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"The Politics of Social Justice in India" by Pratap Bhanu Mehta

"The Politics of Social Justice in India" by Pratap Bhanu Mehta



welcome i'm davis kaput the director of Cassie and I'd like to welcome you all to Cassie's first nonlin Jeet tinker lecture several years back the Indians are historian Long Goodbye he wrote an obituary historian Dharma Kumar calling her India's last liberal and basically highlighting the narrow space intellectual tradition sort of occupied within India squeezed both between the left and the right I think Ron Goa was was right in his assessment that liberals saw intellectual space sort of within India was rather narrow fortunately like for us he was mistaken no one no one intellectual I think stop in India challenges that claim more than a speaker this evening so for like many of you he knew he needs no introduction after his graduate work at Princeton faculty member at like hardwood he returned to India where he is the president of the center of policy research which under his leadership has emerged leading sort of think tank he has published widely in political theory constitutional law intellectual history and Indian politics in a variety of papers books and as one of India's India's leading economist if you think he's a very very serious person he's also he's also a big follower of Bollywood and cricket I think for those of you not not regret it I would particularly recommend link to you guys his gem of a book called the burden off to democracy which along with his book on the idea of India some writings on trying to understand contemporary India oh I've known the top sometimes perhaps to read for about 23 years and I think more than anything else he exemplifies it for me that rarest of qualities and integrity and intellectual fearlessness in speaking truth to power just you're also very fortunate in having professors who need to kill Donnie if you might recall he gave a lecture here last year and he's very kindly so agreed to say a few words after after perhaps talk to launch us or not on our discussion thank you delish for an extraordinary generous introduction and I must say that you know often you don't want to sort of associate your friends with what you are about to say but I think Sunil and I wish maybe two people who are responsible for some of the reckless things I'm about to about to say so I placate them fully I would like to thank particularly Cassie and having helped contribute in making Cassie such a wonderful institution to be associated with it's my second trip to Cassie and it's wonderful to see Cassie just you know doing so much pioneering research I mean really out-of-the-box research on so many aspects of contemporary India I think it was wonderful that they wish invoked Dharma Kumar in his introduction partly because what I have to speak about today particularly the central question I'm going to be asking today is why does a certain kind of discourse about cost persist over time in independent India and why does that discourse have to carry so much of the burden of what justice has come to mean in India I think it's very much a question Therma Kumar wrestle with and in some sense if normatively a lot of my positions are actually similar probably to Dharma Kumar's range of public policy matters but we have to think much much harder about why that position has so little political traction and I would say not even so little political traction I'll describe what that position is in a minute but I would say not even so much little political traction but why it has so little intellectual traction in the Indian context now as we know India this conjuncture represents a spectacle of profound social and economic change and immense social context I think India's growth story is real it is very widespread and is leading to a churning at all levels of society that is really quite unprecedented in all kinds of ways it's unsettling norms leading to new forms of contestation of our hierarchies I think a CDS study on that it's an awesome guard the world make light doing is doing in kasi on sort of you know new rural markets all of that is really mapping that profound social change you know in ways that are really astonishing I also have to say and I think in a way that if one reflects on this process of change I think it will warm the heart of those who give those whose philosophy of history is what the great intellectual historian duncan forbes weren't once described as skeptical big ism which is that a lot of this change is a product of lots of unintended consequences strange historical accidents and conjunctures is appearing in the most unexpected of places but the second element of skeptical big is big ism was that a lot of this positive change is actually being driven by menial motives I mean if you remember Adam Smith's classic description of you know the demand for luxury goods and trinkets and baubles in a sense undermining the Anna stock recei leading to the possibility of profound change in Europe you have that sense in India and I'll come to this point in a little bit for example I actually do think there is nothing more revolutionary than corruption in the way in which actually unsettles forms of society so lot of actually in a sense this change is being driven not by design not by any sense kind of any grand ideological unfolding not even as a for well intentioned action and I think it behooves us to sort of think harder about how we actually explain this but my topic today focuses on and aspect of this change which is as with any period of profound change there are also immense social conflicts and India has at the moment if you just read the newspaper or any day the entire range of social conflicts you can imagine around all kinds of access you can imagine you have Maoists waging a guerrilla war you have forms of ethnic secessionism you have quite daily forms of protest you have farmers sometimes agitating against the politics of dispossession which takes away their lands sometimes clamoring and agitating to have their lands taken away in certain parts of India you have new forms of identity politics and particularly very very subtle forms of Dalit assertion emerging so there's a there's a really astonishing array of social conflicts that is accompanying this now it impossible to give a full analytically informed Dule horizon of what what are the axes that define these social conflicts what are the drivers of these social conflicts what I hope to do in the next half an hour or so is two things first I want to as it were placed these social conflicts in as it were a larger debate about the relationship between democracy inequality in our time and second by doing that sort of raise a question about why or at least argue the following proposition that one of the reasons caste remains such a central axis of as it were social conversation in India and why it's almost literally impossible to dislodge the hold that a particular kind of discourse on caste has in India has something to do with that larger failure of the relationship between democracy inequality what I will be doing is a bit reckless it'll meander through a little bit of political economy a little bit of constitutional law a little bit of intellectual history in ways that will make the practitioners of each of those disciplines cringe a little bit but I hope that the juxtaposition all of these different facets might allow us to ask some fresh questions about Indian politics so now the present politics of social justice must be seen against the backdrop of a general and perhaps more global phenomenon which is a certain kind of pessimism about the relationship between democracy and equality democracies as we all know political theory 101 reform were born out of a will to political radicalism but they have turned out to be remarkably conservative institutions when it comes to attacking social and economic inequality in fact the predictions of so many 19th century thinkers talk well obviously the most prominent example who pointed out as it were the conservative implications of democracy have come out to be largely true of course Adam Smith also reminded us that a democracy would be the last to abolish slavery now there is a wider global debate happening about why is this the case when why do democracy turn out to be less as it were radical in its implications for social and economic inequality than many of its biggest war trees had hoped and essentially as far as I can see the debate around this centers on one cardinal proposition is democracies in the ability to mitigate social and economic inequality