Rethinking about Politics

The US presidential election and the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU have radically changed the way of understanding politics. We often see that the mainstream politicians and policy-makers express their disappointment at electors which are blamed for their choices due to a radical departure from mainstream politics. However, very few try to understand how mainstream politicians, economists and policy-makers departure from real politics and real economics.

In the late of the 1970s, global economy and politics took its final shape through the policies implemented and pioneered by the Prime Minister of the UK, Margaret Thatcher and the US president Ronald Reagan. Free market economy and liberal democracy since then became a sacred cow, never be challenged or disputed and accordingly remained as a fixed consensus among the elected politicians, policy-makers, economists and leading academics through firm commitment to the neoliberalism that embodied through privatization, deregulation, free trade and fiscal austerity.

Basically, elected politicians voluntarily became subservient to the neoliberal economic order by incorporating global rules into a rigid bureaucratic system. They did not accept the faulty practices of the free-market model and often remained hesitant in seeking or offering alternative ways. The free market economic order correspondingly became a worldwide mainstream and common sense in global politics and economics. Additionally, we have witnessed the dramatic shift in the role of state from Keynesian principles to the free market principles. Concurrently, the states almost lost their traditional functions of providing education, health and jobs in the cause of private sector.

In the context of this background, we should note that the mainstream politics therefore mainstream politicians are blamed for decades of inaction. Broadly, during the UK’s referendum; people who heavily campaigned against the EU were the ones who actually abandoned by the state namely by the elected politicians. For example, none of the four biggest official political parties – Green, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats – took heed of the people’s demand for a change therefore none of them officially stand for the people’s wish for a change.

Consequently, the issue of ‘sovereignty’ has caused a great deal of concern which has been associated with the slogan – ‘take back control’. However, the sovereignty should be read as the sovereignty of the people over inactive politicians and the take back control is to reclaim of the rights which have been eliminated in the last three decades. What we witness now is to rediscovery of politics through the reinvention of non-mainstream politicians. However, the rediscovery of the politics is orchestrated by the mass of the people who were the victims of the system which of all the major politicians and policy-makers have closely and unconditionally aligned themselves.

Principally, the abandonment of the mainstream politics and politicians simultaneously accompanied with the departure of politicians from the real politics and ordinary people. The politicians’ shift in to the institutionalized neoliberal technocracy simultaneously accompanied the masses’ shift against them. The engagement in real politics accompanied with the disengagement of the mainstream politics. The distance between the mainstream politics and the ordinary people has increased and extended, meanwhile, the distance between politicians and mainstream politics remained the same. Politicians, economists and the media could not free themselves from the mainstream politics even in the times of financial crisis, political gridlock and social injustice. Conversely, the free market fundamentalism reduced the politics into certain direction which can be named as the mainstream radicalization of politics. Therefore, it is not enough to understand the radical political change without understanding the mainstream radicalisation of the politics and economics in the last three decades.

About the Author
Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, Gurkan is an Oxford BA (Hons) graduated and pursuing a double master's in International Political Economy at Warwick & Strategic Studies at NTU in Singapore. He is also a published poet.