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A Complex Phenomenon

Ajay Darshan Behera

By Subrata K. Mitra and V.B. Singh
Sage, Delhi, 2009, pp. 319, RS.750.00


Many transitions to democracies in the Third World have been pro-tracted—evolving over the course of several elections. Although all elections have not been free and fair, however,the repetition of the electoral process even if flawed or manipulated can result in democratization. Citizens endowed with rights—one person, one vote; the right to choose betweencandidates and parties; the freedom of expression and association—build expectations and can develop stakes in the system. When Rebels Become Stakeholders explores the agencyof ordinary men and women in the making of democratic and orderly social change in India. India has achieved social revolution within the span of the six decades following Independence. During this relatively short period, the country has witnessed tumultuous changes in social hierarchy, literacy, relation of gender and power, urbanization and most importantly, in political participation of marginal social groups. This comes across as a puzzle when one surveys the experience of democratic social change in transitional societies. In contrast to the majority of postcolonial states, India has achieved both democracy and social change. And in comparison to the liberal democratic states of Europe where social change had preceded democratization, India has experienced democracy and social change concurrently. In India, the authors argue, democratic institutions and practices have occasionally wilted but not withered away under the pressure of structural change. India has made significant strides in urbanization, industrialization, literacy, women’s empowerment, economic growth and social change.Former untouchables, backward classes, women, religious and ethnic minorities and people from peripheral geographical regions have moved into the mainstream of Indian politics as wielders of power. Democratic institutions such as elections, parties, legislatures, the judiciary and the politically accountable but professionally recruited bureaucracy have acted as active agents of change. The volume draws on public opinion de-rived from three national surveys of the Indian electorate held in 1971, 1996 and 2004 to explain this complex phenomenon. It ex-plores the causal connection between democracy and social transformation on the basis of the opinions and attitudes of the Indianvoters. The authors argue that mass perception of institutions, policies and processes is a way of looking into the inner dynamics of democracy and social change. Drawing on the rich empirical base of the national surveys, the volume provides the missing links in terms of the causal link that ‘transforms rebels into stakeholders’ The authors define the stakeholders as India’s new social elites who combine a sense of ...

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