Reflections about the text by Emmanuel Todd[1]: ”Après La Démocratie” (After Democracy)



(About the fall of the demand provoked by globalization)
Once upon a time, there was a big Farm where the Dogs only bought goods produced by the Dogs, and the Cats bought only those produced by the Cats. The chiefs of the Dogs were not interested in lowering the wages of their employed Dogs, because then they would buy less items at market stalls in the Dogs’ market.

Dogs' chiefThen came the day when all the chiefs of all the animal species of the Farm made a General Gathering where they decided a turn toward Free Trade. The Dogs’market would no longer be divided from that of the Cats, Rabbits, Pigs, and all the other animals of the Farm. Everyone would be able to purchase the products of other animals, freely choosing the one with better quality at the most convenient price.

In the following days, the Dogs’ chiefs had a secret meeting, where one said: “Why should we give our subordinates high wages, when they use it to buy the goods of the Cats and the Horses? If we lower their wages, our products will cost less and we will be able to sell them even in the markets of other animals, and to beat our competitors!”

So they did it. At the beginning, some of the employees protested because of the wage reduction, but then they saw that thanks to Free Trade they could buy collars and leashes from the Mice, at a much lower price in respect to the Dogs’ market stalls. So, the employed Dogs balanced the reduction of the payroll with the availability of cheaper goods, especially the ones coming from the Mice, Chickens and Crows.

The chiefs of the Dogs were three times happy: they too could buy cheaper goods, their subordinates were less expensive, and they even started selling to the Pigs, Cows and Horses. In particular, there had just been the acquisition of an order of carriages that brought a positive mood in the Dogs’ headquarters; it was then that in the Dogs’ newspapers there appeared titles praising the success of Free Trade, thanks to which Progress and Well-being would ruled forever over the Farm; above all in the zone were the Dogs lived.

But it was destiny that things evolved differently. Within two months from the General Gathering, even the chiefs of the Cats decided to lower the wage of their subordinates to have cheap labour, therefore contrasting the strategy of the Dogs. The Ducks followed soon, and then the Horses, who wanted to take up the orders of carriages they had lost. In the turn of a season, all the chiefs of the different races of animals in the Farm decided to lower the wage of their subordinates, and the Dogs lost the competitive advantage they gained on the markets of the other animals.

So, there was an other meeting of the chiefs of the Dogs, where it was decided to further lower the wages. Even in that case, the advantage was only temporary, because the chiefs of the other animals
followed the path undertaken by the Dogs again. Subordinate animals complained, because at that point the diminution of wages prevailed on the advantage of having some products at an inferior price; but the chiefs were not interested in this, because they succeded anyway in keeping the production cost low and in increasing the gain of their companies.

A wages cutting spiral was triggered, that led all the animals to earn less. The consequence was that, at a certain point, the markets of the Farm were attended by poorer animals in respect to the time when Free Trade began, and the overall sales of the market stalls of the Farm remarkably diminished.

The chiefs of the animals started a fight among themselves to increase the respective share of the market, but they ended up causing a shrinkage of the whole market.

At the beginning of the tale the Dogs’ wages were not reduced since the chiefs of the Dogs felt the market of the Dogs as their own, and they knew that lowering the wages the market would become weaker and the industries of the Dogs would sell less products. With Free Trade, the chiefs of the Dogs no longer thought that the market of the Dogs (in a certain sense) belonged to them, because even other animals could enter it to open sale points for their products.[3] With Free Trade, the chiefs of the Dogs started thinking of subordinates only as a resource to be exploited as much as they could to increase profits and lower the cost of their products, which were intended to be sold all over the Farm, not only to the Dogs. You can see the outcome of this strategy revealed itself as disastrous.

The solution exists for this condition of things: that all over the Farm there is a unique assembly of chiefs to set wages. So, the assembly of chiefs will return in thinking that defending the wages of the producers, one defends the strength of the market where products are sold. The fundamental concept emerging from this tale is that there must be a correspondence between the extension of the market and the decision-making structure that regulates the market, between the economical space and the political space.

At this point, one could easily think about a unique global government, fixing the problem at its roots, but this is not the way Emmanuel Todd is indicating to us.


