Muslims In India Can’t Fend Themselves, Though

Indian politics are characterized in the case study about political competition and conflict as divisive but strangely inclusive and democratic. After the previously predominant political party, Indian National Congress came to power in the late 1800s, the country pursued a social democratic economy and elimination of caste discrimination. However, as Hindu nationalism rose and the division between Indira Nehru and her son, Rajiv, the INC lost its dominance and needed to form coalitions in order to stay in power. In the 2014 election, the INC succumbed entirely to the Hindu nationalist party, BJP. The BJP leader Narendra Modi appeals to the growing middle class by promising privatization policies in the economy but remains strictly Hindu nationalist.

 

Hindu nationalist sentiments are reflected in The Guardian’s article about a Muslim city being renamed by the government. Allahabad, a predominant Mughal area, is now called Prayag, which ties to the belief “that the creator of the universe, Brahma, made his first offering at the area in the city.” According to the article, this city is also the site of one Hindu’s largest pilgrimage. Uttar Pradesh prime minister has specified that more names are bound to be changed, and that “if needed, we will rename more cities and roads. The mistakes done earlier will be rectified.”

How far will the government push against Muslims and other ethnicities and religions to protect Hindu nationalist identity?

The current government has also been accused of violence against Muslims in the Uttar Pradesh region. The violence in India could be pushed even further under the BJP’s rule. However, as the Supreme Court just passed the decriminalization of same-sex marriage also suggests that the judicial review in Indian democracy might be effective in checking the government’s power.

1 Patrick O’Neil, Karl Fields, and Don Share, Cases in Comparative Politics (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2018), 475-484.

2 Michael Safi, “Hindu nationalist-led state changes Muslim name of Indian city,” The Guardian (October 16th, 2018), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/16/india-uttar-pradesh-allahabad-name-changed-prayagraj-muslim-hindu.

Iran Wants To Fend Itself

In the article US to Iranian Protesters: You Will Not Be Forgotten, Jeff Seldin summarizes the protest in Iran, the government’s response and the U.S.’s reaction to this event. According to this article, the protest aims at the unfair treatment of the poor, economic difficulties and political corruption. The police have allegedly arrested 1,000 protesters, and this event has led to the death of 21 people. The U.S. plans to penalize the Iranian government for not only the suppression of this protest but also other “human right abuses” involvement, while some claim that this will not help uproot the problem. 1

Similarly, earlier this week, the European Union has also decided to impose sanctions on the Iranian government for plotting the assassination of some Europeans with Iranian origins. According to a New York Times article by Michael Schwirtz and Ronen Bergman, this action is uncommon from the EU’s point of view, even though the Trump administration has been urging the EU to raise its imposed sanctions for a long time. The Iran government responds to this with the accusation that the Dutch government has harbored some members of the M.E.K, a terrorist group that has bombed Iran several times during the year. 2

How does outside pressure and involvement in Iran’s domestic and foreign issues affect its political culture?

Although the U.S. sanctions Iran for suppressing a protest, while the EU penalizes Iran for assassination, both events expose the level of control that the Iran government imposes on its citizen. The M.E.K itself seeks to overthrow the regime, which could have rooted from dissatisfaction with the authoritarian regime. This reflects somewhat the level of control that the new Indian government, under the Modi administration, imposes on people whose ideals go against Hindu nationalism.

Jeff Seldin, “US to Iranian Protesters: You Will Not Be Forgotten,” Voice of America, (Jan. 5, 2018).

2 Michael Schwirtz and Ronen Bergman, “E.U. Imposes Sanctions on Iran Over Assassination Plots,” The New York Times (Jan. 8, 2019).

A Big, Big, Swollen State

Max Weber’s Politics As A Vocation attempts to define the term “state” in the modern view of politics. Weber argues that the standard unit of political studies or debate is the state, which seemingly dictates the policies and thus the well-being of the political world. Weber states that in order for the dictated within the state to obey the ones in power, domination must have legitimacy or justifications of power. He suggests the three types of legitimations: charisma, traditions, and competence. Weber introduces the definition of the state as a community that “claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” 1

However, the territorial of the definition of a state is highly debated when the case of no borders is established. The Economist recently published an article about open borders and the debate surrounding this vision of the future. The article states that there are many benefits of the eradication of borders, both economically and morally, but there are also certain limitations to this proposal. 2

How will the definition of state change if there are no borders? Will there even be states?

Obviously, the territorial characteristic will not be included. But the distribution of power, both among the states and the ones in power within a state, will change drastically. There can be the radical case that the state will no longer be a prominent unit of politics anymore, but it is hardly possible since states would still be able to exist through national identity and legitimacy of leadership.

James Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 49-50.

“The Case for Immigration,” The Economist  (April 16, 2018), https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/04/16/the-case-for-immigration.

How Do You Measure Democracy?

The article End-times For Liberal Democracy interviews Yascha Mounk, a political theorist at Harvard University, about the declination of liberal democracy in recent years. In this article, Mounk argues that due to rising economic anxieties and religious as well as ethnic tension, there have been groups who felt their rights are not protected or their opinions are not represented in democracy. The inclination of populist authoritarianism and setting examples of success such as Russia also influence states to model themselves after.

Michael Albertus and Victor Menaldo, whose studies focus specifically on the origin of democracy, make the same argument on their article published by The New York Times in May 2018. However, Albertus and Menaldo did not call out the societal shifters as Mounk suggested; they analyzed the constitutional root of democracy and argued that originally “democratic constitutions are frequently designed by the outgoing authoritarian regime to safeguard incumbent elites from the rule of law and give them a leg up in politics and economic competition after democratization.” 1

Although the two articles make the same argument about the continuance of democracy, they talk about very substantially different ideas on the reasons why democracy is on a declining trend. While Mounk believes that democracy, in its procedural and substantive definitions, protects their citizens’ rights and suffrage, Albertus and Menaldo looked directly into the foundation of democracy and blame its founders on the lack of majority rights protection. A specific example that both articles give is Hungary. Albertus and Menaldo blame their constitution, and Mounk blames corruption. 2

1 James Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood,  Current Debates in Comparative Politics (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019). 

2 Michael Albertus and Victor Menaldo, “Why Are So Many Democracies Breaking Down?” The New York Times (May 08, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/opinion/democracy-authoritarian-constitutions.html.

America Goes Socialist?

In his article The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Esping-Andersen categorizes the welfare states into clusters that exist in the modern states. The author states that although it is unlikely to classify a welfare state completely under one category, the states often lean towards one of the three types characterized by their dependence and belief on the free market versus on the government. The liberal state operates “modest” welfare, selectively targeting the lower classes and depending on the free markets. The corporatist state focuses on traditional values and the social democratic state believes in universal welfare policies to ensure high equality and basic needs for everyone.1

 

The Wall Street Journal publishes an op-ed article in which Mr. Sartwell, a Philosophy professor at Dickinson College, argues against the case of a social democratic welfare state in America under the Trump era and the young socialists that advocate for universal welfare policy. Mr. Sartwell proposes that since the definition of socialism itself is inherently impractical and authoritarian, the United States’ problems will only be exacerbated by the government’s over control on its people since “what if the Trump administration controlled the universities and hospitals?”2

 

What welfare reform does the United States need to solve their problems of inequality and extreme poverty?

 

If social democratic policies seem to be a radical change since the United States is a liberal welfare state, the reform needs to stand in the middle line between an extremely universal policy and one completely dependent on the free market. Like the Scandinavian welfare states, the salient examples of a social democratic state, private companies still play a role in providing welfare to the rising middle class, but the government is in charge of guaranteeing these basic needs and welfare to all people in the country.

1 James Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 65-69.

Crispin Sartwell, “How to Argue With a Young Socialist,” The Wall Street Journal  (August 22, 2018), https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-argue-with-a-young-socialist-1534973784.

 

Brazil’s Economy – Which Way To Go?

October 8th, 2018

The case study on Brazilian economy Does the Global Economy Help or Hurt Developing Nations Like Brazil analyzes Brazil’s flexibility and tactical economic policies in regards to the state’s openness to globalization and the debate between state-led and market-led economy. In the case of Brazil, what matters more than the policies themselves is when the policies are applied. Brazil was open to the global economy after its slavery abolition in order to maintain a healthy GDP in the 1920s, but switched to enhance domestic economy and industrialization after the Great Depression. During the neoliberal years in the 1980s, the economy geared towards a market-led and open economy.

