Archives November 2019

WHAT DOES IT LAY BEHIND THE THIN VEIL OF OUR FREE AND DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY?

If at the end you feel good for nothing, freedom is just another word.

By Elena Alban.

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”

Fredric Jameson

This is a strong statement that, unfortunately, hides some truth.

Mark Fisher, a famous English cultural theorist, used this expression several times in analysing the crisis of 2008-2010. Specifically, in his book “Capitalism Realism”, he emphasises how, nowadays, there is so much surrounding the widespread sense that this form of exasperated and globalized capitalism seems to be, not only the unique viable political and economic system, but also that it seems impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.

The Frederic Jameson’s statement is, thus, used by Mark fisher to explain how people feel, when embedded in a system they are not able to manage: they fear losing their jobs, their pensions, … for them it is easier to imagine the end of their lives than the end of capitalism.

In particular, Fisher talks about a sort of capitalism linked to a current of thought that developed in the 80s until today: neoliberalism. Fisher claims that our societies, our liberal democracies have been overcome by the exasperation of that freedom on which capitalism and free trade are based. An exasperation that reduces freedom to the mere rational choice, without taking into consideration other factors affecting human decisions. In this context, the free market is untied by ethic and moral constraints, identifying itself with the romantic ideal of a perfect society, based on a perfect competition, where all people act as efficient and informed entrepreneurs, able to maximize their own interests.

But could this ideal society even remotely reflect the reality?

Of course, not. Neoliberalism is a limited concept, as it takes into consideration only one part of human personality in making decisions, making choices and living everyday life. Indeed, on the other hand, it neglects those aspects of the human being that cannot be foreseen by rationality, that cannot provide certainty, that can fall out of rules, norms, routines, without having necessarily a rational or comprehensive justification. Moreover, it takes for granted that self-interested ways of action are just positive, by realising own’s freedom and by letting it invade others’ spheres of freedom.

It is a concept that cannot be compatible with the democratic one.

In the article “Good For Nothing”, published in “The Occupied Times” in March 2014, there is evidence of it. According to Mark Fisher, powerless, depression, resentment are the outcomes of the neoliberal system. In particular, depression is the illness of our society and it lays on the contradictory idea of what Fisher calls “reflective impotence”: on one hand, the concept of “responsabilization” has been a successful tactic of the ruling class; on the other hand our society teaches us according to the line of thought called “magic voluntarism”. The responsabilization criterium encourages each member of the subordinate class into “feeling that their poverty, lack of opportunities or unemployment is their fault and their fault alone” (Article “Good For Nothing”). “Magic voluntarism” refers to the “dominant ideology and unofficial religion of our contemporary societies”, according to which “it is within every individual’s power to make themselves whatever they want” (Article “Good For Nothing”).

So you find yourself without the sufficient means and tools to change your life (and it is your fault), but you are taught you can do everything, you can choose what you want to be. You are in a jail, you do not have the keys to open the door, but you can open the door, if you want. Depression takes place, when you understand you are not the kind of people who can act to change the system, so let’s say… you feel good for nothing.

Depression is what people suffer when political institutions are not able to counterbalance the economic system.

By starting from the assumption that it’s not man who is made for economics, but it is economics made for man, the liberal economic system in itself is not bad. Anyway, the invisible hand of Adam Smith can work and provide for positive outcomes if all human facets are taking into account. So, where the economic rationality cannot solve the problem, there is the need of the State and politics in intervining and giving solutions to what at least concerns the most basic human rights issues.

We stand for liberal democracies: it means we stand for a free market system, respectful of human life and freedom, mutually limited and balanced by a political one, defending the fundamental rights of mankind, the democratic principles and the rule of law. Liberal democracies are based on the rule of law, not on the rule of money and there are some areas you cannot put a price on and that should be granted for all, such as health and education.

Not only workers, unemployed and retired people are affected by this decadence of the welfare state, but a special focus should also be reserved to young people, in particular students.

Today, a bachelor degree alone is not enough, so people feel obliged to do a master. It is better to be specialised in a particular subject. The more qualifications, experience and skills you have on your CV, the more chances you have in getting a job in your studied subject.

Neoliberalism is always on the run, it does not wait for anyone. You have to be prepared, to enter the system you have to be already taught.

In this way education stops to be a right, it becomes an economic investment, no more a social one.

So can a right be bought?

