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"The Crisis of Politics in the Democratic Age: Principle or Partisanship?" Dr. Joel Hodge Australian Catholic University Modern democratic politics is usually characterised by a two-party or two-bloc system (grouped as ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’). In a post-communist era, modern political commentators in the West have noted the little difference between the major political parties or blocs, particularly on economic policy. In Deceit, Desire and the Novel, Girard argues that the party struggle is the stabilising element in modern democratic societies following the rise of widespread internal mediation after the collapse of monarchical systems. According to Girard, the party system is driven by and channels metaphysical rivalry under the veneer of conviction, as principle conforms itself to the dictates of rivalry and the shared desire for power. The ordered nature of Western politics relies on the ritual of the two-party system, with the catharsis of elections and the myth that immanent power and victory will be existentially satisfying. I apply and extend these ideas with reference to modern political crises, particularly in Australia and the US. For example, the Australian political system has been undergoing an underlying existential crisis since the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was unexpectedly replaced in 2010 by his party in fear of an election loss. This almost unprecedented dumping of a first term PM was precipitated by Rudd’s loss of conviction in relation to his electoral promises. Rudd’s replacement left exposed the rivalrous nature of politics to the electorate. The 2010 election resulted in a hung parliament, reflecting the uncertain nature of the electorate still in sympathy with Rudd as victim and uninspired by an election campaign that most commentators regarded as the least substantial in their lifetime. I conclude by exploring how politics can genuinely be a means to pursue convictions and transcend metaphysical rivalry in pursuit of the common good.
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