Verso Books, 2020 (paperback, 240 pages)
Democracy must be anti-racist. Any less is cowardly. Any less is reactionary.
Democracy is not necessarily progressive, and will only be if we make it so. What Mondon and Winter call ‘reactionary democracy’ is the use of the concept of democracy and its associated understanding of the power to the people (demos cratos) for reactionary ends. The resurgence of racism, populism and the far right is not the result of popular demands as we are often told.
It is rather the logical conclusion of the more or less conscious manipulation by the elite of the concept of ‘the people’ and the working class to push reactionary ideas. These narratives place racism as a popular demand, rather than as something encouraged and perpetuated by elites, thus exonerating those with the means to influence and control public discourse through the media in particular. This in turn has legitimised the far right, strengthened its hand and compounded inequalities.
These actions diverts us away from real concerns and radical alternatives to the current system. Through a careful and thorough deconstruction of the hegemonic discourse currently preventing us from thinking beyond the liberal vs populist dichotomy, this book develops a better understanding of the systemic forces underpinning our current model and its exploitative and discriminatory basis. The book shows us that the far right would not have been able to achieve such success, either electorally or ideologically, were it not for the help of elite actors (the media, politicians and academics).
While the far right is a real threat and should not be left off the hook, the authors argue that we need to shift the responsibility of the situation towards those who too often claim to be objective, and even powerless, bystanders despite their powerful standpoint and clear capacity to influence the agenda, public discourse, and narratives, particularly when they platform and legitimise racist and far right ideas and actors.