Social Scientist. v 20, no. 235 (Dec 1992) p. 42.

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An Agenda for Political Theory in India

The enterprise of political theory in India is facing a crisis of credibility. Nowhere is this more evident than in the response to recent political developments in the country. Recent political developments have generated widespread debate regarding basic features of our polity and the possible direction of future developments. This is not of course the first time such debates have taken place. Extensive discussions on fundamental issues took place within the Constituent Assembly as well but the Constitution which finally emerged represented an acceptable level of compromise on a number of issues as well as more general consensus regarding the collective project of nation building and social development. Now this consensus seems to have finally broken down and a wide range of issues have once more come up for debate. In such a situation it would be reasonable to expect that political theorists would be able to draw on their understanding of political issues to provide important insights and guidance. However they have so far had little impact on public discourse and indeed, there is little expectation among policy makers or the public at large that they would be able to do so. Given this state of affairs there is need to direct attention towards explaining why this is so and also towards the more fundamental question of what could constitute a valid political theory for India.


Political theory has traditionally been concerned with promoting a better understanding of society through the critical examination of ideas and concepts and the relationship between them. Critical analysis of the ideas and representations of a society can throw light on the structure of society and the nature of social processes. But political theory is concerned not only with the existent but also with worlds yet to be bom. To quote Horkheimcr 'Theory is not concerned only with goals

Lady Sri Ram College, New Delhi

Social Scientist, Vol. 20, No. 12, December 1992

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