I recently listened to this podcast critiquing democracy and it made me think of Giroux’s essay and how frequently the term is employed without elaboration, as a catch all for the good things in life: equality, justice, participation.
The podcast outlines several problems with democracy, the two that I found most interesting were that democracy monopolizes legitimacy, and that enforcement of homogeneity. Democracy has become the only way to legitimize something, this has occurred through imperialist ventures which tout the bringing of democracy, and the judgement of quality or value based on how democratic its institutions are. But democracy isn’t always legitimate, the majority of people can be racist, queerphobic, but does that make their opinions truth ? Surely popularity doesn’t mean quality, if the most agreed upon movements were the best, then we wouldn’t be learning about radical history at all. The other piece of democracy, is that it is designed to take a multitude of positions, of histories, of opinions, of peoples, and smush them into a singular format, which can only function with the exclusion of a great many, or complete unanimity.
Giroux talks a lot about the expanding the public imagination through a democratization of higher education. Part of the problem with this theory in my mind is the trickle down economics logic of it. That by democratizing the highest parts of the culture production industry that democratization and the expanding of imagination will follow through to the rest of society. Besides its top down approach, it also fails to factor in the contribution to the public imagination autonomously from individuals from all sectors. The article which criticizes the movement of pop culture towards that centered on the lifestyles of celebrities, knowingly or not, relies heavily on cultural personalities and celebrity as legitimation of his argument, which reinforces the top down approach. He views democracy as a thing unto itself, as a goal to be reached above the people, held in common but outside, this is a part of the problem of democratic thinking. That democracy is making what is inside valued, and not being incorporated into a larger system, but making that individual system connect horizontally to others.