Society & Lifestyle
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|by Dr. Prasenjit Maiti|
Introduction: The Problem
The idea of human freedom is essentially rooted in the concept of human development, according to Noble Laureate Professor Amartya Sen's 'Development as Freedom' thesis [that outlines an entitlement to capacity-building process]. And the idea of human progress is a construct that is designed around the axis of freedom. What is freedom? Is it only lack of societal constraint, withdrawal of discipline and punish, willing suspension of the panoptic Super Ego that they address as the 'mainstream'? Or is freedom a concept much more fundamental, to be read into the texts of Rabindranath Tagore, Roman Rolland or even Walden?
Sociologists claim that civilization is what we are and culture is merely an arrangement of artifacts that we happen to use during the course of our politics in everyday life. But then civilization is also a system of values that is handed down generations as a movement of socialization that laymen identify as 'progress'.
Contemporary state systems guided by the dynamics of globalization are like so many Januses - the phenomenon assumes a most robust character in the developed North but an almost impotent identity in the developing or still underdeveloped South. So globalization necessitates a dialog between the rich and the poor outside its essentialist assumptions of an uneven power discourse as conditions of Good Governance and Structural Adjustment Programs benchmark most Third World postcolonial democracies today.
While there are contentions that aggressive market forces make it difficult for welfarist governments to protect their citizens from transnational actors that are as elusive as their hot money, there are also counter-arguments that institutions like the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organization actually safeguard citizens from the administrative limitations of their respective national governments. There appears to be a consensus, however, that powerful markets tend to undermine political elites at home.
John Echeverri-Gent has pointed out that if globalization, on the one hand, facilitates decentralization then, on the other, it also helps develop pockets of dynamic Free Trade Areas in large developing countries like China and India by reorganizing their economic geography, Foreign Direct Investment and global commodity chains. This process, however, creates large hinterlands of economic backwardness and entrenches economic inequality within the developing South. Globalization, therefore, intensifies regional disparities in the Third World. John Rapley has found that Structural Adjustment Programs have varied widely in the results they have yielded. While Latin America has partially benefited from structural adjustment, Africa has not. Rapley has also argued that Rolling Back the State - that is less government as an imperative of contemporary globalization - does not always lead to enhanced economic growth.
Globalization, therefore, would appear to be an open-ended journey toward a globalized world order whose weightless economy may be described as one that defies both national and international borders so far as economic transactions are concerned. This is a situation where freight charges are nil and trade / tariff barriers would disappear. Such a pilgrim's progress, however, is nothing new. Technological innovations during the past five centuries have steadily helped integrate the global community into an emergent global civil society. Transatlantic communications have developed from sailing boats to steamships, to the telegraph, the telephone, the commercial aircraft and now the Internet where even nationalism as a conventional political ideology has been reduced to 'banal nationalism'.
State and Civil Society
Liberal democratic r'gimes like India or even the US can only be politically successful, deliver the common good and thereby continue in power in a more stable [read pro-people] manner if they are able to correctly read the obtainable ground realities and problems thereof. These problems are more or less popular in nature, and have a propensity to develop into discontent of the ruled actors against their ruling institutions. So the actors in power have to continuously shuffle and delicately balance priorities of human development, well-being and accessible freedoms like the ever-important agenda of human rights and civil liberties, a responsive and responsible administrative machinery, transparency at all levels of public expenditures and domestic and international peacekeeping projects rather than playing mutually harmful 'spy versus spy' games.
Eminent political scientist Subrata K. Mitra has quite rightly cautioned that 'If the wielders of power concede the point to those who challenge established values and norms, they risk losing their legitimacy. On the other hand, the failure to give satisfaction to the discontented might deepen their sense of outrage and alienation which can further reduce their legitimacy.'
Powers-that-be ['Cabinets or Foreign Offices'] will do well to continually redress grievances of political actors at the grassroots in a political manner by establishing and ably handling pro-people institutions. Only then organic identification would bind actors with institutions - only then the incipient involvement noticed at the level of 'actors and institutions' would, arguably enough, transcend itself to the level of 'actors in institutions', consolidating both the level and the quality of progress of freedom in the process.
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