An Immense and (In)complete Democracy

Niraja Gopal Jayal

in Anxieties of Democracy

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780198077473
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081745 | DOI:
An Immense and (In)complete Democracy

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This chapter examines India’s experience with democratic citizenship by referring to two interrelated aspects of Alexis de Tocqueville’s argument in Democracy in America. The first argument is about the relationship between social equality and democracy, and the second is about civil society or the associational sphere for the performance of citizenship. However, neither the equality-democracy thesis nor the theory of citizenship was invoked by Tocqueville in his narrative of the ‘two unlucky races’ or indeed of women. This chapter looks at the Indian constitutional discourse and state policies on comparably disadvantaged groups, including women. Dana Villa has argued that the central distinction for Tocqueville was not between société politique and société civile, but between centralized and local and organizations of power with their implications for politics and participation in public life. This chapter situates the argument about differentiated citizenship in the local.

Keywords: democracy; Alexis de Tocqueville; Democracy in America; differentiated citizenship; social equality; civil society; women; Dana Villa; politics; disadvantaged groups

Chapter.  11612 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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