A well thought out compilation of essays in this edited book paves the way for reasoning with politics, thoughts and theories that engross the scholars of politics invariably. It persuades us to think beyond the simplistic register of lamentation or celebration.
The editorial introduction elegantly titled ‘On the Why of Indian Politics’ establishes the basic components in the political thought of India and locates them in the general framework of science and values. Parekh tries to reveal as to what ails the academic approaches to thoughts, theory and philosophy.
Among the contributors are scholars such as A Raghuramraju, Yogendra Yadav, Arun K Patnaik, PK Yasser Arafat, Anshuman Behera, Narendra Pani, and Devanoora Mahadeva (edited and translated by Bageshree Subbanna). The essays, which critically engage with the intellectually promising trope of thoughts with political relevance in modern India bring about pluralism in a set of values and associated reasoning in modern thought while underlining the significance of ‘Inclusive reasoning’ over ‘Abstract reasoning’.
Narendra Pani reaffirms the editorial emphasis on understanding the nature of reasoning, adding the edges of legality and morality in the scheme of thoughts. The ever-rivetting prose of Raghuramraju presents an enabling intellectual framework to make sense of the theoretical-conceptual value in the thoughts and deliberations of Gandhi in particular. This unveils an altogether different facet of philosophy, different from Parekh’s staid approach. And Yogendra Yadav restores intellectual faith in reading a political thinker and actor such as Rammanohar Lohia, taking us on a ‘Lohia pilgrimage’ with duly critical dialogue. Yadav’s dialogue unravels the conceptual and theoretical import of Lohia without diminishing the complexity of thoughts and of the thinker. Most importantly, Yadav underlines the component of cultural politics in Lohia’s thoughts, unusual in a book committed to developing a scheme of reasoning out of the body of ‘political’ thought.
While other essays continue with the objective of discovering the schemes of reasoning, Yadav’s subsection on Lohia’s cultural politics makes a reader expect more on the cultural components in political thought. One longs for it in Patnaik’s discussion on Ambedkar, a thinker in the tradition of ‘vita praxis’ like Gandhi, Nehru, Lohia, Jayprakash, and others. Likewise, one rummages through Arafat’s discussion on Sayyed Sanaulla Makthi and Behera’s on Maoism in India, trying to underdstand the socio-cultural embeddedness of politics. The details hint of the possibility, though it remains underdeveloped, almost in covert loyalty to Partha Chatterji’s distinction of political and civil society. Bageshree Subbanna’s edited and translated text of Devanoora Mahadeva aids in relating to the tales and stories translating political issues into the socio-cultural. Mahadeva aspires to sit all these thinkers together in a conversation, even in quarrels, to arrive at a holistic understanding of India. A pedagogic and intellectual profundity of the proposition helps in realizing the myopia of political philosophers and theorists who tend to put thinkers in the abyss of discord.
While, the end sorts out everything, a sense of incompleteness lingers. How are political thoughts and theories not cultural? How is cultural not political? Why shall we be keen to perpetuate the conceptual distinctions of political and cultural particularly in a milieu fraught with collapsing binaries? And more importantly, why shall we continue icon worshipping in social sciences and give prime space to the irritating lordly pontification? These may be polemical questions for the time being, but they are capable of enjoining the list of discerning young academic with curiosity, sooner or later. The book delivers a well rounded text that indeed informs, moves, and provokes with hidden subtexts.
Dev Pathak is Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, South Asia University, New Delhi.