Prospects of Social Democracy in a Post-Pandemic World

by Pranab Bardhan Many social commentators in the claustrophobic gloom of their self-isolation have shown a tendency to write in somewhat feverish apocalyptic terms about the near future. Some of them expect the pre-existing dysfunctionalities of social and political institutions to accelerate in the post-pandemic world and anticipate our going down a vicious spiral. Others…

Her Voice amid Lurking Danger: Reflections on Some Recent Feminist Crime Novels

by Pranab Bardhan In contrast with other genres in literature, in crime fiction, which mainly started in the mid-19th century, women writers (and even women sleuths) became active around the same time as male writers and sleuths in their stories. By some accounts around the middle of 1860’s, both the first modern detective novels (by…

The Achilles Heel of Liberal Democracy

by Pranab Bardhan Many find fault with liberal democracy because it exacerbates inequality, particularly when wedded to unbridled capitalism. But inequality has been rampant in authoritarian countries as well, with or without capitalism. Many non-capitalist countries in actual history have been friendly neither to liberty nor equality, never mind the soaring rhetoric, whereas some liberal…

Coping with Resurgent Nationalism

by Pranab Bardhan Einstein had called nationalism ‘an infantile disease, the measles of mankind’. Many contemporary cosmopolitan liberals are similarly skeptical, contemptuous or dismissive, as its current epidemic rages all around the world particularly in the form of right-wing extremist or populist movements. While I understand the liberal attitude, I think it’ll be irresponsible of…

Small-Town South Indian Fiction: We Are Not in Malgudi Anymore

by Pranab Bardhan A British friend of mine once told me that when he feels stressed he often turns to re-reading R.K. Narayan’s stories about Malgudi, the fictional placid small town in south India. Much earlier, in the 1930’s, a fellow-Britisher, the writer Graham Greene, had discovered Narayan and became his life-long friend, mentor, agent…

Can the Local Community Save Liberal Democracy?

by Pranab Bardhan As the job-displacing effects of markets and global integration and the cultural shocks of large immigration have rattled workers, particularly the less skilled ones, their reactive turn to populism in different parts of the world has dismayed liberals. This has been reinforced by resentment against centralized bureaucracies (not just in Brussels or…

Upcoming Challenges for Two of the Largest Democracies

by Pranab Bardhan In the next couple of months two of the largest democracies in the world—India and Indonesia—will have their national elections. At a time when democracy is under considerable pressure everywhere, the electoral and general democratic outcome in these two countries containing in total more than one and a half billion people (more…

The Chinese Governance System: Impressive Strengths and Appalling Flaws

by Pranab Bardhan This is the 40th anniversary of the onset of economic ‘reform and opening-up’ (gaige kaifang) in China under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, which eventually led to a dramatic transformation of its economy and global status. It is, however, remarkable that China’s current supreme leader, Xi Jinping, marked the anniversary in a…

Populism in Less Developed Countries Is Somewhat Different

by Pranab Bardhan The ill-defined term ‘populism’ is used in different senses not just by common people or the media, but even among social scientists. Economists usually interpret it as short-termism at the expense of the long-term health of the economy. They usually refer to it in describing macro-economic profligacy, leading to galloping budget deficits…