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The Poverty of Indian Political Theory

Citation: Parekh, Bhikhu The Poverty of Indian Political Theory. [Discussion or working paper] (Unpublished)

Non-Western societies have frequently and rightly complained that Western political theory is ethnocentric and has a limited explanatory power when applied outside the West. One would have thought that they would therefore produce both a well-considered critique of its central categories and modes of inquiry, and an original body of ideas capable of illuminating their political experiences. Surprising as it may seem, this is not the case. No contemporary non-Western society, not even Japan, has produced much original political theory. Reasons for what I will call the underdevelopment of political theory vary from country to country. In the erstwhile Communist countries, intellectual creativity was stifled by ideological dogma and political repression. In the case of Japan such factors as the lack of a long-established tradition of political thought, the dominance of the practical impulse and the absence of serious political disagreements seem to have played an important part. In this paper I intend to concentrate on post-independence India, and to explore why a free and lively society with a rich tradition of philosophical inquiry has not thrown up much original political theory. The paper falls into three parts. In the first part I outline some of the fascinating problems thrown up by post-independence India, and in the second I show that they remain poorly theorized. In the final part I explore some of the likely explanations of this neglect.

Creators: Parekh, Bhikhu and
Subjects: Human Rights & Development Studies
Keywords: India, Political Theory
Divisions: Institute of Commonwealth Studies


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