Book Review: Achin Vanaik, ed., ICSSR Research Surveys and Explorations: Political Science

Date01 June 2014
Published date01 June 2014
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Military-Madrasa-Mullah Complex 109
India Quarterly, 66, 2 (2010): 133–149
A Global Threat 109
Book Reviews
Achin Vanaik, ed., ICSSR Research Surveys and Explorations: Political Science. Four Volumes: 1. The Indian
State (175 pages) 2. Indian Democracy (287 pages), 3. Indian Political Thought (276 pages), 4. India Engages
the World (567 pages). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 2013. ` 3,995.
After a long hiatus, the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) under the chairmanship of
Javeed Alam has put together these volumes covering a wide range of important themes in the discipline.
The individual editors and authors of these volumes have to be commended for not only providing a very
comprehensive review of the literature written over the past several decades in each of these sub-themes,
but also furthering the debates within them thereby making important interventions in the field. In other
words, the authors have taken their mandate of ‘explorations’ quite seriously and have gone beyond
merely undertaking ‘surveys’. They have also pointed to gaps and possibilities of further research in the
individual areas discussed. This is the strength of these books, rendering them useful to both political
science researchers/scholars and teachers who can use them in their classrooms. Even a lay person un-
familiar with, but curious about, political science can pick up one of these volumes and get a good sense
of what has been written so far and the major debates taking place in that particular area of study (such
as international relations). Written lucidly, they also offer an impressive set of bibliographies for
each topic covered. In this review I will not be able to do justice to each chapter in these volumes.
Rather, I will address larger thematic concerns within which these books are placed and then assess the
volumes accordingly as to whether they fulfil the expectations and the mandate set out for them. In doing
so, I will highlight some chapters and sections over others.
The series begins with an excellent and very insightful introduction (repeated at the beginning of each
volume) by Achin Vanaik, who identifies some of the major debates in the discipline over the past several
decades. The big themes he examines at the outset are: the need to examine the nature of the Indian state
in light of changes in the global political economy; whether Indian democracy is deepening or thinning;
the gap between procedural and substantive dimensions of democracy in India; the rise of identity based
struggles; the nature of Indian modernity and the relationship between what is going on domestically to
the international. According to him, in investigating these larger concerns what is connecting all four
volumes is a deep dissatisfaction with Western concepts and interpretive frameworks in dealing with
Indian political realities. This, he points out, has led to a search for ways in which these categories and
concepts can be either ‘Indianized’ and thereby used in more creative ways, or jettisoned altogether
in favour of conceptual innovation. In his view, concepts which have been significantly reformulated to
suit Indian circumstances are secularism, communitarianism, civil and political society and, critical tra-
ditionalism amongst others. He points out that it is this search for ‘Indian distinctiveness’ which is the
common current that runs through all four volumes.
Studies in Indian Politics
2(1) 109–117
© 2014 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles, London,
New Delhi, Singapore,
Washington DC
DOI: 10.1177/2321023014526099

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