24 September 2022

Freedom in liberal democracies

The freedom in liberal democratic societies consists in the freedom of the individualized, dissociated subjects to pursue income of all kinds and to consume it as they will. The democratic freedom in such liberal societies amounts to the subjects' being able to vote in free and fair elections for the representatives who are to govern them. Whether this is empirically the case in a given society is another question.

Confronted in the present time with the grave problems of climate change and the so-called 'limits to growth', the politico-economic task is now viewed as how, through democratic government on national and international levels, to make the transition to a sustainable economy sufficient to limit global warming, with its catastrophic consequences. Political action of activists aims at collecting the individualized subjects in public opinion to exert pressure on the elected government in the right direction.

The hidden movement underlying the gainful game in which the subjects pursue their happiness as players, however, is the limitless accumulation of thingified value through never-ending circuits. Neither the democratic subjects (who are, in truth, not subjects but players in an endlessly competitive game) nor their government know anything of this underlying circular movement of valorizing thingified value. All the players conform to the movement of limitless accumulation by seeking their thingified happiness, driven by the boundless will to have more and more.  Nevertheless they all (including the entrepreneurial subject-players through to huge capitalist corporations) and the democratic societies of which they are members, are unknowingly constrained by thingified value's success or otherwise in valorizing. All suffer when the circular accumulative movement of global thingified value stutters, but no one can name the culprit as such. Therefore it is continually misnamed by innocuous terminology that economists are versed in.

The voting citizens are never able to vote for or against 'valorization of thingified value' because this party is not on the ballot paper. Nevertheless, the right wing of the political spectrum unknowingly and invariably votes in favour of further endless accumulation. Without their knowing it, their highest value is thingified value and its valorization, coupled with the freedom to transform thingified value acquired as the highest freedom. 

The complex, competitive interplay in the gainful game is forcefully reduced — that is, led back — to the freedom of movement of thingified value transforming itself through its value-forms as the ultimate boundary condition of social movement itself, of which, as I say, the players and their democratic governments are unaware. The democratic subjects are not the underlying subjects of society's movement, but rather players caught up in a game, fulfilling their roles as income-earners and consumers in the endless valorization that, as a purely formal sequence of transformations, is indifferent to how the players fare and whether the Earth can bear this endless accumulation.

The circular movement of valorizing thingified value is itself a linear movement around a circle that is counted off by the linear time of turnover of capital and its accounting periods. The accumulative movement of total global valorizing value is the movement from which global time is counted. The interplay in the gainful game on the surface of society, however, is played out as a complex movement in three-dimensional time beset with contingency whose outcomes are unpredictable. At best, the movement's indeterminacy can be roughly modelled for various scenarios, but remains outside the reach of the subjects' collective will to control it. The player-subjects themselves know nothing of three-dimensional time as the time enabling genuine freedom of movement. Instead they all, from the lowliest to the most powerful, remain on the treadmill of endlessly valorization thingified value.

And yet liberal democracy, that is said to be rooted in the collective free will of subjects, implicitly asserts itself as up to the task of taming the beast of valorizing thingified value and guiding the globe to a sustainable future. This is one of the most comforting self-delusions born of the metaphysics of subjectivity. 

Further reading: Social Ontology of Whoness,
Movement and Time in the Cyberworld,
Da Capo (forthcoming, perhaps posthumously).

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