ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Analytical Rigour and the Big Bazaar of Scholarship on Indian Politics

Routledge Handbook of Indian Politics edited by Atul Kohli and Prerna Singh (London and New York: Routledge), 2013; pp XV + 393, £140 (hardback)

The author is grateful to Nikhil Goveas for help in drafting the review.

Atul Kohli is one of the renowned scholars on public institutions and policies whom students of Indian politics get connected to from early on, and therefore a handbook on Indian politics that he has edited with Prerna Singh is likely to evoke much interest. Kohli has brought a distinctive approach to bear on political analysis, stressing the autonomous role of the political arena not merely in directing the course of the economy, but also in sustaining public institutions, rule of law, and an order of fairness. This approach neither reduces politics to epi-phenomena of economics, nor draws fault lines around such an axis. While such an approach can be contested on the frame of reference it assumes, the focus in this review is whether the explanations advanced and the arguments made are defensible against the evidence adduced.

With regard to its substantial content, of the 32 papers in this handbook, only five are written by scholars based in the Indian academia, indicating the extent of globalisation of scholarship in this domain. This development will have much bearing not merely in assigning significance to issues, but also in shaping political concerns in India and elsewhere in days to come. To be fair to the editors, they do not suggest that the papers in the volume share a common ground, rather that differences in perspectives and ideas are inevitable in any such endeavour. We will, therefore, employ the following two yardsticks to assess this collection – whether the handbook is sensitive to the most significant themes that existing scholarship in the field highlights; and whether the arguments and explanations advanced by individual contributors are defensible or not.

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