Tocqueville asserted that the principle of democratic equality is a “providential fact.” In its actual unfolding, however, the “providential” aspect was replaced by a strictly empirical, humanly engineered process or development, and the spirit of “equality” gave way to the unleashing of unlimited self-interest, which produced growing inequality. This chapter traces the transformation from a qualitative conception into a purely quantitative, empirical, and “minimalist” definition of democracy. Apart from violating equality, the transformation also ignores the “paradigm shift” of democracy (vis-à-vis monarchy): that popular sovereignty cannot be occupied, but remains (in the terms of Claude Lefort) an “empty space.” The chapter also discusses the steady globalization of this definition, meaning the transfer of liberal minimalism from the Western “center” to the non-Western “periphery,” often through policies of “regime change.” In this manner, the domestic rise of inequality is paralleled by the rise of global elitism and hegemonic domination.
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