Teaching the State in Political Theory: Notes Towards an Alternative Framework

AuthorJanaki Srinivasan
Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterTeaching–Learning Politics in India
Teaching the State in Political
Theory: Notes Towards an
Alternative Framework
Janaki Srinivasan1
‘But what about the four elements?’ For the past few years that I have been teaching the introductory
course on political theory at the master’s level, at least a few students have worriedly posed this question
while we were on the topic of the state. While this response reflects the hold of the standard guide-book
level one-true definition of the state on a typical political science student in India, it also is an indication
that some of my experiments with in teaching political theory were in the required direction. Their
limitations need to be acknowledged at the outset. They are limitations of my own capacities, as reflected
in varying success levels, and of those imposed by an institutional structure that does not allow for much
autonomy or innovation in course structures and evaluation formats as is the case with most higher
education institutions in the country.
The standard definition of the state (as an institution characterized by sovereignty, population, territory
and government), and of other concepts as (un)digested by students at the undergraduate level, is integral
to creating an allergy towards theory, a feature one is most likely to find among students entering a
postgraduate political science course, with the exception of those with undergraduate degrees from a few
select universities and colleges. While the University Grants Commission (UGC) developed a master
syllabus for undergraduate programmes as part of its push towards the Choice Based Credit System
(CBCS) in 2015, these have not been adopted outside of the central university network.2 Even as this
model syllabus does retain the problems discussed in the following sections, the prior education in
theory among a majority of students necessitates a curriculum design for the postgraduate courses that
can both debrief and introduce the subject before venturing into any in-depth examination of the field.
With the new National Education Policy (NEP) incorporating CBCS and expanding its scope to facilitate
inter-university transfer of credits, it is important to address concerns about the implications of uniformity
Note: The section is coordinated by Rajeshwari Deshpande
1 Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh, Punjab, India
2 A detailed investigation is required on whether even the central universities have adopted this common syllabus along with the
CBCS model. Moreover, many central universities, especially the set of new universities set up under the Central Universities Act,
2009 do not offer undergraduate degrees.
Teaching–Learning Politics in India
Studies in Indian Politics
10(2) 275–282, 2022
© 2022 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23210230221135814
Corresponding author:
Janaki Srinivasan, Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh 160014, Punjab, India.
E-mail: janakisriniv@gmail.com

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