Saturday, 4 December, 2021

Shifting Paradigm Of Public Order

Dev Raj Dahal


The shifting paradigm in every aspects of human life marks politics to a new orientation. Human beings are not the prisoners of fate, faith, institution or constitution.  They have the will to decide their destiny on the basis of their knowledge, ability and necessary choice and confront both political and non-political challenges. In everyday life they prefer public order as a public good shaped by shared norms, values and institutions facilitating the ability of citizens and the polity to function efficiently, create social unity within the state and avert any outside intrusion. Public order, however, is not ideology-neutral. It reflects the political culture of constitutionalism. Conservatives prefer the primacy of tradition, religion and order over freedom and justice. Laissez fair tradition prefers the use of economic theory of democracy affirming individual’s rational choice over public good and rationalizes the order donned by propertied classes though maintains a boundary between private contract and social contract, the latter expresses the ideals of justice as precondition for political order. Social democrats prefer a golden mean between individual freedom and collective interests while leftists prefers collective over the individual interests for the creation of a public order. The democratic evolution of law in Nepal as a system of rights and its internalization in the Constitution presumes to create public order grounded on sacred tradition, fairness and neutral administration of justice above law and logic. Once survival needs of Nepalis are satisfied, its politics can find a new political equilibrium and a new adaptation to change underway at various scales. But the public order turns less orderly if sub-systemic forces of society, like business, political parties and bureaucratic monopoly and control influence the polity, remove the bonding and bridging social capital between Nepalis and their state and tolerate the free ride of centrifugal viruses. Bridging the gap between Nepali Constitution, behavioural politics, public policy and socialization is a precondition for the equal distribution of freedom and the stability of public order.
The quality of public order differs from the nature of society, the state, political culture and the scale of separation and dispersal of powers. In a complex society like Nepal creation of a legitimate political order is important to complete the process of transitional justice, execute the constitution, enable multi-level governance to function and realize the constitutional ideal of  creating an egalitarian society. Leadership skill in the management of diversity, dissents and rival identities, ideologies and interests is critical to tie them to solution and generate a politics of hope of Nepalis and their trust on the system-maintaining forces. The recent lockdown of the nation establishes the primacy of public order aimed at preventing the risk of spread of corona virus epidemic and maintenance of security, order and peace in society. It has renewed the importance of solidarity among the nations and citizens. Biophere, sociosphere and technosphere have interlinked Nepalis destiny with the community of nations. Mutual vulnerability to climate change, pandemic of corona virus sort or nuclear fallout requires mutual sensitivity, solidarity, communication and collective action while resolution of different understanding of Nepali Constitution makes it relatively a better project for action-coordination and distribution of equal freedom for all Nepalis.
The ability of any state to create public order lies: First, in abolishing the state of nature—internal rifts, violence, crime, theft, arbitrary use of power, turmoil, anomie, abuse of power etc so that citizens and authorities’ conduct become orderly and predictable. Nepali state cannot do so without acquiring legitimate monopoly on power to constitutionalize the behavior of all actors of society enabling basic state functions away from the emergence of patronage structures in every public institution. Second, thicker public order makes Nepali state, public space and society rule-bound so that maintenance of security, rule of law and provision and production of public goods are not scarce even in the time of national emergency. Without common loyalties of Nepalis to national state aiming to fulfill shared constitutional goals, the concertation of political parties, business, NGOs, civil society and sub-national associations becomes disorderly. Communal viruses, like corona, stoke social distancing and alienation from each other, not social and national integration. The proliferation of special interest groups in Nepali polity with unofficial power has weakened its system imperatives. They are principal threat to the rule of law and national solidarity as they seek unregulated bargaining undisturbed by any regime change-democratic or not and hobble the public order. Citizens only accept authority legitimately composed by them and their representatives. Third, Nepali state and its society have evolved legal mechanisms of crisis, risk, conflict and problem solution to keep a modicum of order, peace and justice as incentives for citizens and leaders to become rule abiding, not driven by pre-modern solidarity groups, sub-national associations, pervasive factionalism and fragmentation of political power around clientalist networks associated with individual leaders. Curbing the persistence of these tendencies is important task so that they do not threaten the fabric of social decency and public order.
