Chapter 1 -Political Theory: An Introduction


An Introduction


Human beings are unique in two respects:

  • They possess reason.
  • The ability to reflect on their actions.


Political Theory analyzes basic questions such as:
• How should society be organized?
• Why do we need a government?
• Which is the best government?
• Does law limit our freedom?
• What does the state owe its citizens?
• What do we owe each other as citizens?

  • Political theory also examines questions of such kind and systematically thinks about the values that inform political life — values such as freedom, equality and justice.


What is Politics?


  • Politics is the study of power or the struggle for power.
  • No society can exist without some form of political organisation and collective decision making.
  • A number of social institutions such as the family, tribes and economic institutions, have emerged to help people fulfil their needs and aspirations.
    → Such institutions help us find ways of living together acknowledging our obligations to each other.
  • How governments are formed and how they function is thus an important focus of politics.

→ But politics is not confined to the affairs of government.

→ In fact what governments do is relevant because it affects the lives of the people in many different ways like their economic policy, foreign policy and educational policy affects people’s lives.


  • Since the actions of the government affect us deeply, people take a lively interest in what governments do.
  • When people disagree with the policies of the government, we protest and organise demonstrations to persuade the government to change the existing laws.
  • So, finally, politics arises from the fact that we have different visions of what is just and desirable for us and our society.
    → It involves the multiple negotiations that go on in society through which collective decisions are made.

What do we study in Political Theory?

  • There are certain values and principles that have inspired people and guided policies.
    → For example, Ideals like democracy, freedom or equality.
  • Different countries may try to protect such values by enshrining them in their constitutions
    as is the case with the American and Indian constitutions.
  • These documents did not just emerge overnight; they are built upon the ideas and principles debated almost since the time of Kautilya, Aristotle to Jean Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
  • As far back as the fifth century B.C., Plato and Aristotle discussed with their students whether
    monarchy or democracy was better.
  • In modern times, Rousseau first argued for freedom as a fundamental right of humankind.
  • Karl Marx argued that equality was as crucial as freedom.
  • In India, Mahatma Gandhi discussed the meaning of genuine freedom or swaraj in his book Hind Swaraj.
    → Dr. Ambedkar vigorously argued that the scheduled castes must be considered a minority,
    and as such, must receive special protection.
  • Political theory deals with the ideas and principles that shape Constitutions, governments and social life in a systematic manner.
  • It clarifies the meaning of concepts such as freedom, equality, justice, democracy, secularism and so on.
  • It probes the significance of principles such as rule of law, separation of powers, judicial review,

Why is this relevant now?

  • India is free and independent, questions regarding freedom and equality have not ceased to crop



  • Because issues concerning freedom, equality, democracy, arise in many areas of social life and they are being implemented in different sectors at different paces.
  • For example, although equality may exist in the political sphere in the form of equal rights, it may not exist to the same extent in the economic or social spheres.


  • Though freedom is guaranteed in our Constitution, we encounter new interpretations all the time.
  • For example, the right to life has been interpreted by the Courts to include the right to livelihood. The right to information has been granted through a new law.
  • The fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution have been amended and expanded over time through judicial interpretations and government policies which are designed to address new problems.


  • As our world changes, we may discover new dimensions of freedom as well as new threats to freedom.
  • For example, global communications technology is making it easier for activists to network with one another across the world for protecting tribal cultures or forests. But it also enables terrorists and criminals to network.
  • As a result, questions are raised regarding how much freedom should be given to people using the net.

Putting Political Theory to Practice

  • In this textbook, we are focused on one aspect of political theory — that which deals with the origins, meaning and significance of political ideas that we are familiar with such as freedom, equality, citizenship, justice, development, nationalism, secularism and so on.
  • Political theorists have asked what freedom or equality is and have provided diverse definitions.
  • Unlike in mathematics where there can be one definition of a triangle or square, we encounter many definitions of equality or freedom or justice.
    → This is because terms like equality concern our relationships with other human beings rather than with things.
    → Human beings, unlike things, have opinions on issues like equality.
  • For example, people often jump the queue in shops or doctor’s waiting rooms or government offices.
    → But also many poor people cannot go to the shop or to a doctor because they have no money to pay for goods and services.
  • Thus, our idea of equality is quite complex. The reason we have many definitions is because the meaning of equality is dependent on the context.
  • Political theorists clarify the meaning of political concepts by looking at how they are understood and used in ordinary language.
  • They also debate and examine the diverse meanings and opinions in a systematic manner.
  • As in the case of equality, so also in the case of other concepts such as Freedom, Citizenship, Rights, Development, Justice, Equality, Nationalism and Secularism, political theorists engage with everyday opinions, debate possible meanings and thrash out policy options.

Why should we study Political Theory?

  • Firstly, political theory is relevant for all the above target groups. As high school students, we may choose one of the above professions in the future and so indirectly it is relevant for us even now.
  • Secondly, we are all going to be citizens entitled to vote and decide other issues. To act responsibly, it is helpful to have a basic knowledge of the political ideas and institutions that shape the world we live in.
  • Thirdly, freedom, equality and secularism are not abstract issues in our lives. People daily encounter discrimination of various sorts in families, schools, colleges, shopping malls and so on.
    → Political theory encourages us to do is examine our ideas and feelings about political things.
  • Finally, as students we enjoy debates and elocution competitions. We have opinions about what is right or wrong, just or unjust but do not know whether they are reasonable or not.

→ Political theory exposes us to systematic thinking on justice or equality so that we can polish our opinions and argue in an informed manner and for the sake of common interests.

 Chapter 2 Freedom


The ideals of Freedom


  • Nelson Mandela of South Africa spent 28 years in jail to fight for the independence movement and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar also spent years under house arrest to fight for independence.


What is Freedom?


  • ‘What is freedom’ is absence of constraints (restrictions).
  • Freedom is said to exist when external constraints on the individual are absent. In terms of this definition an individual could be considered free if he/she is not subject to external controls or coercion and is able to make independent decisions and act in an autonomous way.
  • Freedom is also about expanding the ability of people to freely express themselves and develop their potential.
  • Aspects of freedom
    → The absence of external constraints
    → The existence of conditions in which people can develop their talents.
  • A free society would be one which enables all its members to develop their potential with the minimum of social constraints.
  • No individual living in society can hope to enjoy total absence of any kind of constraints or restrictions.
    → It becomes necessary then to determine which social constraints are justified and which are not, which are acceptable and which should be removed.
  • To be free means to reduce or minimise social constraints that limit our ability to make choices freely.
  • There is another aspect of freedom. It allows the full development of the individual’s creativity, sensibilities and capabilities: be it in sports, science, art, music or exploration.
    → A free society is one that enables one to pursue one’s interests with a minimum of constraints.

The Sources of Constraints

  • Restrictions on the freedom of individuals may come from domination and external controls.
  • Such restrictions may be imposed by force or they may be imposed by a government through laws which embody the power of the rulers over the people and which may have the backing of force.
  • If the government is a democratic one, the members of a state could retain some control over their rulers.
    → That is why democratic government is considered to be an important means of protecting the freedom of people.
  • But constraints on freedom can also result from social inequality of the kind implicit in the caste system, or which result from extreme economic inequality in a society.

Why do we need Constraints

  • We need some constraints or else society would descend into chaos.
  • Differences may exist between people regarding their ideas and opinions, they may have conflicting ambitions, they may compete to control scarce resources.
  • People around us are ready to fight for all kinds of reasons ranging from the serious to the trivial.
  • Therefore every society needs some mechanisms to control violence and settle disputes.
  • Ideally, in a free society we should be able to hold our views, develop our own rules of living, and pursue our choices.
  • Creation of such a society requires that we be willing to respect differences of views, opinions and beliefs.
  • Sometimes, an individual can think that a strong commitment to our beliefs requires that we must

oppose all those who differ from or reject our views. We see their views or ways of living as unacceptable or even undesirable.

