VOTING IS FULL OF ironies. It’s a social activity of selection and choice between alternatives, a functional process so totemic that it’s often confused for democracy itself. When we vote we express a value anonymously in such a way that no one person’s vote is any more worthy than anyone else’s. But it’s not the same as power.

Over the weekend two interesting ballots came to their conclusions. First, Triple J held its annual Hottest 100 music poll: an exercise that introduces Australian young people to the tedious culture war of their elders and gives them a voice in our worst national habits of cringe and inferiority. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that Taylor Swift’s pop song Shake It Off was disqualified on the basis that it had been supported by commercial campaigns by Buzzfeed and by KFC. You’ll also know that the campaign—popular, social, socially mediated or otherwise—was attended by a lengthy and uninteresting argument about what constitutes a song worthy of inclusion on the Hottest 100 list.

Now I don’t care. I don’t care the tiniest little bit about Swift or about pop music. But I am fascinated by Triple J, as a station, expressing their power as arbiters in this. Of course it’s illegitimate for organised campaigns to influence elections, isn’t it? (That’s one of the oldest anti-democratic arguments against Parties of lower classes). Of course it’s not right that companies should affect polls? (Ask the Australian mining lobby, or solar energy lobby, or in this case, record companies, who want to sell music). Of course a poll of taste should express the wishes of ‘genuine’ listeners to a radio station, shouldn’t it? (That’s another of the oldest anti-democratic arguments, placing some voters within and others outside a polity).

It’s natural and desirable that Triple J should use its market power within the music industry to support and nurture specific talent. Triple J is a forty year old piece of Australian state intervention into the music market, and that is inherently a task that picks winners. As one joke I heard went, #tayforhottest100 was an extended prank to get hipsters arguing about industry policy. What’s interesting to me is how antithetic that is to any process that pretends to process-democracy: as if the neoliberal injunction against ‘picking winners’ had been transferred to the ballot process, and voting itself were now an act of consumption.

Second, the Greek coalition SYRIZA won. I’m naturally hopeful and sympathetic, why wouldn’t I be, hooray! There’s a lot to be said for a national executive that’s more economically heterodox than the usual barrackers of the Domestic Metaphor Of National Debt (you know the one: that governments oughtn’t to borrow for anything at all, because personal credit cards incur payments). There’s even more to be said for a group who explicitly oppose the actual, no-bullshit, genuine Fascists with who they compete. Even the humourless Yankee Lenin-puritans at Jacobin Magazine are welcoming the prospect of one fewer pro-austerity Party. It looks as though the Greeks have picked themselves an administration with a different view of employment and State economic intervention than the one of the last forty years of economic Europeanism.

They’ll lose, of course. They must lose, and that too is desirable and natural. How can they not when the expectations on them are quite literally the salvation of an entire political economy, the existing society of not just Greece but Europe, and even the local and global ecology? It’s a lot to put on to a bankrupt small government. When political organisers start getting elected they must and are required to compromise, that’s the entire point of ‘democratic’ processes. Once again, the outcome—fewer unemployed Greeks—is much, much more important than the success or failure of a specific Party or coalition.

At face value there’s all the world of difference between the two votes. There are questions worth our asking though. What’s the point of an putative democracy in a poll, if the point of the poll is to reinforce Richard Kingsmill’s musical canon, and if the outcome matters more than the process? What’s the point of the selection and endorsement of a specific coalition if everybody knows, and expects, that they’ll eventually jettison the things for which they had so much appeal?



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Fyodor · 30 January 2015, 16:28 · #

First pirates, now Eurozone anti-austerity socio-economics?

You fucking tease.


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