Deconstructing Democracy

Arup Kumar Sen

In her seminal book, Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 1995), Ayesha Jalal warned us: “Far from representing a neat and sharp dichotomy, democracy and authoritarianism are reflective of ongoing struggles between dominance and resistance. Without blurring the distinction between them it is important to acknowledge that they may frequently overlap irrespective of the formal designation of polities and states as democratic or authoritarian”.

Recently, the eminent political thinker, Neera Chandhoke, has reminded us that the discourse of contemporary populism merges with the discourse of democracy. To put it in her own words: “…the populist embodies in his corporeal body the people and the country, the nation and the government. Not surprisingly, such leaders interpret criticism of their policies as anti-national…Today, powerful populists hold representative institutions hostage to their own projects of power…They speak the language of democracy but their solutions to the problems of the people are rankly authoritarian”. (The Hindu, September 4, 2019)

Time has come to give farewell to our binary notions of democracy and authoritarianism, and to judge critically what is happening before our eyes.

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sep 9, 2020

Arup Kumar Sen

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