Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Surkov’s ‘Democracy without People’ Plan Seeks to Prevent Change Rather than Prepare for It, Russian Commentators Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 13 – Kremlin advisor Vladislav Surkov has come up with a new concept, “democracy without people,” something many think is an oxymoron or a vision of a very different future but that critics say is simply another effort to justify the use of new technologies to preserve the existing Putin system which wants to preserve the past.

            At the end of his article, the intellectual provocateur acknowledges that his prediction is “absurd,” but then he adds that this means it will happen, that new Internet technologies will eventually do away with political institutions and open the way to completely direct popular rule (actualcomment.ru/bezlyudnaya-demokratiya-i-drugie-politicheskie-chudesa-2121-goda-2110111125.html).

            According to Surkov, “the chief characteristic of democracy without people will be a sharp reduction in the role of the human factor in the political process. Leaders and gcrowds will gradually leave the historic scene. And machines will enter it,” not as a continuation of humankind as Marshall McCluhan imagined but as substitutes. 

            In fact, as Nakanune commentator Aleksandr Nazarov points out in a survey of experts, Surkov’s ideas are not new –Zhirinovsky has said much the same -- and they are not about the future but rather about preserving the present with the help of new technologies – just as some used electricity to make electric chairs rather (nakanune.ru/articles/117737/).

            Surkov doesn’t understand or at least doesn’t acknowledge that the machines won’t be in charge but rather those who make and program the machines, Russian futurologist Maksim Kalashnikov says; and that means that there will still be political actors, people, if there is to be democracy and human rule at all.

            What Surkov is offering, Kalashnikov continues, is a very superficial and even duplicitous discussion of how the current regime is using technologies to keep itself and its system in power, a system based on raw materials exports rather than on the kind of development happening elsewhere.

            The reason Russians gravitate to such predictions, the futurologist suggests, is that they appear to offer a way in which Russia can continue as it is without change. But in fact, any serious consideration of technological change shows that is impossible. And so any serious discussion of technological means must focus on that.

            Surkov doesn’t and so his ideas may be welcomed by the current rulers who thus will have one more way to avoid thinking about the need for the kind of changes that technology is producing elsewhere. They want that because a changed world is one in which their system has no place.

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