Over recent years democracy as an ideal and a practice has been greatly undermined.
Not only has the corporate influence, if not control of politicians, increased unchecked, in addition, we have seen the erosion of democratic rights under the auspices of the War on Terror which governments have claimed requires greater surveillance and the weakening of civil and human rights.
At the same timne, a particular version of freedom has become dominant, especially on the political right.
This is one fuelled by decades of instant consumerist gratification and the neoliberal dogma of free choice, but it has also appeared in relation to free speech debates and efforts to break the spread of the pandemic.
Here, the democratic conception of freedom rooted in relations of mutual support within a society dominated by the rule of law has been supplanted by an absolutist understanding of freedom without limit that refuses to recognize any social obligation.
So, we have what I think is a perfect political storm. Those in power are pursuing economic and social policies that increase precarity for the majority of the population.
As a diversionary tactic, they use the anger and hostility resulting from that increased sense of precarity to target the scapegoats of the foreigner and the poor who are presented as being responsible for our growing sense of disempowerment.
At the same time, the privilege of living in a peaceful and secure country makes us feel we no longer need the institutions that gave us that security in the first place, and we can let them wither on the vine.
What makes this situation even more troubling is that the dual perils of terrorist threat and financial crisis have encouraged submission to the idea that we need strong leaders who are prepared to make the difficult decisions required by the state of emergency and that we ourselves have no time for the luxury of criticism or compassion.
All the while, the array of ethno-nationalists that are drawing ever closer to the political mainstream pat each other on the back for their part in the demise of the liberal order and eradication of the last vestiges of ‘socialism,” but an international alliance of nationalists is an oxymoron and will no doubt fall apart as soon as one group gets in the way of another.
The backlash against a politics advancing the lives of the vulnerable, disenfranchised, minority of traditionally repressed groups is no accident.
It is part of a concerted effort by the radical right to reassert a social hieratrchy with the white, straight, Christian man returned to his throne as patriarch, overseeing an exclusionary politics premised on genetic superiority and divine entitlement.
Even if this is not the avowed position of some Conservatives, they are still happy to let this genie out of the bottle in an attempt to distract from their own flagrant attempt to enrich themselves.
Dr Neal Curtis is the author of:
Hate in Precarious Times: Mobilizing Anxiety from the Alt-Right to Brexit
Published by I.B.Tauris
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels