'Postcolonial Neoliberal Nationalism'

Arup Kumar Sen

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in power at the Centre is combining the ideology of neoliberalism with that of nationalism in its governance. Recently, one scholar has termed this paradigm of governmentality as 'postcolonial neoliberal nationalism' (PNN).

While theorising her concept of PNN, Nitasha Kaul argued: "Hegemonic projects, such as those of the right wing in the present, owe their success to how they weave together what are generally perceived to be contradictory aspects of nationalism and neoliberalism". (See Nitasha Kaul, The Political Project of Postcolonial Neoliberal Nationalism, Indian Politics & Policy, Spring 2019). Kaul noted how the PNN works in contemporary India:

…India under the BJP rule is one where neoliberal practices get legitimized as a matter of nationalist pride for they are deemed to enable the "rise" of postcolonial India. In India, through its use of PNN, the BJP wants to emulate the West in terms of neoliberal policies, keep it at bay in terms of ideas of secularity, and compete with it by "rising" as a global power.

Narendra Modi's Make in India scheme was mentioned in his Independence Day speech on August 15, 2014, and subsequently launched in September, 2014. It is an exemplary political project of PNN. To put it in the words of Nitasha Kaul: "Make in India is simultaneously claimed to follow from Gandhian Swadeshi and to promote economic nation-building through encouraging neoliberal incentives for foreign firms to manufacture in India which is now projected globally as a free-market-friendly deregulating economy".

The Gramscian notion of hegemony is a combination of coercion and consent. The political project of PNN operative in contemporary India has a distinct coercive dimension—repeated attacks on the minority communities, particularly the Muslims, and human/civil rights activists.

Back to Home Page

Vol. 53, No. 39, Mar 28 - Apr 3, 2021