Nepalis often desire to reform and change the national public order as per their scale of freedom, needs and rights and the changing order of regional and global governance, not by the coalition of convenience only, as promised in the vision of Constitution of Nepal. This is the reason Nepali Constitution envisages welfare state based on the solidarity of public, cooperative and private sectors animating a popular feeling of contentment of general citizens and hone their national unity. H. Wulf argues in favor of creating a multi-level legitimate public monopoly of violence capable of guaranteeing law and order and good governance. The need for legitimate public order justifies the existence of the state, political system and the government as they aim to abolish evils of society such as chaos and anarchy and provide security, safety and institutional means for large-scale cooperation. Without a modicum of public order, freedom of Nepalis, the logos of civilization, dribbles off. This means tax support to the polity and administration is vital to enhance redistributive capacity of the state and its ability to execute legitimate monopoly on power in the entire society as a fundamental condition for economic development. Electoral rule has improved its internal legitimacy and widened the social base of public order. Other requisites are: better performance in social modernization and shifting of tribal affinity to nation building and garner international legitimacy pertaining to its position on transitional justice, human rights, refugees and the implementation of social, economic and cultural rights which are often figured in global discourse and diplomacy. 
The desire for innovation has prompted Nepalis to participate in the crowd politics organized by political parties, media, civil society, countless functional associations and solidarity groups promising a new turn of history where oppressed assumes the leadership of the nation under a new system of law and provide services to citizens including adjudication, mediation and fair communication of their voices. The negative rights of Nepalis enshrined in the constitution offers them the possibility to open up the institutions of polity to fulfill their rights and voice against those which fail to accomplish the tasks. The constitutional rights to public law litigation has enabled its pluralistic society organized around women, Dalits, indigenous, Madhesis, Khas-Arya, Aadibasis, minorities, professionals, etc to resort to international law and institutions and demand change in the structure of their participation in many areas affecting them. Nepali workers demand due diligence of powerful economic actors and negotiate with corporate sectors so that industrial peace and order function smoothly without disruption. The new order of Nepal is negotiated not imposed, contractual not status-bound and freedom and equality-oriented not domination-based although some semblances of paternalism, hierarchy and patriarchy persists to nullify the constitutional spirit.
The opening of democracy to Nepali society through social inclusion, proportional representation, public service examination, etc has increased the importance of public sphere beyond legislative-executive-judiciary axis. Because the non- competitive political parties of Nepal are gripped more by factional fight than alternative ideology, policy and program contest. Democratic innovation and aspiration of Nepalis in various phases of history often helped to weaken the structures of state, polity and the government, expanded their rights and politicized the constitutional bodies and public institutions thus cutting its ability to create legitimate public order based on the framework of social, gender and intergenerational justice and positive peace. Nepal has also witnessed the progressive erosion of the institutions of discipline, justice, truth and enlightenment. As a result, they increasingly face the erosion of autonomy and adaptability to adjust to the changing national, regional and global order. The increasing defiance of state authority and integrity, not obedience by powerful actors of society, rebels, extra-constitutional forces, special interest groups and justice-oriented social struggles, has generated a crisis of public order, an order vital to maintain the convergence of the state, economy and citizenship in national constellation. 
Any improvement in Nepal’s rational public order presupposes the promotion of rational faculty of all actors through socialization especially in areas of stabilization of popular expectation, formulation of binding rule, constitutional habits, discipline and regularity of functions of specialized actors including market exchange and administrative power as per standards of rules, coordination of behavior of leaders and citizens and enhancing former’s ability to engage in compromise across various sub-groups of Nepali society in the process of the realization of Directive Principles and Policies of the State and SDGs. Nepalis with higher level of anxiety about their own and their children’s life-condition have trouble in controlling their impulses and demonstrate disorganized attachment to democracy, expressing poor commitment to public  order, political stability and constitutional regulation. The spread of common virtues can resonate the sanity of public order which is the most important task of Nepali state to protect the life and liberty of citizens, their health, improve the quality of life by general availability of common good, structure well-ordered ecological, social, economic and political system and address instrumental problem of the execution of constitution. A rational public order presupposes a vibrant public sphere uncoerced by the monopoly of wealth, power and communication but able to furnish solution of Nepal’s problems of legitimate public order based on the satisfaction of needs, rights and aspirations.  

(Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues)