Author: Nalini Rajan
Publisher: Sage Publications
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8170366666
The concepts of individual liberty and social justice were widely viewed as being mutually exclusive till John Rawls propounded his theory of Justice in 1971. This fascinating book utilizes Rawlisian framework to analyze four vital aspects of contemporary Indian reality: Secularism, democracy, social justice and agency.
Rawls demonstrated the compatibility of these two goals through the twin principles of fundamental liberties and fair equality of opportunity, as expressed in his famous difference principle. In this fascinating book, Nalini Rajan utilizes the Rawlsian framework-combined with a Kantian perspective and a defence of certain state policies –to analyze four vital aspects of contemporary Indian reality: secutarism, democracy, social justice and agency.
The Introduction sets the tone of the discussion through a detailed exposition of the Rawlsian principles and their applicability or otherwise in the Indian context. The rest of the discussion is divided into four parts. The first of these examines the idea and practice of secularism in India and the rationale for a uniform civil code. The author advocates that the Indian state must depart from its position of equal respect to all religions to one of no aid to religion if it is to genuinely honour the individual right to religious freedom. In the second part, devoted to democracy, she analyzes how majoritarian democracy actually retards the secularization process in India. The tensions between the values of equality and liberty in the Indian constitution are discussed as also the importance of panchayati raj institutions in ensuring participatory democracy.
Dr Rajan next examines the controversial question of social justice. Despite her emphasis on individual rights, the author supports caste-based positive discrimination, both to achieve social justice and to establish a buffer against upper-caste Hindu domination. Finally, the role of the self and of universality in realizing human agency is discussed in the last part. The author concludes that only the people, organized into various social movements, can counter the menace of religious fundamentalism and state repression.
The issues taken up by Nalini Rajan are riddled with practical and theoretical difficulties, for which there are no simple solutions. The merit of the book lies in exploring and suggesting solutions to important Indian social problems through the conceptual categories of a universal theory rather than based on personal opinion or political ideology. The book will be essential reading for all scholars in the fields of political science, social theory and philosophy and all those involved in the ongoing debate concerning the nature of India’s democratic polity.
PART I: SECULARISM
Gandhi and Postmodernism
The Principle of Autonomy
Is There a Case for a Uniform Civil Code?
PART II: DEMOCRACY
Role of the State
Limits to Democracy
PART III: SOCIAL JUSTICE
Justice as Impartiality
PART IV: AGENCY
Dealing With Pluralism
About the Author