or allow new forms of social increment equality to be produced is that an essential characteristic of the form of political democracy or is that something to do with as it were something more contingent having to do with things like the ways in which political parties are organized the role of money in politics those kinds of sort of things that political scientists and and I say this is a global debate because just a couple of months ago I happened to be reading sort of side by side two books written from very different intellectual one one who is who's China's leading intellectual historian bookends with the new revolution in China and the second was was Adam Jaworski's book new book on democracy and self-governance and what is striking about both books and they have different methodologies they have you know Vaughn who is still belongs to a certain kind of Marxist tradition in a way is both seemed to be wrestling with this question very very centrally about why is it that democracy cannot be expected to be somewhat more radical in its implications for social and political equality than its proponents hope and essentially the answer sort of turn out to or at least the themes both of them wrestle with turn out to have as it were two two lines one line of inquiry which is the old one and which economists have sort of now tried to defend in a new form is that one reason why democracies are not very good to mitigating social and ignore economic inequality and have high degree of tolerance for it obviously their variations cross country but but broadly speaking that as a proposition seems right seems to be what you might call as for the cumulative outcome of small Liberty effects right so that there's that all debate about as it were the balance between equality Liberty and that if the kinds of liberties that political democracies allow just by the workings of their natural operations will produce great inequality so one very graphic example of this in the economics literature is this great paper by the Roger a and Mukherjee on persistent inequalities where they basically just do a simple thought experiment modeling saying if the difference between the rate of return on whatever assets you happen to possess is 0.2 percent over 30 percent 30 years how will that as it were translate into new forms of of inequality so that there is something endemic in political philosophy this has been you know very a very basic access of there's something endemic to Liberty as it were producing inequality but the second line of debate and and and this is where the juxtaposition of Hwang Hui and Adams Jaworski was interesting is that there doesn't seem to be a clear consensus around what kinds of instruments do democracies have for producing more social and economic equality they're basically four or five kinds of instruments that democracy is used and I want to briefly go through the politics around those instruments in the Indian case to set the scene for as it was the broader discussion of cost now the first instrument for redistribution in democracies is obviously taxation right so certainly there is a lot of potential redistributed implications of taxation but in the Indian context there is no politics no real powerful politics around redistribution through taxation for three reasons first of all because in a sense India has just emerged from as it were a long experience of counterproductive experience of high rates of taxation right and we can empirically debate what an optimal sort of rate of Taxation in India should be in my view is it that our rates are actually still lower than what they could be right but the fact is as it were that the experience and the disillusionment with that period of high rates of taxation which is shared across all classes in some senses makes the argument that you can use taxation as an instrument of redistribution very hard to get off the ground polity second as we know in the in the in the Indian context there is a political economy that prana burden had classically described which basically prevents as for the broadening of the tax base so the number of direct taxpayer's mania still remains very very strong and powerful political it's very hard to as it were attacked powerful political lobbies particularly rich farmers and bring them in at least the direct attacks tax net and the third argument skepticism about taxation as an instrument of redistribution is really based on as it were globalization right so that under conditions of globalization there's only a certain kind of bandwidth within which you can use taxation as an instrument of redistribution now each of these propositions is of course empirically debatable and challenging there is evidence both sides of this I mean are my own view tends to be that I think India can use higher rates of taxation even even that group of people which is within the text tax that but the fact remains that as an item of political discourse there seems to be a consensus except on the far left that taxation is not a hugely important instrument of redistribution taxation is a potent instrument of enhancing the revenues of the state and being able to create a certain kind of welfare state whose characteristics I'll come to in a minute but there are severe limits on how much you can use taxation is an instrument of redistribution the second as it were instrument or the second modality is of course nationalization of socialization of the means of production that argument post 1989 of course has been off the political agenda for a long time the third instrument particularly in agrarian democracies which was a very potent mobilizing force was of course lack as a means of redistribution but the politics of land in India has taken a very interesting twist in the last fifteen fifteen to twenty years and that is great skepticism about land reform as a instrument of redistribution again for three different reasons first of all in places where if not land reform at least some form of regularization of rights could probably help the poor like behind something the dish Kumar has been proposing in this sort of you know the body system something like a Bihar equivalent of operation burger right there is a great deal of skepticism about the scale states capacity to be actually impose that kind of regularization of the rights of sharecroppers and tenants in ways that gives them more security and you know we can discuss this in the question period why why why why this is the case why Bihar can't do a big as it was on an operation for a gas time securing of greater greater ten years but even more importantly than that whether or not the state capacity the skepticism about land reform as a way of egalitarian distribution because small in a sense the average size of land holdings is becoming smaller and smaller and their limits to how much land reform can actually empower as Partha Chatterjee has argued the big debate in rural India is how to get off the land as it were is a form of empowerment rather than actually getting land and the third thing which is a feature of India's uneven development in the last few years is that the politics of land is very much differentiated across different states and one of the interesting arguments you see actually in India is that the resistance to acquisition of land is much greater in poorer States for two reasons one because as it were the economics of giving up your land is very different so the going rate per acre in ERISA would be very different from the going rate per acre in Haryana odd or or if you are anywhere near Mumbai right so the economics of giving up land has become become very different and there two very kind of contradictory interests in states like Haryana you literally have farmers clamoring to have their land being acquired by houses but the second reason is again paradoxically the following which is that your ability to move off land depends on what other endowments you have and in India the paradox is that the richer the state is the more likely it is that possessors of lands see actually a alternative economic path from themselves out party because of the delayed of return they're getting on the land partly because they have developed linkages with urban centers which allows to make them allows them to make the transition the problem is that the poor this is the state like Bihar or ERISA or West being world the less likely do these pathways exist so what you're going to find around the politics of land is a great degree of contrary interests and differentiation so land is not sort of very high as a potent instrument of redistribution the third as it were instrument and