  • Under such circumstances we need some legal and political restraints to ensure that differences may be discussed and debated without one group forcibly imposing its views on the other.

Harm Principle


  • John Stuart Mill in his essay On Liberty called political theory the ‘harm principle’.


  • Mill introduces here an important distinction. He distinguishes between ‘self-regarding’ actions, i.e., those actions that have consequences only for the individual actor and nobody else, and ‘other regarding’ actions, i.e., those actions that also have consequences for others.
  • He argues that with respect to actions or choices that affect only one’s self, self-regarding actions, the state (or any other external authority) has no business to interfere.
  • In contrast, with respect to actions that have consequences for others, actions which may cause harm to them, there is some case for external interference.
  • In this case it is the state which can constrain a person from acting in a way that causes harm to someone else.
  • Freedom is at the core of human society, is so crucial for a dignified human life, it should only be constrained in special circumstances.
  • For minor harm, Mill recommends only social disapproval and not the force of law.
  • People should be ready to tolerate different ways of life, different points of view, and different interests, so long as they do not cause harm to others.
  • But such tolerance need not be extended to views and actions which may put people in danger or foment hatred against them.
  • In the constitutional discussions in India, the term used for such justifiable constraints is ‘reasonable restrictions’.
  • The restrictions may be there but they must be reasonable, i.e., capable of being defended by reason, not excessive, not out of proportion to the action being restricted, since then it would impinge on the general condition of freedom in society.

Negative and Positive Liberty


  • In political theory, there are two types of liberty:

→ Negative Liberty

→ Positive Liberty


Negative Liberty
• ‘Negative liberty’ seeks to define and defend an area in which the individual would be inviolable, in which he or she could ‘do, be or become’ whatever he or she wished to ‘do, be or become’.

  • This is an area in which no external authority can interfere. It is a minimum area that is sacred and in which whatever the individual does, is not to be interfered with.
  • The negative liberty tradition argues for an inviolable area of non-interference in which the an individual can express himself or herself. If the area is too small then human dignity gets compromised.
  • It is concerned with explaining the idea of ‘freedom from’.


Positive Liberty


  • Positive liberty recognises that one can be free only in society (not outside it) and hence tries to make that society such that it enables the development of the individual whereas negative liberty is only concerned with the inviolable area of non-interference and not with the conditions in society, outside this area, as such.


  • Positive Liberty is concerned with looking at the conditions and nature of the relationship between the individual and society and of improving these conditions such that there are fewer constraints to the development of the individual personality.
  • The individual to develop his or her capability must get the benefit of enabling positive conditions in material, political and social domains.
  • The arguments of positive liberty are concerned with explaining the idea of ‘freedom to’.
  • Generally they both go together and support each other, but it can happen that tyrants justify their rule by invoking arguments of positive liberty.

Freedom of Expression

  • Freedom of expression is a fundamental value and for that society must be willing to bear some inconvenience to protect it from people who want to restrict it.
  • Constraints of different kinds thus exist and we are subject to them in different situations.
  • While reflecting on such situations we need to realise that when constraints are backed by organised social — religious or cultural — authority or by the might of the state, they restrict our freedom in ways that are difficult to fight against.
  • So, freedom embodies our capacity and our ability to make choices.
  • We have also to accept responsibility for our actions and their consequences.
  • It is for this reason that most advocates of liberty and freedom maintain that children must be placed in the care of parents.

Chapter 3- Equality


Why does Equality Matter?

  • Equality is a powerful moral and political ideal that has inspired and guided human society for many centuries.
  • As a political ideal the concept of equality invokes the idea that all human beings have an equal worth regardless of their colour, gender, race, or nationality.
  • It maintains that human beings deserve equal consideration and respect because of their common humanity.
  • Today, equality is a widely accepted ideal which is embodied in the constitutions and laws of many countries.
  • Yet, it is inequality rather than equality which is most visible around us in the world as well as within our own society. In our country we can see slums existing side by side with luxury housing.

A Paradox

  • Almost everyone accepts the ideal of equality, yet almost everywhere we encounter inequality.
  • Almost everyone accepts the ideal of equality, yet almost everywhere we encounter inequality.
  • We live in a complex world of unequal wealth, opportunities, work situations, and power.


What is Equality?

  • Treating people with equal respect need not mean always treating them in an identical way.
  • No society treats all its members in exactly the same way under all conditions.
  • The smooth functioning of society requires division of work and functions and people often


enjoy different status and rewards on account of it.

  • At times these differences of treatment may appear acceptable or even necessary. For example, we usually do not feel that giving prime ministers, or army generals, a special official rank and status goes against the notion of equality, provided their privileges are not misused.

Which distinctions and differences are acceptable and which are not?

  • When people are treated differently just because they are born in a particular religion or race or caste or gender, we regard it as an unacceptable form of inequality.
  • Human beings may pursue different ambitions and goals and not all may be equally successful.
  • The commitment to the ideal of equality does not imply the elimination of all forms of differences.
  • It merely suggests that the treatment we receive and the opportunities we enjoy must not be pre-determined by birth or social circumstance.


Equality of Opportunities

  • The concept of equality implies that all people, as human beings, are entitled to the same rights and opportunities to develop their skills and talents, and to pursue their goals and ambitions.
  • People have different talents and skills which results in some being more successful in their chosen careers than others.
  • It is not the lack of equality of status or wealth or privilege that is significant but the inequalities


in people’s access to such basic goods, such as education, health care, safe housing, that make for an unequal and unjust society.

Natural and Social Inequalities

Natural Inequalities


  • Natural inequalities are those that emerge between people as a result of their different capabilities and talents.
  • These kinds of inequalities are different from socially-produced inequalities which emerge as a

consequence of inequalities of opportunity or the exploitation of some groups in a society by others.

  • These are considered to be the result of the different characteristics and abilities with which people are born.

Social inequalities

  • These are created by society.
  • Certain societies may, for example, value those who perform intellectual work over those who do manual work and reward them differently.
  • They may treat people of different race, colour, or gender, or caste.
  • Differences of this kind reflect the values of a society and some of these may certainly appear to us to be unjust.


Other Problems


  • This distinction is sometimes useful in helping us to distinguish between acceptable and unfair inequalities in society but it is not always clear or self-evident.
  • When certain inequalities in the treatment of people have existed over a long period of time they may appear to us as justifiable because they are based on natural inequalities, that is, characteristics that people are born with and cannot easily change.
    → For example, women were for long described as ‘the weaker sex’, considered timid and of lesser intelligence than men, needing special protection. Therefore, it was felt that denying women equal rights could be justified.
  • Another problem which arises with the idea of natural differences is that some differences which could be considered natural need no longer be seen as unalterable.
  • For example, advances in medical science and technologies have helped many disabled people to function effectively in society.
    → Today, computers can help blind people, wheelchairs and artificial limbs can help in cases of physical disability, even a person’s looks can be changed with cosmetic surgery. It would seem unjust to most people today if disabled people are denied necessary help to overcome the effects of their disability or a fair reward for their work on the grounds that they are naturally less capable.
  • These complexities would be difficult to use the natural/ socially-produced distinction as a standard by which the laws and policies of a society can be assessed.


Three Dimensions of Equality

  • While identifying different kinds of inequalities that exist in society, various thinkers and ideologies have highlighted three main dimensions of equality namely, political, social and economic.

