The recursive definition of “theory”: theory is the theory of generic structure. Just leaving this here.
A veritable constitutional crisis that has been brewing in Brazil for a while is currently reaching a boiling point. ‘Tis probably none of the things you are thinking about if you aren’t extremely current on Brazilian politics (myself, I’m not — I’m just “well-versed”).
To a significant extent this crisis mode is well-known to the American public, who term it “judicial activism” (wherever they’re even aware of it). But “activism” is a gentle name that alludes to the kind of personalistic, unintelligible personal axiology that leads people to riot, whereas this rift is a structural affair carrying near-tectonic energies.
(It would be a great disservice to the patient reader who keeps being sucked into theoretical texts if I attempted to quickly summarize the literature on the structural fault lines of presidential systems all by myself; the stuff of politics is best explained by professional political scientists. I strongly endorse Scott Mainwaring on presidentialism in/and Latin America; more generally I encourage a deep dive into David Easton, although much of his best work is in paper books not usually found outside university libraries.)
There is a subtle distinction yet to be made between a contradiction (which comes in two forms — logical or dialectical; the latter requires subscribing to a particular ontological genre, at least locally), a paradox and an aporia. I’m not equipped to put forward a generic theory of this distinction; but from the phenomenology, a paradox is an epistemological embarrassment that points to a deeper unity that’s not yet understood; an aporia, on the other hand, is an impasse on some deeper plane of univocity. An aporia embarrasses Understanding because Understanding realizes (it brings something from reality) that something about the world is not structured in the same way (not by isomorphism nor by analogy) that Understanding is.
The key point of the poli sci literature that has deeply influenced us is that presidentialism, the system of separation of powers, is structurally untenable. This is empirically verifiable — all well-functioning political systems are parliamentary, while most presidential systems (particularly off-OECD) alternate coups, political crises and generalized corruption to keep congress in place. The takeaway of mr. Mainwaring’s works for us is that presidentialism is probably unquable with (within? the arity of quability still confuses us) the ambient conditions of truth (maybe one day we’ll able to verify this by computer); more importantly, you might need to part ways with the truth-rain in order to fully cope with presidentialism.
To the extent that political representation is even possible, parliamentary representation has the greater resolution; roughly, the greatest entropy-carrying capacity. This is why political systems where mass representation is absorbed by a singular figure are wildly considered “undemocratic”, a ten-dollar word which translates to “bad”. Following this, we could temporarily suspend all discussion of the facticity of democracy and political representation and assign a type to the word “democracy” without assigning a corresponding value — democracy is of type “large axiology” (large because it’s a higher-order theory of how smaller axiologies can be constructed and/or validated).
All democracies (meaning “all large axiologies attached to claims of political legitimacy”) feature parliamentary representation. This can either be taken as an empirical fact given a fixed definition of “large axiology” and “legitimacy”, or a constraint on large axiologies such that the real world emerges. Presidential systems sport a separate and independent branch of government that has a claim to equal or stronger political legitimacy, by contrast of the historically clear presidential image and the dilution of individual legitimacy claims in bodies with as many as 600 members). But this stronger claim to legitimacy (under quability conditions for “democracy”) is necessarily attached to a smaller axiology that is continually tested for quability with the larger axiology (for journalists: “presidential power is expected to respect the rules of democracy). Therefore structurally (but not in terms of legitimacy and actual range of action) the Presidency are effectively powerless against the larger axiology that may reshape it.
How is it possible then that presidents are actually really powerful and generally held as the foremost leaders of the nations their governments rule over? An easy answer in common language — the constitution enforces specific attributions and powers to the Bossman. But what is this constitution? On some structural level it encodes some of the meta-values of large axiology (there may be several large axiologies but you come here to learn about Brazilian politics) in prescriptive form (the large morality that lies above large chrematistics). But constitutions are “ill-posed”; they’re overquable, they admit “many interpretations” in more or less the same way a CNF formula admits many satisfiable “solutions”. Is this a problem? Only in the absence of an even larger axiology.
Of course such an even larger axiology exists, right? “The values held by society at large” or whatever Foucault you want to fit in this. Legitimacy is not the source of overconstitutional power — it’s a floating sign that points to the large-scale (large in timespace-length, not in the sense of larger and smaller axiologies) emergent process which dotes the thing of the world with a certain stability and the freedom from utter chaos. But nevertheless the even-larger axiology is powerful enough that mob rule effectively rules over constitutional controls which rules over presidential power.
