is that many people start to believe that it is not a game worth playing.
    For the last 30 years, political scientists have observed that there is a constant decline in electoral turnout, and the people who are least interested to vote are the people whom you expect are going to gain most out of voting: the unemployed, the under-privileged. And this is a major issue. Because especially now with the economic crisis, you can see that the trust in politics, that the trust in democratic institutions, was really destroyed. 
   According to the latest survey being done by the European Commission, 89 percent of the citizens of Europe believe that there is a growing gap between the opinion of the policy-makers and the opinion of the public. Only 18 percent of Italians and 15 percent of Greeks believe that their vote matters. Basically people start to understand that they can change governments, but they cannot change policies.
    Ivan Krastev asked such questions as : How did it happen that we are living in societies which are much freer than ever before -  we have more rights, we can travel easier, we have access to more information  - at the same time that trust in our democratic institutions basically has collapsed? What went right and what went wrong? 
     According to Ivan Krastev the first thing that went right was these five revolutions which very much changed the way we're living and deepened our democratic experience. Also we have the Internet. It has changed the way we are communicating and basically we are viewing politics. The very idea of political community totally has changed. There is one more revolution, and this is the revolution in brain sciences, which totally changed the way we understand how people are making decisions.
So this is what went right. But if we're going to see what went wrong, we're going to end up with the same five revolutions. For example, we have the market revolution of the 1980s and the huge increase of inequality in societies. Until the 1970s, the spread of democracy has always been accompanied by the decline of inequality. The more democratic our societies have been, the more equal they have been becoming. Now we have the reverse tendency. The spread of democracy now is very much accompanied by the increase in inequality. And I find this very much disturbing when we're talking about what's going on right and wrong with democracy these days. And when we talk about the Internet, yes, it's true, the Internet connected all of us, but we also know that the Internet created these echo chambers and political ghettos in which for all your life you can stay with the political community you belong to. And it's becoming more and more difficult to understand the people who are not like you. Many people have been splendidly speaking about the digital world and the possibility for cooperation, but have you seen what the digital world has done to American politics these days? This is also partly a result of the Internet revolution. This is the other side of the things that we like.   And when you go to the brain sciences, what political consultants learned from the brain scientists is don't talk to me about ideas anymore, don't talk to me about policy programs. What really matters is basically to manipulate the emotions of the people. And you have this very strongly to the extent that, even if you see when we talk about revolutions these days, these revolutions are not named anymore around ideologies or ideas. Before, revolutions used to have ideological names. They could be communist, they could be liberal, they could be fascist or Islamic. Now the revolutions are called under the medium which is most used. You have Facebook revolutions, Twitter revolutions. The content doesn't matter anymore, the problem is the media.
  These days it's very popular to believe that this push for transparency, this kind of a combination between active citizens, new technologies and much more transparency-friendly legislation can restore trust in politics. 
 Transparency is not about restoring trust in institutions. Transparency is politics' management of mistrust. We are assuming that our societies are going to be based on mistrust. And by the way, mistrust was always very important for democracy. This is why we have checks and balances. This is why basically you have all this creative mistrust between the representatives and those whom they represent.  
    But is this the idea of a free society? Unfortunately, not.

   Regardless of how transparent our governments want to be, they're going to be selectively transparent. So when we talk about transparency, when we talk about openness, Ivan Krastev  believes that what we should keep in mind is that what went right is what went wrong. In the end, he gave the citation of Goethe: "There is a big shadow where there is much light."

    As a result of this speech, we can say that Ivan Krastev didn't give us answers, but put before us many extremely important issues that need solving. And solving these problems will bring us closer to the model of the really democratic society.

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