Book Review: James Manor, The Writings of James Manor: Politics and State–Society Relations in India

Published date01 December 2017
Date01 December 2017
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
James Manor, The Writings of James Manor: Politics and State–Society Relations in India. With a Foreword
by Niraja Gopal Jayal. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan. 2016. 366 pages. `795.
This work is a compilation of lucidly presented analyses of many dimensions of the Indian polity and its
democracy. It deals with political events from independence to the present, and is definitely a major
contribution for political scientists and informed readers who wish to get an insight into the vicissitudes
of Indian politics. The book is a collection of writings of a formidable scholar who offers a diachronic
analysis of varied aspects of the Indian polity but leaves out other themes that he has examined over the
years, as the author notes in the Introduction. The book studies the Indian polity, considered in two phases:
independence to 1989 and post-1989.
The thread which links all the sections of the book is the survival of democracy in India through
varied means in changing times. This survival has been made possible by the interplay among different
actors who performed their roles differently in different time periods. They include political parties,
political leaders, political activists, formal institutions (the Parliament, its committees, the courts, the
Presidency), informal institutions (such as the media, non-governmental organizations) and the ordinary
people (and their identities in terms of caste, ethnicity, language, religion, region, gender, sex). Hence,
the book analyses democratic processes through changing state–society relations. Through the analysis
of these processes, the author also shows the ‘contrast’ or the ‘extraordinariness’ of India as compared to
other countries.
The study of integration of the politics from ‘above’ in terms of political parties, political leaders,
prime ministers, chief ministers and politics from ‘below’, that is, perspectives from various caste, ethnic
and other identities by the author is well done. The assessment of the roots of Indian democracy, growing
through the tangles of political awakening, decay and institutional regeneration up to the present times
(Chapters 2, 3 and 4), is another noteworthy contribution of this book as is the analysis of changing nature
of the ‘politics of bargaining and accommodation’ adopted by the political parties in relation to various
social forces to gain legitimacy and also between political parties (national and state level) in the coalition
era. Other themes include the issue of governability, specifically considering chief ministers (Chapter 12)
and different kinds of identity politics (Chapter 8).
There is room for disagreement with some Manor’s analysis. The first deals with the ethnicity issue.
The author explains that the management of ‘ethnic’ conflicts has been possible due to a certain kind of
political culture which exists in India, that is, a fluid sense of identity. Its implication being that no
conflict can accumulate to the extent of completely damaging the democratic fabric. The ‘management’
of ethnicity by different leaders primarily through accommodation and manipulation forms the crux of
Chapter 8. However, if we look at the present scenario of sustained resistance, then arguments like
fluidity of identities which prevent building of tensions along a particular line can be questioned. In fact,
Studies in Indian Politics
5(2) 286–299
© 2017 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2321023017727986

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT