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Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

Edited by

Rajiva Wijesinha


Delhi • Bangalore • Mumbai • Kolkata • Chennai • Hyderabad • Pune

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Published by Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd. under the imprint of Foundation Books Cambridge House, 4381/4 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 110 002

Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd. C-22, C-Block, Brigade M.M., K.R. Road, Jayanagar, Bangalore 560 070 Plot No. 80, Service Industries, Shirvane, Sector-1, Nerul, Navi Mumbai 400 706 10 Raja Subodh Mullick Square, 2nd Floor, Kolkata 700 013 21/1 (New No. 49), 1st Floor, Model School Road, Thousand Lights, Chennai 600 006 House No. 3-5-874/6/4, (Near Apollo Hospital), Hyderguda, Hyderabad 500 029 Agarwal Pride, 'A' Wing, 1308 Kasba Peth, Near Surya Hospital, Pune 411011

© Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 978-81-7596-851-6 All rights reserved. No reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd., subject to statutory exception and to the provision of relevant collective licensing agreements. Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd. has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. Typeset at Sanchauli Image Composers, New Delhi. Published by Manas Saikia for Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd.

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In memory of Chanaka Amaratunga 1958-1996 Founder and Leader of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka

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The Evolution of the Liberal Idea




The Fundamentals of I Liberalism




Historical Roots of South Asian Liberalism




Liberalism and Constitutionalism: Parliament and the Judiciary




The Market Economy and Welfare: An Introductory Note




Grassroots Capitalism: A Glimpse of the Unrecognised India




Empowering the Poor: A Liberal Approach to Education Reforms



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Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

Not by Religion Alone: Aspects of Pakistani Society




An Appraisal of Economic Liberalisation in Pakistan



10. Religion and Culture in the Liberal State



11. Social Freedom in the Liberal State



12. The Future of Liberalism in South Asia



Select Bibliography


Notes on Contributors


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Friedrich Naumann Stiftung fur die Freiheit

The Friedrich Naumann Stiftung fur die Freiheit (FNF) is the foundation for liberal politics. It was founded in 1958 by, amongst others, Theodor Heuss, the first German Federal President after World War II. The Foundation currently works in some sixty different countries around the world to promote ideas on liberty and strategies for freedom. Our instruments are civic education, political consultancy and political dialogue. The Friedrich Naumann Stiftung lends its expertise for endeavours to consolidate and strengthen freedom, democracy, market economy and the rule of law. As the only liberal organisation of its kind worldwide, the Foundation facilitates to lay the groundwork for a future in freedom that bears responsibility for the coming generations. Within South Asia, with its strong tradition of tolerance and love for freedom, with its growing middle classes which increasingly assert themselves, and with its liberalising economies, the Foundation works with numerous partner organisations to strengthen the structures of democracy, the rule of law, and the economic preconditions for social development and a life in dignity.

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The idea of freedom is deeply imbedded in the political cultures of South Asia. Especially the experiences of absolute power of royal dynasties and, later, of colonial rule had triggered the quest for justice, civil equality and democratic forms of government. Freedom for all citizens and responsible government were, thus, the most important values to be secured when finally the societies of South Asia gained their full and unequivocal independence in the middle of last century. Yet, as a main political direction, liberalism was and remained weak in comparison to other political directions and mainstreams. When the anti-colonial struggle came to an end, it was primarily socialism, its offsprings and variations, which became dominant in many countries of the region. The opponents of socialism usually gathered around ideologies and concepts, which — although lacking a coherent ideational framework - can best be subsumed as conservatism. In all political camps, nationalism in various forms played an important role for the origins and developments of political parties. When, in the course of time and as a general trend, deficiencies of the political systems and misgovernment of the ruling parties and elites became a more or less constant pattern, thus putting the democratic set-ups themselves under enhanced pressure, new forces of opposition with their own bases of legitimacy and interpretation of history grew in importance. Religious extremists found their ways into the political spectrums of South Asia, whether of Hindu, Islamic or Buddhist denomination. These groups and parties propagate exclusive ideologies, thus alienating all nonconforming groups - with generally detrimental consequences for national integration, stability and the logic of democracy.

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x Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

Against this background of competing ideologies and mainstreams, liberalism presents an alternative' set of norms and values, and an alternative style of political process. Its guidelines are individual freedom, social responsibility and a genuinely democratic structure of decision-making. Liberalism focuses on the right of each individual to take responsible decisions about priorities for him or herself and to realise personal aims, skills and talents; it focuses on tolerance, democratic and peaceful means of government as well as on free access of everyone to all markets - education, information, labour, goods, and capital markets. The rule of law and the protection of human and civil rights are central to liberal thinking, as well as the protection of property and economic freedom. For liberals, the role of the state is to guarantee the rights of the individual, and to guarantee a political framework which enables everyone to make his or her own choices among the options available. The thrust and values of liberalism are of a universal nature, notwithstanding the fact that its philosophical reasoning owes a lot to western political thought. The quest for human, civil and property rights usually becomes vocal when the individual suffers from an experience of injustice. Experiences of injustice, i.e., violations against individual rights in these areas, take place in all corners of the world. This is a universal experience. The answers liberalism provides for this are of universal character as well, their essence is understood everywhere and by everyone, be it the rich businessman or the poor farmer, the urban dweller or the peasant, the intellectual or the ordinary citizen. Liberal principles as spelled out above are in compliance with many philosophical and ethical traditions throughout the globe. This is especially true for South Asia, where the ideals of freedom, tolerance and respect for different beliefs and ways of life are deeply embedded in social traditions and political cultures. One of the most eminent South Asian liberals was Dr Chanaka Amaratunga, a writer and politician from Sri Lanka. Dr Amaratunga's intention was to develop an Asian focus for the values and the perspectives of liberalism. The book Liberal Values for South Asia, to which this publication owes a lot, was essentially his brainchild; however, he did not live to see the final product since in 1996, at the Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

Foreword xi

age of thirty-eight, he faced an untimely death. He fought the notion that liberalism was an idea of the West, owned by the West and exclusively useful for people in the West. On the contrary, he saw and stressed the universal aspects of liberalism. His message was that liberal principles have a manifest meaning also for Asia. For him, liberalism was not an alien ideology, but very much in accordance with the political needs and opportunities prevalent in his home Sri Lanka, in South Asia and beyond. Rajiva Wijesinha, a close associate of Dr Amaratunga, has been pursuing his notion of liberalism. We are indebted to him for agreeing to take upon himself the responsibility of editing and compiling essays focussing on the liberal perspectives of South Asia. This publication also includes articles from well-known liberal Pakistan and Indian authors thereby enlarging the scope of this publication to reflect a South Asian viewpoint. On behalf of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung I would like to express my gratitude to Rajiva Wijesinha and all other authors - every one of them a long-standing partner of the Foundation - for their contributions. I am certain that this volume will have an even greater impact.

Dr Rene Klaff

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This book was in essence the brainchild of Chanaka Amaratunga, leader of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka until his tragic death in a car accident in August 1996. He had founded the party ten years previously, at a time when the word liberalism seemed to many in Sri Lanka an anachronism. It is a tribute to the intensity of his vision, and the singlemindedness with which he articulated it, that by the time of his death almost all major politicians in the country claimed to be upholders of liberal democracy, thus acknowledging the claims of a doctrine none of them had taken seriously a decade previously. Of course the increasing popularity of the views Dr Amaratunga articulated owes something also to the times in which he lived. He was born in 1958, ten years after Sri Lankan independence, in a period in which the subcontinent was dominated by statism. In Sri Lanka it was of the socialist variety that had been propounded by Laski at the London School of Economics, a philosophy that also held most Indian political theorists of the time in its thrall; while even under ostensibly right wing military regimes in Pakistan, the necessity of centralised control was never challenged. It cannot be denied that these dispensations enjoyed some successes. Sri Lanka developed an enviable score on the quality of life index; while India, a regular victim of famines in the colonial period, advanced towards agricultural self-sufficiency, laid the basis for future industrialisation, and also managed despite various fissiparous tendencies to maintain both unity and democracy. But in both countries, and more markedly so in Pakistan (and in the new country of Bangladesh that was formed when the former East Pakistan broke away in 1971),

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xiv Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

what was most apparent a quarter of a century after colonialism had ended was economic stagnation, and increasing recognition that the state was quite incapable of fulfilling the aspirations of the citizenry. This was a period in which internationally too the winds of change were blowing strongly. Britain, which even in the days of anti-imperial rhetoric had exercised an intellectual hold over the subcontinent, was preparing to abandon the Butskellist consensus that had left so much in the hands of the state. Meanwhile in East Asia economic development in former colonies provided an example that could not be ignored; and even though in some instances it was averred that dictatorship was the price that had to be paid for such development, the example of Japan, and also of Malaysia and Singapore, made it clear that a fundamentally democratic dispensation could also produce success, provided economic freedoms went hand in hand with at least basic political ones. In Sri Lanka this lesson unfortunately took a long time to be learnt. Though the government elected in 1977 claimed to liberalise the economy, in fact it continued with statist controls. Indeed it showed itself prepared to abandon democracy too in that, following what it claimed was the Singapore model but ignoring the fact that elections were held regularly in Singapore, it instead tried to set up an authoritarian state that could not be changed or challenged electorally. Meanwhile in India which, after the threat of the Emergency, had successfully maintained its democratic record, there were some moves towards economic liberalisation, but these were half-hearted. And both Pakistan and Bangladesh saw during this period what seemed the institutionalisation of dictatorships, supported solidly by the West in the face of the last stage of the Cold War, the Russian incursion into Afghanistan. It was only towards the late eighties that the countries of the subcontinent began to move more concertedly towards liberal democracy. Pakistan and Bangladesh both began to have elected governments and, though there have been some hiccoughs in the process, the idea that dictators know best seems to have been eradicated. Sri Lanka returned to free and fair elections in the early nineties, and this was accompanied by a coherent programme of privatization and Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at



deregulation that has been taken up even by the government elected in 1994, which consists largely of the once leftist Sri Lanka Freedom Party together with its Marxist allies. Meanwhile in India the Narasimha Rao government elected in 1991 went further along the road of deregulation that had been embarked on by the previous Congress government under Rajiv Gandhi, and these principles have been taken up even by the United Front government elected in 1996 which also has Marxist ministers. Thus it would seem that the concepts that characterised political thought and practice in the subcontinent have changed radically. Former Marxists accept free market principles, parties that upheld dictatorships or what they euphemistically termed guided democracies have accepted that there is no substitute for the free exercise of a democratic franchise. Yet despite these welcome changes, the fact remains that no party in any of the parliaments in the subcontinent, including those of the other South Asian nations, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, has an explicit ideological framework according to which it can promote the policies that are now seen as universally acceptable. It is to fill this gap that Dr Amaratunga thought it essential to prepare this manual. It was designed to make clear the essentials of the liberal philosophy, while also indicating how appropriate it is in the South Asian context. For what has unfortunately occurred, even in what are more open societies than in past years, is that many parties have accepted or indeed implemented liberal policies on an ad hoc basis; and without a proper framework to guide them, they have then gone on to measures that served sometimes to nullify the reforms they had embarked on. In such a context it made sense to try to articulate a programme that, while it was seen to aim at goals that many parties have accepted, placed these in a wider context that could also command general approval. Not all parties would of course accept all aspects of a liberal programme; but in a context in which many parties are seeking for an ideology that accords both with present times and trends and also with some of the goals they accepted unreflectingly in the past, it is to be hoped that this volume will provide food for thought and ideas for Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at


Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

adoption and incorporation within party programmes. In the past the subcontinent was renowned for the skill with which it took up the dominant ideologies of the west and articulated them appropriately for the Asian context. Unfortunately in the colonial and post-colonial periods these included nationalism and socialism, Marxism and even fascism; what was omitted, in the urge to establish a collective freedom from the shackles of imperialism, was an ideology that promoted the freedom of the individual, within a community that was at the same time a community acknowledged as one that was made up of individuals. What this manual suggests is that such an ideology does in fact have its basis in the philosophies that arose in the subcontinent long ago; and though this region too has had its share of authoritarianism and nationalism, the re-emergence of liberalism should cause no surprise. It is our hope then that parties throughout the subcontinent will make use of this book to develop a coherent ideological framework within which they can work towards equipping us for the future, free of the dogmas and doctrines that held us back over the last fifty years.

This book was initially conceived as basically a Sri Lankan enterprise, since in those days there were few contacts between those in the various parts of the subcontinent who believed in a liberal ideology. This began to change, in some measure because of the active steps taken by the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung to develop networks of liberals. The best example of this was the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, which was set up in 1993 when Liberals from five East and South East Asian nations came together. The Sri Lankan Liberal Party joined CALD in 1995 and, as the only Liberal Party in South Asia, was invited to lead workshops in other countries in the subcontinent. Some of the articles written for this book then proved a handy manual for people sympathetic to ideas which they had not heard articulated with an Asian focus previousy. In Pakistan, they became reference points for the Liberal Forum that was established following workshops organised by the then FNS country director, Rene Klaff, and it was the Liberal Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

Preface xvii

Forum that initially suggested a book that would include material from other countries. Not entirely coincidental^, this idea finally bore fruit with the return to South Asia of Dr Klaff as Regional Director of the FNS. I am indebted to him for having sponsored this volume, and having assisted in identifying liberal thinkers in India and Pakistan, who spared the time to contribute essays. I am thankful also to Peter-Andreas Bochmann, country Director in Pakistan, for having ensured the production in good time of the essays of the Pakistan contributors, despite the difficulties the country has been undergoing. I am of course extremely grateful to those contributors, Dr Khalil Ahmad and Anees Jillani, and to the Indian contributors Barun Mitra and Parth Shah, whom I have had the pleasure of working with on several occasions over the last decade, and whose intellectual contribution to liberalism has been phenomenal in the relatively short time in which they have been active. While introducing these four new essays I have also included earlier writings that deal with enduring principles, even though some of them have a marked focus on Sri Lanka. The book begins with two contributions by Dr Amaratunga which provide a basic introduction to liberalism and its fundamentals. The writer's thorough involvement with the concepts he explicates makes this a solid foundation which helps to fill in areas omitted in the other essays. Correspondingly his essay on social freedoms, while building on the concepts laid down earlier, explores issues that will take on increasing importance as the region develops. Preceding this is my own essay which, in dealing with the philosophical background, indicates I hope the factors that make liberalism in my view the most appropriate social as well as political creed for an Asian from this region. Nirgunan Tiruchelvam's introduction to liberalism in the South Asian context is necessarily brief but, in drawing attention to the position of explicitly liberal thinkers in the last century, he makes clear the enduring nature of its appeal. He also provides a brief introduction to different aspects of the theoretical framework liberalism suggests for economic issues. In between his two essays is Rohan Edrisinha's contribution on Constitutionalism which deals with an absolutely vital Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at


Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

issue for a region that runs the risk of being submerged in populism in the guise of democracy. Through consideration of a wide range of examples, he explores the limits democracy must necessarily accept if it is to preserve the principle of individual choice that must be the basis of democracy. Grouped together are the four essays from India and Pakistan, each of which I have introduced briefly. I have also provided a conclusion that tries to try to draw together some of the lessons of the last decade. This also touches on the problem of the different forms of sectarianism which now provide the greatest challenge to liberal democracy in the region, as a counterpart to the statism that dominated the previous period. Earlier competing nationalisms had seemed to contribute to some of the problems the region faced but, with the additional complications presented now by religious fundamentalisms, I thought a more general approach more suitable for what is meant to be just a handbook, since a comprehensive discussion of the problems and possible solutions would require a volume in itself. I believe such a volume would be a useful project in the future, though I would also note that it will benefit from a practical political approach, rather than dwelling on theoretical approaches derived from situations that may superficially seem similar that have been experienced by other parts of the world. Whilst some political principles are universal, as Dr Amaratunga expresses so eloquently, the test for us in Asia, and in South Asia, is to look also at the particular elements that demand particular attention.

I have left the format of the different essays to the different writers, which seemed best for so eclectic a group. Except for the inclusion of three recent works of mine that further expound a liberal approach to issues pertaining to this region, I have not attempted to update the bibliography on Liberal Perspectives that Dr Amaratunga drew up, since with modern techniques it should not be difficult to find more comprehensive catalogues of relevant material than I could have provided. I also thought it appropriate to leave this particular record of the extensive reading Dr Amaratunga had engaged in that enabled Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at



him to provide such an erudite account of liberal principles at the very different period in which he functioned. I must thank Sonali Pathirana, Savanthi Gurusinghe and Neomal Weerakoon for assistance with preparing the manuscript, and also the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung in Colombo and New Delhi for their support, in particular Rene Klaff, Subodh Kumar and Sagarica Delgoda. I am delighted too that Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd., who has brought out so many of my recent books, has kindly undertaken the publication of this volume too. They have brought to bear their considerable editorial skills to deal with any shortcomings that may have remained in the final manuscript.

Rajiva Wijesinha

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1 The Evolution of the Liberal Idea CHANAKA AMARATUNGA

From reading Mill's political works the public is left in little doubt as to where he stands in relation to life, and in this lies part of his achievement as an ideologist. Indeed it is on account of their comprehensiveness and fundamentalism that we can derive a deeper understanding of Liberalism as an ideology from the writing of Mill, de Tocqueville and Hobhouse than we can glean from the political speeches of the liberal ministers — Gladstone, Cavour and Thiers. However, it is not the case that we find a complete expression of liberalism in the works of any one writer or group of writers. D J Manning, Uberalism1 like most things, liberalism has been subject to a process of evolution. Its emphases, its primary concerns and motivations have altered according to the age and other political and sociological conditions. An understanding of the evolution of liberalism is therefore useful in applying it to our present condition. Of even greater importance is a discovery of liberalism's ideological character, for we cannot consider the worth and the relevance of a political idea without coming to grips with its essential nature. Those who take a sociological view of the evolution of political ideas, many of them influenced by Socialism and Marxism, see liberalism as the inevitable consequence of the transition of the feudal world into that of the early era of industrialisation. As such, they see liberalism as the product of particular economic conditions, principally the fall of mercantilism and the rise of early and untrammelled industrialisation, the expansion of trade and other manifestations of

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2 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

early capitalism. Noting the growth of liberalism with the development of such conditions in seventeenth century Britain, with its triumph in the apogee of the Industrial Revolution in the second half of the nineteenth century, such persons diagnose the beginning of its end with the advent of the twentieth century and more particularly with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Then, they argue, the splendour of imperial European civilisation came to an abrupt and tragic end. They assert therefore that liberalism is today an anachronism, a charming but hopelessly ineffectual afterglow in a world in which the economic and social conditions, which first created and then sustained it, no longer exist. The decline of the British Liberal Party, elegiacally recorded in George Dangerfield's classic The Strange Death of Uberal England, is cited as proof that liberalism, as the limited product of a society that no longer exists, has no contemporary relevance. Thus Socialists and Marxists insist that liberalism has no existence save as the political expression of an early and successful capitalism: since capitalism has, in their view, descended into a crisis from which it will not recover, liberalism is doomed to destruction. But popular opinion, and indeed the realities of the post Cold War world, have not confirmed this thesis. One can argue that it is impossible to accept this simplistic analysis of the origins, growth and existence of liberalism. It would certainly be foolhardy to maintain that ideologies evolve without any relation to the historical, cultural, social and economic contexts in which they come into being. But no liberal can accept the notion that history unfolds in accordance with a predetermined pattern and that all relations are ultimately reducible to economic relations. On this worldview, ideology is no more than the handmaiden of the means of production. The reality, on the contrary, is that individuals, while influenced by their circumstances, are not mere creatures of them: a wise or noble or stupid or evil person can make a difference. Adolf Hitler could not have created his evil Third Reich but for the contemporary state of Germany and Europe. But the peculiar evil of the Third Reich would not have manifested itself as it did had he not lived. Ideas and ideologies have a similar relationship with the evolutionary process Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Evolution of the Liberal Idea 3

of the world. They contain a large measure of inheritance from their contexts but they also rise above them in a search for a moral and political standpoint that is noble and true.

It should be noted first that there is no unanimity on the origins of liberalism. Indeed some accounts of liberalism, particularly those in the early part of this century, sought to establish that it is an ideology with its birth in classical antiquity. Liberalism, these accounts claim, may be seen to have had a distinct and recognisable progression to its modern manifestations from origins in ancient Greece and Rome. A less sentimental claim is made by John Gray in his work Liberalism, when he demonstrates in the first chapter entitled The Pre-modern Anticipations of liberalism' that such anticipations can be traced from very early on. Some essentially liberal attitudes appeared in the classical world, in some of the assertions of Socrates, in the famous funeral oration of Pericles in which he sets forth his conception of Athens, in the writings of Cicero and those of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Similarly, though this is unknown in the West and so never acknowledged in works of liberalism that have their origins in that part of the world, even in Buddhist scripture, and in particular in the profoundly individualistic statements of the Buddha in his Discourse to the Kalamas, there exist powerful expressions of principles akin to those of liberalism. Moving on, but again in the realm of anticipation rather than fullfledged doctrine, there seems even in the works of the medieval scholar and philosopher - St Thomas Aquinas - a harmony with Liberalism. Then in the sixteenth century two great scholars of the Catholic humanist tradition, Sir Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus, gave forceful expression to attitudes more obviously identifiable with the liberal tradition. These expressions of tolerance and of opposition to bigotry and cruelty were in response to the climate of increasing religious persecution which then existed. In his Utopia published in 1515 More outlined what was for the times an extraordinarily tolerant attitude to religion. He declared that it:

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4 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

should be lawful for every man to favour and follow what religion he would, and that he might do the best he could to bring others to his opinion so that he did it peaceably, gently, quietly and soberly, without lusty and contentious rebuking and inveighing against others.2 Two of More's arguments in justification of this position closely anticipated those of John Stuart Mill. He averred that freedom of faith should be respected because 'the truth of its own power would at the last issue out and come to light'. Even more significant is his declaration that it is 'an arrogant presumption to compel all others by violence and threatening to agree to the same that thou believe to be true'. Similar attitudes were expressed by More's great friend, the Roman Catholic scholar-priest, Erasmus. In a famous letter of protest at the growing climate of religious confrontation which history now calls the Reformation, Erasmus declared, 'On the one side we have Bulls, edicts and menaces; on the other revolutionary pamphlets which set the world in flames.'3 Erasmus anticipated another discovery of liberal thinkers, the danger posed to freedom and tolerance by revolutionary excess. As the political and religious influence of Martin Luther grew, and the nature of the Protestant movement began to reveal itself to be as intolerant as the Roman Catholic Church, if not more so, Erasmus declared to Luther, The tyranny of princes, prelates and monks as you call it, you have not suppressed but doubled. Everything one says or does now serves as a pretext for suspicion.'4 Yet while in these attitudes, and those of the more enlightened spirits of classical antiquity, liberal sentiments are clearly to be found, modern scholars like John Gray, D J Manning and Anthony Arblaster (in The Rise and Decline of Western Liberalism) agree that as a distinct and coherent ideology liberalism is 'the political theory of modernity'.5 This view is based upon a recognition of the central concerns of liberalism as reflecting the concerns of modern human beings and articulating the 'response of modern men to a historical circumstance in which, because the traditional order has passed away, the power and limits of government need redefinition'.6

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The Evolution of the Liberal Idea 5

It is therefore with the writings of some figures of the seventeenth and more clearly the eigtheenth century that a clear beginning of the liberal tradition can be recognised. It is the later writings of John Locke, and then those of Adam Smith, David Hume and David Ricardo, the leading figures of the Scottish enlightenment, and those of the Baron de Montesquieu and Benjamin Constant in France, that can be ascribed the status of classical liberalism.

If the position of Locke is considered, there remains no doubt that a vital contribution to liberal ideology was made by the ideas of tolerance and individual freedom expressed in his letter Concerning Toleration. And important too were his ideas of limited government and his notion of Government as depending on the consent of the governed, articulated in Two Treatises of Civil Government together with the corollary, that a Government that did not respect the rights of its citi2ens could justifiably be overthrown. Locke asserted that the protection of the rights of individuals is the primary duty of governments. This was then, and indeed in much of the world would be now, a revolutionary assertion. The rights of individuals as declared by Locke were to their 'lives, liberties and estate/7:

The State has power only for the protection of natural law. Its province en^s when it passes beyond those boundaries. A Government is not free to do as it pleases... the law of nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. Locke also firmly articulated the connection between the liberty of the individual and the right to property, and thus established the connection that has remained between liberalism and market economics. It is this connection that Socialists and Marxists have stressed in their criticisms of the ideology. Indeed one of the most powerful, though in the present author's view unacceptable and unsustainable, criticisms of liberalism has been made by the Canadian political theorist C B Macpherson in his work The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism,

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6 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

the seventeenth century in this respect. But it cannot be argued, and any liberal in the present age would not do so whatever his priorities, that the connection between private property and liberalism that was stressed by Locke is outside the liberal tradition. The limitations in Locke's application of liberty and tolerance, while characteristic of his times, do however detract from his status as a liberal thinker; for, like Milton, Locke too did not apply his general assertion of the importance of liberty and toleration to Roman Catholics and atheists. His argument that a Roman Catholic could not be permitted freely to profess his faith because he owed allegiance to a foreign power, i.e. the Papacy, and thus put himself in a state of treason, is unconvincing to the modern liberal. Even more archaic seems his argument for denying the rights of atheists on the grounds that, if a man did not believe in God, one could not accept his word on anything since the oaths and bonds necessary for the civilised conduct of business between persons would lose their validity, and thus the social and legal order could not be maintained. To the author's mind then it is Adam Smith and other figures of the Scottish enlightenment, along with the influential French theorist Montesquieu, who have a better claim to be considered the classical liberals who formulated the early distinct manifestations of the idea. Their primary contribution, albeit in different ways, was to stress the vital importance to liberty of the limitation of government. Smith, who is seen as the father of laissez-faire economics, which of course has its drawbacks, nevertheless revealed profound insight when he put his finger on the classic fallacy of the planned state: The man of system ... is so often enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of Government that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it... he seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon the chessboard but on the great chessboard of human society every single piece has a principle of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it. If these two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously and Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Evolution of the Liberal Idea


is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different the game will go on miserably and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.8 The contribution of Montesquieu was to assert, again with powerful insight which has more than been justified by contemporary experience, not least in this country, that the concentration of political power is a great evil and is incompatible with the maintenance of individual liberty. As the antidote to this poison, in his The Spirit of the haws Montesquieu propounded the doctrine of the separation of powers. This doctrine firmly asserts that the three principal branches of government, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, should always be separate and act as counterweights to one another. With the advent of the nineteenth century, modern Liberalism could be said to have been born. Modern liberalism, however, is by no means uniform in character. During the nineteenth century, liberalism displayed a considerable variety, and rival liberal traditions which today clearly manifest themselves had their origin in this period. In reaction to the increasing intervention of the state in the economic and social lives of individuals, in consequence of the French Revolution and some features of the Industrial Revolution, a strong anti-statist strand of liberalism made its appearance in Britain and in continental Europe. This reaction to what was then regarded as the excessive dominance of the state over the individual (although the level of state intervention in the lives of people was nowhere near as extensive as it is now) led to the formulation of a powerful advocacy of the minimal state. This formulation of the conviction that the state was the principal enemy of individual freedom, and that the oppression against which the individual must most carefully guard is the apparently benign but ubiquitous state, was clearly formulated by Herbert Spencer in The Man Versus The State, In a famous remark Spencer declared that, 'the great political superstition of the past was the divine right of kings. The great political superstition of the present is the divine right of Parliaments.'9 What Spencer meant was that the idea of popular sovereignty, when juxtaposed with the sovereignty of Parliament, led to the dangerous doctrine that, since Parliament consisted of representatives of the Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

8 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

people, it could do as it liked and had the right to order affairs as it chose. But Spencer's argument for a minimal state and his emphasis on the oppressive nature of the state's interference, while containing many valuable insights, did not pay adequate regard to the need to enable individuals to exercise their rights. What Spencer formulated with deep conviction and intellectual strength in Britain was also expressed in continental Europe, particularly in France, and there developed a form of liberalism of which anti-etatisme (anti-statism) formed a central feature. Liberal attitudes suspicious of the state occupy a significant place in the political outlook and writings of Francois Guizot, Prime Minister of the liberal 'citizen king' Louis Phillippe, of Alexis de Tocqueville and even of the liberal politician Adolphe Thiers who later became the first President of the Third French Republic. The principal feature of the liberalism of this school, of those that advocated a minimal state, was that they believed that history as well as contemporary experience demonstrated the state to be the principal enemy of human freedom. This suspicion of the state was demonstrated by other liberal thinkers of the nineteenth century, among whom John Stuart Mill and Lord Acton took the lead, to be connected to the evil effects of power. A recognition that had run through the writings of Locke and Montesquieu, the political acts as well as the writings of Jefferson and Mirabeau, the arguments of the figures of the Scottish Enlightenment and of Macaulay and de Tocqueville, was now made explicit. It is this very simple truth about power, essential to an understanding of Liberalism, that is contained in the famous assertion of Lord Acton that All power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.'10 This recognition is inextricably related to the liberal emphasis on the importance of political and individual freedom even to the exclusion of military strength or material prosperity. Such an outlook, which found powerful expression in the nineteenth century and still remains a fundamental attitude of most liberals, was movingly expressed by Lord Acton: Now Liberty and good governance do not exclude each other; and there are excellent reasons why they should go together; but they do not necessarily go together. Liberty is not a means to a higher Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Evolution of the Liberal Idea


political end. It is itself the highestpolitical end. It is not for the sake of

a good public administration that it is required but for security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society and of private life. Increases of freedom in the state may sometimes produce mediocrity and give vitality to prejudice; it may even retard useful legislation, diminish the capacity for war and restrict the boundaries of Empire. It might be plausibly argued that, if many things would be worse in England or Ireland under an intelligent despotism, some things would be managed better ... A generous spirit prefers that his country should be poor and weak and of no account, but free, rather than powerful, prosperous and enslaved. It is better to be the citizen of a humble commonwealth in the Alps, without a prospect of influence beyond the narrow frontier, than a subject of the superb autocracy that overshadows half of Asia and of Europe.11 Apart from this principle however, many liberals believed — and experience has shown them to have been generally if not always right — that material prosperity and a better quality of life were more satisfactorily assured in free societies. Mill pointed out that: all free communities have both been more exempt from social injustice and crime, and have attained more brilliant prosperity, than any others, or than they themselves after they lost their freedom. Contrast the free states of the world, while their freedom lasted, with the contemporary subjects of monarchical or oligarchical despotism: the Italian republics, and the free towns of Flanders and Germany, with the feudal monarchies of Europe; Switzerland, Holland, and England, with Austria or antirevolutionary France. Their superior prosperity is too obvious ever to have been gainsaid: while their superiority in good government and social relations, is proved by the prosperity and is manifest besides in every page of history.12 Yet if the nineteenth century expressed the most coherent formulation of classical Liberalism and the case for the minimal state, which was to be powerfully restated in the twentieth century, it also saw the development of another, in this author's view, more socially

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10 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

responsible liberalism which has had as distinguished a redefinition in the twentieth century. It was unsurprising that as Britain faced the harsh consequences of the Industrial Revolution and the social deprivation that existed alongside the immense material prosperity of the second half of the nineteenth century, many liberals recognised that the liberal ideal of individual liberty must also be an enabling idea - that is to say that social and economic conditions needed to be created to ensure minimum standards of life for all, so that all persons would be able to exercise their liberties. The natural corollary of such a recognition was the view that the state could not be maintained simply as a minimal presence. It must rather in pursuit of certain principles become an interventionist instrument so as to help make freedom more real for the many. The interventionist or revisionist school of liberalism was one to which John Stuart Mill belonged and much in his writings, particularly his Principles of Political Economy, makes this clear. But the case for state intervention and for the limitation of the liberty of the individual in the economic sphere, so as to maximise the possibilities of liberty for a greater number of individuals, was most clearly made by the Oxford academic T H Green. In his Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation and Liberal Legislation andFreedom of Contract, Green argued that the state

had a moral right to intervene to ensure a better standard of living for the underprivileged, in the interests of justice and fairness and in the interests of increasing the real possibility of the exercise of individual rights. Green also criticised the notion of the atomised and wholly autonomous individual contained in much liberal thought as being unreal. His claim was that, while the individual was important, he/she could only exercise a meaningful existence in a social context and that the common good and social responsibility needed therefore to be recognised. Green's ideas, developed by those such as the journalist LT Hobhouse, inspired many interventionists in the British Liberal Party and led to the adoption of its Newcastle Programme at the end of the nineteenth century. Thus the philosophical foundations for the socially reforming liberal legislation of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was laid.

