Mistaking the Kratos for the Demos
There are many things that can be said about the recent events in Bolivia. A few things that must not be contended: It was a coup. It was politically motivated. The violence that has followed the coup (particularly against the indigenous peoples of Bolivia) is a clear violation of human rights.
The recent events have also provided an opportunity to think about how democracy (or perhaps more accurately, power) operates.
Benjamin Kunkel posted the below thought (he later deleted it, though I’m not sure why) to which Chris Hayes responded with:
Hayes’s response is a particular strain in liberal thinking. The idea being: democracy levels the political field and allows the sovereignty of “the People” to be expressed. If the People want a neoliberal leader or a conservative, etc. instead of a leftist one, then so be it. It’s a fine thought, but deeply flawed in its understanding of power and particularly how power is transferred.
This thinking fundamentally disregards the role (political and monied) elites play in the wielding and passage of power and how elites influence or (as we’ve seen in Bolivia) sometimes coerce the political course of the state.
Turn in any direction and we see the multifaceted ways the power of the elites and the privileged is used to rule over the majority of people in society. We see most eligible voters (especially those of lower social, material, and political classes) are disenfranchised, disincentivized, and discouraged from participating in politics and achieving their political and material interests. Voting is made odious and fair proportional representation is a far-off fantasy not even yet dreamt of in the social imaginations of most citizens. Actual attempts to bring about parity in both political and economic ways are met with outright hostile responses by the ruling members (or sadly, just those above the bottom rung) of society. Any actors outside of neoliberal or conservative (or simply put: capitalist) strains of thinking are ridiculed and questioned by corporate media outlets and their pundits (or perhaps more accurately: sophists), who take their time and effort to speak out from their very largely read or viewed soapboxes; they are undermined either by members of opposing parties or within their very own, and attacked by monied elites via funding and support to opposing candidates in every available election. The values or propositions of a more collective, social living are not taught or often ever considered in the education systems, even at tertiary levels, which themselves continue to deteriorate as the private is prioritized over the public to the detriment of those who cannot afford to access the evermore-exclusive modern society.
Notice, I’m not even referencing Bolivia in the above paragraph, or any of the other like-states that have suffered from the long, sordid history of tampering by the United States. I’m only speaking of the United States itself and its “democratic values” when it comes to more egalitarian practices.
To put it simply, if we look at the current state of affairs and evaluate them in a theoretical vacuum, we do a great disservice to understanding power and those (very few and select) in our daily lives who use it to their own advantage. And much more practically and importantly, it allows atrocities like the coup and subsequent racist violence in Bolivia to be seen as abrupt contingencies of the time rather than what they are: concerted actions taken by politically motivated actors keen on achieving a specific goal.
To lose sight of how power operates and its impact on politics is only to the detriment to the very people liberals like Hayes are so keen on elevating.