Friday, 16 May 2014

How Martha Nussbaum helped Narendra Modi

The prominent American philosopher, Martha Nussbaum, along with Amartya Sen, has done much to promote the Rights Based approach to Development. More recently, her focus has shifted to the role of 'Public Emotions' in improving outcomes.
 Rahul Gandhi, the best educated member of his dynasty, appears to be deeply invested in this approach.

 His pitch for the 2014 elections was as follows- 'Mummy has already passed Laws like Right to Education, Information, Food etc. Furthermore, we have taken power away from the Ministers and M.Ps and MLAs and vested it in local communities directly answerable to local people. So Effective Capabilities for even the most vulnerable sections of Society already exist. It is literally the case that the poor woman starving in her little hut already has all the Rights and Capabilities she requires so as to 'become the change she wants to see in the world'.  In other words, the job of the Prime Minister is merely ceremonial. If anyone comes to him and says 'I need help' all the P.M can do is reply 'you already have the power and the legal right to get relief. Why are you bothering me? My only possible role is that of displaying some appropriate Public Emotion. Nothing more.'

From the philosophical point of view, this may be all very well and good. But, it gave rise to a bizarre situation where, in 2014, there was only one candidate for the P.M's job who said 'I want the job.I can do it well. What's more, if you have any problem, just drop me a line and I'll sort things out'.
Surely, that's what needs to hear from an applicant for the country's top job?

By contrast, Rahul wasn't just saying he didn't want the job- that could be taken as humility- he was saying that the job wasn't worth having because his Mummy had already waved a magic wand and vested Power in the People- indeed, poor Women living in little huts were already effecting some great revolution and doing amazing things and the C.E.O's of big companies ought to go and learn Management skills from them if they hoped to survive in the new Utopia.

This begs the question, if Rahul didn't want to be P.M- if the job wasn't worth having- what was he campaigning for? The answer, once again, involves  Nussbaum/Sen type philosophy which seeks to put Value Judgments back at the center of Social Choice. Thus, Nussbaum tells us, Modi's speeches, at one time, pandered to feelings of fear and shame. That's bad. So Modi is a bad man. Bad men should lose elections because Democracy is actually nice and shouldn't let nasty men pander to fear and shame coz Martha reckons that's like totally not cool, dude.
Talking ignorant ultracrepidarian nonsense, however, is a good thing because that's what Philosophy is about.
But, is Rahul actually a philosopher?
After all, Rahul ought to have realized that since poor women living in little huts had already been empowered, the onus of defeating Modi fell upon them. No doubt he had a duty to display some 'Public Emotion' from time to time but surely he could do that simply by altering the length of his beard stubble? What more could possibly be required of him? Indeed, even pointing out that poor women living in little huts now have all the power is unnecessary. People could find out this fact for themselves through Right to Information. Thus, had Rahul been consistent in his Philosophy, he shouldn't have gone negative on Modi because if Modi really was a bad man the safest place for him to be bad would be as P.M. because that office now has no power. Suppose it does have some power, then Rahul needed to present himself as a serious rival for the job Modi was angling for. The fact that he didn't bother to do so proves this to be the case.  The fact that Rahul did go negative shows either that he was inconsistent or else had embraced Nussbaum's Public Emotion theory along with Rights based shite. So he was saying 'boo to Modi' not so as to prevent him from becoming PM- which might have forced Rahul himself to take that worthless office- but just coz saying 'boo to Modi' is what Rights based Philosophers- like Nussbaum- do for 'time pass'.

In this way Martha's well publicized displays of Public Emotion with respect to Modi, have ended up helping him to an unprecedented landslide victory. But only because Rahul Baba is so well educated. Had he been stupid, Congress might well have muddled through.

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