Decolonizing Democracy

Decolonizing Democracy: Transforming the Social Contract in India

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Decolonizing Democracy
    Book Description:

    Most democratic theorists have taken Western political traditions as their primary point of reference, although the growing field of comparative political theory has shifted this focus. In Decolonizing Democracy, comparative theorist Christine Keating interprets the formation of Indian democracy as a progressive example of a “postcolonial social contract.” In doing so, she highlights the significance of reconfigurations of democracy in postcolonial polities like India and sheds new light on the social contract, a central concept within democratic theory from Locke to Rawls and beyond. Keating’s analysis builds on the literature developed by feminists like Carole Pateman and critical race theorists like Charles Mills that examines the social contract’s egalitarian potential. By analyzing the ways in which the framers of the Indian constitution sought to address injustices of gender, race, religion, and caste, as well as present-day struggles over women’s legal and political status, Keating demonstrates that democracy’s social contract continues to be challenged and reworked in innovative and potentially more just ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05542-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Decolonizing Democracy
    (pp. 1-17)

    December 9, 1946, was an extraordinary day in the history of democracy. On that day, Indian delegates to the Constituent Assembly, the body convened to frame a new constitution for an India free from British colonial rule, met for the first time. The task before the Constituent Assembly, as the future prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared in his opening speech, was the forging of a new, more egalitarian model of democracy, what he called the “fullest democracy,” which would abolish discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, and sex.¹ Despite this pledge, however, the Assembly produced a deeply ambiguous...

  5. 1 Fraternalist and Paternalist Approaches to Colonial Rule
    (pp. 18-36)

    InLiberalism and Empire, Uday Mehta looks at the question of why liberal champions of freedom, equality, and consent within Europe supported, and sometimes even applauded, coercive rule in the colonies. To help explain the apparent paradox at work here, Mehta identifies a paternalist strain in liberal thought that allows for empire. Mehta observes that although it is an axiom of liberal theory that we are all born free and equal, liberal theorists such as John Locke and others also paternalistically assumed that we are not able to exercise that freedom or to participate in political community until we are...

  6. 2 Resistant Convergences: Anticolonial Feminist Nationalism
    (pp. 37-58)

    With the emergence of the struggle for Indian independance, various coalitions challenged the logic of both paternalist and fraternalist approaches to Britain’s rule in India. While the previous chapter explored several of the alliances that were crucial to the generation and maintenance of colonial rule, this chapter investigates some of the coalitions that contributed to its displacement. Key among these were nationalist and feminist groups that worked together to address questions of women’s legal and political subordination in a manner that both exposed the hollowness of British paternalist claims to “protect” Indian women, minority groups, and lower castes and rejected...

  7. 3 Framing the Postcolonial Social Contract
    (pp. 59-76)

    In his opening speech to the Constituent Assembly, the nationalist leader and future prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru articulated what he saw as the Assembly’s task in its framing of a new constitution for India: the forging of a new, more inclusive model of democracy.¹ Such a democracy would abolish discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, and caste, and would not only benefit its own citizenry but stand as a model for the world. In the course of the framers’ deliberations, these goals were significantly advanced but also compromised. On the one hand, the Assembly framed a...

  8. 4 Challenging Political Marginalization: The Women’s Reservation Bill
    (pp. 77-91)

    In the closing days of the Constituent Assembly, delegate Rohini Kumar Chaudhuri proposed a provision to the constitution that would ensure “protection from women,” arguing that this was necessary because “in every sphere of life they [women] are now trying to elbow us out. In the offices, in the legislatures, in the embassies, in everything they try to elbow us out. . . . If the feelings of man are such that he should push them forward I would very much regret it. . . . It is the foolish man who wishes to give them votes and send them...

  9. 5 Legal Pluralism and Gender Justice
    (pp. 92-107)

    In 1951, in a heated debate over Hindu law reform in newly independent India, B. R. Ambedkar, who had become the new government’s first law minister, urged his fellow legislators to reform Hindu marriage law in a way that was congruent with the goals of liberty and equality. “If you mean to give liberty—and you cannot deny that liberty in view of the fact that you have placed it in your Constitution and praised the Constitution which guarantees liberty and equality to every citizen,” he argued, “then you cannot allow this institution [of marriage] to stand as it is.”¹...

  10. Conclusion: Building a Nondomination Contract
    (pp. 108-120)

    In their efforts toward legal equality and an inclusive political sphere, feminist and other progressive activists have both drawn upon and advanced the Indian framers’ promise to build “the fullest” democracy in India and have worked to resolve the postcolonial social contract’s contradictions in a liberatory direction. In addition to challenging gender, caste, and minority group subordination in the Indian polity, their approaches to social justice point to new configurations of the social contract more generally. Indeed, if the paradigmatic agreement in social contract theory is an agreement to be ruled, struggles to deepen Indian democracy can be seen as...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 121-132)
    (pp. 133-142)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 143-156)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 157-157)