Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Political Theory
Publication Year: 2011
Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Political Theory offers fresh and thought-provoking perspectives on some of the most pressing political concerns of our times.
The volume includes a dozen articles that draw upon a wide spectrum of social sciences and humanities (political science, sociology, international studies, psychoanalysis, philosophy, cultural studies) to explore the historically-grounded contemporaneity and the interdisciplinarity of political theory. It represents the joint endeavor of the editor and 12 outstanding scholars affiliated with renowned academic institutions spanning four continents.
The contributors shed light on and provide insights into a broad range of issues that are of current relevance in the domains of both theory and practice. The book covers considerable ground as it grapples with a variety of topics (democracy, justice, civil society, torture), thinkers (Camus, Rawls, Habermas, ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Reflections on the Relation between Theory and Practice for Our Times
- Chapter 2: Politics of Globalisation: Theoretical Debates
- Chapter 3: Theory of Public Choice: Implications for Democracy
- Chapter 4: Justice, Citizenship and the Politics of Feminism
- Chapter 5: Group Identities and Rights: A Case for Theory beyond the Nation-State
- Chapter 6: Civil Society: Alternatives and Differences
- Chapter 7: Albert Camus and the Politics of Friendship
- Chapter 8: Dismantling the Political
- Chapter 9: Discourse Ethics: Rediscovering the Link between Rationality and Morality
- Chapter 10: Debates on Protecting Traditional Knowledge in the Age of Globalisation: A Call for Re-Imagining Political Theory
- Chapter 11: The Camp as Nomos of the Modern: Interrogating the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958
- Chapter 12: The Crime of Torture
Copyright © Mangesh Kulkarni, 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published in 2011 by
SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd
B1/I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area
Mathura Road, New Delhi 110 044, India
SAGE Publications Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, California 91320, USA
SAGE Publications Ltd
1 Oliver's Yard, 55 City Road
London EC1Y 1SP, United Kingdom
SAGE Publications Asia-Pacific Pte Ltd
33 Pekin Street
#02-01 Far East Square
Published by Vivek Mehra for SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, typeset in 10/12 pt Times New Roman by Star Compugraphics Private Limited, Delhi and printed at Chaman Enterprises, New Delhi.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Interdisciplinary perspectives in political theory/edited by Mangesh Kulkarni.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Political science—Philosophy. I. Kulkarni, Mangesh, 1963–
ISBN: 978-81-321-0630-2 (HB)
The SAGE Team: Elina Majumdar, Arpita Dasgupta, Mathew P.J. and Deepti Saxena
To The memory of Professor Rajendra Vora, Consummate practitioner of civic friendship & Intellectual catalyst par excellence.
Thank you for choosing a SAGE product! If you have any comment, observation or feedback, I would like to personally hear from you. Please write to me email@example.com—Vivek Mehra, Managing Director and CEO, SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, New Delhi
SAGE India offers special discounts for purchase of books in bulk. We also make available special imprints and excerpts from our books on demand.
For orders and enquiries, write to us at
SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd
B1/I-1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area
Mathura Road, Post Bag 7
New Delhi 110044, India
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Get to know more about SAGE, be invited to SAGE events, get on our mailing list. Write today email@example.com
This book is also available as an e-book.
List of Abbreviations[Page ix]
AIMPLB All India Muslim Personal Law Board AFSPA Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act CCIM Consultative Committee of Indian Muslims CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women CRPF Central Reserve Police Force CTBT Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty EU European Union FTAA Free Trade Area of the Americas GATT General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade GDP Gross Domestic Product JIH Jamaat-e-Islami Hind ICC International Criminal Court ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ICT Information and Communication Technologies ILO International Labour Organisation IMF International Monetary Fund IPRs Intellectual Property Rights IR International Relations MNC Multinational Corporation NCM National Minorities Commission PCF Parti Communiste Francais (Communist Party of France) POTA Prevention of Terrorism Act POW Prisoner of War R&D Research and Development RAFI Rural Advancement Foundation International RMC Regional Medical College Hospital SAP Structural Adjustment Programmes TADA Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act [Page x]TBGRI Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute TK Traditional Knowledge TRIPS Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights UN United Nations UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNITE Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees WHO World Health Organization WILPF Women's International League for Peace and Freedom WTO World Trade Organization
This volume of essays is offered as a celebration of and a contribution to the rich and thriving intellectual enterprise of Political Theory. It seeks to capture the truly global, interdisciplinary, multi-paradigmatic and praxis-oriented character of the enterprise. Accordingly, it features a team of scholars who are at home with the diverse academic milieux in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America; takes into account insights thrown up by various disciplinary formations spanning the social sciences as well as the humanities; deploys several theoretical frameworks ranging from Public Choice Theory to Discourse Ethics; and critically intervenes in contemporary political debates on a variety of issues, such as the state of civil society and the fate of traditional knowledge.
