Going back isn't the best way to go forward. But that's exactly why the keepers of the existing world order, besieged by popular discontent, want to do: They are desperately clinging onto the Nineteenth and early Twentieth century labels, such as 'Liberalism' and 'Progressive Politics'. All those victories and persistent popularity of Messers Trump, Johnson, Putin, Modi, Bolsonaro etc. have pushed them into such a corner that they would now accept as fellow liberals anyone who finds any of these developments disagreeable. Almost everyone except die-hard communists and Islamic fundamentalists perhaps - everyone else is welcome to the party!
Apart from the impossibility to seeing complex contemporary developments through the outdated and intentionally distorted lens of nineteenth-century liberalism, this also results in a misdiagnosis. The democratic crisis that we face today is very much a crisis of those liberal principles. The liberal world order is in a crisis of its own making, rather than an exogenous bad-guy situation. The principles of the past don't have the answer; going back to the cosy politics of yesteryear, which indeed led us to this point, is hardly how one should confront this crisis. There is a straight line from Blair to Boris, Clinton to Trump, Rajiv to Modi and Deng to Xi; denial of this is a wilful misrepresentation by self-interested commentators.
I believe that the Liberal models distort the economic, social and political realities and therefore, have no answer to the changes that are taking place today.
On the economic front, the great battle-cry of Liberals against inequality is centred around the great wealth of a handful of the billionaires. These people, who indeed own disproportionate wealth, are usually portrayed as winners in an unfair system, a system that liberals would want to reform by raising taxes and closing loopholes. But, while there is no denying that the system is unfair and some people are indeed too rich (Bill Gates seems almost embarrassed), there are two big problems with this economic picture.
First, the wealth of these billionaires come as much from the expropriation of state assets handed to them by cosy liberal governments as that from tax loopholes. Indeed, liberals also know that raising taxes and implementing them to cut down the super-billionaires to size is impossible, as their purses dominate the legislative bodies, courts are designed to protect property rights (a cherished liberal principle) and capital flows are global in nature (another liberal creation). So, for all the tax-talk, the Liberals are really aiming for an honourable defeat, a nineteenth-century ideal but one that hollowed out in the twentieth.
Second, the 1%, or 0.001% as it really is, is not directly responsible for the current problem: The paucity of hope of progress and the breakdown of social mobility! For this, the responsibility lies squarely with those 'dream hoarders', the well-to-do professional middle classes who keep neighbourhoods exclusive, send their children to private schools and resist at all costs middle-class taxation. Indeed, these are the liberals, the experts who claim that they can return us to the nineteenth century golden age when everyone would have had hopes to progress. But they would not want to send their children to state schools, and rather pay thousands of dollars for exam prep for entry into one of the ever so exclusive ranked universities. For this group, social mobility is just an excuse for own advancement - they can't be trusted with lifting all boats!
If the liberal economic formula is hopeless, so is their social diagnosis. They project a profound sense of crisis in the increasingly assertive, majoritarian turn in politics, not so subtly claiming that the idiots and the bigots are ruling the day. But it is their politics of identity, fracturing the society into niché labels and picking up fights everywhere, that allowed such an absurd majority to emerge. Since the attention-hungry media amplifies everything, Liberals have ended up overstating almost every case they have taken on. In the name of multiculturalism and tolerance, they have allowed the most extreme practices and ideas of the 'supposed' minority groups to persist. From their panopticon vantage point, the idiosyncrasies of minority life seemed marginal and unimportant; the trouble is that the local realities, where the minority can appear to be the majority, looked very different.
Finally, politics have also failed liberals. There was always something dubious about the faith in independent institutions, in the neutrality and professionalism of the experts. The historical experience has proved time and again that institutions get taken over and corrupted, and indeed, need painful 'cultural revolution' from time to time (Jefferson understood this when he argued that the constitution should be torn up and rewritten from generation to generation); but detached institutions rule out such a possibility in the first place. The experts have proved to be, like any other individual in an acquisitive society, self-interested and easily corruptible: No big surprises there!
The final desperate rhetorical turn of the liberal apologists is to claim that while these solutions fall short of the ideal, there are no other alternatives: Everybody who hates the fascists must join the Liberal camp! But these are failed solutions and Fascists are just a logical conclusion of liberal politics. True, the alternative ideas are still in the future, but turning to the past for solutions will be to close our minds and limit our possibilities too soon. We must know that trying the same solutions again and again and expecting different results is the very definition of stupidity.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.