Beginning: At the End of Democracy
It is today impossible to understand the fragility and violence of democracy’s global life without grappling with the appearance of an unprecedented political form on our horizon. Aishwary Kumar talks the neodemocratic condition.
In 2019, in a series of dialogues to mark the publication of the Indian edition of his book Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi and the Risk of Democracy, Professor Aishwary Kumar began to articulate this risk he speaks of; a risk of and in democracy.
At the time, even as recently as 2019, it still seemed, at least to those who measure our moral success by the yardstick of civilizational self-assurance, that liberal democracy has always been the most stable — if not the most just — political form to have ever existed. Is liberal democracy not what actually makes (us) modern, human even, preventing us from lapsing into a world of infinite barbarities?
This articulation — of the risk of democracy — was particularly remarkable given that Radical Equality was originally published in North America in 2015, and had been written well before Donald Trump became President of the United States, spiraling the very edifice of global liberal and neoliberal institutions into free fall.
What, then, is really going on?
The answer lay not in our present, Professor Kumar said, but in our “interminable struggle with history.” That is the opening line of Radical Equality, and that is where we believe Mutant must begin: among the beginnings of our moral certainties about liberal democracy itself, if we are to ever twist free of the easy proclamations of its end. For after all, whose ends does liberal democracy serve? And what in it has ended?
Who is Mutant speaking to?
Everybody who is uneasy at this point. Everybody who is willing to look, willing to cut through the cloud and the rage of our own collective moral indifference. Everybody who is concerned that not every crisis in democracy or our political life is the same, and that something truly catastrophic is now underway that is at once most local and most planetary. It is most local because it begins with the slightest hesitation and the minutest seizure of our own cognitive and bodily movement. Our inability to move in support of anything. And it is most planetary because every such seizure, every such arrest, now has global repercussions, not just for global democracy but for the planet.