Post-truth and Post-politics
Chapter 6 opens the second part of the book by placing contemporary post-truth worlds within a wider historical and political perspective. It does so by arguing that the emergence of these worlds, and the implicit democratic imaginary they contain, must be understood in light of changes within advanced capitalist states, not least the rise of technocracy, technological solutionism, post-democracy and post-politics. The chapter first details the rise of post-political conditions since the 1980s and 1990s, as mapped by critical authors like Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Rancière and Colin Crouch. According to these scholars, post-politics and post-democracy can be understood as a mode of democracy that forecloses and denies disagreement in favor of consensus, rationalism and (supposed) universal reason. It is a form of politics that no longer relies on the people, as it functions through the internal mechanisms and logics of the political system itself. Liberal democracy has never solely been about consensus or rationalism, however; indeed, as Mouffe reminds us, liberal democracy consists of two opposing traditions: on the one hand, a liberal tradition that emphasizes individual rights, rationality and private property, and, on the other hand, a democratic tradition that values popular sovereignty, equality and cooperation. Since the 1970s and 1980s, the liberal tradition has gradually outmaneuvered the democratic, not least through the consolidation of neoliberalism as a global economic system. This can be witnessed through the rise of increasingly technocratic systems in the Western world, suggesting that politics has come to function through non-democratic means. This has implications for our understanding of post-truth discourses. Indeed, we argue that in many respects, these have reproduced post-political and rationalist understandings of democracy, downplaying popular sovereignty in favor of consensus and expert-led governance.