The book owes its existence to the unstinting support of the 12 contributors: Jayant Lele, Rohini Hensman, Prakash Sarangi, Lajwanti Chatani, Arpita Anant, Sanjay Palshikar, Syed A. Sayeed, Deepti Gangavane, Kannamma Raman, Shardool Thakur, Justin Clemens and Russell Grigg. I am glad to offer my most sincere thanks to each of them.
It is necessary to point out that two essays in this volume are substantially revised versions of previously published articles. Syed A. Sayeed's ‘Dismantling the Political’ had earlier appeared in Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. IV, No. 2 (1997); while Sanjay Palshikar's ‘Civil Society: Alternatives and Differences’ was originally published in The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 63, Nos 2 and 3 (June–September 2002).
The idea of bringing out a book of this kind first occurred to me when I organised a national seminar on ‘Contemporary Political Theory’ at the Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Pune (India) on 9–10 March 2006. Rajendra Vora (former Professor and Head of the Department) had encouraged me to plan the seminar. To my lasting sorrow, he suddenly passed away in 2008. I dedicate the book to his memory.
[Page xii]I owe a special word of thanks to Ram Bapat—patron-saint of political theorists in Pune—for his constant goodwill and guidance.
This book would not have seen the light of day but for the effort put in by Elina Majumdar, Commissioning Editor of SAGE Publications (India). I am greatly indebted to her for piloting it through various stages with admirable patience and tact.
Finally, I thank all the members of my extended family: Digambar and Kunda Kulkarni (parents); Govind and Jayashree Rege (parents-in-law); Shraddha (wife), Ritvik (son) and Rijuta (daughter) from the bottom of my heart for the innumerable ways in which they succored (and suffered!) me through the long gestation period of the book.MangeshKulkarni
Political theory is a unique intellectual enterprise which combines a hoary lineage with a vibrant contemporary presence. It brings a formidable tradition of theoretical inquiry to bear upon the most pressing political concerns of our times.1 As a complex and evolving body of critical thought, it draws upon a wide spectrum of humanities and social sciences in an eclectic spirit. The essays included in the present volume seek to capture and explore both the historically grounded contemporaneity and interdisciplinarity of political theory by focusing on key thinkers (Rawls, Habermas, Derrida), concepts (justice, rights, democracy), debates (globalisation, intellectual property, torture) and perspectives (Marxism, feminism, post-structuralism). The contributors are outstanding scholars spanning three generations and four continents, as also over half a dozen disciplines including political science, international studies, sociology, psychoanalysis, philosophy and literary studies.Fundamentalism, Globalisation and Democracy
The well-known political theorist Benjamin Barber has summed up the predicament of the contemporary world in terms of a tussle between Jihad and McWorld.2 The former is propelled by parochial hatreds seeking to recreate sub-national borders, while the latter is driven by globalising markets that make national borders porous. Ironically, the cross-pressures they generate pose major challenges to freedom and democracy at a time when these ideals have gained unprecedented legitimacy. The first two essays in the volume draw on current debates in political theory to explore different dimensions of the contradictory forces at work in this unfolding drama, while the third grapples with a set of antinomies that are arguably intrinsic to democratic praxis.
[Page xiv]In a wide-ranging essay that sets the tone of the book, Jayant Lele offers reflections on the relation between theory and practice by focusing on the two intertwined fundamentalist phenomena that plague the post-Cold War era: the global spread of neo-liberal ideology on the one hand, and the upsurge of belligerent ethnic, cultural and religious identities on the other. After tracing the genealogy of this crisis, he explores the intellectual resources available to meet the challenges it generates by concentrating on three prominent exponents of the major trends in political theory: John Rawls (1921–2002), Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929) and Jacques Derrida (1930–2004).
Rawls' theoretical trajectory represents a remarkable attempt to develop a realistic liberal utopia. However, in the ultimate analysis, the seductive ambiguities of his thought have served to legitimise the political practice of the American state in the domestic and global arenas. Habermas' long and sophisticated journey from the early critical theoretic Marxism to procedural liberalism is full of rich insights. But, his decisive renunciation of the materialist heritage has led him to a formalism that is complicit with the status quo. Derrida's immensely influential project of deconstruction acquired an explicit political thrust in his later writings. Yet, his responses to the events of 9/11 and the subsequent McCrusades in Afghanistan and Iraq suggest that he finally joined the ranks of Rawls and Habermas. The impasse of these three representative thinkers is symptomatic of a deeply embedded distortion of the idea of modernity in contemporary Western political theory. It can be broken only through a critique of economy and religion in the spirit of Marx, and an excavation of the emancipatory potential of counter-hegemonic traditions available in different parts of the world.