and which is really where all the political energies are focused seems to be on the creation of an fair state so here the core social argument social contract argument goes like this India's experiencing high growth effect even without high rates of Taxation that high growth rate of growth does increase government revenue if you can use this government revenue to create a welfare state right so with all the classic attributes like to education health on unemployment insurance and so forth you could bring about some degree of redistribution now I want to say two things about I think this politics of welfare welfare isn't before coming the two things that are very striking about the politics of welfare in India at one level the UPA government in the last six years has as it were created a proliferation of rights right so we passed a right to education bill there's a right to food bill coming up which seek to make social and economic rights judicially effective and and it means and and and and send a signal that the state is taking them see there are however two issues with the way the state has gone about it the first is that the state is setting its bar on what these rights are supposed to do very low and is fighting as it were battles that made sense ten or fifteen years ago the Right to Education Act is a perfect example of this right at one level we say it's a landmark act right the state is finally guaranteeing every child a right to an education that what's the ground reality the ground reality is that India's enrollment rate is actually in excess of hundred percent access to school is not a problem in fact the right has been enacted after that access was already achieved right what is a problem is of course the quality in distribution of those schools which the Act does actually very little to address or it addresses in the classic way that government addresses these things which is buy more investment in infrastructure rather than human capital right to food currently being debated and there will be in legislation in the next session of Parliament what is talking about what the UPA government is proposing by way of right the food is that it is very much tailing the practice of most states so two very different states Chhattisgarh and Tamilnadu have already universalized the PDS system these are the two states that have some of the best running as it were public distribution systems in the distribution of food and what the central right is promising is simply a pale comparison on every measure administrative efficiency the quantum of entitlement the ease of access to entitlement and even setting aside the whole issue of you know delivery systems which is which is the core problem in the Indian states right so in some senses we might say that the bar on the welfare state is being set very very low even though it's couched in this very elevated record rhetoric of rights but the most interesting thing from the point of view of discourse of justice about the discourse in the welfare state is in almost all my conversations and write an analysis of the discourse around the welfare state know where is the welfare state seen as a locus of justice in fact what is actually quite striking about this is that this welfare state is at best seen as a bare minimum necessary condition that allows hitherto marginalised citizens to access some services which they need but that's just about it in fact in education and in the discourse of education it's actually interesting that there is a great fear that the right to education act well I don't think this particular to that I think it's particularly our education policies will actually reproduce new forms of inequality why because although it will give access to education the fact is that in a competitive system of education your historical endowments seem to matter a great deal and there's very little in the act that can actually help you overcome that in fact you know that there's a kind of desert disjunction between the logic between which the government presents what the what the justification of that acted and how it's actually received on the ground and that this juncture is best seen in the debate in India around meritocracy there is a ideological argument for the right to education that will basically says that look this will allow India to create a genuine meritocracy because it will give everybody access to education right so you can have a genuine meritocracy only if there's open access the interesting thing is that in most of the sort of targeted beneficiaries of that act meritocracy is the one thing the scene as the antithesis to justice and very rightly so because men autocracy is associated intrinsically with the competitive system that actually reproduces inequalities no matter what as it were the starting point is and in fact the logic of meritocracy has had one unintended political consequence which I think actually the United States also experienced some version of it you know which Robert Young in his old book the rise of meritocracy had warned us many many years ago right is that when you have a meritocracy the elites have a great sense of entitlement to what they have you can shame an aristocracy you can't shame a sort of the top and a challange of a meritocracy so that paradoxically the very rhetoric of meritocracy actually produces even less support for the negative in politics of distributive justice so so we are at that historical conjuncture where there is a great deal of skepticism about what kind of redistributed politics can you actually engage in modern media now I must clarify that this doesn't mean that poverty can't be reduce people sort of you know lives can't be improved but the form in which that improvement is articulated is not as well the form is not the language of justice it's something as it were else altogether we also are experiencing in India something that items reverse key has been consistently highlighting in almost all democracies that increases in inequality are very rapid in periods of change and as it were much more rapid that any decline in inequality then the instruments of economic policy that democracies use can actually produce so there's a very as it were sobering pessimism about distributive justice which confirms again Jaworski's thesis that no country has rapidly equalized as it will market market conditions without some kind of Cataclysm and the debate in India and China is exactly parallel it seems to be independent even over as it were regime you know regime time for the reasons that I mentioned now if this pessimism about a politics of equality and the politics of distributive justice then it opens up as it were a large gap in Indian politics and I'll just take a two minute detour through sort of intellectual history and then and then come back to the contemporary point again where caste politics fits in this now when you read the Constituent Assembly debates we are often reminded of you know Ambedkar's as it were famous articulation of the Indian Constitution experience that India is entering the knife of political equality but a life that coexist with social and economic inequality so this is going to be the fundamental contradiction of modern India ah what I think people pay less attention to is that in this distinction that a mate cut makes and almost all of all that kind of members of the Constituent Assembly make between something like what they think of as constitutional justice versus substantive distributive justice they actually made a very self conscious choice for constitutional justice and it comes out in three ways in America's own speeches in the Constituent Assembly first of all he has a very interesting take on why the Indian Constitution should not be socialist the Constitution he simply says two things one there is a democratic argument let the process of democracy decide the choice of an economic system don't constitutionalize it but there's also a causal argument he actually says at one point we simply don't know the causal conditions under which betterment and equality can be produced so this is something you have to as it were leave open to experimentation right so for that reason as it were the distributive justice is not part of that basic constitutional framework the second as it were facet of his commitment to constitutionalism comes out in as it were his commitment to what he called constitutional methods and he had a very specific meaning in mind to that which which contrasts constitutionalism which to as it were conditions on the one hand is a contrast between constitutionalism in devolution the one thing constitutionalism does is it