In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, India developed a potentially inclusive, contextually sensitive secular-democratic vision of collective emancipation. This vision is secular because it opposes domination within and between religions, and democratic because it fosters equality of status and political equality. Beset over the years both by extreme Right and Left, this vision has survived into the twenty-first century. But Bhargava believes that it cannot flourish unless values underpinning it are continuously scrutinized, perspicuously articulated, and forcefully defended by arguments.
In this collection of rigorously argued essays, the author offers a sustained normative argument in its favour. He tells us what precisely this morally complex vision is. Bhargava shows that our collective practices and the actions of even those who frequently oppose them, depend upon secular, liberal, and democratic values. He provides an original theory of political secularism and a new perspective on minority rights, collective memory, the relationship between liberal values and collective goals, the importance of political inclusion, and cultural and academic freedom.
This book pioneers a conceptual and normative account of Indian politics. It will interest social scientists, political theorists, historians, and philosophers. Scholars, students, teachers, and intelligent readers in both non-western and western societies must read it.
‘For more than two decades, Rajeev Bhargava has been one of the most perceptive and analytically rigorous thinkers on Indian democracy. His contribution to the Indian debate on secularism is path-breaking. This volume, containing his key essays on the subject, is testimony to the sustained intellectual work of a committed political theorist.' —Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
‘This collection of essays is the most admirable analysis of the trajectory of secularism in post-independence India, from the project of the founding fathers to the challenges posed by Hindu nationalism and the hope for rejuvenation. At the crossroads of history, philosophy, and political sociology, it deals with issues which are not relevant in India only, but topical in most of [the] societies where multiculturalism is at stake.' —Christophe Jaffrelot, Senior Research Fellow, CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS
‘Rajeev Bhargava is among the leading thinkers working today on a wide range of issues. His work is marked by a rare combination of acuteness of analysis, argumentative rigour, and exceptional clarity of presentation. The essays…display the enormous range of fundamental questions to the understanding of which his work has made a distinctive contribution— in clarifying the theoretical basis of South Asian nationalism and state institutions, the distinctiveness of Indian secularism, and its significance for the understanding of the global history of liberal democracy.' —Sudipta Kaviraj, Professor of Indian Politics and Intellectual History, Columbia University
Rajeev Bhargava Director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. He is the author of Individualism in Social Science: Forms and Limits of a Methodology (Clarendon Press, 1992; Oxford University Press, 2008). His edited volumes include Secularism and Its Critics (1998) and Politics and Ethics of the Indian Constitution (2008), both by Oxford University Press.