The Geo-Political Logic of National Democratic Populism

Last Wednesday the Economic Research Council, a think tank which promotes education in and debate around economics, had its first talk of 2017

- an interesting review of the geopolitics of Indo-Chinese relations by Dr. Jonathan Ward, currently of the University of Oxford's Faculty of Oriental Studies. An excellent overview but what struck us was an almost throwaway line that the (pre-Trump) US played a supportive role to India because of its leading role in showing that democracy can work in a country of nearly 1.3bn people.

And yet India, in 2014, saw a majority Government formed by the Hindu nationalist BJP under Narendra Modi whose platform might easily be seen in retrospect as a precursor of the populist form of democracy that has since emerged in both Europe and, with Trump, in the US. A question is whether the new national populism in all its variant forms, from Putin's Russia to the potential for a Le Pen-led France, is, in fact, a hybrid of the traditional liberal democracy which has dominated the West since the Atlantic Charter and Mao's national communism shorn of Marxism-Leninism baggage.

In other words, are we seeing some sort of Hegelian dialectic in operation in which a Western liberal hegemony (thesis) has faced national resistances (antithesis)? The synthesis is not only the enforced marketisation of formerly state-directed economies but the nationalisation of formerly expansive empires. That over-simplifies considerably because the varieties of market and democratic and non-democratic polity are multiple and the world is definitely multipolar. Yet something is going on here and few seem to be taking account of it in a non-partisan and non-ideological way.

If we are seeing some kind of general synthesis as the next stage of globalisation, what does it seem to consist of that is positive as well as negative? The liberal internationalists see nothing but the negative but their system also had negative aspects - free movement of peoples and capital also meant mass migration destabilising the West, economic opportunities for organised crime, the link between corrupt capital accumulation and the destruction of the rule of law and the emergence of political insurgencies that had criminal trading aspects. Without growth, the problems mounted.

As each new player emerged to take part in global trading arrangements, it was faced by an imperative to maintain internal order as well as protect trading routes (the latter was a major theme of Dr. Ward's talk) but liberal globalisation had become a primary agent of disorder. It is logical that each major player should adopt national authoritarian and populist strategies and then that the West itself, still fundamentally divided into nations, would be forced to follow suit. It may take a while for liberal internationalists to see that the logic underpinning their position may have disappeared.

These views are ours and not Dr. Ward's. The Economic Research Council, founded in 1943 but with roots going back to the intense debates over economics during the slump of the 1930s, is based in London and welcomes new members. For clarification, we do not act for or speak for it in any way. We are just ordinary members nothing more. However we recommend that you check out their web site. You will see that they have high calibre speakers of the rank of Chief Economist of major City institutions and members have access to a wealth of historical research and current comment.