Post-Consensus Politics

Moving beyond the elusive 51%.

"Our dreams cannot fit in their ballot boxes" by David Drexler via Flickr

Culture jammers face a powerful, monied, entrenched enemy that controls the media, the judiciary, the military and the halls of government. With a grip on every level of power, from city councils to the supreme court, and exclusive control over the public airwaves and the internet, the consumerists have a unparalleled propaganda apparatus. Thus, we live in a world where the majority sincerely agrees with their own enslavement. Consensus is owned by the corporations. How, despite all this, can a small number of jammers pull off a revolution against consumerism?

The obvious answer is that we ought to struggle to regain the majority's favor. The reasoning for this approach is that we must first build up a powerful consensus before we can have the legitimacy to make radical social changes. This is a commonsensical democratic idea that motivates most political activism today. The assumption is that democratic change can occur only when one has a majority of the vote, a view the corporatist-majority promulgates because it legitimates their grip on power. In this model, the solution to every social problem begins with canvassing for donations and ends at the ballot box.

The radical left has hitherto been paralyzed by the dream of achieving a consensus that legitimates its dreams of power. Confined within the logic of corporatist parliamentary politics, activists have dissipated their energy in chasing after the mythical fifty-one percent of the vote or the polls. Consider, for example, the process by which political platforms are drafted today. Each radical proposal, from the Tobin Tax to True Cost Economics, is submitted to the question of whether fifty-one percent of the population would support it at the ballot box. If the answer is no, then the proposal, no matter how righteous, is abandoned. The name of the game is compromise and majoritarian politics.

In recent years, particularly following the failure of the global antiwar protests to change the drift of history, the flaw of the consensus-chasing model has become clear. After all, once we accept the assumption that democratic change can only occur when the majority is on our side, politics devolves into a game where truth is superseded by the power of opinion. With focus grouped messaging, political advertising and branding messiahs dictating the path to swaying mainstream doxa, we give capitalism the power to pick the winner of every contest.

On the contrary, the challenge for culture jammers today is to conceive of how a minority, without dreams of achieving fifty-one percent of public opinion, can enact significant, long-lasting, radial social change.

Post-consensus politics means freeing ourselves from the delusion that the majority will be convinced prior to the revolution. It means abandoning the resource-intensive tactics of watering down our message for mass public consumption. And it demands we contemplate instead how a small cadre of fired-up jammers with limited resources can destabilize the consumerist regime.

Micah White