Technology, nostalgia and the rise of radical nationalism

In this podcast, Sundeep Waslekar, president of think tank Strategic Foresight, talks about a growing global phenomenon: the resurgence of the right. What it means and how it might shape our world

Indrajit Gupta

The last four-five years have seen a growing phenomenon—the shift to ultra or hyper nationalism. Whether it is the yellow jersey movement in France, Germany, Brexit, the rural - urban divide in Europe, Ukraine, Brazil, the US, and of course India.

Sundeep Waslekar, president of Strategic Foresight, talks about the unseen currents behind this shift.

“Underlying this is a combination of factors. One is the growing inequity,” Waslekar says. “Economic progress in the last 500 years has been driven by science and technology. But earlier, technology made life easier and created new kinds of jobs…. But the growth that’s taking place now is reducing jobs.”

As a result, in many parts of the world, people are seeing that their life is not better than their parents’ life. People feel a sense of loss and want to go back to their father’s time.

“People are looking for answers in the cultural, sociological field, whereas one of the key problems is in the technological arena,” he says.

In 2019, almost half of the democratic world is going for elections. More than 2.2 billion people will be voting this year. Their voting pattern will reveal which way people are leaning. Though electoral politics isn’t the best way to understand this phenomena, the results will be an important indicator of whether the phenomena will sustain.

Waslekar surmises that we might have a divided verdict in the elections in India and the European parliament. In 2019, the clear ascendency of ultra-nationalistic forces will give way to divided electoral verdicts—and that is likely to place some restraints and checks and balances.

“2019 will be a point of junction in most countries around the world,” he says.

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Sunil Malhotra on Mar 24, 2019 10:00 a.m. said

Very interesting that we're talking about culture and societal issues instead of technologies that are taking over most of the heavy lifting today. Also, great point about nostalgia to regain past glory ... Sharp point about the upper middle class intelligentsia completely missing the point.

Debashis Bhattacharya on Mar 22, 2019 12:27 p.m. said

Interesting perspective and probably true but as he says there are no right answers. The problem is lack of proper leadership and as the Brexit fiasco has brought out, the ‘perils’ of democracy.

Isn’t it ridiculous that we have a whole parliament and we live in the world of consensus but we still blame Teresa May for the whole problem.

I’m not sure that ultra-nationalism will actually last and nostalgia will be permanent. Especially some events like the fall of ISIS, “Brexit” and the country being held to ransom by the Trump administration will have far reaching effects.

Personally I think that this podcast must not be a one-off. Sandeep must be brought back in another six months for a review. And finally I’m a little surprised that he left out Erdogan and Turkey. It’s a very complex situation which could be an interesting indicator

About the author

Indrajit Gupta
Indrajit Gupta

Co-founder and Director

Founding Fuel

Indrajit Gupta is a business journalist and editor with over two decades of experience. He was the Founding Editor of the Indian edition of Forbes magazine. Within four years of its launch, Forbes India became the most influential magazine in its space.

He is the co-founder and director at Founding Fuel.

He has served in leadership positions at many of the leading media brands in the country. Before taking up the assignment to start up the India edition of Forbes magazine, Gupta was the Resident Editor of The Economic Times in Mumbai and before that, the National Business Editor of The Times of India.

Over the years, Gupta has built a reputation for grooming talent and creating highly energised and purposeful newsrooms. He has interviewed several leading global thought-leaders and business leaders including CK Prahalad, Ram Charan, Wayne Brockbank, Sumantra Ghoshal, Carlos Ghosn and Nitin Nohria, and also led cutting-edge joint research-based projects with McKinsey & Co, The Great Place to Work Institute, Boston Consulting Group, KMPG and Coopers & Lybrand.

He won the Polestar journalism award in 2010 and was awarded the Chevening fellowship by the British Foreign office in 1999. Gupta is an alumnus of the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai and a B.Com (Hons) graduate from St Xavier's College, Calcutta.

Gupta teaches a course on Business Problem Solving at his alma mater. He writes a column named Strategic Intent in Business Standard’s edit page. He lives in Mumbai with his wife and two young daughters.

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