ALL AH WE IS ONE: Best brains myth
The perspective of politics to which I adhere holds that political systems and institutions are not the products of men’s intellectual fantasies, but are always rooted in man’s concrete material conditions, and are always constructed in the interest of the economically dominant class. Politics, therefore, is the theatre in which class struggles are played out.
Another view is appropriately called “idealism” since it is the product of men’s minds. It denies the class content of politics, and sees the state as a neutral entity serving all classes equally.
Sadly, in times of crisis, it is the idealist view which predominates, since men, desperately anxious about their existential reality, place their hopes in fantasy and avoid the real concrete political action which, and only which, can resolve their difficulties. Further, with the obvious failure of the existing order, and with little evidence of a concrete readily-present alternative, idealist fantasies become particularly attractive.
It is in such a context of economic crisis and governmental failure that the recent discourse on the limitations of the Westminster system and the need for a government of the “best brains” in Barbados can be understood. Whilst the criticisms of Westminster are well grounded, there are several points of caution which need to be raised.
First, technocratic competence is confused with democratic legitimacy. Those calling for “best brains” government assume that politics is about technical administration as distinct from the management of political interests. They ignore the question of government for whom.
Second, “best brains” government is impractical. Who selects? How do we know who are the best brains? Is the best engineer to become the Minister of Public Works? Who is the best engineer? Will a successful businessman make a good Minister of Commerce?
Third, what is political choice addressed? Our best engineer decides to build a bridge in community A based on engineering criteria. However, the people in the community clamour for a school instead. Is the problem a technical or a democratic one?
Whilst there are legitimate struggles which must be fought against the existing order, our radical comrades must avoid playing into the hands of the anti-people elitist types. Instead, we should apply concrete materialist analysis to the present situation, and participate with clarity and consciousness in carving out an appropriate political response that can advance the cause of the marginalised groups on whose behalf we work.
By proposing unworkable options, we do little more than perpetuate the status quo.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs.