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

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Science, Nation State, and Democracy

Reimagining Concepts

In an attempt to go beyond the formal ideas of democracy, especially the much-vouched frameworks of electoral-ism, new lifeworlds of democracy are reimagined.

One of the tragedies of today is the fate of concepts that once sustained us. We thought of them as life-giving sources, but by a strange twist of fate, a touch of irony, they have become destructive entities. Three concepts in particular need to be exorcised—science, nation state, and democracy. The last word in the triad is the world we are still fetishising.

Democracy in India and elsewhere has become a caricature, a set of surreal episodes which would do a Duchamp proud. Democracy, rather than playing out the theatre of freedom, has become a demographic game, where numbers count, and the majority is idolised. A majoritarian calculus seems indifferent to minorities and margins, creating a violence out of indifference. Words which were once redeeming add to its genocidal power. As India fetishises the nation state, the idea of citizenship, instead of becoming an institution for hospitality, providing a sense of refuge and inclusion, turns out to be an emasculated entity. As the nation state turns genoci­dal, citizenship is impoverished. Instead of refuge, we create an increasing sense of homelessness or its grim alternative, the panopticon. The logic of sec­uritisation treats the vulnerable as potentially dangerous, seeking to eliminate the problem. Just as development in tackling poverty eliminated the poor, security as policy erases the refugee and the dissenter. The key concepts that sustained democracy lose their sense of conviviality. The language of rights with its elaborate rituals is too slow to save the targeted and becomes formal and starved. Demo­cracy, through its search for security, majority, and uniformity, ironically ­becomes an accomplice to the genocidal impulses of the nation state. This, in fact, is the tragedy of the 21st century. Demo­cracy becomes a form of idol worship in the way it treats a Modi, a Trump, a ­Putin as emphasising that democratic rituals are only a prelude to authoritarian forms. Authoritarian democracies create traumas few societies recover from. This emerging irony of totalitarianism is something that the social sciences need to confront. There is complicity here that we need to acknowledge. It is not merely the temptations of policy and power. The social sciences, for all their alleged postmodernism, still smell of staleness, the belated legacy of 19th century concepts. Exorcising the ­social scien­ces may be one way of saving democracy.

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Updated On : 19th Jun, 2023
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