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The Evolution of the Liberal Idea


Despite his support for an interventionist attitude by the state, Green was firmly within the liberal mainstream in his attitude to private property and in his rejection of the central assumptions of socialist economics. He declared in his Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation:

We must bear in mind that the increased wealth of one man does not naturally mean the diminished wealth of another. We must not think of wealth as a given stock of commodities of which a larger share cannot fall to one without taking from the share that falls to another. The wealth of the world is constantly increasing in proportion as the constant production of new wealth by labour exceeds the constant consumption of what is already produced... Therefore in the accumulation of wealth, so far as it arises from the saving by anyone of the products of his labour, from his bequest of this capital to another who farther adds to it by saving some of the profit which the capital yields, as employed in the payment of labour or in trade either by the capitalist himself or someone to whom he lends it, and from the continuation of this process through generations, there is nothing which tends to lessen for anyone else the opportunities of ownership.13 The nineteenth century saw too the development of other rival conceptions of liberalism which are of interest. One of them, particular to continental Europe, was the liberalism that had its inspiration in nationalism. Nationalism, as an idea, is incompatible with liberalism. Nevertheless, in the nineteenth century, particularly in areas under foreign rule and seeking national cohesion and identity, liberalism was part of a nationalist movement. This was true of the movement in Poland against the oppression of Czarist rule, of the revolt of the Hungarians against Austrian domination, of the movement for German unification which culminated in the Frankfurt Parliament of 1848, and of the Italian Risorgimento. Thus nationalist leaders such as Louis Kossuth or Count Cavour or the figures of mid-nineteenth century German or Polish nationalism supported liberal attitudes. However, as the century progressed, the ultimate incompatibility of

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12 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

the two ideas was made evident by the ascendance in these nations of the nationalist spirit at the expense of the liberal one. Another significant school of nineteenth century liberalism contained a strong anti-clerical sentiment. This was particularly true of liberalism in countries in which the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church was strong. In Britain Liberalism was not particularly hostile to the clergy although many liberals opposed the idea of an established church and although there was a strong non-conformist, i.e. dissident protestant tradition in the British Liberal Party. There was in Britain a sharp division in the liberal attitude to foreign and colonial policy which led to the distinct schools of the Little Englanders and the Liberal Imperialists. Deriving some of their inspiration from the nationalist-liberal European tradition, the Little Englanders believed that the proper liberal course was to permit each nation to order its own affairs in its own way. The Liberal Imperialists, among whom the liberal Prime Ministers Lord Rosebery and Asquith were prominent, believed that liberals had a moral obligation to help ensure good government, freedom and justice wherever possible. They developed even with regard to colonialism the attitude that the justification of colonial rule lay in the interests of the governed. It was such an attitude that governed the drawing up of the Durham Report which led to the establishment of Dominion status for Canada, and to the enactment by the liberal Viceroy of India, Lord Ripon, of political reforms such as the Ilbert Bill, in the teeth of violent opposition from the British community in India at the time.14 The seeds of controversy between classical and revisionist Liberalism sown in the nineteenth century have blossomed in the twentieth century into two very powerful rival strands of liberalism of great intellectual authority. Among the most distinguished classical liberals of this century are FA Hayek, the greatest among them, and Robert Nozick, John Gray and Milton Friedman. Among the greatest revisionists are John Maynard Keynes (Lord Keynes) who, more than anyone else, was responsible for proposing the ideas that led the world out of the inter-war depression and into the productive era of the first two post-war decades, Lord Beveridge, whose report led to the establishment of the modern welfare state in Britain and has served to Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Evolution of the Liberal Idea


advance the frontiers of socially responsible and enabling Liberalism, the philosopher John Rawls and the economist John Kenneth Galbraith. But that both classical and revisionist liberals ultimately come together on the essential outlook which makes them liberals is evident from the following passage from the writings of John Maynard Keynes: The political problem of mankind is to combine three things, Economic Efficiency, Social Justice and Individual Liberty. The first needs criticism, precaution and technical knowledge, the second an unselfish and enthusiastic spirit that loves the ordinary man, the third tolerance, breadth, appreciation of the excellencies of variety and independence which prefers, above everything, to give unhindered opportunity to the exceptional and to the aspiring... The party that best combines these strengths is the Liberal Party, the party of Economic Individualism and Social liberty.15 Similarly Friedrich Hayek, the representative of what is often seen as a very different school of liberalism, also emphasised the essential characteristics of a Liberal in his view: To live and work successfully with others requires more than faithfulness to one's concrete aims. It requires an intellectual commitment to a type of order in which, even on issues which to one are fundamental, others are allowed to pursue different ends. It is for this reason that to the liberal neither moral nor religious ideas are proper objects of coercion while both conservatives and socialists recognise no such limits. I sometimes feel that the most conspicuous attribute of liberalism that distinguishes it as much from conservatism as from socialism is the view that moral beliefs concerning matters of conduct which do not directly interfere with the protected sphere of other persons do not justify coercion. This may also explain why it seems to be so much easier for the repentant socialist to find a new spiritual home in the conservative fold than in the liberal.16 With this introduction to the history of liberalism, the next chapter will deal with the presentation of its ideological character as exemplified Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

14 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

in the writings of the great liberal theorists, and particularly those who have made clear its overwhelming relevance to the present day and age.

Endnotes 1. DJ Manning, Liberalism, J M Dent & Sons, London, 1982, pp. 11-2. 2. Sir Thomas More, Utopia, Everyman Library, Warrington, 1992, p. 119. The quotations from More that follow are from subsequent pages. Many of the quotations from historical authorities that are used here were cited by Manning, in the seminal study from which the superscription to this chapter is taken. 3. Erasmus, Works, Leyden, 1702, Letters, Appendix, p. cxxi. 4. In the reply to Luther's rebuttal of his De Liberte Arbitro, in which Erasmus had openly challenged what he saw as the excesses of the Protestants. 5. John Gray, Liberalism, Open University Press, Milton Keynes, 1986, p. 90. 6. Ibid., pp. 90-91. 7. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, ed. P Laslett, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1967, p. 368. 8. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, A Millar, London, 1790, p. 235. 9. Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus The State, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1969. 10. Lord Acton, Historical Essays and Studies, ed. JN Figgis and RV Laurence, MacMillan & Co. Ltd., London, 1907, Appendix. 11. Lord Acton, 'The History of Freedom in Antiquity' in Selected Writings of Lord Acton, Volume 1: Essays in the History of Liberty, ed. J Rufus Fears, Liberty Classics, Indianapolis, 1985, pp. 22-23. Emphasis added. 12. John Stuart Mill, 'Considerations on Representative Government' in On Liberty and Other Essays, ed. John Gray, Oxford University Press, London, 1991, p. 247. 13. T H Green, Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation and Other Writings, ed. Paul Harris and John Morrow, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1986, pp. 174-175. 14. See Chris Cook, A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-1976, Macmillan, London, 1976; Robert Rhodes James, Rosebery, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1963; and Roy Jenkins, Asquith, Collins, London, 1964. 15. John Maynard Keynes, Essays in Persuasion, London, 1947, pp. 344-345. 16. FA Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1970, p. 402.

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2 The Fundamentals of Liberalism CHANAKA AMARATUNGA

In both political and intellectual terms, liberalism is at present in the midst of a powerful advance. The word revival is deliberately not being used in this context. Certainly, the recentfloweringof liberal writing in Western Europe and North America, which has made the intellectual running in this respect in the modern era, testifies to the revival of interest in a form of ideological writing that had been surpassed in influence during the very different intellectual debates of the 1930s and after. But at the directly political level, that is to say with regard to direct influence in terms of political parties and political programmes, 'revival' is an inappropriate word because the last decade has seen, in fact, an advance of liberal ideas and values in areas where they had seldom or never existed in the past. In a sense the process initially began as an enterprise at the highest level of ideas to combat the apparent mastery of the Marxist left and its intellectual, though bitterly hostile kinsman, the Fascist right. But the process was undertaken with a power of thought and expression which, though slow to make converts, has at last impacted upon the intellectual consciousness of the world with an unvanquishable authority: the writings of Friedrich Hayek, of Karl Popper, of Isaiah Berlin have nowflowedinto and become the mainstream of ideas. And thus today an explicit interest in liberalism as an ideology accompanies an advance of liberalism across the political agenda and at the ballot box. But while at one level the advancement of liberalism is recognised, at another, certainly in countries which can, in the liberal sense, be described as free, liberalism has always been, if not the overtly dominant

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16 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

ideology, then the core idea, the basis of actual political discourse, rather than merely one idea among many. In free societies liberal ideas are implicit in the very nature of human life, in the very structure and form of human relationships. Tolerance of diversity, the value of debate, the opportunity for choice, the integrity of individual personality, a belief in the potential improbability of persons through the acquisition of knowledge and experience and skills, an acknowledgment of the validity of individual judgments — all these are liberal ideas, and they are based upon analysis and argument about man and society and upon acceptance of fundamentals which, however unrecognised and inexplicit, are the foundations of liberalism. At the first level at which this author considers the state of liberalism, it was absent from South Asia until it was introduced in Sri Lanka by the Council for Liberal Democracy and the Liberal Party.1 But at the second level, although it is clear that an important aspect of the current crises that confront us is the betrayal of liberal values, liberal assumptions are deeply ingrained in all our societies. Liberalism, as a core idea, is less distant from Sri Lanka than from many of the world's nation-states. But what is this liberalism which now enjoys a new lease of intellectual and political life? What are its characteristics, what is the basis of its validity, what is the worth it bears over its rivals in the ideological spectrum and what is the place it is likely to create for itself in the world of the future? The back cover of John Gray's book Uberalism rightly describes the idea he celebrates as 'the project of theorising political institutions for the government of an individualist society'. Gray, Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, before taking up a Chair in London, has become one of the leading new exponents of liberalism. His studies of the two men one can regard as the principal liberal thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Hayek, are of the first rank. In particular he deals perceptively with their conceptions of what DJ Manning in his book Uberalism rightly asserts is the first concern of the liberal, namely Liberty. Mill on Liberty; a Defence and Hayek on Liberty powerfully introduced John Gray to those interested in liberal ideas and he has further developed this central liberal concern Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Fundamentals of Liberalism


in Conceptions of Liberty in Political Philosophy, the volume of essays he

edited jointly with his fellow Oxford academic Zbigniew Polczynski. He has contributed too to a fascinating collection of essays published under the title Marxism and Uberalism? Gray's essay in that volume, 'Marxian Freedom, Individual Liberty and the End of Alienation', is a determined defence of the Liberal conception of liberty and individuality against the Marxist notion of human liberation. The basis of liberal ideology is to be found in a particular conception of man and society which has four distinct characteristics. Only the existence of a conception of man that combines these four elements may be said to be truly liberal. The hallmark of liberalism then, is that it is an ideology that is individualist, egalitarian, universalist and meliorist. Liberalism is: individualist, in that it asserts the moral primacy of the person against the claims of any social collectivity; egalitarian, in as much as it confers on all men the same moral status and denies the relevance to legal or political order of differences in moral worth among human beings; universalist, affirming the moral unity of the human species and according a secondary importance to specific historic associations and cultural forms; and meliorist in its affirmation of the corrigibility and improvability of all social institutions and political arrangements.3 These characteristics have given liberalism its distinctive identity over centuries as an ideology of individuality, tolerance, enlightenment and radicalism, and has firmly placed it upon the progressive side of the political divide. In Sri Lanka and indeed in much of the Third World, particularly in those states which have emerged out of colonialism in the twentieth century, liberalism is hardly familiar and the idea of it as commonplace would hardly concur with the description of it as radical and progressive. Both these terms have, in much of the Third World, certainly in Sri Lanka and generally in South Asia, falsely become synonymous with the politics of Marxism and of full-blooded socialism. Among some political groups 'progressiveness' has come to be associated with what to the liberal is the worst of all possible worlds, the combination of

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18 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

collectivist economics with aggressive nationalism, cultural chauvinism and indeed racism. The ideologies that underpin a sincere socialism and a strong nationalism/racism are by no means the same, but the similarity of their intellectual antecedents is established by their common appeal to a collective ideal. Considered in terms of these fundamentals, liberalism shares with Marxism a universalist conception of man, albeit that alone of the characteristics detailed above. Marxism and full-blooded socialism view politics and indeed human beings and national development through the distorting and one-dimensional vision of the class struggle and the simplistic notion that all life is explicable through an analysis of economic relations. It has no room for individualism, and its conception of man is in the Liberal sense neither meliorist nor egalitarian. It may seem strange that it could be asserted that Marxism, as well as full-blooded socialism, are not egalitarian. The ascription to them of inegalitarianism is based upon the liberal egalitarianism which emphasises the equal moral status conferred upon each person in the development of the political order. What is meant by such an understanding of egalitarianism is that the state preserves the widest possible neutrality among rival conceptions of the good, and that individuals are provided equal protection in the assertion of their chosen form. The Marxist and indeed the right wing totalitarian, even the milder authoritarian, all erect a structure which does not recognise the real possibility of rival conceptions of the good. They believe that a particular group, be it the working class, a specific racial group or those who 'truly understand the nature of society' have a special status that confers moral excellence and is worth protection. A conservative conception of society, and indeed a socialist one too, subscribe to a less intolerant version of the same attitude by demonstrating themselves to be, throughout history, the ideologies of special interests. In the Britain of today, it is still noticeable that the Conservatives are largely the party of the financial, entrepreneurial and agricultural interests, while the Labour Party is the party of the working class and of large groups of lower income employees, particularly in the state sector (teachers being a good example). Even the West German SDP is often described as the party of teachers. Liberals on the other hand, as demonstrated Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Fundamentals of Liberalism


for a long time by the British Liberal Party, do not serve particular interests. The great Victorian Liberal Prime Minister Gladstone declared that all the world over he would back the masses against the classes. He did not mean that he would support the numerical majority or the economically disadvantaged, he meant that he would back the non-particularist sentiment against the special interest groups. It is in that sense of ascribing worth only upon the basis of shared conviction and not upon socio-economic interests that the liberal subscribes to a more refined egalitarianism than his socialist or conservative rivals. In the more conventional understanding of the concept, liberalism is not, of course, an egalitarian idea. Social and economic equality is rightly viewed by the liberal as a hindrance to that liberty which is his primary value. Indeed in the simplest definition of the world's ideologies it could be said that the primary value of the socialist (and here is included the Marxist) is equality, the conservative's is hierarchy and order, and the fascist's is nationality or race; for the liberal the primary value is liberty. As part and parcel of this, however, is the consistent liberal belief that John Gray uncompromisingly asserts in the philosophical part of his work when he declares that, 'private property is the embodiment of individual liberty in its most primordial form and market freedoms are indivisible components in the basic liberties of the person.'4 Gray suggests that this is not the view of what he terms revisionist liberals, but while sometimes the emphases may fall differently, this principle lies at the heart of all versions of liberalism. It has, after all, received a powerful advocacy in liberal writings, from those of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, David Hume and other leading figures of the Scottish-Enlightenment in the eighth century, through those of Alexis de Tocqueville, Benjamin Constant, John Stuart Mill and Lord Acton in the nineteenth century to those of FA Hayek, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Popper and many others in the twentieth century. The consequences of equality, an idea that has a simplistic appeal, particularly to those given to an interest in ideas that are emotive - which is doubtless what led Raymond Aron, the fine French Liberal of our times, to christen it 'the opium of the intellectuals'5 - is what prompted the German Liberal politician and academic Ralf Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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Dahrendorf to write that equality is not only unattainable, it is also a terrible idea. Regrettably those consequences have not been sufficiently explored and exposed in South Asia. It will also become clear that an ideology based on class and economics, such as Marxism, which is totally dependent upon a determinist world view, cannot be meliorist: it cannot believe that man, individual man, can improve himself or that his creations, including political, social and economic institutions, are capable of being reformed. When Lord Macaulay declared, We need reform, more reform, constant reform. But we desire more reform in order to preserve not to destroy', he was proclaiming in essence the liberal view of conflict which is based upon a meliorist conception of man. The Marxist conception of a non-meliorist and therefore incorrigible man is made clear when Macaulay's words are contrasted with those of Lenin - *We shall destroy everything and on the ruins we shall build our temple'. The rival understanding of conflict upon which these radically different attitudes to change are based is set forth with an abundant clarity by Ralph Miliband in Marxism and Politics-. In the liberal view of politics, conflict exists in terms of 'problems' which need to be 'solved'. The hidden assumption is that conflict does not, or need not, run very deep, that it can be managed by the exercise of reason and good will, and a readiness to compromise and agree. On this view, politics is not civil war by other means but a constant process of bargaining and accommodation, on the basis of accepted procedures, and between parties who have decided as a preliminary that they could and wanted to live together more or less harmoniously. Not only is this sort of conflict not injurious to society, it has positive advantages: it is not only civili2ed, but also civilising. It is not only a means of resolving problems in a peaceful way, but also of producing new ideas, ensuring progress, achieving ever greater harmony and so on. Conflict is 'functional', a stabilising rather than a disruptive force. The Marxist approach to conflict is very different. It is not a matter of 'problems' to be 'solved' but of a state of domination and subjection to be ended by a total transformation of the conditions which give rise to it. No doubt conflict may be attenuated but Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Fundamentals of Liberalism 21

only because the ruling class is able by one means or another — of coercion, concessions or persuasion - to prevent the subordinate classes from seeking emancipation. Ultimately, stability is not a matter of reason but of force. The antagonists are irreconcilable and the notion of genuine harmony is a deception or a delusion, at least in relation to class societies.6 What of nationalism, the other ideology that in the Third World is too often erroneously regarded as progressive? To the liberal this is perhaps the more regressive ideology than Marxism or full-blooded socialism because its conception of man is not only collectivist, it is also more ruthless in its complete indifference to the aspirations of those outside its charmed circle of interest. The nationalist's devotion is to a particular people or to a race and such devotion cannot be transposed, or achieved by outsiders. It is therefore the secular variant of the worst excesses of Calvinism and believes in an elect, a chosen people who, because of historical, racial or cultural affinities, have the right to a special political inheritance. Nationalism is more fully repugnant to liberalism than is Marxism because it is devoid of any of the characteristics this author ascribed to liberalism. Not only is nationalism oblivious to the status and rights of the individual, who is seen as nothing outside the special community, be it a nation, a race or a religious group, that is deemed worthy of approbation; it is inegalitarian in both the liberal and the conventional sense, it is anti-universalist by its fundamental nature, and of course by ascribing a fixed moral status to a community it denies the prospect of the improvability of mankind and therefore is not meliorist. If neither Marxism nor nationalism are radical or progressive, and if conservatism is by its own admission not so, what makes liberalism both a radical and progressive ideology? An answer to that can be formulated more clearly through a consideration of one of John Gray's assertions which, while being put forth with a great deal of intellectual strength, is nevertheless unacceptable. The present author refers to the distinction John Gray makes between classical and revisionist liberalism. Two central principles form the bedrock of classical liberalism, the conceptions of the limited state and of the free market. These Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

22 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

classical liberal attitudes have been revived, apart from in John Gray's own work, most notably in the writings of Hayek, Milton Friedman and in an extreme form (now called Iibertarianism) in those of Robert Nozick (as for instance A.narchy, State and Utopia). A central assertion of Gray's Uberalism is that liberalism was subjected to a major rupture when John Stuart Mill developed what Gray calls its 'revisionist' form. There is no particular disagreement with Gray when he characterises as 'revisionist' what has hitherto been described as 'modern liberalism' (e.g., Sir Isaiah Berlin in Your Assays on Liberty, particularly the essay on 'John Stuart Mill and the Ends of life'). Gray's view that 'revisionist' liberalism contains attitudes and features which are illiberal and that both past and present classical liberals are more truly liberal is unacceptable. To whatever school they may belong, liberals accept that freedom (or liberty), is their primary value. But there are many principles which spring from that primary value and which are essential precepts of liberalism. The relative merits of classical as opposed to revisionist liberalism are derived from the varying importance ascribed by different thinkers to these precepts which, though all of them are necessary to make up liberalism, are not equally central to its core idea. It should be made clear at once that it is not a simple divide between the relative moral claims of positive and negative liberty that is of concern here. What had been powerfully advanced in the writings of de Tocqueville, Constant, Mill and Lord Acton has been made explicit in recent times in the writings of Isaiah Berlin. After the publication of his brilliant Two Concepts of Liberty' there is no excuse for not recognising that it is precisely the differences between positive and negative liberty that distinguish the liberal from the socialist. No liberal can believe in the positive form of liberty, 'freedom to', as being more fundamentally necessary than the negative form 'freedom from', which is that freedom that protects the individual from external interference. This freedom of the individual in which liberals believe is primarily a freedom that permits each individual to follow his own values and to pursue his own path towards self-realisation. It is Mill who most passionately and convincingly asserted the centrality of Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Fundamentals of Liberalism 23

individual liberty and most effectively set out the dangers of populist democracy, untrammelled rule by the numerical majority and the tyranny of social conformism. The weakness of some, particularly the modern exponents of classical liberalism, is that they have subscribed to a selective partial and inadequate conception of negative liberty which has led them to elevate to the status of absolute liberal principles their conceptions of limited government and the free market. These may, in a general sense, be vitally necessary means to the achievement of individual freedom and self-realisation, but they are not liberal absolutes. It would be an exaggeration to portray Mill as anything more than the mildest of interventionists. Most of his works, and particularly On Liberty and Considerations on Representative Government, make clear his

staunch support for limited government. Again, in several speeches and essays as well as in Principles of Political Economyy he has supported the market economy. Equally his passion against conformity, social pressure and the blind adherence to tradition indicate the fullness of his commitment to freedom. Gray, however, claims that Mill weakened the commitment to limited government by contemplating a larger role for the state, particularly in socio-economic issues, and thereby anticipated the modern welfare state. Gray's view is that in this, and in his contemplation of limitations on the freedoms of the market, however small these may be in comparison to the prescriptions of socialists, and in his attacks on custom and tradition, Mill displayed illiberal tendencies. Gray's contention that it was such tendencies that embarked liberalism on a dangerousflirtationwith collectivist ideas is based upon an undoubtedly powerful understanding of liberalism which nevertheless devalues, if not disregard, its essence. In finding the exponents of the Scottish Enlightenment more congenial than Mill, John Gray, like Hayek, Friedman, Paul Johnson and so many others, approaches liberalism not by asserting the primacy of freedom for the individual and opposing any institutions, policies or attitudes that restrict it, but by believing that limited government and a free market are sufficient conditions of individual liberty. Such thinkers then make the further erroneous

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24 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

assumption that non-intervention, principally in the economic sphere, constitutes limited government. Hayek and Gray are genuine liberals who have contributed much to the development of liberal ideas. But Hayek's belief in order and tradition as values that may contribute to liberty, a belief with which Gray concurs, while not entirely irrelevant, is nevertheless less expressive of the liberal point of view than Mill's assertion of individuality and freedom, both political and social. Furthermore, the classical liberals, Hayek and his disciples and even Gray, also define liberalism too much in terms of its economic principles. The market economy is certainly an important component of liberalism but the market economy is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Hayek and Gray of course recognise this but Uberalism and Hayek's many writings, particularly Law, Legislation and Liberty, which is subtitled A New Statement of the Uberal Principles of Justice and Political

Hconomy, overemphasise economic and structural arrangements and do not give enough emphasis to individual and political freedom. The present author's view of liberalism has always been that it is an ideology that is concerned with economics only in so far as economic arrangements help or hinder liberty. It is values other than the material, values which go to the essence of the personality, that are the first concern of the liberal. Mill set forth his creed, every word of which seems to convey not only the idea but also the tone of true liberalism, as follows: It comprises, first, the inward domain of consciousness; demanding liberty of conscience, in the most comprehensive sense; liberty of thought and feeling; absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral or theological. The liberty of expressing and publishing opinions may seem to fall under a different principle, since it belongs to that part of the conduct of an individual which concerns other people; but, being almost of as much importance as the liberty of thought itself, and resting in great part on the same reasons, is practically inseparable from it. Secondly, the principle requires liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of life to suit our own character; of doing as we like, subject Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Fundamentals of Liberalism 25

to such consequences as may follow: without impediment from our fellow creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse or wrong. Thirdly, from this liberty of each individual follows the liberty, within the same limits, of some combination among individuals; freedom to unite, for any purpose not involving harm to others; the persons combining being supposed to be of full age, and not forced or deceived.7 Mill defined his use of the term 'harm to others' as being the restriction from any other peron of the liberties one enjoyed oneself. This comprehensive conception of liberalism led Mill to avoid the error made by Hayek, by John Gray and of course by the new right who are not liberals but for the most part Conservatives or former Socialists, of seeing the nineteenth century (and the pre 1914 twentieth century) as the unalloyed golden era of Liberalism. While it is true that in parts of Europe, and in particular in Britain, in many respects there were then fewer constraints on what a person might do, there were three important respects in which the period cannot be described as a golden era of liberalism. The first was the existence of illiberal social attitudes, greater pressure towards conformity, a greater power of intolerant religion and the existence of a stringent penal code that violated the personal independence that Mill so passionately championed. Thus a Victorian Briton could travel abroad without a passport but he could not write a strong pamphlet against the Church of England or against Christianity in general. He could buy goods from abroad on the same terms that he bought them at home but he would face harsh punishment if found guilty of a crime, he could be hanged for a variety of offences; if he were a homosexual he risked imprisonment as well as public disgrace. And women of course were denied any political rights at all. The second deficiency was that the absence of the welfare state made poverty so serious that a good many people, apart from being denied the franchise, could not effectively exercise their liberty. One does not have to believe in the primacy of positive liberty to recognise that a society in which more people can truly exercise individual liberty is a more liberal society than one in which the exercise of liberty is Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

26 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

inhibited by restraints arising from social deprivation. Such restraints may be contingencies, but they are nevertheless no less limiting, and where they are widespread the main principle of liberalism is vitiated. Finally the nineteenth century was the heyday of colonialism and the many illiberal attitudes connected with it. While the author believes very strongly indeed that for many post-colonial countries the period of colonialism was an experience closer to the liberal idea of freedom than a spurious independence which has meant the right of indigenous dictators to brutalise their people, it nonetheless remains impossible that a truly liberal state and society can exist in which people are denied political rights and are subjected to various forms of discrimination, including most obviously those based on race. Mill and the school of revisionist liberalism saw all this. His essay 'On Uberty\ which has remained the finest liberal statement ever, was written as a passionate statement against the illiberalism of what Hayek and Gray have hailed as the 'liberal Era'. To the true liberal there has been no 'liberal Era', for though much of what the nineteenth century lacked in social and political freedom was obtained in the twentieth century, it was often at a tremendous price and has been offset by the great advance of statism and economic collectivism. The danger that the world faces now is that a relatively free market will be restored only at the price of social attitudes that involve prejudice, racism, censorship and enormous state power. The liberal may want a free market but his priority is individual liberty in the widest sense. Mill is triumphantly vindicated as the incomparable liberal thinker because he anticipated all the concerns of the modern lover of freedom. It seems indeed one of the most remarkable, indeed most exalted moments of man, that Mill writing in the nineteenth century could set out the distinction between individual liberty and democracy, consider the tyranny of the majority, make the case for proportional representation, articulate the dangers of excessive state power, argue the case for equality for women, sketch out the dangers of social conformism and inveigh against the evils of racism. Where even a great and deeply sincere liberal like Lord Acton could do what for us seems inconceivable and support the American South in the Civil Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Fundamentals of Liberalism 27

War (asserting the principle of states' rights and ignoring what, for us, seems the unignorable issue of slavery), and where many other classical liberals remained oblivious to the real tragedy of repression in the colonies or to poverty at home, John Stuart Mill never fails the modern liberal. By asserting the centrality of liberty, and then applying it with a refinement and consistency that is breathtaking both in its intellectual brilliance and in its nobility of spirit, Mill helped create a Liberalism for all seasons. In the twentieth century Isaiah Berlin has closely followed him in a tradition that believes that liberalism is not about material things or even ultimately about constitutional relationships but about the real freedom of real individuals. The classical liberal critique of this tradition that is clearly articulated by John Gray is not convincing. An essential consequence of the liberal belief in the primacy of the individual has been the recognition that totalitarianism and intolerance are not only the products of individual dictators and of unpopular regimes but can equally well be characteristic of majorities. The writings of Mill, de Tocqueville, Benjamin Constant and in this century OrtegaYGasset, 8 are informed with this danger of which South Asia today is only too well aware. Mill himself asserted: Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own.9 The dangerous pressures towards conformity and the evil posed by mass psychology were strikingly presented by the French Liberal Benjamin Constant in his comments on the role played by the crowd during the French Revolution: The crowd, corrupted by both the danger and example, tremulously repeated the slogan required of them, and took fright at the sound of their own voice. Everyone formed part of the multitude and was afraid of the multitude he had helped to enlarge. It was then Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

28 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

that there spread over France the unaccountable light-headedness which has been called the reign of terror.10 Of all the characteristics of liberalism, those which confer upon it its greatest moral worth are its individualism, the centrality accorded in it to liberty, and its universality. In a world, a region and a country torn by sectarianism and intolerance of various kinds, the article is concluded therefore with the words of D J Manning: The liberal concept of citizenship is to be applied to men regardless of their pedigree. It is not an identity restricted to members of a religion, a nation, a class or a race. Calvin's Institutes, von Treischce's Politics, Marx's Communist Manifesto and Hitler's Mein Kampfzte. each addressed to an exclusive group. They are not intended to inspire Catholics, Frenchmen, Capitalists and Jews, only Protestants, Germans, workers and Aryans respectively. In contrast, it is to mankind as a whole that liberals have, without major exception, addressed themselves. Their fellow countrymen have been the most immediate audience, but never an exclusive one. There are no national liberalisms.11

Endnotes 1. It is now making its presence felt elsewhere, in various think-tanks in India and most notably in the Pakistan Liberal Forum. 2. Ellen Frankel Paul, Jeffrey Paul, Fred D Miller Jr and John Ahrens, Marxism and Liberalism, Blackwell, Oxford, 1986. 3. John Gray, Liberalism, 1986, Introduction, p. x. 4. Ibid., p. 63. 5. Raymond Aron, The Opium of the Intellectuals, Seeker & Warburg, London, 1957. 6. Ralph Miliband, Marxism and Politics, Oxford University Press, London, 1977, p. 17. 7. John Stuart Mill, 'On Liberty' in On Liberty and Other Essays, 1991, pp. 16-17. 8. He expounds the position clearly in Invertebrate Spain, New York, 1937, p. 125. Democracy answers this question - 'Who ought to exercise the public power?' The answer it gives is - the exercise of public power belongs to the citizens as a body. But this question does not touch on what should be the realm of the public power. It is solely concerned with determining to whom such power belongs.

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The Fundamentals of Liberalism


Democracy proposes that we all rule; that is, that we are sovereign in all social acts. Liberalism, on the other hand, answers this other question - 'regardless of who exercises the public power, what should its limits be?' The answer it gives 4 Whether the public power is exercised by an autocrat or by the people, it cannot be absolute: the individual has rights which are over and above any interference by the state.' 9. John Stuart Mill, 'On Liberty' in On Liberty and Other Essays, 1991, p. 9. 10. Cited in John Plamenatz, Readings from Liberal Writers, (Part 2 Chapter 7 'Of the Means Employed to Give to the Moderns the Liberty of the Ancients; Of the Spirit of Conquest'), Oxford University Press, London, 1965, p. 209. 11. DJ Manning, Liberalism, 1982, p. 80.

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3 Historical Roots of South Asian Liberalism NlRGUNAN TlRUCHELVAM

The last two decades have seen in South Asia the resilience of liberal democratic traditions in the face of formidable challenges. In India and Sri Lanka, liberal democracy survived difficulties such as sectarian conflict and human rights violations. In Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, liberal democratic institutions were revived after several years of authoritarianism. This is more remarkable in that for many years it was fashionable to claim that liberal democracy was in fact unsuitable for former colonies, and that they would, instead, do well to follow one or the other of the authoritarian models that had established themselves elsewhere in Asia. Such claims, whether advocating the merits of left or right wing authoritarianism, poured scorn not only on liberalism but even democracy as being relics of colonialism that were unsuitable for nations anxious to develop speedily. The sorry results of the other experiments that were tried in the region bear witness perhaps to the universal applicability and efficacy of the liberal democratic model. The rest of the chapter takes a brief glance at two aspects of the historical background to what is called the tradition of South Asian liberal democracy. It is not necessary for this purpose to spend time on what might be termed the strictly political element in this, since the need for democratic institutions and practices is no longer in question. What is more important, given too the theme of this book, is the distinctive liberal contribution to the debate, since it may be argued that the recognition and acceptance of a coherent socio-political outlook is vital if the problems of recent years are not to be renewed. In looking at a couple of historical examples of this contribution, the present author would like to suggest that liberalism has been a

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Historical Roots of South Asian Liberalism 31

significant component of the political culture of the region both from its emergence into the modern era as well as from historic times. In looking over the past, it can be accepted that the articulation of liberalism in the modern age owes much to colonial influence.The first area that this chapter explores then will be the impact of colonialism on the liberal outlook of the region. After all, as far as democracy itself goes, it was colonialism that was its crucible in South Asia. Whatever the drawbacks of colonialism in terms of democracy itself, it has to be recognised that colonial influences helped, for instance, to mould the democratic inclinations of Western-educated leaders like Nehru and Jinnah, the internal democracy within the Congress-led nationalist movement, and the participation of Congressmen in elections and legislatures prior to independence. Equally important contributions of colonialism to the institutionalisation of a liberal democratic polity were traditions of constitutional government, freedom of the press, an effective civil service, and an apolitical armed force. It would be myopic then in commenting on the resilience of liberal democracy in South Asia, or still more on the existence of a South Asian Liberalism, to ignore the political traditions inherited from the British. At the same time it is necessary to comment on how the denizens of South Asia chose those elements that accorded with their own situation. In absorbing the liberal values enunciated most clearly in the West in the colonial period, they were also aware of the debate within the liberal tradition that has been alluded to earlier in this book, and they contributed to this debate in the light of their own concerns.

Liberal Imperialism British colonialism in South Asia began as a commercial enterprise in the eighteenth century. From 1757 onwards, the British East India Company aggressively pursued its commercial aims in India. However, when liberal constitutionalism gained currency in Britain during the nineteenth century, 'imperialism with a new face' began to emerge. It is important to examine the impact of the Anglo-Saxon liberal tradition on colonialism - the interface between the events in early nineteenth century Britain and the style of colonialism.

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32 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

In spite of the fact that there was no organised Liberal Party in Britain until the 1860s, liberal values and ideas were gaining ground within early Victorian England. One can identify, amongst those who contributed to this, aristocratic Whigs, classical political economists, Tory Peelites, and Benthamite utilitarians. Broadly speaking, one can speak of liberalism as a framework that necessarily includes, albeit in the midst of other less universally acceptable factors, a belief in constitutional government and individual freedom. An important aspect of this, in terms of its impact on other societies that accepted these principles, was that the British liberals sought to break down individual allegiances to group identities involving patronage and status. Other areas in which triumphs for liberal causes in Britain in the first part of the nineteenth century proved significant were the repeal of the Corn Laws and the expansion of suffrage. In both areas the principles involved were crucial for the development of the liberal democratic outlook as it was to take root elsewhere. In the midst of these advances in the 1840s and 1850s, British liberals saw India as a laboratory for other views too. India would become a testing ground for ideas such as state sponsored education, the codification of law, or a competitively chosen bureaucracy. John Stuart Mill's father James Mill, who was an official in the East India Company, wrote a classic History of British India in 1818. In this book the elder Mill viewed India as a society which had stagnated. By stagnation Mill was referring to the underdeveloped nature of Indian political institutions, which he compared to medieval feudalism. The remedy for this malaise was the creation of a system of laws that would create individual property rights. The liberal imperialist school of thought was further developed by John Stuart Mill. Mill applied the xiniversalism of liberal thought, in the only way in which it was perhaps possible in that day and age, to British colonialism. Forceful as was his account of the need for representative government, it was limited by his insistence that environment should dictate whether a people could enjoy its benefits. Countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and Canada were entitled to immediate self-government because they shared a common culture with Britain. With regard to India, however, his view was that further development Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

Historical Roots of South Asian Liberalism 33

was necessary. He felt in effect that the empire would have a civilising impact on the Indians. The role of the British Raj in India was to carry the country through several stages of development and clear away obstacles to civic improvement. The main policy impact of views such as this on the civilising role as it were of the British Raj was the famous Macaulay Minute in 1835. This Minute on Education was designed to create a class of Indians educated in the English language who were to be English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. The fulfilment of the British connection with India would thus involve the complete transformation of India's culture and society. Underlying this aim, indeed implicit in the policy to create an anglicised elite, was a belief in the superiority of the British civilisation. Macaulay, it has to be remembered, scorned the 'entire native literature of India and Arabia' as not 'worth a single shelf of a good European library'.1 A more practical and perhaps more effective projection of liberal values in India began in earnest with the transformation of the Raj after the events of 1857. Prior to the Sepoy Mutiny (referred to in modern India as the first great war of independence), the East India Company had administered India somewhat along the lines of a garrison state. From 1857, direct rule by the British government began. Several institutions of higher learning were established in that year including the Universities of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. Apart from education, the other consequence of the Macaulay Minute was the codification of English laws in India. The codes of civil and criminal procedure which were enacted in India in the 1860s were very similar to those of England. The impact of developments in these two areas made it possible for Indians in turn to develop their own liberal outlook and through it to challenge British assumptions.