self-consciously against revolution was actually very clear on that very clear choice but the second thing is that the constitutional order is also very self-consciously against forms of politics that operate outside the modalities of established institutions to use partha chatterjee sway as the kind of politics that you actually find in political society and and partly Ambedkar had this in mind because he thought actually that the most the best example out of that kind of politics was Gandhi satyagraha which he thought was the ultimate form of both non pacifism and non-constitutional politics but one of the unnoticed legacies of as it were Americans defining constitutional politics as it were this way has been I think an interesting effect in the dialect movement and you know many scholars in this room can speak more about this we just accept with the exception of delic Panthers behind large India's most marginalized groups have been the most as it were ardent rotaries of Constitution or the tick's in India I've been just doing this sort of you know exercise of looking at sort of if you take examples of partha chatterjee is you know actions in political society which these are basically strikes informal negotiations you know those kinds of things which are the groups that actually resort to those modalities of protests you you find Dalits are almost never like the groups never take to that modality protesting independent very very rare compared to a whole range of other groups so there is it as a commitment committed and in fact I mean I I argue that America in this sense turns out to be an even deeper pacifist than Gandhi is in his vision of what constitutional politics requires and the third sense in which a made curse as it were allegiance to constitutional politics was interesting was his defense of parliamentary government which i think is not being discussed very much he makes a very striking claim about why India should be a parliamentary democracy not a presidential forum the empirical premise of that game is questionable but I think I think that the theoretical direction he wanted to move in is he basically argues that what India needs is a form of representative government that can do two things first of all it constantly monitor John Keane has recently described India as a monetary democracy with a TI although he might have said he is well but more descriptions would have been accurate but America had a very very clear conception that India is a monetary democracy in that sense but it came with another sort of theoretical notion which is interesting that nowhere in the Constituent Assembly debates that I can figure out is there any concern with what form of representation actually reflects the will of the people in fact that biggest fear is that you should not let the executive or any part of government singularly be able to claim that they as it would represent the people I mean it's a very anti representation notion of as it were democracy in which is one of the reasons why Amica did like presidential systems because you know in a sense that's kind of representative the embodiment literal embodiment of representation in one so that there was a very self-conscious as it were refusal of the language of representation although in Gaza representative democracy but you did not want to be in a position to say that this is the form of representation that we can say best expresses the will of the people in fact what you want to do is keep contesting every claim to be representing the will of the people now what this choice did intellect was that it did open up this gap as I said between constitutional justice and this kind of politics and a medical is as it were very candidly says we don't know how this gap will be closed all he says is if it's not closed Indian democracy may collapse but given the experience of Indian democracy with the gadget ad in politics that I started out within the political economy of egalitarian new politics the natural question arises where will the politics of equality we actually import in in in in in in in in the Indian in the Indian case now this is where I think the discourse of caste becomes actually very very crucial the big fear about constitutional justice in India is that constitutional justice is not about equality it's about what Adam Jaworski again has called anonymity so that I clearly in constitutional justice who you are should not matter to what rights and privileges you have given the historical legacy of inequality in India that very idea of constitutional justice in America presented as an idea actually becomes a threat because anonymity is seen as a existing inequality right I mean this is a this is a fairly fairly fairly sort of kind of familiar but once anonymity is seen as putting a veil over existing structures of inequality you are dead left with this as it were conundrum on what basis does one see people because the very natural candidate provided in the Constitution of this course is equality for individuals where your identities don't matter to what rights abilities you have that itself becomes as it were a legitimize overtly seen to be throwing available existing inequality it's in that context that the demand rises for as it were demanding equality on the basis of cost so equality is not about transcending it is that equality is demanded on the basis of of of cost right and why this notion sort of interested want to end with is their happiness debated up constantly about the relationship between constant class in all the formative action debates in all Marxist debates you know is class a better category your caste a better category for mobilization from the point of view social justice what I think has been less noticed is why is that Indian political parties in across the political spectrum everybody rejected the idea of class as a basis for normalization the reason for that is the following and and this came out in an interview with the politician the class equality is something like an oxymoron either you have equality or you know you don't you can have class you cannot have class equality so that the politics off as it were using class as a basis of mobilization and the wait was rough he cooked and think about this diet extracted axis so this is a senior politician saying the following if I am taught and I become rich I become I'm still that's so in a sense in class what class politics is seen as an instrument of individual mobility rather than a instrument of structural transformation caste politics has a very peculiar relation of equality so if I am that is a Dalit food and I become it on its rage we've done it and equivalent to some other rich person so that within the structure of politics that whole question of equality of war and what is your measure of equality becomes much easier to article and cursed has become as it were the form in which the gallic alien impulses of the constitutional moment have actually come to be sublimated precisely because instead of both this theoretical reason about class politics as it were being an instrument of individual mobility rather than structural transformation and this general historical pessimism about redistribution so in a way the prospects of a politics based on class or economics would have to depend upon some convincing case for how social democracy or some forms that might be included as a politician said very explicitly the only way you can have successful clowns politics is by the volition of gasps right that's the objective since we cannot do that the only basis of which we can demand equality is caste the second feature associated with this is that given our historical experience and this I think all of us know the blonds I have told you and class has come to be seen as a legitimate form of inequality it's a legitimate form of equality not in the sense that you know those who are in disempowered class is deserved but we see class the existence of class as part of restructure of necessity that we don't know how so that in that sense despite us you know this kind of 5060 years of the discourse on poverty and so forth we see of class as at least a necessary feature of a modern society once you see class as a necessary feature it cannot be the basis for demanding as it were equality so that past has acquired therefore I mean as is that caste is the only form available because individuals are not as a unit of equality of what who who should demand equality the abolition of economic inequality is not fast is the only way in which the historically inherited legacies of inequality can be actually some you know sort of limited now this has had as