ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Birth of Democracy and the Death Knell of Capitalism

A response to “Death of Democracy: An Inevitable Possibility under Capitalism’’ by Rajan Gurukkal (EPW, 25 August 2018) seeks to foreground the inherent contradiction between genuine democracy and capitalism. Realising the possibility of system-transcendence therefore demands an organised challenge to the exploitative capital–labour relation.

The tensions between capitalism and democracy have reached new heights in the past decade, most recently manifested in the victory of Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential elections of Brazil, the latest in the string of right-wing politicians elected to power. Proclamations that liberal capitalist democracy represented the most ideal system of governance in the world and hence marked the “end of history” (Fukuyama 1992) have been rubbished as being premature and ideologically motivated. Fukuyama (2018) no longer identifies as a neoconservative, and has instead argued that the struggle for recognition or identity politics has become a threat to the existing liberal political system. Thus, what we witness is a democratic recession (Diamond 2015) or a democratic deconsolidation (Foa and Mounk 2016) due to the loss of popular support for democracy as a system, rise of anti-system parties, and a general indifference towards the rules of the game.

Mounk (2018) conceptualised two variants of liberal democracy, namely undemocratic liberalism and illiberal democracy, as being aberrations of a system that had ensured stability for decades. This harks back to the age-old question of the compatibility of capitalism and democracy, and what it means for development as an ideal. Rajan Gurukkal’s (2018) paper Published in EPW is therefore, timely and an exhaustive intellectual exercise, making it an important contribution to this area. He argues that global capitalism masked its expansionist tendencies in the rhetoric of “development” that has furthered new kinds of imperialism, marginalisation of the subaltern, encouraged over-exploitation of natural resources, and fostered a new kind of cronyism abetted by centralised decision-making that has replaced democratic systems with corporatocracies. This cronyism, most explicitly manifested in the special economic zones (SEZs) has led to functional autocracy, where the real agenda of the state is no longer public. All this has reaffirmed the inevitable possibility of the “death of democracy” under capitalism.

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