Poornima Paidipaty interviews Pranab Bardhan in Phenomenal World:
POORNIMA PAIDIPATY: A World of Insecurity (Havard, 2022) covers a wide range of topics, from current economic inequality to the rise of populism and the importance of renewing institutions of social democracy across the globe. Maybe you can start by telling us about the inspiration behind the book—as a writer, what motivated you to piece all of this material together?
PRANAB BARDHAN: As a political economist, I’ve noticed that politics in many countries I’m interested in, both rich and poor, has been moving rightward (the major exception being in Latin America, but even there, leftwing victories have been fragile). I was interested in understanding this global shift. Everyone talks about the rich countries—Trump, Johnson, LePen, Meloni, the Sweden Democrats, among many others. Developing countries get less attention. In my study, I look at three developing countries: India, Turkey, and Brazil.
Existing work on the rise of the right revolves around the question of inequality—even in countries where it’s not rising, it is already very high. But again, much of this work is focused on Western Europe and the US, and I was interested in broadening this scope. Despite having worked quite a lot on inequality as an economist, I had a sense that this was not the full story. In particular, I felt that it doesn’t answer an essential question: Why are working people rallying under the banner of multi-millionaires? This is particularly confounding given that these billionaires, once they come to power, almost inevitably reduce taxes on the rich and weaken restrictions on the financial and corporate sector.