Identity and the social revolution : On the political sociology of constitutionalism in contemporary India

John, Mathew (2012) Identity and the social revolution : On the political sociology of constitutionalism in contemporary India. [Working papers (or Preprints)]

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In a particularly insightful essay on Indian constitutionalism, Uday Mehta speaks of the constitutional moment as one, which it was fervently hoped,would bookend the past and signpost a radically different future. Drawing on Nehru’s eloquence, this was to be a moment when ‘we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the future beckons us. (2010:16) The conversation between the old and the new is of course true of any ‘beginning’ but Mehta suggests that this exchange assumed a very particular form in the Indian case where the constituent assembly’s vision envisaged the present as a project of preparation for the future. So much so that it muted the jubilation of independence through ‘solemnity and the prospect of long national ardour’. (2010:16) All this implied in the Indian case that freedom would be a reformatory or revolutionary project through which the present was unshackled from the embarrassing imprint of a traditional society and the constraining influence of an imperial past. However, precisely because it was a project for the future, the revolution promised by independence seems condemned to be alienated from the moment of its greatest triumph, its moment of founding. In Mehta’s account the project announced by independence implied a constitutional order which instituted an expansive political vision asserting supremacy over other centres of power in Indian society. This expansive role for the state and politics was expressed through an obsessive concern for national unity and social uplift. Significantly the assertion of constitutional and political supremacy was tied to the momentous changes announced in the new Constitution. Among these changes include the institution of universal suffrage, a preamble committed to justice liberty and fraternity, the grant of fundamental rights to all citizens and, an astounding array of directives to state policy covering areas as diverse health, education, economic affairs, agriculture and international affairs. It is the unrealised status of many of these constitutional goals that makes independence an alienated moment, at which freedom is only a promise to carry out a social revolution. However, the revolution is also a political vision to remodel the social domain. Set against this idea of a revolutionary ‘social’ vision, this paper explores the way in which ‘social identities’ are modelled by the constitution as the route through which the rights of citizenship can be claimed.
In doing so the paper argues that the constitution defends deductive models of society that are unable to draw on society as a product of the rumble and tumble of lived experience.

Item Type: Working papers (or Preprints)
Keywords: Social Revolution | India | Constitution | Caste | Minority
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Law and Legal Studies
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Political Science
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Subhajit Bhattacharjee
Date Deposited: 04 May 2022 14:21
Last Modified: 04 May 2022 14:21
Official URL:


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