Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent

Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent: capitalism, democracy and the organisation of consent, edited by Rebecca Fisher, reviewed by Bert Schouwenburg

January 31, 2014 · 2 min read

Is representative democracy anything other than a legislative and bureaucratic framework constructed to contain dissent and prevent populations from exercising any form of real control over the corporations that dominate their lives? Not in the view of the authors in this edited collection. Liberal democracy as it is understood in the west, they argue, is there to suppress the threat of a genuine, participatory democracy, not to liberate people from corporate domination and the human and environmental damage that accompanies it.

Combining analysis of techniques used to obtain consent for inequality, unfettered capital accumulation, imperialism and war with studies of how ‘democracy’ is manufactured, both at home and abroad, the various authors graphically illustrate how mainstream media echoes corporate propaganda via newspapers, TV, radio and film.

They show how language is adapted to demonstrate that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand and that those who would challenge what is clearly a dubious proposition are branded as deviant because western institutions are sacrosanct and support for the concept of private property and the rule of law is nothing more than ‘common sense’.

Capitalism has shown itself to be extremely versatile in the co-option of individuals and organisations such as NGOs that potentially threaten the hegemony of its ruling elites and there are several chapters devoted to that process in its various forms. Unfortunately none are devoted to trade unions, which, in many instances, have bought in to what is referred to as ‘low intensity democracy’ and devoted considerable resources to flawed notions of changing society by the ballot box. Nevertheless, this does not detract from the importance of the book, which should be required reading for trade union activists everywhere.

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