Social Scientist. v 28, no. 330-331 (Nov-Dec 2000) p. 20.

Graphics file for this page

time. At the outset let me clarify that I am not, at least here, using a metaphysical notion of time, nor am I privileging time over space. In fact, I would ask for conceding to time what is conceded to the space in the discussions on secularism. In attempting to discuss secularism from the point of view of time, I want to avoid discussion of secularism, that too from the beginning, from a normative point view. Discussion of norms without either logical rigour, or factual basis can become too unwieldy for a dialogue; or they generally tend to melt in the air. Instead, I would be interested in an exercise where these melted concepts are solidified, to use in reverse order Lenin's oft quoted remark, providing the firm basis for norms.

Javeed Alam's essay on "Indispensability of Secularism," is interesting because, amongst others things1 it evokes the notion of time in the discussion on secularism at two important places, his use of Hegelian concept of time and individuation as a process involving temporal dimensions. His treatment of time is not sufficiently comprehensive enough, particularly the fact that he does not take time as present continuous, is what will be discussed in this essay. The problems related to Hegelian notion of time in its application to social processes and the problems relating to the individuation process will be argued in this essay.

The philosophical terrain inhabited in the discussions on this theme by T.N. Madan, Ashis Nandy, Partha Chatterjee, is the terrain of space. Whether, secularism is necessarily related to "Christian-protestant-individualism" scheme, hence societies, which do not have this entitlement, are not capable of being secular. Alternatively, the counter to this, the one argued by Javeed that there is no necessary relation between secularism and Christian-Protestantism because of the following reasons:

1.Secularism without foundationalism, where "secular(ism) is treated not as an innate feature inherent to the human situation but as a need at a specific moment in history in different societies..." (Javeed Alam, 1998: 9) Further, "modernity, and all that is entailed by it, refracts also as a context-bound contestation and struggle, there need to be no intrinsic 'foundation' to it and yet it may remain securely grounded in the historical process." (1998: 10) This disentangles secularism from foundationalism and sees it as part of historical process.

2. The logic of those like Madan who treat secularism as a Western idea, says Javeed, "boils down to the suggestion that if the antecedent conditions behind any specific historical change are not there then

Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page