Political Equality

  • In democratic societies political equality would normally include granting equal citizenship to all the members of the state.
  • Equal citizenship brings with it certain basic rights such as the right to vote, freedom of expression, movement and association and freedom of belief.
  • Considerable inequality can exist even in countries which grant equal rights to all citizens.
  • These inequalities are often the result of differences in the resources and opportunities which are available to citizens in the social and economic spheres.
  • For this reason a demand is often made for equal opportunities, or for ‘a level playing field’.
  • Political and legal equality are an important component of a just and egalitarian society.

Social Equality

  • Political equality or equality before needs to be supplemented by equality of opportunities.
  • Political equality is necessary to remove any legal hurdles which might exclude people from a voice in government and deny them access to available social goods.
  • The pursuit of equality requires that people belonging to different groups and communities also have a fair and equal chance to compete for those goods and opportunities.
  • For pursuit of equality, it is necessary to minimise the effects of social and economic inequalities and guarantee certain minimum conditions of life to all the members of the society — adequate health care, the opportunity for good education, adequate nourishment and a minimum wage, among other things.


  • In India, a special problem regarding equal opportunities comes not just from lack of facilities but from some of the customs which may prevail in different parts of the country, or among different groups.
  • For example, Women may not enjoy equal rights of inheritance in some groups, or there may be social prohibitions regarding their taking part in certain kinds of activities.
    → The state has a significant role in such matters. It should make policies to prevent discrimination or harassment of women in public places or employment, to provide incentives to open up education or certain professions to women, and other such measures.

Economic Equality

  • Economic inequality exists in a society if there are significant differences in wealth, property or income between individuals or classes.
  • There are two ways of measuring the degree of economic inequality in a society:

→ First is measuring the relative difference between the richest and poorest groups.
→ Another way could be to estimate the number of people who live below the poverty line.

  • With equal opportunities, inequalities may continue to exist between individuals but there is the possibility of improving one’s position in society with sufficient effort.
  • Inequalities that are untouched over generations, are more dangerous for a society.
  • If in a society certain classes of people have enjoyed considerable wealth, and the power which goes with it, over generations, the society would become divided between those classes and others who have remained poor over generations.
  • Over time such class differences can give rise to resentment and violence because of the power of the wealthy classes it might prove difficult to reform such a society to make it more open and egalitarian.


  • Marxism and liberalism are two important political ideologies of our times.



  • Marx was an important nineteenth century thinker who argued that the root cause of entrenched inequality was private ownership of important economic resources such as oil, or land, or forests, as well as other forms of property.
  • He pointed out that such private ownership did not only make the class of owners wealthy, it also gave them political power which enabled them to influence state policies and laws and this could prove a threat to democratic government.
  • Marxists and socialists feel that economic inequality provides support to other forms of social inequality such as differences of rank or privilege. Therefore, to tackle inequality in society we need to go beyond providing equal opportunities and try and ensure public control over essential resources and forms of property.



  • Liberals uphold the principle of competition as the most efficient and fair way of distributing resources and rewards in society.
  • They believe that while states may have to intervene to try and ensure a minimum standard of living and equal opportunities for all, this cannot by itself bring equality and justice to society.
  • For them, as long as competition is open and free, inequalities are unlikely to become entrenched and people will get due reward for their talents and efforts.
  • Unlike socialists, liberals do not believe that political, economic and social inequalities are necessarily linked. They maintain that inequalities in each of these spheres should be tackled appropriately.


How can we promote Equality?


  • We need to consider if the use of affirmative action is justified for purposes of bringing about equality.


Establishing Formal Equality


  • The first step towards bringing about equality is ending the formal system of inequality and privileges.
  • Social, economic and political inequalities all over the world have been protected by customs and legal systems that prohibited some sections of society from enjoying certain kinds of opportunities and rewards.
  • Attainment of equality requires that all such restrictions or privileges should be brought to an end. This is what Indian Constitution does.
  • The Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Indian Constitution also abolished the practice of untouchability.
  • Most modern constitutions and democratic governments have formally accepted the principle of equality and incorporated it as identical treatment by law to all citizens without any regard to their caste, race, religion or gender.


Equality Through Differential Treatment


  • Sometimes it is necessary to treat people differently in order to ensure that they can enjoy equal rights.
  • For example, disabled people may justifiably demand special ramps in public spaces so that they get an equal chance to enter public buildings.


  • Some countries have used policies of affirmative action to enhance equality of opportunity. In India, we have relied on the policy of reservations.

Affirmative Action

  • Affirmative action is based on the idea that it is not sufficient to establish formal equality by law.
  • Affirmative action can however take many forms, from preferential spending on facilities for disadvantaged communities, such as, scholarships and hostels to special consideration for admissions to educational institutions and jobs.
  • In our country we have adopted a policy of quotas or reserved seats in education and jobs to provide equality of opportunity to deprived groups. This has been the subject of considerable debate and disagreement.
  • Special assistance in the form of affirmative action is expected to be a temporary or time-bound measure.
  • Critics of positive discrimination contend that any provision of reservations or quotas for the deprived in admissions for higher education or jobs is unfair as it arbitrarily denies other sections of society their right to equal treatment.


  • In the context of this debate, it is relevant to draw a distinction between equality as a guiding principle of state policy and equal rights of individuals.


  • Individuals have a right to equal consideration for admission to educational institutions and public sector employment.


  • Members of excluded groups, whether they are dalits, women, or any other category, deserve and need some special help. To provide this, the state must devise social policies which would help to make such people equal and give them a fair chance to compete with others.
  • The spheres of education and health care India has done far less for its deprived population than what is their due.
  • Social and economic inequalities of this kind hinder the pursuit of equal opportunities.
  • The policies that we choose would have to be justified in terms of their success in making the society more egalitarian and fair to all.
  • On the issue of equality, a distinction must also be made between treating everyone in an identical manner and treating everyone as equal.
  • Differential or special treatment may be considered to realise the goal of equality but it requires justification and careful reflection.
  • Many of these issues relating to the pursuit of equality have been raised by the women’s movement.
  • In the nineteenth century women struggled for equal rights. They demanded, for instance, the right to vote, the right to receive degrees in colleges and universities and the right to work — that is, the same rights as the men in their society.
  • As they entered the job market they realised that women required special facilities in order to exercise these rights.
  • Differential treatment is intended and justified only as a means to promote a just and egalitarian society.

Chapter 4- Social Justice


What is Justice?


  • All cultures and traditions have interpreted the concept of justice in different ways.
  • In ancient Indian society, justice was associated with dharma and maintaining dharma or a just social order, was considered to be a primary duty of kings.
  • In China, Confucius, the famous philosopher argued that kings should maintain justice by punishing wrong doers and rewarding the virtuous.
  • In the fourth century B.C. Athens (Greece), Plato discussed issues of justice in his book The Republic.
  • The idea that justice involves giving each person his due continues to be an important part of our present day understanding of justice.


  • According to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, human beings possess dignity. If all persons are granted dignity then what is due to each of them is that they have the opportunity to develop their talents and pursue their chosen goals.
  • Justice requires that we give due and equal consideration to all individuals.


Equal Treatment for Equals

  • One of the principles regarding equal importance of all people is the principle of treating equals equally. It is considered that all individuals share certain characteristics as human beings. Therefore they deserve equal rights and equal treatment.
  • Some of the important rights which are granted in most liberal democracies today include civil rights such as the rights of life, liberty and property, political rights like the right to vote, which enable people to participate in political processes, and certain social rights which would include the right to enjoy equal opportunities with other members of the society.
  • The principle of treating equals equally would require that people should not be discriminated against on grounds of class, caste, race or gender.

