I have never used crowd-sourcing in my work. But I am beginning a project in which I think crowd-sourced insights would be particularly appropriate.
The Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer Range Future at Boston University has invited me to contribute to its South Asia 2060 Project. The goal of this project is to envision how South Asia, as a region, would look fifty years from now.
Within the team, my task is to predict the future of democracy in South Asia. I am to think about the region as a whole and not do the typical country-by-country analysis.
This introduces a couple of novelties. First, whether we remove the borders or not, “India” remains the big influence. Given its past democratic performance, will it be the source of stability or continuity in the region? Or, given that its foreign policy is really about realist competition, will its values subside in its external behavior?
Or, given the million mutinies going on — from Naxalite insurgencies, to the condition in the Northeast, to Kashmir, to Hindu fundamentalism in Maharashtra and Gujarat, to the large increases in economic inequality — will democracy be challenged significantly in the next 50 years?
Aside from what happens “internally” in India, the removal of borders from consideration means that other pan-regional forces or identities, such as ethnicity or religion, will come to the fore of the analysis. And movements of political risk and reward here are harder to predict.
Of course, this forecasting exercise will follow a structured method, which I have used in other projects, and which my graduate students are familiar with. We will identify the actors and trends, the axes of likely change and continuity, the relative certainties and uncertainties, and we will develop scenarios. But what should all these be?
So, here’s an open call to blue-sky this. Help me out, and help me think through this by putting forward what you see as the future, the movers, the shakers. What might democracy in South Asia look like in 50 years?