How the Politics of Recognition Enabled India's Democratic Exceptionalism
International Journal for Politics, Culture and Society–Special Issue on the Work of Charles Taylor, 21, 4 (December 2008)
18 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2008
This article explores a significant puzzle: the persistence of modern representative democracy in post-independent India. It demonstrates how a politics of recognition, based on identities of caste, language and religion, is crucial for understanding the origins, character and trajectory of modern Indian democracy. These politics suffer various infirmities. Yet liberal, Marxist and republican critiques of the politics of recognition in India, while offering valid theoretical alternatives and powerful moral visions, also suffer their own limitations. Perhaps more importantly, they evade questions of historical possibility, political efficacy and practical reason that confront every political theory. The relative historical predominance of the politics of recognition in post-independent India, in contrast, reflects its capacity to engage powerful social imaginaries that enabled the realization of democratic norms, institutions and practices. The general argument put forward develops several key themes that distinguish Charles Taylor’s philosophical vision of alternative modernities – the power of social imaginaries, nature of explanation in the human sciences, and vicissitudes of culture, politics and history – to explain the trajectory of modern Indian democracy.
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