Rohini Hensman tracks the theoretical debates centred on the politics of globalisation. She criticises the common tendency to conflate it with capitalism, imperialism and neo-liberalism tout court. It is far more productive to see globalisation as a process through which new organs of global regulation such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) could emerge and play an effective role. The seeming contradiction between ‘the global’ and ‘the national’ involved in the evolving forms of governance should be overcome. This can be done by prioritising democracy over sovereignty in pursuit of the rights of subaltern strata, including women and workers.
Globalisation also opens up other emancipatory possibilities. It projects trade across porous borders rather than war and annexation of territory as an instrument of economic gain. Thus, it creates conditions that are conducive to the struggle against militarism. It also provides the [Page xv]intellectual and political space required for reinventing citizenship in a cosmopolitan spirit. Appropriate international alliances and initiatives need to be forged to realise such possibilities. An effective deployment of advanced information and communication technologies is one of the preconditions of their success.
A large number of scholars (especially in the USA) draw on public choice theory to seek explanations for the perennial puzzles pertaining to the translation of individual preferences into collective decisions. They typically use forms of reasoning and tools of analysis furnished by mathematics and economics. Prakash Sarangi offers an overview of this school of thought by focusing on its key contributions to the understanding of democracy. The most startling of these is Arrow's theorem, which states that no alternative can be selected decisively through a voting procedure subject to minimal conditions of fairness and logicality if there are more than two voters and more than two alternatives. The theorem raises serious questions as to the very possibility of defining and pursuing public interest by democratic means.
Other issues discussed by public choice theorists include the precise motivation underlying the citizen's decision to vote, while in full knowledge of the fact that his/her vote has a negligible prospect of affecting the outcome; the predicament of political parties seeking to maximise their chances of winning elections by positioning themselves at the median point in the spectrum of public opinion; the conundrums of coalition politics; the probability that the government would function more as a malevolent revenue maximiser than as a benevolent provider of public goods; and the problem of ‘free-riding’ that commonly afflicts collective action. While the rigour and earnestness of this academic enterprise cannot be gainsaid, critics point out the flimsiness of its foundational assumption that human beings are essentially egoistic, rational, utility-maximisers. This explains the discrepancy between some of its austere formulations and the rich complexity of lived political experience.Just Citizenship, Group Rights and Civil Society
The broad-brush theoretical inquiries summarised above are followed by a set of three essays that discuss the interconnected themes of citizenship and justice, group identities and rights, and the dialectics of civil society.
[Page xvi]They exemplify the proclivity of political theory to illuminate and productively complicate the public discourse surrounding several critical concerns of our times. Such an intellectual endeavour involves a blend of exegesis, conceptual analysis, ideology-critique and constructive theorising based on scrupulous attention to empirical realities.3 The first essay is pitched at a high level of generality, the second seeks to generalise on the basis of a richly textured case study, whereas the third involves a deft dialogue between the particular and the general.
Lajwanti Chatani examines the fractures in the ongoing debates on citizenship and justice through the lens of feminism. While the liberal notion of citizenship is caught up in the public/private dichotomy, its civic republican counterpart tends to reify the common good. Feminist scholars like Carol Gilligan and Carole Pateman have sought to overcome these limitations by advancing an alternative understanding of the citizen-self that foregrounds women's gender-specific experience of care and motherhood. However, Chantal Mouffe, arguing from the vantage point of post-structuralist feminism, objects to the essentialism implicit in such a move. She advances an alternative view of citizenship as an articulating principle (re)structuring the subject-positions of the social agent, in keeping with the democratic assertion of liberty and equality for all.
The contemporary debate on justice is also polarised between two conceptions that canvass the competing claims of economic redistribution or those pertaining to recognition of socio-cultural differences. The champions of the former include social liberals like John Rawls; while communitarians such as Charles Taylor tend to emphasise the latter. The noted critical theorist and feminist Nancy Fraser indicates a way beyond this deadlock by pointing out that social categories like gender and race are two-dimensional; hence the quest for justice entails claims for redistribution as well as recognition. Accordingly, she calls for theoretical and practical efforts to integrate the politics of class and status to ensure inclusive and just citizenship.
The demand for rights emanating from minority groups gives rise to theoretical issues akin to the ones discussed above. Arpita Anant grapples with these thorny issues by focusing on the case of the Muslims in modern India. Alluding to a significant body of work in international studies that emphasises the continuity between the domestic and external aspects of a country's politics, she underscores the need to integrate the national and global facets of identity politics. A close examination of the ideological currents that have shaped the self-image and mobilisation of Indian Muslims over the last century and a half reveals the influence of several [Page xvii]transnational factors, including the vicissitudes of pan-Islamism, social and legal reforms introduced among Muslim communities in other parts of the world, and the role of diasporic organisations.