Proportionate Justice

  • Equal treatment is not the only principle of justice.
  • There could be circumstances in which we might feel that treating everybody equally would be unjust.
  • If everybody starts from the same base line of equal rights, justice in such cases would mean rewarding people in proportion to the scale and quality of their effort.
  • However, it would be fair and just to reward different kinds of work differently if we take into account factors such as the effort required, the skills required, the possible dangers involved in that work, and so on.
  • For justice in society, the principle of equal treatment needs to be balanced with the principle of proportionality.

Recognition of Special Needs

  • A third principle of justice which we recognise is for a society to take into account special needs of people while distributing rewards or duties.
  • The principle of taking account of the special needs of people does not necessarily contradict the principle of equal treatment so much as extend it because the principle of treating equals equally could imply that people who are not equal in certain important respects could be treated differently.
  • People with special needs or disabilities could be considered unequal in some particular respect and deserving of special help.
  • Physical disabilities, age or lack of access to good education or health care, are some of the factors which are considered grounds for special treatment in many countries.
  • In India, the Constitution allowed for reservations of government jobs and quotas for admissions to educational institutions for people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes due to social discrimination on the grounds of caste.
  • Different groups in the country might favour different policies depending upon which principle of justice they emphasise.

Just Distribution

  • Social justice also concerns the just distribution of goods and services, whether it is between nations or between different groups and individuals within a society.
  • If there are serious economic or social inequalities in a society, it might become necessary to try and redistribute some of the important resources of the society to provide something like a level playing field for citizens.


  • Therefore, within a country social justice would require not only that people be treated equally in terms of the laws and policies of the society but also that they enjoy some basic equality of life conditions and opportunities.
  • Differences of opinion on matters such as whether, and how, to distribute resources and ensure equal access to education and jobs arouse fierce passions in society and even sometimes provoke violence.
  • A well-known political philosopher, John Rawls has argued that there could indeed be a rational justification for acknowledging the need to provide help to the least privileged members of a society.


John Rawls: theory of Justice

  • John Rawls argues that the only way we can arrive at a fair and just rule is if we imagine ourselves to be in a situation in which we have to make decisions about how society should be organised although we do not know which position we would ourselves occupy in that society.
  • Rawls describes this as thinking under a ‘veil of ignorance’. He expects that in such a situation of complete ignorance about our possible position and status in society, each person would decide in the way they generally do, that is, in terms of their own interests.
  • But since no one knows who he would be, and what is going to benefit him, each will predict the future society from the point of view of the worst-off.
  • This would not help those who are born in a disadvantaged section of society.
  • It is of course not easy to erase our identities and to imagine oneself under a veil of ignorance. But then it is equally difficult for most people to be self-sacrificing and share their good fortune with strangers.
  • The merit of the ‘veil of ignorance’ position is that it expects people to just be their usual rational selves: they are expected to think for themselves and choose what they regard to be in their interest.
  • Rawls therefore argues that rational thinking, not morality, could lead us to be fair and judge impartially regarding how to distribute the benefits and burdens of a society.

Pursuing Social Justice


  • If in a society deep and persistent divisions exist between those who enjoy greater wealth and property, and the power which goes with such ownership, and those who are excluded and deprived, we would say that social justice is lacking there.
  • Justice does not require absolute equality and sameness in the way in which people live.


  • Various methods of calculating the basic needs of people have been devised by different governments and by international organisations like the World Health Organisation.


  • Providing people with their basic needs is considered to be one of the responsibilities of a democratic government. However, providing such basic conditions of life to all citizens may pose a heavy burden on governments, particularly in countries like India which have a large number of poor people.
  • In India, different approaches are being supported by different political groups who debate the relative merits of different schemes for helping marginalised sections of the population such as the rural or urban poor.

Free Markets versus State Intervention

  • Supporters of the free market believe that if markets are left free of state interference the sum of market transactions would ensure overall a just distribution of benefits and duties in society.
  • However, not all free market supporters today would support absolutely unregulated markets. Many would now be willing to accept certain restrictions, for instance, states could step in to ensure a basic minimum standard of living to all people so that they are able to compete on equal terms.
  • One of the arguments put forward in favour of market distribution is that it gives us more choices.
  • Another argument often heard in defence of free markets and private enterprise is that the quality of services they provide is often superior to that provided in government institutions. But the cost of
    such services may put them out of the reach of the poor.
  • Arguments can be put forward on both sides of the debate but free markets often exhibit a tendency to work in favour of the already privileged.
  • In a democratic society disagreements about issues of distribution and justice are inevitable and even healthy because they force us to examine different points of view and rationally defend our own views.
  • Politics is about the negotiation of such disagreements through debate.

Chapter 5- Rights


What are Rights?


  • A right is essentially an entitlement or a justified claim. It denotes what we are entitled to as citizens, as individuals and as human beings.


  • In fact, one of the grounds on which rights have been claimed is that they represent conditions that we collectively see as a source of self-respect and dignity.
  • Another ground on which rights have been claimed is that they are necessary for our well-being. They help individuals to develop their talents and skills.

Where do Rights come from?


  • In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, political theorists argued that rights are given to us by nature or God. This meant that rights were not conferred by a ruler or a society, rather we are born with them.
  • In recent years, the term human rights is being used more than the term natural rights because the idea of there being a natural law, or a set of norms that are laid down for us by nature, or God, appears unacceptable today.
  • Rights are increasingly seen as guarantees that human beings themselves seek or arrive at in order to lead a minimally good life.
  • This conception of a free and equal self is increasingly being used to challenge existing inequalities based on race, caste, religion and gender.
  • The notion of universal human rights has been used by oppressed people all over the world to challenge laws which segregate them and deny them equal opportunities and rights.
  • The list of human rights which people have claimed has expanded over the years as societies face new threats and challenges. For example, people are very conscious today of the need to protect the natural environment and this has generated demands for rights to clean air, water, sustainable development, and the like.

Legal Rights and the State


  • A Bill of Rights is enshrined in the constitutions of many countries.
  • In India, we call them Fundamental Rights.
  • The rights mentioned in the Constitution would be those which are considered to be of basic importance. In some cases these may be supplemented by claims which gain importance because of the particular history and customs of a country.
  • The legal and constitutional recognition of our claims are so important that several theorists define rights as claims that are recognised by the state.
  • However, in most cases the claimed rights are directed towards the state. That is, through these rights people make demands upon the state. Thus, rights place an obligation upon the state to act in certain kinds of ways.
  • Rights not only indicate what the state must do, they also suggest what the state must refrain from doing.
  • Our rights ensure that the authority of the state is exercised without violating the sanctity of individual life and liberty.


Kinds of Rights


Political Rights


  • Political rights give to the citizens the right to equality before law and the right to participate in the political process.
  • They include such rights as the right to vote and elect representatives, the right to contest elections, the right to form political parties or join them.
  • Political rights are supplemented by civil liberties.
  • Collectively, civil liberties and political rights form the basis of a democratic system of government.
  • Political rights protect the well-being of the individual by making the government accountable to the people, by giving greater importance to the concerns of the individual over that of the rulers and by ensuring that all persons have an opportunity to influence the decisions of the government.


Economic Rights


  • Basic needs, of food, shelter, clothing, health are essential parts of Economic Rights.
  • Democratic societies are beginning to provide economic rights.
  • In some countries, citizens, particularly those with low incomes, receive housing and medical facilities from the state; in others, unemployed persons receive a certain minimum wage so that they can meet their basic needs.
  • In India the government has recently introduced a rural employment guarantee scheme, among other measures to help the poor.

Cultural Rights


  • More and more democracies are recognising the cultural claims of their citizens.
  • The right to have primary education in one’s mother tongue, the right to establish institutions for teaching one’s language and culture, are today recognised as being necessary for leading a good life.