When our most basic rights are deprived of their human inherent nature and become just market goods, at that point it’s hardly surprising if we just feel good for nothing


M. Fisher, “Capitalism Realism”, John Hunt Publishing, 2009

M. Fisher, “Good For Nothing”. The Occupied Times, 2014

DEMOCRACY: CAN IT STILL BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED?

The opening of a new scenario: the first European Union rule of law crisis.

By Elena Alban.

The Article 2 of the European Union Treaty states: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”.

Nowadays, democratic values seem to be in danger, even in Europe, where most of the times they have always been taken for granted. At the European Economic and Social Committee Conference on  “Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law – Trends in the EU from a civil society perspective”, held on the 5th of November 2019, in Brussels, the Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law (FRRL) reported the perception (and the reality) of a general crisis within European democratic culture.

The Brexit and the rise of populism have been born in an unsatisfactory political and economic environment, that has not been able to provide answers toward the crisis Europe is still facing today.

Indeed, the European Union presents a strong and consistent lack, what is better known as “democratic deficit”.

The term “democratic deficit” is used to put in evidence the inaccessibility perceived by the EU ordinary citizens toward EU institutions and policies, due to their complexity. It reflects the absence of an effective European policy, able to provide appropriate answers to the new challenges of the recent years, such as the migration and refugee crisis and the recessionist economic crisis. Actually, the concept does not refer to the inability of European institutions on reacting to these phenomena, but it better concerns the fact that at EU level, citizens do not feel themselves involved. In this regard, populist movements and separationist movements are born as the expression of feelings of anger and disappointment in relation to a world that seems extraneous toward own’s ordinary life.

At the EESC Conference, the president of the LIBE Commission, Juan Fernando Lòpez Aguilar, emphasized the fact that “EU was never meant to be just a market, economic, financial project”.

It was destined at a political goal, that reached its first real turning point in 2009 with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In particular, he pointed out the importance to link article 2 of the European Union Treaty with article 7, in order to solve the so-called “Copenhagen dilemma”. Indeed, with reference to article 7 the decision of suspension of some rights, as a consequence of the violation of article 2, is submitted only to the competence of the Council (a political body), as the role of the EU Court of Justice concerns only procedular prescriptions (article 269, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

Rule of law, democracy and the respect of fundamental rights are the basis of European Union and it must be imperative for States to respect them, as they are crucial for mutual trust, market and friendly environment.


In this context, the “Copenhagen dilemma” is an extremely high important problem EU institutions have to face, when talking about democracy, as it implies consequences for those Member States that do not respect the Treaty of Lisbon.

Thus, here is the problem: as EU governance cannot still be identified as attributable to the one of a State entity, but it is reflected in the form of “no government”, how can EU effectively act in order to prevent such democratic crisis within Member States?

How can EU manage to put in action more sever policies toward the unrespect of the fundamental values, without finding itself submitted to national self-interested policies?

CIVIL SOCIETY is the answer.


If top down actions cannot work, because of the strong power Member States have within the European context, there is the need to change direction. European Union approach needs to be bottom up. Even if all EU policies are integrated to own’s ordinary life through the State, it does not mean that EU institutions should be totally unlinked to citizenship. The key weapon to face such a global crisis of democracy is to look at where democracy effectively lies: to citizens.

Civil society plays a fundamental role, both for the Member States and for the European Union as it is the scenario in which all policies take place. Even if at the institutional level some EU organizations of civil society are already functioning (like the Conference of NGOs), there is evidence of the need to rethink a stronger cooperation, especially in these years of crisis.

A cooperation that can take life in different forms: through promoting a shared European culture, through the education of citizens on the functioning and the values of EU as an international organization, through the building of new bounds with the activity of the Council of Europe (that plays a vital role in the respect of human rights, by providing every year an annual report on the 47 Member States, and so on the 28 EU Member States too), through a collaboration with NGOs to organize more on-spot visits on countries or through the deepening of monitory mechanisms in Member States (such as the one promoted by the FRRL group on the annual rule of law cycle with a final report synthetizing positive and negative developments and trends that, consequently,  shall be discussed within the Parliament and the Council).

The democratic deficit is not a consequence of populist and separationist crisis, it is the cause and the cause does not lie within member states only, but firstly within EU.

The European Union must take actions: it must involve the direct recipients of its own policies in order to make citizens become aware of what a wonderful project it is aimed to be, if people first decide to stand for it.

https://www.eesc.europa.eu/en/news-media/press-releases/eesc-holds-its-first-conference-rule-law-highlighting-importance-all-encompassing-response-breaches-rights-and-values

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/5/the-treaty-of-lisbon

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/summary/glossary/democratic_deficit.html