Social Scientist. v 22, no. 256-59 (Sept-Dec 1994) p. 18.

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The Gentle Leviathan:

Welfare and the Indian State

In the twin context of challenges to the welfare state in the west, and the policies of economic reform initiated in India, it is widely believed that the Indian state is reneging on its welfare promises, and thereby compromising its fundamental defining ideals. A re-examination, however,suggests the need to bring into question the received orthodoxy that India is or ever was a welfare state in the sense in which western political theory and practice define it.

Indeed it is true that India does not fulfil all, or even many, of the definitional criteria associated with the welfare states of the west. In the world of its origins, the institution of the welfare state was historically inspired by the intention to provide a corrective mechanism.compensating for market-generated inequalities. In India,however, the assumption by the state of welfare tasks— however narrowly defined—paralleled the embarkation on a state-directed and essentially capitalist path of development. The concern of this paper is not, however, the question of correspondence; instead, it approaches this divergence indirectly, by highlighting a significant difference between the critiques of state welfare in the west and in India, going on to argue that the Indian state should be characterised as an interventionist and developmentalist state, with only a limited welfarist orientation.

While deontological theories of rights have been central to the philosophical critique of the welfare state in the west, in India the challenge to the welfarist orientation of the state has derived from altogether different grounds. This is not surprising as the intellectual foundations of welfarism, as incorporated into the institutions of the welfare state, were integral to the evolution of these institutions. Welfare philosophy entailed a reconstitution of the liberal subject, from the rational, self-interested, profit-maximising and deracinated individual of classical liberal theory, to a citizen of a moral and

Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharial Nehru University, New Delhi.

Social Scientist, Vol. 22, Nos. 9-12, September-December 1994

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