Arguing Democracy: Intellectuals and Politics in Modern India

Sunil Khilnani
Content Type
Working Paper
Center for the Advanced Study of India
The idea of democracy, brought into being on an Athenian hillside some 2,500 years ago, has travelled far, and today attaches itself to a growing number of political projects. In everyday political talk, as well as in the specialised fields of the political and social sciences, terms like “spreading democracy,” “promoting democracy,” and, of course – “imposing democracy” – have become ubiquitous. Underlying such talk is a belief in democratic universalism; the idea that, as Larry Diamond, erstwhile advisor to Paul Bremer in Iraq, has put it: “Every country in the world can be democratic.” Yet, even as the ambition is asserted to spread democracy across the globe, our conceptions of what democracy is have narrowed: to a “checklist” model, a prescriptive blueprint, based almost entirely on Western experience.
Democratization, Governance
Political Geography
India, Asia