The state is like "hi" and the people are like "hey"

Fred Paton Centre 19 Carrington Street, Glasgow, G4 9AJ

Elections are central pillars of democracy. Every 3-5 years democratic states ask their subjects to cast votes on who should run the government. The parties who wish to fulfil this role agitate for a recognition of what they consider the nation's problems, for their solutions and for their visions for the nation, and ultimately for them being the best to run the country. If successful, they take over power which is accepted by those who they defeated.

People on the left typically engage with this feast of nationalism and rule in one of two ways. A small minority dismisses elections as inconsequential and fails to see that successful elections accomplish a lot and exactly what they promise: the formation of a government which rules in the name of those it rules over. Others see a great opportunity to make critical voices heard about what "we" really need and ask which left-wing party has the best chance of being the British SYRIZA.

In contrast, we want to take a step back from these discussions and simply ask what an election is and what it ought to accomplish for the democratic state. Our main claim here is that elections are means to affirm the unity between rule and those ruled over. On the one hand, elections affirm this unity formally: the outcome of a successful election is a legitimate government which is accepted by society. On the other hand, elections affirm this unity in content: the winning party agitated many it rules over for the necessities of its policies for the betterment of the nation.

In this workshop, we will not try to get you to vote, get you to abstain from voting, get you to vote without illusions or get you to vote the Green party or the SNP as the most radical "realistic" choice. Nor do we want to have a debate about "reform or revolution", where "radical purity" is posited against "realistic goals". Instead, we want to establish what an election actually is so that debates like these can be more than poking around in a fog.