Elected however they found themselves bound to rule

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elected, however, they found themselves bound to rule within the parameters of the system, even if they did not like it. Just imagine, for example, a government that resolved to pay everyone a living wage immediately and to end the rights of corporations to lay people off at will, thereby eliminating hunger and a whole range of social problems. That government would raise the minimum wage to a rate that would allow people to obtain the food, shelter, and other needs that they had. Right now, many people earning minimum wage often need to make use of food banks to survive or live in substandard housing conditions. Government would raise social assistance rates so people could actually survive on their cheques, in contrast to the current situation where it is simply not enough for the most basic subsistence. Try to imagine how corporations would react to these changes. There can be little doubt that they would shift investments out of the country and argue that their ability to make profits was severely compromised by these laws. Indeed, companies could possibly go out of business in these conditions. If the economy began to tank, this new government would risk losing its popularity. The state that undercuts capitalist profitability definitively can provoke a crisis but cannot create an alternative (Clarke 1983). That alternative must come from below through struggles. Just imagine, for example, a huge wave of protests and strikes that ground society to a halt. In this situation, it might be possible for the state to grant concessions that seem to threaten profit- ability in the short term to quiet down movements and preserve the domi- nant order. Indeed, democracy-from-below advocates would argue that the historical record demonstrates that the dominant groups have often resisted reforms such as the eight-hour day, unemployment insurance, human rights codes, and socialized health care until the state was pushed into action by militant mobilizations. The state, then, is not neutral but is aligned with the powerful in the perpetuation of the system. Still, the existing official institutions of democracy are not irrelevant from this perspective. Liberal democracy is seen as an historic gain by the working class and others who were excluded from the state, rather than as an entitlement granted from above. Workers, women, people of colour, indigenous peoples, and lesbians and gays have fought for the right to vote and to participate through winning certain social and civil liberties. Yet this democracy is very partial, as the state itself is purpose-built to sustain the existing social order. C.B. Macpherson (1965) argues that the state was first liberalized and then democratized. The prior liberalization of the state set parameters on its democratization. The distinction between public
Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Democracy, and the State 111 and private, discussed in Chapter 2, is just one important example of the way the limits on the state mean that it can never fully address the inequities of corporate power, which are cast primarily as issues of private property.

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