Rights and Responsibilities


  • Rights not only place obligations upon the state to act in a certain way but they also place obligations upon each of us.
  • Firstly, they compel us to think not just of our own personal needs and interests but to defend some things as being good for all of us.
  • Secondly, they require that an individual respect the rights of others. If an individual say that I must be given the right to express my views then he must also grant the same right to others.


  • Thirdly, we must balance our rights when they come into conflict. For example, my right to freedom of expression allows me to take pictures; however, if I take pictures of a person bathing in his house

without his consent and post them on the internet, that would be a violation of his right to privacy.


  • Fourthly, citizens must be vigilant about limitations which may be placed on their rights. A currently debated topic concerns the increased restrictions which many governments are imposing on the civil liberties of citizens on the grounds of national security.
  • Even though rights can never be absolute, we need to be vigilant in protecting our rights and those of others for they form the basis of a democratic society.

Chapter 6- Citizenship




  • Citizenship has been defined as full and equal membership of a political community.
  • In the contemporary world, states provide a collective political identity to their members as well as certain rights. Therefore we think of ourselves as Indians, or Japanese, or Germans, depending on the state to which we belong.
  • Citizens expect certain rights from their state as well as help and protection wherever they may travel.
  • In most democratic countries today they would include some political rights like the right to vote, civil rights like the freedom of speech or belief, and some socio-economic rights which could include the right to a minimum wage, or the right to education.
  • Equality of rights and status is one of the basic rights of citizenship.
  • Each of the rights now enjoyed by citizens has been won after struggle.


  • Many European countries experienced such struggles, some of them violent, like the French Revolution in 1789.
  • In the colonies of Asia and Africa, demands for equal citizenship formed part of their struggle for independence from colonial rulers.
  • In South Africa, the black African population had to undertake a long struggle against the ruling white minority for equal citizenship. This continued until the early 1990s.
  • However, citizenship is about more than the relationship between states and their members. It


is also about citizen-citizen relations and involves certain obligations of citizens to each other and to the society.


Full and Equal Membership


  • One of the rights granted to citizens in our country, and in many others, is freedom of movement.
  • This right is of particular importance for workers. Labour tends to migrate in search of jobs when opportunities are not available near their homes.
  • Some people may even travel outside the country in search of jobs.
  • However, resistance often builds up among the local people against so many jobs going to people from outside the area, sometimes at lower wages.
  • Resistance could even take the form of organised violence against ‘outsiders’.
  • Another factor that we need to consider is that there may sometimes be a difference between our response to poor migrants and to skilled migrants. We may not always be as welcoming to poor migrants who move into our areas as we may be to skilled and affluent workers.
  • These are some of the issues which are being debated in our country today regarding ‘full and equal membership’ for all citizens of the country.
  • However, disputes may sometimes arise even in democratic societies.

  • The right to protest is an aspect of the freedom of expression guaranteed to citizens in our Constitution, provided protest does not harm the life or property of other people or the State.
  • If the guiding principle of providing full and equal membership to all citizens is kept in mind, it should be possible to arrive at an acceptable solution to the problems that may arise from time to time in a society.
  • A basic principle of democracy is that such disputes should be settled by negotiation and discussion rather than force.


Equal Rights


Slum Dwellers


  • There is a large population of slum-dwellers and squatters in every city in India. Although they may do necessary and useful work, often at low wages, they are often viewed as unwelcome visitors by the rest of the town population.
  • Life and property are insecure in a slum. However, slum dwellers make a significant contribution to the economy through their labour.
  • Awareness about the condition of the urban poor is growing among governments, N.G.O’s and other agencies, and among the slum-dwellers themselves.
  • Slum-dwellers also are becoming aware of their rights and are beginning to organise to demand them.


Tribal People

  • Among other groups of people who are becoming marginalised in our society are the tribal people and forest dwellers.


  • These people are dependent on access to forests and other natural resources to maintain their way of life.
  • Pressures from commercial interests wanting to mine the resources which may exist in forests or coasts poses another threat to the way of life and livelihood of forest dwellers and tribal peoples, as does the tourist industry.


  • Governments are struggling with the problem of how to protect these people and their habitat without at the same time endangering development of the country.


Complex Equal Rights

  • To try and ensure equal rights and opportunities for all citizens cannot be a simple matter for any government.
  • Different groups of people may have different needs and problems and the rights of one group may conflict with the rights of another.
  • Equal rights for citizens need not mean that uniform policies have to be applied to all people since different groups of people may have different needs.
  • The formal laws regarding citizenship only form the starting point and the interpretation of laws is constantly evolving.


  • The concept of equal citizenship would mean that providing equal rights and protection to all citizens should be one of the guiding principles of government policies.


Citizen and Nation


  • The concept of nation state evolved in the modern period.
  • Nation states claim that their boundaries define not just a territory but also a unique culture and shared history.
  • The national identity may be expressed through symbols like a flag, national anthem, national language, or certain ceremonial practices, among other things.
  • Most modern states include people of different religions, languages, and cultural traditions. But the national identity of a democratic state is supposed to provide citizens with a political identity that can be shared by all the members of the state.
  • Democratic states usually try to define their identity so that it is as inclusive as possible — that is, which allows all citizens to identify themselves as part of the nation. 
  • But in practice, most countries tend to define their identity in a way which makes it easier for some citizens to identify with the state than others.
  • France, for example, is a country which claims to be both secular and inclusive. It includes not only people of European origin but also citizens who originally came from other areas such as North Africa.
  • Culture and language are important features of its national identity and all citizens are expected to assimilate into it in the public aspects of their lives. However they may retain their personal beliefs and practices in their private lives.


  • Religious belief is supposed to belong to the private sphere of citizens but sometimes religious symbols and practices may enter into their public lives.
  • The criteria for granting citizenship to new applicants varies from country to country. In countries such as Israel, or Germany, factors like religion, or ethnic origin, may be given priority when granting citizenship.
  • India defines itself as a secular, democratic, nation state. The movement for independence was a broad based one and deliberate attempts were made to bind together people of different religions, regions and cultures.
  • The Indian Constitution attempted to accommodate a very diverse society.
  • The Republic Day parade in Delhi symbolises the attempt of the state to include people of different regions, cultures and religions.
  • The provisions about citizenship in the Constitution can be found in Part Two and in subsequent laws passed by Parliament.
  • In India, citizenship can be acquired by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation, or inclusion of territory.
  • There is also a provision that the state should not discriminate against citizens on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them.
  • The rights of religious and linguistic minorities are also protected.
  • However, even such inclusive provisions have given rise to struggles and controversies.

→ The women’s movement, the dalit movement, or struggles of people displaced by development projects, represent only a few of the struggles being waged by people who feel that they are being denied full rights of citizenship.


Universal Citizenship

  • Although many states may support the idea of universal and inclusive citizenship, each of them also fixes criteria for the grant of citizenship.
  • These would generally be written into the Constitution and laws of the country. States use their power to keep unwanted visitors out.
  • People may be displaced by wars, or persecution, famine, or other reasons. If no state is willing to accept them and they cannot return home, they become stateless peoples or refugees. They may be forced to live in camps, or as illegal migrants.
  • The problem is so great that the U.N. has appointed a High Commissioner for Refugees to try to help them.


  • Many countries have a policy of accepting those fleeing from persecution or war. But they may not want to accept an unmanageable number of people or expose the country to security risks.
  • India provided refuge to persecuted peoples, as it did with the Dalai Lama and his followers in 1959
  • The problem of stateless people is an important one confronting the world today.


