Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Democratic states

Guy Debord; Society of the Spectacle, 134:

To reflect upon history is also, inextricably, to reflect upon power. Greece was that moment when power and changes in power were first debated and understood. This occurred under a democracy of society's masters, a system diametrically opposed to that of the despotic State, where power settled accounts only with itself, in the impenetrable obscurity of its densest point, by means of palace revolutions whose outcome, whether success or failure, invariably placed the event itself beyond discussion.

To hear the politician tell it, "Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." So the devil himself quotes scripture! And more than this, he is sincere by his own terms: what he means is a "democracy of society's masters" -- the liberty of the ruling class -- "a system diametrically opposed to that of the despotic State, where power settled accounts only with itself," and which left individual elites unprotected against the collective whole.


Salty Justice said...

If I read this correctly, it's trying to say that being allowed to discuss the intrigues of the elite is somehow better than not being allowed to discuss the intrigues of the elite.

What I really want to know is how a writer can put things to paper without thinking about what he's putting on the paper. If anything, shouldn't your own ideas be the ones most clear to you? Can anyone help me out here?

Anonymous said...

One of the problems with Leftists is their tendency to write impenetrable "prose" that strikes me as onanistic at best, and intentionally misleading at worst.

Guy Debord is well loved, though I doubt it's because of the quote, which I find densely confusing, and I'm able to read legal case opinions from the UK in the 1700s without confusion.

Hopefully JRB can translate, I trust he's had more experience with Debord and can give some context and some jargon word synonyms.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you can think of an example of a mass protest with many economic and political demands, such as an end to emergency law, the removal of a puppet dictator, higher wages for the working masses, a more equitable distribution of wealth. Millions turn out, all supporting the same demands and shortly after the largest of these, the dictator resigns but turns the operation of the government over to the military. The military ends emergency law but imposes martial law. It orders a new constitution, but hires sitting judges to write it. It promises freedom of speech, but stifles protests of the workers demanding economic justice. This is not a palace revolt. We can discuss the events and speculate on the direction that society's masters will take the protest. The military, the business elite and outside benefactors will create a new democracy, better than any tried before.


Anonymous said...

The phrase "palace revolution" is not that clear, but apparently means "revolution crafted by those who are being ejected... a Trojan Horse."