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Kautilya vs Hobbes: Can Technology Help Democracies Avoid the Descent to Anarchy?

How societies are to be governed is the central problem of humanity, on which most other issues hinge. Governance is the context in which cooperation and collective action become possible and other endeavours, from scientific progress, human well-being and for to creativity occur. Reflections on the problems that arise in creating modes of governance go back almost 2400 hundred years ago, to ancient Greek thinkers, like Plato and reach an apogee with the most original thinker following him, Thomas Hobbes. (Plato, 1974; Watkins, 1973). The issues analysed by them have not changed fundamentally since, and more recent ideas are anchored in the problems of governance they had identified, viz the issue of how political authority should be wielded to ensure social stability and welfare, and the likely impact of mass participation on decision-making to achieve it. The analysis below highlights well-known historical arguments about the nature of governance and its attendant potential difficulties and India’s own unfolding experience since independence in 1947. The reflections conclude with an evaluation of the use of modern technology to overcome the serious failures of governance that have occurred in India and mitigating them to some degree it by employing technological solutions.

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