The Emergence of the Indian Liberal Tradition in the Nineteenth Century As a result of the proliferation of the British educational and legal system, the latter part of the nineteenth century was marked by the rise of an Indian liberal tradition. The present author will content himself here with examining the contribution of one of the most influential Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

34 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

and prominent of the Indian liberals, M G Ranade (1842-1901), and then noting some opposition to his views.2 Ranade was one of the first to provide a liberal critique of the Indian society. He was one of the first Indian civil servants and was, in a sense, a product of the liberal imperial project. His thought can be divided into three parts; (i) the role of the state; (ii) his views on liberty and equality; and (iii) elitism. Ranade was in favour of an interventionist state of a particular kind. He fully concurred with Mill when he advocated state guidance and aid to encourage and nurture the spirit of individual effort. The state had a role in providing education and other social services to promote individual liberty. At the same time it should be noted that in highlighting the need for individual liberty, Ranade was perhaps most concerned with the institutionalisation of property rights for individuals. His views, however, must be seen in the context of the transitional state of the Indian economy in the late nineteenth century. The country was making the transition from a feudal economy to a capitalist economy. To create the conditions for the commercialisation of this largely agricultural economy, it was important to establish the institution of private property. Ranade compared the situation in India in the late nineteenth century to that of Europe in the early nineteenth century. In Russia, the emancipation of the serfs had led to material and commercial property. Ranade wanted similar principles to be followed in the enactment of laws regulating land relations in India. Nevertheless, Ranade thought that agriculture in India needed 'the leading and the light of the propertied men'.3 Ranade was one of the prime movers behind the Bengal Tenancy Bill of 1883. Ranade advocated state action at the same time, not only for supplementing and supporting private enterprise and for protecting indigenous industry from foreign competition, but also for protecting the weaker sections of society (a cliched expression in modern India). He was in favour of minimum rent legislation for the poor. An important idea which Ranade developed in his essay entitled Indian Political Economy' was that the state had to intervene to protect the

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Historical Roots of South Asian Liberalism 35

interests of the weaker groups of society within the framework of capitalism. The second aspect of Ranade's liberal thought was his belief in individual freedom. Human rationality provides individuals with the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Ranade was very critical of the religious customs and traditions such as the caste system which restricted individual liberty in India. In his writing, Ranade stressed that the caste system is not an essential characteristic of Hindu philosophy. Similarly, with regard to women's rights, Ranade pointed out that in Vedic times women used to take an equal part in religious rites and the deliberations of the state. All in all, Ranade felt that Indian society should undergo a transformation so that the liberty of the individual is enlarged, social equality is established and the status of women improved. The third important aspect of Ranade's form of liberalism, and perhaps the most significant, as we consider the historical development of the liberal tradition, is its elitism. Ranade held that 'power must gravitate where there is intelligence and wealth'. He thought that only the elites were capable of providing direction and control over the complex process of India's transition from feudalism to liberalism. He believed that in backward, agricultural societies like India 'there is always a minority of people who monopolise all the elements of strength'. Ranade's elite group consisted of Brahmins, Banias, Zamindars and the educated middle class. These were the educated classes in the nineteenth century in India. This elitism has to be seen in the light of the fact that it was these educated classes which provided the backbone of liberalism against the conservative forces which were at work. The civil services and the legislative councils consisted mainly of the Brahmins, and it was these Ranade relied on to transform society as required. Ranade drew his liberal elitism from John Stuart Mill who said it was the privilege of the intellectual elite to see to the 'futurity of the species'. He sought to reconcile democracy and rule by the educated elite, and to Ranade too this seemed a natural possibility. He was after all, like Mill, against the indolence of aristocrats. He pointed out that while agriculture required

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36 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

'the leading light of the propertied men', the influence of aristocrats was futile if they were uneducated and unskilled. With varying intensity, Ranade's ideas were shared by other Indian liberals such as Gokhale, Mehta, Bannerji and Naoroji. The transition to liberal society and polity was to be brought about in all spheres of society under the leadership of the elite by using moderate methods. This gradualist approach was favoured by several South Asian leaders such as Nehru, Jinnah, Maulana Azad and D S Senanayake. The Ranade school of liberalism, though dominant, was not universally accepted. A leading critic of the Ranade school of liberalism was Mahatma Phule (1827-90). He opposed the elitism of the Ranade school and put forward an alternative liberal framework for the liberation of the depressed castes, i.e. the sudras. Phule, who was influenced by the revolutionary liberalism of Thomas Paine, was himself from a depressed caste background. His book Sarvayanik Satyadharma Pustak restated the liberal principles contained in Paine's Rights of Man. Phule stated that all men and women are born free and equally capable of enjoying rights. The various organisations which were established by the liberals of the Ranade school were criticised by Phule. Organisations such as the Indian National Congress and the Prarthana Samajwztt dominated by the Brahmins. Phule also accused the Ranade school of exploiting Hindu mythology to justify caste exploitation. Phule charged that the history of Hinduism was irrelevant to the liberal project, and was concerned to establish its secular and universal significance. Though in the end it was Ranade's gradualist and traditional outlook that inspired a significant leadership, the impact of Phule's views on the social policies of these South Asian leaders too should not be underestimated.

The Cultural Background Having glanced at some examples of liberal thought in the colonial period, it should be made clear however that it would be wrong to contend that the resilience of liberal democracy in South Asia is exclusively owed to the colonial inheritance. The indigenous religious and cultural traditions in the region complemented the colonial legacy. It is in great measure due to this fact that the liberal tradition, even Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

Historical Roots of South Asian Liberalism 37

as first enunciated by the West, was able to take firm root here, and reassert itself in the face of recent challenges. The social and cultural elements in the region that are conducive to a liberal outlook will be presented at length later in this book, so it will suffice to state the case briefly in this introductory note. Belief in rational individualism and in the value of dissent are the cornerstone of the teachings of the Buddha, arguably the most influential South Asian. The Buddha's Kalama Sutra provides a useful insight into the indigenous liberal tradition in South Asia. Come, O Kalamas, do not accept anything on hearsay thinking thus have we heard it for a long time. Do not accept anything by mere tradition. Do not accept anything on account of rumours. Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures. Do not accept anything by mere supposition. Do not accept anything by inference. Do not accept anything by merely considering appearances. Do not accept anything merely because it seems to the multitude acceptable nor yet because the monk is respected by you. But when you know yourselves — these things are moral, these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise, these things when performed conduce to well-being and happiness - then, should you live and act accordingly.4 It is clear that the Buddha's sermon is very much in favour of free and rational inquiry. The Buddha urges his disciples not to take anything on faith, not to follow a master blindly, and to come to the truth through their own experience. The Buddhist celebration of dissent, as opposed to the conformity that is sometimes advocated by modern authorities, is also reflected in the Asokan rock edicts: One should not honour only one's own religion and condemn the religion of others, but one should honour others' religion for this or that reason. So doing one helps one's own religion to grow and renders service to the religions of others too. In action otherwise one digs the grave of one's own religion and also does harm to other religions.5 Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

38 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

This tradition of dissent has often been invoked by modern Buddhist scholars with reference to the modern liberal democratic system. To cite just one instance, Ven. Walpola Rahula, one of the most respected of Buddhist scholars in Sri Lanka, whose reflections on socio-political issues were always highly regarded, wrote that: The freedom of thought allowed by the Buddha is unheard of elsewhere in the history of religions. This freedom is necessary because, according to the Buddha, man's emancipation depends on his own realization of Truth, and not on the benevolent grace of a god or any external power as a reward for his obedient good behaviour.6 The future of liberal democracy in South Asia is secure given the complementary manner in which the traditional roots of liberalism combined with the colonial inheritance. It must be accepted that it was the policies of the British Raj, as affected perhaps by the relentless exemplars of the liberal tradition within Britain itself, that created the main institutional foundations. The development of that tradition in these countries during the colonial period itself should also be celebrated, with due recognition of the fact that the indigenous religious and cultural outlook of South Asia also contributed to the fostering of the liberal ethos.

Endnotes 1. Thomas R Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, p. 36. 2. See the chapter on 'Mahadeo Govind Ranade - Prophet of Liberalism' in Maharashtra 1858-1920 by B R Sunthakar, Popular Book Depot, Bombay, 1993, which gives due weight to Ranade's contribution, while also suggesting what seem limitations. 3. Thomas Pantham and Kenneth L Deutsch (ed.), Political Thought in Modern India, Sage Publications, London, 1986, p. 95. 4. Edwin Arnold translation, cited in The Value of Dissent in a Free Society, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1990, Introduction, pp. vi-vii. 5. Ibid, cited in Izeth Hussain, 'The Value of Dissent', p. 13. 6. Ven. Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, Buddhist Cultural Centre, Dehiwala, 1996, p. 2.

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4 Liberalism and Constitutionalism: Parliament and the Judiciary ROHAN EDRISINHA

Perhaps the greatest contribution of liberalism to modern political science has been in the area of constitutionalism, in particular through the emphasis liberalism places on appropriate institutional arrangements in society. The importance of a critical focus on power and on the limits of power has been highlighted by liberals throughout the ages. Indeed many liberals have argued that it is the extent of power rather than the manner in which power is exercised that concerns them more. While the distinction should not be over-emphasised, as will be argued later, there is considerable truth in the observation that: whereas liberal constitutionalism emphasises the need for limiting power and restraining rulers, socialist constitutionalism is concerned with creating the conditions for socialist society.1 This paper will not deal with all the institutional devices which are commonly established to protect liberal democracy. It will, instead, focusontheelementalorfoundationalgroundrulesof constitutionalism. It is submitted that all other institutions and mechanisms should, in a successful liberal democracy, ultimately be subordinate to this pivotal principle. It will be argued further that, in former British colonies like the countries of South Asia, there are often misconceptions as to the meaning of constitutionalism which have vitiated the political process.

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The Liberal Democratic State A liberal democracy is a qualified democracy. Democracy stresses popular participation and accountability and the rule of the majority. Finer in Comparative Government points out that the liberal component of a liberal democracy underlines the fact that democracy is limited, that society is acknowledged as being pluralistic and that the existence of an objective science of society or of morals is denied: Two working conclusions follow from this, namely, toleration and the qualification of majority rule.'2 Liberalism with its emphasis on individual freedom, on pluralism and on limiting power, would therefore highlight the importance of a liberal democratic state that establishes and sustains, institutions and other mechanisms designed to facilitate the values of liberalism.

The Meaning of Constitutionalism The principle of constitutionalism, sometimes referred to as liberal constitutionalism, is the most basic and important concept for the limitation of power and the protection of individual autonomy. Constitutionalism seeks to explain the objectives of a good constitution. It assumes that there are two main objectives that a good constitution should flilfill: (i) It should set out the relationship between and among the main organs of government. The constitution lays down the basic principles or framework of political society, the composition and powers of the political organs - the legislature, the executive and the judiciary - and their inter-relationship. (ii) It should ensure that the individual must be protected not only from other individuals and groups in society but also from the State. The American constitutional theorist Carl Friedrich has summed up these two objectives and their connection well: The core objective of Constitutionalism is that of safeguarding each member of the political community as a political person possessing a sphere of genuine autonomy. The Constitution is meant to protect the self in its dignity and worth. The prime

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function of a constitutional political order has been and is being accomplished by means of a system of regularised restraints imposed upon those who wield political power.3 There are several consequences thatflowinevitably from these two basic principles. These include the supremacy of the Constitution, restraints or limits on power, limits on majoritarianism and the importance of constitutional legitimacy. In the first place these principles entail that it is the constitution, rather than any institution or person in society, that is supreme. This is a particularly important factor in the South Asian region where the former British Colonies inherited the pernicious British doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, according to which it is Parliament that is supreme. Britain has a bizarre and unique constitutional tradition; it has, in fact, no documented constitution. Most of the independence constitutions of the South Asian countries did not seek to imitate the British model, and instead adopted written constitutions; however, the political leadership and the legal communities in these former colonies seem to have imbibed a mindset with regard to the sovereignty of Parliament that undermined the principle of constitutionalism. This is clearly demonstrated in the constitutional evolution of Sri Lanka. The Independence Constitution of Ceylon, which became fully operational in 1948, contained several provisions to protect ethnic and religious minorities. These included a provision which expressly barred Parliament from enacting certain kinds of discriminatory legislation.4 Notwithstanding this provision, Parliament enacted laws effectively disfranchising large sections of the Indian Tamil plantation workers and enshrining the language of the majority community as the official language of the country. The judiciary refused to declare these laws to be ultra vires the Constitution. An analysis of the judgments reveals a reluctance on the part of the judges to thwart the will of the legislature, an unwillingness to impute improper motives to Parliament and a general discomfort with the exercise of judicial review of legislation. Apart from in the famous case of Uyanage vs. The Queen? and a few cases in which judicial power was threatened,6 judicial review was not effectively used to promote the values enshrined in the Constitution.

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The primary reason for this judicial docility was that the Sri Lankan legal community, nurtured on British textbooks on constitutional law and history, were familiar with the nuances and intricacies of parliamentary sovereignty. Unfortunately, they seem to have been unaware of the alternative constitutional tradition which developed in the United States of America and which was based on the supremacy of the Constitution rather than Parliament. Louis Henkin has stated that constitutionalism means: that the government to be instituted shall be constrained by the Constitution and shall govern only according to its terms and subject to its limitations, only with agreed powers and for agreed purposes.7 Thus constitutionalism imposes limits on the organs of government in the exercise of their powers that cannot be altered by ordinary legislation. The principle of limited power and limited government is the pith and substance of the doctrine of constitutionalism. This is to ensure that the sovereignty of the rights and freedoms of individual citizens is not violated. As Locke has emphasised, the power of government is limited in its scope and purpose: Their (the legislature's) power in the utmost bounds of it is limited to the public good of the society. It is a power that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can never have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly to impoverish the subjects; the obligations of the Law of Nature cease not in society, but only in many cases are drawn closer, and have, by human laws, known penalties annexed to them to enforce their observation. Thus the Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others.8 However, constitutionalism particularly in the modern context entails more than mere limitation of government. It also incorporates basic values or norms recognised as binding on the political community within its framework. Graham Walker highlights the importance of the normative function of constitutionalism thus:

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Thefirstthing to be noticed is that all the important arguments in thefieldof constitutional theory are normative... When it comes to constitutional matters, the stakes are high, and serious thought thus moves readily into the normative, prescriptive mode... Normative theory necessarily implicates, or stands upon, some kind of foundation in morality.9 Such arguments should make clear the importance of a constitution as the basic law of a society. It follows necessarily that it must be supreme, while being non-partisan and able to command the respect of the main political actors in society. In Sri Lanka however, a change of government has sometimes meant a change of constitution. This is because the post-independence Constitutions of Sri Lanka have unfortunately been partisan documents drafted by governments to suit their needs and political agendas. It is a tragic reflection on the political leadership of Sri Lanka that it was the Constitution introduced by the British that seems to have had the widest acceptance across the political and ethnic spectrum at the time of its enactment. The autochthonous or homegrown constitutions of 1972 and 1978 were rejected by the opposition and minority groups, but nevertheless enacted inasmuch as the respective Governments in power at those times possessed two-thirds majorities in Parliament. Jawaharlal Nehru once said that a constitution should reflect the dreams and aspirations of the people. In Sri Lanka, constitutions have reflected the dreams and aspirations of the people in power. The Constitution of India on the other hand seems to have been accepted, and thus proved successful, as a document based on consensus. The practical method of upholding the supremacy of the constitution is by judicial review of legislation. If Parliament were to enact legislation that violates the Constitution, such law should be liable to challenge, and the judiciary should be able to determine whether the law is consistent or inconsistent with the supreme law. If the law or any part thereof is inconsistent with the constitution it will be deemed ultra vires, and be declared void. Constitutionalism and judicial review of legislation thus go hand in hand. Judicial review of legislation is often criticised as beingundemocratic. The argument is put forward that unelected judges are given the power Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

44 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

to strike down a law passed by the elected representatives of the people. Judges are accused of thwarting the will of the people, or rather, that of a majority of the people. Such a critique of judicial review as being counter-majoritarian is untenable in that it fails to recognise the fundamentally democratic character of judicial review. It is important to note that though judges may be unelected when they exercise the power of judicial review, they scrutinise the impugned legislation not on their own behalf but to ascertain whether it is inconsistent with the constitution. The constitution in turn derives its legitimacy from the people. The tension is not people (legislation) versus unelected elite (judiciary), but people (legislation) versus people (constitution). While it is true that the judiciary in practice will have considerable discretion in interpreting constitutional provisions, it is important to bear in mind that the judiciary's frame of reference has to be the text of the constitution and that whatever interpretation is adopted must be reasoned and justified. The discretion then is curtailed and the lawmaking of judges is not arbitrary yet takes place interstitially, i.e. within certain prescribed limits.10

Liberalism and Constitutionalism Several important liberal philosophers and political scientists have defended the legitimacy of constitutionalism and judicial review of legislation. Friedrich Hayek and John Rawls, who respectively represent two strands of liberal thought, the classical and the modern, present particularly powerful and persuasive defences. Friedrich Hayek in his book, The Constitution of Uberty, contrasts the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty with constitutionalism and argues that constitutionalism ultimately affords greater protection to the people than the apparently more democratic principle of parliamentary sovereignty. The conception of a constitution thus became closely connected with the conception of representative government, in which the powers of the representative body were strictly circumscribed by the document that conferred upon it particular powers. The formula that all power derives from the people referred not so

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Liberalism and Constitutionalism: Parliament and the Judiciary 45 much to the recurrent election of representatives as to the fact that the people, organised as a constitution-making body, had the exclusive right to determine the powers of the representative legislature. The constitution was thus conceived as a protection of the people against all arbitrary action, on the part of the legislative as well as the other branches of government.11 Hayek points out that, in promulgating a constitution, "We the People' lay down general rules of conduct or broad values which we wish to sanctify in the supreme law of the land and by which we wish to be bound. Constitutionalism does not entail 'an absolute limitation of the will of the people but merely a subordination of immediate objectives to long term ones'.12 It is natural for some immediate need or pressure to prompt a legislature to infringe these fundamental principles. It is to counter this, Hayek argues, that, conscious of this temptation, We the People voluntarily agree to bind ourselves; it is thus that in the long run we will be free'. Stephen Holmes explains this paradox succinctly: A constitution is Peter sober while the electorate is Peter drunk. Citizens need a constitution, just as Ulysses needed to be bound to his mast. If voters were allowed to get what they wanted, they would inevitably shipwreck themselves. By binding themselves to rigid rules, they can avoid tripping over their own feet.13 The legitimacy of the Constitution, the fact that its authority is and must ultimately be derived from the people, becomes important in defending constitutionalism from its strong democracy critics. The principle of constitutional autochthony is important in this regard. Constitutional autochthony underlines the importance of the constitution being homegrown, sprung from the soil or people.14 When the legitimacy of judicial review of legislation is questioned then one can respond to the critics who advance a majoritarian viewpoint in the words of Hayek: Only a demagogue can represent as 'antidemocratic' the limitations which long-term decisions and the general principles held by the people impose upon the power of temporary majorities.15

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46 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

The Indian Supreme Court, perhaps the most activist court in the world, has earned fame for its attempts to ensure that constitutionalism has relevance for the masses of the country by transforming itself 'from an arena of legal quibbling for men with long purses to the last resort of the oppressed and bewildered/16 In its activism, it should be noted, the court has continued to affirm the democratic character of its review and intervention. Thus in the 1993 decision of Advocates on Record Association vs. Union of India^

where the Supreme Court held that in the selection of judges the advice of the Chief Justice shall have primacy over the discretion of the President, Justice Kuldeep Singh held that the constitution was at its heart a repository of the will of the People. Where this will stood contrary to the will of the legislature, he said, the will of the People had to prevail. In his ZakirHussain Memorial Lecture of February 1996, the Indian Chief Justice, A M Ahmadi, defended the Supreme Court's activism thus: The present situation is not really a case of one democratic institution trying to exert itself over another; rather it is a case of citizens finding new ways of expressing concern for events occurring at the national level, and exerting their involvement in the democratic process... the court has had to expand its jurisdiction because the incumbents of Parliament have become less representative of the will of the people. The 1990 Constitution of Nepal transformed Nepal from a monarchy to a constitutional democracy. The supremacy of that constitution was unequivocally recognised. No other organ or institution could be supreme. The Constitution represented the fundamental law of the land and all laws inconsistent with it were void to the extent of the inconsistency. The principle was further buttressed by the fact that Article 116 provided that the basic features of the Constitution could not be changed by a mere constitutional amendment.17 A classic example of the application of the principle was in the Supreme Court decision of Sher Bahadur Deuba vs. Prime Minister Man

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was challenged as unconstitutional. The majority of the Supreme Court rejected the contention that the Prime Minister's prerogative power to dissolve Parliament vested unlimited discretion in him. They held rather that any power conferred on a state organ must be exercised in a manner consistent with the powers of other organs of state. Furthermore, such power must be exercised subject to the basic features and spirit of the Constitution as well as the rule of law. There is another reason why constitutionalism and judicial review of legislation is important in a liberal democracy. They facilitate public consideration of key political/moral issues. When a court considers whether the will of Parliament conflicts with the fundamental will of the People, it discusses not only the issues but also the possible tensions and contradictions between accepted general principles and the specific measures contemplated in the legislation. The issues are dramatised and particularised in a manner that makes it easy for the citizens to comprehend their implications. Judges then have to respond to the issues with reference to the abstract values enshrined in the Constitution and, unlike actors in the other two branches of government, justify such responses in reasoned judgments. A judicial opinion has been described as 'a piece of rhetoric and of literature, intended to educate and persuade'. Eugene Rostow has described the educative role of the American Supreme Court thus: The process of forming opinion in the United States is a continuous one with many participants: Congress, the President, the Press, political parties, scholars, pressure groups and so on. The discussion of problems and the declaration of broad principles by the court is a vital element in the community experience through which American policy is made. The Supreme Court is, among other things, an educational body and the justices are inevitably teachers in a vital national seminar.19 The distinguished contemporary liberal theorist John Rawls develops a similar argument in Political Liberalise?10 when he advances the idea of Public Reason. Rawls believes that Public Reason applies in a special manner to the judiciary when it engages in judicial review and therefore that it serves as the 'exemplar of public reason'. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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Rawls sketches five principles of constitutionalism. They include the distinction which can be traced back to Locke between the people's constituent power to establish a new regime and the ordinary power of government, as well as the distinction between higher law and ordinary law, the latter being subordinate to the former. The higher law is the expression of the constituent power of the people - "We the People'. The ordinary law is legislation which is the expression of a particular Parliament and a specific electorate. Rawls states that a democratic constitution is the principled expression in the higher law of the constitutional essentials and basic framework of society. The objective of what is characterised as public reason is the articulation of this ideal. Rawls explains the importance of judicial review of legislation in developing the concept of public reason. He notes that the judiciary more than any other organ of government is expected to be motivated by reason. Fundamental constitutional issues are deliberated upon in a manner which makes the contribution of the court unique and important: The court's role is not merely defensive but to give due and continuing effect to public reason by serving as its institutional exemplar. This means, first, that public reason is the sole reason the court exercises. It is the only branch of government that is visibly on its face the creature of that reason and of that reason alone. Citizens and legislators may properly vote their more comprehensive views when constitutional essentials and basic justice are not at stake; they need not justify by public reason why they vote as they do or make their grounds consistent and fit them into a coherent constitutional view over the whole range of their decisions.21

German Constitutionalism The German concept of the Rechtstaat, which may loosely be translated as Law State, is similar to the American concept of constitutionalism. The German Constitution or Basic Law secures constitutional democracy by binding the democratic process to values and principles enshrined in the Constitution. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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The supremacy of these values is protected in several provisions of the Constitution. The basic values of the Constitution cannot be amended by the people. Constitutional provisions which uphold the dignity of man as inviolable and which describe Germany as a democratic, social and federal Rechtstaat are absolutely entrenched.22 The Federal Constitutional Court is empowered, on the request of the Federal Government, the Bundestag (Lower House of Parliament) or the Bundesrat (Upper House of Parliament), to ban political parties which seek either to destroy the basic democratic political order or the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany.23 Fundamental rights (the Grundrechte) are recognised as inviolable, inalienable and the basis of peace and justice in every society. All the organs of the government, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary are subordinate to the constitution; and every citizen, and in many instances every person, can vindicate her/his rights against the state.24 The Constitution seeks to fortify fundamental rights by specifying that any restriction should be specific to a particular right. There is no general limitation clause on the fundamental rights provisions.

Constitutionalism and Majoritarianism An important consequence of both American style constitutionalism and the notion of the German Rechtstaat is that both highlight the importance of protecting individual freedom and autonomy from the tyranny of the majority. The reason why certain fundamentals are enshrined in the constitution is because they are considered too important to be left to the legislature to determine; they are deemed so important that they are taken outside the political arena. They are thus given extra protection in the constitution. This is an important consideration which is unfortunately often forgotten in the politics of Asia. Democracy is often equated merely with majority rule. In a number of countries the language and religion of the majority are elevated to the detriment of minority languages and religions, and this is considered 'democratic'. In Sri Lanka majoritarian democracy has been used to subvert the democratic process. The Parliamentary election which was due in 1982 was not held and the government of JRJayewardene held a referendum to legitimise' such Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

50 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

an undemocratic act. Liberal opponents of the referendum cited a quotation used in another context by a former Prime Minister and leader of Jayewardene's own party, which effectively rebutted the arguments of Jayewardene and his cronies that a referendum was an ultra-democratic device and could therefore be justified: There are some things in every true democracy which no mandate can ever destroy. Even if a majority agrees, the freedom of speech, the freedom to organise political parties, the freedom of the press, the right to vote to elect your representatives at periodic and regular elections; these are features which cannot ever be abolished. Even if a majority agrees, a country which deprives any man of these fundamental rights and liberties is not a true democracy, is not even a really human society. A free people should not be condemned to state slavery under cover of an alleged mandate.25 Thus it seems evident that there must be limits to the will of the majority in a liberal democratic state or a constitutional democracy. Individual freedom and autonomy have to be protected from the tyranny of the majority.

A Secular State A logical consequence of the rejection of majoritarianism and the incorporation of the principles of equality, pluralism and tolerance is the belief in a secular state. One of the gravest threats to liberal values, in the South Asian region in particular, is the rise of religious fundamentalism which has pressurised nations to either become theocratic states or adopt state religions. Once he had succeeded in his campaign to create the state of Pakistan, Jinnah sought to make it a secular state.26 He failed. The first constitution in Bangladesh declared secularism to be one of the main features of state policy, but this provision was subsequently replaced and Islam was declared to be the state religion. Nepal is described in its constitution as a 'Hindu and constitutional monarchical kingdom'. The Sri Lankan Constitution provides that:

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The Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring to all religions the rights granted by Articles 10 and 14 (l)(e).27 It is only India in the region that has successfully withstood serious assaults on its secular character in recent years. The preamble to the Indian Constitution declares that India is a secular, democratic republic. The Indian judiciary has used this phrase to try to ward off the insidious impact on politics of religious dogmatism. In SKBommai vs. Union of India,2* Justices Agarawal and Jeevan Reddy took the view that if: any party or organisation seeks to fight the election on the basis of a plank which has the proximate effect of eroding the secular philosophy of the Constitution, it would certainly be guilty of following an unconstitutional course of action. It may be worth noting in this regard that the distinction between secularism and the need for a secular state will help to allay the fears of people who perceive the term 'secular' as hostile to religion. Most religions today stress the importance of its adherents being involved in society; many religions have teachings on politics and economics and issues of social justice. To argue that religion and politics are separate is therefore to adopt an obsolete theological or doctrinal position that would today be rejected by most religions. But what needs to be stressed is that the state should be secular. This does not imply that religion and politics have nothing to do with each other or that religion is unimportant, but rather that the state is neutral vis-a-vis the various religions in society and that all religions will be treated equally by the state. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who spearheaded the campaign for the new South Africa to be a secular state, despite having over eighty per cent of its population Christian, observed: A secular state is not a godless or immoral one. It is one in which the state does not owe allegiance to any particular religion and

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thus no religion has an unfair advantage, or has privileges denied to others. Thus a secular state is a sine qua non for a nation in which all citi2ens are to be treated equally. Liberal constitutionalism, with its emphasis on equality and the rights of minorities, and its hostility to majoritarianism, will therefore necessarily involve commitment to a secular state.

The Inadequacy of Classical Liberalism An interesting feature of the German Basic Law is that it provides that Germany is a social state.29 While no socio-economic rights as traditionally defined have been included, the right to property is not absolute and is subject to various possible restrictions. Article 14 provides that the legislature shall determine the content and limitations of the right to property. It also affirms that property imposes duties and should be used in the public interest. The Federal Constitutional Court has taken the view that the Basic Law incorporates both the individual and the communal aspects of citizenship. In one of its early decisions the court stated that: The Basic Law does not view the individual as isolated and sovereign; it rather resolved the individual-society tension by recognising that a person is part of and tied to a community, but this bond may not relinquish the self-worth of the individual... This means that the individual must accept the reasonable limits drawn by the legislator in particular circumstances upon her/his freedom to act when those limits are drawn to nurse and promote a social existence for people together. This presupposes that individual autonomy is preserved.30 The individual-society tension is one that modern liberalism has to grapple with. The classical liberalism of people like Hayek, which almost completely ignored the community, is obsolete in the modern world of interdependence and where a consensus has emerged that the role of the State must not be seen as entirely negative, that the community is important, and that human rights must include basic needs and not be confined to civil and political rights. Modern liberals from Hobhouse to Rawls have recognised the need for liberalism to Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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respond to the communitarian critique of classical liberalism. The rejection of the notion of the atomised individual by Hobhouse, as early as in the first decades of this century, demonstrates his awareness that there was a need to redefine liberalism to meet the challenges of the twentieth century.31 Classical liberals such as Hayek wrote about constitutionalism at a time when the role of the State was seen in minimalist terms. Hayek indeed argued that the welfare state was inimical to the Rule of Law or his definition of it. There is fortunately a strong and venerable liberal intellectual tradition which rejected this laissez-faire approach. John Stuart Mill, T H Green, John Maynard Keynes, John Dewey, J K Galbraith, all join Hobhouse and Rawls in articulating the principles of what is now characterised as modern liberalism. Modern liberalism recognises the positive role to be played by the State and accepts the reality of the modern welfare state rather than seeking to dismantle it. As far back as in 1885 Montague made an observation which applies a fortiori more than a century later: The philosophers who hold that in our day all grown up men and women can attain their normal development without any other assistance than is afforded by unlimited competition and unrestrained discussion must either have a very narrow experience or a very weak imagination.32 As the twenty-first century beckons, in a world which becomes increasingly interdependent and complex and in a region which faces specific challenges, modern liberalism is the liberalism of the future. The turbulent upheaval in the socialist world must not only be welcomed in triumphant jubilation by liberals, but it should also be accompanied by critical introspection within the liberal community. Classical liberalism is incapable of responding to the challenges of global warming, technological invasions of privacy, subliminal advertising and the need for sustainable development in the context of limited natural resources. It cannot, on its own, satisfy legitimate demands for recognition of the universality and indivisibility of human rights, and for protection for people against discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation or HIV status. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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Liberal parties throughout the world have moved away from classical liberalism at various stages. In Britain and Canada they have identified themselves consistently with modern liberalism. The German Liberals, the Free Democrats, adopted the Trieburger theses' in the late 1970s which highlighted the social liberal character of the party. Specific proposals included the 'democratisation of society' by the extension of the principle of participation in the productive process, the reform of capitalism, the humanisation of the world of labour and improved environmental protection. The case for modern liberalism is all the more powerful in developing countries and in particular in the South Asian region. The realities of poverty make it imperative that the State and organs of government respond to the actual situation. Constitutionalism and the judiciary and other liberal democratic institutions must also play their part in this exercise or else they cease to be relevant in the societies in which they exist. The Janus-like quality of the State must be recognised. In addition to its traditional functions, it has a positive role to perform in areas like education, welfare, health, the environment, the regulation of powerful economic and technological interests, the protection of vulnerable minorities, and so on. The modern welfare state may thus legitimately require more power than classical liberals would welcome. It is clear that constitutionalism should accept this new role for the State, while also recognising that it may have to be redefined to register this clearly. However, the more traditional role of constitutionalism, the protection of the individual from the State, remains vitally important. Indeed it becomes even more important in the context of increasing responsibilities and powers of the modern State.

