“The rise of the democracy-hating middle class”
at first I thought adding this as an update to my previous post (since it also mentions middle-class), however I think this article requires separate posting.
“How the global middle class declared war on democracy” (or its main title : “The Bourgeois Revolution” )
(thanks to fellow blogger called “Thai reporter” for refering to this article ! )
Abhisit’s middle-class supporters are not reformers, but antidemocratic reactionaries. Their perceived status as progressives clouds the truth, and it also throws a veil over one of the most confusing evolutions in developing countries over the last decade: the rise of the democracy-hating middle class…
This shift from a reformist middle class to a reactionary one over a mere two decades should be surprising… as democracy faces new threats… middle classes, once the vanguard of democracy, have increasingly turned against it. For the first time in decades, democracy activists are beginning to wonder whether building a strong middle class solidifies or threatens freedom’s global spread. Yet because the middle-class-equals-democracy theory has become so entrenched, if it is proven wrong, activists, democracy-promotion groups, and world leaders will not know how to replace it. In other words, they won’t have a clue about how to actually build democracy.
For years, political theorists have argued that developing a healthy middle class is the key to any country’s democratization. To paraphrase the late political scientist Samuel Huntington: Economic growth and industrialization usually lead to the creation of a middle class. As its members become wealthier and more educated, the middle class turns increasingly vocal, demanding more rights to protect its economic gains.
But over the past decade, the antidemocratic behavior of the middle class in many countries has threatened to undermine this conventional wisdom…
The middle class’s newfound disdain for democracy is counterintuitive. After all, as political and economic freedoms increase, its members often prosper because they are allowed more freedom to do business. But, paradoxically, as democracy gets stronger and the middle class grows richer, it can realize it has more to lose than gain from a real enfranchisement of society.
Soon after acquiring democracy, urban middle classes often grasp the frustrating reality that political change costs them power…
Middle-class conservatism may even be preventing some countries from making the leap toward democracy…
At first, middle-class status fears usually just lead to fighting within the political system: forming new political parties, launching antigovernment newspapers or Web sites, or other traditional tactics….
But, as urban elites realize their impotence, they are increasingly abandoning the system… And once they turn against elected leaders, angry middle classes, convinced they are right, seem willing to use any means to topple presidents, with catastrophic results…
If military control doesn’t work, a return to soft authoritarian governance, as by a prime minister essentially chosen by elites, will frequently fail as well because the public will no longer accept this kind of oligarchic rule…
As with the Thai example, by sparking counterprotests and, in some cases, outright anarchy, the middle class is actually undermining its very claims. Taking to the streets, they argue that they are bolstering freedom of expression and thereby strengthening their countries’ democratic institutions. In reality, by undermining the decisions of elected leaders and fomenting chaos, they are actually weakening these institutions.
This cycle of protest and counterprotest, then, could be the most damaging blow inflicted by the middle class. Where rich and poor once worked together in fighting for democracy, they now wind up pitted against each other, leaving a permanent rift in society and an ominous cloud over their country’s democratic future — and over the future of democracy-building efforts around the world, as we struggle to come up with a new blueprint for making democracy work. .
I think this is an excellent analysis, the best I’ve seen so far during past few weeks.
Well, the author has given this article a title “The Bourgeois Revolution” – because this sequence of events is actually nothing new, but rather at least a century of two old. and it has been already figured out in the past that usually Bourgeois Revolution is a prelude to the next stage – revolution by a grassroot people (peasants and labour class).
and it looks like Thailand is not exception – despite the tendency of many Thai academics and ideologists (especially PAD) to claim that Thailand is very unique and special – the famous “Thainess’ argument !
the REACTIONARY or even extremist stance of middle-class, which has aligned itself with elite and beaurocracy at the moment is a crucial aspect in the reent events, as well as it plays the MOST important role in the events which will follow !
let’s face it : middle-class , although slightly bigger than elite / hi-so – they are still greatly outnumbered by the MAJORITY of Thai population – who are rural people and workers.
so, if middle-class continues their reactionary anti-democratic actions, the ONLY thing it will bring to might be some other extreme with such a level of violence that recent riots would seem a kids’ quarrel ! because there is a great amount of lessons in human history – that when “grassroot” people (those poorer than middle-class) are REALLY pissed-off, they may simply destroy the whole fabric of society (because they see no other alternatives left) and all those its other classes as middle and upper class !
so, IF Abhisit and / or those who really still have brains left are able to grasp the seriousness of this potential outcome – they would better hurry up now and STOP opposing the Democratic efforts ! otherwise they may very well end up with something like “dictatorship of proletariat” or “Khmer rouge”. Middle classes have to re-align themselves with the majority and re-instate themselves as pro-demorcatic movement, as they have been in the past – not as reactionary force opposing further democratic developments. after all, Democracy is better than some totalitarian regime ala Stalin or Kim, right ? hopefully it would not come total destruction of middle that in the “Land of Smiles”.
in fact, there are many thriving western countries with political model same as what Thailand supposed to be according to its own Constitution ! 😉
there is no any reason why Thailand can’t be the same, while keeping its revered institution in place within constitutional norms, as those countries.
so, it is a very serious decision middle-class has to make now !
the democratization process already started can’t be stopped anymore, sooner or later it will be completed – the main question which middle-class have to ask themselves is : would they rather help to achieve that goal and thrive all together as “reconciled, united” nation – or they would cause a great confrontation (most likely – sever bloodshed) and eventually anyway defeated and possible even suffer the retibutions for their reactionary actions.
all other talks about “morality”, “economy” etc – are already irelevant right now, it is a point of no return ! middle-class MUST act now and make their move wisely, if they really want to “reconcile”.
I guess there is already certain shift happening. like – ASTV website (http://www.astv-tv.com/) using too much red color lately ! 🙂