ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Concerns of the Poor

Navigating through Democracy

Politics of the Poor: Negotiating Democracy in Contemporary India by Indrajit Roy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, New York, US, Melbourne, Australia; New Delhi and Singapore: 2018; pp xxi + 521, price not indicated.

This is a book that tries to understand how the poor negotiate democracy. It asks whether the poor “absorb the ideas and identities encompassed in notions associated with democracy, of citizenship, rights, improvements, and modernity?” (p 2). Or do their everyday vulnerabilities “compel them to seek recourse to clientelistic practices, communitarian vocabularies, preservation of lifestyles with which they are familiar, and the comfort of their traditions” (p 2). The author wishes to underline that the poor “neither seek assimilation into the universalistic premises of demo­cracy nor aim to perpetuate their difference” (p 5). Instead, he points to the poor’s “multifaceted negotiations in and with demo­cracy.” These negotiations combine cooperation with conflict, are not necessarily conducted with formal institutions, nor are they always convened by organisations of the poor. As the poor do not “quietly adapt themselves to the authority of the elected representatives,” the “poor people’s politics is a politics of ‘agonistic’ negotiations” with democracy (p 5). The book is about establishing Chantal Mouffe’s concept of an agonistic perspective in understanding the politics of the poor in India (see Democratic Paradox, Verso, London, 2000). According to the author, this perspective allows an examination of power relationships in which the lives of the poor are embedded and it also provides a narrative in which they can marginally affect social relations of power.

Multifaceted Negotiations

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Updated On : 31st Jul, 2021

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