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Legal Semiotics and Political Practice and the Semiotics of a One-Party System: Free Will in Single and Multi-Party Democracies
The Roberta Kevelson Seminar on Law & Semiotics Legal Semiotics and Legal Practice March 1, 2012 Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law Carlisle, PA • Legal Semiotics and Political Practice and theSemiotics of a One-Party System: Free Will in Single and Multi-Party Democracies » Larry Catá Backer W. Richard and Mary Eshelman Faculty Scholar & Professor of Law, Professor of International Affairs 2012-13 Chair University Faculty Senate Pennsylvania State University
The Question• It is common in the West to criticize single party states for political false consciousness• Single Party states are said to betray the democratic ideal in fact even as they purport to embrace it in form• So in its essence, the question of the legitimacy of democracy is grounded in the possibility of a political consciousness that provides a particular expression of free will, principally through voting and engagement.• But is it possible to exercise free will?• 2
Expression of Will• Two Choices → • contribute will to group • not contribute will to group• False Free Will 3
Self-Critique• - but isn’t the choice to join or not join or change groups the essence of free will? And the essence of democracy?•• - difference between discretion-within-constraints as willed act and freedom of will 4
Replication and Naturalization• - politics, economics, law, philosophy, theology, science, sport• - The error of theory, then, especially political theory, is one of confusing individual will with the manifestation of will in the social context filtered through the constraints of the received structures within which reality is understood and actions interpreted and channeled. – Two Points • This is not a reference to the general will or social contract of Rousseau and other Enlightenment figures, or to its transposition as Soviet doctrine of the state apparatus and the dictatorship of the proletariat • The reality that individual will is constrained does not suggest that the constraining elements can be used instrumentally. 5
Consequences: Voting• - Voting or elections, then, are exercises of collective discipline that reinforces the relationship of the individual to the group• - Voters do not exercise free will so much as choice within the normative constraints of the group will• - Voting is a physical manifestation of individual adherence to the collective (as a performative or an expression (performed through physical acts that are signs of will interpreted in relation to the constraining parameters of acceptable choice) of allegiance to another (which can be compatible or incompatible with the group to which allegiance was formally owed – a revaluation of all values. 6
Disillusionment• Voting in political elections is more popular than ever and a number of regimes that have failed to conform to poplar assumptions about voting, have fallen in 2011 and 2012, including those of Arab/Berber North Africa and along the Saudi periphery. Lets consider briefly why that might be. – 1. Voting is a social act and an act of social discipline. – 2. Social Discipline Through Voting Manages Violence. – 3. Voting Serves as a Measure of Governmental Legitimacy and Affirmation of Mass Democracy Grundnorm as a Basis of Political Organization – 4. Voting serves as a method of popular organization to support or undermine the state apparatus. – 5. The semiosis of voting. 7
Voting and Democratic Consciousness• The semiosis of voting also can be understood as a proxy for the social construction of politics and its organization within states. Consider the consequences for an understanding of democracy – Democracy might be understood as the manifestation of a cultivation of the opposite of free will – it is the substitution of individual manifestation of group will for what is impossible—an expression of unconstrained individual will – democracy can also be understood as the interpretive expression of that complicity between the individual and group will manifested in individual performance that in the aggregate reifies an otherwise abstracted group 8
Realignment• Once this is understood, the long advocated foundational distinctions between single party ad multi-party democracies fall away.• - Differences• - grounded in technique• - scope of group• - social relations (political vs. administrative apparatus) 9
Multi-Party Democracy• more factions and greater choice to avoid tyranny• -externalization of faction with social control• -each faction is legitimated only to the extent it remains true to the governing ideology articulated in the Constitution and through the courts.• -The Tea Party and the Republican Party 10
Single Party Democracy• less faction and no choice to avoid tyranny• -internalization of faction and social control• -each faction is legitimated to the extent that it remains true to the governing ideology articulated through the foundational ideological basis of the legitimacy of the party (Marxist Leninist theory in China)• -Intra-Party Democracy and the State• -Bo Xilai and Xi Jingping 11