Artha Sutra

Rajeev Bhargava's What is Political Theory and Why Do We Need It? is published by Oxford University Press. Bhargava, erstwhile colleague at the JNU, is presently the Director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi and the author, most recently, of Politics and Ethics of the Indian Constitution, also from OUP.

This collection of essays brings an Indian flavour to a largely west-oriented political theory which 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."

Bhargava's scholarship is widely appreciated. On this book, colleagues have been effusive. Bhiku Parikh, Emeritus Professor of Political Philosophy, Universities of Westminster and Hull says this is ‘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.’ Michael Walzer of the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton calls Bhargava 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.’

New in our Politics and Philosophy sections, Rs 795, in hardcover, 436 pages. ISBN: 9780195699333

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