A survey of the debates in social and political theory that has framed the ‘Muslim question’ in India points to an interesting anomaly. These debates have been conducted in a sophisticated conceptual idiom, encompassing concerns such as tradition and modernity, secularism and democracy, multiculturalism and tolerance. They have unfolded against the variegated tableaux of national politics in general and of communal politics in particular. But curiously, the interlocutors evince little interest in the international dimension of the problem that is central to the contention. The omission needs to be urgently remedied through a research agenda that is attentive to this dimension.
Sanjay Palshikar provides an insightful account of the different ways in which the notion of civil society has been used by theorists in India against the background of its trajectory in the West, where it originated. He scrutinises the exegetical accuracy, internal coherence and practical purchase of these usages. Rajni Kothari optimistically projects civil society as a network of voluntary, principled and decentralised activities that would usher in humane governance. But, he operates with an unduly dichotomous conception of the relation between civil society and the State, and tends to idealise the former. Gurpreet Mahajan does not share Kothari's optimism and sees the actually existing civil society in India as a domain that is fraught with ascriptive identities and traditional hierarchies. She favours the liberal idea of the constitutional State as a guarantor of individual rights. However, she does not adequately theorise the links between political participation, civic virtue, rights and liberties. Besides, many of her arguments are based on a truncated reading of Locke and Hegel.
Partha Chatterjee is even less enamoured of civil society, which he treats as a synonym for ‘bourgeois society’. He pins his faith on the democratic potential of ‘political society’ seen as a sphere of subaltern self-assertion, typically involving tactics based on a strategic use of illegality. But, the contours of this concept remain hazy as it is taken to include disparate forms of popular mobilisation. Moreover, illegality is not a sufficient criterion to demarcate the operations of governmentality, which Chatterjee considers to be central to the dynamics of political society. The most important shortcoming of the binary he posits is that it fails to account for collective interventions that seek justice for the marginalised people without resorting to illegality. Such interventions [Page xviii]pose a major challenge to the bourgeois order as they train the poor in the rigours of citizenship, enabling sections of the ‘population’—serving merely as objects of governmental manipulation—to become part of ‘the people’ bearing rights. The movement of democratisation can be mapped only by capturing this dialectic.Solidarity, Emancipation and Communicative Action
A defining feature of the classical tradition of political theory was its deep and abiding preoccupation with philosophical inquiries ranging from ontology to axiology. The post-metaphysical cast of contemporary thought has led to a problematisation of the nexus.4 The essays discussed under this category occupy an intellectual space marked by the effects of this transition. They address a variety of concerns including the possibility of sustaining solidarity in an era that offers no firm ontological footing for its affirmation, the imperative of dismantling the heteronomy lodged in the very heart of the political, and the quest for a domination-free discourse ethics anchored in universality.
The well-known Algerian-French writer and political thinker Albert Camus (1913–60) developed a distinctive philosophy of rebellion. Mangesh Kulkarni suggests that it can serve as a springboard for reflecting on a politically informed understanding of friendship suited to the spirit of our times. He charts the course of Camusian rebellion from its early avatar as an existential response to absurdity ensuing in hedonism, to its subsequent transformation into a mature advocacy of compassionate camaraderie and righteous resistance to injustice. Critics have argued that there is an irresolvable contradiction in Camus' staunch commitment to the sanctity of human life as a cardinal principle informing authentic rebellion, and his insistence that the rebel who has had to murder an oppressor should atone for the violation of this principle by sacrificing his/her own life. Arguably, the apparent aporia springs from the deep structure of Camus' political philosophy which is embedded in a ‘weak ontology’.
The prevalence of weak ontologies is a characteristic feature of late modern political thought. Unlike their ‘strong’ predecessors, they offer epistemologically contestable and historically grounded interpretations of existence, which enable us to think, feel and inhabit the world differently. A weak ontology signals its own fallibility, contingency and partiality [Page xix]through two or more conceptual ‘folds’—each drawing attention to the insufficiency of the other—linked only by virtue of a ‘crease’. The crease that holds the conceptual folds characterising Camus' philosophy of rebellion in a precarious unity is a certain notion of love or friendship. An exegetical elaboration of its filiations and nuances indicates that it is hospitable to a wide range of contemporary concerns including civic solidarity, intercultural amity and ecological sanity.
