Book Review: Democracy versus the people By Slavoj Zizek

Slavoj Zizek

Published 14 August 2008

A new account of Haiti’s recent history shows how the genuinely radical politics of Lavalas and its leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, proved too threatening to the country’s wealthy elite and their foreign backers.

Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment By Peter Hallward, Verso, 480pp, £16.99

Noam Chomsky once noted that “it is only when the threat of popular participation is overcome that democratic forms can be safely contemplated”. He thereby pointed at the “passivising” core of parliamentary democracy, which makes it incompatible with the direct political self- organisation and self-empowerment of the people. Direct colonial aggression or military assault are not the only ways of pacifying a “hostile” population: so long as they are backed up by sufficient levels of coercive force, international “stabilisation” missions can overcome the threat of popular participation through the apparently less abrasive tactics of “democracy promotion”, “humanitarian intervention” and the “protection of human rights”.

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