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Afghanistan: Democracy, Elections and after (October 5, 2014)

Then there is the question of identity politics. Globalization doesn’t move just goods and services. It moves people, feeding public anxiety by shifting the racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious makeup of communities, sometimes abruptly. Trump rose to power in part by leveraging fears about immigrants’ stealing American jobs. Immigration was also at the heart of the Brexit vote. Developing countries don’t have to worry about waves of migrants knocking at the door in search of a better life, at least not yet. But in many of these countries, “they” are already inside or live just next door. Even in countries with unchallenged boundaries, racial, ethnic, tribal, religious and linguistic differences can become fault lines when technological change creates economic turmoil. Political opportunism is universal.

 

Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban prepare to talk (December 15, 2012)

What happens in countries where these institutions are weaker and have less popular legitimacy? Expect similar figures to emerge–but with results that are even harder to predict. Nationalists rise to power by convincing citizens that they can defend “the people” against a predatory elite and the favored groups they protect. But the hated “them” isn’t always a domestic enemy or someone still hoping to come inside. If the leaders of Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia and China can’t help their citizens compete in a 21st century globalized economy, where might they look for culprits? In the past, governments have steered public anger toward other countries, which can easily turn into military conflagrations.
Others will respond to nationalist pressures by building walls. Some of these barriers will be between the state and their subjects–China’s government has taken steps to create a “social-credit system,” a sort of credit rating based on economic and social behavior that determines the opportunities available to a person. Beijing claims the plan is intended to create a harmonious society and a “culture of sincerity,” but it might also serve as a barrier between the ruling party and angry citizens. In India, the government has gathered biometric information on more than 900 million of its citizens for its controversial national identity-card program. There’s no telling how future governments will decide to use this great trove of data; the potential for surveillance is enormous.

 

Courtesy The Economist

October 4, 2014

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