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…