With Brazil’s presidential election having arrived and approaching the second round in a few weeks, Bloomberg compiles an article explaining the state’s political and economic situation at the dawn of the polls. The author points at Brazil’s fluctuating political situation with its previous president, Lula, imprisoned for his association with money-laundering and graft. Biller also explains Brazil’s fluctuating economic situation in recent years, having established somewhat of welfare policy and just barely recovered from its severe recession in 2017. He specifies that the economy now relies heavily on business investment, which “sank by 1.8 percent in the second quarter of 2018, the most since the recession, with election uncertainty weighing on decision-making.”

What global economy policy should Brazil’s next president establish in order to provoke business investment that influences the growth of the economy?

Although the far-left candidate believes in the strength of state-owned companies, it is important that the state opens its market to the global economy. Privatizing most of the companies and inviting foreign investment will boost employment and therefore the middle class. This is one of the main economic boosters, especially after the recession.

Sources:

J. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods and Cases (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 407.

David Biller, “’Brazil’s Highs and Lows,” Bloomberg, (October 5th, 2018) https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/brazils-highs-lows.

TBT To Lee Kuan Yew

January 20th, 2019

In “Culture Is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew”, Fareed Zakaria interviews the former prime minister of Singapore, the leader who helped boost Singapore’s economy to one of the most developed countries in the world, with an authoritarian regime. Throughout the entire conversation, Mr. Lee emphasized the difference between the culture of the West and the East, warning that although the West leads the world in science and technology development, the East will not abandon its tradition in order to fully assimilate to the West, economically and politically. On the other hand, the interviewer explicitly implicates that he believes that culture will change and alter the course of development, accordingly to the modernization theory of democratization.

Reuters reported that Singaporean government plans on scanning eyes at the immigration check of Changi Airport as an effort to try a new expensive technology that could potentially replace the fingerprints check at airports and immigration. This is one of the first steps towards using facial recognition in airports and around the country as well. The technology is supposed to increase the safety of the people, and the Singaporean government also pledges to warrant the privacy of its citizen and travelers.

Does the surge of technological advancement lead the country towards the West’s culture and ideas, or does it further enhance the policing and pervasiveness of tradition?

Despite the promise that they will be respecting the citizens’ privacy, the use of this new technology signals the tightening of security and policing that the Singaporean government is imposing on the country. This shows that even though Mr. Lee, the regime remains highly authoritarian and aims at increasing its control. Compared to the “perfect dictatorship” of Mexico under the PRI, Singapore has a greater level of control and limited competition for power, as all the prime ministers are appointed by the former ones.

Sources:

Fareed Zakaria and Lee Kuan Yew, “Culture Is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 73, No. 2, April 1994.

“Singapore Tests Eye Scans at Immigration Checkpoint-media,” Reuters (August 2018).

Nepali Democracy

October 22nd, 2018

In the article Why Is Nepal’s New Constitution Controversial, Charles Haviland explains the shortcomings of Nepal’s drafted constitution, in specific explaining what ethnic and minorities groups are unhappy about the contents of the constitution. According to the article, the constitution declares Nepal to adopt federalism with power divided by the caste system and proposed boundaries, which causes unhappiness in many communities. There are other communities who remain discontent about the Constitution, while groups such as “women, indigenous communities and low-caste Dalits” are provided better quotas. Haviland also mentions that the constitution is subject to change in the near future.

File:Constitution of Nepal.jpg

Although the article is quite dated, the political climate and constitutional uncertainty about Nepal’s federalism still exists. The Nepali Times addresses these issues in the article “Federalism’s birth pangs or death rattle?” The author notes that there has been a lot of progress made by the federal government to essentially devoluting the power since May 2017, with the landmark of an elected representative of the Communist party, including redistribution of the federal budget. However, the process of democratic consolidation is still slow because “mechanism designed to settle disputes between layers of government have not yet been fully utilized, leaving room for bitter contestation.”

With the Communist party in power and their interest primarily being the centralization of power, how will Nepal consolidate their democracy?

