Posts Tagged ‘Explaining Indian democracy’

A perspective on Indian democracy

March 31, 2008

Arvind Sivaramakrishnan reviews the three volume Explaining Indian Democracy of Lloyd I Rudoplh and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph for the Hindu (and recommends them strongly):

Lloyd Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph are two of the most distinguished social scientists ever to have written about India. Immensely knowledgeable, culturally sensitive, and unceasingly alert, they have much to teach anyone who reads their work. This assemblage of 51 papers spanning half a century is a testament to scholarship in the best sense; it combines meticulous empirical work with a developed philosophic sensibility expressed in consistently clear and accessible arguments.

Some sections of the second volume does sound very interesting to me based on what Arvind has to say:

Volume two bears the title “The Realm of Institutions: State Formation and Institutional Change”; here the Rudolphs provoke much thought, starting with the argument that the state in, India is not a European import but an autochthonous entity that has been known in India since the Mauryas and the Guptas, not least because those rulers maintained centralised fiscal mechanisms, bureaucracies barred from inheritance of office or estates, and military formations controlled by the ruler, not by feudal chiefs or local military entrepreneurs. Seen thus, the state in India shows remarkable continuity into and beyond its British imperial forms; they even suggest that the preservation — or creation — and maintenance of local jurisdictions under a central power are embodied today in India’s broadly federal system. The authors’ comment that the relation between central and local institutions is dialectical is intriguing, but it is not clear if they mean dialectically progressive in the sense often attributed to Hegel; they do, however, argue that the Indian state as a historically continuing entity is close to liberal conceptions of the state in that society precedes the state and limits it, and in that in India the state-society relation is largely instrumental in nature. The authors also remind us that there was nothing inevitable about the liberal form of the contemporary Indian state; had Patel — or, the authors also hold, Bose — won the arguments the Indian state would have been far more authoritarian and even fascistic than it has been or is.

Take a look!

PS: By the way, a bit of Googling for Amar Singh (to whom the reviewer makes a couple of mentions) gets you loads of links. You can also get some pdfs of papers by visiting the home pages of Lloyd Rudolph here and Susanne Rudolph here.