by Owen Lippert
Assalammalai Kum. Let me begin by saying that I come here today not as an expert on Bangladesh and its history, but as a longtime observer and analyst of the democratic process, who now lives in Bangladesh. What I shall do is apply concepts of democracy and politics developed in other countries to the current situation here in Bangladesh. Doing so is both a strength and a limitation.
I draw on two streams of analysis. The first is the “New Institutionalist School.” This name refers to a group of scholars who have sought to explain political, historical, economic and social institutions in terms of liberal (neoclassical) economic theory. The New Institutionalists can be thought of as “economic imperialists” – economists using economics to explain areas of human society normally considered outside the discipline’s scope. Many in this tradition are associated with the University of Chicago. The work of Ronald Coase, Armen Alchian, Oliver Williamson, James Buchanan and Douglass North has earned them Nobel Prizes in economics.
The second branch of analysis may surprise some. The tradition of pragmatism developed in late-19th-century America by, among others, the philosopher William James, the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes and the educational and political activist John Dewey may seem dated and by now well out of the academic mainstream. Their ideas arose as an intellectual reaction to the American Civil War (1861–65), and over time they provided, if not the content, then the reformist tone of the Progressive movement embodied by President Woodrow Wilson and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.