The social roots of the authoritarian turn in India

Authored by: Patrick Heller

Routledge Handbook of Autocratization in South Asia

Print publication date:  December  2021
Online publication date:  December  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367486747
eBook ISBN: 9781003042211
Adobe ISBN:


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In explaining the authoritarian turn in India, analysts have pointed to electoral realignments and the rise of the BJP’s distinct brand of ethno-national populism. This chapter moves beyond these conjunctural factors on the political plane to focus on the deeper socio-cultural transformations at play. In India, democratic backsliding is fundamentally a reaction to the democratic empowerment of popular classes and lower castes of the last several decades. The authoritarian turn has been driven by a growing middle class seeking to consolidate its economic position and hoard its social privileges. The contours of that reaction have been significantly shaped by both the economic and social forces of globalization.

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