A very nice piece from my colleague Pranab Bardhan: Pranab Bardhan: The Achilles Heel of Liberal Democracy https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2020/02/the-achilles-heel-of-liberal-democracy.html: 'If the constitution in some democratic countries incorporates liberal inclusive values and is reasonably difficult to change, it can provide the basis of some form of civic nationalism (or what Habermas called ‘constitutional patriotism’) that may resist the marauding forces of majoritarianism or exclusivist ethnic nationalism. But the ethnic nationalist leaders are so adept at whipping up our primordial or visceral evolutionary defensive-aggressive urge to fight against so-called ‘enemy’ groups, that such resistance is currently crumbling in many countries–for example, conspicuously in India under the onslaught of Hindu nationalism, even after several decades of reasonably successful civic nationalism based on values of pluralism enshrined in the constitution and undergirded by centuries of folk-syncretic tradition of tolerance and pluralism of faith among the common people.... The fundamental problem [is] in something lacking in the origin of the democratic political settlement.... It is the diversity of interest groups, regions and identities and their collective action ability that may be the main source of lingering hope in extremely diverse countries like India. The Hindu nationalists currently enjoy a great deal of advantages in their onward march: a massive cadre-based disciplined, though thoroughly bigoted, organization (RSS) attempting to forge cultural homogenization among the Hindus, a charismatic political leader not averse to spreading misleading half-truths, lies and disinformation, access to a disproportionately large amount of corporate donations for election funds, and an infernal ability to use the arms of a pre-existing over-extended state to harass and persecute dissidents and intimidate the rest (through ample use of investigative and tax-raiding agencies, and misuse of colonial-era sedition laws against critics of the government, threats of withdrawal of public advertisements from critical media outlets, allowing impunity for the partisan lynch-mobs or police against minorities, and so on). The atmosphere of fear and intimidation has immobilized many civil society groups. Labor unions as a possible center of organized opposition have been in a kind of structural decline. Sadly, even the judiciary seems to have been compromised, and often timid or erratic. Nevertheless in the long run the odds are against such drastic homogenization and cramming of the manifold diversities of Hindu society into the Procrustean bed of an invented, artificial, poisonous, religious nationalism—against which Gandhi, the father of the nation, fought all his life.... This is an uphill battle for protecting the essence of liberal democracy that liberals all over the world should keep a vigilant eye on. It is vitally important particularly at a time when the Achilles Heel of liberal democracy everywhere looks grievously exposed...


#noted #2020-03-05

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