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There was a time when in the Western world religious figures had undisputed power over the people. But during the recent decades people have begun to reject priests as their shepherds and authorities: The sheep started to leave the flock. And it’s ongoing.

The same happened to teachers, who once were persons of undisputed authority but then began to lose their authority, and didn’t have a hold on the kids any more. The result is that for Western teachers it is increasingly hard to transport the content of the teaching curriculum. “Hey, teachers, leave the kids alone!” the band Pink Floyd cried. And it’s ongoing.

This process was flanked by the loss of authority of politicians, who are being increasingly challenged not so much by their contenders, but by the voters. And it’s ongoing.

There was a time when the bankers had power and prestige, but then in 2008 the banking crisis kicked in, the credit crunch, the deep recession, bankers – formerly in charge of everything, even of their obtained prestige – lost the dominance over the narrative and the prestige they enjoyed – even more than their bonuses – began to be called “banksters” by the masses of people, who felt betrayed by them, recalling 1929 followed by the Great Depression. And it’s ongoing.

Then in recent years the once distinguished profession of journalism has increasingly been accused of propagating fake news and propaganda. Journalists’ interpretational sovereignty came under siege. Formerly journalists propagated their content and the population and the critics stayed widely silent. But this has changed since their biggest competitor, social media, entered the stage, giving everybody a voice, everybody with access. And this is ongoing.

And now another group formerly blessed with uncontested authority is about to lose its standing. I’m talking about the caste of medical doctors now increasingly facing resistance in the population mistrusting them more and more. The population is starting to build up resistance against vaccination. A usual argument against vaccination addresses the interlinks between medical doctors and the pharmaceutical industry, the pecuniary aspect of big business in health care.

I guess this monetary interconnection has always existed, though morals have sunk in Western societies in recent years. But what’s really new is that people are more critical of authorities in general, and this critical attitude of the people has also reached the medical doctors now, at least in Austria and in other Western countries observably.

And what’s the precise reason for this development? As far as I’m concerned this increasing critical attitude is the direct result of a large-scale democratization process many people are engaged in, talking about the last phase: What started as the Age of Enlightenment is still in effect as the Knowledge Society, and the Information Society. Social media, giving a voice to express opinions, views, and approaches to everybody who is connected, takes the monopoly of power from the experts, who thereby lose their authority, because of increasingly interconnected people all over the world.

So to make a long story short, I observe a dethroning of various authorities in society and consider it as a result of the emancipation process of an ongoing democratization of the people, recently also hitting the medical doctors’ sphere, who are about to lose their undisputed position as “Gods in White Coats.” It remains to be seen if the medical doctors are the last group to be dethroned by this democratization process.

It seems that we are in the middle of a process of an increasingly emancipated population via getting information and knowledge, expressing their voice, organizing and connecting with one another via social media – reminding of the formation of labor unions in the past – wherefore an evermore pluralistic society gets increasingly fringed, polarized and ungovernable.

And seemingly as a counter-reaction, authorities and employers spare no effort to stem the dam break of emancipation in society via reactivating and reintroducing working conditions of the 1880s Industrial Revolution via Industry 4.0, meaning introducing the “996” work schedule, code for having to work 12 hours almost every day (from 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week), which is common in China for instance. So to extend the Western 35-40-hour work week to the East Asian 72-hour work week not reflecting in workers’ salaries is the result of economic liberalism. Neoliberals take advantage of this international competition in globalism and maximize their profits by degrading Western labor standards, worker rights and life quality, achievements that should be a role model to the world.

And for Asia, these developments implicate that the more it engages and proceeds in these described Western democratization processes – whereby emancipation is cultivated and propagated for decades by the West globally – the more traditional, conservative and authoritarian structures and control patterns will transform and dissolve. Religion is in large parts of Asia shunned. Asian authorities will increasingly find themselves in a similar situation of disarray, maybe even more chaotic than in the West, where authorities struggle to find their way out of cultivated democratization resulting from emancipation processes. Since the more educated people become, the more reflective, individualized, self-conscious and self-confident they become and thereby ungovernable.

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Immanuel Fruhmann

Dr. Dr. phil. Immanuel Fruhmann is an Austrian philosopher and educationist specialized in philosophy of science and language, cultural and social philosophy, as well as adult education, with years of experience in analysis of geopolitics and giving philosophical and educational insights to the public. He is psychotherapist in training and works as coach and consultant as well as writer. Fruhmann is a Knight of the Order of St George, a European Order of the Imperial House of Habsburg-Lorraine,...

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