There was thirst for an out­sider

Peo­ple thought of Trump as an in­stru­ment to fix the es­tab­lish­ment

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -


ESPITE HAV­ING an im­pres­sive re­sume and an il­lus­tri­ous po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, Hil­lary Clin­ton lost to Don­ald Trump, a rank out­sider whose in­tem­per­ate com­ments and other stunts were lam­basted by the lib­eral camp. So, how could this bil­lion­aire Repub­li­can script one of the ma­jor up­sets in the his­tory of US elec­tions? If you think Trump is a spoiler, then you have to know that there was thirst for an out­sider in the sys­tem. Peo­ple thought of him as an in­stru­ment to fix the es­tab­lish­ment.

Post-elec­toral analy­ses sug­gest that Trump’s mes­sage was more res­o­nant than Clin­ton’s as he fo­cussed on trade and im­mi­gra­tion. While the Democrats sneered at Trump’s so­cial­ist prom­ises of nix­ing in­ter­na­tional trade deals and re­claim­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, the of­ten-ne­glected Amer­i­cans drove him to the White House.

Ev­ery es­tab­lish­ment is run on the ba­sis of ra­tio­nal­ity and or­gan­i­sa­tion. You have to fight that ra­tio­nal­ity within the es­tab­lish­ment. For some peo­ple, Hil­lary is ra­tio­nal and Trump is not. But not many re­alised the need to chal­lenge this ra­tio­nal­ity. We have to be sus­pi­cious of the ra­tio­nal­ist struc­ture that drives a gov­ern­ment and its econ­omy.

Trump had cho­sen to speak about eco­nomic na­tion­al­ism in­stead of glob­al­i­sa­tion; he pre­ferred iso­la­tion­ism to in­ter­ven­tion­ism and voiced in favour of job growth-ori­ented econ­omy rather than jobs ex­port-ori­ented econ­omy. Many have started to think that his eco­nomic poli­cies may see a col­lapse of the “bour­geois democ­racy”. While the vic­tory of an au­thor­i­tar­ian Repub­li­can leader has kin­dled hope of fight­ing ne­olib­er­al­ism and wel­com­ing pro­tec­tion­ism, does that also mean that a form of au­thor­i­tar­ian cap­i­tal­ism will en­sue?

We have ex­am­ples of coun­tries where au­thor­i­tar­ian cap­i­tal­ism trig­gered de­vel­op­ment. If you look at East and South­east Asia, stel­lar eco­nomic growth was achieved dur­ing the regime of Syn­g­man Rhee (South Korea), Fer­di­nand Mar­cos (the Philip­pines), Ma­hathir Mo­hamad (Malaysia) and Lee Kuan Yew (Sin­ga­pore). All of them en­dorsed an au­thor­i­tar­ian form of cap­i­tal­ism. You can­not sep­a­rate it from de­vel­op­ment. These Asian tigers, whom I also call man-eaters, thought that an au­thor­i­tar­ian struc­ture will help them ac­tu­alise their de­vel­op­ment dreams. But this form of tra­di­tion comes with a caveat. There is no place for hu­man con­sid­er­a­tions. No one asks where will the in­dige­nous and poor peo­ple go? How will they be af­fected? The mod­ern West­ern civil­i­sa­tion is blinded by the as­sump­tion that it is the van­guard of fu­ture. It does not re­alise that no hu­man con­struc­tion is per­fect and all hu­man con­struc­tions are open to crit­i­cism. There was a be­lief that the vi­sion of en­light­en­ment can be ac­tu­alised through West­ern coloni­sa­tion. No rad­i­cal thinkers could iden­tify this ar­ro­gance of West­ern civil­i­sa­tion. They say “man is the mea­sure of all things”, but this ho­mo­cen­trism is ul­ti­mately self-de­struc­tive. If we think of the West, they are largely de­pen­dent on de­fence and other so­phis­ti­cated tech­nolo­gies. This, it­self, is anti-peo­ple, anti-life and an­ti­fu­ture. You have to re­alise that tech­nol­ogy can­not solve all prob­lems. Trump has tapped into the anger of mil­lions of peo­ple who are job­less, marginalised and dis­placed, and he has promised to re­turn the sovereignty to Amer­ica. But it is to be seen how his eco­nomic poli­cies im­pact the so­ci­ety. He be­lieves that en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns are all hoax. This is where he has to dis­tance him­self from that ar­ro­gant as­sump­tion that the ed­i­fice of laws and the diplo­matic pro­cesses that his gov­ern­ment builds will lead to his­tor­i­cal progress. You need a new way of look­ing at the world. It’s an age of com­pas­sion and hu­man­ity that re­quires a dif­fer­ent form of con­scious­ness and a dif­fer­ent type of school­ing. (Based on a con­ver­sa­tion with Subhojit Goswami) Ashis Nandy is an In­dian po­lit­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, so­cial the­o­rist and critic who has writ­ten ex­ten­sively on Euro­pean colo­nial­ism, de­vel­op­ment and moder­nity

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