Browsing through 51 Years of EPW | How Egalitarian Are the Social Sciences in India?

Social science practice in India has harboured a cultural hierarchy dividing it into a vast, inferior mass of academics who pursue empirical social science and a privileged few who are considered the theoretical pundits with reflective capacity which makes them intellectually superior to the former. To use a familiar analogy, Indian social science represents a pernicious divide between theoretical brahmins and empirical shudras.


The recent debate involving some sensitive scholars in the pages of EPW has drawn attention to the problems that surround the social science discipline in the country. These interventions cover various dimensions of the social science malady. For example, Ramchandra Guha underscores absent liberals in the social sciences, while Partha Chatterjee underlines the colonisation of social science by certain metropolitan centres in the country. These claims, particularly Guha’s, have been contested on nuanced grounds by scholars [e g, Peter de Souza]. The present paper argues that the introduction of the egalitarian principle into the debate seeks to extend and not undermine Guha’s, De Souza’s and Chatterjee’s criticisms of social science practice in India.[1] The principle of egalitarianism, as we shall spell out in greater detail in the following, becomes relevant in the context where the social sciences are divided into inferiorised empirical social sciences and the privileged abstract social sciences.

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