Numerous philosophers from Aristotle to Arendt have sought to articulate a vision of emancipation in and through the domain of politics. Others, especially those of an anarchist bent, have emphasised the imperative of deconstructing politics as a prerequisite for emancipation. Syed A. Sayeed joins the ranks of the latter in his vigorous polemic against ‘the political’, which he views as a constitutive element of social reality involving power transactions that necessarily warp the structure of practices and institutions. He adopts the Weberian definition of power as the capacity of one unit in a system to realize its goals against the opposition of other units. While power assumes many forms, its distributive structure is essentially pyramidal. Attempts to invert or flatten the power pyramid through revolutions or other means are doomed to failure, as it invariably gets reconstituted sooner or later.
The mechanism of the political defuses resistance to power transactions by creating a screen of social ideals that disguises them. Its logic is one of duplicity, ambiguity, manipulation and subversion. Hence a hermeneutics of suspicion should be deployed to expose the modalities by which the political turns language, morality, authority, civilisation, reason and religion into instruments of domination. Moreover, it is necessary to develop a counter-political strategy of freedom that can deconstruct the ever-forming pyramids of power. Such a project may seem utopian, but it is not without precedent. Those seeking to embark upon it would do well to seek inspiration and guidance from the life and thought of M.K. Gandhi.
Jürgen Habermas is perhaps the most eminent of living political philosophers. Deepti Gangavane provides a critical account of his thought by focusing on ‘discourse ethics’—a theme that runs like a red thread through the German thinker's monumental corpus straddling a wide spectrum of disciplines. She points out that the central objective of Habermas' intellectual endeavour is to further the Enlightenment project of creating a free and just society by retrieving the emancipatory potential of human reason. The challenge is to develop a conception of reason that would enable a critical normative discourse anchored in universality, while avoiding the temptation of being transcendental and hence totalitarian. [Page xx]Habermas meets it by grounding such a conception on the human ability to communicate. Every act of communication entails an implicit knowledge of the validity claims underlying all utterances—intelligibility, truth, rightness and truthfulness. The ensuing notion of communicative rationality springs from and sustains the shared lifeworld in which individuals are formed and act as linguistically competent subjects.
Discourse is a type of communicative action that takes up validity claims as themes for reflective discussion, in a bid to secure the rational assent of all the participants in a dialogue that is free from internal constraints and external domination. The ethical norms governing such discourse are the autonomy of the individual and the solidarity of the community. They help generate ‘an ideal speech situation’, which is offered as a regulative principle for ushering in a truly emancipatory social order. The formal procedure provided by discourse ethics cannot be applied directly to substantive issues of the good life, but it can be used to adjudicate questions of justice in a universalistic fashion. This impressive theoretical edifice has been widely criticised on account of its allegedly ethnocentric attachment to the Western project of modernity, as an anachronistic utopian metanarrative, and for its supposedly empty formalism. Yet, it remains a sturdy bulwark against the perils of conventionalism, decisionism and irrationalism.5Traditional Knowledge, Biopolitics and Torture
The critical unmasking of unjust and oppressive structures and practices has constituted one of the historic tasks of modern social and political theory.6 The liberal critique of absolutism, the socialist interrogation of laissez-faire and the feminist deconstruction of patriarchy may be cited as paradigmatic examples. The contemporary manifestations of hegemony often turn out to be far more insidious than their prototypes. Innovative theoretical techniques have to be deployed to unravel their complex logic and modalities. It is with this awareness that the last three essays in the volume turn the spotlight on certain dominant regimes of property and power which impinge poignantly on the people subjected to their rigours. The thematic foci comprise the fate of traditional knowledge in the face of globalisation, the logic of biopolitics underlying the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in India, and the political psychology driving the worldwide practice of torture.
[Page xxi]Kannamma Raman discusses various theoretical issues arising out of the need to protect traditional knowledge (TK) in the era of globalisation. Since the colonial epoch, the hegemonic forces in the North have engaged themselves in a relentless drive to expropriate such knowledge, developed over centuries and collectively owned by indigenous or local communities in the global South. Recent decades have witnessed an intensification of this process due to the increasing geographical and sectoral penetration of the market, and the emergence of a knowledge-driven economy. The United Nations Organizations (UNO) has estimated that developing countries lose at least USD 5 billion in unpaid royalties to multinational corporations that appropriate TK. Not just corporations but states, universities and scientists are often guilty of such exploitation.
It is necessary to protect TK as the world's poorest people depend upon it for their physical and cultural survival; besides, it is also needed to sustain biodiversity. One way of attaining this objective is to confer the relevant Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) on the holders of TK. However, such an approach may turn out to be counterproductive as the dominant understanding of IPRs is anchored in an epistemology that separates knowledge from the social context of its use, and is deeply implicated in the predatory ideology (possessive individualism) and dynamics (commodification) of capitalism. Not surprisingly, the current IPR regime favours the interests of the hegemonic forces. Safeguarding TK in the existing human rights framework is also problematic as the latter is State-centric and provides little space to group rights. It might be more feasible to secure the integrity of TK through a communitarian and dialogical discourse of rights that would prevent its steamrollering by the State's quest for power and capital's pursuit of profit.
