LIBERAL CAPITALIST DEMOCRACY
The God that Failed
Economy & Politics, Society
Krishnan Nayar (full name Radhakrishnan) has written on international affairs and world history for The Times Literary Supplement, Times Higher Education, the New Statesman, The Political Quarterly and Dagens Nyheter (Sweden). He has also worked for the BBC World Service. Long a Londoner, he now lives in Vancouver.
French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
A spectre is haunting Europe and America: the spectre of anti-democratic, right-wing nationalism. This has finally exposed as ill-based the astonishingly widely shared belief that unleashing capitalism will, sooner or later, lead societies to democratic politics.
It’s nothing more than the big liberal myth.
Krishnan Nayar explores the history of six major pioneers of modernity—Britain, America, France, Germany, Russia and Japan— from the seventeenth century’s Cromwellian revolution to Donald Trump’s election, via the Age of Darwinian Capitalism: the pre–Second World War, pre-consumerist, pre–welfare state capitalism of severe economic instability and a penurious working class. Nayar shows that, in this period, capitalist industrialisation was far more likely to lead to modernised right-wing autocracy than democracy, which got a chance thanks simply to fortunate circumstances in a few countries.
Capitalism only underpinned democracy in the post-war period due to transient factors: the existence and character of the post-1945 Western welfare systems owed far more than is admitted by most historians to the challenge posed by the Russian and Chinese revolutions. The return of large-scale, extremist right-wing politics should not, therefore, come as a surprise. As autocratic China grows in strength, and Russia returns to expansionism, can democracy be rescued from a capitalism of dire instability and inequality?
‘[The book] challenges readers to understand the modern era (mostly European and Western) along revisionist theoretical lines … Nayar makes his case very well, attributing the failures of liberalism, capitalism, and democracy to class and ideological forces that truck with no opposition.’ — CHOICE ‘Nayar makes many good points in this hefty book. He is surely right when he says that today’s market fundamentalists are the mirror image of those who still cleave to Marxism—dreamers of a world that would be ideal if only its recalcitrant inhabitants would get with the programme. And his line on the Second World War—that it was the… by-product of “autocratic modernisation and capitalist instability”—is bracing, to say the least.’ — The TABLET ‘Nayar demonstrates independence of mind, historic...