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Rabindranath’s Praxis

Bhikhu Parekh observed that a possible reason why Gandhi perennially addressed Rabindranath Tagore as “The Poet” was that it implicitly classified him (and marginalised his many critical observations) as an impractical person of the imagination.

Rabindranath Tagore’s Theology of Work

Taking the distinctive meaning of intimacy as its starting point, this paper explores Rabindranath Tagore’s notion of the relational self and the commitment to work. The idea of work as connecting relationships that make up the world, is something that is derived from neo-Vedantic conceptions that privilege the concerns of this world. Institutionally, this translates into various forms of cooperation of which cooperatives are the primary mode. The paper concludes with some of the dilemmas of Rabindranath’s conception of praxis that go beyond a measurement of success and failure.

Tagore on Modernity, Nationalism and ‘the Surplus in Man’

Rabindranath Tagore’s reflections on the concepts and practices of civilisation, nationalism, and community are directly concerned with the nature of modern political power and its underlying assumptions about human life. This article interprets these reflections by reading them along with and in the light of his philosophical anthropology as articulated in a variety of philosophical essays, focusing closely on The Religion of Man. It concludes by underscoring the contemporary import of these reflections as a philosophical resource for thinking about possibilities of human communities that go beyond the way the dominant tendency in political power tends to capture human life under its multiple regimes.

Sriniketan Encounters Ambedkar

Building on Tagore’s critique of “politics,” an English term Tagore does not translate into rajneeti (thus retaining its foreignness), the paper moves to Tagore’s turning away from nationalism as largely an “abstract being” or a symbolic form, and his turning, instead, to the question of dharma (as the dialectic between askesis, a la Foucault, and phronesis, a la Heidegger). Dharma as the this-worldly art-praxis of attending to what the abstract being or the symbolic form forecloses. For Tagore, Sriniketan is the context for such an art-praxis. For the authors, Ambedkar is the imaginary interlocutor of Tagore’s redrawing of the extant practice of the political.

Cultivating a Taste for Nature

Rabindranath Tagore began to paint independent paintings, freed from an origin in text, only in 1928. Many of these were landscapes and painterly engagements with seasons. Earlier however, in 1923, Tagore began his experiments in rural regeneration with an elaborate “Masque” performance in Surul, a small rural settlement close to the fledgling Visva-Bharati University project, to bring “hill tribes” into the ambit of agricultural work and reshape the land which until then had “never known the scratch of a ploughshare.” This paper attempts to offer a reading of the ideological drive through which a public attitude towards the surrounding landscape was shaped by Tagore’s performances and how his shift to landscape painting was one way of registering the continuity of human experiences across space and time.

Performance and ‘Begging Missions’

This paper offers a synoptic view of the first three decades of the 20th century through the lens of performance, located in alternative sites such as Santiniketan–Sriniketan, with radial arteries extending to and through metropolitan circuits in the “making of a modern India.” It foregrounds Rabindranath Tagore’s fundraising through dancing and singing tours which featured members of both sexes in order to underscore the tensions (even contradictions) between artistic excellence and independence, institution building and the modalities of funding, through and in performance. These varied trajectories, including responses to the “cultural tours,” raise fresh questions in our times.

Rabindranath Tagore and the Democracy of Our Times

Capital is not simply an additive to the Foucauldian conception of power, but is integral to it. Karl Marx’s analysis of the worker shows the operations of biopower in the factory, in the governmental fashioning of the internal motivations of the worker that complements the disciplinary regime of the factory. While Marxist analysis holds out prospects of liberation, it remains too preoccupied with the state. In this context, Rabindranath Tagore is a figure who not only refuses to compromise with the totalising force of governmental power as manifested in colonialism (especially its education policy), but also identifies in cooperation, a social principle that holds out the possibility of freedom from capitalist power knowledge.


Translated by Jayanti Chattopadhyay and Pradip Kumar Datta. We are grateful to Visva–Bharati University for permission to publish this extract from Asok Sen’s book Rajnitir Pathokromey Rabindranath (2014: 1421). For constraints of space, a few portions have been omitted. Some subheadings have been added. Thanks are also due to Russwati Sen for her immense help.

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