1st Edition

Kautilya's Arthashastra Philosophy of Strategy

By Medha Bisht Copyright 2020
    202 Pages
    by Routledge India

    This book examines in detail the strategic relevance of the Arthashastra. Attributed to the fourth century B.C., this classical treatise on state and statecraft rests at the intersection of political theory and international relations.

    Adopting a hermeneutic approach, the book discusses certain homologies related to concepts such as power, order, and morality. Underlining the conceptual value of the Arthashastra and classical texts such as Hitopdesha and Pancatantra, this volume highlights the non-western perspectives related to diplomacy and statecraft. It shows how a comparative analysis of these texts reveals a continuity rather than a change in the styles, tactics, and political strategies. The book also showcases the value these ancient texts can bring to the study of contemporary international relations and political theory.

    This volume will be of interest to students, scholars and teachers of political studies, Indian political thought, and philosophy, South Asian studies, political theory and international relations.

    List of Tables. Preface. Acknowledgments. Introduction Part I: The Philosophical-Strategic Leanings 1. Introducing Arthashastra: Towards Pre- Disciplinarity 2. Arthashastra and the Indian Tradition: Philosophical Underpinnings 3. Arthashastra and the Western Tradition: Strategic Underpinnings Part II: The Conceptual -Contextual Leanings 4. Morality, Power and Order: Concepts in International Relations 5. The Kautilyan State and Statecraft—Contextualising Desirablily 6. Morality, Power and Order: A Systems Analysis 7. Feasibility of State and Statecraft: Theorizing Concepts Part III: Non-Western Reflections on State and Statecraft 8. State and Statecraft: Reflecting on Non-Western Vocabularies 9. Conclusion. Bibliography. Index.


    Medha Bisht is a Senior Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, South Asian University. She has led international projects on water governance and diplomacy in South Asia. Her research interests include South Asia, water diplomacy, and strategic thought and practice.

    "Arthasashtra, a seminal text on ancient Indian statecraft primarily studied by historians and political scientists has at long last found a brilliant interpreter. Medha Bisht’s meticulously researched and lucidly argued work is stunning in its scope and extremely stimulating."

    —Pushpesh Pant, Former Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

    "This is a book that I was waiting for. Medha Bisht has revived and made contemporary the political cum philosophical text of Kautilya. She navigates and integrates the foundational Indic text and tradition seamlessly with various disciplines. A refreshing piece of work of knowledge production. Recommended as a text book for International Studies, social science, strategic studies and International Relations."

    —Pradeep Kumar Gautam, Consultant to the Indigenous Historical Knowledge Project at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi

    "As scholars of political science and international relations from around the world begin to discover the non-Western contributions to the understanding of power, order, justice and statecraft, Medha Bisht offers a rich and rewarding theoretical engagement with Kautilya’s Arthashastra."

    —C. Raja Mohan, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore 

    "For whatever reason, the western scholars have mostly ignored the Arthasastra, a majestic work on statecraft by Kautilya, a third-century bc Indian scholar and statesman. Rooted in the Hindu philosophy and the concept of Dharma, Arthasastra, a grand strategic work, deals with the nature of state, power, morality, ends-mean-ways, and foreign policy. Using modern political science vocabulary, Medha Bisht inquires into Arthasastra’s philosophy, ideas and methodology and their contemporary relevance. Deserving wide readership, this is a serious work of scholarship aimed at western political scientists."

    —Arvind Gupta, Director, Vivekananda International Foundation and Former Deputy National Security Adviser, Government of India