Can an “Egalitarian” Nationalism Protect Democracy? — Maya Tudor at The Interval

Can an “Egalitarian” Nationalism Protect Democracy? — Maya Tudor at The Interval


QUESTION: So what I really want to take from your
research is an idea that this pro-democracy nationalism inoculates
against the anti-democracy nationalism. But when I think of the
riots in Gujarat, which happened 20 years after independence, and five years before the time period you’re talking about, and the rise of the BJP today, I
can’t take away that message. So what is the message that I can
take away about the difference and the interplay of these two types of
nationalisms? MAYA TUDOR: Yeah, it’s a great question. MARGARET LEVI: Much better said than what I was
trying to get at. TUDOR: Right, so I guess what I would say is that the word “inoculates” is
far too strong. All the explanations that political scientists have for when
democracy does or doesn’t come about, they’re all probabilistic explanations.
They’re not—nothing, not a super diverse ethnic group, a super high level
of economic development, Nothing is absolutely sufficient to become a
democracy. So the claim that I’m making is that, all else being equal, and of
course, nothing else is ever equal, right? Because countries are very particular
space-and-time -specific creations, but that all else
being equal, a relatively flat and open porous conception of what it means to be
a member of that nation is a resource for democracy because of subsequent
moments of political crisis, when you have political entrepreneurs pushing to
get to power. If there is by contrast a narrative of nation that
specifically sets aside a group as not being core to defining the
nation, that in moments of crisis, that particular group can be more easily
targeted by politicians in power. And that’s what you see happening with
Muslims, the Rohingya in Myanmar, it’s what you see today happening
in India, and what you saw when Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, which is
when the riots that you mentioned happened. He’s very much been pushing a
Hindu nationalist vision. And it’s not a coincidence that’s exactly where you saw
the riots happening in India, because it’s where the chief politician in power
was pushing a majoritarian view of what it meant to be a citizen of that nation.
So to go back to your question, what do I take away from this talk? It’s not that
anything inoculates democracy. Democracy is only as strong as our
belief in it and our willingness to essentially make sacrifices on behalf of
a particular way of organizing and sharing power. But what I can say is that
in addition to all those structural factors which do make democracy a little
bit more likely. So if you’re a little bit wealthier, a little bit more likely.
If you don’t have oil and gas as a major part of your export, democracy is a
little more likely. And what I want to add to the conversation is when you have
a nationalism that’s relatively egalitarian, it makes democracy a little
more likely for the reasons I mentioned. LEVI: Except that in all these cases you have both kinds of nationalism pervading. TUDOR: Right. So I think that’s another…so just briefly, I think that that was a question I was sure
I was gonna get. “You know, when you’re talking about one nationalism, but
there are lots of kinds of nationalisms.” And I think that’s absolutely true.
Founding moments provide particularly powerful narratives of what the nation
is, but of course those narratives are contested and changing over time. But they’re often surprisingly durable. And what you see happening
in India right now is a sustained attempt to change what the national
identity is, and to the extent that it endures, it’s in power, it begins to change
national curriculums, which, you know, is exactly what we’re seeing, that will
become a resource for essentially promoting one form of democratic
breakdown just when those civil and political liberties are systematically
denied to the out groups.

1 Comment on "Can an “Egalitarian” Nationalism Protect Democracy? — Maya Tudor at The Interval"


  1. Everything she argues about exclusion of identifiable groups is true about the exclusion of males from universities, the war on men in the media, and more. Her argument is antifeminist because of the systematic denial of democratic inclusion for males which is driven by feminist activism.

    Reply

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