The title of Todd’s book is “After Democracy”, it analyzes French society and cares about the future.
Some of the subjects it handles are the lack of collective values and the division of population into a part with high education and another one at a lower level, the irresponsible nature of the élite in charge and the possible political drift toward a racist or antisemitic outcome.

Accordind to Todd, the main issue menacing the continuation of the democratic experience in France as in Europe is the indefinite compression of wages, which is a consequence of the Free Trade doctrine, established as a unique thought since the eighties. “It’s about escaping the current nightmare: the chase for the external demand, the indefinite shrinkage of wages to lower production costs, the following lowering of the internal demand, the chase for the external demand, etc., etc.”[4]

As we saw above the solution can be a regained coincidence between the economical space and the political one, but not at the global level: “The planetary democracy is a utopia. Reality is that, on the opposite, we face the menace of a generalization of dictatorships. If Free Trade should generate a planetary economical space, the only political form conceivable at the global scale would be the «governance», a euphemism to designate an authoritative system in gestation. Why then, since a well integrated european economical space already exists, don’t we lift up democracy at its level?”[5]

So, according to Todd the right farm where unifying the government is not the world but Europe, and of course this farm can’t practice Free Trade with the other farms, if not, the wicked game would simply move to a major scale. We are talking about protectionism at a European level.

American theorists make the list of damages Free Trade brought to the United States, but then they end their analysis saying that there is no alternative, since in the United States the industrial structure excessively deteriorated, and makes it unlikely a fast reconstruction of the productive capacity that in a protectionist scenario would be needed. On the contrary, Europe is still able to produce everything, and finds itself, between the decline of the United States and the rise of China, the major concentration of technical competencies of the planet.[6]

The protectionism Todd talks about is not a definite closing. “As far as I’m concerned, I push for the moderation of protectionism till distinguishing accurately, on the contrary of the ideologists of globalization masked as economists, the movement of goods from that of the means of production. As a good disciple of Friedrich List, I’m in favour of the free circulation of capital and labor”[7] [8]

The primary objective of the european protectionism is to oppose the economical crisis saving democracy, avoiding the drama of a continuous lowering of wages. “The purpose of protectionism is not, fundamentally, to push back the importations coming from the country outside the communitarian privilege, but to create suitable conditions for an increase of wages”[9] “The increase of incomes implies a revitalization of the internal European demand, that by itself entails a revitalization of imports.”[10]

Assuming that the European protectionism is the objective, Todd does a simulation game (from a french point of view) to understand how it can be reached. Where England is concerned, Todd says that initially it could not accept a turn toward protectionism because Free Trade is such an important part of English national identity. Germany is at the centre of his reasonment: France should face Germany directly, persuading it to care more about the inner European market and inviting Germans to a change toward European protectionism. If they refuse, France should threaten the exit from the Euro, that would provoke, almost automatically, the same move by Italy.

Economists on television pretend not to know about the issue of the pauperization of the markets described in the tale, otherwise they would admit that Free Trade generates problems, and they would give up being trendy economists (and receiving subsidies from the chiefs of the Dogs).
These economists say protectionism is an old thing and is not part of the shiny future we have made our way to, but maybe they are wrong. Emmanuel Todd invites us to reflect about an intelligent protectionism extended from Great Britain to Russia: “The political and the economical spaces will coincide again. The so created new political form will be of a new genre, and will entail complex institutional changes. But one can affirm that in this case, and only in this case, after democracy, there will still be democracy.”[11]

