Guff, Sovereignty and Neoliberal Rationality: Comment

I left this response to Patrick Smyth’s article in today’s Irish Times entitled Talk of being masters of our fate is just guff.

The concept of sovereignty is not guff. But its predominant usage in Ireland these days is.  
 
The recovery of an illusory sovereignty has been used by the current government as an excuse for stripping away public health, education and welfare services. The claim of lost sov­er­eignty is a way of clear­ing the way for and jus­ti­fy­ing emer­gency meas­ures, at times through the intro­duc­tion of new legis­la­tion, but also through the pro­mot­ion of a pass­ive dis­reg­ard for demo­cratic rights set forth in the con­sti­tu­tion, how­ever lim­ited in scope and applic­a­tion these rights may be.  
 
Somehow I doubt that the Institute for International and European Affairs confab attended by the author gave too much thought to the concept of popular sovereignty, even if this is one of the key elements of the Crotty judgement. Why would it? Representative democracy works perfectly well from the point of view of European Union elites precisely because it applies a formal varnish of popular legitimacy to the nails of the real sovereign: the financial ‘markets’ represented by former attorney general and Goldman Sachs chairman Peter Sutherland. Representative democracy under present circumstances means you can have formal rule of the people but substantive rule by financial corporations. 
 
The reason the idea of sovereignty appears like so much guff in the Irish context is that it is devoid of any real democratic content, in a society whose political imagination and sense of possibility has been laid waste by neoliberal rationality.

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