Liberal Democracy in India and the Dalit Critique

Social Research 78 (1):99-122 (2011)

Abstract
Dalits view liberal democracy as a means of enabling and realizing their common ideal of a more egalitarian order. However, because the response to the Dalit question of both liberal democracy and the Indian nation has been uncertain and at times callous, Dalits simultaneously see liberal democracy as limited in its possibilities. As a result, they find themselves simultaneously on the inside and the outside of both liberal democracy and the Indian nation. They are inside liberal democracy inasmuch as they possess the language of liberal democracy, but they are outside to the extent that even articulation with this language does not result in normative self-esteem and self-respect. Similarly, they are inside the nation to the extent that they are supposed to enjoy citizenship rights, but they are pushed out as they lose these rights due to their continuous displacement. Thus, liberal democracy as a universal principle does not have hold over its institutions, and nationalism in turn does not have hold over liberal democracy. It is the context of this dual failure of both liberal democracy and nationalism that makes the Dalit critique relevant. Unfortunately, the objective conditions created by liberal democracy tend to subjectively destroy the sharp edge of the Dalit critique, causing it to falter.
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