Restoring the Republic: A New Social Contract for We the People
The crisis today’s modern political regimes face is to a great extent a crisis of meaning: our “democracies” are no longer truly “democracies”, ”equality” is but an abstract dream, “freedom” is but an empty Utopia. The very language we use to describe our political institutions and the principles underpinning them seems to fail us, as a growing distrust in the traditional political establishment fuels the rapid ascension of charismatic figures we call “populists”, and whose main line is that they, unlike the members of the establishment, say things as they are.
It is in this context that Bear Kosik calls for a “restoration” of the Republic, in a book that resonates as an appeal to recall what words originally meant. “Democracy” means the power of the people: power should, in that case, be given back to “the people”, to the 99%. Yet things are never so simple: not only must the power be given back to the people, but the people must also be willing and able to take it back and use it adequately. For this reason Bear Kosik calls out less to the political establishment than to us, ordinary citizens.
Through an in depth analysis of the classic trends in political philosophy, in particular around the all-important notion of “social contract”, and also drawing upon detailed references to historical events in the United States, in Europe and in countries with political traditions less familiar to us, Bear Kosik reassesses and reasserts the meaning and the value of the principles that have shaped our institutions. He chooses to tackle this paradox: there is a clear need for an overhaul of the system, but such a sea change would entail mobilizing a huge amount of energy and willpower; yet “politics”, for many, now boils down to casting a ballot once in a while. Representative democracy has become delegation democracy and thus is not really democracy any longer. Bear Kosik’s statements are reminiscent of Tocqueville De la démocratie en Amérique, in which he warned against the excessive focus democratic societies tend to lay on the on the private sphere: this would inevitably lead to apathy in the public sphere, and reduce politics to a game played solely by professional politicians.
Another good reason to read Bear Kosik’s Restoring the Republic, in addition to its importance concerning theory, is the pleasant blend of tones the author has masterly achieved: the reader will alternately be asked to rack his brains, so as to weigh the importance of each step of his line of reasoning, be moved by the sincere belief he expresses in core values that have brought us together and kept us together up to now, and will also without doubt enjoy the occasional pun or joke- which does not go unappreciated in a book as demanding as this one. It is demanding because politics are demanding, because living together is demanding: restoring the republic will take efforts on all parts, and first of all requires that “we the people” stand up as such and voice our claims.
Our Western political systems are at a crossroads; the world is watching. This book can be likened to a signpost, signalling the direction we will be heading towards should we choose one path or another. But the choice, at the end of the day, remains in the hands of the people –or at least it will should they choose to take up the challenge.
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