What is Political Theory and Why do We Need It?

What is Political Theory and Why do We Need It?

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Author: Rajeev Bhargava
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2012
Language: English
Pages: 406
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0198088396


Political theory is widely seen in India as an esoteric inquiry unrelated to social and political practice and largely irrelevant to the urgent or enduring problems of our times. Contrary to this view, Rajeev Bhargava argues that it emerges from practices and has the potential to return to them—to stabilize, endorse, or challenge them. In this book, he explains the constitutive features of political theory and the pivotal role it can play in modern, pluralist societies.

Bhargava elucidates the conceptual structure of secularism, multiculturalism, and socialism, identifying which forms of each of these are worth defending and why. He shows how politico-moral reasoning can shape appropriate responses to the grave injustice of states and communities—colonialism, civil wars, massacres, acts of terrorism, and denials of freedom of expression. He opposes naive articulations of modernity and tradition and claims that some types of deeply religious and secular persons can come together against dangerously simple-minded believers and unbelievers. He also explores deeper issues in the philosophy of social science—individualism, ethnocentrism, teleology, social ontology, and the object-like presence of social meanings.
This book brings an Indian flavour to a largely west-oriented political theory. Social scientists, political theorists, philosophers, and intelligent readers in both non-western and western societies must read it.


A fine collection of insightful essays, each probing its chosen subject from a particular angle and all collectively offering a systematic and coherent perspective on India and modernity in general. It represents political philosophy at its best and brings a distinctly Indian perspective to the heavily ethnocentric Western political theory.’ —Bhikhu Parekh, Emeritus Professor of Political Philosophy, Universities of Westminster and Hull

‘Rajeev Bhargava is one of a very small number of political theorists who can write with equal cogency and clarity about high theoretical issues and hard political questions. He is consistently enlightening (and a pleasure to read), whether he is discussing holism, objectivity, and teleology or multiculturalism, censorship, truth commissions, and 9/11.’ —Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey

‘Rajeev Bhargava’s work offers a rare combination of incisive conceptual analysis and a real familiarity with the problems on the ground that political theory is supposed to illuminate. Add to this his grasp of the difference in civilizational context between India and the West, and you have the key to this varied and wide-ranging collection, full of interesting and important insights, some of which have already helped shape the international discussion on such key topics as the nature of secularism. An important contribution to contemporary political theory.’ —Charles Taylor, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, McGill University