Acceptance for autocracy is growing in India

A new Pew study launched this week shows that commitment to democracy around the world is inconsistent. By international standards, a large proportion of Indians (27%) “very strongly” support having a “strong leader” who can bypass democratic checks and balances.

Far & Near column published in the Hindustan Times, 26 October, 2017

When I was about eight years old, my twin brother and I – and many other geeks of our generation – played a sprawling, addictive computer game called Civilisation. The point of the game was to build your “civilisation” up from the Stone Age to the Space Age, marshalling resources, building cities, establishing trade networks, developing new technologies, and, of course, conquering your enemies with brute force.

Periodically, the game would offer you the option of switching forms of government. Why not try feudalism or monarchy or, later on, constitutional monarchy or republicanism, capitalism or communism? My brother and I tended to stick to more bludgeoning political systems. We enjoyed waging war (at least when it came to pixels, we were militarists). Having to be accountable to your citizens made expensive, unpopular wars untenable. So we opted for the predictable comforts and ease of authoritarian despotism. There was no fun in democracy and, moreover, it seemed far too obvious a choice.

I grew up in the West in the late 1980s and 1990s, a time shaded by the end of the Cold War and the real sense that there was something inevitable about the expansion of “liberal democracy,” that the American version of democracy would – and should – spread unhindered around the world.

If that computer game taught me anything, it was that political systems are contingent and impermanent. The recent history of the 21st century has shown us that the world hasn’t been flattened by globalisation, that it remains deeply wrinkled, and that there is no guarantee that liberal democracy will win the future.

Read the rest of the piece on the Hindustan Times

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