Pan-European revolutions of 1830 manifested in different forms in different regions. In Netherlands and France they took a romantic hue, whereas in Poland and Switzerland the impact on the political establishment was less pronounced. In the United Kingdom of Netherlands and in France, the impact of the revolution was to establish constitutional monarchies (also called commonly as ‘popular monarchies’). This meant that the older aristocratic order was dismantled and republicanism was given a new thrust. For example, prior to the revolution, the king held dominion over his country through the mandate of God. His reference as the King of France testified this fact. But after the revolution, his title was changed to King of the French, indicating how his authority is derived from the collective will of the citizens. Likewise, in Belgium, King Leopold I took to the throne under the reconfigured political arrangement. At the same time in Congress Poland the revolt against the . . . Read MoreContinue Reading
The four-part documentary series The Century of the Self captures the rise of one of the definitive industries of the 20th century, namely, Public Relations (PR). The term Public Relations is somewhat of a euphemism, for far from maintaining healthy relations with consumers the industry actually acts against their interests. It is true that the role of PR is to keep the public contended, but the problem lies in the means it adopts to achieve this end. Instead of addressing genuine public grievances through transparent sharing of information, PR firms specialize in manufacturing misinformation and spinning dubious facts.
The Century of the Self exposes how thorough and scientific the PR industry has become. In its early days the industry concerned itself with selling products by highlighting its features. However, quite soon, as the Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) of competing products decreased, the only way of distinguishing products was through their perceptions. This . . . Read MoreContinue Reading
It is imperative that any political regime first gains its legitimacy before enforcing its authority on people. At the outset, it is important to differentiate legitimacy from legality. Legality is a technical concept, which may or may not always satisfy criteria for legitimacy. Legitimacy, on the other hand, is ascertained through an ethical evaluation of an action, phenomenon or an institution. In public affairs, many laws get contested on claims of their illegitimacy. Inversely, many laws are enacted on the basis of legitimate necessities for their existence. The role of democracy, in this context, is to legitimate what is legal and vice versa. Whether it is a representative democracy or direct democracy, the role of democratic processes is to bring a moral bearing to the legislatures. More broadly, democracy is the force of virtue through which a state can exercise its authority. The rest of this essay will elaborate various facets to the interrelation between legitimacy and . . . Read MoreContinue Reading
Consciously or not, Stalin conjoins religion and politics. Why?
Religion, especially the monotheistic religions profess the idea of damnation and divine retribution for sinners. Stalin must have thought that where bullets and the baton are inadequate in suppressing dissent, the fear of God would serve as a complete deterrent. Another explanation for Stalin’s mixing of politics and religion is to develop cult followership. In religion, we find how the revealed word of God is never contested. It would suit Stalin’s totalitarian agenda quite well to have the citizens worship him as a cult figure. By encouraging religion, Stalin is promoting certain personality traits that are complementary to running a totalitarian regime.
What is the point of having numerous Stalins? (the plaster of Paris busts in the basement)
Although Stalin was a man in possession of enormous political power, deep inside he was very insecure. Some consider . . . Read MoreContinue Reading
The 19th century saw many key developments in political science. It was a period of fertile intellectual discussion about various forms of government and their merits and demerits. It was a time when many societies were coming out of agrarian economies and embracing industrialization. On the political front, imperialism still held sway as the dominant geo-political formation, even as older forms of monarchies and principalities continued to exist. In the flux created by new industrial methods of production, warfare and administration, the idea of ‘nationalism’ came to fore. With Europe as its epicentre, nationalism was mooted as the collective geo-political representation of a race (ethnicity) of people. Another feature of most modern nation-states is their capitalist orientation, although it was less pronounced in the 19th century. (Cottam & Cottam, 2001)
The modern state is defined by a few key characteristics: contiguous territory, salaried bureaucrats, common . . . Read MoreContinue Reading
It is self-evidently true that a liberal-democratic government should protect the ‘social rights’ of its citizens. There are copious arguments from various eminent thinkers that back up this claim. Ranging across eras and philosophical schools, various intellectuals have endorsed the protection of social rights of citizens. This essay will draw upon the ideas of philosopher Socrates (through his disciple Plato), American founding father James Madison, and 20th century political scientist T.H. Marshall. In doing so, the essay will back the position that a liberal-democratic government should protect the ‘social-rights’ of its citizens.
Social rights can be loosely defined as those rights which are operant in public places. While this is not a legal definition of the term, it serves as a guideline for the essay. In a nation with diverse racial, ethnic and religious demography as the United States, it is expected that the laws reflect secularism and social equity. These . . . Read MoreContinue Reading
The hallmark of good literature is that it combines art with raising social consciousness. This is certainly true of the 3 classics perused for this essay. Falling into different genres like fiction, nonfiction and reportage, the three works treat the social consequences of war in their own unique ways. The rest of this essay will show how themes of love, loss, perception and reality are adequately addressed in these works.
The Things They Carried is an assortment of short stories penned by Tim O’Brien based on his first hand experiences in Vietnam. O’Brien was part of the platoon called Alpha Company, which was actively engaged in combat with the Vietnamese. As a result, though the stories contain fictitious additions, they are mostly based on real events witnessed by the author. Several themes recur through these stories. Chief among them are love, camaraderie and courage. Love is most pronounced in the relationship between Cross and Martha. Cross agrees to narrate his . . . Read MoreContinue Reading
Concentration of media ownership is a serious problem across the world. Since the media is considered the ‘Fourth Pillar’ of democracy, it is imperative that it remains diverse and free of commercialization. Unfortunately, the reality is quite the opposite. In this context, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, stands as a symbol of this dire imbalance. News Corporation, under the leadership of Rupert Murdoch, has unparalleled power and reach in the news media industry. The Murdoch Empire spans several continents, with significant footholds in Australia, United States and the United Kingdom. Founded and headquartered in Australia, the company now boasts of being the number one newspaper publisher in the world, with a cumulative daily readership of 14 million in these three countries alone. Murdoch has a near monopoly in the media space in Australia, owning two-thirds of all newspaper circulation in the country. Across the Tasman Sea, in New Zealand, he owns nearly half. Further, he . . . Read MoreContinue Reading
One of the topics that had garnered media space in recent months is the issue of global warming. Without doubt it is one of the critical issues facing humanity. If solutions are not identified and implemented urgently, irrevocable damage could occur to the prospects of the species as well as the larger habitable environment. There are different stakeholders involved, including the policymakers, media, general public, the business community and the scientific community. The direction of the future discourse on the subject would depend on persuasiveness and collective representation of each of these groups. What follows is an evaluation of their relative ‘weight’ in terms of shaping the discourse on climate change. Newspapers such as New York Times and Washington Times were perused for this exercise.
The scientific community performs the crucial role of studying the problem and accurately projecting the future implications. But they have relatively weak influence over the . . . Read MoreContinue Reading
All gangs and mafias have their own initiation rituals and modes of operations. The same is true of the two different gang cultures being studied here – the Crips and the neo-Nazis. In the autobiographical account of Monster – one of the leaders of the gang – we learn about the initiation rites, organizational structure, modus operandi, economic targets, treatment of rivalries, etc. The Crips is a predominantly black gang that hogged headlines during the post-war decades of the 1950s and 60s. In some ways the Crips represented a militant underground movement parallel to that of the Black Nationalist movement. While the Crips adopted some of the violent methods of the movement headed by Malcolm-X, it is not political in nature. So, despite its racial affiliation, the means and ends of the gang are largely anti-social. Likewise, in the film American History X, we are exposed to a dark underground cult of American society. Commonly referred to as ‘skin-heads’, the . . . Read MoreContinue Reading