it were lots of you different different consequences for politics but once you go down this route or saying that the only basis on which you can demand equality is cost then the political space opens up on what are the sites of power where you can demand this kind of equality and what we have seen over the last 40 years is a transformation of that kind of America a division of as it were parliamentary democracy be a monetary democracy – parliamentary democracy being a representative democracy right in the particular sense understood in the Costas course which is the advantage of caste politics is that it simply gives you a straightforward numerical measure for measuring the sharing of power 50% for you 30% for me 40% from that the only question remains is what are the sides to which this measure can be extended and the second challenge of course politics is that just as the anonymity of the constitutional revision right through a veil over existing inequality in the very same way the categories of the of caste that as it were are granted recognition as the basis of deserving you know special forms of recognition that as it was flows away over different kinds of contradictions I mean as you know ROM ROM Roberts is kind of written about the ways in which the state uses those categories abstracts from the real contradictions and the real struggles of the people contained within those categories but this is a necessary feature of that discourse right precisely because you cannot have on this view a politics of equality unless you have as it were a set of compulsory identities to go with that as I argued a few minutes ago the attraction of caste politics is that gives you a ready-made basis on which to demand equality that recommend basis can endure only if there is a fixity to that caste identity right so as I said in this transition if you are a done it forward and you become without it which you can still be part of it calculus of division of poverty but if you say no I become a pilot rich and I'm not a pilot anymore in a sense both the measure of equality and the basis on which of the amount equality has actually disappeared so in short what what what I think as the Liberals we have to think much harder than is can we really hope to overcome the attractions of gas politics without seriously addressing these broader social democratic deficits of Indian democracy which is that so long as those deficits remains powerful and so long as that day remains this gap between constitutional justice and distributive justice we cannot find any way of articulating a politics of equality in India other things we can't agree so fast and I think this is a central theoretical challenge that liberals working India have actually not addressed capacity to move across such a range of fields intellectual history political theory constitutional discourse and also the urgency of contemporary politics and it was a also nationally powerful and sophisticated account very complex so it's it's certainly I have no very smart things to say in comment but I guess you know just two very general thoughts I mean one is I think that pick up captures very accurately this moment in Indian politics in history now where we have had for a generation now for 20 years a great focus on the economy on growth within the economy and opportunities that's been opening up but that's not been matched by a coherent thinking about what we're going to do with that growth it's been somehow and belief that it's going to sort itself out that many of the problems that we've had in our politics and in questions of justice and equality from the past I somehow good to be resolved in a kind of almost natural process by by the growth has been experiencing all parts of India have been experiencing and I think nowadays it's very much a point where there's we'll need to engage with some of these very basic questions of social design and institutional design what kind of society India is can hope to be and so I think this return to these very basic questions of social democracy but in a very different context it is an important move and moment in in Indian thinking and I think what what so in relation to what's happening in India I think there's something very discussions about justice that had been happening globally he brings a very very interesting and important set of arguments and an illumination to that because I mean you know this idea of justice as reason essentially working out the terms of what justice are and then trying to find a way to enact that as opposed to this idea of justice is inherently conflict justice is inherently being about the relations of power within a society has been a very sort of deep division and I think in recent years it's the former in academic discourse which has dominated very much the idea that we can have a clear picture of what a just society is and that that will somehow do a lot of the necessary work for us and while clearly that there's a role for that I think what what perturbing in his analysis of the the Indian situation has emphasized is that the the the indeterminacy very often at moments of great social change of what the contours of justice are and how they are very much in ideas in conflict that there are their arguments and interests that are in in conflict and it's through that that perhaps some kind of notion of what a gorgeous society might be and I think in that sense very much as many of the others generation did take this very political view not committing to a defined picture of what India was going to be not not committing to a heavily ideologically specified picture but to one that left it to the the the battles and shifting conflicts of politics and of course that is a much messier ambiguous and complex legacy to deal with and there are also real dangers in that and and I think you know trying to get some clarity on what the nature well what is in conflict I think I mean the other thing I might just mention is I mean in terms of the the instruments that democracies can use to address the question of distribution and one thing that didn't really mention although I think it was implicit in you saying later was the the the world of political parties political movements and that does relate to the question of caste because the he was giving about the need to preserve the identity of caste if it's going to make claims about justice in some ways is actually stands in a tense even contradictory relationship to the politics which invokes costs political organization because costs and cos parties are actually not able simply to – that they are having to to blur to compromise to engage in coalitional forms to somehow not simply stand for for the caste that they might in in in name up stand for and so is there something actually in the very dynamics of the political process that is undermining this this need for clear past identities which can be the units that can make claims on justice so that was just one one more immediate thought on the Indian context but I think but could there not be a politics aimed at reducing the inequality among classes nothing I mean I agree there in the sense that the way my account was constructed today is is very stylized and sort of stark and in some senses in that should politics it's precisely a whole range of these messy intermediate options that are there but I think but our own set of two things in response to that which is that first of all I think there isn't any compelling evidence which convinces them that we are in a position at the moment to as it will use the instruments that would actually mitigate the effects of inequality and and I mean here we can have a big kind of comparative discussion about the conditions under which and that mitigation takes place and the extent to which that medication is possible certainly Brazil's example comes to mind in recent years of a country that sort of at least you know gone down the curve as it were but that kind of quality is not available in part of the movement as I said precisely because of this absence of instruments that have credibility in the ground that can achieve precisely precisely that the second I can issue with that which which goes back to innocence the consecration is so the way the debate in India is often framed is there is identity politics is the politics of caste and then there's the politics of economic empowerment reducing class inequality social mobility sort of all that all the Liberals and the point the trajectory you want to see in politics is to move India from identity politics to that kind of politics my own hypothesis and I guess prediction about over the next few