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Key Concepts Analysed

Sushila Ramaswamy

By Mangesh Kulkarni
Sage, New Delhi, 2011, pp. xxiv 273, Rs. 795.00


Though Political Science is a contested discipline there is near unanimity about its basic foundational structure. The classical tradition in political theory occupies that place of honour. The reason for this, as Alasdair MacIntyre observes, is that all the plausible positions conceivable in political theorizing are taken up by the time Hegel comes to the scene.  Contemporary political theory vindicates this position as Rawls and Habermas begin with Kant and Nozick with Locke. The present volume deals in an inter-disciplinary perspective with some aspects of the contemporary times with reference to currently influential thinkers and key concepts. The ambitious project which ‘seeks to capture the truly global, interdisciplinary multi-pragmatic and praxis oriented character of the enterprise’ defies Sir Isaiah Berlin’s reminder that the task of philosophy is limited and humble, namely to straighten the crookedness of our thoughts. To quote Berlin, ‘the goal of philosophy is always the same, to assist men to understand themselves and thus operate in the open, and not wildly, in the dark’. It is also interesting that in spite of this tall claim of being global, there is total omission of the Latin American perspective where there is an interesting debate having shifted from the post-dependency isola-tionistic paradigm to a more realistic structural adjustment of what Wallerstein called the world capitalist system and in Africa, where the debate has moved from the Solida-rist democratic theorizing to getting adjusted to multi-party liberal democracy. This totally restrictive nature of the enquiry has begun with an extremely simplistic paradigm of the contemporary scene ‘of a tussle between Jihad and McWorld’ which is a rehash of the doctrine of clash of civilizations proclaimed two decades ago, ignoring the wide diversity that still exists in the world.   Jayant Lele’s argument that the enlightenment project is of pivotal importance in comprehending  contemporary political theory is an incomplete assertion as Sabine states clearly that the departure of modern political theory begins with the crisis of the seventeenth century and there is a continuity in it ever since. Overlooking these important historical roots leads Lele to ignore one of the basic ingredients of western political theory, that is, liberal constitutionalism, which had provided the basic foundational concept of limiting power and making authority accountable. He attributes the critics of liberalism clubbing them together with Marx and other critics of the Left, without realizing that critical theory or the Frankfurt school has ...

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