The Failing State

Photographer: Jason Leung | Source: Unsplash The nation state is the most successful and important social institution in the world. Anything larger — the EU for example — tends to be a technocratic exercise without emotional pull. Anything smaller lives at the mercy of the nation; Kashmir being this week’s illustration of that general principle. For most of us, a…

Money can’t buy me love

Photographer: Fabian Blank | Source: Unsplash Man is the measure of all things. So sayeth Protagoras, ancient scientist. If you’re the religious kind you might condemn Protagoras for idolatry, for only God has the measure of all things. Or if you’re William Blake, you might condemn Isaac Newton for succeeding at the task. Newton By William…

Introducing the Animal Left

Every year about a hundred billion animals are slaughtered for human consumption. Closer to home, India has become a major exporter of beef, mutton, poultry, and dairy by-products, despite political posturing about the welfare of animals. These animals are often reared in torturous conditions, transported to slaughter in alarming ways and killed in great pain.…

The Great Game 2.0

Photographer: Anagha Varrier | Source: Unsplash After the recent actions in Kashmir, I have read numerous comparisons between India and Israel, of turning Kashmir into Gaza. Not surprising, since both the Indian and the international left have historical sympathies with the Palestinian struggle and perhaps more importantly, know the Middle East well because of their personal…

The State of Algorithmic Politics

Emotional Truths Why is it that at a time when the future of human existence is threatened by climate change, the future of work is threatened by automation and the future of every other living being is threatened by humans, why is it that we are increasingly electing regimes guaranteed to destroy life as we…

Why is Liberalism in Trouble?

Photographer: Pedro Lastra | Source: Unsplash One of the characteristics of the modern era is the importance of politics. We expect it to give us freedom and equality, prosperity and progress, and in a dystopian mode, fear and destruction. It’s a heavy lift, combining the job of religion and community with generous servings of science and…

Every Utopia becomes a Dystopia

A Map of Utopia I remember Reagan saying to Gorbachev “Tear down this wall.” Sorry, that’s fake news. Or at least white lie news. There’s no way I could have heard a live conference in West Berlin in 1987. It was probably past my bedtime in Delhi. I also have a memory of reading it in…

The Collector of Dystopias

Photographer: Pawel Janiak | Source: Unsplash Star Wars and Scotch Tape I am a technophile; always was and always will be. It doesn’t prevent me from agreeing with Gandhi’s critique of technological modernity. Instead, we can have fun asking such questions as: What would a charkha computer look like? One thought: Ok, I am not sure the…

The Form of the World

Photographer: Heather Lo | Source: Unsplash Configurations India has a renewed government with a few new faces, the most unusual of whom is the new minister for external affairs, Subramanyam Jaishankar, a career diplomat who is now in the Cabinet Committee on Security, which instantly makes him one of the most powerful people in the country.…

Bits of India 2: The Secularism of the RSS

Photographer: Aashish R Gautam | Source: Unsplash Buyer beware: this essay has a higher than usual ratio of speculation to explanation. I am playing with two central ideas (illustrated in the flowchart below): What? The modern system — with the state and the market being its standout institutions — destabilizes traditional categories, breaks them apart, swallows the pieces and finally…