Modernity is a curiously Janus-faced phenomenon. While promising liberation from the shackles of age-old superstition and tyranny, it generates new forms of power/knowledge that have ominous implications for human freedom. The concentration camps in Nazi Germany could be seen as a particularly vicious manifestation of the latter. The Italian political theorist Giorgio Agamben (b. 1942) has argued that far from being an aberration, these camps represent a paradigmatic matrix of modern ‘biopolitics’, which was defined by Michel Foucault (1926–84) as the process by which life itself comes to be what is at stake in politics. In this sense, ‘the camp’ is the most sinister version of an organisational template that has resulted from the quest of modern regimes for an arrangement best suited to ensure the care, control and use of bare life. As such it involves juridical procedures and power dynamics, through [Page xxii]which human beings are so completely deprived of their rights that no act committed against them could appear as a crime. Shardool Thakur provides a thumbnail sketch of this hypothesis and uses it as a lens to examine the implementation of the AFSPA.
The apparatus of the camp was first deployed by the Western imperial powers to discipline their colonial subjects, further developed by both democratic and totalitarian governments in interwar Germany to contain and eliminate ‘undesirable elements’ like communists and Jews, and is currently evident in the carceral practices prevalent in the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. The AFSPA—enacted in 1958 to curb fissiparous movements in Assam and Manipur, and extended in 1972 to the whole of the North East—has turned the entire region into a camp. It has conferred draconian powers on the armed forces and caused untold misery to the people of the region. The Act continues to be in force despite the bitter protests of its innocent victims, condemnation by human rights agencies like Amnesty, and the report of a government-appointed committee, which recommended its repeal. All these instances seem to validate Agamben's melancholy hypothesis that the camp is the very nomos of the modern.
Though torture is an international crime, it continues to be used as an instrument of power in different parts of the world. In fact, the so-called war against terror seems to have given a renewed legitimacy to the use of torture against suspects. Justin Clemens and Russell Grigg argue that the tendency to normalise torture must be resisted on political and psychological grounds. Evidence produced by torture is both unreliable and unjust. Torture has manifold elements which invariably get confused in its execution, and are at odds with its justification. Besides, there are vital links between democracy and the prohibition of torture. Historically, democracy entailed restrictions on the sovereign's right to torture his subjects. It must be clearly understood that an absolute ban on torture—and related practices like ‘disappearing’ people or holding them in arbitrary detention—as a State prerogative remains a prerequisite of the Rule of Law, free speech (including the freedom not to speak) and by implication, of democracy itself.
Of late, many ‘experts’ have come to recommend torture as ‘an excellent information-gathering device’ that states should use for ensuring security. Not only is this claim empirically false, it is also dangerous. There is in fact a ‘slippery slope’ aspect to the practice of torture, inducing a slide towards the legitimisation of brutality as a routine expedient, abuse of power and terror. If the belief in the efficacy of torture persists, despite [Page xxiii]ample evidence to the contrary, this is because it is rooted in a political fantasy. Psychoanalysis tells us that fantasy functions as a frame through which the ‘real world’ is perceived; it is based on a lack of reality, and canalises traumatic experience. Thus, attempts to counter fantasy through rational argument and mobilisation of hard facts are futile, and often end up fuelling it. Considering the deep-rooted human desire to dominate and torment others, fantasy is apt to generate the pathology of torture. While this pathology can be counteracted through a therapeutic process of listening and talking to its perpetrators and victims, the larger battle against torture can be fought only through legal, ethical and political activism geared to the safeguarding of democracy.Conclusion
As the foregoing discussion of certain salient debates in contemporary political theory indicates, the destiny of humankind will depend increasingly upon our collective intellectual and practical capacity to shape the global configuration of capital, power and knowledge that is emerging in the matrix of late modernity. What is needed is a twofold manoeuvre involving a vigilant deconstruction of the heteronomous tendencies inherent in this configuration, together with a dialogical endeavour to recover and reinforce the possibilities of emancipation. Political theorists can make a major contribution to this process by drawing on their own rich heritage and by engaging in a creative collaboration with their like-minded colleagues in the other human sciences. This volume may be seen as a modest exercise in the generation of such synergy.Notes
1. The following books give a broad overview of recent debates in political theory: John Dryzek, Bonnie Honnig and Anne Phillips, (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); Iain MacKenzie, (ed.), Political Concepts: A Reader and Guide (Edinburgh: University Press, 2005); and Terence Ball and Richard Bellamy, (eds), Twentieth Century Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003). For an India-specific compendium, see V.R. Mehta and Thomas Pantham, (eds), Political Ideas in Modern India: Thematic Explorations (New Delhi: SAGE, 2006).
