Pranab Bardhan in the Boston Review:
Late on election night, November 8, 2016, Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times: “. . . people like me, and probably like most readers of The New York Times, truly didn’t understand the country we live in. We thought that our fellow citizens would not, in the end, vote for a candidate . . . so scary yet ludicrous.” About two and half years before that night, many liberals in India felt something similar at Narendra Modi’s massive victory—though one should say, Modi is scary but not ludicrous.
The right-wing populist challenge to the liberal order is by no means limited to Donald Trump’s America or Modi’s India. The popular appeal of Britain’s Brexit, France’s Marine Le Pen, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte has baffled social thinkers over the last few years. Meanwhile after a decades-long triumphal march of authoritarian and rapid economic growth, China’s increasingly repressive regime seems to be winning all the marbles in the global power game.
In deciphering a pattern in the looming illiberal challenge, an explanation has often been sought in the inexorable and unconscionable rise of economic inequality.