Book Review: Politic Shock by Meghnad Desai

Book Name: Politicshock: Trump, Modi, Brexit and the Prospect for Liberal Democracy

Author: Meghnad Desai

Publisher: Rupa

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Blurb: Recent events around the world have shaken old certainties. Questions are being asked about the survival of the Liberal Order, which has been dominant for over fifty years. The election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote have alarmed many commentators. Across Europe too there have been developments—the emergence of fringe parties of the left and right in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece—which have disturbed the liberal thought. In India, the arrival of Narendra Modi at the head of the ‘Hindu nationalist’ Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 had raised fear similar to those in Trump’s case.

In this perceptive account, Meghnad Desai opens up the debate beyond the West and looks at parallels between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump as two outsiders who broke through the barriers to reach the top. He analyses Asia’s challenge to Western hegemony and asks if the conventional wisdom about the hegemony of free trade liberalism needs re-examination. He peers into the future to look at the greatest challenge facing the world today: Will the Liberal Order survive, collapse or mutate? Is the world at a cusp? Is history—the old saga of blood, sweat and tears—about to resume its course?

Politicshock analyses Trump and Modi and other outsiders who have come to the fore not as freaks but as results of systematic forces—economic, social, political and cultural—who will now shape the critical destiny of the time that we live in.

Review: Meghnad Desai covers important aspects of the world economy and the changing Liberal order in his book, Politick Shock. He has dealt with the ramifications of the changing political and economic order and what it means for the global economy. The book begins with much of discussion dedicated to the Old Order or the Liberal Order. A book on economics is always difficult to write and Meghnad Desai has done well to write this book in layman’s language as a story and not a scholarly work.  He covers almost everything right from the Asian crisis to the world wars and the rise of Chinese economy.

Part two is dedicated to the political rise of Narendra Modi in India and Donald Trump in the US. He explains the crucial mistakes by the Clinton campaign:

“As in normal business competition when two companies are selling a similar product, a lot of money has to be spent differentiating between what is the same.”

Both Modi and Trump are rank outsiders but have shaken up politics in their respective countries. Meghnad Desai compares the two leaders and their working style devoting time to the note ban exercise in India or what is known as demonetisation. While most accounts on demonetisation have been uncharitable, Meghnad Desai offers a different worldview:

“It may take more attempts at demonetization before Indians are totally weaned off illegal transactions. But a radical change has been made. The public has been warned. Only a bold prime minister who thinks in an unconventional fashion could have done this.”

Much of later chapters are related to the resurgence of Asia and how a conflict between America and china cannot be ruled out totally. We’ve seen it happen before because of economic ambitions of Germany and Japan, there is no telling if it cannot happen again. While it’s well agreed that China and India will continue to rise and form new leadership in the new economic order, it is anybody’s guess as to which country may become the undisputed leader.

The book compiles good information but there is nothing novel in this book. Meghnad Desai has done well to take the concept of political and economic order to the masses in a measured and simple language, without frills and technical terms.

He avoids telling us what the future may look like as its highly unpredictable or as the author states:

“The future is unpredictable; the future is young.”



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