Democracy and its Institutions, André Béteille, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2012. Pages 228. Price ` 595.
Dr. Surajit C. Mukhopadhyay
Volume 5 Issue 3 (2012)
Writing on institutions of modern democracy in the Indian context is inherently problematic. Institutions are by their very nature conservative. They are often viewed as stately ships moored in the harbour inspiring awe rather than as vessels that would undertake a voyage which would leave them battered and weary. Institutions in India are perennially on a rough voyage through the charted and more often than not, uncharted waters of democracy and discontent. The trick in writing about them, then lies in having a balance between the safety of being moored and the rough and tumbles of the journey. Perhaps, it is the one who is conservative who best understands the institution and the care that must go into building one. Perhaps because he understands it in the manner that he does, changes that are due and legitimate elude the grasp of required imagination. Yet, if there is to be a consensus on Indian institutions, it must simply be this – very few Indians in public life are institution builders, be it ministers in government or academics in universities. Most of those persons who could be builders of lasting institutions are overwhelmed by populism, bias of caste, creed and worse. And thereby hangs a tale that must be brought to the fore and sociologically understood and debated…