[Page xxiv]2. The formulation originally appeared in Benjamin Barber's article, ‘Jihad vs. McWorld’, The Atlantic Monthly, March 1992. It was subsequently developed by the author in his book Jihad vs. McWorld (New York: Times Books, 1995).
3. For a brief but illuminating account of the nature and functions of political theory, see David Miller, Janet Coleman, William Connolly and Alan Ryan, (eds), The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), pp. 383–90.
4. See Michael Brint, William Weaver and Meredith Garmon, ‘What Difference Does Anti-Foundationalism Make to Political Theory?’, New Literary History, Vol. 26, No. 2 (1995), pp. 225–37.
5. Conventionalism reduces morality to social conventions. Decisionism traces the origin of moral choices to the inclinations of the agents and therefore considers them to be non-cognitive. Irrationalism rejects the axiological primacy accorded to reason and propounds an ethic rooted in instinct, feeling and will.
6. See Brian Fay, Critical Social Science: Liberation and Its Limits (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1987).
About the Editor and Contributors[Page 269]Editor
Mangesh Kulkarni teaches at the Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Pune. Presently, he has been selected for deputation as the first Visiting Professor to the Chair of Indian Studies instituted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations at the University of Vienna (Austria). He has also taught at universities in Silchar (India), Zomba (Malawi), Goettingen (Germany) and Bilbao (Spain). Dr Kulkarni has published numerous articles and book reviews in journals such as the South Asia Bulletin (New York), The Australian Journal of Anthropology (Sydney), Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai) and Wasi (Zomba). He also has the following books to his credit: A Terrorist of the Spirit (poems of V.A. Dahake, translated from the Marathi with R. Hoskote, 1992), Politics in Maharashtra (edited with U. Thakkar, 1995) and India in World Affairs (edited with U. Thakkar, 1999). He has served as Associate Editor of the interdisciplinary journal New Quest and is currently an International Advisory Editor of the SAGE journal Men and Masculinities. Dr Kulkarni has received a Rotary International Grant for University Teachers to Serve in Developing Countries (1998), the Indal Fellowship of the Asiatic Society of Bombay (2000), a Research Grant of the Rockefeller Archive Center in New York (2004) and an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship of the European Commission (2009).Contributors
Arpita Anant is an Associate Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. She has 11been awarded a PhD in International Politics by the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her doctoral thesis is on ‘Group Rights in the Indian and International Discourses’. She was [Page 270]awarded the ICSSR Doctoral Fellowship and the Commonwealth Visiting Fellowship for the year 2001–02 to undertake doctoral research. Her current research interests include identity and conflict in Kashmir and non-State armed groups in Asia. She has published an article: ‘Identity and Conflict: Perspectives from the Kashmir Valley’, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 33, No. 5 (2009), pp. 760–73. She also has two papers in the NISDA Occasional Paper Series: ‘Terrorism: The Matrix of Regional Security Perspectives and Responses', Paper No. 7, March 2007 and ‘Security in the Post-Cold War World’, Paper No.1, March 2006.
Lajwanti Chatani is Associate Professor in Political Theory at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and a Convener of the Forum on Contemporary Theory in Vadodara, Gujarat. She is Joint Editor of the Journal of Contemporary Thought. She has edited a special issue of the journal (Vol. 27, Summer 2008) on ‘Revisiting the Political’. She has also contributed to curriculum development and course materials pertaining to political theory at the Indira Gandhi National Open University and the National Council of Educational Research and Training in New Delhi.
Justin Clemens teaches English at the University of Melbourne (Australia) and is Secretary of the Lacan Circle of Melbourne. He has published extensively on European philosophy, poetry and psychoanalysis, and Australian art and literature. His books include the following: The Romanticism of Contemporary Theory (2003), The Mundiad (2004), The Praxis of Alain Badiou (jointly edited with P. Ashton and A.J. Bartlett, 2006), Black River (with H. Johnson, 2007) and The Work of Giorgio Agamben (jointly edited with N. Heron and A. Murray, 2008). With C. Dodds and A. Nash, he is the creator of several online art works, notably Babelswarm (2008) and Autoscopia (2009).
Deepti Gangavane is Head, Department of Philosophy, Fergusson College, Pune. Her publications include several academic papers and the following books: Dialogues of Reasonableness (1995) and Feminism in Search of an Identity: The Indian Context (jointly edited with M. Kelkar, 2005). She has been publishing a series of articles on ‘Milestones in European Philosophy’ in the Marathi journal Kelyane Bhashantar since January 2007.
