A World of Insecurity: democratic disenchantment in rich and poor countries

Hosted by the Department of International Development and the Department of Economics

Old Theatre, Old Building


Pranab Bardhan

Pranab Bardhan

Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley

Sir Tim Besley

Sir Tim Besley

School Professor of Economics and Political Science, LSE

Martin Wolf CBE

Martin Wolf CBE

Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times


Robert Wade

Robert Wade

Professor of Political Economy and Development, LSE

Join us for the book launch of Pranab Bardhan's latest book, A World of Insecurity: Democratic Disenchantment in Rich and Poor Countries. The book is an ambitious account of the corrosion of liberal democracy in rich and poor countries alike, arguing that antidemocratic sentiment reflects fear of material and cultural loss, not a critique of liberalism’s failure to deliver equality, and suggesting possible ways out.

The retreat of liberal democracy in the twenty-first century has been impossible to ignore. From Wisconsin to Warsaw, Budapest to Bangalore, the public is turning against pluralism and liberal institutions and instead professing unapologetic nationalism and majoritarianism. Critics of inequality argue that this is a predictable response to failures of capitalism and liberalism, but Pranab Bardhan, a development economist, sees things differently. The problem is not inequality but insecurity—financial and cultural.

Bardhan notes that antidemocratic movements have taken root globally in a wide range of demographic and socioeconomic groups. In the United States, older, less-educated, rural populations have withdrawn from democracy. But in India, the prevailing Hindu Nationalists enjoy the support of educated, aspirational urban youth. And in Europe, antidemocratic populists firmly back the welfare state (but for nonimmigrants). What is consistent among antidemocrats is fear of losing what they have. That could be money but is most often national pride and culture and the comfort of tradition.

A World of Insecurity argues for context-sensitive responses. Some, like universal basic income schemes, are better suited to poor countries. Others, like worker empowerment and international coordination, have broader appeal. But improving material security won’t be enough to sustain democracy. Nor, Bardhan writes, should we be tempted by the ultimately hollow lure of China’s authoritarian model. He urges liberals to adopt at least a grudging respect for fellow citizens’ local attachments. By affirming civic forms of community pride, we might hope to temper cultural anxieties before they become pathological.

The event will be followed by a book signing outside the theatre from 7.30-8pm.

Hashtag for event: #LSEWorldOfInsecurity


Pranab Bardhan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics at University of California, Berkeley. He was educated at Presidency College, Kolkata and Cambridge University, England. He had been at the faculty of MIT, Indian Statistical Institute and Delhi School of Economics before joining Berkeley. He has been Visiting Professor/Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, All Souls College and St. Catherine's College, Oxford, and London School of Economics. He held the Distinguished Fulbright Siena Chair at the University of Siena, Italy in 2008-9. He was the BP Centennial Professor at London School of Economics for 2010 and 2011.

He was the Chief Editor of the Journal of Development Economics for 1985-2003. He is the author of 16 books and editor of 14 other books, and author of more than 150 journal articles. More information about him may be found in his website.


Tim Besley is School Professor of Economics and Political Science and Sir W. Arthur Lewis Professor of Development Economics at the LSE.  From September 2006 to August 2009, he served as an external member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee and is currently a member of the UK National Infrastructure Commission and the UK Government’s Levelling Up Advisory Council.  He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the British Academy as well as a foreign honorary member of the American Economic Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is past President of the Royal Economic Society and the Econometric Society.  His main research interests are in the understanding of how institutions shape how the economy works with a particular interest in political economy.  

Martin Wolf (@martinwolf_) is Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times, London. He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2000 for services to financial journalism. Mr Wolf won the Overseas Press Club of America’s prize for “best commentary on international news in any medium” for 2013 and the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Gerald Loeb Awards. He was a member of the UK’s Independent Commission on Banking in 2010-11 His most recent publication is The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism  (London and New York: Allen Lane, 2023).


Robert Wade is Professor of Political Economy and Development in Department of International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Professor Wade worked at Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, 1972-95, World Bank, 1984-88, Princeton Woodrow Wilson School 1989/90, MIT Sloan School 1992, Brown University 1996-2000. Fellow of Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton 1992/93, Russell Sage Foundation 1997/98, Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin 2000/01. Fieldwork in Pitcairn Is., Italy, India, Korea, Taiwan. Research on World Bank 1995-continuing. 

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The Department of International Development at LSE promotes interdisciplinary postgraduate teaching and research on processes of social, political and economic development and change. 

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