The Need for a Broader Definition of Constitutionalism The main implication of these developments for constitutionalism is that its emphasis on individual autonomy and freedom must be broadened to incorporate enabling aspects too. Thus the reference by Friedrich to the creation of a sphere of autonomy for the individual must be interpreted broadly to include more than mere freedom from external interference. This entails recognition of the needs of distributive justice and the fact that the State's relationship with the Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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individual cannot be perceived entirely in negative terms. The State has a positive role to play in terms of ensuring the basic needs of citizens. The Canadian academic Jennifer Nedelsky captured this new, more complex dynamic in a paper aptly titled 'Reconceiving Rights as Relationship': This approach shifts the focus from protection against others to structuring relationships so that they foster autonomy. Some of the most basic presuppositions about autonomy shift: dependence is no longer the anti-thesis of autonomy, but a precondition in the relationships - between parent and child, student and teacher, state and citizen—which provide the security, education, nurturing and support that make the development of autonomy possible. And autonomy is not a static quality that is simply achieved one day. It is a capacity that requires ongoing relationships that help it flourish; it can wither or thrive throughout one's adult life. Interdependence becomes the central fact of political life, not an issue to be shunted to the periphery in the basic question of how to ensure individual autonomy in the inevitable face of collective power... The whole conception of the relation between the individual and the collective shifts: we recognise that the collective is a source of autonomy as well as a threat to it. The constitutional protection of autonomy is then no longer an effort to carve out a sphere into which the collective cannot intrude, but a means of structuring the relations between individuals and the sources of collective power so that autonomy is fostered rather than undermined.33 Rawls makes a similar point when he argues that in addition to the traditional civil and political rights: measures are required to assure that the basic needs of all citizens can be^met so that they can take part in political and social life... the idea is not that of satisfying needs as opposed to mere desires and wants; nor is it that of redistribution in favour of greater equality. The constitutional essential here is rather that below a certain level of material and social well being, and of training and

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56 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

education, people simply cannot take part in society as citizens, much less equal citizens.34 The Indian Supreme Court has, in recent years, demonstrated the importance of this wider conception of constitutionalism. In S P Gupta vs. Union of India the Supreme Court justified its approach thus: Our Constitution is not a non-aligned rational charter. It is a document of social revolution which casts an obligation on every instrumentality including the judiciary... to transform the status quo ante into a new human order in which justice, social, economic and political, will inform all institutions of national life and there will be equality of status and opportunity for all. The judiciary has, therefore, a socio-economic destination and a creative function... Now (the British) approach to the judicial function may be all right for a stable and static society but not for a society pulsating with urges of gender justice, worker justice, minorities justice, dalit justice and equal justice between chronic unequals.35 The Indian Supreme Court has, through Social Action Litigation, used fundamental rights provisions and the Directive Principles of State Policy to protect human dignity and what it has deemed the basic needs of life, adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter and a clean environment. The enabling, empowering aspect of human autonomy and the approach expressed by Nedelsky have provided the philosophical basis for such activism.

Lessons from the New South Africa This redefinition of constitutionalism influenced the framers of the final South African Constitution of May 1996. The framers of the new Constitution had to grapple with the difficult question of whether to incorporate economic, social and cultural rights in the new document, in addition to the traditional civil and political rights. The South African context is of two nations within one country, where the 'white nation' had, through apartheid, lived a life of first world wealth and privilege in the midst of the third world 'black nation'. The latter, with its poverty and squalor, and the need to atone for the injustices of the apartheid Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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era, provided a powerful argument for the recognition of economic, social and cultural rights in the final Constitution. The African National Congress and several Social Democrats and liberals argued that the inclusion of these rights would force the State to address the enormous economic and social disparities which were a legacy of apartheid. But there were genuine fears that the inclusion of such rights would ultimately be counterproductive. The opponents of the inclusion of such rights argued that these were claims and not rights stricto sensu. Since these were programmatic in nature and involved questions of policy and economic philosophy, these should be left to the legislature and protected from judicial interference. These rights were also vague, difficult to implement, and lacked universality. Proponents of the inclusion of these rights countered however, that the traditional arguments put forward in opposition to the inclusion of such rights were obsolete in the modern context. First, the inclusion of such rights is justified by the circumstances and needs of modern society. There are practical difficulties involved in their enforceability, but this should not deny their equal status with civil and political rights. Hauserman states that: insisting that economic, social and cultural rights are of equal importance to the other branches of human rights is not intended to paper over the cracks by ignoring the difficulties which inevitably arise in their full realisation... But what can be stated is that in deciding these (spending) priorities, international human rights laws require states, both rich and poor, to allocate sufficient funds to ensure that all members of their population live in conditions appropriate to guarantee their health and dignity, before allocating funds to those programmes and projects less immediately concerned with human welfare.36 Secondly, while the obligation of the State to act positively is increased, the recognition of this obligation does not justify the exclusion of these rights from the Constitution itself. In other words, the distinction between positive and negative rights which classical

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5 8 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

liberals consider important is challenged. Mauro Cappelletti has noted that: Far from representing a luxury of a few 'rich' nations, social rights are a sine qua non for modern societies. Indeed even more so for developing societies, even though we have to accept that social rights can be implemented only gradually, hence their violation is more difficultly ascertainable by judges... To exclude social rights from a modern Bill of Rights is to stop history at the time of laissez-faire: it is to forget that the modern state has greatly enlarged its reach and responsibilities into the economy and the welfare of the people.37 The argument that judges should not get embroiled in an area where the rights involved cost a large amount of money is not as convincing as it might seem. The protection of civil and political rights also entails massive expenditure. The ancient remedy of habeas corpus burdens the state with the expense of a criminal justice system. In the United States judicial enforcement of the civil and political rights of prisoners has forced states to spend massive amounts of money on prison reform. The cost of conducting a general election in India costs millions of rupees. The real difficulty is, therefore, not the costs involved, but rather the fact that what is often involved is a question of how to spend. There are invariably many ways of realising economic rights; these involve difficult choices of policy. Etienne Mureinik argues persuasively that the fears of judicial involvement in the protection of economic and social rights are exaggerated.38 He states that all judicial review, whether of so-called first-generation or second-generation rights, ultimately involves an inquiry intojustification. While a court would not be entitled to disapprove of the underlying political or economic theory, it would be entitled to ask the government to explain its programme and how it will meet its objectives. He suggests that the mere knowledge that a decision maker may have to justify any decision will, by itself, promote greater consideration and care on the part of the decision maker which can only enhance good governance. He cites the example of the government of a third world country opting to build a replica of St Peter's or a nuclear

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submarine before rights of education promised in the constitution have been addressed. While Mureinik concedes that economic and social rights are different from civil and political rights, he states that such differences do not foreclose judicial review for sincerity and rationality. The courts will inevitably be more deferential to the views of the legislature and the executive when dealing with economic and social rights and therefore the kind of review will be different, more restrained, negative in approach; but the important principle that human rights are universal and indivisible and that all rights are protected by the constitution is upheld. Furthermore, the interdependence between the different 'generations' of rights is recognised. As President Mandela's constitutional advisor Nicholas Haysom has explained: By constitutionalising selected socio-economic rights, society is elevating certain rights to a necessary condition for the existence of a minimum civic equality. This, in turn, establishes the conditions for democracy, for the effective use of political/civil rights. In this way the reciprocal linkage between socio-economic and political/civil rights is reinstated.39 The advantage of this approach is that the indivisibility of human rights is preserved while recognising that the variant nature of the different generations of rights requires the judiciary to protect them by adopting diverse approaches or techniques of adjudication. The courts will permit a greater 'margin of appreciation'40 to the other branches of government in the area of economic, social and cultural rights by adopting the criterion of the need for justification described by Mureinik. It should be remembered that, contrary to the assertions of many classical liberals, international human rights jurisprudence and international liberalism have both asserted the indivisibility of human rights. The United Nations has consistently reiterated this postulate. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, and the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights and Programme of Action, adopted on 25 June 1993 at the World Conference on Human Rights, are examples of such an approach. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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The Oxford Manifesto of 1947, which was drafted by a group of liberals mainly from North America and Europe, refers to socioeconomic rights thus: The opportunity for a full and varied education according to ability and irrespective of birth and means. Therightto private property and the right to embark on individual enterprise. Consumer's free choice and the opportunity to reap the full benefit of the productivity of the soil and the industry of man. Security from the hazards of sickness, unemployment, disability and old age.41

Asian Liberalism The Asian experience highlights the importance of a liberalism that responds to the reality of poverty and which recognises the positive role of the State. However, the relevance of the more traditional emphases of liberalism cannot be ignored: checks and balances on power, liberal democratic institutions, a secular state, civil and political rights, all these remain vitally important. The challenge for Asian Liberals is to establish the inter-relationship between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other. Asian liberals must also demonstrate that, while Asian cultures do stress the importance of community values, they also recognize individualism, pluralism and tolerance. To assert that the West' believes in individualism and the 'East' does not is too simplistic. It is interesting in this regard to note a definition of liberalism enunciated in Asia in 1947, shortly before the Oxford Manifesto was issued. It was at the convention of the Philippine Liberal Party which had been formed two years earlier that the newly elected Philippine President, Manuel Roxas, said: I would define a Liberal as one who fights hard for what he believes in, but concedes to those who disagree with him the right to fight in a like manner, as long as they are fair. The true Liberal believes that there is such a thing as truth and it can best be determined in a free and open contest for the allegiance of men's minds.

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Liberalism and Constitutionalism: Parliament and the Judiciary 61

The true Liberal believes that while the people may not always be right, they are usually right, and that in the end, if the people are given free rein to choose and select, righteousness, truth and justice will prevail. The true Liberal believes in reason and enlightenment rather than in fear and superstition; in judgment rather than passion; in debate rather than intrigue. The Liberal believes that the poor must not be oppressed nor must therichbe persecuted. Production for social usefulness rather than selfish profit is his creed. Each man should be paid in accordance with his contribution; but each is entitled to a decent livelihood. Each man, woman and child must have equal opportunity to succeed in life, regardless of sex or the economic status of his parents.42 The Philippine Liberal Party played an important role in the politics of the covintry and several of its leaders contributed significantly to the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. There is a strong liberal tradition in Asia, though for a variety of reasons, explicitly liberal parties have not as yet been successful elsewhere.43 Indeed, it could convincingly be argued that Buddhism promotes individualism, pluralism and tolerance more than the orthodox interpretations of Western' religions. In highlighting the tendency of many authoritarian regimes in Asia to curb human rights in the interests of national security and public order, one of Asia's contemporary liberal giants, the courageous Aung San Suu Kyi, affirmed that such practices are contrary to the basic culture of the region: The words 'law and order' have so frequently been misused as an excuse for oppression that the very phrase has become suspect in countries which have known authoritarian rule. Some years ago a prominent Burmese author wrote an article on the notion of law and order as expressed in the official term nyein-wut-pi-pyar. One by one he analysed the words, which literally mean 'quietcrouched-crushed-flattened', and concluded that the whole made for an undesirable state of affairs, one which militated against the emergence of an alert, energetic, progressive citizenry. There is no intrinsic virtue to law and order unless law' is equated with justice and 'order' with the discipline of a people satisfied that justice has Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

62 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

been done... The Buddhist concept of law is based on Dhamma, righteousness or virtue, not on the power to impose harsh and inflexible rules on a defenceless people. The true measure of the justice of a system is the amount of protection it guarantees to the weakest.44

Conclusion Liberal constitutionalism asserts that a constitution is people-based. Since the authority of the Supreme Law is derived from the people, the exercise of judicial review is therefore not as undemocratic as some critics of judicial review contend. Secondly, the venerable message of both classical and modern liberalism, that there must exist institutional devices to impose limits on the State and restraints on power, remains as relevant and important as ever. However, the advent of the welfare state, and the need for the State to perform new, important functions, make it necessary to reject the classical liberal attitude to the State and also to human rights. The recognition of the positive role of the State and of the requirement of a broader conception of constitutionalism and indeed liberalism, to embrace second and third generation human rights, is vital. So is acceptance of the importance of the community and of the necessity for distributive justice. Such an approach will also help make constitutionalism and Liberalism more relevant to the Asian reality.

Endnotes 1. L J Boulle, B Harris and C Hoexter, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Juta, South Africa, 1989, p. 89. 2. S E Finer, Comparative Government, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1970. 3. Carl Friedrich, Transcendent Justice: the religious dimension of Constitutionalism, Durham, North Carolina, 1964, p. 17. 4. Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution. 5. Vol. 1, All England Reports 1966, p. 650. 6. See M J A Cooray, Judicial Role under the Constitution of Sri Lanka, Lake House, Colombo, 1982. 7. Louis Henkin, Constitutionalism, Democracy and Foreign Affairs, Columbia University Press, New York, 1990, p. 6. 8. John Locke, Civil Government, Book 2 Chapter 2, in Two Treatises ofGovernment, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1967.

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9. Graham Walker, Moral Foundations of Constitutional Thought, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1990, p. 4. 10. See Ronald Dworkin, A Matter of Principle, Harvard University Press, Harvard, USA, 1985. 11. FAHayek, The Constitution of Liberty, 1976, p. 178. 12. Ibid., p. 180. 13. Stephen Holmes, 'Precommitment and the Paradox of Democracy' in Constitutionalism and Democracy, ed. Jon Elster and Rune Slagstad, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1988, p. 196. 14. In many third world countries however, so-called autochthonous constitutions have not really been so. They have often been majoritarian documents which have been rejected by minority groups. See for example the First Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka, 1972. 15. FAHayek, The Constitution of Liberty, 1976, p. 181. 16. Upendra Baxi, 'Taking Suffering Seriously: Social Action Litigation in the Supreme Court of India', The Review No. 29, December 1987, p. 37. 17. Subsequent events in Nepal have given rise to a general consensus about the need for a new constitution, but it should be noted that criticism of the past has related largely to abuse of the 1990 constitutions rather than shortcomings within it. (Editor's Note) 18. Sher Bahadur Deuba vs. Man Mohan Adhikari: Decision of the Nepal Supreme Court, 28 August, 1995. 19. Eugene Rostow, 'The Democratic Character of Judicial Review' in Harvard Law Review 66,1952, p. 208. 20. John Rawls, Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. 21. Ibid., p. 235. 22. See Articles 79 (3), 1 and 20 of the Basic Law. 23. Article 21 (2) of the Basic Law. 24. See Articles 20 (3) and 1 (3) of the Basic Law. 25. Statement made by Dudley Senanayake, former Prime Minister of Ceylon in 1971, during discussion on the proposed new Constitution of 1972. Cited also in 'In Defence of Judicial Review and Judicial Activism' in Ideas for Constitutional Reform, ed. Chanaka Amaratunga, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo 1989, p. 467. This quotation was used by the Council in its campaign against the Referendum of 1982. 26. See Jinnah's first address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Documents and Speeches on the Constitution of Pakistan, ed. G W Choudhury, 1967, p. 22. 27. Article 9 of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, 1978. 28. S R Bommai vs. Union Bank of India, 1993. Subsequent judgements have not protected 'secular values' as well as in this case. 29. See Article 20 of the German Basic Law. 30. Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts, Volume 4,1954, p. 15. 31. LT Hobhouse, Liberalism, Oxford University Press, New York, 1911.

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64 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia 32. FC Montague, The Limits of Individual Liberty, Rivington Publishing Ltd., London, 1885. 33. Jennifer Nedelsky, 'Reconceiving Rights as Relationship', paper delivered at the *Gender and Law Conference', Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, March 1993, p. 7. 34. John Rawls, Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993, p. 168. See also Frank Michelman, 'Welfare Rights in a Constitutional Democracy' in Washington University Law Quarterly, 1979, pp. 680-685. 35. SP Gupta vs. Union of India, All India Reports 1982 S.C., p. 196. 36. Hauserman, 'Myth and Realities' in Human Rights, ed. P Davis, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1988. 37. Mauro Cappelletti, 'The Future Of Legal Education: A Comparative Perspective' in South African Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 8, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 1992, p. 10. 38. Etienne Mureinik, 'Beyond a Charter of Luxuries: Economic Rights in the Constitution' South African Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 8, 1992, p. 464. Mureinik was a key constitutional advisor to the Democratic Party of South Africa. 39. Nicholas Haysom, 'Constitutionalism, Democracy and Socio-Economic Rights' South African Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 8,1992, p. 461. 40. This phrase is used by the European Court of Human Rights in a number of their determinations when it seeks to allow national diversity and is reluctant to lay down a rigid European norm. 41. Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of the Oxford Liberal Manifesto of 1947, reaffirmed in the Ottawa Human Rights Appeal of the Liberal International Congress, September 1987. This paragraph was cited approvingly by Barthold Witte, one time Chairperson of the Liberal International Human Rights Committee, at an international conference on the theme 'East Meets West on Human Rights in a New Climate of International Co-operation' in Sintra, Portugal in October 1989, to suggest that the approaches of the United Nations and Liberal International on this issue have been similar. See the Proceedings of that conference published by the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung in 1990. 42. Cited in Jovito Salonga's 'History and Some Aspects of the Ideology of the Liberal Party', in the Philippine Liberal Party Basic Orientation Handbook, Manila, 1989, p. 54. 43. The Liberal Party of Sri Lanka is a classic example. Formed in 1987, it made a significant contribution to the political and constitutional debate in the country. In 1993, however, some of its leaders resigned after a series of controversial decisions about electoral alliances with other parties. The quest to broadbase electoral support while maintaining credibility as a party committed to a distinct ideology remains a difficult one. 44. Aung San Suu Kyi in 'In Quest of Democracy' in Freedom from Fear, Viking Press, London, 1991, p. 176.

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The Market Economy and Welfare: An Introductory Note NlRGUNAN TlRUCHELVAM

The liberal view on the market economy is not guided by economic theory but by ideological commitment. It is therefore necessary to understand at the outset that a liberal would base his economics on the political commitment to maximise individual liberty. This is because, crucially,forliberals the most important political value is a fundamental commitment to individual liberty. Classical liberals were unequivocal in their belief that it was a minimal degree of state intervention that would optimise individual liberty. It is well known that classical liberals such as David Ricardo, John Locke and Adam Smith were in favour of the laissez-faire economy. Indeed from the seventeenth century onwards, when John Locke wrote his Two Treatises of Government, the advocacy of the market economy and the support of individual liberty have been inextricably linked. This, certainly, is a tendency that continues to the present day. However, the nineteenth century saw divisions within liberalism on the extent of state intervention required in a liberal society. While even revisionist liberals such as Mill and de Tocqueville were in principle advocates of market economics, others were suspicious of it. In his Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation, the Oxford philosopher

T H Green developed a new, interventionist form of liberalism which he believed could, in fact, enhance the liberty of individuals. He declared categorically that the state could, by appropriate intervention, enable individuals to exercise their liberty successfully, and that the state indeed had a moral obligation to create the conditions in which individual liberty was maximised. Drawing on the widespread experience of

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66 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

poverty and deprivation in Victorian Britain, Green favoured limitations on the freedom of contract as a measure necessary to ensure individual liberty, and he was forceful in promoting state intervention in the form of minimum wage legislation and child labour laws. It should be noted, however, that Green has a particular definition of individual freedom. For Green freedom is much more than the absence of coercion. Rather the term was to be applied to activities which are meaningful and worth pursuing. Green wrote: When we speak of freedom as something to be so highly prized, we mean a positive power or capacity of doing or enjoying something worth doing or enjoying, and that, too, something that we do or enjoy in common with others. We mean by it a power which each man exercises through the help or security given him by his fellow men, and which he in turn helps to secure for them. When we measure the progress of a society by its growth in freedom, we measure it by the increasing development and exercise on the whole of those powers of contributing to social good with which we believe the members of the society to be endowed: in short, by the greater power on the part of the citizens as a body to make the most and best of themselves.1 A similar interventionist sentiment was shared by the greatest and most influential economist of the twentieth century John Maynard Keynes. The Keynesian strategy of demand management was designed to maintain a market economy through the injection of government spending. The difference between Keynesian economics and Green's critique of the market is that Keynes's primary motivation was the survival of the market economy in the dire circumstances of the Great Depression; while Green's argument was that the market economy, while it was the most efficacious possible economic instrument, needed to be mitigated in the interests of maximising individual liberty. In recent times, classical liberalism has been revived not only in economics but also in political theory. This has been termed as the neoclassical counter-revolution by many economists. Its antecedents in economic theory have been traced to the early 1970s. However, its origins in political theory can be traced to the likes of FA Hayek and Robert Nozick. Hayek and Nozick expressed their liberal thought Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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not only in the language of economics but also in that of politics. In Hayek's seminal work The Road to Serfdom,firstpublished in 1944, he argued that state control of the economy and central planning were incompatible with individual freedom. Hayek's views gained currency in the 1970s and 1980s, when what has been described as the social democratic consensus proved to be woefully inadequate. In a radical departure from Green's views, Hayek defines freedom as the absence of coercion. Freedom is to be understood in two forms. Firstly, it means the participation of men in the choice of their government, in the process of legislation, and in the control of administration. This notion of liberty has a collective element to it. Secondly, freedom is also defined as the exercise of rational choice without interference from others. When people are capable of choosing rationally between alternatives they are considered free. Hayek argues that socialists have misused the term liberty. Socialists confuse freedom with the 'physical ability to do what I want'. Freedom is seen as connected with the extent of choices open to a person. In other words, freedom is equated with power. By employing this argument, socialists justify measures which destroy individual liberty. The appeal of liberty is misused by socialists to promote their demand for the redistribution of wealth. This seems more plausible because the identification of liberty with power leads to the identification of liberty with wealth. Yet as Hayek argues, the possession of wealth and the possession of freedom are not the same thing. A poor farmer, for instance, may be more free than a general at the beck and call of his superiors. Liberty does not mean access to all good things and the absence of all that is repugnant, as per the arguments of the socialists. Hayek's claim on the contrary is that the best safeguard against coercion is the creation of a private sphere through the institution of private property. The demarcation of a private sphere is an essential condition for liberty, though it is not the only one. He makes clear, however, that the private sphere does not consist only of material things. Individual talents and abilities also fall within it. Robert Nozick, an American liberal, made a powerful justification of the minimalist or 'nightwatchman state' in his Anarchy, State and Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

68 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

Utopia, written in 1974. Nozick based his theory on a conception of natural rights. He placed a great premium on private property and contractual rights and viewed state intervention as coercive. He argues that the most prized and basic of all the rights in the minimalist state is the right to property. The right to property begins with each citizen's ownership of himself or herself. Each citizen owns his or her talents and abilities. In addition, each citizen has the right to reap the rewards that the market economy provides for the deployment of these talents. In a particularly poignant example, Nozick tells the story of Wilt Chamberlain, the famous basketball player, whom thousands are willing to pay to watch. The rewards which people are willing to provide him with are indubitably his right. Great importance is also given in the Nozickian state to voluntary transfers. Inheritance of wealth and private education is protected and legitimised. In addition, those who are poor and destitute receive no assistance from the state because there is a negligible level of regressive taxation. Nozick strongly opposes state-sponsored social welfare. Regressive taxation is only to be used to maintain law and order, to regulate the market economy and to maintain free contracts.2 Compulsory redistribution is prohibited since it would violate people's unlimited rights to whatever they can earn. Understandably enough, there has been considerable criticism even within the liberal tradition of the Nozickian view. In spite of the existence of freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and all other civil liberties, individual freedoms are arguably vulnerable in what would simply be a 'nightwatchman state'. Possessors of these individual freedoms are not equally respected. It is implausible to believe that those who sleep under a bridge have the same freedoms as those who sleep in their own beds. The 'weaker sections of society' do not have the same access to the political system and to all the civil liberties as the privileged. Simply because people have therightto vote, there is no guarantee that they can exercise it. Under Nozick's framework, each citizen has unlimited access to the benefits which accrue to his talents in the market economy. The difficulty with this method of allocating resources is that one does not recognise that others have more urgent claims on resources. The Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Market Economy and Welfare: An Introductory Note


aged and the infirm are marginalised because the market does not recognise their talents. Yet, despite what seem to traditional liberals severe deficiencies, Nozick's work represents an important aspect of neo-liberal thought. Its focus on individual freedoms certainly entitles it to careful consideration. The author has presented here a brief review of the debate within liberalism on state intervention in the economy. Other chapters in this book will glance at recent changes in some South Asian nations, in the light of the liberal attitude to the market economy outlined above. Amongst the changes perhaps the most significant are those that have taken place in what is the most powerful as well as potentially the most vibrant economy in South Asia. Their especial significance perhaps lies in the fact that the post-war history of India presents a practical example of the difficulties caused by centralized planning. Centralisation was, of course, a crucial aspect of the colonial legacy, and this dogma was reinforced by the socialist orthodoxies of the immediate post-war period. These orthodoxies derived in one sense from Britain with the ideals developed at the London School of Economics, and in another from the models presented by Marxist nations with their notions of mass freedom. What was fascinating about India was that centralised planning continued for well over thirty years in what prides itself, with more justification than in the case of all its neighbours, as a liberal democratic state. Of course the departure from socialist orthodoxy in 1991 under the Narasimha Rao government was caused by a variety of factors. But amongst these can be seen, apart from the realities of the international economic situation, the need to strengthen individual freedom in order to achieve the economic development essential for the maintenance of liberal democratic ideals.

Endnotes 1. TH Green, Lecture on 'Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract' in Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation and Other Writings, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1986, p. 199. 2. See the discussion in On Human Rights: the OxfordAmnesty Lectures, ed. Stephen Shute and Susan Hurley, Basic Books, New York, 1993.

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Grassroots Capitalism: A Glimpse of the Unrecognised India BARUN S. MITRA

Editor's Note India, unlike Sri Lanka, has never had a liberal party, but there has been no dearth of liberal thinking in India since the days of Ranade, discussed in an earlier chapter. Most prominent in the period around the achievement of Indian independence was Minoo Masani, who was a pillar of the Swatantra Party, which conceptualised intellectual opposition to the socialist consensus that dominated the ruling Congress Party. Unfortunately opposition to government took on sectarian tendencies, and even when the monolithic hold of the Congress Party was broken in the 1977 elections, ideology seemed less important than other considerations. Though, in common with world trends, the role of the state began to decline through a general consensus from the eighties onward, India did not really have think-tanks that adequately advanced a liberal perspective. This has changed however in the last decade, and Indian liberal thinkers and social activists are in the forefront of the movement for change. One area in which, despite official dogma, India continued to provide space for private sector activity, was through the popular response to imaginative entrepreneurship. In this chapter Barun Mitra, who heads the Liberty Institute, examines the enduring strength of this sector, and its potential to strengthen current efforts at political reform that will enable society to work at its full potential.

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For more than a decade, India has been among the fastest growing economies in the world. India's rise in the arena of information technology has had such an impact that outsourcing, in particular India taking over jobs from other countries, has become a significant factor in the world economy. The debate over this in countries that earlier saw their supremacy in such fields as unquestioned underlines the enormity of the Indian achievement in this area. At the root of all economic progress lies the entrepreneur, who finds out the unmet demands of consumers and seeks better and cheaper products to satisfy that demand. Entrepreneurship is a process of discovery, as the celebrated economist Israel M Kirzner put it. But while Indian entrepreneurs in other countries have marked success, many entrepreneurs in India itself have to struggle for survival. But this does not mean that there in no culture of entrepreneurship in India. Against the odds imposed by a restrictive state, millions in India, and in many poor countries of the world today, symbolise the spirit of enterprise. Without it, they would hardly have any means of ensuring the survival of themselves or their families. Evidence of this culture of enterprise is around us, but at the same time it draws attention to the dominant intellectual discourse which seems to stifle this spirit of enterprise. In such a context, it could be argued that the real stars of India's economy are those ordinary Indians who survived the heavy hand of Indian government that sought to control every aspect of economic activity since the 1950s. Ingenuity, a spirit of enterprise, and innovation helped most Indians, particularly those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, to survive strangulating economic policies. In addition, the fact that India has continued as a pluralistic democracy has also helped in moderating some of the repressive economic policies, while allowing people to bend or break some of the oppressive rules. Indeed, this is one of the greatest benefits of a plural democracy with a free press. Whatever the ideological fervour of the intelligentsia, or the rhetoric of political leaders, there was a point beyond which governments could not impose rigid economic regulations. And where such regulations were laid down, there was a point beyond which state agencies could not implement the laws on the ground. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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So while the dominant political party adopted a socialist doctrine in the mid-1950s, and while government sought to implement this through Soviet stylefive-yearplans, a large part of the Indian economy continued to function virtually outside the scope of the law. Even today, fifteen years after the present phase of economic liberalisation was initiated in 1991, experts estimate that 30-40 per cent of the Indian economy remains in the informal sector. This essay will look at the range and scope of the informal or underground economy. In analysing some significant areas, the present author will show that, even after the present phase of economic reforms, there are many areas of the economy where government intervention is still very restrictive, causing people to find creative ways around bottlenecks in order to meet the demand for goods and services. Their success provides insight into the true potential of the Indian economy. The conclusion is that, if market-oriented economic reforms are carried to their logical end, the spirit of Indian enterprise could take the economy to heights that today seem inconceivable.

Gold Standard The Indian fascination with gold has fascinated the world. Though a poor country with an apparent shortage of capital, India is the largest consumer of gold in the world. At current market values, gold accounts for 10-15 per cent of the Indian household balance sheet. Therefore while Indian GDP is about one-twentieth of the United States, India's gold consumption is one and a half times more than that of the US. India accounts for 18 per cent of the annual global gold demand, while its share of global GDP on nominal dollar GDP is only 1.6 per cent. It is estimated that Indians hold over 15,000 tons of gold, the bulk of which is in private hands. According to the World Gold Council, this is about 10 per cent of the world gold stock. The value of these locked up assets would be about a third of Indian GDP, currently estimated to be between USD 600 and 700 billion. Interestingly, this enormous private asset has been built despite governmental efforts to persuade people to give up their gold, through various carrot and stick policies.

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According to a recent estimate, the current market value of gold held by Indian households is about 2.5 times the current Indian equity stock holding of USD 80 billion. The share of gold in household savings declined during 2000-02 to 5 per cent. But since then it has been on the rise, reaching 8-10 per cent during the quarter ending March 2005.1 In one year the demand for gold in India increased over 17 per cent, to about 643 tonnes, and in the first quarter of 2005 the demand shot up by over 72 per cent. Some analysts believe that the growth in demand came from investors in other assets, such as real estate and equities, booking their profits and shifting to gold. The Indian involvement with gold is not a phenomenon related to the recent growth in the Indian economy. In the economically challenged 1960s the Indian government instituted a draconian 'Gold Control Act* in an attempt to discourage people from spending on a non-productive asset. Import of gold was prohibited. As a result the price differential between domestic and international prices of gold widened, which attracted smugglers and criminals. From the 60s to the 80s, Indians developed gold smuggling into an art form, depicted in countless Bollywood films of the time. It is believed that in the 1980s 150 to 200 tons of gold was smuggled into India every year. While import bans on gold created a network of smugglers and illicit dealers, restrictions on gold ownership turned virtually every Indian household into de facto violators of the law. This widespread breach of an unsustainable set of laws was a contributory factor too in the corruption of law enforcement agencies. Fortunately, the trade in gold was liberalised in the '90s, along with a wide range of commodities. Otherwise the criminal-corrupt official nexus that had developed could have had a catastrophic effect in a world in which terrorists have proved so skilful in leveraging existing criminal networks. A corollary of India's insatiable demand for gold has been that jewellery-making is a vast cottage industry. The skills of Indian artisans have attracted the attention of the world. Today much of the gold imported into India gets exported as jewellery. In a single year gold accounted for 21 per cent of India's non-oil imports, and jewellery accounted for 18 per cent of total merchandise exports.

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Clearly, whether the Indian economy is booming or stagnating (as in the 1960s and 1970s), Indians always found solace in gold. Cultural and social affinity to gold only provides a partial explanation of this phenomenon, since all cultures in the world were, at some point, equally fascinated by gold. It is necessary then to look for more practical reasons for the Indian affinity for gold. The answer lies perhaps in the unwillingness of the average Indian household to replace even part of its gold holdings by orthodox financial assets. Economists have shown that the cost of investment in a non-productive asset like gold is great, to the extent of taking 0.3 to 0.4 per cent from the annual GDP growth rate. It is clear then that there is a huge gap between policy objectives, which would want savings used productively, and what actual policy promotes, which is such non productivity. In short, government's desire to tap people's savings is unsuccessful because of its own policies. The fact is that gold provides basic economic security even to the poor. It is perhaps not a coincidence that two-third of the demand for gold comes from rural India. Gold has always been an attractive asset in the face of inflation, and it is an asset that could be easily encashed in times of need. The demand for gold, therefore, reflects a demand for financial instruments like savings and loans, and other financial services, which do not exist. Demand for gold reflects the absence of simple and flexible financial services which ordinary people could access without difficulty. One could argue then, that the thirst for gold makes clear the need to reform the financial sectors, and make them more competitive, so that appropriate and innovative instruments are available to people in a manner that suits their needs. While the gross abuses of the Gold Control Act have become history, thoroughfinancialsector reforms are long overdue in India. Even today, barely a third of Indian households have bank accounts. About half Indian households seek the services of money-lenders and the support of family and friends when they need to raise cash for any urgent purpose. Again, at times of rampant inflation in India, only gold holdings protect Indian households against devaluation of financial assets. This explains why today the traditional

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attitude towards gold still remains. It will need a few decades of low inflation and stable prices to change this culture.

