Democracies of Unfreedom: The United States and India

Democracies of Unfreedom: The United States and India

Democracies of Unfreedom: The United States and India

Democracies of Unfreedom: The United States and India

Synopsis

The United States and India--the most powerful and the most populous constitutional democracies, respectively--have more in common than is apparent from a casual comparison of life in, say, Agra and Omaha. While the material circumstances of an average family in the one city may be dramatically different from the circumstances of its counterpart in the other, the political cultures that protect and sometimes encroach upon the freedoms of each family are in many ways remarkably similar. The arrogant ambitions of one of Agra's representatives in New Delhi can likely find a match in the designs of one of Omaha's legislators in Washington, D.C. So, too, could we expect to find sincere concern for their constituents in the hearts of other political figures on Capitol Hill and in the Subcontinent. In this probing critical comparison of political culture in the United States and India, Professor Brij Mohan argues that much can be learned about the parochial roots and global expansion of representative government by studying both the successes and the failures--both the promise and disappointment--of these two great experiments in constitutional democracy.

Excerpt

But even the highest intellects of today do not see the darkness as I see it. . . . the intellectual world today is like a gigantic home for garrulous old men, who never mean what they say. . . . But, even so, the human situation in its fundamental character is not worse than what it has always been; only the scale and conflict between progress and decadence is infinitely larger. [People] of faith, believing in a higher dispensation in the universe than [human] will, have always been bewildered by the duality in their existence.

(Nirad C. Chaudhuri 1987: 962-963)

Democracy and freedom are commonly used as analogous concepts. Globalization of democracy in an unfree world is a paradox of modernity. the world's two largest democracies--estranged from each other (Kux, 1993) by millennia of traditions, thousands of miles, and multitudes of differences--have never been the subject of a unifying study. the task may remain unfulfilled for a long time as the magnitude of the comparative variables and their immeasurability keep on confounding. Yet a small step seems to be in order for three different reasons: (1) introspection as a vehicle of self-renewal, (2) globalization of the Indo-American creed, and (3) internationalization of the democratic experiences.

I was born, raised, and educated in India. Until 1956, I lived in a small town amid the triangularity of Mathura, Aligarh, and Agra, which I call the "Bermuda of India." When I went to college in Mathura--my grandfather's home town where my father had spent his early childhood-- I walked through the velvet-green lawns of a museum in Dampier Nagar and often spent my solitude hours under the sprawling shadows of balmy banyan trees over the turtle-infested shores of Jamuna. in Agra, the Taj Mahal and its haunting halo substituted my unfathomable thirst for beauty and grace. Those were not exactly Albert Camus's "luminous years," but there was . . .

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