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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Liberal ideas in India are relatively understudied as liberalism, although these have been examined as part of other ideologies, such as nationalism, socialism, and secularism.This chapter offers an exploratory sketch of strands of liberalism in India in theory and practice. Arguing that liberal ideas have historically had a significant presence in the Indian polity, I distinguish three strands of liberalism that have been influential in nineteenth- and twentieth-century India: colonial, nationalist, and radical. Whereas politically, these traditions have been antagonistic, in terms of ideology, all share a strong belief in the state as the principal agent of liberal reform and an acceptance of group-differentiated rights. This in turn has meant that strong liberalism remains weakly articulated in India: the need for protecting individuals from state power has rarely been elaborated. Its Indian itineraries, however, serve also as a reminder of the limits of liberalism and the significance of other moral horizons for the pursuit of individual freedom.

Keywords: liberalism, constitutionalism, group rights, colonialism, Raja Rammohan Roy, M. G. Ranade, Mahatma Jotirao Phule, B. R. Ambedkar

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