Hawala - Informal Money Transfer Across the World When the Indian government tried to squeeze the demand for gold, it ended up creating a huge network of smugglers and criminals, who acted hand in glove with a range of personnel in various law enforcement agencies, to meet the demands of Indian consumers. A corollary of the restriction on gold was one of the world's most restrictive regimes in the foreign exchange market, so as to try to stem capital flight. The almost inevitable consequence of India's huge appetite for gold was the rise of the parallel foreign exchange market. The inflow of gold was made possible by the sending out of money. Capital flight was one of the major characteristics of the Indian economy till the early 1990s. This phase highlighted one of the biggest paradoxes faced by many poor countries. National economies need productive investment to help them climb out of endemic poverty, yet the economic policy environment is rarely conducive to attracting investment. And rather than reassessing the policy instruments affecting investments, most governments, as in India, found it more convenient to try and force the people to surrender their capital to the state. It was in such an economic climate that the hawala system of money transfer across international borders, completely bypassing formal sector banking, was perfected in the 1960s, particularly in South Asia. Hawala in Urdu, a language spoken primarily by the Muslim population in India and Pakistan, means 'in the air'. In Arabic, hawala generally translates as 'transfer'. Basically it means an invisible transfer through the air, the transfer of money from one country to another. This flow of foreign exchange through an informal route was also a result of the gap between the official exchange rate and the market rate. This gap was the inevitable result of governmental restrictions on foreign currency transactions. Today the scale of money laundering, including hawala transactions, is estimated to be between USD 500 billion and 1.5 trillion, according to the consulting firm KPMG. Of course there is a need to distinguish Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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between money laundering and hawala transactions. Money laundering is an attempt to camouflage the source of funds by processing them through a number of international transactions, almost always through banking and other formal sector financial channels. The objective is to confuse the paper trail and make the funds look legitimate. Very large amounts, likely to be in billions of dollars, are processed in this way. The funds may originate from the global narcotics trade, embezzlers, fraudsters, tax evaders, corrupt bureaucrats and political leaders, who have a need to make their money look legal, although its origin is illegitimate. A hawala transaction, on the other hand, responds to the need of individuals, whether corrupt or not, to complete economic transactions which are either not permitted by law or else required by law to be completed at unremunerative prices. Hawala transactions are primarily based on a private network of dealers who operate outside the formal banking system. They arose in response to rigid foreign currency regulations in South Asia, and the high transaction costs of dealing in foreign currency. The rapid spread of South Asian expatriate communities all around the world since the 1960s created a demand with regard to sending money to their homes. For instance, a taxi driver in New York wants to send money to his illiterate mother in his village. He approaches a hawala agent in his neighbourhood. The agent then decides on a simple commission, typically about 0.25 per cent, or else he offers an exchange rate a little higher than the official rate. The agent informs his counterpart in India about the transaction, and then the Indian hawala agent ensures that the money is delivered to the woman in the village, usually within 24 to 48 hours. The money is delivered in cash, since in most instances the recipient would not even have a bank account. Even today, with economic liberalisation and the spread of communication technologies, a wire transfer from one bank to another takes days. Relying on trust of the hawala network partners, and using simple codes and telephone, fax and now emails, the hawala system is able to provide a faster service at a lower cost. So, of the 20 million or so Indians living abroad, it is likely that hardly anyone has not used the hawala system at some point. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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The network based on trust that hawala agents have been able to build across continents is remarkable. But it is natural that such a system, not operating through the formal financial sectors, would also attract the attention of criminals and now terrorists. Certainly the various attempts to check money laundering through banks around the world can only increase the transaction cost of money transfers, and thereby give a further impetus to the hawala network. It is apparent, then, that government would benefit by ensuring that the transaction costs of foreign exchange transfer are reduced, so that at least the majority of transactions taking place through the hawala today get absorbed in the formal system. One reason why this would be a feasible target is because 90 per cent of hawala transactions are believed to involve relatively small amounts, legitimately earned and saved, being sent by ordinary people to family and friends. To attract these transactions, the formal banking channels must be able to compete with the low cost hawala network. The Western Union, while an improvement over formal banks, is hardly able to do that, particularly in poorer countries. Clearly the hawala system, especially in South Asia, is extensive, flexible and a rational choice for poorer sections of the population. The invisible and informal nature of the hawala transaction may appear to be part of a mysterious underground. But the fact is that hawala is comparable in structure and economy to most other alternative formal channels for remittance. It is important to appreciate the economic dimensions of hawala, and to realise that even without criminals, terrorists, and narcotic traders, hawala would remain as long as there is a demand for the service that hawala offers. Most of the transactions are harmless. Rather than blaming the hawala network, it would be appropriate to look at why the formal financial sector costs so much more, to examine why economic and exchange controls provide an impetus to underground economic activity, and consequently demand for hawala services. It would be a mistake then to look at the hawala network as having mainly a criminal provenance, rather than examining economic regulations that have contributed to expansion of the hawala network. There is hardly a town in South Asia without a hawala agent. With Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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an estimated 40 per cent of the Indian economy, officially at about USD 700 billion at present, in the underground and informal sector, the demand for harvala transactions can hardly be reduced.

Banking and Finance Both the gold trade and the hawala market are a reflection of the lack of credibility, and the higher transaction costs, of the formal financial sector. But problems with this sector are also apparent in the lack of access to these institutions for most people in India. According to the 2001 Census, barely 50 per cent of urban households, and only around 30 per cent of rural ones, avail themselves of banking services in India. The myriad paper work involved in opening a bank account, coupled with low income levels and the fact that most Indians operate in the informal cash economy, means that for most Indians, even when in physical proximity to a bank, maintaining a bank account is not an attractive proposition. Over the past couple of decades, the need to develop savings and credit institutions aimed particularly at the poor has led to a lot of attention being paid to micro-credit facilities. Formation of local self-help groups to undertake small loans, supported by peer pressure rather than collateral, has rapidly expanded micro-credit programmes. Many of these groups have developed some kind of a linkage with NGOs, and also the banking system, to sustain the flow of credit and monitor repayments. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has become an international icon of this kind of small scale banking. It is believed that the poverty level among members of Grameen bank is at 20 per cent compared to 56 per cent in the country - though at the poverty level of USD 1 a day, that is not saying much, nearly a quarter century after it was started. Increasingly there are critics of this approach to rural development and poverty alleviation. It is pointed out that micro-credit has neither created wealth nor helped the poor accumulate it. Despite massive support from governments and international agencies, in India the average savings among self-help groups has been a pittance, at less than INR 1 per day, ie about USD 8.5 per year. And the interest rate could typically be 2 per cent a month. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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The problem is that governments and banks have been attracted to microfinance schemes because they provide high visibility and showcase their intentions to dealing with poverty. But very little has been done to make formal sector banking accessible to large populations in the informal economy. Consequently the informal sector has improvised on its own to provide credit and savings facilities for such people. For instance, at almost every commercial complex in Delhi, people at the lowest income levels have tried to come together in small groups, led by a reliable coordinator. The members typically can be 10 to 50 people working in the vicinity, or who have known each other for some length of time. They agree on various savings schemes where the members may put up INR 10 a week, or INR 100 a month, depending on their capacity. The coordinator acts as a mobile bank, carrying the cash in his pocket, ready to disburse a loan on the spot. Every member in a group has an opportunity, according to a cycle, to withdraw his contribution or take a loan. The interest rate is determined by the members of the group themselves, typically at 2-5 per cent. Members join these groups for different reasons. Some want to save in a simple and convenient way so that they could buy something that they want, perhaps a TV or a refrigerator. Others join so that they can take a loan to help meet the cost of a child's education or a daughter's marriage. Such independent groups, operating outside the scope of microfinance institutions, are quite common in rural as well as urban India. Often shopkeepers in a low income neighbourhood provide daily or weekly savings schemes to help their clients buy a consumer durable from them after the necessary amount has been saved. Many people join a number of groups to suit their own financial priorities. Women in villages often join such groups to save small amounts, which they can withdraw in rotation to meet some family expenses. No one knows the real number of such independent schemes that operate in India. But clearly they far outnumber the 100,000 odd recognised microfinance schemes. This is another example of grassroots entrepreneurship in the informal sector meeting the need for savings and credit facilities among low income people. This also showcases that, despite the liberalisation of the banking sector in

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India, its ability to penetrate to people at the grassroots is quite a long way off. The demand for credit and savings can be estimated from the fact that 70 per cent of rural households do not have bank accounts. Since 60-70 per cent of the Indian population of 1.1 billion live in rural areas, this means that the proportion of rural people without access to formal sector credit facilities is massive. But it is not that they do not need credit, it is that almost 90 per cent of their needs are met by local moneylenders, or independent, informal self-help groups. Conversely, according to one recent estimate, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, one of the more progressive states, 57 per cent of organised microfinance facilities through formal self-help groups goes to people who are not actually poor. The question is, if there is need for such services, why are banks not going in? Obviously, the cost per unit of credit will be higher, on account of both higher perceived risk as well as lower average transaction value. But then the response of the banks should be to charge higher prices (interest rates), in order to meet the demand. But the banks are not free to set their own interest rates, which means that much of the demand continues to remain outside the formal banking sector. Whether it is in the gold trade, or in foreign exchange transactions, or in organising savings and loans schemes, the formal sector has been no match for grassroots capitalists in India. The tragedy is that even years after economic reform began, formal sector policies and regulations have not grasped the essence of the spirit of entrepreneurship pervading Indian society. Consequently the true potential of these grassroots capitalists is far from being realised.

Grassroots Manufacturing Revolution The growth of the service sector in India has received national and international recognition. With the advent of IT, the rise of business processing outsourcing in the areas of banking, finance, etc., has exposed natural Indian inclinations in these areas. In contrast, after fifty years of industrial policy, the promised industrial revolution has eluded India, and left her far behind competition from China. And yet, Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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truth is stranger than fiction. If the informal service sector has thrived in India, defying government edicts, the manufacturing revolution at the grassroots puts Indian entrepreneurs in an equally positive light. Almost a century after Henry Ford showed the economic power of the assembly line, Indian grassroots entrepreneurs have shown that their hand-made automobiles can still compete with their modern counterparts in rural India. Traditionally the automobile has been looked upon as a luxury good by Indian policymakers. The formal automobile sector has been heavily licensed, controlled and taxed. It is estimated that the total burden of taxation on manufactured vehicles could be as high as 100 per cent. The duties on imported vehicles, even second hand ones, are prohibitive. Indeed, the latest scandal concerning the automobile sector in India is the alleged import of the latest luxury cars, evading the normal duties, for the rich and the powerful. India then has one of the lowest vehicle densities in the world. Although the automobile sector has been gradually deregulated over the past two decades, in a country of one billion the annual sale of automobiles is just about one million today. Private vehicles are still outside the reach of most Indians, and public transport, dominated by public sector corporations, is a further burden to the tax payers. Consequently, there is a tremendous unfulfilled demand for transportation, particularly in the vast countryside. To fill this gap between the bullock cart and formal sector transportation, a unique breed of village mechanics has stepped in. Having learned the trade of maintaining and repairing various kinds of farm equipment over the past three decades, many of these mechanics are now in a position to assemble a motorised mini-truck in about two weeks time. Operating from small workshops, these people assemble a whole vehicle from scratch right under a roadside tree. In many parts of north India, these homemade vehicles are called Jugaad, an Indian slang for quick fix. Basically, when they get an order for such a vehicle, the mechanics buy second-hand motor parts like gearbox, radiators, wheels, steering wheel, etc., from theflourishingcar parts market in Delhi. They get an agricultural diesel engine, 8 to 12 horse power, typically used to pump Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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water or drive other farm equipment. Then the chassis is welded, the engine is mounted, the gearbox is connected to drive the rear wheels. With rudimentary benches for seating, the vehicle is ready to chug along gently at around 20 km an hour. To save on fuel, lights and horns are avoided. The vehicle costs between USD 1000 to 2000, depending on the features one wants added, in comparison with the cost of a basic small car (800 cc) which starts in India today at USD 5000. If one drives out of Delhi in any direction for 100 km or even less, one cannot fail to notice these unorthodox vehicles holding their place between bullock and camel carts at one end, and regular cars and trucks at the other. Meeting the short haul needs of small towns and villages, within a radius of 50 km, these vehicles can be seen ferrying children to schools, carrying goods or farmers and local traders to nearby markets, or taking a couple of cows or bullocks to the local vets. These multipurpose vehicles truly dominate many parts of rural India, particularly in the Northern Provinces. That is not all. A farmer turned innovator has designed an award winning low cost small tractor, ideally suited to a typical small Indian farm holding. He has even sought to patent this, and would like to send the vehicle for conventional road testing, so that he could manufacture it commercially. Unfortunately, he has been unable to raise the money necessary to get the tests done, which cost much more than the USD 2000 he spends on assembling one of his prototypes. None of these vehicles presently qualify for registration, and under the law they cannot be used on a public road. Nevertheless, keeping to the Indian tradition, law enforcement agencies tend to look the other way, since the economic and political cost of prohibiting these vehicles will be too high to bear for the government.

Assembling Computers The manufacturing revolution is not restricted to low-tech assembly, like the home-made vehicles mentioned above. The Indian IT revolution may not have been possible but for the parallel assembling of computers by informal sector technicians. In the IT services sector, India is among the fastest growing countries in the world. One estimate holds that, whereas worldwide Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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IT services revenue increased less than 2 per cent from 2000 to 2003, India's IT services industry experienced a 22 per cent revenue growth— a pace comparable to the rise in Hong Kong's electronics industry during the 1970s.2 Over 80 per cent of the IT services are exported. But this is calculated on a very shallow base. The official number of PCs sold in the country in 1997 was just over 500,000, today it stands at 3.6 million. The level of PC penetration has jumped ten fold between 1997 and 2005, but stands barely at 12 per 1000 people. Internet subscription is only at 6.6 million today, although the total number of users stands at over 52 million.3 These numbers must however be placed in the context of Indian reality. Just as in the automobile sector, much of the success of Indian IT has come despite the best efforts by government to curb the spread of this new technology. The government typically set tariffs at 300 to 400 per cent on PCs in the 1980s, and thus stifled the growth of the hardware sector. This produced informal PC assemblers. Even today, 60-70 per cent of PCs are assembled by what is called the grey market. These are skilled technicians who developed out of the need to provide maintenance and repairs for the small but high value PC sector in the country. By the late 1980s, there was an army of technicians assembling lower cost PCs for a whole range of consumers. The increased demand led to the rise of a huge network of traders who smuggled components, avoiding government duties. Whole markets developed in major Indian cities specialising in supplying imported components needed to assemble the PCs. Typically an assembled PC sells at 25 per cent less than its branded equivalent. Even today, when official duties on PCs are down to zero, and the hidden tax burden on branded PCs is down to about 10-15 per cent, the informal sector has held its ground. The enormously competitive informal sector assemblers had ensured that most first time PC buyers invariably bought a locally assembled one. The biggest advantage that the informal sector assemblers brought was their flexibility to assemble a PC exactly tailored to the customer's needs and financial constraints. For almost all major components, they provide a range of options balancing quality and price. On top of this, most such assemblers provide on-site repair options. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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HP is the largest seller of branded PCs in India today, at 12 per cent of the market share. Senior executives at companies like HP acknowledge that the informal sector has played an enormous role in expanding the market. By exposing customers to their first PC, the informal assemblers prepared the way for many consumers to buy branded computers in their second or third purchase. The spectacular rise of internationally competitive IT services from India was based on the foundation of informal sector PCs. In a country where telephone density has just crossed 10 per cent, the IT revolution would not have been possible without the unheralded informal sector assemblers of PCs who virtually circumvented the government stranglehold over the computer and telecommunication sectors. As far as government policies go, they have generally been inimical to the spread of IT in India. Sabir Bhatia, the Silicon valley entrepreneur from India, and co-founder of Hotmail, says, 'In my travels around the world, I am often asked a question: "Could you have done Hotmail in India?" And my answer has inevitably been, "No! Had I attempted to create Hotmail in India, somebody would have come to me claiming that I was taking away the revenues of phone or fax companies! " '4

Informal Provisioning of Infrastructure Services The area in which there is widest consensus about the major impediments to economic growth in India is the infrastructure sector. The shortcomings of physical infrastructure such as roads, ports, electricity are well documented. Likewise there is a consensus on the need to improve social infrastructure, such as education and health facilities. Per capita consumption of electricity in India is one-twentieth of the US. Over 50 per cent of nearly 200 million households in India do not have electricity. Around 70 per cent of households rely on traditional, non-commercial fuel such asfirewood,cow dung cakes, and other agricultural waste to cook their food. Most Indians experience regular power cuts due to a shortage of electricity. Citizens of Delhi experience these routine blackouts for a few hours in a day, particularly

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when the demand for electricity is at its peak during the hot summer months. Many parts of rural India often go without power for days. Electricity is still considered to be a natural monopoly in India. Most of the generation and distribution is controlled by public sector organisations. Typically, rather than looking at growing demand as a potential business opportunity, it is customary for these service providers to blame the consumers for their insatiable appetite. But, as was seen in other sectors, where there is real demand for any goods or services, then, irrespective of the regulatory status, Indian entrepreneurs, particularly those in the informal sector, step in to supply the demand. For instance, in Delhi, there are many examples of private entrepreneurs fulfilling the electricity needs of consumers. At the top end, many households and housing societies and whole neighbourhoods have installed back up electricity generators to supply energy when the utility fails. At commercial and industrial establishments, 25 to 40 per cent have invested in captive electricity sources to keep their organisations functioning during blackouts.5 But even more interesting is the small local area parallel grid being run in many parts of urban India. Particularly in the case of small shop traders who have set up their businesses along roads and without the sanction of the civic administration, they have come together to set up kerosene or diesel generator sets to supply lighting at least during evening shopping hours. Typically an entrepreneur wires up 50 to 100 shops or vendors in one neighbourhood or at an informal marketplace. The rate is usuallyfixedaccording to the number of light bulbs that are connected for a certain number of hours each evening. While in this system the cost of electricity is much higher than what it would be if it was available from the grid, the customers have the flexibility to decide whether the benefits of attracting customers during peak evening shopping hours outweigh the high unit cost of electricity. Some of them even decide to opt out, and rely on their own kerosene or LPG powered lamps. Such informal arrangements are quite common throughout urban India. At the top end, the arrangements can be quite sophisticated. In one rich neighbourhood in Delhi, the government declared the whole Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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area to be unauthorised reclamation of agriculture land for domestic housing. This area houses many rich and powerful people. As a result, even though it is technically illegal, the city authorities hardly have the power to demolish the area. But they do not provide amenities like electricity. Consequently every house in the area had originally installed its own generators. Over time, service providers evolved to install larger generation units to power whole blocks of housing. The cost of electricity in this area is about four times the rate charged by the public utility. Such examples, covering both the top and bottom end of socioeconomic strata of society, provide two lessons. The first is, consumers are willing to pay for reliable electricity. Secondly, given an opportunity, entrepreneurs can expose the myth of natural monopoly even in sectors as conventional as electricity. Perhaps the best example of wiring up the country comes from the cable TV sector. Since the early 1990s, cable TV in India was dominated by independent private entrepreneurs in almost every urban locality. In ten years they connected more urban households, 30 million, than public sector telephone companies had done in the previous fifty years. In fact India today has the unique distinction of being perhaps the only country in the world where more homes have cable TV than telephones. These informal infrastructure services are not restricted to electricity or cable TV. Urban waste recycling is mainly in the hands of a million men who make a living by gathering and sorting waste material ranging from plastic and paper to glass and metals. Virtually nothing that can be recycled or reused is left behind. Even in the case of water supply, there is evidence of flourishing and diverse water markets in quite a few parts of rural and urban India.

Education for the Masses Perhaps the role of the informal sector in providing basic education is the most unrecognised phenomenon in India. Since the 1950s, education has truly been a holy cow. The role of the state in providing primary, secondary and higher education has never been questioned.

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But the record of public education, particularly at the primary level, has been anything but creditable. Almost 60 years since independence from British rule in 1947 the literacy rate has barely crossed 60 per cent. There are more illiterate Indians today than the total population of the country in 1950. And the definition of literacy itself has undergone some changes. Just being able to sign one's name is considered to be adequate to qualify one as functionally literate. The paradox is even greater when one considers that, while one section of Indians is establishing its presence in the new information age, a much larger section does not even have the capacity for the rudiments of the three R's of education. This is despite, or perhaps because of, the state being seriously involved in education. For instance, in Delhi, to set up a recognised school, almost 40 permissions are required, in theory to ensure that the government is satisfied that the education being provided meets the best standards. The downside of this approach has been that the cost of providing education has been constantly pushed up. Consequently, the number of children who are slipping through the education net has risen, even while enrolment levels have touched 95 per cent at primary level. As is to be expected, educational entrepreneurs have entered in a big way to meet the demand for education. India always hosted some of the best private school educational establishments in the world. But what has not been appreciated is the scale of educational service provision in the informal and unrecognised sector in India. According to some estimates, about 50 per cent of some of the poorest children attend private schools in their neighbourhood. Some are run by charitable organisations. But by far the majority of them are run by local entrepreneurs in the community. And most of them have to at least break-even financially if they are to continue to provide the service. The Indian experience forces one to draw the conclusion that many of the poorest families not only value education, but are also willing to pay for that service. State sponsored schooling is virtually free in India. The government provides the books, often the school uniforms, and increasingly one Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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meal as well, as part of its effort to induce parents to send their kids to schools. On the other hand, numerous surveys have pointed out the serious problems with public schooling in India. Lack of facilities and lack of accountability are topped by the fact that more often than not the teachers are either absent, or not engaged in teaching when they ought to be. So, even when a public school is within easy reach, many poor parents prefer paying around USD 1 to 2 a month to send their kids to informal private schools in the neighbourhood. Typically, these informal schools are run by a local family from the community. Usually they have 50 to 100 students, often different grade students attending a common class, under a common teacher. They are often run in two or three rooms of a house, often owned by the main teacher. They may hire a couple of local boys and girls who have completed high school or even have a college degree to act as additional teachers. And more often than not they operate under extreme competition from other educational entrepreneurs in the vicinity. So they have to do their best to satisfy the parents that their kids are at least being provided functional literacy. And because the parents are paying, they can hold these entrepreneurs accountable. The phenomenon of educational entrepreneurs in the informal sector is not restricted to urban India. There have not been many efforts to survey or document these activities in rural India. But on the face of it there is quite a lot of evidence that they are active in many parts of rural India too.

Grassroots Entrepreneurship These are only a few examples of an all pervading spirit of enterprise, particularly among people at the bottom of the economic ladder. They exhibit an uncanny knack of identifying an unmet need and then finding a way to supply it. Their relative lack of formal education and training, or lack of capital and technology, has not dampened their spirit. The biggest obstacle Indian entrepreneurs face is the attempt by the government to outlaw their businesses, or impose regulations that drive up the cost of doing business in India. The annual survey 'Doing

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Business 2006' from the World Bank ranks India at 116 out of 155 countries surveyed, with regard to ease of doing business. Despite the present economic reforms, starting a formal business in India requires 11 procedures and 71 days, down from 89 in 2005; dealing with licences requires 20 procedures and 270 days; export procedures take 36 days; import procedures take 43 days; there are 59 taxes and it takes 264 hours to compile returns. Insolvency procedures take 10 years. Around 40 procedures and 425 days are required for a contract in India. The 'rigidity of employment' index, which relates to difficulties in hiring and firing workers, ranks India at 62 on an index of 100, by far the highest in the region. 'High Indian transaction costs associated with entrepreneurship have often been documented, especially for the organised or formal sector, though the burden for the unorganised sector is no less horrendous. Such transaction costs encompass all three stages of an enterprise's operation—entry (starting a business), functioning (hiring and firing workers, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, enforcing contracts, paying taxes, trading across borders) and exit (closing a business) — and there are also procedural costs, as opposed to transaction costs, which include infrastructure costs.'6 In contrast to the cost of doing business in India formally, the informal sector has grown as a resxilt of benign neglect. Some formal sector competitors complain that the large informal sector in India has an advantage over its formal sector rivals, because it avoids paying taxes and does not bear the full cost of economic regulations. On the other hand, the single biggest obstacle to the informal sector is its vulnerability to extortion from law enforcing agencies. Strictly enforcing some of the regulations will gravely affect some of the poorest sections of society who are engaged in the whole range of informal economic activities. Political upheaval will inevitably follow if such large numbers of people who are engaged in peaceful informal activity are suddenly thrown out. Being a democracy, the government in India has to balance between political turmoil and tolerating corruption. Tolerating corruption is a way to let the regulations be bent or bypassed (while of course there are profits from rent seeking).

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But the other cost that the informal sector has to bear because of its extra-legal status is the inability to raise the capital necessary to expand businesses even when they are competitive and have successful products or services. A corollary is the difficulty that formal sector players face in integrating successful informal sector players into their operations, so they can take advantage of each other's managerial and technical expertise. This brief survey sought to provide a glimpse of the culture of entrepreneurship prevailing in India. If these grassroots capitalist entrepreneurs are freed from the shackles of bureaucratic economic regulations, they have the potential to take India to the top of the development ladder. Clearly poverty in India today is not because her people are poor, but because of the failure to recognise their grassroots entrepreneurship, and the lack of confidence in these budding capitalists' ability to take on the world. Today the world is debating ways to fight poverty. The examples given in this article of Indian entrepreneurship overcoming the problems of regulation suggest that removing the chains and allowing the inherent human spirit of enterprise to fly is the simplest way to overcome poverty. People need to be empowered, not spoon-fed, to achieve prosperity.

Endnotes 1. "Indians simply love gold' The Economic Times, New Delhi, 16 July 2005. Source: &art_id=6896. 2. 'India's IT Services Industry: A Comparative Analysis' by Pratyush Bharati, University of Massachusetts, Boston, January 2005. 3. NASSCOM 2005. 4. 'Online businesses grow in India' by Raja M., Asia Times, 31 August 2005. Source: lDfO4.html 5. The official figure for private generation of electricity is 18 per cent; however, this captures only installations of over 1 MW. If we add all household, commercial and smaller industrial installations, it will be between 1/4 and 1/3 of all power in the country, despite all manner of regulations against it, and - for industrial establishments - taxes on installing and generating private power. 6. 'Not Businesslike' - Editorial in Business Standard, New Delhi, 15 September 2005.

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Empowering the Poor: A Liberal Approach to Education Reforms PARTH SHAH

Editor's Note Most countries in South Asia have now moved to open economies from the statist consensus of the first couple of decades after independence. However there is still a marked tendency to rely on statism for social goods. In this context, India has shown the benefits of greater choice in the manner in which literacy has improved over the last decade, running parallel as it were with economic growth. In this article Parth Shah deals with the problems that still remain, and the mindset that needs to be overcome. The experiences on which the article is based show how, even in the face of restrictions, the desire for freedom and choice will assert itself. The example of Kerala which he cites shows how easy and productive it is to escape from a straitjacket of dogma. When that is understood, the potential for massive improvements might be realised in accordance with fundamental liberal principles.

Introduction The significance of education for economic growth and a progressive society needs no argument, but providing even basic education to a billion people is a gargantuan task. So how can the Indian masses be educated? What are the roles of the state, the market and civil society in this venture? This discussion on the delivery of quality education is India centric, but its lessons are applicable generally, particularly in the countries of South Asia.

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A few facts about the state of schooling in India will root the discussion in reality. • The current literacy rate is about 65 per cent, and the government counts anyone who can sign their name as literate. • About half the children entering class I drop out before reaching class V, and two-thirds do so before reaching class VIII. • About 30 per cent of primary schools do not have permanent school buildings; about 20 per cent of primary schools are singleteacher schools. • More than 25 per cent of government school teachers are absent on any given day, and almost half of those who are present are engaged in non-teaching activities. • A recent study by UNESCO shows that, in relation to the per capita income of the country, Indian government teachers are the highest paid in the world. • Almost half the children in the metro cities of India are in private schools; in some states like Punjab and Haryana, more than 70 per cent of students are in private schools.1 There are many facts and there are even more interpretations of these facts. This article first discusses some of the myths about the problems of education in India, then evaluates recently proposed solutions, and at the end offer an agenda for reform.

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom The current policy debate in education is guided by one or all of the following myths. • Myth 1: The poor need their children to earn/work. • Myth 2: People are ignorant of the benefits of education. • Myth 3: People do not have money or are unwilling to spend on education. • Myth 4: Government provided primary education is free. • Myth 5: Private schools are only for the rich. MYTH 1: The poor need their children to work and earn. FACT 1: Only 5 per cent of boys and 1 per cent of girls engage in regular wage labour.

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Empowering the Poor: A Liberal Approach to Education Reforms 93

Child labour used, certainly, to be a serious concern in India but today the reality is very different. Nonetheless the discussion, particularly with regard to education, proceeds as if not much has changed. Table 1: Work Patterns of Out-of-School Children (PROBE States)2. Boys


Proportion who performed wage labour on the day preceding the survey



Average time of work on the day preceding the survey*

4.2 hrs (3.3 hrs)

5.1 hrs (4.8 hrs)

Extra time of work, compared with children who are attending school

2.1 hrs

2.2 hrs

* Median in brackets - Source: PROBE survey

The Census of India for 1981, if less sanguine, found that the proportion of children aged 5-14 who were in the workforce (looking at the All-India Rural sector) was 8.8 per cent for females and 10 per cent for males. According to the Probe Report (Public Report on Basic Education In India, 1999), the worst performer states in the education sector are the BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states. As their figures in Table 1 demonstrated, only 5 per cent boys and 1 per cent girls engage in wage labour with an average of four hours per day of work. Some of those children who attend school also work, on an average of two hours per day. The PROBE study concludes that only a small minority of children are full time labourers, and most of them work not as wage labourers but as family helpers at home or in the field. Moreover, the causal link generally adduced, that child labourers are unable to go to school because they have to work, may not often be correct. Rather the opposite is true, that they drop out of school because the schooling they get does not reflect their concerns and the overall quality of schooling is very poor too. So parents reason that, instead of wasting time in school, and even picking up bad habits from senior students when

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teachers are largely absent, it is better for them to gain work experience and contribute to the family income. The low enrolment and retention rates are more of a result therefore of low quality schooling. MYTH 2: People are ignorant of the benefits of education. FACT 2: Even illiterate people cannot be fooled into spending their time on mediocre or non-existent schooling. Surveys to investigate why some children are never enrolled in school find that more than one-third of the children or parents are 'not interested' in education. This finding is used to conclude that the poor and the illiterate do not really understand the importance of education and therefore cannot be relied upon to educate their children. Field research today suggests rather that supply and not demand factors are responsible for this apparent lack of interest. The quality of infrastructure, teaching and concern for learning is abysmally poor. This, along with the fact that schooling and curriculum are rarely tailored to the rural world of the poor, and their concerns with income generation, makes schools largely irrelevant, as a poor return on investment. The PROBE Survey States: 'Inactive teachers were found engaged in a variety of pastimes such as sipping tea, reading comics or eating peanuts. Generally, teaching activity has been reduced to a minimum in terms of both time and effort. And this pattern is not confined to a minority of irresponsible teachers — it has become a way of life in the profession ... in only 53 per cent of government schools (was) any teaching going on at all. Plain negligence; cases of teachers keeping a school closed for months at a time; a school where the head-teacher was drunk; a head-teacher who asks the children to do domestic chores, including looking after the baby; several cases of teachers sleeping at school; a head-teacher who comes to school once a week ...' Whenever these drawbacks have been rectified, generally due to the initiative of some individual teacher or principal or bureaucrat, enrolments improve dramatically. In the Total Literacy Programme, a few Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

Empowering the Poor: A Liberal Approach to Education Reforms 95

districts performed exceptionally well because of particular individuals in the system. However, only few of these efforts have led to systemic improvements. People do not lack understanding of the importance, they simply cannot be fooled into spending their time and money on a mediocre quality education. The PROBE study found that almost 90 per cent of parents are keen to send their children to school and that gender discrimination in parents' desire to educate children is far lower than generally assumed. MYTH 3: People don't have the money or are unwilling to spend on education. FACT 3: Of the Rs 7388.5 million of private spending on primary education, Rs 4202.5 million, or more than half, was in rural areas. Relevant studies3 suggest that people spend from Rs 100 to more than Rs 4000 per child on primary education in any given year.4 Table 2: School Expenditure: Private vs Government. Amount Total Household Expenditure on Primary Education

Rs 7388.5 million

Total Household Expenditure on Primary Education in rural areas

Rs 4202.5 million

Total Government Expenditure on Primary Education

Rs 17000 million

Source: NCAER & NSSO Survey, 1986-87

Private spending on primary education is not just by the rich and the middle class in urban areas. Out of Rs 7388.5 million, Rs 4202.5 million was spent in rural areas amounting to more than half of the total private expenditure. In that year, the total government expenditure on primary education was Rs 17,000 million. Thus private expenditure is by no means an insignificant amount, being more than 40 per cent of what the government spent on primary education. And

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this private expenditure is going up, along with economic liberalisation and growth. MYTH 4: Basic education provided by the government is free FACT 4: Indirect costs of basic schooling are still borne by parents. The previous discussion clearly indicates that people, including the rural poor, spend a great deal of money on basic education of their children. A detailed analysis of the NCAER and NSSO studies leads Professor JBG Tilak to the following conclusions: How free is 'free' primary education in India? Households spend large sums of money on acquiring primary education; a sizable number of students do not receive primary education free, in contrast to the claims made by the government; a large number of students pay tuition fee, examination fee and other fees even in government primary schools in India. Source: Tilak, Economic and Political Weekly 3 and 10 February 1996

MYTH 5: Private schools are only for the rich. FACT 5: The fastest growing sector in education is of 'budget private schools', which charge Rs 50 to 300 per month and to which the poor send their children. Almost half of urban children and about 20 per cent of rural children are in private schools. In some states like Haryana and Punjab, more than 70 per cent of all children are in private schools. Surely these cannot just be the children of the rich. In a study covering Asia and Africa, James Tooley (2005) found a significant number of private schools in China, Ghana, India and Kenya catering to the poor. He thus concludes: Though elite private schools do exist in impoverished regions of the world, private schools are not only for the privileged classes ... Our research suggests that children in these schools outperform

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Empowering the Poor: A Liberal Approach to Education Reforms


similar students in government schools in key school subjects. And this is true even of the unrecognized private schools, schools that development experts dismiss, if they acknowledge their existence at all, as being of poor quality/ (p. 32) Table 3: Percentage of Students Enrolled by School Type in Ghana and India. 60 50 • Countries -I

Technology Index, T

Public Institutions Index, P

Macroeconomic Environment Index, M






87 62 63 9 27 43 42 52 3 1

74 55 53 41 38 45 50 63 3 21

67 24 52 35 20 23 80 84 3 15

91 46 55 29 31 34 57 66 1 2

73 47 30 24 23 37 38 52 2 1

China India Korea Malaysia Thailand Brazil Turkey Finland


Elsewhere the same document makes 'a comparison of costs of doing business in Pakistan vis-a-vis Singapore, China and Malaysia during 2003' and states that 'The analysis of factors indicates that Pakistan has to show significant improvements in all areas of doing business.' (pp. 251 and 254) 17. 'Pakistan's economy continues to maintain its strong growth momentum for the fifth year in a row in the fiscal year 2006-07. With economic growth at 7.0 per cent in the current fiscal year Pakistan's economy has grown at an average rate of almost 7.0 per annum during the last five years.' Executive Summary, Pakistan Economic Survey 2006-07\ Government of Pakistan, Finance Division, Economic Advisor's Wing, Islamabad, p. xxii, or see 18. On the state of data collection and analysis in Pakistan, Dr Sadia M Malik's article, 'How credible is national data?' {Dawn of 6 February 2008) is very helpful ( Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

An Appraisal of Economic Liberalisation in Pakistan


19. One of the best studies in this regard, though a bit older, is William Easterly's The Political Economy of Growth Without Development: A Case Study of Pakistan (Development Research Group, World Bank, June 2001) 20. For various official estimates of the incidence of poverty, see MTDF, pp. 277-280. 21. Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), acknowledges several concerns and shocks to the economy of the country, but maintains that the real Gross Domestic Product's (GDP) growth target would not be revised and it would remain 7 per cent for the fiscal year 2008. She did however note that the risk of inflation might outweigh the risk to growth in the near future. See Business Recorder, 1 February 2008 (or 22. What occurred could be termed a last if not terminal blow to the appalling law and order situation that prevails throughout the country. See 'Forsaken by the State' by the author, The News International, 13 January 2008 (or thenews/jan2008-weekly/nos-13-01 -2008/pol 1 .htm) 23. MTDF p. xxiii notes that 'Inflation is the bane of all economic planners. The Government, the business sector, and the people must be committed to keeping it low. The only real way to combat inflation is to live within one's means. If we cannot afford we just don't buy. In Pakistan this is possible for we can produce practically all we need in terms of food, shelter and clothing. Now that we have more money, demand pull is slowly forcing prices up.' The Federal Bureau of Statistics adds, 'The weekly inflation, measured through "Sensitive Price Indicator", was up by 12.04 percent for the week ended on 7 February 2008 over the same period of last year, the reason being surge in prices of kitchen items. The increase in prices of essential commodities affected all segments of the society, but the Rs 3000 income group families were hit hard with the cost of essential food items going up by 14.09 per cent.' See Business Recorder, 10 February 2008 ( 24. As MTDF p. 228 puts it, an 'Enabling environment for economic development is achieved through separation of powers of executive, judicial and legislative branches of the state. Government should ideally take up the task of making policies while independent and autonomous institutions should regulate. This responsibility of controlling and supervising a particular activity or area of public interest is left to a self-governing institution. Independence of regulatory institutions not only ensures consistency of policy-making and effective enforcement of legislation but also results in supporting development and prosperity. However, it has often been observed that excessive government intervention, too many regulatory departments and plethora of documentation are major impediments in flourishing (of) private sector business.' 25. 'The government's long-term vision is to free the economy from the burden of publicly run businesses and focuses on good governance and creation of an enabling environment for the private sector to invest in providing goods and services efficiently. The pre-requisites for attracting large inflows of investment and technology include macroeconomic stability and continuity, well

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170 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia establishment(ed) public institutions, an educated skilled workforce, protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and an efficient mechanism for resolving commercial disputes. While all these aspects are being addressed, highest priority in MTDF (Medium Term Development Framework 2005-10) would be given to developing public institutions and the enforcement and efficient implementation of the legal system in a transparent manner. The new investment framework focuses on opening up of the economy for private sector investment; privatisation of public units in banking and finance, oil and gas, telecommunication, power and industrial sectors; enhanced Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to meet the increasing demand for physical infrastructure; and development of legal and regulatory framework.' MTDF9 p. xix. See also p. 247.

