‘The book grows out of a particular contemporary conjuncture which is not just Indian but perhaps global. It is not merely political but ideological.’
We all use ‘liberalism’ in our speech quite liberally while we talk about politics these days. And it is not just in India but globally. We all seem to take the word for granted. We tend to forget that it is not a mere political ideology but it is deeply set in our conscious as well. There are different degrees of being liberal. There are massive differences between the types of government which hang on to liberalist ideology, both effective and destructive. When we talk about liberalism we talk about Nehru, Hitler and Stalin in the same breath. Now we know that all the mentioned personalities are very different from each other but what binds them together is a belief that a man should be free to do what he likes and a government should respect the freedom.
This book tells you the ways in which liberalism can be effective and destructive.
The cover is very simple and apt. There is a hint of intolerance but basically portrays a straight talk. It works and well.
The author safely begins with talking about liberalism as a global phenomenon and not just Indian. Before he begins we wants everyone to understand the literal meaning of the word which is a sandwich of words ‘Liberty’ and ‘individualism’. Liberalism is therefore a free thinking ideology with concentration on the individual rights.
Mukherjee traces back the history of liberalism where the first time ever the author John Locke questions the right over the property over which a labour toils. By his assumption, the worker has a right over his labour and the fruit of his labour. This therefore makes him a part owner of the property he has worked over. This thought came over during the time in Britain when the king was the sovereign. All the property was of the state and in turn of the king solely. With the germination of the idea came the term political economy. The whole concept of division of the fruits of labour and share of economy with those who have worked towards it became a much discussed topic.
While Locke spoke about individual rights over economy and politics, Mahatma Gandhi in India was least accepting of the ideology of individualism. He, backed by Rabindranath Tagore, firmly believed in the concept of community. He was famously a force forever condemning of effects of industrialisation over western mass. He believed industrialisation to be the sole reason for a man’s ever growing greed.
Nehru on the other hand was a liberal himself. He intended to use industrialisation to the country’s advantage. He saw a political upliftment through the idea and embedded in the constitution along with Ambedkar in different repeats.
Mukherjee talks about the two personalities who believed in two different ideologies but worked together for the betterment of the country. However, firm belief in individualism can also be fatal when everyone believes in the rights of an individual. When there is a set idea of liberalism there is a politics force that implores us to believe in the same thing they do since their liberalism is superior to any ideology you may follow. This resulted in the regime of Hitler in Germany and Lenin and Stalin in Soviet.
The same ideology has immensely affected these across the globe differently. The wide spectrum is comprehensively explained in the book tracing history with economic development and individual rights.
Mukherjee concludes the book with a note on the current political scenario with respect to Brexit, Trump and the Government in India. Is liberalism, again, in threat? Mukherjee makes you wonder.
To be frank I did find the language to be a little pretentious when I began reading but soon it got over the language trouble because the content was so interesting. I wish the language was simpler so I didn’t have to keep referring dictionary or wish I was reading on Kindle.
I absolutely loved the cover. It is not often that I get to say this about non fiction but I did really like the cover on this one. The content is engrossing. You will find yourself glued to the subject.
I wish the language was simpler. Too many difficult words would only make a reader feel not up to it.
I am glad I read the book. It puts the world in perspective.
Whom do I recommend this to
This book is for those who generally enjoy non-fiction on politics.