It is clear from both the readings that the power is still highly centralized. The coalition of regional governments might help devoluting power from the federal government, as well as the pressure from the public on the democratization process. It is also important that the public is getting informed about their political state (the Nepali Times is quite critical about their politics), as well as getting more voting experience. This will help with the electoral process.

Sources

Charles Haviland, “Why Is Nepal’s New Constitution Controversial?,” in Current Debates in Comparative Politics, ed. J. Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 93-95.

Ashray Bikram Pande and Namit Wagley, “Federalism’s Birth Pangs or Death Rattle,” Nepali Time, (Sep. 21, 2018), https://www.nepalitimes.com/here-now/federalisms-birth-pangs-or-death-rattle/. 

Putin’s Little Board Game

February 7, 2019

In her article, Julia Ioffe examines Putin’s motivation and intent behind the manipulation of the U.S. elections. She cites the Putin administration’s fear of losing legitimacy and power in the domestic as well as the international scheme as the main reason, stating the failure of Putin to revamp the economy and maintain the sustainable trust from his people. His resistance from the Westernization and privatization of economy is challenged as Ukraine is leaning towards the EU. Putin also feels threatened by Navalny, the only political opposition force that has recently emerged in Russia.

Image result for putin

Last week, the U.S. pulled out of the INF Treaty signed in 1983 by both Russia and the U.S., banning short and medium-range missiles from both countries in an effort to ease the Cold War tensions. Russia followed earlier this week, planning to create land-based missiles in the next two years. Both sides accused each other of violating this treaty multiple times before officially ending the treaty. According to the article, the U.S. fears threats from multiple forces, especially China, as the main reason to prepare militarily.

Is this a new arms race a source of confidence and legitimacy for the Putin administration? Do Putin’s worries about his longevity and legitimacy motivate this action for Russia?

According to Ioffe, Russia is preparing a new generation of techies and hackers, people with highly trained computer science skills in preparations of advanced espionage and vandalization of international politics. This restores a sense of pride and a feel of “world power” in the administration and in the people who are fervent nationalists. Therefore, the increase in military force and advanced weapons will reasonably act as the same factor, but in a different sense. They all show Putin’s insecurity about his remaining in power and his shaky legitimacy.

Sources:

Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Game,” The Atlantic, February 2018.

“INF Nuclear Treaty: Russia Plans Out New Missile Systems After Pullout,” BBC, 5 February 2019,

Where Do The Women Go?

January 28th, 2019

In her article, Mala Htun investigates the disparities in policies aiming to bridge the gap of genders and ethnicities in politics. She notices that there is a pattern across the world, that reserved seats are mostly for minority ethnic groups, while policies only require party candidates quota for women members. This is due to, according to Htun, the definition of gender and ethnicities. Gender is a cross-cutting social cleavage, which divides across other social and political cleavages. They suffer from discrimination within the group, and because so benefit from the quota system. Ethnic groups are, on the other hand, coinciding cleavages, and will be severely underrepresented if not given reserved seats.

Image result for women in nigeria

Last week, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker resigns after periods of struggling in the UK. The party has been offering unprecedented support for women candidates, namely childcare provided for all party members. However, the resignation, according to Walker, does not signify a step back in empowerment or movement for women’s rights. She is taking a break and inviting other women to join her in a high position, after a series of success as well as expected failures.

Does a separate party for women worsen or enhance women’s rights? How will the UK’s first-past-the-post system affect the longevity of this party?

Mala Htun would likely not encourage the existence of a women’s party, since she believes that using cross-cutting social cleavages, providing women opportunities within the party will be more beneficial to women’s representation. However, this kind of party formation has never been seen before. There have been many steps that the government has taken to increase the representation of women, and other kinds of efforts in other countries have been used to raise women’s equality, but not a separate party. The effect of this party will have to be examined in the near future.

Sources:

Mala Htun, “Is Gender like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups,” Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 49-50.

Eva Wiseman, ” ‘Democracy is broken’: Women’s Equality party leader tells why she quit,” The Guardians (January 2019).

“It’s Election Season in Nigeria, But Where Are The Women?,” UN Women (February 6, 2019).