In 1992 Professor Francis Fukayama published his book ‘The End of History and the Last Man’. In it he made the claim that:
"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such... That is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."
It always seemed to me a bit of a daft and complacent claim to make, but no different in essence to claims such as Jesus being the only son of god: it is religion rather than thought. But it fitted in well with American neo-conservative thinking. 11 years later Iraq was invaded on the grounds of bringing democracy to the Middle East (as well as on the grounds of WMD, Oil, the war on fundamentalist Islam etc).
It could be said that the invasion of Iraq will come to be seen as a high point in Democracy as an ideology, as an absolute truth to which other countries need to be converted. The attempt to convert Iraq to Democracy has failed, and all the US can hope for is an eventual and not-too-dishonourable withdrawal.
Democracy remains a potent idea, but like all such ideas it has a beginning, a middle and an end. It is also a form of government, and with Pluto entering the sign of government – Capricorn – it is timely that the idea of democracy has been coming under question.
Kuwait, for example, is a democracy with no shortage of oil reserves. Yet the country has been overshadowed economically by its dynamic neighbours — Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar — whose economies are booming under absolute monarchies.
According to the New York Times : ‘All this has left many Kuwaitis deeply disenchanted with their 50-member elected legislature. The collapse of the Bush administration’s efforts to promote democracy in the region and the continuing chaos in Iraq, just to the north — once heralded as the birthplace of a new democratic model — have also contributed to a popular suspicion that democracy itself is one Western import that has not lived up to its advertising.’
The neo-conservative Robert Kagan, in his new book "The Return of History and the End of Dreams", admits that history has not turned out like Fukayama said it would. His attitude seems to be exhortatory, a call to further battle against non-democracies. When I read some of his points, which I think in many ways are sound, I drew a different overall conclusion: that the idea of democracy as a universal good, to which the whole world needs eventually to be converted, is now on the wane, a turning point has been reached. Modern democracy is, of course, a western idea. In the Middle East for example, democracy as a universal good never was and probably never will be a potent idea.
According to BBC news, Kagan dismisses Fukayama’s satisfied pronouncement: "History has returned and the peoples of the liberal world need to choose to shape it or let others shape it for them. The world was not witnessing a transformation [as the Cold War ended], however, merely a pause in the endless competition of nations and peoples. Nationalism, far from being weakened by globalisation has now returned with a vengeance."
In particular he identifies autocracy as the new menace and singles out Russia and China. "The autocracies of Russia and China have figured out how to permit open economic activity while suppressing political activity. They have seen that people making money will keep their noses out of politics, especially if they know their noses will be cut off." He portrays the modern world as one of "global competition".
"It may not come to war," he remarks alarmingly, "but the global competition between liberal and autocratic governments will likely intensify in coming years."
What I found very interesting was this idea that “The autocracies of Russia and China have figured out how to permit open economic activity while suppressing political activity.”
The US has the idea that a thriving economy and democracy go hand in hand. In fact, much of the western world has this idea, because since the end of WWII all the richest countries have been democracies. The fact that the USSR went bust and collapsed just seemed to prove the point. (Via Marx, the USSR also had its own erroneous ideology around communism being the end of history).
Now, however, China is booming despite being a dictatorship. Kagan thinks ideologically, so he thinks his truth must be fought for all the harder. If you are not religious about it, however, you can see one of the main props underlying the idea of democracy collapsing. It is no longer the only route to a thriving modern economy.
This is a very significant shift. China’s rise, whether we know it or not, is changing the way the West thinks about its own system. With the demise of Christianity, Democracy has become one of our central, albeit secular, truths. It is not yet time to proclaim ‘Democracy is Dead’, but it is certainly undergoing a tectonic shift.
The US was the world’s first full democracy, in the sense that it did not, unlike the UK, have a monarch. (Though it was still some time before all adults had the vote.) I think that US history, and its idea of democracy, can be looked at in terms of the Pluto/Galactic Centre Cycle.
The Galactic Centre is the point at which our Galaxy revolves around itself, and there is thought to be a black hole there, or perhaps a double one. The GC moves slowly, taking approx 25,000 years to do a full cycle of the Zodiac. It is therefore associated with the biggest shifts in human consciousness. As is Pluto, with its mere 250 year cycle. As Pluto makes one of its rare passes over the GC – which it did in 2006/7 – it picks up new themes for humanity, and lets go of old ones.
Pluto last passed over the GC in 1760, just as revolutionary activity was beginning in the American colonies, activity that would eventually lead to American Independence and its new system of government (which the founders did not call democracy, but whose commitment to the principle of natural freedom and equality is seen as amounting to the same thing.)
Now, 250 years later, Democracy has had an astoundingly successful run, but seems to be reaching certain natural limits which did not seem to be there previously. The sign of Sagittarius under which this cycle has taken place indicates that it is religious truth, rather then e.g. scientific truth with which we are dealing.
This cycle also corresponds to the relentless expansion (Sagittarius) of American wealth and power (Pluto) that we have seen over the last 250 years. (See my post The Galactic Centre and American Power.) And again, limitations are now being encountered both economically and militarily. The US has lost ground relative to the rest of the world in recent years, for the first time ever, and there is no reason to suppose they will regain it. These reversals also correspond to the US Progressed Saturn and Mars both going Retrograde for the first time ever in recent years. Prog Mars went Retrograde during the Iraq War, which suggests this war will come to be seen as the point at which America went into slow reverse as a military power.
With Pluto having passed over the GC and brought the beginning of the end of Democracy conceived as a universal ideology, it is very timely that it is now entering Capricorn, which is a very practical sign. The next 16 years will see an emphasis on government that works and that, in foreign relations, advances the interests of the country. By the same token, Capricorn is about strong boundaries, and so we are likely to see a resurgence of nationalism, as Kagan also said.
To conclude, here are a few quotes about democracy:
Winston Churchill: Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.
George Orwell: In the case of a word like DEMOCRACY, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.
Alex Carey: The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.