The western model is broken | Pankaj Mishra | The Guardian

Pankaj Mishra opines:

….economic power had begun to shift from the west. The Chinese, who had “got capitalism”, were, after all, now “downloading western apps”, according to Niall Ferguson. As late as 2008, Fareed Zakaria declared in his much-cited book, The Post-American World, that “the rise of the rest is a consequence of American ideas and actions” and that “the world is going America’s way”, with countries “becoming more open, market-friendly and democratic”.

One event after another in recent months has cruelly exposed such facile narratives. China, though market-friendly, looks further from democracy than before. The experiment with free-market capitalism in Russia has entrenched a kleptocratic regime with a messianic belief in Russian supremacism. Authoritarian leaders, anti-democratic backlashes and rightwing extremism define the politics of even such ostensibly democratic countries as India, Israel, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey….

I don’t agree. This is not a conflict between East and West or between capitalism and communism/socialism, but between totalitarianism and liberal democracy — a people’s right to govern themselves. Western forms of liberal democracy are mostly flawed, with many governments effectively hijacked by special interest groups whose needs determine government priorities. Russia is just a more extreme example of the situation in Washington DC.

Only by evolving new forms of liberal democracy, with more direct representation, are we likely to ensure its survival. We presently see many attempts at establishing new democracies fail because too much power is concentrated in the hands of a single individual or group. Only when power is shared between all major parties/interest groups, as in the Swiss system, are we likely to improve the success rate. It will take time to learn these lessons, but history is patient. The timescale is measured not in years but in decades, if not centuries.

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