A single mirror reflects the truth as it is but only from one perspective. A ‘hall of mirrors’, on the other hand, exposes the truth through overlapping reflections, with varying depths and from a wide range of perspectives. In this book, political scientist Peter Ronald deSouza places India at the centre of such a hall of mirrors. He reveals for the reader the layered nature of Indian democracy, one particular depth, one particular perspective at a time.
In the Hall of Mirrors discusses the dynamics of democracy and the nature of the human condition in India through a range of multidisciplinary, analytical and methodological tools. It documents our achievements and failures, follies and humanity, through the fall and rise of competing ideologies. The essays here, written over the course of the past two decades, document the aspirations and anxieties of the Indian people, the accommodations that our plural society has made, and the uncertainties and ambivalences that remain as a result of this grand experiment of and in democracy.
With this eclectic collection of his writings in journals and popular dailies, the author takes us through an array of issues facing us. At every turn and in every corner, he reflects on the resilience of India’s democracy, the world’s largest and most challenging. Students, scholars and the general reader interested in democracy, political science and contemporary India will find this book invaluable.
Peter Ronald deSouza is Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi. He was earlier Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla.
List of Abbreviations
Foreword by Shiv Visvanathan
Introduction: Indian Democracy in the Hall of Mirrors
SECTION 1 | Analytical Frames
SECTION 2 | Aspirations of a Young Nation
SECTION 3 | Anxieties of a Plural Democracy
SECTION 4 | Accommodations of a Layered Society
SECTION 5 | Ambivalences of a Constitutional Polity
‘Should we be pragmatic or principled, realistic or idealistic, intellectuals or activists, interpreters or changers of our society? With courage and caution, Peter deSouza ushers us into a realm of “reflections” where we feel an obligation to be both. These reflections are important, but as J. L. Austin reminded us, importance is not important, truth is. They ring true.’
Arindam Chakrabarti, Lenney Distinguished Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Hawaii
‘A nuanced rendering of the liberal predicament in post-Independence India, the book turns the spotlight on a society that is seeking to bridge the demands of constituents simultaneously occupying different, sometimes irreconcilable, mental universes. The essays here should force serious introspection, both among political and thought leaders.’
Harsh Sethi, Consulting Editor, Seminar, New Delhi
‘Peter deSouza’s ambitious collection of essays describes and discusses the dynamics of democracy and the social and political transformations taking place in India. This book deserves to be read by all who wish to understand the working of contemporary democratic processes.’
Zoya Hasan, Professor Emerita, Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University