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Comment on elections in general

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2020-05-10 In a private exchange I was asked for my opinion on the act of voting. The following is my basic idea about the subject. Some parts have been edited in the interest of privacy. Note that I am posting this with the proviso that I do not consider it a comprehensive take on the matter and may still elaborate on it in some future essay. I have never voted. I am not against it per se. It just seems to me that elections cannot deliver auto-nomy (self-government), because the “constitutional subject”, the people, is nothing more than an abstraction. Party politics are an integral part of representative democracy, which in turn is a facet of a system of centralisation of authority. When the nation-state started taking form, this centralisation meant that

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In a private exchange I was asked for my opinion on the act of voting. The following is my basic idea about the subject. Some parts have been edited in the interest of privacy. Note that I am posting this with the proviso that I do not consider it a comprehensive take on the matter and may still elaborate on it in some future essay.


I have never voted. I am not against it per se. It just seems to me that elections cannot deliver auto-nomy (self-government), because the “constitutional subject”, the people, is nothing more than an abstraction.

Party politics are an integral part of representative democracy, which in turn is a facet of a system of centralisation of authority. When the nation-state started taking form, this centralisation meant that everything would be decided by a handful of people in the country’s capital: even in an ideal parliamentarian system we are still talking about a tiny minority who has disproportionate power over the rest of society. Now that telecommunications, travel, and other technologies remove logistical constraints that held true in previous eras, centralisation happens at the continental/supra-national level (EU in my case).

These are different kinds of gigantism. Elections offer a sense of participation, but the real power lies elsewhere. Think, if you will, of the virtual omnipotence of the European Central Bank. No-one voted for them. No parliamentarian who speaks for “the people” can scrutinise the ECB, and so on.

Also see my Crises, transnationalism, and the demi-state and make sure to follow all links from there.

And then there is the practical problem that elections are never fair. There are inequalities in funding and “air time” on the media. While I do not know whether this is true for your country, in Greece and Cyprus (and the UK and several other countries I know of) the media are platforms that are controlled by an economic elite. Again, a handful of people. Same with the main social networks, whose algorithms influence who sees what.

The core challenge is that power is at some centre. That makes it easier to be abused.

Elections are an excellent tool in a system where the members have equal opportunities to speak their mind; a system of true pluralism and genuine participation. And this can only happen by going to the smaller scale of the local community.

If you must vote, go for people with good ideas and honest intentions. At any rate, the act of sending a parliamentarian to a 4/5 year-term service in some far away place (literally and figuratively) will never grant any real auto-nomy to your quotidian life. Connect this to the aforementioned notion of intersubjective freedom.1

Protesilaos Stavrou
EU policy analyst. Philosopher. Front end developer. Free/libre software contributor. // Refer to my website for the specifics.

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