Democracies of Unfreedom: The United States and India

By Brij Mohan | Go to book overview

Introduction

One of the shabbiest of all intellectual gambits is to pontificate about abuses in someone's society and to excuse exactly the same practices in one's own. For me the classic example is provided by the brilliant 19th- century French intellectual Alex de Tocqueville, who to many of us educated to believe in classical liberal and Western democratic values, exemplified those vales almost to the letter. Having criticized American mistreatment of Indian and black slaves, Tocqueville had to deal with French colonial policies in Algeria during the late 1830s and 1840s, where under Marshal Bugeaud the French army of occupation undertook a savage war of pacification against the Algerian Muslims. All of a sudden, the very norms with which he had humanely demurred at American malfeasance are suspended for French actions, in the name of what he calls national pride. Massacres leave him unmoved: Muslims, he says, belong to an inferior religion and must be disciplined. In short, the apparent universalism of his language for America is wilfully denied application to his own country, even as it pursues similarly inhumane policies.

Edward W. Said ( 1994: 50-51)

"The fundamental problem is therefore how to reconcile one's identity and the actualities of one's own culture, society, and history to the reality of other identities, cultures, peoples," writes Professor Edward Said ( 1994: 51). One of the main problems I faced while conceptualizing the idea of this book was to find a suitable backdrop on a global scene to critique the current state of social policies in the United States. As my understanding of the human reality goes, I found some universal commonalities in the anatomy of oppression. For example, the human situation of the Harijans in India is more akin to the slaves in America. Unlike Tocqueville,

-xv-

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Democracies of Unfreedom: The United States and India
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • Part I - THE CHIMERA OF THE AMERICAN DREAM 1
  • 1 - The Politics of Being 19
  • 2 - Race, Gender, and Class: An Encounter with Reality 21
  • 3 - Beyond the New Tribalism 35
  • 4 - The End of a Great Society 53
  • Part II - THE MANTRAS OF DENIAL 71
  • 5 - The Remains of Democracy 73
  • 6 - A New Caste War: The End of a Tradition 89
  • 7 - Toward the United States of India 101
  • 8 - Rediscovery of India 119
  • Epilogue - A Tale of Two Titans 135
  • Notes 143
  • Bibliography 145
  • Index 159
  • About the Author 169
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