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Discursive Discourse

Prakash Louis

By T.K. Oommen
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 266, Rs. 495.00


There are many streams of discussions that are going on within political sociology. Development, democracy and participatory governance is one such stream. The nation-state, civil society and social movements is another stream. The ongoing discourse within the realm of political sociology about nation, civil society and social movements highlight the place and role of the nation, civil society and state in the lives of citizens of a nation and the members of a society. In a special way these deliberations are highlighting the relationship that exists between common persons and the state. They also point out to the emerging interface between the common people and civil society and social movements.   Professor T.K. Oommen in this book under review in a comprehensive manner analyses the relevance of the nation-state, the role of civil society in good governance and their relationship with social movements. There are twelve chapters presented in three parts in a lucid manner. In Part I which deals with Nation, Religion and Language, Oommen highlights various aspects of nation and nationalism. The author amplifies the fact that in even in the most homogeneous societies divisions and discriminations are possible but these discriminations are avoidable; the dignified coexistence of a plurality of nations within a federal state is not only possible but desirable; for the functioning of a democratic polity it is imperative that participation of people is ensured and finally a nation does not aspire for a state of its own. Keeping these facts in mind the author argues for a positive and emancipatory construction of nation and national identity. Oommen while examining the interface between national identity and collective rights argues that collective rights are no rights to national self-determination but rights to sustain collective identity. He further demonstrates that in a world where democracy has emerged as the most preferred form of governance, religious nationalism seems to have no place. One of the most subtle arguments the author presents is about the denial of right to the language of the subalterns. In a special way the tribals and the peasants are denied the opportunity to use their mother-tongue in their own location. This raises question about the very project of nation building, in which these communities seem to be only objects of the state.   Part II deals with Civil Society, State and Governance. The four chapters presented here try to examine the interface that is emerging ...

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