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10 Religion and Culture in the Liberal State RAJIVA WIJESINHA

There is a conception of liberty at the heart of every welldeveloped political theory in the modern Western tradition. Thus goes the opening of John Gray's introduction to the volume of essays on Conceptions of Liberty in Political Philosophy}

Few would give such a sentence a second glance. Such generalisations are a commonplace, not only of scholarship, but of the modern Western tradition that cherishes a concept of culture-bound values which places what seem the more appealing of those values squarely within the West. And such attitudes are almost subconscious — there is little doubt that a statement such as the above is, not to any great extent, concerned with asserting or establishing a dichotomy between Western and Eastern (or, to use the term such commentators would prefer, non-Western) traditions. Such a dichotomy would be taken for granted, not worth a further glance. Instead what would be argued for (as is indeed the case with Gray), so as to make the statement necessarily true, indeed tautologically so, is that particular conceptions of liberty or the weight attached to them vary. Gray in fact deals also with Western thinkers 'who have sought to devalue freedom as a political ideal'2 and a later essay in the book is concerned with The Marxian Conception of Freedom', characterised as central to Marxist philosophy, though of course, with a somewhat different meaning attached to freedom from that commonly associated with it. Such distinctions are crucial to the philosophical position Gray and the contributors to his book wish to elucidate, and it is with regard to those that constructive debate might be evoked. The dichotomy that is most sharply asserted in what might be characterised as the Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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topic sentence of the book is not of particular interest to the writers. Any form of polemical debate about it would be meaningless to them. Some discussion about the preconceptions behind such an assertion might however, be illuminating for Asians at the present time. One should begin, perhaps, by granting that such extreme generalisations are essential to scholarship inasmuch as they stimulate thought about the various elements that are brought into association or are disjoined. Thus Durkheim's analysis of Capitalism tells us a great deal about both Capitalism and Protestantism, which helps our understanding of both. It is relatively unimportant that in the present day his interpretation of the relationship between them would not be accepted in its entirety. It would be questioned and challenged and modified, with due deference to the original insights, in terms of different aspects of the two institutions he correlates. What is more significant is the original conception, itself based on an assumption that seems a priori acceptable, that particular cultures develop particular values. One could well assume that the way people are brought up would affect the way they think and behave, and of course the way they are brought up would be related to the values of the society in which they spend their formative years. Given the importance attached to the dictates of religion in most social formations, one could also assume that the dictates of particular religions are bound to play a large part in the process. Yet despite all this, generalisations concerning the necessary consequences of particular Western cultural or religious systems, whether they be Catholic or Protestant or Jewish, or based on ethnic identities, are relentlessly subjected to scrutiny and question. To some extent this is due to sensitivity, the anxiety not to upset the susceptibilities of people who are part of one's own social system. But it is also due to the realisation that such generalised correlations cannot tell the whole story. Yet as the quotation from Gray indicates, such generalisations are still made freely about dichotomies between East and West, and in particular between Eastern and Western religious systems, and they are generally accepted without much questioning. At one end of the spectrum, the end from which most but certainly not all liberals would dissociate themselves, they are used to demonise in terms of Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

Religion and Culture in the Liberal State


a particular political agenda. I had personal experience of this sort of tendency, when I found colleagues teaching American students about the distinction between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. These were colleagues who saw themselves as liberals, anxious to get their students to appreciate what they saw as the positive aspects of the Islamic cultural heritage, but aware that they had to overcome the prejudice against Muslims that had arisen in the United States. All this, however, took place in 1990, when the great enemy was Iran, still anathematised after the threat presented to American dominance by the Ayatollah and his regime. The easy way out therefore was to grant that there were Muslims who were intrinsically violent and irrational, who were prone to extremes and incapable of tolerance; but these were Shiites, their excesses understandable in view of the emotional cultural baggage they carried with them, to be distinguished from Sunnis who were, or had the potential to be, not so very different from Westerners. As it happened, Saddam Hussein emerged less than a year later as an even more dangerous enemy, and for the moment that particular theory and the distinctions it asserted had to be given a rest. The broader generalisations however persist, asserting essential differences between the values particular religious or cultural systems inculcate, in despite of the variations within such assertions to which changing political priorities give rise. Such shifts are perhaps inevitable. In looking at the sorts of judgements one makes about such issues, I realised one has to be aware of the sort of conditioning one brings to bear. In my own case I saw that this was of two sorts. As a Westernised Christian in Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, I had tended to see the values I associated with the West, or rather those I thought I shared, as in some sense superior to those of the East. These were those celebrated by Western writers within the liberal tradition I admired, and included what seemed to me the virtues of individualism, rationality, egalitarianism and so on. At the same time I had also celebrated what I saw as the positive values of the oriental culture I shared in, with regard to tolerance and sensitivity for instance, as opposed to the dogmatism of the west.

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Such selectivity is not of course unusual in those who can claim, as Kipling put it, to have two sides to their head. But around the same time as I began to take note of my own tendency to arrogate to the cultures I thought my own the different values I believed in, I came across Gorbachev's very selective account of entities concerning which others might have felt differently: A serious threat is hovering over European Culture too. The threat emanates from an onslaught of "mass culture" from across the Atlantic. We understand pretty well the concern of West European intellectuals. Indeed, one can only wonder that a deep, profoundly intelligent and inherently humane European culture is retreating to the background before the primitive revelry of violence and pornography and the flood of cheap feelings and low thoughts.3 This had been written in the days in which, though Gorbachev doubtless realised that the Soviet Union was in decline, he dreamed perhaps of its emergence after reforms as a leading player on the European stage, not understanding that collapse was imminent, and that what he anathematised as transatlantic brute capitalism would take over the civilisation he would have wanted, himself seeing Russia as an essential element of it, to preserve as European. Conversely what might be termed the High European response was to claim that other Communist countries had suffered under a system that was culturally alien to them, whereas Russians and other Orthodox Slavs had not found it quite so painful. The Catholic states, therefore, could be embraced within Europe as swiftly as possible, with the others left out for the moment, perhaps forever. Unfortunately in Yugoslavia this neat division ignored the Muslims, and led to a quagmire before a more broad-minded view of international obligations emerged. The most noteworthy example of this sort of selective cultural mapping can be seen in the transformation of the Jews into respectable members of Western society. Vilified for centuries, or at the very least seen as irredeemably alien, they have emerged in the last half century as standard bearers of Western values. Part of this arises of course from economic assimilation, and part from guilt with regard to the excesses Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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to which alienation had given rise; but in part too it arises because they provide a useful foil to the Muslims in terms of international politics, instead of being assimilated with them as Semites or sons of the desert or whatever characterisation was thought useful earlier. It is of course Muslims who have suffered the most in recent years from what might be termed the dominant cultural characterisations of the West. This is doubtless due to the threat they seem to represent, in the light of comparatively recent political developments. As far as the South Asian subcontinent is concerned however, this is emphatically a new development, contrasting with the generally favourable opinion of them held by earlier imperial powers in contrast with the dimmer view taken of Hindus. Practically speaking it is likely that these varying emphases arose from the comparatively greater threat presented by the Hindus because of their numbers. The explanations offered however were connected with the religious and cultural links that were more readily perceived between Muslims and Christians, as opposed to idolatrous Hindus. In this respect Buddhists fared better than Hindus. This could have been because Buddhism is not so much a religion as a philosophy, and the Buddha very different from the multiplicity of Hindu gods that seem so different from a monotheistic deity (ignoring, as was done in the imperial heyday, the possibilities of comparisons between the Christian and Hindu trinities). Yet the greater indulgence shown to Buddhism could also be connected with the relatively small numbers involved, and the absence of a threat from such a source. In the light of my own upbringing, it is not surprising that I too tended to accept without question the characterisations in terms of religion that the West had propagated. The need for a less dogmatic view came home to me sharply when I was travelling in Pakistan, which particularly after the hiving off of Bangladesh I had assumed was culturally homogenous, with its Islamic base. Up in the Karakorams I found myself travelling with two young men who seemed the epitome of cosmopolitan civilisation. They were scathing about the recently assassinated General Zia-ul-Haq and his corrupt regime. I assumed therefore that they would approve of Benazir Bhutto, who had recently been elected Prime Minister. I was wrong. When I asked them what Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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they thought of her, they looked at each other in silence for a moment before answering. *We are deeply ashamed,' the more articulate one finally said. I looked at him questioningly. 'You see, she is a woman. It is all right maybe for the other parts of Pakistan. The Punjabis, they are not a warlike people. But we are Pathans. For us to have a woman as our leader - it is a deep disgrace.' Despite, or perhaps because of this self-made generalisation, my argument is that the characterisation of peoples in terms of their religion or their culture is always a selective business that owes as much to the standpoint of the assessor as the actions and attitudes of the peoples under scrutiny. Making connections between values and behavioural patterns on the one hand, and religious tenets or cultural conditioning on the other, must always be a risky business. This is not to say that such connections cannot be illuminating, in that they can help us understand better the behaviour of groups and individuals and their potential responses to changing circumstances, as well as suggesting the possible consequences of particular beliefs and practices. But I would suggest that no necessary connections can be drawn, and that we should always be aware of other potential inputs, ranging from the individual to those arising from the various ways in which the emphases fall, in the different blendings which is all I would submit we can really go on.

The assumption that liberalism is intrinsically connected with the West is basic to Western liberal theoreticians. It is a moot point however whether other Western political theorists would agree with say Anthony Arblaster's claim in The Rise and Decline of Western liberalism that:

Assumptions that are essentially liberal, rather than, say, Christian, or feudal, or socialist or anarchist, lie buried deep in the common social, political and economic attitudes of people in the West.4 It could be and indeed has been plausibly argued, most tellingly by liberals such as Karl Popper, that other ideologies are equally at home in the West. Conversely, most liberals are prepared to grant that there Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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have been varying interpretations of what are considered essentials of liberal ideology even amongst those theorists who are generally considered as fitting within the great liberal tradition of the West. Arblaster, for instance, explicitly characterises the Greeks, whom other liberals see as the forebearers of the tradition, as rejecting individualism, which for Arblaster himself is perhaps the most important feature of liberalism. The way he puts this indeed suggests what is perhaps a more important aspect of the intrinsic connection assumed by liberal thinkers to obtain between liberalism and the West: the very concept of the individual, which is central to liberalism, is far from being universally accepted and non-contentious. It is, in fact, a comparatively recent historical conceptual development, and an essentially Western one as well.5 That is, we have moved from the impression the first quotation above conveys, that liberalism is the dominant strain in Western thought, to the more exclusive claim that particular liberal values have their origin in the West. This sort of shift between the position that what is Western is liberal to the very different position that what is liberal is Western is not, of course, intended to confuse; it is simply symptomatic of the mindset that sees the two as inextricably intertwined so that everything outside these sacred precincts can be treated as secondary. Thus, on the one hand, what is Western but not liberal is assumed to be not buried quite so deep in the attitudes of the people of the West; on the other, what is liberal but not Western, it is suggested if not stated, must surely be an empty category. Despite their romantic illogicality, such assumptions are not nonsensical, nor even hopelessly culture-bound. Empirically speaking, there are good reasons for associating certain liberal values with Western thinkers and political movements. If we take, for instance, the traits that together with individuality Arblaster associates with liberalism, i.e., freedom and tolerance and pluralism and the rule of law and reason and some sort of equality (qualified perhaps as equality of opportunity), it is clear that liberal thinkers have been amongst the most articulate proponents of these. Nor does Arblaster engage in Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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any special pleading to make this point. Indeed he also shows how different liberal thinkers place different emphases on these various strands, and how some of these strands have been challenged by Western theorists whose influence on Western political thought and practice has been considerable, some of whom despite their particular individual predilections can still be fitted within the liberal tradition. In the end, perhaps because of this eclectic approach, it seems fairly clearly established that it is liberal thinkers who have presented the most convincing case for the interrelationship of the various elements that have formed the basis for Western political development, and who have suggested the way in which balances between them may be most satisfactorily achieved. And if Arblaster makes a fair case for the primacy of liberal political thought, in its different manifestations, in the West, it is also true that some of the traits he identifies have been criticised in recent years in the East as being Western notions that are irrelevant to the immediate needs of developing societies. Freedom, for instance, is sharply dichotomised, and positive freedoms are considered vital; thus the freedom to eat and to work is considered urgent enough to justify political coercion. Such notions are indeed popularised even by Western liberal thinkers, as Arblaster demonstrates in quoting Isaiah Berlin, whose initial distinction between 'freedoms from' and 'freedoms to' did not in the Western context encourage the downgrading of the former: It is true that to offer political rights, or safeguards against intervention by the state, to men who are half-naked, illiterate, underfed, and diseased is to mock their condition; they need medical help or education before they can understand, or make use of, an increase in their freedom.6 This, indeed, should make clear that from a liberal perspective no such mockery can be countenanced; yet unfortunately what seem mistaken priorities on the part of Western thinkers, and more often Western politicians with their own agendas, have contributed to a condign dismissal of some liberal ideals by Eastern politicians and their ideologues on the grounds that liberalism does, in fact, insist Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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on such a mockery in its pursuit of abstract ideals. The consequence of such dismissal, however, has often been that the ostensible thrust towards material wellbeing and equality is used to provide justification for the curtailment of freedoms that could have had no bearing on such issues. Perhaps the trait associated with liberalism that has come under the greatest threat from Eastern political arguments and practices in recent years is that of individuality. The attack on this has taken many forms. At its simplest individuality has been attacked on political grounds, as detracting from the priorities, usually material ones, of the state. More significantly, perhaps, it is suggested that individuality is itself a Western imposition, that can only damage the community-oriented civilisation of the East. Going hand in hand with this is an intolerance of diversity, based on the assumption that oriental cultures demand conformity. Such a view, supported as it is by religious fundamentalism and resurgent chauvinism, is not borne out by an examination of those cultures or the religions associated with them. Just as Christianity contains within it many aspects, only some of which are used selectively to justify Christian fundamentalism, so too the religions and the cultures of the east can be seen as containing within them the seeds of liberalism as well as those of the other social and political ideologies that have held sway in those regions and others at different times.

Assessments of Western cultural history generally begin with the Greeks, and this has proved invaluable for the assertion of a western tradition of liberal values. Despite the promotion in the Greek city states, including Athens, of socially oriented values, the impression that has gained currency is that of a culture in which individuality was asserted and celebrated. This is in large measure due to the dynamism of the portrayal in Greek literature of particular characters, by Homer most notably but also by the dramatists. Indeed, even Plato's portrayal of Socrates has been seen as a celebration of the role of the individual, even though the political concepts he asserts may, more obviously, be seen as restrictive and promoting conformity.

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Certainly the individuality of Achilles and the drama of his rebellion against authority provide very powerful images, as do Antigone's defiance of Creon and Prometheus' of Zeus. Though many commentators, ancient and modern, suggest that the writers themselves are critical of such self-assertion, and see it indeed as hubris, this cannot really take away from the impact of those portraits. Yet it would be myopic to assume either that such depictions are unique to the literature of the Greeks, or that other early texts on which European culture is also built do not celebrate other values. Homer himself has perhaps even more positive portrayals, if less powerful ones, of what might be termed communal values, the virtues of conformity and acquiescence, as in the characters of Hector and Diomede and even Odysseus in the lliad\ while there are equally vivid accounts of the culpable excesses of individuality, as with Paris or, in the case of the dramatists, Oedipus or Medea. And such concern with the Greeks is to ignore too the other strands that have been equally important in Western cultural history, indeed even more so over several centuries. The orthodoxies of pins Aeneas, the restrictions imposed and implemented by the Catholic church, the theocentric vision of the Norse epics, are much closer to what might be termed the Western characterisation of Oriental literary traditions. Those are seen as presenting a less dynamic view of individual human beings who are perceived as acting according to the dictates of fate, within certain fixed parameters that they are powerless to affect; but that is a view that can be discerned in Western writings too. Indeed, even leaving aside the applicability of such a characterisation to the other Western literary influences noted above, the same could be said of Achilles too. Yet he displays a distinct individuality that transcends the fate he cannot alter, so that he emerges as though in control of it. In this he is in marked contrast to Aeneas, who virtuously conforms to expectations even at the expense of what might seem his own predilections, and to other Greek heroes such as Orestes. More remarkably, there are similarities between Achilles and some of the heroes of Indian epic, who are from a Western viewpoint assumed to be much more passive in their responses to fate. In the Mahabharata for instance thefivePandavas, virtuous as they are, display Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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memorable individuality in their actions; even the comparatively anodyne Yudhisthira comes alive in his gambling, and the casuistry that prompts him to tell a lie to dishearten one of the most powerful of his foes. And there is yet another element which seems to me even more important than individualism, when one examines the concepts promoted as it were by the early literature that characterises the cultures we are looking at. This is what might be termed pluralism, in the sense that the Eastern epics give tremendous weight to the other side too. This is sometimes obscured by the apparent dichotomy between good and evil in the Ramayana? where the enemy of Rama is the demon king of Lanka who has abducted his wife by force - a far cry from the Paris who used charm to steal Helen away and thus precipitate the Trojan War. Yet despite the demonisation in every sense of Ravana there is a positive side to the depiction of some of the Lankans, not only Ravana's brother Vibhishana who goes over to Rama, but even of his son Indrajit who fights dutifully for his father. In this respect of course the Iliad, by virtue of its presentation of Hector and then Priam, is also notable for its balance. The same cannot however be said for the Odyssey or xhzAeneid. And the other Indian epic, the Mahabharata, goes much further than all these in its depiction of those who for the best of motives have to fight on the wrong side. The leader of the Kauravas, Duryodhana, may be an unmitigated villain, but he commands the allegiance of at least three immeasurably heroic figures whose commitment to his cause allows for subtle exploration of conflict between individual character and social responsibilities. And amongst them is one of the most remarkable of tragic heroes, Kama, who has to fight against his brothers, the Pandavas, because he had been abandoned as a child and brought up in poverty. The power of a narrative that encompasses such complexities seems to me to go much further than the more restricted Western epics in encouraging pluralism. And to look further, there is still another area in which the backbone of oriental culture, as the two epics are commonly supposed to be, supports values commonly associated with the West in a way that the Western epics emphatically do not. I refer to the position of women, Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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who are given a much more substantial role in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana than in Western epic. In the latter they are seen as essentially the playthings of love - Helen abducted by Paris, Dido betrayed by Aeneas, are very much the victims in different ways of infatuation, personified through Aphrodite/Venus; while the more orthodox women depicted, Andromache or Penelope, are simply faithful wives without an existence apart from their husbands. Very different from such women are both Sita and Draupadi. The former fulfils two of the roles noted above, being a faithful wife who is stolen away. But she also emerges as a distinct individual, not simply in terms of her commitment to Rama that enables her to defy Ravana, but earlier too in the course of her wanderings with Rama and even in the way in which she contributed to her fate by forcing the protector Rama had given her to leave her. And in the end, in the account of her final separation from Rama, after his testing of her fidelity had gone too far, she emerges as a far more powerful character in her own right even though she had functioned throughout within the framework of an orthodox wife. Even more remarkable is Draupadi, the woman who has to marry all five Pandavas because their mother insisted that they share all things equally. She is more self-assertive from the start, from her refusal to even consider marrying Kama whom she assumes is lowborn, to her defiance when she has been lost by Yudhisthira in a game of dice but claims that since he had forfeited his own self earlier he had no power over her at the time he staked her. Such responses are a far cry from the stereotype of the oriental woman as being passive compared to her Western counterpart. Instead, they reflect the concept inherent in some versions of Hindu religious belief according to which women are seen as the essential life-giving force of male deities. This is very different from the classical Greek view, which is in turn reflected in the passive role of women in the early epics, where goddesses too are clearly secondary to their male counterparts and can exercise power only through subterfuge. Of course the Greek view too changed over time, and in Greek drama we have powerful women displaying very individual characteristics, as for instance Antigone or Clytemnestra or Medea. Yet it should be Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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noted that these are presented as very much isolated and outsiders, and indeed except for Antigone they are demonised. The impression is that a powerful woman cannot exercise her individuality except destructively - which is in contrast to the presentation in Eastern literature of individuality within a traditional framework. It could be argued of course that this last is limiting, but while that could be so it is obvious that this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, it could also be argued that strictly speaking this form of limitation is also apparent in the case of Antigone, who defies the ruler because of an obligation owed to a brother, and whose public vindication arises in effect from the fact that the ruler's son is in love with her and kills himself for her sake. Yet just as that is not a limitation in terms of Antigone's assertion of particular values in opposition to the power of the state, so too the characters in oriental epic are not the less impressive for the circumscribed area within which they function. Indeed one might even say that this is the most practical way of portraying such personalities, inasmuch as this is the sphere in which in reality they functioned; and the strength of the portrayal lies in the very fact that within such limitations they can assert their individuality and exercise choice effectively.

Assessments through the evidence provided by literature of the values obtaining in any society can of course only be tentative. Obviously we need to bear in mind that literary representations are generally of the exceptional, and are the creations of particular types of minds that are likely to be comparatively open. In comparison with suet it might be thought that the evidence offered by religious beliefs and practices would be more solid. Yet, here too we find a great deal of diversity, and the possibility of a range of interpretations which, even if they do not conflict, suggest the difficulty of pinning down social values. There are a variety of ways in which we could classify religions, and the practices based upon them. At its simplest we can distinguish between the monotheistic, such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism, the polytheistic such as Hinduism, and those that in theory have no god at all, such as Buddhism. At the same time we have to recognise that within these religions too there are different stresses. Both Catholicism and Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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Mahayana Buddhism approximate to polytheistic Hinduism, in their veneration of saints or Bodhisattvas who can act as intercessors and generally bring the divine closer. They are in marked contrast herein to Protestantism, Islam or Judaism, which to greater or lesser degrees insist on the isolation of the deity, even when his anthropomorphic aspect is stressed. In this these last have affinities with Hinayana Buddhism, where too the individual has to cope with the problems of life without authorised mediators. Related to this aspect, and more relevant perhaps in the present context, are the ways and means employed by the various religions to socialise their adherents and ensure that they do not engage in wrongdoing. Both Hinduism and Buddhism postulate rebirth, and hence punishments and rewards in terms of the status into which one is reborn. Christianity and Islam, and Judaism less clearly, assume an afterlife in which, similarly, one is punished or rewarded. The religions that have gods however also suggest that they can intervene in the interests of equity in one's present life, and Buddhism too seems to make provision for this though, at least as far as Theravada Buddhism goes, not very logically. In this respect then it could be said that all religions are similar in setting up a sort of accounting system presided over by the divine, or by fate (or an amalgamation of both); and perhaps in an imperfect world this is the best way of encouraging good conduct. But such schemes are not infallible, and it is inevitable that problems should present themselves. In the first place what is to be considered good conduct is not necessarily clear. In all the cases discussed above except for Hinduism a moral code has been laid down, inspired by the deity where such exists, enjoined by the Buddha for Buddhists. Unfortunately, the areas in which clear commands are laid down are generally very obvious ones, and no clear guidance is available as to complex problems; even more seriously perhaps, no mechanism is available to make universally acceptable adjustments when circumstances change. From the time of the Euthyphro this sort of definition of goodness, in terms of divine predilections, has been subject to obvious challenges. Fortunately, or perhaps inevitably, what might be termed authority has generally been consistent with what might be called, without attempting Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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to explore its origins further, intuitive human morality - which is doubtless why the various commandments or precepts in circulation accord with those enjoined by Hinduism where their origins are more obscure. Nevertheless, over the years it has been found necessary, whatever the dominant religious belief, to develop systems of morality that are independent of received wisdom even though the acceptability of these, in terms of actual human responses, is less than in the case of those that have a religious base. Given the challenges open to a purely rational outlook against moral systems, the proponents of such systems have also sought to socialise their adherents in order to promote conformity. This has been done in a variety of ways, but in terms of promoting good conduct we can diagnose a simple division between Shame and Guilt cultures. The former rely on peer pressure as it were to reinforce good behaviour, while the latter internalise morality; those subject to the former seek to avoid being found out doing what others would deplore, those subject to the latter to avoid doing what they recognise as wrong. Neither concept is foolproof, in that the former may be quite happy if they can get away without being found out by their peers, while the latter may decide that as far as they are concerned there is nothing wrong in particular actions that others would condemn. Guilt cultures are more closely associated with individuality. In one sense this is obvious, because the sanctions they apply are based on individual reactions. Yet it should be noted that the perceptions on which these reactions are based cannot really be attributed to the individual, but rather to the socialising forces that bear upon him or her. Conversely, there is a sense in which, while conformity in shame cultures implies a communitarian outlook, challenging it involves an even greater sense of individuality than in the case of someone who has to overcome a sense of guilt. And interestingly enough the division between these two does not follow any of those we have noted so far with regard to the basis of religions. Judaism, for instance, is often advanced as the most obvious example of a guilt culture, with oftenexaggerated accounts of the role played by Jewish mothers in socialising their offspring by imbuing them with a sense of guilt. Certainly it can be seen that the concept of an all-powerful god could contribute to Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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2L sense of guilt, and in Christianity too guilt plays a powerful part in ensuring good conduct. However, shame in terms of one's status in the community is also frequently employed by various Protestant sects; while most significantly Islam, the closest religion to Judaism in terms of abstract monotheism, is generally seen as a shame culture where concepts of honour and social obligation provide the strongest basis for personal morality. The fact then that in the east, where Hinduism and Buddhism predominate, it is through shame that socialisation by and large takes place suggests that other factors apart from the tenets of the religions themselves are influential. The difficulty of precise distinctions can be seen too in the different attitudes to punishment. The concept of mandatory punishments, such as the death penalty, or the more extreme manifestations of the Islamic Law, the Sharia, for instance, dismemberment for theft, implies the attribution of guilt. Yet in certain Islamic societies, as for instance that of the Pathans in South Asia, there is concern with the rights of the victim and the possibility of recompense that can be assessed and specified by the victim. This is distinct both from an impersonal concept of justice and also from a communitarian approach, since it is only the affected individual who needs to be satisfied, without specific reference to the expectations of society. One could suggest that in such a context guilt is seen not as an abstraction related to some divine law, but as a quality that connects one individual to another, with a more obvious relation of cause and effect than in a system based on shame that involves the wider community, often at the expense of the individual victim of the action. In looking at punishment we have, of course, moved beyond the concept of morality in itself, and from the personal sanctions provided by religion or fear or guilt or shame to a social concept of justice. Given the inadequacy of the personal sanctions noted above in the context of recalcitrant individuality, there is an acknowledged need for legal systems that institutionalise moral codes, and shift the motivation for good behaviour to a social base. Because of the subjectivity of moral codes based on religion or philosophy liberalism gives due weight to the rule of law, while at the same time accepting and indeed exalting the need to modify laws Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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in accordance with shifting circumstances and perceptions. Such an approach must necessarily come into conflict with moral codes based on religions that ascribe supreme authority to a deity. Such conflicts have grown increasingly rare in Western society despite the authority ascribed to the Christian or Judaic deities; and though there are instances of such conflicts in Islamic societies, they are fewer than might be anticipated in the context of what seems the ready emergence of theocracies in the Islamic world. In order to get a clearer view of the situation it may be useful first to look at the different approaches the different religions have to their relations with government. Both Judaism and Islam, perhaps because of their strong tribal roots in very cohesive societies, assume an almost symbiotic relationship between religion and state, though at the same time there is usually a clear distinction made between secular and religious authorities. In the cases of Buddhism and Hinduism, perhaps because of the very transitory nature of power in the context of reincarnation, there is a much more clear-cut division between religion and the state with clergy confining themselves to a pastoral role. In several Asian countries on the other hand if Buddhist monks - rarely Hindu priests - have got involved in politics, historically or in the present era, it is in an advisory capacity, and the instances in which this has been exceeded are relatively rare, and even then in terms usually of structural arrangements that permit them to preserve an air of detachment. Christianity presents a very different picture from both these positions. Christian clergy, perhaps because of the more obviously anthropomorphic nature of their deity, can see themselves as very clearly the representatives of god on earth, and hence as entitled to supersede secular authority in situ if the necessity arises. At the same time, given the circumstances under which, unlike Islam or Judaism, Christianity developed as a minority religion over a protracted period, clergy are also accustomed to playing a much more restrained role in relation to alien authorities. The result is a very productive ambiguity, in which detachment can be highlighted as essential, with the possibility of a more powerful role to be fulfilled whenever opportunity offers.

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As a result the allegiance to religious leaders in opposition to secular authority has been historically speaking most obvious in the case of Christianity. In Islam and Judaism the political role of the religious hierarchies is restricted, however powerful they may be in their own spheres of action, because generally the secular authority too would function within the same prescribed guidelines insofar as the religious element was concerned. In this respect they are different from secular authorities in Buddhist or Hindu states, since where religions do not rely on revelation the scope for such authorities is necessarily wider. Comparing across the board then it is Christianity that seems to have the best position because, while allowing for a secular authority that has an independent position, it arrogates to itself the right to oppose that authority on occasion in terms of a mandate reqeived from a greater authority. Hence its ability to emerge when required as a much more potent source of power, as exemplified one might suggest by the ease with which Poland, and then in turn the rest of Catholic Eastern Europe, cast off communism once a Polish pope had been elected. The emergence of an alternative source of power which could command absolute allegiance was too much even for a movement that had received a very different sort of transnational validation. Yet here too it must be noted that there were other factors which also contributed to the changes; just as in Iran it was not merely the spiritual force provided by the Ayatollah that contributed to the Islamic Revolution, but also the distaste for the former regime shared by many who were not profoundly religious. In Iran however it was a theocratic regime that was established, whereas in the Christian context, or indeed in Buddhist countries where monks have been in the forefront of the struggle for political reform, it has been unthinkable that a religious regime should emerge. Yet here again it is worth noting that regimes such as the Iranian have been comparatively rare in Islamic history in any geographical location, and in the subcontinent certainly the Islamic clergy have been relatively inconspicuous throughout. One might, at this point, suggest that there is something in the culture of the South Asian region which precludes too dominant a role for clergy, in contrast to what has obtained on occasion in West Asia. The relative difficulty too of national acceptance of the Shaariat Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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in such countries, as opposed to what has happened in parts of West Asia, suggests again that cultural differences need to be taken into account more than religious similarities. At its simplest, to support such a view, Bangladesh has been characterised as a country where Tagore is venerated second only to Allah, a view of poetry that seems now unthinkable further west. Yet at the same time we should recall too the celebration in earlier times, not only in private as happens now but in the public context too, of Urdu poetry — which accords with the wide sweep of literary activity in Islamic society in West Asia too, in Haroun-al-Rashid's Baghdad for instance, or amongst the various conquerors from those regions who swept into the subcontinent. At the same time we should register the fact that in Southeast Asia for instance, where too in the past a political role for Islamic clergy might have seemed unthinkable, the situation has begun to change under the influence of increasing fundamentalism in the context of rapid social change. In that light one should clearly be wary of generalisations as to the relations between religions, cultures and political values based on particular situations.

When one moves to modern literature, though one can assume that it reflects contemporary attitudes quite revealingly, one has, at the same time, to be even more careful with regard to generalisations £bout the socio-political patterns that are indicated or the values that are affirmed. Indeed evaluating societies on the basis of such work is more risky than making assessments on the basis of religions, however ambiguous these last may seem to be, for the assumption that any modern literary work is sufficiently representative is much more tenuous. Apart from that, since modern works are likely to be less well and less widely known, their implications will be less clear. What follows therefore must necessarily be tentative, with full acknowledgment of the fact that the particular texts explored are selective. Within such limitations one has to try and deal with texts that are interesting in themselves and that have won some sort of general recognition, as giving a fair idea of the societies with which they deal.

