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

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Rise of the Anti-Political

"Anti-political" protests in India, Spain and the US are expressions of resentment with the working of democracy.

A new wave is sweeping across many large democracies in the world – anger against the institutions of representative democracy. These protests – by the Indignado (Indignation) movement in Spain, the Tea Party in the United States and here in India by the Anna Hazare-led campaign – are neither running in the opposite direction of the democracy movements in North Africa and West Asia nor do they seek to overthrow the State. They instead express a dissatisfaction with how the institutions of representative democracy are functioning. The form they take ranges from the extreme right-wing conservatism of the Tea Party movement in the US to the leftism of the Indignado in Spain. They can indeed be inchoate, but one common feature is that they scorn all the traditional faces of democracy – the established parties, deliberative institutions and practices. To the extent that they are built entirely on rejection and the movements do not as yet know what they are demanding, they can be seen as “anti-political”, though they certainly are making fundamental political statements.

The most striking feature of these anti-political protests is that it is the urban middle class which is in the forefront. While it would be wrong to dub the movements as solely or entirely of the middle class, this group is certainly very striking in its presence. Yet, in India, for example, it is the same middle (and upper middle) class which has been the biggest supporter of neo-liberalism that was ushered in by the same parties that the Hazare movement is railing against. Now with the stability of the neo-liberal regime under threat by the Great Recession, the middle class has begun to dissent. This dissidence has not been expressed as anger against the economic system. It expresses itself, first and foremost, as a protest against the functioning of the institutions of democracy.

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