Therefore presidential power is incompatible with the large axiology. Aporia.
I’m renowned for playing fast and loose, but here we’re being even less prudent than usual. No attempt at a technical theory of larger and smaller axiologies has been made in the space opera. The quability status of “legitimacy” in formulas involving axiologies and axiology drift is left floating. Why? In an analogy that may in the future be codified in technical theory or plainly forgotten, the fog of realpolitik (which is the continuation of war by other means) presents a high enough level of impedance that a three-valued logic is materially implied where the quable states HIGH and LOW are complemented by the unintelligible (yet formally perfect) state of HI-Z.
But I do hope the ruse of large axiology in this specific context is clear. We’ve replaced a (necessary but best found elsewhere) theory of real politics by a theory of the value systems that animate the thing of the world. Humans (their vanity, akrasia, lust) are mostly left out of the story. Of course, phenomena like political corruption are perfectly quable to large axiology; the floating sign “corruption” (possibly a hi-Z state in the logic of legitimacy) is fully implied by the floating sign “democracy” (which is replaced by the low-impedance theory of large axiology.) To wit, large axiology contains a large chrematistics — in which lining one’s pocket is usually subordinate to a large morality of political change. As axiologies become larger and larger money loses its end-goal status; in crude analogy it has the role of bowls of condoms in an orgy.
This is, again, not a theory of how people behave, it’s a theory of value, or rather a theory of value theories. With this trick, the bowls-of-condom analogy of money (i.e. that money is required but not sufficient in the general axiology that will make us infinite points) points to a realist-moralist view of the world. Realist normativity! Paradox.
The breaking point of the constitutional crisis: a petit comité of members of parliament is suing for the impeachment of over one-third of the Supreme Court. The proximal cause: in its capacity as Revolutionary Guard, the Court has decided that the law on hate and violent crimes stemming from racism applies to hate and violent crimes stemming from homophobia. Note well that this doesn’t mean that, in its capacity as the ultimate interpreter (i.e. the ultimate source of quability) of the Law, the Court has decided that homophobia is a type of racism, presumably because they both imply the wrong attribution of moral value to a biological invariant (this assuming the ahistorical view that homosexual preferences are obtained in the womb). No, nene, no — the larger chrematistics contained in the larger axiology (mob rule) has prevailed over the large axiology roughly associated with the word “democracy”. The judges have echoed the theses of the plaintiffs (which didn’t even have a token antagonist; this wasn’t a court case, LGBT interest groups simply bullied the Judges) on the heinousness of homophobia.
[Note how, while lacking technical clarification, the theory (remember: theory is the theory of generic structure) of larger and smaller axiologies shines a light on this crisis as an type of equilibrium solution stemming from the systemic source of quability.]
Of course, “democracy” fights back. Parliament has not been asleep during this naked power grab. The Court’s capacity as criminal court for politicians further complicates the matter: parliament it has not been asleep while their actions under large chrematistics have been criminalized and delegitimized, putting many of its members at the mercy of the Court. Thus the ongoing potential for a constitutional crisis: The relative incompetence of politicians who haven’t been able to operate under sufficient secrecy has empowered the Court in its capacity as criminal court, and it would seem that this newfound legitimacy (i.e. this large-chrematistic engineering) would translate to its capacity as Revolutionary guard. After all, as you might have noticed in Glenn Greenwald’s writings, the Brazilian Parliament kind of sucks, doesn’t it? Each election makes it more and more conservative, how is it supposed to enact mob rule axiology?
By virtue of reflecting this more-and-more conservative weltanschauung, Jair’s presidential victory produces a focal point; it makes criminalizing homophobia an urgent matter (a high-valued action in mob rule axiology). The progressive self-empowerment of the Revolutionary Guard makes them natural allies. Which makes the Supreme Court, in their current configuration, enemies of “democracy”. Contradiction.
(If you have been following us (parts 1, 2, 3, 4) you’re not naive enough to regex-replace “democracy” for “good”. That’s somewhat akin to investing money in some really bad savings account whose interest rates barely cover inflation. But we haven’t decreed in #NRx style that “democracy” is “chaos” either; we may have no use for that word in the general axiology that will make us infinitely wise and infinitely rich.)