years is that on the ground these are not serious alternatives rather these are seen as actually complementary to each other which is that precisely even in places where you have the benefits of economic growth whether you have reasonably effectively so the welfare state sort of functioning trying to do precisely what you suggest mitigate the effects of inequality that as it were that historical impulse about trying to give equality some kind of basic constitutional political expression remains actually stronger so that it's not an accident that you can get a state like Tamil Nadu for example which arguably is the one state that in a sense in terms of economics and potential state capacity has that the greatest potential for moving to this trajectory also sees at the same time an intensification of that kind of politics so that you can have both processes going on simultaneously which is yes you might get some reductions in the equality but it has it were doesn't take away the need to as it were politically sublimate but find new basis for making equality claims interesting survey convincing account that you've given it so the little bit I could sort of sitting here thinking about well why would we ever want to transcend cost and one of the the reasons that there is a discomfort with the cost of politics and an identity politics is because of the mechanisms by which cost identities are maintained like so you mentioned it monthly that politics of equality in India requires the existence of compulsory and fixed identities so the ways in which that happens is through the enforcement of particular marriage forms through the enforcement of social hierarchies and so I'm just wondering if we sort of reintroduce the I guess now slightly needed debatable multiculturalism and politics of recognition then what's missing from this is in fact an equality of dignity and that gets taken out of the discussion so while I think your account of the ways in which class and caste intersecting in politics and may be necessary is as bad twins I'm wondering what happens to all of the justices of cost that are to do with establish and not with economic inequality that's a wonderful question I think a couple of things you know one of the paragraphs is right so sue you right I mean historically cost has been reproduced through lots of different mechanisms and the first manage was there was the kind of essential institution at that and the conditions under which that is likely to break down I mean we are still light years away from that I mean you know you can just think of the basic Commons and sociological conditions do you have common schooling do you have common colleges right I mean just those basic nuts and bolts some of it is marginally peaking to break down because of migration urbanization but those concrete sociological make since they can make hold break the hold of those conditions remains you know powerful but the specific sense in which a new form of fixity has come to cast identity right is true as it were the legislation of officially sanctioned categories of cast identity and in some sense is the advantage of this officially sanctioning is that official sanctioning is that it can survive even changes in those traditional social dynamic leader by always said all this in a sense cast cast is a political category it becomes much more salient and much more fixed precisely at the moment of the possibility of actually greater social change and emphasis on for example things like these legislated categories like OBC SCS do you know all of that right is that at one level of political attraction is that they will survive all these as it were other exogenous changes that are happening in in society the second thing which I do what is which I wish I didn't get retirement to go into is that I think one of the most interesting things about discourse on justice in India which given India's constitutional vision is quite surprising and shocking is that the one thing we cannot talk about with any degree of systematicity and openness is discrimination as a category because what happened in a sense was that discrimination was a concept that obviously is still social reality and particularly for that sense but analytically description as discrimination as a concept made sense against that conception of anonymous social just constitutional justice that a major talked about so right so you're discriminating against whether you are being targeted for who you are now the sense in which discrimination is dropped out of the picture is twofold first of all because power sharing arrangements have been constitutionalized in different forms and this greater push to do it that in your in your forms essentially that sharing of power has come to bear the weight of justice how can they do a discrimination at this reservation right I mean that's the kind of standard upper caste sort of the sports right because because the numbers as a good match up but the second and more important thing is that to keep the momentum of this cause politics going which is that if you are in a situation where the only way which we made any quality claims is through your costume identity you then need to construct a discourse on caste that went beyond as it were victimization through discrimination and the most obvious manifestation of that is as it with the fusion of Dalit and OBC discourses around consciousness so at the time of Independence there was a consensus that there is a group of people who is who are so more marginalized impoverished oppressed no matter which way you cut it that discourse is exactly the same response than than other groups actually take over so the form in which you get justice becomes this as it were the same for Dalits and and and in a sense of BC's right so that the specific sense in which discrimination was a historical category against particular groups gets subsumed under this larger politics or making equality claims in the basis of cost the other facet of discrimination which is kind of it is the discrimination at one level of course it's a collective concept in the sense that you are discriminative will be member but it's experience is always as a contextual and individual I can't discriminate it in a context in the labor market you know you know in an education system very very little focus on the mechanisms that can actually be used to redress those forms of discrimination because they will require precisely the kinds of certain individuals that are constitutional vision who talks about right so in that sense the politics of representation and visibility of equality claims on the basis of caste has as it were at some levels of isolated discrimination as a central category of a political consciousness Mahavira account his caste and kind of lament that there were radicalized for Asians in the creation of democracy moving in a more dramatically egalitarian direction but in India at least we have instead politics of caste that reproduces itself in ways to ameliorate some injustice but I have sharp limitations moving in a vegetarian directions and I see the power of that argument but it seems to me that if it's right we can't leave it at the lament we have to consider given the tenacity of the politics of caste as you describe the choices at the outset to strengthen it in constitutional recognition you have to think about how you work with the politics of caste to move in as constructive direction as possible and you indicated in your answer to the discussants comments that in fact we do see some blending of a politics of recognition with a politics of distribution and that leads me to wonder well first I to preface it let me say I'm skeptical about the account that democracy in India or anywhere else originated in a really radically you know good moment I think it much more originated in quests for standing inclusion recognition and that the logic of seeking standing nonetheless can point to the efforts to achieve not just formal legal recognition and formal rights but the kinds of more egalitarian distribution of resources that move toward an end point where different kinds of caste identities or other identities might survive that they would no longer be associated with predictable systems of inequality and economic resources and other kinds of hierarchy and so the question is is there room in a politics of caste to work not toward the elimination of caste which is an aspiration that I hear in your comments at least not in the foreseeable future but to a kind of decoupling of caste with systems of inequality precisely by using this politics to work for more egalitarian distribution and once