Global Citizenship


  • We live today in an interconnected world. New means of communication such as the internet, television, and cell phones have changed the way of living.


  • New modes of communication have put us into immediate contact with developments in different parts of the globe.

  • Supporters of global citizenship argue that although a world community and global society does not yet exist, people already feel linked to each other across national boundaries. 
  • They would say that the outpouring of help from all parts of the world for victims of the Asian tsunami and other major calamities is a sign of the emergence of a global society.
  • The notion of global citizenship might make it easier to deal with problems which extend across national boundaries and which therefore need cooperative action by the people and governments of many states.
  • The concept of global citizenship reminds us that national citizenship might need to be supplemented by an awareness that we live in an interconnected world and that there is also a need for us to strengthen our links with people in different parts of the world and be ready to work with people and governments across national boundaries.

Chapter 7- Nationalism


Introducing Nationalism


  • During the last two centuries or more, nationalism has emerged as one of the most compelling political creeds which has helped to shape history.
  • It has united people as well as divided them, helped to liberate them from oppressive rule as well as been the cause of conflict and bitterness and wars.
  • Nationalism has passed through many phases.
  • In the nineteenth century Europe, it led to the unification of a number of small kingdoms into larger nation-states. The present day German

and Italian states were formed through such a process of unification and consolidation.


  • But nationalism also accompanied and contributed to the break up of large empires such as the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires in the early twentieth century in Europe as well as the break-up of the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese empires in Asia and Africa.


  • The process of redrawing state boundaries continues to take place.
  • Today, in many parts of the world we witness nationalist struggles that threaten to divide existing states. Such separatist movements have developed among the Quebecois in Canada, the Basques in northern Spain, the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, and the Tamils in Sri Lanka, among others.


Nations and Nationalism


  • A nation is an ‘imagined’ community, held together by the collective beliefs, aspirations and

imaginations of its members. It is based on certain assumptions which people make about the collective whole with which they identify.

Shared Beliefs


  • First, a nation is constituted by belief.
  • Nations are not like mountains, rivers or buildings which we can see and feel.
  • It is to refer to the collective identity and vision for the future of a group which aspires to have an independent political existence.
  • A nation exists when its members believe that they belong together.


  • Second, people who see themselves as a nation also embody a sense of continuing historical identity.
  • Nationalists in India invoked its ancient civilisation and cultural heritage and other achievements to claim that India has had a long and continuing history as a civilisation and that this civilisational continuity and unity is the basis of the Indian nation.


  • Third, nations identify with a particular territory. Sharing a common past and living together on a particular territory over a long period of time gives people a sense of their collective identity.
  • People who see themselves as a nation speak of a homeland. The territory they occupied and the land on which they lived has a special significance for them, and they claim it as their own.
  • The Indian nation identifies with the rivers, mountains and regions of the Indian subcontinent.
  • However, since more than one set of people may lay claim to the same territory, the aspiration for a homeland has been a major cause of conflict in the world.

Shared Political Ideals

  • Fourth, it is a shared vision of the future and the collective aspiration to have an independent political existence that distinguishes groups from nations.
  • In a democracy, it is a shared commitment to a set of political values and ideals that is the most desirable basis of a political community or a nation-state. Within it, members of the political community are bound by a set of obligations.
  • A nation is strengthened when its people acknowledge and accept their obligations to their fellow members.

Common Political Identity

  • Many people believe a shared cultural identity, such as a common language, or common descent bind individuals together as a nation.
  • Observing the same festivals, seeking the same holidays, and holding the same symbols valuable can bring people together, but it can also pose a threat to the values that we cherish in a democracy.


  • There are two reasons for this:

→ One, all major religions in the world are internally diverse. There exists within each religion a number of sects who differ significantly in their interpretation of the religious texts and norms.

→ Two, most societies are culturally diverse. They have people belonging to different religions and languages living together in the same territory.

  • For both these reasons it is desirable to imagine the nation in political rather than cultural terms.
  • That is, democracies need to emphasise and expect loyalty to a set of values that may be enshrined in the Constitution of the country rather than adherence to a particular religion, race or language.


National Self-Determination


  • Nations, unlike other social groups, seek the right to govern themselves and determine their future development. They seek, in other words, the right to self-determination.
  • In making this claim a nation seeks recognition and acceptance by the international community of its status as a distinct political entity or state.
  • In some cases such claims to self-determination are linked also to the desire to form a state in which the culture of the group is protected if not privileged.
  • In the nineteenth century in Europe. The notion of one culture – one state began to gain acceptability
  • After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles established a number of small, newly independent states, but it proved virtually impossible to satisfy all the demands for self determination which were made at the time.
  • Besides, re-organisation of state boundaries to satisfy the demands of one culture – one state, led to mass migration of population across state boundaries.
  • Indeed most states had more than one ethnic and cultural community living within its boundaries.
  • These communities, which were often small in number and constituted a minority within the state were often disadvantaged. Hence, the problem of accommodating minorities as equal citizens remained.
  • The right to national self-determination has also been asserted by national liberation movements in Asia and Africa when they were struggling against colonial domination.
  • It proved almost impossible to ensure that each cultural group, some of whom claimed to be distinct nations, could achieve political independence and statehood. As a result, migration of populations, border wars, and violence have continued to plague many countries in the region.
  • Thus we have the paradoxical situation of nation-states which themselves had achieved independence through struggle now acting against minorities within their own territories who claim the right to national self-determination.
  • Virtually every state in the world today faces the dilemma of how to deal with movements for self-determination.
  • More and more people are beginning to realise that the solution does not lie in creating new states but in making existing states more democratic and equal.
  • This may be essential not only for resolving problems arising from new claims for self-determination but also for building a strong and united state.

Nationalism and Pluralism

  • The kinds of group rights which have been granted in different countries include constitutional protection for the language, cultures and religion of minority groups and their members.
  • In some cases identified communities also have the right to representation as a group in legislative bodies and other state institutions.
  • Different groups need to be granted recognition as a part of the national community.


  • Ultimately, the right to national self-determination was often understood to include the right to independent statehood for nationalities.
  • But not only would it be impossible to grant independent statehood to every group that sees itself as a distinct cultural group, or nation, it would probably also be undesirable.
  • Today we witness many struggles for the recognition of group identities, many of which employ the language of nationalism.
  • In a democracy the political identity of citizens should encompass the different identities which people may have.
  • It would be dangerous if intolerant and homogenising forms of identity and nationalism are allowed to develop.

Chapter 8- Secularism


What is Secularism?

Inter-Religious Domination

  • Secularism is first and foremost a doctrine that opposes all such forms of inter-religious domination.
  • An equally important dimension of secularism is its opposition to intra-religious domination.

Intra-Religious Domination

  • Some people believe that religion is merely the ‘opium of the masses’ and that, one day, when the basic needs of all are fulfilled and they lead a happy and contented life, religion will disappear.
  • It is unlikely that human beings will ever be able to fully know the world and control it.
  • Religion, art and philosophy are responses to such sufferings. Secularism too accepts this and therefore it is not anti-religious.
  • However, religion has its share of some deep-rooted problems.
  • For example, one can hardly think of a religion that treats its male and female members on an equal footing.
  • Thus religious domination cannot be identified only with inter-religious domination. It takes another conspicuous form, namely, intra-religious domination.
  • Secularism is a normative doctrine which seeks to realise a secular society, i.e., one devoid of either inter-religious or intra-religious domination.
  • It promotes freedom within religions, and equality between, as well as within, religions.