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One of the most influential books of recent years, which dealt with the Indian subcontinent and won recognition as much for its subject matter as the techniques employed, was Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children} Significantly enough this was characterised by the critic James Harrison as a Hindu epic, in contrast to Shame? the novel about Pakistan that Rushdie wrote subsequently. Harrison's judgment was expressed in fairly provocative terms: The whole atmosphere of Shame is thus the antithesis of the indusiveness that characterizes most of Midnight's Children... from an inclusive Hindu world — we have moved to the embittered, rejecting world of Islam.10 Apart from stressing this concept of indusiveness, Harrison is not very precise about the reasoning behind his categorisations, but the general descriptions he has advanced previously, of the two religions as well as the books, can be used to make some guesses about other features he thinks characteristic. The Hindu novel is seen as cyclic and diffuse, its characters unfocussed and open-ended, whereas Shame h on the contrary a very tightly-knit book where the presentation is direct and intense and all the characters fit concisely within the web of a plot in which each has a very precise part to play. Yet the attribution of the differences only to the religions or the cultures of the main countries dealt with in either book would be a mistake. After all the political values for which both books stand are similar, Rushdie being aggressively anti-authoritarian in both books, the chief targets of his assaults being the dictatorial rulers who held power in either country — the reason for Midnight's Children conveying a much more forceful sense of democracy is because of the range of situations and characters it explores whereas the smaller compass of Shame can obviously be related to the actual historical situation in Pakistan. That there politics had reduced itself to a highly personalized duel between two authoritarian rulers cannot necessarily be explained by reference to the values the different cultures represent. On the contrary, what should be noted is the manner in which Rushdie uses values associated with the systems he describes, shame in the second novel, purity of

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blood in the first, to subvert those systems. What he suggests then, and this is a technique he developed, with unfortunate results, in his next novel The Satanic Verses" is that even what seems most rooted in tradition can be challenged and questioned from within. And to emphasise the dynamism and the forcefiilness of dissent within both societies Rushdie explored it may be worth casting a comparative glance at an equally significant work of an earlier age. I refer to Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, which vividly captures the French society of his times in what was also a dramatic age of transition. Yet what emerges most forcefully in Proust's analysis is the static nature of the change, summed up perhaps in his most cataclysmic transformation — the emergence of Mme Verdurin as the Duchesse de Guermantes. Of a piece with this is the way in which he uses homosexuality to convey what in Rushdie's terms could perhaps be called the 'chutnification' of society. Apart from reflecting his own predilections, what the use of this metaphor does is distance the real thrust of the social mobility of the times. What is highlighted in Proust then is a very conservative society where transformation is a function of the individual rather than a social dynamic. In a sense this parallels the far less memorable but equally symptomatic picture presented by Galsworthy of England at around the same time, where too the central tenet of the author seems to be preservation, celebration of what can transcend change by virtue of enduring social status. Underlying the importance of such works in Western literature is the strength of the nostalgic strain in the West - as can be seen indeed in the popularity too of the cinema of nostalgia, whether it be the British Forsterian variety or the American Forest Gump. And this strain is essentially self-regarding and passive, very different from what can be seen as a more active use of nostalgia, that not only records change but also deals with the construction of something new through its workings. An outstanding example of this is Naipaul's The Enigma of Arrivaln which deals with the English countryside in a way unknown since the thirties but also charts vividly the emergence into security in the midst of change of an immigrant consciousness. One would believe, however, that it is the sort of book that would have

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few parallels in the West, despite its subject matter, for that sort of coordinating vision, that sees development in the midst of destruction, is generally less subtle in its Western manifestation. At first sight such a claim may seem paradoxical, in a context in which the philosophical direction of the West is characterised as linear, whereas the East is seen as more cyclic in orientation. What is clear however, assuming one can argue from the structure and the subject matter of the epic novels noted above, is that such classifications are not very meaningful as tools of analysis, however helpfully they may illuminate particular questions. In the last resort it may be best to assume that all societies partake of a range of values and perceptions, and the emphases given to each will vary from time to time and from individual to individual. If we are concerned then about concepts that seem essential to a liberal outlook or state, freedom, individuality, pluralism, the acceptance of dissent, a concern as Trollope's seminal Prime Minister Plantaganet Palliser might have put it to move towards equality without upsetting the equilibrium,13 we willfindthat no religion or culture is more essentially suited to these; though particular aspects of such cultures or religions, which are given greater emphasis at particular times, will seem to promote one or more of these concepts better. What then of John Gray's contention, and others like that? In actual fact his essay in itself makes quite clear, on close reading, the varying concepts of freedom there are, and the different emphases given to them in different times. Indeed the book goes on to deal with the promotion of freedom by communities possessing slaves, which indicates the extremes to which interpretations can be extended. Yet we are past the stage where such promotion can be characterised as hypocritical, and we see it now as doubtless sincere, if vitiated by selectivity; which is perhaps the way we should look at all assertions of cultural relativism. Such assertions are not, of course, the prerogative only of Western analysts. As indicated previously with regard to the question of individualism, in the oriental imagination too are found suggestions that certain values which are deemed positive are implicit in oriental culture and alien to the West. In this light the individualism associated Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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with the West is for instance seen as a harsh and isolating feature, whereas the East, with its tradition of community commitment, manifested most significantly through extended families, provides a socially cohesive model that extends care and concern as required as a central feature of social organisation. There certainly seems to be something to this perception, in terms of the closer ties within families and communities that obtain in the East. Yet it could equally well be argued that such situations have nothing to do with cultural considerations, but spring from the state of social development. Eastern communities can cohere more tightly because the mobility essential to a developed industrial society has not yet affected them. And at the same time, lest one becomes too complacent about such tight-knit societies, one may well wonder why what seems a model in that respect such as Sri Lanka has such a high rate of suicide. Given the argument that the pressures of isolation in an individualistic society can be destructive, which advocates of this sort of communitarianism highlight, it may be worth exploring whether cohesion also may not exercise different but equally heavy pressures. That such forms of cohesion are not intrinsic in particular cultures certainly seems apparent from the fissiparous tendencies that have developed amongst Asians settled in the West. Given the need to adjust, they have not been slow infindingthe capacity to do so. Literary explorations of the subject, as for instance in the works of Hanif Kureishi or Bharathi Mukherjee, make clear that cultural conditioning goes by the board in the context of particular needs, emotional as well as economic. In an older generation there may be a greater need to stand by what seem traditional practices and values, but a younger generation is generally seen to be more flexible. Of course there are those who would claim that this reinforces the argument that cultural differences are intrinsic, inasmuch as a younger generation susceptible to change has in fact been deculturised. What might seem a circular argument is taken further with the assertion that deeper elements of the culture remain entrenched in spite of adverse environmental influences. This is claimed most prominently with regard to the status of women, in terms of the violent restrictions advocated by even young Eastern males in the west, which those with Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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a very different perspective such as Rushdie or Kureishi illustrate, and indeed characterise as provocation against which they react through their writings. Yet whether such attitudes are intrinsic to particular communities distinguished from others by religious tenets or even cultural background is clearly open to question. Similar concepts recur often enough in the work for instance of Latin novelists, most obviously the South Americans. Thus the mode of Marquez' Chronicle of a Death Foretold may be very different, but its representation of a mindset similar to that associated elsewhere with Islamic fundamentalism should make it clear that compartmentalisation is not at all valid. What is apparent on the contrary is that a cult of machismo, with its concomitant placing of women as appendages, can spring up in a range of cultures, generally those involving different standards, with regard to educational opportunities as well as employment, between the sexes. As these patterns shift, albeit allowing for a time lag, it is probable that such cults will die down. The consequence of such cults with regard to the status of women can of course be characterised as simply an extreme form of the protection that, in a positive sense, such cultures encourage. And one should grant that in its less rigid manifestations, in social contexts where community or extended family concerns are sympathetically manifested, such protection is not necessarily negative in its effects. Problems only arise when it can be seen as infringing upon rights associated with the individual. It makes no sense to see such rights as simply a Western concept, contrasting with an ultimately more beneficial communitarian Eastern approach. On the contrary, even what is commonly considered the Eastern position gives primacy, as examples from the literature cited testify, to the individual, with the social mechanisms involving family and community intended to lend support and provide a sustaining structure rather than an oppositional alternative. It may be useful in this context to recall one of the central parables of Buddhism, that is associated with its advent to Sri Lanka. The story tells of the questions that the monk Mahinda, the son or perhaps the brother of the great Mauryan emperor Asoka, put to King Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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Devanampiyatissa to decide whether he werefitto receive the Buddhist faith into Sri Lanka. Pointing out a mango tree on that occasion, the monk asked the king whether there were any other mango trees. Yes, said the king, pointing to the other trees in the grove, there were many other mango trees. Then the monk asked whether there were other trees apart from those mango trees. Yes, said the king, looking at the forest around him, there were all the other trees that were not mango trees. Then Mahinda asked him whether, apart from all those other mango trees, and all those other trees that were not mango trees, there were yet any other trees. The king had to think for a moment. Then he replied yes, there was also this particular mango tree from which all the questions had sprung. Underlying this at first sight rather simplistic set of questions is the fact that the concept of the individual is central to the Buddhist religious view. Though concernfirstfor the related community and then for the world beyond are desirable, these need to be seen in terms of concentric circles, radiating outward from the individual who provides the focus through which the rest is perceived. This is, of course, a very different view from that enunciated by monotheistic religions which suggest a linear relationship between the individual and the deity, with the individual in fact in a subordinate position. Relations with the wider community are not an essential feature of this. In Buddhism, in the absence of a deity, such relations are vital, but in terms of the consciousness through which they are perceived. A book that encapsulates this sort of vision while depicting the diversity of the various strands in South Asian society is Vikram Seth's massive novel A Suitable Boy14 which has been celebrated but without the philosophical elucidation that I think it also deserves. It is based on the interwoven lives of four families, some of which have distinct political roles to play, apart from the general socio-political panorama they present. The central theme however is a personal one, the need, as indicated by the title, to find a suitable husband for Lata, the youngest daughter of one of the families. This, in itself, may seem alien from a Western standpoint, but what is made quite clear is that in the end the decisions are made by Lata herself, ranging from falling in love with Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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someone not quite suitable to deciding to marry a man she does not love. While a sense of social and family obligations is always present, these are secondary in the final analysis to personal aspirations. The same is true with regard to Maan, the son of Mahesh Kapoor, the politician whose cerebrations reflect the dilemmas of the country at the time; and certainly so as to the Chatterjees, the Bengali family that is at one level the most Westernised in the book, while at another it displays a cohesiveness that exemplifies the common conception of an extended Asian family. The sexual activities of the protagonists too seem to reflect what are commonly thought of as Western liberal attitudes, but their particular manifestations are in contexts emphatically Asian. The adulteries of the eldest Chatterjee girl are presented within a social milieu that seems as natural as Lata's virginal innocence, while the manner in which Maan and the Muslim Feroze sleep together even while both pursue, respectively, a famous courtesan and her daughter is extremely convincing in its directness. Such depictions in fact contrast markedly with the tortuousness that affects sexuality outside the norm in the novels of epic sweep by Proust and Galsworthy noted earlier. And even if those obviously belong to an earlier less liberated age, one has only to consider the manner in which unorthodox sexuality is loaded with a political content in the Anglo-Saxon world of which Kureishi writes to appreciate the comparative freedom of Seth's vision of individuals and society. To claim that such an open outlook is essentially Indian would of course be excessive, given the readily discernible restrictive elements that also exist in Indian society; but the fact that it flows so easily within an Indian context indicates an inclusiveness that cannot be gainsaid.15

The above, eclectic but hopefully illuminating exploration of various aspects of the relationship between what are commonly considered the cardinal liberal values and the shifting perspectives of different religions and cultures has been designed to establish the absurdity of formulaic distinctions. It may be helpful however, in concluding, to

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Religion and Culture in the Liberal State


look more carefully at two areas where precise distinctions are in order if we are to characterise a polity as liberal. The first question that we should look at is whether the concept of a state religion is acceptable in the context of a liberal state. It has shown above that in fact what should make it unthinkable is that it goes against the spirit of all the religions we have considered here, which are the main religions in the world today. While Buddhism and Hinduism hold aloof from temporal power, Islam and Judaism in essence demand a distinction between spiritual and temporal authority precisely because the former needs to maintain its own special identity in terms of its different priorities. It is in fact only Christianity that historically, as well as conceptually, has allowed for the union of spiritual and temporal power; and happily that union is seen in the present age as an outmoded concept. As Bishop Desmond Tutu put it in arguing against any attempt to establish the church in South Africa: A secular state is not a godless or immoral one. It is one in which the state does not owe allegiance to any particular religion and thus no religion has an unfair advantage, or has privileges denied to others. We do not want to impose Christian laws on those who are not Christian, even if we are the majority. Jesus said, 'Do unto others as you would they do unto you.'16 This assertion however introduces a related problem which is less easy to resolve. Even though the union of church and state, which is repugnant to liberals, is equally repugnant to the major religions in terms of their essential spiritual qualities, the question remains as to the possible primacy of the moral perspectives of particular religions. On the one hand there is little doubt that Bishop Tutu's view, that particular laws should not be imposed on those who do not owe allegiance to those laws, is generally accepted by proponents of most religious codes, and any different view must necessarily be opposed by liberals. This seems to be self-evident, so that there is no need to argue for it. What is more worrying, on the other hand, is the related but very different perception that a particular code based on religion could in fact be universally and immutably valid from a moral or legal viewpoint. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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It is not only liberals who should oppose such a view. It is a necessary corollary of the distinction between church and state that a moral code based on religious revelation alone should not be endowed with temporal authority, and for that reason a theory of justice based on a twinning of the two should be opposed by religious authorities too. In addition, as noted above, it has been the essence of the religions we touched upon to accept the need forflexibilityand change in accordance with shifting circumstances. The idea of ossification of codes and customs is indeed profoundly anti-religious, in terms of the contemporaneous quality that is characteristic of the major religions that have developed over the years. And this principle is relevant too to another question that has bedevilled liberals in recent years, namely the question of the primacy of cultural practices which may be threatened by social developments. It is presented generally in terms of the importance of upholding community rights, to which individual rights should, on occasion, be subordinated in the interests of protecting pluralism. While however it can be accepted from a liberal perspective the need to protect minority communities from majoritarian impositions, it seems to be clear that the same sort of protection needs to be extended to individuals against what should be seen as the majoritarian tendencies of their own minority communities. Once a concept of rights based on the individual has been formulated, it goes against its very grain to introduce modifications based on groups of whatever size or complexion.17 Many arguments against such a position can be advanced for what are termed particular religious or cultural considerations. However the exposition above has shown that there are equally good arguments to oppose these, based on what one would suggest is ultimately the common base upon which religious beliefs and cultural practices are grounded. While the importance of social relationships and codes of conduct to facilitate these can never be minimised, the focus of religious philosophy has always been the individual, and it is through this focus that acculturation takes place. In this respect the liberal perspective should be recognised as universally valid, not a mere product of Western or even secular thought; and any attempt to dilute

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this perspective in line with what are termed higher priorities needs to be firmly opposed.

Endnotes 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

14. 15.

16. 17.

Edited together with Zbiegniew Pelczynski, Athlone Press, London, 1984. Ibid., p. 1. M Gorbachev, Perestroika, Fontana/Collins, London, 1987, p. 208. Anthony Arblaster, The Rise and Decline of Western Liberalism, Blackwell, Oxford, 1984, p. 6. Ibid., p. 8. 'Two Concepts of Liberty' in Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford University Press, New York, 1969, p. 124. I assume for obvious reasons that it is unnecessary where I do not quote to provide bibliographical details for classic works of literature. In the case of books written originally in another language, any translation could be referred to, since the points I make refer to general content alone. Salman Rushdie, Midnights Children, Jonathan Cape, London, 1981. Salman Rushdie, Shame, Jonathan Cape, London, 1983. James Harrison, Salman Rushdie, Twayne Publishers, New York, 1992. Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, Jonathan Cape, London, 1988. VS Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival, Viking Press, London, 1992. 'You are a liberal because you know that it is not all as it ought to be, and because you would still march on to some nearer approach to equality; though the thing itself is so great, so glorious, so god-like - nay so absolutely divine, that you have been disgusted by the very promise of it, because its perfection is unattainable.' Anthony Trollope, The Prime Minister, London, 1875-76 (Panther Books, London, 1973, p. 582) Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy, HarperCollins, London, 1993. Seth's own work, it should be noted, does suggest a dichotpmy in that he attributes a tortured conscience, based on the apparently Christian belief that expression of his own unorthodox sexual orientation is a sin, to the homosexual character in his verse novel about California, The Golden Gate, Random House, New York, 1986. Quoted in 'Lessons from South Africa', Rohan Edrisinha, Counterpoint Vol. 3, No. 4, Colombo, 1995. See Kymlicka Will, Liberalism, Community and Culture, Oxford University Press, New York, 1989, for a detailed discussion of this question.

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11 Social Freedom in the Liberal State CHANAKA AMARATUNGA

The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people. But if he refrains from molesting others in what concerns them, and merely acts according to his own inclination and judgement in things which concern himself, the same reasons which show that opinions should be free prove also that he should be allowed, without molestation, to carry his opinions into practice at his own cost. That mankind are not infallible; that their truths for the most part are only half-truths; that unity of opinion, unless resulting from the fullest and freest comparison of opposite opinions, is not desirable, and diversity not an evil but a good, until mankind are much more capable than at present of recognizing all sides of the truth, are principles applicable to men's modes of action not less than to their opinions. As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions, so it is that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of characters, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically, when anyone thinks fit to try them. It is desirable, in short, that in things which do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself. Where, not the person's own character but the traditions or customs of other people are the rule of conduct, there is wanting one of the principal ingredients of human happiness and quite the chief ingredient of individual and social progress.1 Except in a handful of states which are at the margins of the world, totalitarianism and even its milder kinsman authoritarianism are Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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scarcely popular. Everywhere the basic structures of liberal democracy, the commitment to some form of representative institutions, and the real existence of choice, whether political or otherwise, have become essential features of contemporary life which no longer provoke serious debate. Nevertheless, it is perhaps overly optimistic to conclude that the end of the Cold War, of apartheid and of the military and civilian dictatorships of much of Latin America, Africa and South East Asia, have resulted in the establishment of secure, free societies. A free society requires more than the existence within it of representative institutions and of constitutionally protected opportunities for political choice. Rather, it requires a precise and particular commitment to a distinctive conception of the place of the individual in relation both to the state and to society. What this means is that a free society requires as a necessary condition of its existence a commitment to the limited state, a state which 'recognizes and protects each individual by placing him/her within an impenetrable bubble of protection which cannot be breached under any circumstances'.2 In areas in which no violations of liberties of others take place, the state must, in a free society, desist from the temptation to circumscribe, to enforce or regulate. Indeed it is hardly sufficient for the state to abstain from legislative or executive acts that would restrict the expression of opinion or the living of life in ways which some would find disagreeable. In a free society, the state is obliged to protect the individual from social, as much as political, tyranny. As John Stuart Mill declared: Protection from the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those that dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon models of its own.3 In recognising that a free society requires a particular commitment to a distinctive place for the individual in relation to the state and society,

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it is worth noting that the common tendency in relation to the political definition of the state, of using the terms 'liberal democratic state' and 'liberal state' as if they were interchangeable, is rather misleading. In today's context, most of the states of South Asia could not be described as liberal democratic states. However, India and Sri Lanka have had a reasonably long, and arguably continuous, existence as liberal democratic states, states which have had uninterrupted constitutional government and representative institutions and have legally provided for the expression of political choice. However, neither of these even is a liberal state in the sense that Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands or Australia is one. Where does the distinction between a liberal democratic state and a liberal state lie? The recognition of the distinction is in my view crucial, in any understanding of the liberal conception of social freedom. The liberal democratic state provides for representative institutions and for political choice, but it may do so while believing in a particular conception of morality and of society which it is committed to preserve. In such a state, respect for political pluralism may be no more than the provision of space only for significant political opinions, and amongst these merely those which do not go counter to the conception of morality and of society which tends to predominate. In such a state the commitment to individual liberty and to the open society, while it cannot be said to be absent, is usually sustained only when it does not conflict with values to which the community adheres. This bring one to the crucial distinction between a liberal state and a liberal democratic state. A liberal democratic state may, of course, be a liberal state, but it need not be one. For a liberal democratic state may, when it is confronted with a choice between upholding by legislative and other means the freedom of the individual or promoting a particular conception of society or of morality, demonstrate a preference for the latter. A liberal democratic state could give pride of place in its legislative concerns to a communitarian conception of the world. With the liberal state this would be impossible. A liberal state is distinct from a liberal democratic one precisely because the primary object of its concern is the freedom, the dignity and the integrity of the individual. When confronted with a choice between upholding individual liberty Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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and the promotion of particular moral or social values, the liberal state is bound to protect the individual. This may be done in several ways of which perhaps two are significant and have been widely employed by liberal thinkers. There are those who believe that a liberal state ought to be neutral between rival conceptions of the good - that in a context in which perfect knowledge or indeed perfect judgement is not of this world, the state has no basis upon which to prefer any particular values or lifestyles and therefore must adopt those arrangements which provide individuals with as many avenues as possible for the pursuit of their own particular conceptions of the good. Others have argued that inherent in liberalism is a particular conception of the good, in that the sanctity of individual liberty and the values ascribed to tolerance and free debate come from a particular moral conception. Certainly, the writings of the great liberal thinkers from John Stuart Mill and Lord Acton to Friedrich Hayek and John Rawls suggest that maximising individual liberty and devising institutional arrangements through which to secure this is, itself, adherence to a very particular moral and hence political conception. That the nation states of South Asia are not liberal states, that those of them that are liberal democracies are more influenced by communitarian rather than individualistic concerns, is demonstrable. India and Sri Lanka have elected governments since independence in relatively free elections with a choice of political parties. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal have done so on occasion. In every one of them unusual, even perhaps outlandish, political opinions are allowed to be expressed. In many of them Communist parties are active and always have been. But in every South Asian state though political literature of various degrees of intolerance, sometimes that which is openly inflammatory, is tolerated, in every one of them pornography is outlawed. Much pride is expressed in many South Asian states about the tolerance extended to those of faiths other than of the majority. But in every one of them, a woman is not in control of her body, for in all of them abortion is criminal. And these states which pride themselves on not dictating to their subjects how they should worship are quite prepared to tell them how and with whom they should go to bed. For in all of them homosexual acts between consenting adults Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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remain criminal, and in many of them sodomy, regardless of gender, is also criminal. And it should be noted too that these are scarcely seen as matters worthy of attention. The general lack of interest in such issues as the freedom to read or to write in a manner which may give offence to others while not coming within the ambit of the law of defamation, the relative indifference to the issue of whether the state is the best judge of what an individual can or cannot read, the relative indifference to the notion that procreation is a matter in which the carrier of a foetus ought to concur; and the relative indifference to the question of whether the state has any role in determining how persons who have attained the age of consent conduct their personal relations is, to a liberal, outrageous. It is however scarcely surprising that dominant tendencies within South Asian societies, even if there have been some movements to the contrary, have been overwhelmingly communitarian. Those who in all South Asian societies would object to a liberal agenda on social reform derive their justifications by an appeal to two sources. The first of these is morality, usually grounded in religious teachings, though not always in any coherent fashion. Everywhere in South Asia The Satanic Verses remains banned so as not to offend the apparent susceptibilities of Muslims. Traditional interpretations of the sanctity of life as set out in Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity have been advanced to justify abortion remaining a criminal offence in all South Asian states, even though in all these countries the death penalty remains on the statute books. As for homosexuality, while its prohibition is claimed to be sanctified by some Islamic and Christian religious texts, Hinduism and Buddhism have traditionally been tolerant of it, its continued ban in India and Sri Lanka by virtue of the archaic provisions of a Victorian British penal code may be attributed primarily to legislative inertia, combined perhaps with fear of embarrassment. There can, in fact, be little doubt in many South Asian societies that the absence of liberal social legislation is more the product of the absence of concern rather than a positive adherence to a conservative social morality. But indifference too is a moral position, and it comes Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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partiy from a tradition which might be called that of the received interpretation of religion, which is prohibitive of an individual search for the good. The second ground for objecting to liberal social reforms is a strong sense of community and culture. Despite counter examples, South Asian societies have more prominently emphasised group identities rather than individual ones. The primary identity of many South Asians has not been as individuals, but rather as members of ethnic groups, of religious or caste communities and of families. In such a context an individual is often expected to conform to social traditions and popular expectations rather than be permitted freedom in the construction of his/her life. The reality of South Asian democracies therefore is one of adherence, albeit unconscious for the most part, to the communitarian or civic republican tradition of politics which has emerged among western political theorists as one of the strongest opponents of liberalism. The communitarian or civic republican political tradition has deep roots in diverse, ancient civilisations. Its essential beliefs are to be found in the teachings of Confucius, in the Socratic dialogues of Plato, in the writings of Cicero, in St. Augustine's City of God and in the Islamic writings of the Golden Age. In those of these writings which are explicitly theological, morality is divinely inspired. Accordingly, there could only be one conception of the good and no one had the right to deny or to be distant from it. In such a conception the state was no more than the instrument of the divine providence which it was its duty to fulfil. In those writings which are non-theological the community, whose shared interests, traditions and virtues are emphasised as the true sources of a nation's or a society's greatness, was invested with a moral excellence that denied the individual's right to assert the contrary. Confucius declared that adherence to tradition and the wisdom of the past were enormous virtues. Socrates submitted willingly to his end because he believed in the cornerstone of Athenian morality, that the law of the state was higher than the rights of any individual. Cicero's conception of patriotic duty involved the noble Roman's sacrifice of his own interests and inclinations for the advancement of city and empire. For all of them, as for the modern communitarians, the Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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interests of people, society, and the community are identified with the general interest, which must, at all times, be both morally justifiable and produce better results than the particular interest, the interest of what liberalism's critics disparagingly refer to as the atomised individual. It seems therefore appropriate that the communitarian critique of liberalism should be given some attention. It is not merely that any discussion of the liberal attitude to social freedom, particularly when this is considered in a South Asian context, demands such attention. It is also the case that now, in the post Cold War world, communism and socialism have lost much of their intellectual vitality; and since strident nationalism, although the potency of its appeal at a populist level cannot be denied, has hardly posed a serious intellectual challenge to liberalism, it is communitarianism that has provided the most intellectually coherent challenge to the fundamentals of liberalism. Much of the popular conservative reaction to the liberal outlook, ranging from populist elements such as the Moral Majority in the United States of America to the established pillars of western conservatism (as exemplified by American Republicans, French Gaullists, German Christian Democrats or British Conservatives), and the dominant social attitudes they enunciate, derive much of their inspiration from a distinguished band of communitarian academics such as Michael Sandel, Alasdair Maclntyre, Charles Taylor, Michael Walzer and Richard Rorty. And even some of the most intellectually significant political theorists whose loyalties are to a more traditional form of conservatism, rooted in the historic evolution of British conservatism, such as Michael Oakeshott and Roger Scruton, have emphasised ideals which place them very close to the communitarians. Any discussion of the liberal position on social freedom cannot be meaningful unless it takes into account the essence of the communitarian world view. As has been already suggested, this worldview owTes much to the political ideas of antiquity, both oriental and occidental. In its modern context, its major works are Sandel's Liberalism and the limits of Justice? Alasdair Maclntyre's After Virtue? Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self? Michael Walzer's Spheres of Justice1 and Richard Rorty's Objectivity, Relativism and Truth}

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Communitarians emphasize that liberals have developed their political philosophy on the basis of a partial and inadequate conception of the place of the individual in society. They argue that the liberal views the individual as a unique and almost sacred political entity endowed with a personality and a capacity for moral judgment that is, almost wholly, intrinsic. The liberal commitment to maximising individual liberty and ascribing moral worth on the basis of whether or not an act, an idea or a belief maximises individual freedom, communitarians argue, makes sense only if it can truly be maintained that there is such a thing as an individual identity regardless of society and the nation. Having argued that individual character and identity has not evolved, and presumably cannot evolve, without the influences of family, of friends, of teachers, of geography, culture, socio-economic circumstances and all the various elements which can go under the term/community', they ask why the individual should be endowed with rights to act in such a way as may harm the community without which that individual could have had no existence. If a man/woman is nothing without the circumstances in which he/she evolved, then such a man/woman's primary identity, communitarians argue, is not as an individual (even though communitarians do not deny the existence of some degree of individuality), but as members of a community. Having asserted this, communitarians argue that the best judge of what is in the interests of a community is a repository of the wisdom, experience, balance and restraint that can only be evolved and developed over a considerable period of time. The values of a community have been shaped by its historical sense. They remain relevant because they have served that community well over the years. The communitarian approach therefore argues that an individual cannot be permitted to weaken, to compromise or to retard the interests of the community by the assertion of a right to the expression of an individual personality. It must be understood that the communitarian position is not a mere devotion to traditionalism and is not exclusively backwardlooking. Communitarians argue that attitudes can of course change and that accordingly the place of the individual in society also changes with it. They insist, however, that this must happen, not as an assertion of individual rights which are to be held against the state Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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and community, but rather as a consequence of those freedoms which the state confers as the political expression of the interests of the community to each individual because such rights are in the interest of the community. Sandel and Maclntyre would not argue therefore that in today's context a work of theology which casts doubt upon the virgin birth of Jesus Christ should be outlawed. They would argue that whereas in the nineteenth century the state of development of western and overwhelmingly Christian communities would have justified such communities in safeguarding themselves against the immense disruption which would have been caused by the publication of such views, today western communities would see it as in their interests to permit such freedom, since no serious harm would come to a modern western community by the expression of such beliefs. Their positions however would probably justify the decisions of the governments of South Asia to ban The Satanic Verses, for the argument is sustainable that the heartburn and possibly even the violence that may be provoked within sizeable Muslim populations in such states would far outweigh any value to the community from permitting the very few who wish to read and derive literary pleasure from Rushdie's controversial work to do so. On the same lines communitarians argue that in a modern society the community should have the right to decide what kind of life is wholesome. So communitarians support the view that even in advanced liberal democracies censorship of politically extreme or sexually explicit work, whether audio-visual or in print, ought to be permitted. They believe communities are entitled to decide on the type of personal life that is desirable and that accordingly the sexual and family practices of individuals can be regulated by legislation. At its simplest, the communitarian argument is that everyone is first and foremost the product of society and that no one can therefore escape its control: Open-ended though it may be, the story of my life is always embedded in the story of those communities from which I derive my identity — whether family or city, tribe or nation, party or cause. On the communitarian view, these stories make a moral

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difference, not only a psychological one. They situate us in the world and give our lives their moral particularity. What is at stake for politics in the debate between unencumbered selves and situated ones? What are the practical differences between a politics of rights and a politics of the common good?9 Having thus rhetorically posed the question, Michael Sandel presents the distinctions as follows: Liberals often argue that a politics of the common good, and the moral particularity it affirms, open the way to prejudice and intolerance. The modern nation-state is not the Athenian jto£r, the scale and diversity of modern life have rendered the Aristotelian political ethic nostalgic at best and dangerous at worst. Any attempt to govern by a vision of the good is likely to lead to a slippery slope of totalitarian temptations. Communitarians reply that intolerance flourishes most where forms of life are dislocated, roots unsettled, traditions undone. In our day, the totalitarian impulse has sprung less from the convictions of confidently situated selves than from the confusions of atomized, dislocated, frustrated selves, at sea in a world where common meanings have lost their force... Insofar as our public life has withered, our sense of common involvement diminished, to that extent we lie vulnerable to the mass politics of totalitarian solutions. So responds the party of the common good to the party of rights.10 The party of rights, to use Sandel's rather evocative formulation, is by no means convinced that such a point of view is grounded on reality. The advent of totalitarianism, whether of the left as in the Russian Revolution, or of the right as in the assumption of power of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, took place not in a context of advanced individual liberty but in one of governmental paralysis. Totalitarian experiments have never been successful, indeed have been inconceivable, in societies in which the individual liberty that liberals cherish has been secure. The freedom to choose does indeed impose heavy responsibilities on the individual but it is by no means the case

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that, where such freedom has been granted, rootless and atomised individuals have desperately sought the solace of strong men. The communitarian portrayal of the individual's dilemma when faced with choice is no different from age-old critiques of the open, free society. Sandel's characterisation of the dislocation and rootlessness of human beings in a context of individual liberty is strongly reminiscent of that famous justification of totalitarianism, the speech of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky' s The Brothers Karama%pv}x That the worldview of liberals is so very different from that of the communitarians is glaringly clear when one examines the statements of leading liberals, of the past and of the present, of the West and indeed of the region which immediately concerns us. Where the communitarian emphasises, not entirely erroneously, that human beings are to a very considerable degree the products of their environment, and then uses this undoubted reality to make the assertion that they cannot be permitted to pursue ends which go counter to the desires and interests of the communities in which they live, the man many regard as the founder of modern liberalism has this to say: the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others ... Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.12 Mill described this as the one Very simple' principle to which On Liberty, regarded as the most distinctive expression of modern liberalism, was dedicated. Having rejected the sovereignty of nations and rejected also the rights of society to curtail individual expression that did not restrict the rights of others (curtailment which he characterised as the 'tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling'), Mill makes a ringing statement to the party of the common good: If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.13

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In recent times Sir Isaiah Berlin, one of the greatest liberal thinkers of the twentieth century, has paid the following tribute to Mill which makes emphatically clear the attitude of the liberal to the issue of individual rights: In the last analysis, all appearances to the contrary, this is what Mill seems to me to have cared about most of all. He is officially committed to the exclusive pursuit of happiness. He believes deeply in justice, but his voice is most his own when he describes the glories of individual freedom or denounces whatever seeks to curtail or extinguish it... Mill likes dissent, independence, solitary thinkers, those who defy the establishment. In an article written at the age of seventeen ... he strikes a note that sounds and resounds in his writings throughout the rest of his life: 'Christians, whose reformers perished in the dungeon or at the stake as heretics, as apostates, as blasphemers — Christians, whose religion breathes charity, liberty and mercy in every line ... that they, having gained the power of which they were the victims, should employ it in the self-same way ... in vindictive persecution ... is monstrous.' He remained the champion of heretics, apostates and blasphemers, of liberty and mercy, for the rest of his life.14 Friedrich Hayek, the Nobel Prize winning economist and political theorist, put the liberal position on individual liberty in contrast to that of its ideological rivals in the following terms: To live and work successfully with others requires more than faithfulness to one's concrete aims. It requires an intellectual commitment to a type of order in which, even on issues which to one are fundamental, others are allowed to pursue different ends. It is for this reason that to the liberal neither moral nor religious ideas are proper objects of coercion, while both conservatives and socialists recognize no such limits. The author sometimes feels that the most conspicuous attribute of liberalism, that distinguishes it as much from conservatism as from socialism, is the view that moral beliefs concerning matters of conduct which do not directly interfere with the protected sphere of

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other persons do not justify coercion. This may also explain why it seems to be so much easier for the repentant socialist to find a new spiritual home in the conservative fold than in the liberal.15 Although some political thinkers have developed justifications of liberalism which owe little to, and indeed are somewhat critical of, individualism,16 it is nevertheless true that liberalism has been and will probably always remain an ideology of individualism. John Stuart Mill entitled one of the chapters of On Uberty 'On Individuality as One of the Elements of Well Being'. The other great figures of nineteenth century liberalism such as Lord Acton,17 Alexis de Tocqueville 18 and Benjamin Constant19 developed their liberalism within the context of deep, almost reverential, devotion to the freedom and integrity of the individual. In the twentieth century E M Forster, who in his novels celebrated the worth of individual identity, declared: As for individualism - there seems no way of getting off this, even if one wanted to. The dictator-hero can grind down his citizens till they are all alike but he cannot melt them into a single man. That is beyond his power. He can order them to merge, he can incite them to mass-antics but they are obliged to be born separately and to die separately... The memory of birth and the expectation of death always lurk within the human being, making him separate from his fellows and consequently capable of intercourse with them.20 It is all too easy to glibly assert that such a conception of the individual is the exclusive product of western, post-industrial civilisation. Indeed it is commonplace among the more simplistic commentators of South Asia that the conception of the individual which lies at the heart of liberalism is profoundly alien to other eras and to other places in the world. It seems to one however that such a belief relies for its existence on a very partial view of the South Asian reality, both ancient and modern. Almost two thousand five hundred years before the publication of On Uberty, the following declaration was made in a princely state which we would today locate in Northern India:

