This is a draft chapter for a book comparing experiences of social democracy in India and Scandinavia. The further informalisation of the Indian economy that is occurring, while it may lead to the renewal of union activity in some sites, and to the sharpening of protests against inequality, has shifted the focus of trade union activity from demands made upon capital and workplace rights to demands made upon the state for (minimal) social welfare guarantees. Social and environmental movements championed by the middle classes have had success defending the social and economic rights of the poor and dispossessed against capital projects, but without overcoming fragmentation across interests and issues. More recently, broader protest politics have targeted corruption and the established party system, but not the country’s liberal economic policies – and participation of the working poor and marginalized groups has been low. A possible exception is the electoral success in 2015 of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi, which promised the deepening of democracy in the pursuit of social justice. It has potential to occupy the social democratic space in Indian politics that has been largely vacated by the mainstream left. Whether the AAP can realise this transformative potential will probably depend upon its ability to sustain the alliance between an important fraction of the ‘mass middle class’ and the mass of the working poor.
John Harriss homepage: http://www.sfu.ca/internationalstudies/harriss.html
Harriss, John, What Are the Prospects for a Social Democratic Alliance in India Today? Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 41/2015, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, March 2015.
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