Russell Grigg teaches Philosophy and Psychoanalysis at Deakin University (Australia), practices psychoanalysis and is a founding member and current President of the Lacan Circle of Melbourne. He completed [Page 271]his PhD in the Department of Psychoanalysis founded by Jacques Lacan at the University of Paris VIII (Vincennes) where he also worked as a lecturer. He attended Lacan's seminars and has translated two of them: The Psychoses (1997) and The Other Side of Psychoanalysis (2006). He has collaborated on the first complete translation of Lacan's Ecrits (with B. Fink and H. Fink, 2002). His recent publications include Lacan, Language and Philosophy (2008). He is currently engaged in research on psychosis, creativity and language.
Rohini Hensman is a researcher, writer and activist who lives in London and Mumbai. She holds a PhD from the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her publications include the following: My Life is One Long Struggle: Women, Work, Organisation and Struggle (with S. Gothoskar and N. Chaturvedi, 1982), Beyond Multinationalism: Management Policy and Bargaining Relationships in International Companies (with J. Banaji, 1990), To Do Something Beautiful (a novel, 1990), Effects of Recent Political Disturbances in Sri Lanka on Women and Children: Implications for Women under Stress (1992), Journey without a Destination: Is There a Solution for Sri Lankan Refugees? (1993), Playing Lions and Tigers (a novel, 2004).
Jayant Lele is Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Political Studies, Sociology and Global Development Studies at Queen's University at Kingston in Canada. He holds a PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University. He has served as the President of the Canadian Association of South Asian Studies, as also of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute in New Delhi. His numerous publications include the following books: Tradition and Modernity in Bhakti Movements (edited, 1981), Elite Pluralism and Class Rule (1981), Language and Society (with R. Singh, 1989), State and Society in India (edited with R. Vora, 1990), Explorations in Indian Sociolinguistics (with R. Singh and P. Dasgupta, 1995), Hindutva: The Emergence of the Right (1995), Unravelling the Asian Miracle (edited with K. Ofori-Yeboah, 1996), Asia: Who Pays for Growth? (edited with W. Tettey, 1996), Democracy and Civil Society in Asia, Volumes 1 and 2 (edited with F. Quadir, 2004).
Sanjay Palshikar is Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad. He has previously taught at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is currently a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, where he is engaged [Page 272]in a research project on the modern Indian interpretations of the Gita. He has published several articles which include the following: ‘Virtue, Vice and the Origins of Militant Nationalist Thought in Western India’, in V.K. Mehta and Thomas Pantham (eds), Political Ideas in Modern India (2006) and ‘Political Thought in Maharashtra (1850–1950)’, in D.P. Chattopadhyaya and Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (eds), Development of Modern Indian Thought and the Social Sciences (2007).
Kannamma Raman is Associate Professor at the Department of Civics and Politics, University of Mumbai. Her teaching and research interests cover the fields of human rights, political theory and public policy. Her current research is focused on intellectual property rights with special reference to the pharmaceutical sector and traditional medicine. She is also involved in developing online courses in human rights. Her publications include a number of articles and monographs, as well as the book Revitalising Indian Democracy (jointly edited with N.B. Mody and L. D'Silva, 2001).
Syed A. Sayeed is Professor of Philosophy, Department of Arts, Aesthetics and Comparative Philosophy at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. He holds a PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has taught Philosophy at the Aligarh Muslim University and the University of Hyderabad. In 2000 he was at the Liverpool University (UK) as a recipient of the Charles Wallace Trust Visiting Fellowship. His publications include a book Knowledge and Reality: Towards a Nonreductionistic View (1990) and about 20 articles in scholarly periodicals like the Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research and the Indian Philosophical Quarterly. His areas of interest include contemporary European thought and philosophy of social sciences.
Shardool Thakur teaches English at the Fergusson College, Pune. His research interests encompass contemporary critical theory, international relations and instructional design. His MPhil thesis at the University of Pune was on ‘George Orwell's 1984: An Early Twenty-First Century Perspective after Foucault, Arendt, Agamben, and Abu Ghraib–Guantanamo Bay’. He is currently doing doctoral research on ‘The Depiction of Religious Fundamentalism in Select Literary Texts’ at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. In 2009, he visited the Technical University, Dresden (Germany) through an Exchange Programme. [Page 273]Prakash Sarangi is Professor, Department of Political Science at the University of Hyderabad. He is currently a Visiting Professor and Senior Fellow at the Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas (USA). A PhD from the University of Rochester, he has held visiting assignments at the following universities: University of Wisconsin, Madison and University of Illinois, Chicago in USA; University of Heidelberg, Germany; Uppsala University, Sweden and Deakin University, Australia. He has authored Political Exchange and Public Policy: A Cross-National Analysis (1990) and Liberal Theories of State: Contemporary Perspectives (1996) and has jointly edited (with Hans Lofgren) Politics and Culture of Globalisation: India and Australia (2009).