How nationalism can promote democracy: evidence from South and Southeast Asia

Can nationalist ideologies actually lead to the development of a democratic state? This article – co-authored by Professor Maya Tudor – offers insight into the ideas underpinning democracies. It examines the origins of two democratic countries in Asia, and compares them with their closest neighbour: India with Pakistan, and Indonesia with Malaysia.

The argument is that the kind of nationalisms propagated and mobilised by leading political parties during pivotal anti-colonial struggles either provided or denied vital resources for both crafting and consolidating democracy. In addition to offering a corrective to the predominantly economistic literature on democratisation, this working paper underscores the democratic dangers of building categorical inequalities into national identities, and offers relevant reflection for countries such as Myanmar, currently grappling with democratic transition.