What these waves of protest seem to indicate is that there is a need for democracy to be reinvented — perhaps many times over, until important mechanisms of entrenchment of privileged minorities and abusive power positions have been removed from all kinds of cooperative human endeavor, including families, business organizations, associations, states and international institutions. The fact that protests have sprouted in many Brazilian cities is a boon to many people around the globe who have been waiting for this large country of the South to “awake” and join the global march towards the transformation of politics.
There are clear signs that people are craving for new ways of doing politics. By and large public policies do not address people’s concerns, aspirations or wants. Popular leaders are elected because they are able to stir up bits of phantasies already present in the minds of the hopeful, not because they can actually change the life of society. Paradoxically, the existing machinery of democracy, with its propensity to multiply stalemates (fiscal cliffs and the like), is actually an impediment to meaningful social transformation. Moreover, democratic institutions of the kind we still nourish — under which ordinary people are allowed to vote every four years within a given territorial base, whereas capital owners are invited to hectically cast and recast their “votes” in many jurisdictions across the world, every second or millisecond and almost continuously — have become clearly outdated. In this political and economic environment, bond vigilantes have become de facto more powerful than whole democratic constituencies. This is becoming increasingly clear to the public in different parts of the world, and people have at least begun rejecting the outcomes of the institutional processes that generate public policies, modulate the enjoyment of rights and define major structural components of the social order.
But protest is bound to be unproductive if it lacks new ideas. New ways of doing politics imply innovation in the crafting of the many languages and practices of political life. This includes prominently the legal vocabularies, conceptions and processes through which much of social reality comes into being, is reformed, or recedes into inexistence. Creative imagination needs to generate legal notions and institutional paths with which to build novel interfaces between individual aspirations, social trends, politics, technology and the economy. Therein lies what may be at present the most important mission of legal academia.
As a response to the sense of helplessness in the face of what may need to be done, and to the lack of clarity about what should be done, innovative legal thinking may have pervasive consequences and is certainly a unique device to indicate many of the possible ways forward. A future in which public policies all over the world do not impede, but rather actively promote, in many different ways, the enjoyment of what people perceive as their fundamental and human rights: this is the direction in which the winds of change are blowing. It is also the direction in which the Legal Analysis of Economic Policy (LAEP) seeks to advance.