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"In two respects, however, India has a big advantage over China in coping with an economic slowdown. It has
all-too extensive experience in it; and it has a political system that can cope with disgruntlement without
suffering existential doubts. India pays an economic price for its democracy. Decision-making is cumbersome.
And as in China, unrest and even insurgency are widespread. But the political system has a resilience and
flexibility that China’s own leaders, it seems, believe they lack. They are worrying about how to cope with
protests. India’s have their eyes on a looming election."

This excerpt is from The Economist, December 13th, 2008 issue.

I am confused in the word "existential".
I looked up in the dictionary, it says

adjective [only before noun]
1 (formal) connected with human existence
2 (philosophy) connected with the theory of existentialism

But I couldn't get the meaning in above context.
Does the writer mean to say "existing doubts"?
But then why did he use "existential"?

Please help me with it!
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Hi,

Broadly speaking, the idea is that the Indian govt. does not waste its time thinking about questions like

'Are we the right form of govt. for India?'

'Are our policies the best for India?

'Does India need this govt.?'

'Existential doubts' are doubts about why we exist.

Best wishes, Clive
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I could be wrong, but I'd say this is an example of the figure of speech affectionately called "personification." The political system itself is given human attributes. Not the disgruntlement - that we would attribute to the populace, suffering the pangs of economic depression. The political system can handle popular discontent without suffering self-doubt - without feeling that its existence as a political system may be unjustified.

On the other hand, maybe the disgruntlement is itself being attributed to the "persona" of the political system, in addition to the lack of suffering of doubts. That is, the domestic upheavals caused by economic problems may be likened to the emotional upset of a disgruntled person.

Anyway, that would comport with your "human existence" dictionary definition.

(The Economist staff love to write creatively.)

- A.
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Comments  
Thanks a lot Clive and Avangi.

I was quite confused in this adjective.
But your explanations make it look so easy.

Thanks again.
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