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  1. [1]Emmanuel Todd, a french sociologist and demographer that studied at Cambridge University, is a researcher by the Institut national des études demographiques in Paris.
  2. [2]Animal farm is the book where George Orwell tells the vicissitudes of animals in a hypotetical farm, making the parody of the birth of Stalin’s dictatorship.
  3. [3]In this sense we could say that Free Trade entails a sort of communism of markets, since the market of every animal species “belongs” to the sellers of all animal species.
  4. [4]“Il s’agit d’échapper au cauchemar actuel: la chasse à la demande extérieure, la contraction indéfinie des salaires pour faire baisser les coûts de production, la baisse résultante de la demande intérieure, la chasse à la demande extérieure, etc.,etc.” Todd, E. (2008) p. 293
  5. [5]“La démocratie planétaire est une utopie. La réalité, c’est, à l’opposé, la menace d’une généralisation des dictatures. Si le libre-échange engendre un espace économique planétaire, la seule forme politique concevable a l’échelle mondiale est la «gouvernance», désignation pudique du système autoritaire en gestation. Mais pourquoi alors, puisqu’il existe un espace économique européen déjà bien intégré, ne pas élever la démocratie à son niveau?” Todd, E. (2008) pp. 290-291
  6. [6]Todd, E. (2008) p. 292
  7. [7]Todd, E. (2004) p. 21
  8. [8]An example in the textile sector could be the following: the textiles used in Europe must be produced in Europe, but the machines needed to produce textiles could be made in Europe and sold in China, or made in China and purchased by Europe. China could use its money to buy European companies that produce textiles, but with the intrinsic duty of keeping them active in Europe.
  9. [9]“Le but du protectionnisme n’est pas, fondamentalement, de repousser les importations venues des pays situés à l’extérieur de la préférence communautaire, mais de créer les conditions d’une remontée des salaires.
    Todd, E. (2008) p. 293
  10. [10]La hausse des revenus implique une relance par la demande intérieure européenne, conduisant ellemême à une relance des importations.” Todd, E. (2008) p. 293
  11. [11]“Espaces économique et politique coïncideraient à nouveau. La forme politique ainsi créée serait d’un genre nouveau, impliquant des modifications institutionelles complexes. Mais on peut affirmer que dans ce cas, et dans ce cas seulement, après la démocratie, ce serait toujours la démocratie.” Todd, E. (2008) p. 298



Thoughts about law, beside Habermas’ text: Morality, Law, Politics[1] [2]


“There are 144 customs in France, they say, that have the force of laws; these laws are nearly all different. A traveller in this country changes laws almost as often as he changes horses. […] Nowadays jurisprudence has perfected itself so much that there is no custom without many commentators; no one of which, needless to say, is of like mind.”[3]

With these words, Voltaire described the French legal system before the Revolution: a variegated construction hosting in its recesses the privileges of clergy and nobility. This situation changed with the French Revolution[4] and the passage to a unified law of an abstract and universal kind, which still today constitutes the backbone of state organizations.

An abstract thought is devoid of colours and smells, of places, dates, and faces: the abstract and universal shape does not allow it to favour certain individuals rather than others, because it can not name them (in fact, should it name them, we would get an expression not abstract, but having concrete references).[5] Being unconnected to any definite conditions, it is portable throughout the different places of our social universe of today and tomorrow.

Let’s take a look at article 575 of the Italian penal code, which concerns murder: Anyone who causes the death of a man shall be punished with imprisonment for not less than 21 years. This text, by means of the word “anyone,” clearly refers to every individual, not only those belonging to certain social groups. This text does not talk about a murder committed by the poor against the rich, and neither about longer or shorter detentions for men or women.[6]


Max Weber talks about law’s rationality referring to the universal and abstract form of laws, in addition to other linked characteristics, such as the organization of the laws in a sentences system; the absence of specific addressees of the law; an application as mechanical as possible, intended for minimizing cases where subjective interpretation is needed; clearness and simplicity to generate in citizens definite expectations about what is allowed, which are important premises for social and economical projects.

In this conception of law’s rationality, attention is not directed to what is said, but to how it’s said. Indications are given not about the content of a law, but about the shape in which it’s written. Therefore one can talk about law’s formal properties.
If we imagine photographing a law, we will obtain a photo in which it will be possible to detect rationality as intended by Weber, which in his speech refers to law’s structure and not to law’s processes of formation, nor to law’s application processes, for capturing which a video would be needed.

According to Weber, law’s rationality is the main property that allows it to justify power, to legitimate it in the people’s eyes. In fact, governments don’t limit themselves to impose by force a series of rules made at their pleasure without respecting any principles, but they need to operate within laws capable of gaining some level of acceptation from the population.[7]
The alternative, an undesirable one, is a completely authoritative power operating without consensus, by force alone.


Historically, centralized law with abstract and universal properties functioned in contrast to the privileges of the clergy and nobility, and thus favoured those who gained wealth by their labor instead of by birth, rent, or tradition. Thanks to ownership protection, many citizens can accumulate and preserve the fruit of their work. As such, conditions are created for an increased importance of the markets where individuals meet one another to seek advantages by exchanging goods and services, without violence, in the shadow of a regulation guaranteed by a state having force monopoly.

The described change represents progress the moment it allows citizens to realize their life projects, but it’s not devoid of negative aspects. In particular, it does not hinder the formation of a wide swath of the population that falls beneath the minimum income level required for a dignified life. If this malaise strata assumes a systemic nature, the need arises for its systemic management by the state by means of apposite rules.[8] Examples are disability or retirement pensions, health care, and collective work contracts specific to each industry.

Where is the problem, for him who desires to preserve law’s rationality? The point is that laws made to improve the status of the poor will not speak about men in general, as required by law’s abstractness and universality; instead, they will specifically talk about the poor. Tutelage of weak men turns to be an increase in law complexity, and it pushes us away from formal rational criteria, because of the need to define specific situations in which help and intervention must be addressed.

To sum up, simplicity and abstractness are applied at the beginning of the nineteenth century to fix inefficient laws that became entangled with privileges. Moving away from the zero point where this change occurred, the negative effects of the new laws accumulate and become evident as grey zones[9] that need to be managed by further laws, which are more specific and detailed because they must suit the multiplicity of the existing system, without the possibility of deleting it by a new, improbable revolution.
This development is equivalent to a shift from formal rationality as described above. We can talk about this process as law deformalization. Deformalization comes both from an historical continuity not repudiated by a discontinuity moment and from an increase of complexity in the social context in which law is applied.[10]


In the ancient empires, law is based upon its sacred origin, upon habits and upon bureaucratic action. The sovereign can’t make of law what he wants, because this would mean going against the tradition and sacred authority law derives from. The fact that political power can’t dispose of law by will is indicated by talking about an unavailability moment.
In the moment when custom and the sacred sphere stop being sources of law, the only references remaining are the collections of laws created by man, who, having created them, can modify them too; so one faces the risk of law being manipulated by the political sphere for its own purposes, and the need is felt to anchor law to a referent that can protect it from the whims of power; one such possibility is to establish law as an expression of the collective will of the people, which authority is then placed above every other state’s body.

Should someone ask me what I’m doing now, I would not reply analysing the inside of my psyche and trying to detect the elements of thought involved in writing, and those elements having a rest, but I would tell him: “I’m writing an article about a Habermas’ book.” Now let’s create a mind experiment: try to imagine a people provided with a collective will, and ask him what is right and wrong. I don’t know what he will answer, but if he thinks as did I above, then he will speak without reference to his internal divisions, without mentioning single citizens and without referring to specific social situations. He will speak in an abstract way.

This is how one can think that a collective citizens’ will expresses itself with abstract and universal laws, with which it preserves law’s autonomy in relation to politics, opposing the inopportune wishes of the government with the necessity of expressing rules in a certain manner that is supposed to guarantee justice, avoiding explicit privileges allocated to certain social classes.

Habermas regards as an error considering the universality and abstractness of language as a guarantee that the aims of a collective monolithic will are fulfilled.[11] Universality and abstractness of law remain as reference points, but it’s necessary to deepen our understanding of how decisions form themselves, breaking the black box of people’s collective will as it has been thought by Rousseau.[12] This deepening has not been made by socialists,[13] while it has occurred in liberal theories.[14]

The abstract and universal nature of law does not allow it to formulate measures directly assigning privileges to particular citizens with a name and a surname, but also does not prevent laws from casting advantages and disadvantages onto society’s foliage creating dark and light zones. To avoid a manipulation of the grey regions generated by laws, there is the need to regulate the process by which decisions representing the will of all are taken at the top, rather than simply the manner in which these decisions must be written.

In this way, in respect to the formal rationality as intended by Weber we find ourselves with a concept of procedural rationality broader and sounder, that can keep its validity in the complexity of the contemporary situation, in which it’s hard to maintain intact the abstract and universal nature of law.

