14.00 Uhr

Efforts at Social Democracy and the Rise of Rightist Reaction: Insights from Kerala and Indonesia in Historical Perspective

Prof. Olle Törnquist, University of Oslo (Norway), Professor Emeritus of Politics and Development

While Europe focuses on Russia’s aggression and the radical right’s advances, the historical dynamics are often set aside. The West won the Cold War, but why did then progressive democrats lose ground to nativist reactions? This is not just a European but a global story. The achievements as well as downsides of liberal and social democratic efforts during the second and third wave of democracy must also be considered. Focusing on the contrasting critical cases of Kerala and Indonesia, Prof. Törnquist argues that the initially successful emphasis in both contexts on citizenship and democracy as a unifying framework for various socio-economic demands was abandoned in Indonesia in the late 1950s, opening up for authoritarianism, while Kerala stood tall in spite of regressions. There were common challenges, moreover, to address the role of ‘political accumulation of capital.’ The setback in the South added to Brandt’s and Palme’s problems containing neoliberal globalization, followed by global ‘structural adjustment.’ This reduced the space for advances during the subsequent third wave of democracy. The drawbacks generated widespread discontent, which nourished the rise of the nationalist right. Meanwhile, the efforts at a new social democracy suffered from fragmentation and poor representation. The challenges might be overcome, however, as testified by the efforts in Kerala at participatory local development, welfare schemes, and investments in education, as well as by the brief alliance in Indonesia for a social security reform. Engaging in such attempts and related challenges is crucial to build a global democratic alliance (beyond NATO) against the current rightist countermovement.


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Südasien-Institut, Abteilung Politische Wissenschaft

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Abteilung Politische Wissenschaft