CANCELLED: ICAS:MP Special Lecture by Charles Taylor on 28 February 2020

Due to unavoidable circumstances, this event is cancelled. 

Wave of Democratic Xenophobia

Chair and Discussant: Rajeev Bhargava (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi)

28 February 2020

Venue: CSDS, Seminar Room, 6pm-8pm

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Abstract: How to explain the rise of xenophobia and discrimination in so many contemporary democracies? There probably isn’t a single explanation for all cases. But one form seems to be common to democracies in the North Atlantic region.
Here you see demagogues arising who appeal to classes and groups who have suffered downward social mobility, and promise to restore their former condition. The paradigm case is Trump’s promise to “make America great again”. The promise is specious because the downgrade suffered by target populations has been caused by economic developments like globalization and automation which can’t simply be reversed.
But the success of the appeal comes largely from the currents of exclusionary sentiment and xenophobia which are associated with it; as one can see with Trump’s proposed wall to exclude Mexican “criminals”.
The logic of this demagogic appeal is to invoke the sense of being downgraded, to excoriate governing and social élites for having done nothing about it, to add the accusation that these same élites have instead lavished their efforts on meeting the needs of others; for instance various minorities branded as outsiders; or else on foreigners wanting to immigrate to the country, such as refugees, particularly those from “dangerous” regions. Instead of helping you, the discourse runs, élites have been helping them. It is time to get things right.

The elements brought together to produce this explosion are:

(1) the really worsened condition of many workers whose parents enjoyed well-paid life time jobs with benefits, while the next generation struggles to hold on to part-time, low-paid precarious employment. The downgrade in many Western countries also  (2) involves the decline of many smaller centres which have lost population, institutions and economic activities to the benefit of a few major cities: New York, London, Paris, etc. But (3) there has also been a neglect of the political representative system, under the influence of neo-liberal insouciance, in the feckless belief that the market would ultimately correct the imbalances created by globalization and robotization. But (4) the population abandoned in this way has also come to find the representative system more and more opaque. The result is a dissatisfaction, even outrage, but without a realistic sense of the programme and the political vehicles by which these injustices can be righted. (5) the remaining factor is the existing divisions: between insiders and outsiders, immigrants and natives: but often unstated notions of precedence between citizens who have been long-standing members of the society, e.g., on grounds of race, as one sees in the US. And we have the conditions of the perfect storm. The situation in many Western countries today can be explained by variations on these factors.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Charles Taylor is one of the most eminent philosophers in the world. He was Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford University and Professor of Political Sciences and Philosophy at the McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he is currently professor emeritus. He has served as Board of Trustees Professor of Law and Philosophy at Northwestern University. He has received numerous awards that include the Prix Léon-Gérin by the Québec government (1992), the Templeton Prize (2007) and the Kyoto Prize (2008). He was made a Grand officier of the Ordre national du Québec and a Companion of the Order of Canada.

His teaching and research areas have been Philosophy of Action, Philosophy of Social Science, Political Theory, Greek Political Thought, Moral Philosophy, the Culture of Western Modernity, Philosophy of Language, Theories of Meaning, Language and Politics and German Idealism.

He is the author of several books and numerous articles and his noted publications are: Hegel (1975), Hegel and Modern Society (1979), Social Theory as Practice, Human Agency and Language (1985), Philosophy and the Human Sciences (1985), Source of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (1989), The Malaise of Modernity (1991), Multiculturalism and The Politics of Recognition (1992), Rapprocher les solitudes: écrits sur le fédéralisme et le nationalisme au Canada (1992), Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on Canadian Federalism and Nationalism (1993), Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition (1994), Multiculturalisme: différence et démocratie (1994), Philosophical Arguments (1995) and A Secular Age (2007).

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