Las Torres de Lucca. International Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol 1, No 1 (2012)

Citizenship and the market economy. Or: what is really systemically important in democracy?

Lutz Wingert


"Too big to fail" and "systemically important" are catch phrases in current debates about the relation between democracy and the market economy. It is characteristic of this relation that certain questions do not even enter the political agenda partly because of the size of economic agents. For key actors in the financial sector like big banks or pension funds are what has been referred to as "too big to fail" or "systemically important", meaning that their behavior can pose a long-term threat to the economic system. Contrary to neoliberal theory, these actors are unable to establish a regulatory regime for guaranteeing the collective good of a functioning financial market system. Unlike a democratic state, they are not "systemically important", meaning "being important for the preservation of a system’s functions". A democratic state’s capacity to rescue financial institutions by levying taxes depends on the loyalty of the citizens. In order to secure this systemically important civic loyalty, it is necessary to limit the role of citizens as economic actors. This limitation is only one kind of establishing boundaries. Boundaries disrupt chains of causality. The reasons for and against boundaries as suitable means to rescuing and enabling democratic politics should be discussed more intensively.