Monday, January 21, 2019

Goodreads Review: Twilight Falls on Liberalism

Twilight Falls on LiberalismTwilight Falls on Liberalism by Rudrangshu Mukherjee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have the privilege of studying at the university where Professor Mukherjee is the Chancellor and Professor of History. I have attended some of his classes and been impressed by his command of the subject and style of delivery, and wanted to know how far his expertise was translated on to his writing. This was a major reason for my picking up this book, as also was my interest in the subject, and I must say that it was a worthy read.

Professor Mukherjee starts the book - closer to a long essay at 133 pages of a pocketbook - with introducing the current socio-political atmosphere around the world and the manner in which the ideology of liberalism is under attack from various fundamentalist and totalitarian forces. Then, true to his historian's method, he goes back to study the conception and growth of the idea of liberalism from its 18th century Enlightenment roots and its changing scope over the ages in keeping with contemporary world economy and polity. He touches upon the fundamental contradictions within the ideology and the paradox of its birth from the same roots that gave rise to totalitarian tendencies. He moves forward to discuss some of the critiques of liberalism and continues the chronological study of 20th-century eclipsing of the ideology through the rise of dictatorships across Europe. He traces the cyclical pattern of rising and diminishing popularity of the ideology through the century before closing with the 21st century socio-political attitude towards liberal ideals as displayed by the three major world events of the last several years - the election of Donald Trump in the US, Brexit, and the rise of right-wing governance in India with the coming of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.

The major drawback in the book is the lack of analysis or at least historically moulded informed guesses as to the reasons behind the rising tide of totalitarian tendencies across the world. While Professor Mukherjee has touched briefly upon the economic meltdown of 2008 and the growing threat of Islamist fundamentalism as possible reasons for the decline of liberal beliefs, these interconnections could have been explored at greater length, providing a more nuanced understanding of contemporary world politics for the reader. This would have been particularly helpful for the lay reader since Professor Mukherjee's ability to explain complex philosophical and political ideas in lucid language makes this book intellectually available to a wide range of readers. That apart, this is a most interesting book by way of introduction to the political ideology of liberalism and is sure to get the reader enthused about learning more on the subject. 

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Starting afresh

As I write this, I need to begin with an apology, to Baba more than to anyone else. Baba’s encouragement was the reason I started this blog all those years ago, and since then, almost every post has seen hours and sometimes days of Baba’s coaxing and cajoling before being finally written and posted. There has been a steady decline in the frequency of blog posts since I left Durgapur in 2013, simply because the persuasion has had to be virtual for the most part. And then I moved to Delhi - Haryana really; coming to that in a minute - in July last year to ‘live my own life’ and the posts dried up completely. It was as if I had forgotten about the existence of this blog. Baba kept on with his requests and prodding, but I always came up with some excuse or the other for not writing, the commonest being “I don’t have the time”. Now that is some serious poppycock of course; I had time to party and get drunk and even play with dogs. It was the more cerebral of my interests that took a backseat.

Funnily, though, I had anything but forgotten about my blog. In fact, I kept using it religiously to send in writing samples to various prospective internships and academic opportunities, and even employers. And it did come in very useful to me; thanks to the rather impressive number of essays that have accumulated on my blog over the years, I had a wide variety to offer, and it helped me get associated with some interesting and enriching projects, including the chance to review books professionally for The Hindu Business Line. Writing itself has also been a very regular part of my life all this time; I have done more writing assignments in the last six months than I had in the three preceding years taken together. The course I am currently pursuing, the Young India Fellowship at Ashoka University in Sonepat near Delhi, is a one-year multidisciplinary liberal studies postgraduate diploma course, and it includes a very wide range of subjects, all of which require extensive reading and writing. I write an average of two term papers every month, and other smaller essays every so often. Additionally, I am also doing a work project with a startup, as part of the Fellowship curriculum, that aims to build a database of graphic novels in India. Since I am part of the literary end of the initiative, it is my job to read and review graphic novels and write blog posts for the database (yay?). Long story short - I have been writing often enough, just not for my blog.

I have put some thought into why it has been so, and have come up with a couple of reasons. They are mostly to do with certain mental blocks that I have created for myself about this platform, and I am raring to dismantle those. In fact, I have plans to redesign this blog significantly, content-wise as well as visually. I have been experimenting with photography lately - who hasn’t, though, in this age of smartphone cameras! - and I want to see if I can use some of those to complement my writing. I have also been feeling more and more that I should go back and give fiction writing another try. After all, it was fiction that I began my writing career with, at the ripe old age of five. Finally, I have some projects in mind that I have been mulling over for quite some time now, certain internet-based startup plans which I could possibly link this blog to. Let’s see how that works out.

This much is a promise though, to Baba and to any other reader who still bothers to come to my blog. This blog will not remain the neglected suorani that it has been over the last year. The Bootle BumTrinket 2.0 is here to stay. On that note, have a wonderful new year, everyone, and welcome back!