The book is an introduction to the complex subject of the evolution of Indian political thought in terms of its continuities as well as discontinuities and attempts to articulate, explain and examine the concept of state in politics used by an ongoing tradition of enquiry.
The study covers almost all the outstanding thinkers on politics in India and is perhaps the first books which provides an overview of the Indian political thought from Manu to the present day.
V.R. Mehta retired as Vice-Chancellor, University of Delhi. His publications include Beyond Marxism: Towards an Alternative Perspective; Ideology Modernization and Politics in India and Theories and Concepts in Political Science (NCERT).
The book seeks to be an introduction to the evolution of Indian political thought in terms of its continuities as well as discontinuities. This is not to claim that this is a historian's history of Indian political thought. Rather it is an attempt to articulate, explain and examine the concepts of state in politics used by an ongoing tradition of enquiry. Tradition here is not to be confused with the past or with the series of immutable and monolithic precepts. It is a set of ongoing, even contradictory practices and arguments which engage each other through shared concepts. Thus the presence of plural interpretations of concepts and ideas cannot be considered a good argument against the existence of a tradition. On the contrary, it is the hallmark of a mature tradition of enquiry that many voices prevail. This book admittedly does not give an account of all the voices or shades of thought on the tradition, but it does aim to give some sense of its internal possibilities.
There are many scholarly works but as they are mostly either good summaries of the main texts or concentrate exclusively on describing the administrative system; they do not deal adequately either with the relation-ship of political concepts to general philosophical concepts or with the social background which conditions thought. To be more specific, sufficient attention has not been paid to the concept of the state in Indian political thought in relation to other wholes and practices in society. The book seeks to fill this gap in a modest way. It must, however, be confessed that the knowledge of the historicity of the texts is woefully inadequate and therefore one is forced to supplement our existing knowledge by locating both concepts and history within the text itself.
The book seeks to look at the evolution of the Indian social and political thought, particularly in the context of the state, through an exposition of the ideas of some representative thinkers. Thus in the middle ages Barth and Abul Fazal have been given priority though there were many other thinkers who influenced the age. In the modem period, greater emphasis has been given to exposition of the ideas of the thinker rather than his contribution to the ongoing process of Indian politics. Those who are interested in the later part may refer to my other book Ideology, Modernization and Politics in India (Manohar, 1983). Throughout it has been our aim to describe the ideas of great thinkers or texts, to relate general concept of the state to society as well as the subjective and the objective conditions of the time. The book views Indian society as a great civilization and seeks to' understand continuities and discontinuities in the development of political thought with a view to discovering points of signification for the present.
In the process of writing this book there have been many points where simplification and over-simplification have become inescapable, particularly in the absence of a reliable historical data. Sometimes, there has been so much concentration on the exposition of concepts in the texts that minor points, contradictions and cleavages have been overlooked. But since this is meant primarily to be an introduction, it will have served its purpose if it stimulates interests in the students and researchers alike in the discotery of primary sources. In fact, the purpose of the book is to remind students of Indian politics that while the study of Western thought is important, the study of Indian thought can no longer be ignored if they want to understand their present, which itself is a result of historical development of the dominant tendencies in the classical and medieval thought. As the crisis of the Indian state deepens, the more is the need for a thorough understanding of the traditions of political thought in India in reference to the state, in our search for a coherent relation between the individual and the state—a relationship, which should enable the Indian state to cope with the problems of the modern world and yet sustain the Indian society in terms of its own peculiar identity.
I must gratefully acknowledge my debt of gratitude to my father and to my wife, in whose company I have lived the continuity of tradition and innovation which go to make an enlightened Indian household a literal paradise on earth. The book is for my sons Pratap and Rajesh and their tribe, too, in the hope that they will be able, to use Oakeshott's expression, to pursue 'intimations with tradition' of political thought in India—in the direction of a more just and differentiated political order.
I am grateful to Mrs M.K. Singh who typed and retyped the manuscript. My thanks are also due to Professor Daya Krishna for all his encourage-ment. I am also grateful to Shri B.P. Srivastava for reading an early draft and suggesting several changes. I am thankful to Prof. D.B.Mathur for preparing the index.
I am also grateful to the participants of International Colloquium on Political Philosophy held in London, particularly Prof. Noel O'Sullivan and Prof. Bhiku Parekh for their comments and suggestions which enabled me to revise and improve my last chapter.
The author is indebted to the University Grants Commission for creating this opportunity by inviting the author to write this book.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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