Marx’s key insight remains valid, perhaps more than ever: for Marx, the question of freedom should not be located primarily in the political sphere proper (Does a country have free elections? Are its judges independent? Is its press free from hidden pressures? Does it respect human rights?). Rather, the key to actual freedom resides in the “apolitical” network of social relations, from the market to the family. Here the change required is not political reform but a transformation of the social relations of production—which entails precisely revolutionary class struggle rather than democratic elections or any other “political” measure in the narrow sense of the term. We do not vote on who owns what, or about relations in the factory, and so on — such matters remain outside the sphere of the political, and it is illusory to expect that one will effectively change things by “extending” democracy into the economic sphere (by, say, reorganizing the banks to place them under popular control). Radical changes in this domain need to be made outside the sphere of legal “rights.” In “democratic” procedures (which, of course, can have a positive role to play), no matter how radical our anti-capitalism, solutions are sought solely through those democratic mechanisms which themselves form part of the apparatuses of the “bourgeois” state that guarantees the undisturbed reproduction of capital. In this precise sense, Badiou was right to claim that today the name of the ultimate enemy is not capitalism, empire, exploitation, or anything similar, but democracy itself. It is the “democratic illusion,” the acceptance of democratic mechanisms as providing the only framework for all possible change, which prevents any radical transformation of capitalist relations.
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