that was achieved weathercast survived or not would be much more a matter of what people chose and would be much less consequential as always you do you succeed Lee given a very very powerful historical account not I mean I mean actually a pivot even I you know something we've done learn from you I give it here don't think democracy was born in that moment of brain breeders for radicalism at most it can be described in a certain context as a political radicalism but certainly not not a great in fact there was a lot of allegiance to democracy precisely because there was great confidence in its produce the status status and in particularly countries like India has used to have been rightly said the route to democracy was through nationalism rather than sort of democracy into nationalism which is that in the context of colonial government the way to claim self-government was independence was was what was to base it in this combination of nationalism intimacy so I I actually agreed with that I also agree with in a sense the other two comments you make of course can be left is a lament a couple of things on that one I think yes I do believe it is relevant but I think in part perhaps it's because in a certain kind of intellect in the intellectual context in India I think there's been relatively less I think honest thinking amongst let's say liberals in this case about why that tradition has had so little political traction and in a way the way the debate is framed as as as I have done it in my driving unmanned service as anybody else has been in that kind of classically normative frame well won't we like a society where people's identities they have how can we have forms of legislated forms of recognition that simply reproduce those identities generation after generation and even more tightly linked the rights that people have to those particular identities even though this might take us a more egalitarian form right so that's in a sense the debate whether it's around affirmative action whether it's around you know caste representation in politics and so forth so at one level this is a kind of lament in service of moving away from framing it that I think we sort of lost that battle and if it remains at that level I think yeah I think we're not going to get any any political traction so so that's that's one sort of right the thing that I think makes the Indian story slightly different from any sense the medical because in a sense as you articulated in your work you know the medical trajectory towards these forms of recognition as the basis for creating new spaces for equality but they remain rooted in identity in here is I think that to to sort of differences which I think are and which is the kind of the cause for a super pessimism which is that the first is that these identity categories are not so much so what has been demanded in recognizing them is not that they be taken into account in designing systems of distribution or access to services they obviously need to be taken into account in conditions where you have historically otherwise that identity are in the menu it's very powerful that it's basically showing available inequality right it is that the form in which that they need to be taken into account requires the state to legislate them into existence and then has it were to fix them so if you take the debate over castes census which we are currently underway in just a very stylish truly the fundamental other bias is caste self-identifying category or not can you stand up and say I am NOT discussed in effect once the state recognizes you through that prism it's basically saying you don't have the right to do that that is I mean in that sense the tyranny of that compulsory identity is as it were far more far stronger it's not simply that the state has to take that into account it's the state can see a signal once we have certified that you are X cost you remain X it doesn't matter what the what they are they so there is a new institutionalization of that compulsory identity within as it were the formal structures of law and the state which is I think far far more stronger than anything in the innocence in the medical case which then correlates with the second sort of idea of escaping cost right so that I mean there are Indian think as you know the intellectual progenitors of this caste politics like basic sort of thesis was look we will go through the stage of equality to cost and then there will be the soul as per scape out right through through greater great great great created individuation right but if the state consistently like blocks that process of greater individuation in differentiation by opposing these I think then you need to need to begin to worry and the second reason which which i think is what is that in the you in the US that keeps in the discourse on race and I think what was interesting about the affirmative action thing in the u.s. I mean it's not a specific program and so what we can debate but there was a recognition that fundamentally there has to be a ethical correlate to this quest for justice right so it's fundamentally about how people of different races actually to each other my body in India is that why you're getting this discourse of distributive justice but because it is being defined around sharing of power in measurable ways it has in fact to a certain degree impeded that ethical correlate that needs to go among citizens so citizens now the equilibrium is well everybody's got the share of power you know there isn't an ethical correlate about how individuals relate to each other the citizens that actually has to accompany that and I think I think this sort of this papering over the concept of discrimination and replacing with the representation in a sense is a is a is an example of so those are absurd what is about the way they're actually very a very simple explanation very simple observation that you're making over and over again that I don't know never occurred to me before and that is that it is relative easy and legitimate for the state to take especially in terms of Taxation it is very legitimate for the state to give when the state gives the state has to give indirectly not persons through a media that are very deep use and so even when the state can't give when there's an experience it received and in fact it gives her a barrel but the stick takes easily and then means that the distribution is always going to be extraordinarily difficult for states and I'm wondering maybe a very intriguing observation enhancing at the beginning when you said corruption is revolutionary and I wonder if you could connect now I mean I think you're right about this kind of asymmetry between taking distributed and I think it's it's interesting implicit in the point I made that that is for why in part politics of producing a better welfare state is actually not seen very much as part of a discourse of distributive justice I mean it mean it's almost as if well you know States directly they do I mean it's it's it's considered a desirable thing but not necessarily expressing a politics of justice it may be in part because right the way one conceptualizes justice in this context is precisely by asking you know who deserves water and there isn't a question of dissolving that is actually associated with the caption and that is and the way it relates to this corruption is ever seen in two different ways one that what the politics of growth has done in the last few years contrary to many expectations that you know it will lead to ordered and produced role of the state or reduced interest in the state in some respects is that it is basically transformed the character of race that you can extract from the screen state to as it were a scale unimaginable so the stakes in seeking access to state power have actually become higher rather than lower and in some ways the site set which is actually going to play out in the next few years is actually this whole decentralization debate in India which the many argued decentralization is very important to making democracy much more inclusive been participating but once the scale at which even local governments operate increases and transforms the states and the politics that have been produced around it actually increase now corruption is being revolutionary in as it were two ways which is the impulse are to use the state and they impulse to gain access to state power has in part being driven by the extent of ranks you can actually extract from the state and as the scale of those events change the forms patterns of mobilization around it change but it has also been revolutionary in the following social sense which