Secular State

  • A state governed directly by a priestly order is called theocratic.
  • Theocratic states, such as the Papal states of Europe in medieval times or in recent times the Taliban-controlled state, lacking separation between religious and political institutions, are known for their hierarchies, and oppressions, and reluctance to allow freedom of religion to members of other religious groups.
  • However, many states which are non-theocratic continue to have a close alliance with a particular religion.
    → For example, today Pakistan has an official state religion, namely Sunni Islam. Such regimes may leave little scope for internal dissent or religious equality.
  • To be truly secular, a state must not only refuse to be theocratic but also have no formal, legal alliance with any religion.
  • A secular state must be committed to principles and goals which are at least partly derived from non-religious sources.
  • To promote these ends the state must be separated from organised religion and its institutions for the sake of some of these values.
  • In fact, the nature and extent of separation may take different forms, depending upon the specific values it is meant to promote and the way in which these values are spelt out.
  • There are two conceptions:
    → the mainstream western conception best represented by the American state.
    → an alternative conception best exemplified by the Indian state.

The Western Model of Secularism

  • All secular states have one thing in common: they are neither theocratic nor do they establish a religion.
  • By the American model, separation of religion and state is understood as mutual exclusion: the state will not intervene in the affairs of religion and, in the same manner, religion will not interfere in the affairs of the state.
  • Similarly, the state cannot aid any religious institution. It cannot give financial support to educational institutions run by religious communities.
  • No policy of the state can have an exclusively religious rationale.
  • On this view, religion is a private matter, not a matter of state policy or law.

The Indian Model of Secularism

  • Indian secularism is fundamentally different from Western secularism.


  • Indian secularism does not focus only on church-state separation and the idea of inter-religious equality is crucial to the Indian conception.
  • Indian secularism deals not only with religious freedom of individuals but also with religious freedom of minority communities.
  • A secular state must be concerned equally with intra-religious domination, Indian secularism has made room for and is compatible with the idea of state-supported religious reform. Thus, the Indian constitution bans untouchability.
  • The Indian Constitution grants all religious minorities the right to establish and maintain their own educational institutions which may receive assistance from the state.


  • Indian secularism allows for principled state intervention in all religions.


Criticisms of Indian Secularism


  • It is often argued that secularism is anti-religious.
  • Indian Secularism does undermine some forms of religious identity: those, which are dogmatic, violent, fanatical, exclusivist and those, which foster hatred of other religions.
  • But the real question is not whether something is undermined but whether what is undermined is intrinsically worthy or unworthy.

Western Import

  • Indian secularism is linked to Christianity, that it is western and, therefore, unsuited to Indian conditions.
  • A secular state may keep a principled distance from religion to promote peace between communities and it may also intervene to protect the rights of specific communities.
  • India evolved a variant of secularism that is not just an implant from the west on Indian soil.
  • The fact is that secularism has both western and non- western origins. In the west, it was the Church-state separation which was central and in countries such as India, the idea of peaceful coexistence of different religious communities has been important.


  • A third accusation against secularism is the charge of minoritism.
  • The most fundamental interest of minorities must not be harmed and must be protected by constitutional law. This is exactly how it is in the Indian Constitution.
  • Minority rights are justified as long as these rights protect their fundamental interests.



  • A fourth criticism claims that secularism is coercive and that it interferes excessively with the religious freedom of communities.
  • It is of course true that Indian secularism permits state-supported religious reform.
  • Personal laws can be seen as manifestations of freedom from inter-religious domination or as instances of intra-religious domination.
  • Personal laws can be reformed in such a way that they continue to exemplify both minority rights and equality between men and women. But such reform should neither be brought about by State or group coercion nor should the state adopt a policy of total distance from it.

Vote Bank Politics

  • Fifth, there is the argument that secularism encourages the politics of vote banks.
  • In a democracy politicians are bound to seek votes. That is part of their job and that is what democratic politics is largely about.
  • There is nothing wrong with vote bank politics as such, but only with a form of vote bank politics that generates injustice. The mere fact that secular parties utilise vote banks is not troublesome. All parties do so in relation to some social group.

Impossible Project

  • Secularism cannot work because it tries to do too much, to find a solution to an intractable problem.
  • Critics claim this will not work today when equality is increasingly becoming a dominant cultural value.
  • Indian secularism mirrors the future of the world.
  • It is doing so because with the migration of people from the former colonies to the west, and the increased movement of people across the globe with the intensification of globalisation, Europe and America and some parts of the Middle-East are beginning to resemble India in the diversity of cultures and religions which are present in their societies.

Chapter 9- Peace

  • The nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was one of those who glorified war. Nietzsche did not value peace because he believed that only conflict could facilitate the growth of civilization.
  • Peace has occupied a central place in the original teachings of almost all religions.
  • The modern era too has witnessed ardent advocates of peace, both in the spiritual and secular domains.
  • The post-war decades were marked by intense rivalry between two superpowers–the capitalist USA and the communist USSR—for world supremacy.
    → The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was a particularly dark episode in this unfolding military competition.

The Meaning of Peace

  • Peace is often defined as the absence of war. This is because war is usually equated with armed conflict between countries.
  • The second step in defining peace would be to see it as absence of violent conflict of all kinds including war, riot, massacre, assassination, or simply physical attack.
  • Social institutions and practices that reinforce entrenched inequalities of caste, class and gender, can also cause injury in subtle and invisible ways.
    → ‘Structural violence’ of this kind may produce large-scale evil consequences.

Forms of Structural Violence

Caste system

  • The traditional caste system treated certain groups of people as asprishya or untouchable. This system was outlawed by the Constitution of independent India.
  • However, still this system is prevalent in India.
  • While a social order based on class appears to be more flexible, it too generates a great deal of inequality and oppression.


  • Patriarchy entails a form of social organisation that results in the systematic subordination of, and discrimination against, women.
  • Its manifestations include selective abortion of female foetuses, denial of adequate nourishment and education to the girl-child, child-marriage, wife battering, dowry-related crimes, sexual harassment

at the workplace, rape, and honour killing.

  • The low child sex ratio (0-6 years) — 919 females per 1000 males — in India, as per the 2011 Census, is a poignant index of the ravages of patriarchy.


Racism and Communalism

  • Colonialism in the sense of prolonged and direct subjection of a people to alien rule is now a rare phenomenon.
  • Racism and communalism involve the stigmatisation and oppression of an entire racial group or community.
  • Apartheid—a policy followed until 1992 by the White-controlled government in South Africa, which treated the majority Black people of the country as second-class citizens.
  • Racial discrimination still continues covertly in the West and is now often directed against immigrants from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  • A just and lasting peace can be attained only by articulating and removing the latent grievances and causes of conflict through a process of dialogue.

Eliminating Violence

  • The violence does not originate merely within the individual psyche; it is also rooted in certain social structures.
  • The elimination of structural violence necessitates the creation of a just and democratic society.


  • Peace is not an end-state, but a process involving an active pursuit of the moral and material resources needed to establish human welfare in the broadest sense of the term.

Can Violence ever promote Peace?

  • It has often been asserted that violence though it is an evil can sometimes be a necessary prelude to bringing about peace.
  • It may be argued that tyrants and oppressors can be prevented from continuing to harm the populace only by being forcibly removed.
  • For this reason pacifists, who consider peace to be a supreme value, take a moral stand against the use of violence even for attaining just ends.
  • However, they advocate the mobilisation of love and truth to win the hearts and minds of the oppressors.
  • This is not to underestimate the potential of militant but non-violent forms of resistance.
  • Civil disobedience is a major mode of such struggle which has been successfully used to make a dent in structures of oppression; a prominent instance being Gandhi’s deployment of satyagraha during the Indian Freedom Movement.
  • Martin Luther King waged a similar battle in the 1960s against anti-Black racial discrimination in the USA.


