Saturday, January 14, 2012

Two articles on democratic politics

Both from the archives of EPW, both wondering Indians following the politics of non-coperation, hartals and agitation which were useful during the independence movement. Beeteille says in his article:
"Ambedkar appealed against the politics of mobilisation in the altered conditions
created by the Constitution. He conceded that such politics may have been necessary to bring about a change of regime but that it could no longer be justified under the
new regime. What does it mean to adopt a system of constitutional democracy? "It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and
satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for economic
and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional
methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification
for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us" (ibid: 978). It is no small achievement of Indian de- mocracy that, despite the economic crises and social turbulence the country has undergone, the Constitution has remained in place for close to six decades. It has been amended many times, and there have been those who have said that it has been de- faced and defiled [Palkhivala 1974]. Yet it remains as an important signpost for the judiciary, and also the legislature. How deeply has the Constitution influenced the outlook of ordinary citizens in India? Ambedkar had hoped that our people would learn the lessons of constitutional morality in course of time. How much have they in fact learnt? Not very long ago, a prominent member of the union cabinet had said, UI know that most members of Parliament see the constitu-tion for the first time when they take an oath on it" [Guha 2007: 660]."

Unfortnately both the articles are now behind the firewall and I am enclosing the abstracts.

"In the Name of Politics" by Dipesh Chakrabarty
"The histories of sovereignty and democracy in India have taken a route different from the trajectory adopted by some western countries. In India, colonial sovereignty was often reduced to domination, yet ?internal wars? waged on the basis of religious, caste or even linguistic divisions, continued. Post-colonial India remains thus, a social body perpetually traversed by relations of war. As this article argues, neither colonial rule, nationalism nor even democracy in India has seen the production of a sovereignty necessary for the construction of a ?society? amenable to disciplinary power and its politics. Indian democracy thus furnishes an interesting case where the political task of creating the typically modern mix of ?sovereignty? (rights) and disciplinary domination arises not before but after the coming of universal adult franchise and a democratic polity."

Constitutional Morality
by Andre Beteille
"The strength or weakness of constitutional morality in contemporary India has to be understood in the light of a cycle of escalating demands from the people and the callous response of successive governments to those demands. In a parliamentary democracy, the obligations of constitutional morality are expected to be equally binding on the government and the opposition. In India, the same political party treats these obligations very differently when it is in office and when it is out of it. This has contributed greatly to the popular perception of our political system as being amoral."

The second artcle I saw via Guru's post
Beteille’s condemnation and Ramachandra Guha’s hope

Similar problems seem to be cropping up in 'advanced' democracies too. Daren Acegmolu says in his answers
FiveBooks Interviews > Daron Acemoglu on Inequality
Jeff Sachs was giving a talk in Manhattan the other night about his new book, The Price of Civilization. He was spitting blood that Obama was in town again, not for constructive reasons, but to attend yet another fundraiser on the Upper East Side. Inevitably, rich people are going to have more influence when every politician from the president down constantly needs money from them.
They constantly need money, they like talking to them, they respect their opinion. Jeff Sachs and I have had many differences but in this case I fully agree with him.
That’s what’s interesting about Occupy Wall Street. Its supporters aren’t just crazy lefties who don’t believe in free markets, but respected economists.
I’m definitely in that camp. I do believe in markets. I passionately believe in the importance of property rights and private property. I think they are absolute sine qua nons for prosperity. But I also believe that these things are very political and the politics shouldn’t be one-sided. Gore Vidal said, “The United States has only one party – the property party. It’s the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican.” If that is true, that’s a real threat to a free market and a fair society. For that reason I think Occupy Wall Street is very important. It’s a grassroots movement that tries to stand up to this tendency of our political system."

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