French economist Thomas Piketty’s erudite book Capital and Ideology published in 2019 is considered to be an indispensable piece of literature. It follows Piketty’s 2013 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which focused on wealth and income inequality in Europe and the US.
Piketty is rightly considered as one of the most skilled and learned socio-economists for his enviable research on the subject of ‘inequality’ in the distribution of wealth and other related spheres.
That Pakistan is facing an existential threat because of its terribly woeful state of economy and extremely toxic politics is a fact. It would be, therefore, highly advantageous to take benefit from what Piketty is saying in his celebrated work. We in Pakistan often use words ‘ideology of Pakistan’ without fully realising what this phrase actually means in a politico-economic context.
For example, Piketty says, among other things:
“I use ‘ideology’ in a positive and constructive sense to refer to a set of a priori plausible ideas and discourses describing how society should be structured. An ideology has social, economic, and political dimensions. It is an attempt to respond to a broad set of questions concerning the desirable or ideal organisation of society.
Given the complexity of the issues, it should be obvious that no ideology can ever command full and total assent: Ideological conflicts and disagreement are inherent in the very notion of ideology. Nevertheless every society must attempt to answer questions about how it should be organised, usually on the basis of its own historical experience but sometimes also on the experience of other societies. Individuals will usually feel called on to form opinions of their own on these fundamental existential issues, however vague or unsatisfactory may be.
What are the fundamental issues? One is the question of what the nature of the political regime should be? By ‘Political Regime’ I mean the set of rules describing the boundaries of the community and its territory, the mechanism of collective decision, and the political rights of members. These rules govern forms of political participation and specify the respective roles of the citizens and foreigners as well as the functions of executives and legislators, ministers and kings, parties and election, empire and colonies.
Another fundamental issue has to do with the property regime, by which I mean a set of rules describing the different possible forms of ownership as well as the legal and practical procedures for regulating property relations between different social groups” Piketty concludes this paragraph with the following observation which is quite relevant to Pakistan’s present state of affairs:
“People can agree about the political regime but not the property regime or about certain fiscal or educational arrangements but not others. Ideological conflicts is almost always multidimensional, even if one axis take priority for a time, giving the illusion of majoritarian consensus allowing board collective mobilisation and historical transformations of great magnitude.”
Pakistan, a political state appears to be having an ideology. The question for us is whether there is an ideology of the state as per the universally accepted principles as described by Piketty. This subject has nothing to do with the faith of people who live in a political division or subdivision. Saudi Arabia and Iran may have totally different kinds of political and property systems; however, notwithstanding the faith of the people living in those areas each state has an ideology which is operating properly.
In Pakistan, we constantly complain that the four provinces now forming Pakistan do not constitute a nation per se. It is so as we are still undecided about the ‘ideology’ within which we want to live. Both major subjects—the political system and its operation and property, including communal and individual’s rights—are yet to be unsettled. We had nationalisation of property without compensation.
There can be no sustainable development in a society that is often in a terrible state of disorder and confusion. Therefore, inequality among people will continue to grow amid political instability and economic chaos.
There are many examples of such societies in history. These societies continue to exist even today in some parts of the world; however, the people living in such societies continue to suffer and a very large number of them always prefer to migrate to greener pastures.
This matter cannot be properly examined or appreciated in the context of Pakistan’s history unless there is some description of pertinent political and economic events and realities of the country. These events and realities have a direct bearing on the present social, cultural, political and economic situation in Pakistan. The relevant facts are:
1- Pakistan is spending around 4 percent of its GDP on its military for over 75 years, which is the highest in the world except Arab monarchies and Israel;
2- Pakistan has fought wars in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999 without any tangible benefits;
3- Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world where two of its borders— the Durand Line and the Line of Control— remain disputed since its birth in 1947.
(To be continued tomorrow)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023