Peace and the State

  • It is often argued that the division of the world into separate sovereign states is an impediment to the pursuit of peace. As each state sees itself as an independent and supreme entity, it tends to protect
    its own perceived self-interest.
  • While the state was expected to use its force, it’s army or its police, to protect its citizens, in practice these forces could be deployed against its own members to suppress dissent.
  • The long-term solution to such problems lies in making the state more accountable through meaningful democratisation and reining it in via an effective system of civil liberties.
  • The struggle for democracy and human rights is thus closely linked to the safeguarding of peace.

Different Approaches to Pursuit of Peace
• The first approach accords centrality to states, respects their sovereignty, and treats competition among them as a fact of life. Its main concern is with the proper management of this competition, and with the containment of possible conflict through inter-state arrangements like ‘balance of power’.

  • The second approach too grants the deep-rooted nature of inter-state rivalry. But it stresses the positive presence and possibilities of interdependence. It underscores the growing social and economic cooperation among nations.
  • The third approach considers the state system to be a passing phase of human history. It envisages the emergence of a supra-national order and sees the fostering of a global community as the surest guarantee of peace.
    → The proponents of this approach argue that the ongoing process of globalisation is further eroding the already diminished primacy and sovereignty of the state, thereby creating conditions conducive to the establishment of world peace.


Contemporary Challenges

  • While the U.N.O. has several noteworthy achievements to its credit, it has not succeeded in preventing and eliminating threats to peace. Instead, dominant states have asserted their sovereignty and sought to shape regional power structures and the international system itself in keeping with their own perceptions and priorities.
  • The rise of terrorism is partly a response to the self-serving and ham-handed conduct of the aggressive states.
  • The global community has failed to curb the rapacity of the domineering powers and the guerrilla tactics of the terrorists.
  • The disintegration of the USSR in 1991 put a full stop to the era of military (especially nuclear) rivalry between the superpowers and removed a major threat to international security.

Chapter 10- Development




  • Development conveys the ideas of improvement, progress, well-being and an aspiration for a better life. Through its notion of development a society articulates what constitutes its vision for the society as a whole and how best to achieve it.


  • In a narrower sense, the term development refers to more limited goals such as increasing the rate of economic growth, or modernising the society.
  • The models of development which have been adopted in different countries have become the subject of debate and criticism and alternative models have been put forward.

The Challenge of Development

  • The concept of development gained importance after the second half of the twentieth century when a large number of countries in Asia and Africa gained political independence.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s when most countries of Asia and Africa had achieved independence from colonial rule, the most urgent task in front of them was to solve the pressing problems of poverty, malnourishment, unemployment, illiteracy and the lack of basic amenities that a majority of their populations faced.
  • The concept of development has undergone many changes over the years.
  • In the initial years the focus was on catching up with the west in terms of economic growth and modernisation of societies.
  • Developing countries adopted goals like faster economic growth through industrialisation, modernisation of agriculture and extending and modernising education.
  • In India a series of Five Year Plans for development were made starting from the 1950s, and these included a number of mega projects such as the Bhakra Nangal Dam, setting up steel plants in different parts of the country, mining, fertilizer production and improving agricultural techniques.
  • New educational institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology were set up and collaboration with advanced countries in order to have access to their knowledge became a top priority.

Criticisms of Development Models


  • Critics of development have pointed out that the kind of development models which have been adopted in many countries has proved very costly for the developing countries.

The Social Costs of Development

  • This model of development has also had high social costs.
  • A large number of people have been displaced from their homes and localities due to the construction of big dams, industrial activities and mining activities, or other projects.
  • Displacement results in loss of livelihood and increases impoverishment
  • Displaced people have also protested against this like ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ which has been leading a movement against the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the river Narmada for many years.
  • The supporters of this big dam claim that it will generate electricity, help irrigate large areas of land and also provide drinking water to the desert areas of Kutch and Saurashtra.
  • The opponents of the dam claim that almost one million people have been displaced. They have lost their lands through submergence, or construction, and consequently lost their livelihood.
  • Some even argue that the dam would greatly upset the ecological balance submerging large tracts of forests.


Environmental Costs of Development

  • Development has indeed caused a high degree of environmental degradation in many countries and not just the displaced people but all of the population is beginning to feel the consequences.
  • In the long term, the ecological crisis will adversely affect all of us.
  • Air pollution is already a problem which does not discriminate between the rich and the poor. 


  • In the short term, indiscriminate use of resources tends to adversely affect the under-privileged more

sharply. Loss of forests affects the poor who use forest resources for a variety of subsistence needs like firewood, medicinal herbs or food. Drying up of rivers and ponds and falling groundwater levels means that women have to walk longer in order to procure water.


  • The model of development is heavily dependent on the increasing use of energy. Most of the energy currently generated in the world is from non-renewable sources like coal or petroleum.

Assessing Development

  • Development also has a positive side. Some countries have had some success in increasing their rate of economic growth and even in reducing poverty.
  • But overall, inequalities have not been seriously reduced and poverty continues to be a problem in the developing world.
  • When economic growth and redistribution do not go together, the benefits are likely to be cornered by those who are already privileged.
  • If development is understood as a process which aims to improve the quality of life of people, it could be argued that measuring the rate of economic growth alone would be an inadequate and at times misleading indicator of development.
  • There is now a search for alternative ways of measuring development. One such attempt is the Human Development Report which is annually brought out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This report ranks countries on the basis of their performance in social indicators like literacy and education levels, life expectancy and maternal mortality rates. This measure is called the Human Development Index.

Alternative Conceptions of Development

  • Development became a process designed and implemented by the ruling sections in the country who have also often been the major beneficiaries of development projects.
  • This has underscored the need to think of alternative ways of understanding and pursuing development which are equitable and sustainable.
  • Issues of rights, equality, freedom, justice and democracy have all been raised in the process.

Right Claims

  • The benefits of development have been largely cornered by the powerful and the costs of the development model have been borne by the poorest and vulnerable sections of the population whether due to ecological degradation or due to displacement and loss of livelihood.


  • One of the issues which has been raised is regarding the protections that affected people can claim

from the State and the society as a whole.

  • Another issue is regarding rights to natural resources. This particularly applies to tribal and aboriginal communities who have a specific way of community life and relationship to the environment.

  • Negotiating the competing demands of different sections of a population as well as achieving a balance between the claims of the present and future is the task of democracies.

Democratic Participation
• The distinction between democracy and dictatorship is that in a democracy conflicts over resources, or different visions of the good life, are resolved through debate and a respect for the rights of all and these cannot be imposed from above.

  • Thus, if everyone in a society has a common stake in achieving a better life, then everyone needs to be involved in formulating the plans of development and in devising ways of implementing them.
  • In democratic countries, the right of people to participate in decision-making is emphasised.
  • One of the ways which has been suggested to ensure participation is to allow local decision-making bodies to take decisions about development projects in the local area.

  • On the one hand it is argued that people have to be consulted on issues which most affect them and it should be possible to reject projects which can adversely affect the community.
  • A decentralised approach to development makes it possible to use various kinds of technologies – traditional and modern – in a creative manner.


Development and Lifestyle

  • An alternative model of development would also try to move away from the high cost, ecologically wasteful, technology driven notion of development.
  • At one level, efforts should be made to conserve natural resources and use renewable sources of energy as far as possible.
  • At another level, there is also a need to scale down our need for non-renewable resources by changing lifestyles.


  • The idea of development refers to the desire for a better life. This is a very powerful desire and the hope of improvement is a driving force of human action.
  • The issues that have arisen while pursuing the goal of development reveal that the choices we make have an impact upon others — other human beings and other species in the world.