Indian Political Theory : Laying the Groundwork for Svaraj book cover
1st Edition

Indian Political Theory
Laying the Groundwork for Svaraj

ISBN 9781138240223
Published February 28, 2017 by Routledge
232 Pages

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Book Description

At present, a nativist turn in Indian political theory can be observed. There is a general assumption that the indigenous thought to which researchers are supposed to be (re)turning may somehow be immediately visible by ignoring the colonization of the mind and polity. In such a conception of svaraj (which can be translated as ‘authentic autonomy’), the tradition to be returned to would be that of the indigenous elites.

In this book, this concept of svaraj is defined as a thick conception, which links it with exclusivist notions of spirituality, profound anti-modernity, exceptionalistic moralism, essentialistic nationalism and purism. However, post-independence India has borne witness to an alternative trajectory: a thin svaraj. The author puts forward a workable contemporary ideal of thin svaraj, i.e. political, and free of metaphysical commitment. The model proposed is inspired by B.R. Ambedkar's thoughts, as opposed to the thick conception found in the works of M.K. Gandhi, KC Bhattacharya and Ramachandra Gandhi. The author argues that political theorists of Indian politics continue to work with categories and concepts alien to the lived social and political experiences of India's common man, or everyday people. Consequently, he emphasises the need to decolonize Indian political theory, and rescue it from the grip of western theories, and fascination with western modes of historical analysis. The necessity to avoid both universalism and relativism and more importantly address the political predicaments of ‘the people’ is the key objective of the book, and a push for a reorientation of Indian political theory.

An interesting new interpretation of a contemporary ideal of svaraj, this analysis takes into account influences from other cultures and sources as well as eschews thick conceptions that stifle imaginations and imaginaries. This book will be of interest to academics in the fields of philosophy, political science, sociology, litera

Table of Contents

Introduction: Time for a New Orientalism?

Part One: What Political Theory is Meant to Do

1. The Thick and Thin of Svaraj

2. Political Theory and Comparative Political Theory

3. What is Indian Political Theory?

Part Two: The Inadequacy of Trans-Atlantic Political Theory

4. Theories of "Our" Condition: Habermas and the Post-Secular Turn

5. Theories of "Our" Oppression: Žižek and the Critique of Human Rights

6. Theories of "Our" Liberation: Rawls, Sen, and the Romance of Global Justice

7. An Unkindness of Theories: Trans-Atlantic Marxism, Post-Structuralism,

and Post-Colonial Ethnographies

Part Three: Preconditions for Svaraj

8. Tradition, Hybridity, Equality

9. Gandhi and Ambedkar

10. Dalit Svaraj

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Aakash Singh Rathore is Visiting Professor at the Centre for Philosophy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India and Director of the International Research Network for Religion and Democracy ( He is also an International Fellow of the Center for Ethics & Global Politics in Rome, Italy. His previous work includes Indian Political Thought: A Reader (co-edited with Silika Mohapatra, 2010), also published by Routledge.

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'Aakash Singh Rathore wrests the subject of political theory from the hands of self-centred and increasingly irrelevant Western thinkers and he democratizes it by anchoring it in the experience of the downtrodden masses of India: the Dalits. By re-reading Gandhi and Ambedkar, Professor Rathore rescues the concept of svaraj from Hindu nationalists and revives it to make it relevant to political theory - and to politics - today and in the future, in India and outside. This is a book of stunning ambition and great learning written in a style that is playful, confrontational and intellectually demanding. It should be read by all serious students of political theory, East and West.'

Torkel Brekke, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and the University of Oslo, Norway.

'In this fascinating work Aakash Singh Rathore explores the many dimensions of the concept of Swaraj within the broader context of Political Theory, Indian Political Theory specifically. Rigorous revaluation of the concept enables him to reassess the long-standing debate between universalism and particularism while negotiating creatively between western-centric theory and the indigeneity he champions. It is a priceless read.'

Neera Chandhoke, Visiting Professorial Fellow, Centre for Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.

'Indian Political Theory is a welcome volume as it seeks to introduce the reader to the theoretical possibility that remains hidden in the system of ideas developed by thinkers like Babasaheb Ambedkar. In a fundamental sense the volume performs a moral function: it defines the completeness of Indian political theory on ethical grounds, with the demand of an egalitarian accommodation of subaltern thought.'

Gopal Guru, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

'Indian Political Theory does much more than provide a perfect cognitive mapping of what its

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