Tag Archives: Political science

Professors of Political Science and the Modi Phenomenon

Ashutosh Varshney has written yet another piece on the Modi phenomenon. This time he has invoked “the discipline of political science”, which he has “taught for two decades”, and underlined that it fundamentally disagrees with an “institutions-free” view of the rise of Narendra Modi. [See my response to his earlier piece here.] Before I examine Varshney’s ‘arguments’ about present politics, let me cite the following from nothing less than the American Political Science Review – a revealing chapter from the history of the discipline that he and I share:

Following World War I came the turbulence of the 1920s and 1930s. Communism and fascism rose to prominence as the world’s great powers fell to deflation and imperialism. Yet during this time of great political upheaval, political science became a study in irrelevance. Perhaps as a result of no longer sharing common theories and assumptions, the discipline fragmented and retreated inwards. Scanning the American Political Science Review from 1923 to 1936 for any sustained analysis of the great events of the day such as Mussolini’s march on Rome, Japan’s occupation of Manchuria, or even the Great Depression, one will come up empty. What one does find are, for example, reports of constitutional change in Estonia (Roucek 1936), predictions that the German administrative structure would stop Hitler becoming a dictator (Friedrich 1933), and analysis of the legal monism of Alfred Verdoross (Janzen 1935). [Mark Blythe, ‘Great Punctuations, Randomness, and the Evolution of Comparative Political Science’, APSR, Vol. 100, No. 4, November 2006. All emphasis added]

Perhaps this delusional business of waxing on the strength of institutions has been a professional pastime in the discipline but one could excuse the political scientists of the 1920s and 1930s, insofar as they were making the mistake for the first time. What do you say of someone who repeats the same error with ever greater self-righteousness, eighty/ ninety years down the line? And if this business of repeating the same error over and over again is something more than a pastime, if it is integral to political science, then all one can say is, so much the worse for political science! Continue reading Professors of Political Science and the Modi Phenomenon

Thinking about ‘the Contemporary’: Between Interdisciplinarity and Indisciplinarity

[An earlier version of this note was presented as keynote lecture for the Arts Faculty Seminar on Interdisciplinary Research in Humanities, Benaras Hindu University, 9-10 September 2010]

It cannot be emphasized enough how critically important the theme of the Seminar is – especially for us in India today but more generally in the world at large. We need to think of the idea of interdisciplinarity in much more fundamental and radical ways today if we are to even begin to meet the intellectual challenges posed by ‘our contemporary’.

Before I proceed, let me also clarify that the term ‘indisciplinarity’ in the title of my talk, is not simply there for its shock-value. I believe that we are today at the threshold of a fundamentally new condition where there is a serious question mark over old knowledges and disciplines as they emerged in the course of the last few centuries. Continue reading Thinking about ‘the Contemporary’: Between Interdisciplinarity and Indisciplinarity