While formal rationality according to Weber had an instantaneous nature (in the sense that it was about properties present in the law in every single instant), examining procedural aspects of the law clearly brings us to consider events extended in time, and there is a passage from the synchronic dimension to the diachronic one. Using a musical metaphor, we could say that while Weber pored over the harmony among superimposed sounds, Habermas focuses our attention on melody and chord succession.


In our society there can be different moral types; for example, there can be a morality based on the maximization of total happiness or one based on the practice of certain personal virtues. There can be one based on the love of the neighbour, or again another based on accepting only those behaviours that could be put to use by all men without damaging society. So we find ourselves in a situation where a unique law must be able to mediate among varying moral systems.

Aside from this, moral nature is intrinsically different from legality. Morality is more propositive, and drawing examples it can inspire action, while law is a prohibitive system. In addition, morality can talk about invisible thoughts, while this area remains inaccessible to law: one can not be on trial for his intentions. Law handles concrete and identifiable objects, while morality is (or can be) the seat of more daring inspirations and is hard to pigeon-hole systematically. Morality can describe a behaviour model that is a fragile equilibrium, rarely only reachable in practice; by the finger, morality can even point to the moon, and it’s not said that its speeches always reach definite conclusions. On the contrary, law must be a rule easily enforceable in every day contexts, and must arbitrate conflicts on the routes of the world. Law must (or should) give rise to fast and objective material decisions, while needing only reasoning that is as simple and repeatable as possible.
If we think about their respective social functions, we can consider law as a sort of completion of morality, because it constitutes the mechanical apparatus by which human conflictuality magma is modelled towards the direction suggested by morality.


Habermas longs to detect the criteria permitting the elaboration of a fair and functional law for the contemporary context, and the European context in particular. To do this, he begins by discussing the concept of rationality described by Max Weber, and he means to give a better version of it, one more resistant to the law deformalization problem as well as capable of regulating how law absorbs moral matters, and of protecting law itself from attempts at manipulation led by political power.[15]

Habermas research is quite broad, taking account of different themes, from the origin of law in prehistoric societies to contemporary trends in legal thought in Germany and the USA, and from issues related with the formation of a united Europe to the thought of Niklas Luhmann and Friedrich Fröbel. Special attention is given to a series of considerations about the French Revolution and to the Enlightenment thought of Kant and Rousseau.

The solution detected by Habermas is a law’s rationality intended above all in a procedural sense: that is, the formation processes of political-legislative will must be such to receive the moral content present in public speeches made outside institutional structures, both political and juridical. Following Habermas, we see that democracy depends on the way we as citizens discuss arguments, on the quality of our speeches.

Habermas’ project is a political construction capable of incorporating different cultural shapes of life. Against this project of liberal democracy based on citizens’ awareness works that part of power that always longs for the dozing off of thought. In favour, here we are. If souls stay sitting in their armchairs watching TV, there is not much to hope for. But every time someone gets up from comfort to really want something, then the project regains strenght and a united, independent Europe returns to the realm of the possible, keeping up with its role in history.

