Nation State, Natural State

Jul 27

The Hindu state government in the narrower sense of that term’s usage, constituted the last pillar of the ideological construct of an ancient India and the complement of the village and caste, her exotic substitute for the development of a true civil society. Anyone interested in developing a theory of human agency, of focusing on the specifically instituted capacities of humans to order and fulfill their lives, must take into account the political societies into which peoples have been organized, for states in the wider sense of politics are, more than any other, the complex agents par excellence. Those governing agents more than other agents exercise the capacity to constitute and transform politics.

There is a persistent strain in the social sciences and in Ideological discourse which wants to reduce states or political agents to the status of instruments of one or the other of two essences. These essences, often dichotomized in social scientific and more explicitly ideological discourses, are the individual and society. The individuals who would have society to be the outcome of free and rational choices made by the self-contained, fully equipped individuals (the human nature option) will see the state primarily as the instrument of individuals, as the regulator of a market and provider of law and order. The socialists holding that individuals are the products of a larger social totality which is the carrier of a world ordering rationality would see certain types of states as necessarily entailed in certain types of society (the social structure option) in which case the state becomes the instrument of an industrial society or the forces and relations of production.

Either way, the tendency in these discourses has been to reduce the realm of the political in their own politics to a formal one of voting citizens representing themselves as individuals and as interest groups (civil society). Here writers have depicted the state as a representational polity. Activities that fall outside that sphere are deemed nonpolitical and transferred elsewhere. Those free marketers who want to see the abstract individual as supreme transfer them to the private sector mostly, these days, bureaucratically organized big businesses. Those wishing to privilege the social translate these activities to the welfare states also bureaucratically organized. These retain the notion of a representational polity, but see it as culminating in the administered polity. Some sociologists attribute the persistent lack of interest in the state in the social sciences to the formation of those sciences at a time when its founders assumed that the realm of the political which is ultimately the exercise of violence, would shrink, dissolving into an industrialized world increasingly unified by ties of economic interdependence. The major purpose of much of social scientific knowledge was precisely to advance the process by which human agency was displaced in an increasingly centralized in both the private and public sectors but magically depoliticized, that is, scientifically administered polity.

If the tendency to reduce the political to the individual or social is widespread in the social sciences at large, it is no surprise to find that it is even more in evidence when it comes to the study of India, the land supposed to be dominated by the essences of caste and even deeper racial and regional conflict. The treatment of government or the state, of the politics into which South Asian were organized, has to be sure been shaped more than that of any other institution of subcontinent by the stratagems and rationalizations of discourses on empire.

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