Book Review: Indian politics

Updated 10 April 2018
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Book Review: Indian politics

The remarkable rise of Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, is examined in a review by Max Rodenbeck of two new books about Indian politics. In 2014, Modi led the Bharatiya Janata, or Indian People’s Party (BJP), to one of the most dramatic electoral upsets in India’s 70 years as a democracy.
“Despairing opponents, for their part, tend to consider Modi’s success part of an equally inexorable global wave of strongman populism: From his appeal to voter anger, to his accusations of enemies, to his televisual talent for sound bites and gestures, he much resembles Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, or Rodrigo Duterte,” Rodenbeck writes.
“With dreary regularity in Delhi as much as in London or New York, shoulders shrug and palms spread as it is explained that witless Indian voters have succumbed to some kind of wicked zeitgeist.”
However, a growing number of corruption allegations could stall the success of Modi, who was tipped as a shoo-in to win the next national elections in 2019. As “loudly touted policies have mired in Indian realities,” Modi could see himself returned to power with a reduced majority, says Rodenbeck.
“The smart money is still on Modi but recent trends suggest that he would be wise to call an early election, or he may see himself returned to power with a reduced majority, dependent on coalition allies,” he writes.


What We Are Reading Today: Reading Machiavelli

Updated 19 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Reading Machiavelli

Author: John P. McCormick

To what extent was Machiavelli a “Machiavellian”? Was he an amoral adviser of tyranny or a stalwart partisan of liberty? A neutral technician of power politics or a devout Italian patriot? A reviver of pagan virtue or initiator of modern nihilism? Reading Machiavelli answers these questions through original interpretations of Niccolò Machiavelli’s three major political works— The Prince, Discourses, and Florentine Histories— and demonstrates that a radically democratic populism seeded the Florentine’s scandalous writings. John McCormick challenges the misguided understandings of Machiavelli set forth by prominent thinkers, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and representatives of the Straussian and Cambridge schools.
McCormick emphasizes the fundamental, often unacknowledged elements of a vibrant Machiavellian politics: The utility of vigorous class conflict between elites and common citizens for virtuous democratic republics, the necessity of political and economic equality for genuine civic liberty, and the indispensability of religious tropes for the exercise of effective popular judgment.
Interrogating the established reception of Machiavelli’s work by such readers as Rousseau, Leo Strauss, Quentin Skinner, and J.G.A. Pocock, McCormick exposes what was effectively an elite conspiracy to suppress the Florentine’s contentious, egalitarian politics. In recovering the too-long-concealed quality of Machiavelli’s populism, this book acts as a Machiavellian critique of Machiavelli scholarship.
Advancing fresh renderings of works by Machiavelli while demonstrating how they have been misread previously, Reading Machiavelli presents a new outlook for how politics should be conceptualized and practiced.