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  1. [1]I worked on the following Italian edition: Jürgen Habermas, Morale, Diritto, Politica, Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi, vol. 359 – Filosofia, Torino 1992. This volume includes the original German titles Recht und Moral (Tanner Lectures 1986); Volkssouveränität als Verfahren (1988); and Staatsbürgerschaft und nationale Identität (1990), in Jürgen Habermas, Faktizität und Geltung. Beiträge zur Diskurstheorie des Rechts und des demokratischen Rechtsstaats (Suhrkamp, Verlag Frankfurt am Main 1992). The quotes in the following notes (if nothing else is indicated) are from the Italian edition.
    All translations from Italian to English made by the author (both quotes and the entire article, which was composed in Italian).
  2. [2]After a deep reading of Habermas’ text, I chose some of the main ideas present in it. This article has been constructed as a narration preparating the enunciation of the chosen concepts. This means the arguments coming from the book are not delved into; rather they are simplified to provide a basic introduction to the citizen.
  3. [3]Voltaire, Oeuvres de Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique par Voltaire (Paris: Imprimerie de Cosse et Gaultier-Laguionie, 1838). Entry for “coutumes”: “Il y a, dit-on, cent quarante-quatre coutumes en France qui ont force de loi; ces lois sont presque toutes différentes. Un homme qui voyage dans ce pays change de loi presque autant de fois qu’il change de chevaux de poste. […] aujourd’hui la jurisprudence s’est tellement perfectionnée, qu’il n’y a guère de coutume qui n’ait plusieurs commentateurs; et tous, comme on croit bien, d’un avis différent.”
  4. [4]Of course, the codes historical formation process is complex and extends through time; in addition, its formation is not a direct and exclusive effect of French Revolution.
  5. [5]“Citizens’ collective will, being capable of expressing itself in the form of universal and abstract laws only, operates excluding all interests not susceptible to be generalized, admitting only those rules that guarantee equal liberties to all men.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 84
  6. [6]If we say, in example, that a vassal can sell wine 30 days before others, or that only vassal can hunt game, or that only vassal has the right to receive a tribute from all the lands of the fee, then we are creating distinctions favouring certain social classes.
  7. [7]From common citizens, but from legal professionals as well.
  8. [8]The so-called welfare state.
  9. [9]“In the degree to which constitutional monarchies and the Napoleonic code affirmed themselves, social inequalities of a new kind came to light. In place of inequalities linked to political privileges, other inequalities succeeded them, starting from the institutionalization of equal liberties, in the field of private law. They were the social consequences of the unequal distribution of an economic power that was wielded outside the political dimension.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 88
  10. [10]This does not mean that at the zero point laws were “better” because they did not need the integrations that subsequently have been necessary. At the zero point, new laws have not yet had time to diffuse their consequences, which in a complex world can’t avoid having negative as well as positive aspects too.
  11. [11]“Kant, too, has been responsible for a confusion that soon will no more allow to separate between them two completely different meanings of universality: the semantic universality of an abstractly general law will early take up the place of procedural universality, characterizing the democratically established law as an expression of a popular collective will.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 72
  12. [12]“It is necessary that the moral substance of self-legislation – compactly concentrated by Rousseau in a single act – disarticulates itself through the many grades of the proceduralized formative process of opinion and will, thus becoming accreditable in low-denomination banknote also.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 99
  13. [13]“Marx and Engels limited themselves to touch on the Paris Commune, and they always disregarded every issue of democratic theory. […] To the enlarged concept of politics, it did not correspond to any theoretical deepening about which functions, communication forms, or institutionalization conditions, should characterize an egalitarian formation of the will” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” pp. 88-89
  14. [14]“Every democratically enlightened liberalism keeps faith to Rousseau’s intention, but in the same time recognizes that popular soveraignity shall express itself starting from the discursive conditions only of an opinion and will formation process, differentiated in itself.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 85
  15. [15]In the sense that there is the aim of defining a criterion under which political power can’t do all that it wants about laws, just because it must act within well-defined procedures allowing to gather the fruits of public speeches. Cf: “Communicative power is wielded in the modality of a siege. […] It regulates and fixes quotas to the reasons pool that the administrative power can sure instrumentally manage, but never – structured as it is in a juridical form – afford the luxury of ignoring.” Habermas, “Morale, Diritto, Politica” p. 98




In italian it’s spontaneus to associate the spanish word indignados with the italian one indignati, that means indignants, disregarding the part of spanish meaning closer to outraged. This led me to a thought that may be is not sustained by a punctilious analysis of the word in question, but that still remains interesting. Here it follows.

“After 10.000 years of agricolture and sedentary civilizations, after 2 centuries of historical sense, it seemed to be obvious that morals were in their essence a device for controlling society. Careless with this, giving proof of a rare socio-political acumen, these people named themselves as a moral pose: indignation.
They mean to be opposed to the system, but in the same time they reaffirm a distinctive feature of the system by mean of their name. Without considering this attitude is a way of thinking that skims the total uselessness; it does not favour thought, and action neither.
These indignants are like dogs barking to be free; but they drew a chain upon their flag.”

Do you agree with this thought?

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