‘Persistent Centrism’ and Its Explanations

Date01 December 2016
Published date01 December 2016
Subject MatterSymposium on Rudolphs
‘Persistent Centrism’ and Its
Ujjwal Kumar Singh1
Anupama Roy2
Susanne Rudolph and Lloyd Rudolph believed that ‘situated knowledge’ could be realized through area
studies, which they argued was consonant with epistemic pluralism and comparative generalization. Their
writings reflect a critical relationship with their field as well as the American Political Science academia
particularly in the way they envisaged area studies of ‘a different kind’. The Rudolphs proposed that
the Indian state and political process could be comprehended through analytical categories ‘adapted’
to capture its particularity. They found ‘a persistent centrism’ to be the most striking feature of Indian
politics with the Indian National Congress crucial to the arrival at ‘centrism’. In their later writings, the
Rudolphs addressed the contests that emerged in the domain of the state, particularly in the context
of the diminished ‘interventionist state’, grappling with contests over political power, the institutional
matrix of the state and constitutional design.
Epistemic pluralism,area studies, centrism, interventionist state, de-centred state, regulatory state
In the 1960s, C.H. Morris-Jones (1963) declared that nothing in India was what it seemed to be. As a
result, a student of political institutions would be baffled by the difference in the formal rendering of the
styles of functioning of government systems in India, and the inside story of how they actually worked.
Looking for categories, which were operative within the Indian context and were more appropriate for
understanding political reality in India, he wrote of three political idioms—modern, traditional and
saintly—which, he concluded, captured the distinctive ways in which political power was exercised in
India. Around the time that Morris-Jones was grappling with the predicament over appropriate categories,
guided by an unmitigated quest for a future, however distant, for a ‘modern’ Indian democracy, Susanne
and Lloyd Rudolph were on a field visit to India to study the second general elections in a country where
the exercise of franchise and participation in the electoral process was not as yet a ‘familiar’ experience.
Equipped with tools of survey drawn from a context where methodological individualism is assumed to
Symposium on Rudolphs: I
Studies in Indian Politics
4(2) 260–265
© 2016 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2321023016665547
1 Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi, Delhi, India.
2 Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Ujjwal Kumar Singh, Flat No 207, Sector 28, Noida 201303, India.
E-mail: ujjwalksingh@gmail.com

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