Jaipur Literature Festival, on world powers

What if Latin America ruled the world? is a book by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, a lecturer of law in London. At the Literature Festival in Jaipur he gave the answer: “We had dancing and great football everywhere.” Delhi-based Professor Dipankar Gupta added that Indians for sure are not in the run for world domination. “We are neither black nor white, a mere brown in the middle. That in itself is a kind of non-starter if you want to rule the world.”

Indian reading

Welcome to the debate named “Who will rule the World?” Pretty soon the panelists – two China experts, two Indian academics, a member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords and a senior lecturer at Birkbeck College – re-framed the question and asked not who will rule the world, but who should.

Above mentioned Guardiola-Rivera argued that South American countries made a good example as they gave power back to the formerly oppressed in recent years. “In Bolivia and Ecuador now, the indigenous people who are back in control are proposing to us all that we should think of nature as having rights of its own.” So the decision on world power should depend on who makes the right choices – decisions like not to develop nuclear weapons, not to engage in violence, not to destroy nature.

Director of the Centre of Political Affairs and Critical Theory in Noida, Dipankar Gupta,  touted another model of governing excellence, namely Scandinavia. “Look at Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. They don’t think about ruling the world, they worry about ruling themselves.” Especially India should first look inside, before aspiring to control others, he continues. “That Indians rule Indians – this is yet to happen.”

Lord Meghnad Desai, a peer in the UK House of Lords, took the view that it is not necessarily a nation state that should rule, but a system of governance or an ideology that could be represented in various regions at the same time. “You may not like it,” he told the audience, “but capitalism rules the world, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola”. Because their penetration reaches deep into our lifes.


Rana Mitter, professor of history and politics of modern China at Oxford University, however believes that countries will remain important, “because that’s where democracy expresses it’s best”. One panelist predicted that next to the states, the United Nations will keep on dangling along, as they did over the last 60 or so years. “I’m happy as long as they are not part of the problem. But they won’t be the answer either.”

China, normally the favourite topic at forums like these, also got it’s (fairly small) share. Chinese author Xiaolu Guo pointed out that her country might be economically mighty, but it’s cultural influence remains uncertain. “China is number two after the US economically but the power or culture is still with America, from the Eskimos to New Zealand,” she said. In the West no one, for instance, speaks Chinese, whereas the educated people in China speak English. “American culture percolates everywhere in the world but while China is affected by Americanization it’s a one way cultural exchange.”

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