is that it has given an avenue to lots of people for a form of social mobility that they could not have imagined in any other arena outside getting access to state and that is actually what's defined the possibilities of new forms of coalition politics sometimes but the sense so that I mean that's the kind of the broad corruption is a guess as a form of churning but the particular sense in which corruption of course impedes a politic social democracy is that it is inherently a politics of individual mobility and what it is cumulatively contributed to is as it were a skepticism about the state and it declined in the legitimacy of something called the public or the public as it was fear so that in that form it actually as it were only really creates the question which is yes the state can be an avenue for mobility of certain kinds and it can induce certain kinds of change but it cannot be the locus of a politics of justice in that that sense I mean it's it's it's almost a politics of competitive loot which is which is you know which is revolution in its own way but it's not a politics of justice and this is more easily explained or demonstrated with respect to your pianist richer perhaps than with respect to Americans the same thing that is related to that is that once again in describing a very elegant way that you had the credibly complicated politics of class and class we have construct beginning with the limitations of stating that equity principle in Wright's terms so I would assume given description of the upper class and caste albums of Indian society that would be possible to do the kind of distribution or gift-giving that can order just mentioned in the rest pratik terms but not in democratic interests and so the concept of rights in a developing rapidly developing country like India might have more traction in explaining how these problems might be overcome than the concept of rights in the liberal democratic sense in freedom or choice it would be interesting to see how this book contributes in some aspects to your argument but also perhaps challenges it asks question is about how does one think about this maybe slightly different house actually great stuff by the fact that you moved your argument about discrimination only in your responses to people and then you came back to it appropriately several times because it seems to me that if you made that central to your analysis then the the so-called liberal Constitution or the liberal comfort with Constitution this politics gives way in the face of an understanding of the accrued material power of discrimination to suggest that caste is very far from simply a set of identities that can be mobilized but is the dominant way by which human potential and materiality can be such the surface type and enable so it would seem to mean that if you shift through this coming as the central content of your analysis a very different perhaps a less easygoing liberal version of the sous-vide is right we should have many more the last question I think what you said is absolutely right except that I think that argument will be compelling if as it were the politics of recognition so so long as I think this politics took the form again to make a crude generalization of it's a no-brainer so straightforward right I think what where this account is coming from is is coming from the fact that that that form of recognition which initially had its motivation in recognizing discrimination in making it as it were the central challenges has then got expanded beyond its original association with discrimination to the point that discrimination is not even a central political issue but sociologically and as it were normative the idea that in a sense let's say in a state like Tamil Nadu 70% of the obese can now partake of that very same narrative that made that direct recognition possible is a distinct historical question so that one of the reasons I do not begin the discrimination is because I think discrimination would as it won't explain certain forms of direct politics and their relationship will be unconstitutional so it would not as it would get us very far with this sort of expanding of you know what you might Ford LIGO and could see beyond its original that's why discrimination is not a saint this is very about sort of innocence explaining the persistence of a certain kind of Costas course beyond as its inevitable associations with the narrative of discrimination that you actually other ISM inmate last questions of middle are very I mean you know I mean I agree I mean I mean I think first of all we do need much more power for the nuanced it's no graffitis of both constant clouds how they are actually operating operating but my hunch this is throw it out as a one sort of proposition maybe we could discuss this at some point is that I think what's happening to the politics of cost I mean I mean the interesting thing about politics is that it's coming becoming more and more dissociated from precisely these actually material things I mean in a sense I mean I think you know ROM has made this argument about you know the categories of let's assume on and so forth in the U P and I think what a powerful points he makes in the sense is that there is a kind of official heuristic discourse along these categories which then sort of fixed them across which in principle is quite distant from these forms of everyday self understanding is actually in turn coming to transform them so I think part of what one needs to do is is not just look at sort of how class has been used but in a sense how how it's being displaced or can in some instances coexist right with this officially legally sanctioned as it were you know this course so what does it mean to be you know a big industrialist or VC at the same time I mean what does that what does that juxtaposition as it were do that's I mean that's that's I think something that one needs to think about more and and that my money about what the state is doing is precisely that it's actually abstracting away from exactly those complex self understanding in politics that that you're actually talking about um so I think his head's just one one kind of capsule holiness which is we have thought of rights claims as in some senses expressing aspirations but suppose you are operating in another sort of environment where there's a consensus on those issues as a matter of political right so free speech and so forth we all have equal rights in that sense but rights claim in any other context is basically seen as specifying a baseline threshold on which we understand above which the politics of inequality can continue unabated so the example that is giving the right to education acting in some respects is that you can read it two ways in a classical egalitarian politics you'll say it's giving everybody equal right that means I mean that's a-that's itself or you can read it another way which is that it's the state providing a as it were if flow on which everybody can stand but that is actually quite compatible with reproducing great forms of inequality as it were above it and I think that Indian discourse of rights is very much probably for good reason so very much that we very kind of minimalist toward conception of that what it is doing is it that it might enable some necessary conditions for individual mobility but what it does not do is achieve anything like an egalitarian conception of justice or even even even anything close well I know it's it's always a measure but we are we are sort of beyond our time and I'm sure we'll be willing to talk to you after we finish the table be a very very grateful with the so bring some analysis but that's the reality of like India and we hope you will continue to illuminate us

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. We don't believe in exclusivity claims. And Hindu is not a word. It's a Persian racial slur. We are people of Aryavarta. We are Aryavarta.Caste System is a foreign concept. We don't believe in caste system. You won't find any term called "Caste System" in Vedic texts. It was coined by the Turks and then the British later on.

  2. Indian are most racist nation in world!

    If you are so call Higher caste. You can rape/steal the land/denied the rights other/refused education/refused jobs and murder lower caste people.

    If the hindu religion is so great why is that your religion treat the poorest of the poor so badly.
    Thank God! There is a religion for all the people in the world no matter if you are poor or rich , weak or needy. The Lord "Jesus Christ" son of ''All Mighty'' loves every one.

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