An anomaly that goes by the name populism

Context: The populist measures and creation of perceptions have become part of the political mobilisation;

Social democratisation in India

New technology has replaced old social divides. For instance, now everyone does photography and shares everything.

Markets have created new modes of consumption. For example, Netflix has been referred to as a non-exclusive consumption. It breaks the gap between high and low cultures.

Relative educational opportunities have spread through the private sector. Further, English education now looks within reach. For instance, the Andhra

There has been renewed legitimisation of democracy through the principle of ‘one vote, one value’. For example, voter turnout has been increasing and on the day of voting, the rich and the poor carry the same value to their power to decide their representative.

What are issues involved?

Social equalisation has been without distributive justice. India has been witnessing social mobility without economic equality. Populism is one of the expressions of such a process

Populists are mobilising the aspirations born out of social mobility. They address demands for dignity, sentiments and recognition within the cultural realm.

The populists do not address the issues related to economic equality. For them, economic inequalities happen to be the outcome of either random or an individual failure.

The growing economic and material inequalities in India have been challenging the social confidence gained through the processes of democratisation.

Populists try to leverage new possibilities of being a precariat. They try to create insecurities.

Social mobility without durable economic equality (of opportunities) is creating resentment against the present.

The people are subjected to aggressive mobilisation based on or against other social identities, such as Muslims. The populists work against both the weak (Dalits) and the strong (Muslims).

At present, the ‘perceptions’ matter more than evidence. This is an era of post-truth. These perceptions are created and leveraged. No amount of evidence can off-set perceptions. For example, the birth rate or fertility perceptions about some of the minorities.

Pretence has become a generic ‘way of life’ for all social groups. For example, today majorities ‘fear’ from the disempowered minorities and some of the upper castes are feeling persecuted.

The ruling regimes are occupying perceptions and playing with the aspirations of different social groups. Social mobility is challenged with the perceived economic and material inequalities. The economic disempowerment has led to downgrading of social mobility.

The regime has created newer avenues to live pretence and perceptions. It has legitimised and given credibility to pretence and hyper-reality. The perceptions have started influencing policy making. This has converted pretence into a ‘way of life’.

There is a perceived dissonance between the social mobility of the past and economic inequalities of the present. This has transformed the character of governance too.

The role of digital media has been very adverse. It has been responsible for creating the perceived reality.

The rhetoric of outcomes and finality have replaced ideals of the rule of law and the separation of powers. This has been the result of a hyper-exaggeration which is common at present

Source: The post is based on an article “An anomaly that goes by the name populism” published in the “The Hindu” on 7th June 2022.

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