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Yes, O Kalamas, it is right for you to doubt, it is right for you to dissent, it is right for you to waver. Come, O Kalamas, do not accept anything on hearsay thinking thus have we heard it for a long time. Do not accept anything by mere tradition. Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures. Do not accept anything by mere supposition. Do not accept anything by inference. Do not accept anything by merely considering appearances. Do not accept anything merely because it seems to the multitude acceptable nor yet because the monk who preaches it is respected by you. But when you know yourselves — these things are moral, these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise, these things when performed conduce to well-being and happiness - then should you live and act accordingly.21 As if this ringing statement advocating free inquiry and the individual's rights to decide how to live his/her life left anything more to be said, the Buddha in another context made the centrality of individualism even clearer by declaring: In this very one-fathom-long body, along with its perceptions and thoughts, do I proclaim the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world and the path leading to the cessation of the world.22 In recent years Dudley Senanayake, four times Prime Minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and widely accepted as the finest liberal statesman produced in that country, made a statement of his political creed which amply demonstrates that the belief that the liberal conception of the individual is an exclusively western one is more than a little specious: The words 'progressive' and 'reactionary' are being bandied across the floor of the House. To me it is very simple. Anything that enhances individual freedom is progressive and anything that retards individual freedom is reactionary. All our desires are to enlarge the content of individual freedom.23

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What this article has sought to demonstrate is two-fold. Firstly, that the political outlook of liberals and communitarians is very different about the status and rights of the individual in relation to the state and society, and that it is from this difference that the debate between those who would maximise the freedom of the individual in relation to social issues, and those who would seek to curtail it in the interests of the community and of society, springs. Secondly, that the liberal conception of the individual is by no means an exclusively western one and that the communitarian conception is by no means an exclusively non-western one. A justification of restrictive policy on social freedom, whether it be in relation to the banning of publications that offend religious susceptibilities, the imposition of capital punishment by the state, the prohibition of abortion or the bans on pornography of on particular types of sexual conduct, cannot rest on an expression of devotion to indigenous culture and tradition. It can rest only on intellectually coherent arguments such as the communitarian critics of liberalism have tried to sustain. The central issue that must be faced in the development and defence of social freedom in the liberal state is whether the liberal conception of morality is in any way a flawed one. Equality of liberty; not to treat others as I would not wish them to treat me; repayment of my debt to those who alone have made possible my liberty or prosperity or enlightenment; justice, in its simplest and most universal sense — these are the foundations of liberal morality.24 Can communitarianism effectively counter the foundation of liberal morality as Berlin has so clearly defined it? To the author of this article it seems that it cannot. Will Kymlicka takes on the communitarian position with great clarity: A dominant theme of communitarian writings is the insensitivity of liberalism to the virtues and importance of our membership in a community and a culture. There are claims of (at least) three sorts here, all of which require close examination. The first, best exemplified by the work of Michael Sandel, is a claim about the way that liberals have misconstrued the relationship between the Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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self and its social roles and relationships — liberals exaggerate our capacity to distance or abstract ourselves from these social relationships and hence exaggerate our capacity for and the value of individual choice. The second claim, present in the work of Charles Taylor, is that even if liberals have the right account of individuals' capacity for choice, they ignore the fact that this capacity can only be developed and exercised in a certain kind of social and cultural context. Moreover, the measures needed to sustain that context are incompatible with liberal beliefs about the role of individual rights and government neutrality. The third claim, present in a number of recent communitarian, Marxist, and feminist writings, is that the liberal emphasis on justice and rights presupposes and perpetuates certain kinds of conflictual or instrumental relationships, relationships that would not exist in a true community ... Each of the three criticisms contains important mistakes. In each case, we can distinguish stronger and weaker versions of the communitarian claim. The weak versions advance some true and important claims, but these claims are already recognized by the liberal theories they are supposed to be criticizing and are not in conflict with liberal premises and principles. The strong versions, which are inconsistent with liberalism, are, I shall argue, mistaken, and contain the potential to justify repressive politics ... the liberal view is sensitive to the way our individual lives and moral deliberations are related to, and situated in, a shared social context. The individualism that underlies liberalism isn't valued at the expense of our social nature or our shared community. It is an individualism that accords with, rather than opposes the undeniable importance to us of our social world.25 Indeed it is hardly sustainable that the enhancement of individual choices and life-chances which liberals cherish, by the expansion of social freedom, results in a serious collapse of the community. The studies of Amnesty International have revealed that the rise in violent crime bears no relation to the taking of life by the state of unarmed persons in custody, through what liberals universally condemn, the exercise of the death penalty. Countries in which a vast array of

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pornography is freely available have not become depraved sodoms and Gomorrahs, incapable of contribution to, or enjoying, more uplifting pursuits. In a recent example Canada, under an exclusively Liberal government, removed the last vestiges of discrimination on homosexuals and lesbians by enacting an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act with a majority of over 2 to 1 to ensure that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is prohibited in Canada for all purposes. The preamble and introductory paragraph of this act, adopted by the Canadian House of Commons on 9 May 1996, is worth extensive quotation for it asserts plainly the liberal conception of social freedom: Whereas the government of Canada affirms the dignity and worth of all individuals and recognizes that they have the right to be free from discrimination in employment and the provision of goods and services and that rights are based on respect for the rule of law and lawful conduct by all ... the purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an equal opportunity to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have ... without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.26 One sees no reason why that conception of social freedom should apply only to Canada or to the liberal democracies of Western Europe. The liberal conception of morality is a universal one and it seems quite unacceptable that some peoples, including those in South Asia, should be denied the full measure of its protection.27

Endnotes 1. John Stuart Mill, 'On Liberty' in On Liberty and Other Essays, 1991, pp. 62-63. 2. Speech by Valerie Giscard D'Estaing, former President of France to the Congress of the Liberal International, Madrid, October, 1985. 3. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty and Other Essays, p. 9. 4. Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1982. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

Social Freedom in the Liberal State 217 5. Alasdair Maclntyre, After Virtue, Duckworth, London, 1981. 6. Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1990. 7. Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice, Blackwell, Oxford, 1983. 8. Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, Cambridge University Press, London, 1991. 9. Michael Sandel (ed.), Liberalism and its Critics, Blackwell, Oxford, 1984, Introduction, p. 6. 10. Ibid., p. 7. 11. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, tr. David Magarshack, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1967, pp. 292-308. 12. Mill, On the Liberty and Other Essays, p. 14. 13. Ibid., p. 21. 14. Isaiah Berlin, 'John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life' in Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford University Press, New York, 1979, pp. 178-9. 15. FA Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1976, p. 402. 16. Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom, Oxford University Press, New York, 1986. 17. Lord Acton, Selected Writings of Lord Acton, Volume 1: Essays in the History of Liberty, ed. J Rufus Fears, Liberty Classics, Indianapolis, 1985. 18. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vintage Books, New York, 1945. 19. Benjamin Constant, Political Writing, Cambridge University Press, London, 1988. 20. EM Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1965, p. 84. 21. Kalama Sutra, Discourses of the Buddha, tr. Edwin Arnold, cited in The Value of Dissent in a Free Society, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1990, Introduction, pp. vi-vii. 22. Quoted from the 'Rohitassa Sutta' by Ven. Narada Maha Thero in The Buddha and His Teachings, Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 1977, p. 507. 23. Dudley Senanayake, 'Speech made during the Debate on the Address to the Throne' in Hansard, Proceedings of the Ceylon House of Representatives, December, 1964. 24. Isaiah Berlin, 'Two Concepts of Liberty' in Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford University Press, Australia, 1979, p. 125. 25. Will Kymlicka, Liberalism, Community and Culture, Oxford University Press, New York, 1992, Introduction, pp. 1-3. 26. An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, Bill C 33, The House of Commons of Canada, May 9, 1996, Second Session, 35th Parliament, 45th year of Queen Elizabeth II, 1996. 27. The Liberal Party of Sri Lanka, which is the only Liberal Party in South Asia, and is a full member of the Liberal International and of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, has been a constant advocate of social reform since its formation in 1987. The Liberal Party's social agenda includes reforms on all the specific issues discussed here.

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12 The Future of Liberalism in South Asia RAJIVA WIJESINHA

When Uberal Valuesfor South Asiawas published, way back in 1998, the future of democracy seemed reasonably secure in South Asia. India of course, except during the relatively brief period of the Emergency, had never really swerved from the path of democracy and the rule of law, and the preceding decade had shown how governments could change at the polls without extravagant rivalries or ill effects; but every other country in South Asia had suffered the rigours of authoritarianism, from which a few at least seemed to have moved into democratic systems during the nineties. Though previous lapses in Sri Lanka had been less protracted than elsewhere, during the eighties the impact of the Jayewardene regime, and its efforts to guide democracy (on what its less authoritarian apologists presented as an East Asian model) had been tragically divisive. Though his efforts had been accompanied by what was seen as economic liberalism, the entrenched statist mentality had meant that little of the economy that had been taken into government hands was actually privatised. An open economy for Jayewardene only meant the encouragement of private business and trade, without the shrinking of the government sector or the opening up of the social sector, so that rent seeking became further entrenched. Insistence on continuing centralised control of government, with a growing economy, meant that disparities grew worse, and in the end the state had to deal with two youth insurgencies. Though the southern one was soon crushed, the northern one, based on strong feelings on deprivation on the basis of ethnicity on the part of Tamils, spawned one of the most powerful terrorist movements Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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in the world, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The culture of impunity that Jayewardene had instituted, marked by state sponsored assaults against Tamils in 1981 and 1983, prompted a mass exodus of Tamils who contributed to turning international opinion against the Sri Lankan government, and an Indian intervention in 1987 to introduce a system of devolution. The intransigence of the Tigers led to them battling against India, and winning the support of the successor government in Sri Lanka. This led to their being able to present themselves for a decade and a half as the sole representatives of the Tamils, culminating in an almost successful attempt to establish an authoritarian regime in Sri Lanka during a Ceasefire they negotiated with a short-lived regime headed by Jayewardene's nephew, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Wickremesinghe's own penchant for authoritarianism, and what he saw as the successes of East Asian regimes that had postponed democracy for the sake of economic development, made him a useful ally for the Tigers, and for a short time put at stake the optimism that democracy was entrenched which characterised the book published in 1998. For, after Jayewardene's downfall, when his own party prevented him from seeking yet another term in office, democracy returned to Sri Lanka, and was accompanied by a genuine opening up of the economy under his successor Premadasa, as well as Chandrika Kumaratunga, the first President elected from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party that had previously been dogmatically socialist. This allowed substantial development, though the continuation of the LTTE insurgency, and a failure to pay enough attention to regional economic development, as well as continuing state domination of the social sector, meant that the country was stuck in a middling rut. Though Wickremesinghe's economic policies were more dynamic, they were accompanied by such insensitivity to equity issues that he was soundly defeated at the polls, after which Kumaratunga seemed to go back to business as before. The new government elected at the end of 2005 was faced then with a difficult task, since a reinvigorated LTTE had also to be confronted. Whether efforts to deal militarily with the terrorist threat will be accompanied by satisfactory political measures to resolve longstanding Tamil grievances remains to be seen. However, the development of Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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greater confidence in those Tamil parties that joined mainstream politics, along with a vigorous policy of regional development, may prove more successful in expediting development along with the expansion of opportunities on a nationwide basis. If Sri Lanka has faced some hurdles in what seemed ten years ago a fairly straightforwardly democratic path, two larger countries in South Asia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, seemed in this intervening period, to have abandoned democracy entirely. Sadly, the takeover of the administration by unelected forces did not seem, initially at least, a violation of the people's will. In Pakistan, what seemed excessive corruption and inefficiency on the part of several elected governments had led to a sense of despair, so that the takeover by General Musharraf in 1999 was actually widely welcomed. However, despite what seemed some positive measures, the situation soon deteriorated, prompting not only a demand for elections, but the heavy defeat in the poll of 18 February, 2008 of the party aligned with the General. There is little doubt that increasingly heavy-handed authoritarianism contributed to the hardening of public sentiment against him. Tragically, in the polarisation that some of his policies seemed to encourage, the candidate probably best suited to guide Pakistan back to liberal democracy, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated. Though democracy did not prove successful in Pakistan in the nineties, it should be noted that those who won elections suffered from the continuing power of the established elite, including the military. Benazir Bhutto was heavily circumscribed when she first won election in 1988, and her successor Nawaz Sharif too found himself dismissed suddenly by an unelected President. A sense of insecurity may well have contributed to the inefficiency of both when, in turn, they were again elected to the Premiership. Certainly the absence of a democratic culture in Pakistan has contributed to the uncertainties that bedevil any elected leader. Bangladesh initially seemed different in that, since democracy was restored in the early nineties, three governments served out their full term. However, the absence of checks and balances in the constitution gave the elected Prime Minister almost absolute power, and this was used in a very partisan manner by both ladies who in turn occupied Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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the position. As the stakes grew higher, attempts to control elections became more blatant, prompting the recent postponement by a Head of State appointed to try to ensure a fair election. This move had the support of the military, and there are suspicions that elections might be postponed indefinitely. However what seems emphatically a technocratic government continues to operate with no marked unpopularity, and there seems currently a commitment that elections will take place next year. So, even if the situation while this volume was being prepared seemed worse in those two countries as far as democratic practices were concerned, as we move into 2009 there are some positive glimmers. In both cases what needs to be avoided has become clear, though whether the will and the means to benefit from these lessons will develop remains to be seen. Certainly the idea that democracy means the winner takes all has been so roundly discredited that it seems likely that both countries will try to strengthen checks and balances so as to make more difficult the profiteering authoritarianism associated even with democratically elected governments in our part of the world. Meanwhile in the other countries in South Asia, in theory at least, the situation has improved as far as consultation of the popular will is concerned. Nepal, which has engaged over the last half century in experiments with democracy that were often vitiated by the continuation of a monarchy that could not be confined to a constitutional role, now seems on the verge of developing a constitution by popular consensus, along with a freely elected government that will not be monolithic. Sadly it took the murder of a king and a disruptive insurgency to lead to this situation. In Bhutan, on the contrary, an absolute monarch showed himself willing to open up the system, and has begun a system of elections that could lead in time to a pluralistic democracy. In the Maldives, which had virtually a one-party state and a President who had been re-elected over forty years without any functioning opposition, better organized dissent has led to signs that the system might be opened up, albeit to a limited extent. And in Afghanistan, the latest recruit to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, after many years of authoritarian rule, which could only be changed through insurgent Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

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violence, there is now at least an elected President with a representative Parliament.

But the problems faced by that elected President testify to the enormous challenges faced by democracy in the subcontinent. Afghanistan indeed presents to all the problems for liberal democracy writ large. In the first place there is the hostility to pluralistic democratic forces of fundamentalist thinking, a socio-political approach that privileges a single point of view. Secondly, there is the power of particular interest groups that, seeing the state as necessarily something hijacked at any particular point, set up their own spheres of influence that have no obligation to the generality. In Afghanistan then President Karzai and his government face the Taliban, that had set up an inward looking fundamentalist regime that had governed the whole country for half a decade from 1996, and which still commands substantial support in some regions. In addition, they have to deal with what might be termed warlords, individuals who command considerable allegiance in particular areas, who had contributed to the removal of the Taliban, but who see no necessity to subordinate their own interests to those of the country as a whole. Pakistan also has to deal with Islamic fundamentalism, a legacy of the initial dichotomy in a country which its original ideologue thought would privilege an Islam that was distinct from the Arabian culture. Brought up as Iqbal was in the heart of British India, he did not realise that the border areas of old British India were culturally distinct, and were likely to emphasise their own identity in a country that was supposed to be based on religion. This tendency has developed over the years, fuelled both by funding initially from oil rich states that saw cultural commonalities that could be strengthened, and then by the Western crusade against communism that thought fundamentalism the strongest force to pit against it. At the same time Pakistan also has fissiparous tendencies because of the peculiar balance of its provinces, as indicated in the essay on that subject in this volume. Leaving aside the problems of the two western provinces, the question of Sindh, compounded as it is by the Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Future of Liberalism in South Asia


presence of the Mojahir community, is bound to complicate questions of governance. In Nepal we have one of the last examples of political fundamentalism in the form of the Maoist movement. Though its current interactions with other parties bode well for the future, a retreat into intransigence cannot be ruled out. This, combined with regional concerns, could complicate whatever constitutional arrangements finally emerge. Meanwhile Bhutan has dealt with the possibility of migrants changing its demography through heavy-handed policies that have certainly forestalled potential conflict, but may give rise to grievances in the future. Sri Lanka continues to have to deal with Tiger terrorism, with the danger that responses to this have included what might seem corresponding fundamentalisms. Whilst there is no doubt that majoritarianism contributed to the problems of the Tamils, that was in terms of the political system inherited from the British which in essence concentrated power in a parliament elected on a first past the post system. Fundamental rights that could not be interfered with by an elected majority, independent and indeed proactive courts, entrenched regional powers in particular fields, were inconceivable on the constitutional concepts the country inherited. Now those ideas have become part of the mainstream, but conversely, though still not widely credited, political philosophies that privilege a monolithic state devoted to particular interests have emerged, and in turn these have prompted reactions that seek sectarian enclaves. These then will constitute the principal challenge to the nation states of South Asia in the coming decades. The first half-century after the British left was dominated by statist economic ideologies based on the ideal of equality, but now one has to face exclusivist philosophies that have no qualms about emphasising differences and privileging communities or interest groups at the expense of others. Pervasive as such tendencies seem to be, South Asia can however take heart from the fact that the country with the greatest disparities has nevertheless proved the most successful with regard to nation building. Whereas in the first couple of decades after independence India seemed the most likely country to split up, it has in fact managed Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

224 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

in the subsequent period to bviild up a sense of unity in the midst of diversity. Where Pakistan divided, where Sri Lanka has faced a powerful separatist movement, India has incorporated its more distant components successfully into the whole. Of course problems remain, and the unrest caused by economic disparities, the continuing problems in Kashmir, the sense of alienation still felt by some communities in the Northeast, need to be addressed. It is also true that Hindu fundamentalism has reared its head, that exclusivist ideologies are heard, most prominently in Maharashtra for instance, and that discrimination with regard to caste is still powerful in certain states. But fuelled by a general indusivity, the country is confident about its future as a single entity, which has economic potential from which no one wants to be excluded. The economic development India has pursued, whilst maintaining a democratic fa9ade at the centre and in the regions, provides the key to the success that awaits the whole region if it overcomes its current sectarian tendencies. Though it pursued a socialist model for many decades, India was not as dogmatic as Sri Lanka about nationalisation of everything, it was not as thorough as Pakistan about controlling industrialisation through comprehensive patronage. Its constitution also permitted diversity which could not be stopped, even despite abuse of the constitutional provision that permitted dissolution of state governments. With an independent activist court that has now put an effective stop to that particular abuse, with a press that always maintained a critical independence, India was able, sometimes despite itself, to promote pluralism. To entrench such pluralism, to promote development that is equitable, I believe that the promotion of liberal democratic ideals is vital. The theoretical concepts that justify this belief have been laid out by Chanaka Amaratunga in the first two essays in this book with a comprehensive intelligibility that marks him out as the foremost liberal thinker of the region. It is, as he put it, 'an ideology of individuality, tolerance, enlightenment and radicalism' which 'has firmly placed it upon the progressive side of the political divide/ Given the failure of socialism as South Asia knew it, given the bitter resentments that have been created by crony capitalism or Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

The Future of Liberalism in South Asia


even capitalism without concern for social equity and the general advancement of opportunity, given the violence and suffering caused by all types of fundamentalism, there is no doubt that the people of the region as a whole need tolerance, enlightenment and radicalism. This is best achieved by a philosophy of individualism that privileges universal liberty and choice above all other. If understanding of liberalism is promoted, there is little doubt that it will be the programme of choice for peoples now looking for an inspiring alternative.

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Select Bibliography

The bibliography is divided into three parts. The first contains works cited or mentioned in the text that are crucial to understanding the development of liberal ideals before the modern period. The second part contains modern assessments mentioned in the text of liberalism and related issues. The third contains works that seem particularly useful for an Asian understanding of liberalism, including some that do not figure in the main text. Included in this section are books mentioned in the text in connection with liberal attitudes to colonialism, as well as books on political developments in post-colonial contexts.

Parti Acton, First Baron. Historical Essays and Studies, ed. JN Figgis and R V Laurence, London, 1907. Acton, First Baron. 'The History of Freedom in Antiquity' in Selected Writings ofLord Acton, Volume 1: Essays in the History ofLiberty, ed. J Rufus Fears, Liberty Classics, Indianapolis, 1985. Constant, Benjamin. Political Writing, Cambridge University Press, London, 1988. Green, TH. Lectures on the Principles ofPolitical Obligation and Other Writings (including the Lecture on 'Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract'), ed. Paul Harris and John Morrow, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1986. Hobhouse, LT. Liberalism, Oxford University Press, New York, 1911. Keynes, John Maynard. Essays in Persuasion, London, 1947. Locke, John. A Letter Concerning Toleration, ed. Gough, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1958. Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government, ed. P Laslett, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1967. Mill, John Stuart. 'On Liberty' and 'Considerations on Representative Government' in On Liberty and Other Essays, ed. John Gray, Oxford University Press, London, 1991.

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228 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia Mill, John Stuart. Principles of Political Economy, with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy, ed. WJ Ashley, Logmans, Green and Co., London, 1909. Montague FC. The Limits ofIndividual Liberty, Rivingtons, London, 1885. Montesquieu, Baron Charles de. The Spirit of the Laws, tr. T Nugent, ed. F Neumann, Hafher Library of Classics, New York, 1962. Paine, Thomas. Rights of Man, ed. Henry Collins, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1969. Spencer, Herbert. Man Versus The State, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1969. Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Cambridge University Press, London, 1790. Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America, tr. Henry Reeve, ed. Philip Bradley, Vintage Books, New York, 1945.

Part II Arblaster, Anthony. The Rise and Decline of Western Liberalism, Blackwell, Oxford, 1984. Aron, Raymond. The Opium of the Intellectuals, Seeker & Warburg, London, 1957. Berlin, Isaiah. Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford University Press, Australia, 1979. ('Two Concepts of Liberty' and 'John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life'.) Dahl, Robert. Democracy and Its Critics, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1989. Dangerfield, George. The Strange Death ofLiberal England, London, 1935. Dworkin, Ronald. A Matter of Principle, Harvard University Press, USA, 1985. Dworkin, Ronald. Taking Rights Seriously, Duckworth, London, 1977. Dworkin, Ronald. 'What is Equality?' Parts I and II, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 10; Part III, Iowa Law Review, Vol. 72. Elster, Jon and Rune Slagstad (eds.), Constitutionalism and Democracy, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1988. Finer, S E. Comparative Government, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1970. Forster, E M. Two Cheers for Democracy, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1965. Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom, University of Chicago Press, USA, 1962. Friedrich,Carl. TranscendentJustice, theReligiousDimensionofConstitutionalism, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina, 1964. Gray, John. Hayek on Liberty, Blackwell, Oxford, 1984. Gray, John. Liberalism, Open University Press, Milton Keynes, 1986. Gray, John. Mill on Liberty: A Defence, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1983. Hayek, FA. The Constitution of Liberty, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1976.

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Select Bibliography 229 Hayek, FA. Law, Legislation and Liberty: A New Statement of the Liberal Principles of Justice and Political Economy, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1973. Hayek, F A. The Road to Serfdom, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1976. Henkin, Louis. Constitutionalism, Democracy and Foreign Affairs, Columbia University Press, New York, 1990. Kymlicka, Will. Liberalism, Community and Culture, Oxford University Press, New York, 1989. Kymlicka, Will. Multicultural Citizenship, Oxford University Press, Canada, 1995. Maclntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Duckworth, London, 1981. Macpherson, CB. The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1962. Manning, D J. Liberalism, JM Dent & Sons, London, 1982. Mehta, Uday. The Anxiety of Freedom: imagination and individuality in Locke's political thought, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1992. Miliband, Ralph. Marxism and Politics, Oxford University Press, London, 1977. Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State and Utopia, Blackwell, Oxford, 1974. Ortega Y Gasset, J. Invertebrate Spain, W W Norton & Co., New York, 1937. Paul, Ellen Fraenkel with Jeffrey Paul, Fred D Miller and John Ahrens. Marxism and Liberalism, Blackwell, Oxford, 1986. Pelczynski, Zbigniew and Gray, John (eds.). Conceptions of Liberty in Political Philosophy, Athlone Press, London, 1984. Plamenatz, John (ed.). Readings from Liberal Writers, Oxford University Press, New York, 1965. Popper, Karl. The Open Society and its Enemies, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1945. Rawls, John. Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. Rawls, John. A Theory ofJustice, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1972. Raz, Joseph. The Morality of Freedom, Oxford University Press, New York, 1986. Rorty, Richard. Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1991. Sandel, Michael (ed.). Liberalism and Its Critics, Blackwell, Oxford, 1984. Sandel, Michael. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Cambridge University Press, London, 1982. Shute, Stephen and Susan Hurley. On human rights: the Oxford Amnesty Lectures, Basic Books, New York, 1993. Talmon, JL. The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, Seeker & Warburg, London, 1948. Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1990.

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230 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia Walker, Graham. Moral Foundations ofConstitutional Thought: currentproblems, Augustinian prospects, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1990. Walzer, Michael. Spheres of Justice: A Defence of Pluralism and Equality, Blackwell, Oxford, 1983.

Part III Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, Bill C 33, The House of Commons of Canada, 9 May 1996 Second Session: 35th Parliament, 45th year of Queen Elizabeth II, 1996. Amaratunga, Chanaka (ed.). Ideas for Constitutional Reform, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1989, (abridged 2007). Amaratunga, Chanaka. Liberalism: Its History and Ideological Character, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1989. Amaratunga, Chanaka (ed.). The Failure of Socialism, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1992. Amaratunga, Chanaka (ed.). The Failure of the Unitary State in Sri Lanka: A Consideration of Alternatives, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1994. Amaratunga, Chanaka (ed.). The Freedom of Conscience of Members of Parliament, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1995. Amaratunga, Chanaka (ed.). The Market Economy as a necessary condition of Liberal Democracy, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1992. Boulle, L J with B Harris and C Hoexter. Constitutional and Administrative Law, Juta, South Africa, 1989. Choudhury GW (ed.). Documents and Speeches on the Constitution of Pakistan, 1967. Constitutions of Sri Lanka (1948, 1972 and 1978). Cook, Chris. A ShortHistoryof the LiberalParty 1900-1976, Macmillan, London, 1976. Edrisinha, Rohan. 'In Defence of Judicial Review and Judicial Activism' in Ideas for Constitutional Reform, ed. Amaratunga, 1989. Edrisinha, Rohan (ed.). Local Government and Provincial Councils: Their Role in Strengthening Liberal Democracy, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1992. Edrisinha, Rohan. "Lessons from South Africa' Counterpoint Vol. 3, No. 4, Colombo, 1995. Edrisinha, Rohan (ed.). The Value of Dissent in a Free Society, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1990: Gorbachev, M. Perestroika, Fontana/Collins, London, 1987. Haysom, Nicholas. 'Constitutionalism, Democracy and Socio-Economic Rights' in the South African Journal ofHuman Rights, 1992. James, Robert Rhodes. Rosebery, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1963. Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:36, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

Select Bibliography 231

Jenkins, Roy. Asquith, Harper/Collins, London, 1964. Mill, James. James Mill: The History of British India, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1977. Metcalf, Thomas. Ideologies of the Raj, Cambridge University Press, London, 1996. Mureinik, Etienne. 'Beyond a Charter of Luxuries: Economic Rights in the Constitution' in the South African Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 8,1992. Pantham, Thomas and Kenneth L Deutsch (eds.). Political Thought in Modern India, Sage Publications, London, 1986. Perera, Godwin (ed.). The Role of the Media in a Free Society, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1994. Pitkin, Hanna. The Concept of Representation, University of California Press, USA, 1966. Salonga, Jovito. Liberal Party Basic Orientation Handbook, Manila, 1989. Schmitt, Carl. The Concept of the Political, tr. G Schwab, University of Chicago Press, USA, 1996. Senanayake, Dudley. 'Speech on the Address to the Throne' in Hansard, Proceedings of the Ceylon House of Representatives, December, 1964. Sikkink, Kathryn. Ideas and Institutions: Developmentalism in Brazil and Argentina, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1991. Suu Kyi, Aung San. Freedom from Fear, Viking, London, 1991. Tamir, Yael. Liberal Nationalism, Princeton University Press, USA, 1993. Tiruchelvam, Nirgunan (ed.). Privatisation and the Liberal Economic Agenda for Sri Lanka, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1994. Tiruchelvam, Nirgunan (ed.). The Role of Political Parties in Sri Lanka, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 1994. Ven. Narada Maha Thero. The Buddha and His Teachings, Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 1977. Ven. Walpola Rahula. What the Buddha Taught, Buddhist Cultural Centre, Dehiwala, 1996. Wijesinha, Rajiva (ed.). Conflict- Causes and Consequences, Council for Liberal Democracy, Colombo, 2003. Wijesinha, Rajiva. The Foundations of Modern Society, Foundation Books, New Delhi, 2004. Wijesinha, Rajiva. Political Principles and their Practice in Sri Lanka, Foundation Books, New Delhi, 2005.

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Notes on Contributors

Khalil Ahmad, who studied Economics and Philosophy and has a doctorate in the latter, founded and heads the Alternate Solutions Institute, the first free market think-tank of Pakistan. He provided introductions to the Special Pakistan Editions of the Economic Freedom of the World 2004 and 2005 Annual Reports, and has translated a number of

books into Urdu including the classic The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey by Ken Schoolland. He has published a number of research papers, articles and columns on economic, political, social, philosophical and literary issues. His articles pioneer free market themes and ideas in Pakistan. His Charter of Liberty critiques the Charter of Democracy issued by the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan People's Party, and provides a structured solution, aiming at personal freedoms and prosperity, for the myriad problems faced by the ordinary people of Pakistan. Chanaka Amaratunga read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University where he was Secretary and Treasurer of the Oxford Union. He went on to the London School of Economics, where he received a doctorate for a study of Anglo-Iranian relations between 1941 and 1953. On returning to Sri Lanka he set up the Council for Liberal Democracy, of which he was Secretary General from 1981 until 1989. He also established the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka in 1987, and was its Secretary General and Leader until his death in August 1996. The manifesto of the Democratic People's Alliance under which Mrs Bandaranaike stood for the Presidency in 1989 was largely his work, and he contributed vigorously to the All Party Conference that

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234 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

met afterwards, in particular with regard to the issues of Constitutional Reform and Human Rights Legislation. He also wrote the manifesto under which Gamini Dissanayake stood for the Presidency on behalf of the United National Party in 1994. He was joint editor of The Liberal Review and edited Ideas for Constitutional Reform as well as a number of

pamphlets expounding liberal perspectives. Rohan Edrisinha graduated in Law from the University of Colombo and obtained his Master of Laws degree from the Boalt Hall School of Law at Berkeley, with further study at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. He was a founder of the Council for Liberal Democracy and its Secretary General from 1989 to 1993. He was also Deputy Secretary General of the Liberal Party from its foundation in 1987 until his resignation from the party in 1993. In addition to his substantive post at the University of Colombo, he is a Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives. Anees Jillani is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and a member of the Washington, DC Bar, and is based in Islamabad as a senior partner in the law firm Jillani & Associates (Advocates). He is the former Director of a leading child rights organisation, SPARC (Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child), and currently Chairman of the Pakistan Liberal Forum. He has been a consultant for several international organisations including UNICEF and the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, and has drafted several laws relating to health and child rights issues. He obtained his Juris Doctorate from the University of Florida and has an M Iitt in Strategic Studies from the University of Aberdeen and an MSc from the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, and has published several books, particularly in the field of child rights. Barun S Mitra is founder and Director of the Indian Liberty Institute, a non-profit, independent public policy research and educational organisation, dedicated to providing market based solutions to contemporary public policy issues that enhance freedom of choice for all. He writes for a wide range of national and international Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

Notes on Contributors 235

newspapers and magazines, and was the recipient of the Julian Simon Award 2005 from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington DC. His contribution to the cause of economic and political liberty was recognised by the International Society for Individual Liberty with the Freedom Torch medal 2004. Liberty Institute was awarded the Sir Anthony Fisher Memorial International Prize 2001 for best publication from a new think-tank for the book Population: The Ultimate Resource, which he edited. Dr Parth J Shah is President of the Indian Centre for Civil Society, a think-tank for public policy solutions within the framework of rule of law, subsidiarity, and competitive markets. He has conceptualised and organised liberal educational programs for Indian youth including Liberty & Society Seminars, Jeevika Livelihood Documentary Competition, and Researching Reality Internship Program. He has edited Morality of Markets, Friedman on India, Profiles in Courage: Dissent on Indian Socialism, Do Corporations Have Social Responsibility? and serves on

the editorial board of EducationWorld, Vishleshan, and Khoj. Nirgunan Tiruchelvam read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University where he was President of the Oxford Majlis. He has served as Deputy Secretary General of the Council for Liberal Democracy, and Vice-President of the Young Liberals of Sri Lanka. He works now in Singapore. Rajiva Wijesinha read Classics, Ancient History and Philosophy at University College, Oxford, and subsequently moved as E K Chambers Student to Corpus Christi College where he obtained a doctorate in English. He is currently Senior Professor of Languages at Sabaragamuwa University in Sri Lanka, but has been seconded to serve as Secretary General of the Sri Lankan Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process. He was President of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka from 1987 to 2007, and its leader for ten years from 1997, standing as its candidate for the Sri Lankan Presidency in 1999. He was joint editor of The liberal Review, and has published widely in the fields of literary criticism, political history and philosophy and fiction. Recent Downloaded from Durham University Library, on 28 Feb 2021 at 08:36:37, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at

236 Liberal Perspectives for South Asia

publications include Declining Sri Lanka (CUP, Delhi), Bridging Connections

(English, Sinhala and Tamil Short Stories from Sri Lanka — National Book Trust, India) and The Terrorist Trilogy (International Book House, Sri Lanka).

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