A HISTORICAL-COMPARATIVE APPROACH TO INDIAN POLITICAL THOUGHT: LOCATING AND EXAMINING DOMESTICATED DIFFERENCES

Author: Gray, Stuart

Source: History of Political Thought, Volume 31, Number 3, 2010 , pp. 383-406(24)

Publisher: Imprint Academic

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Abstract:

Scholars have highlighted various issues and approaches on which to focus attention within the emerging field of cross-cultural political thought. Developing a responsible methodological approach to non-Western traditions is of particular significance, given the growing importance of such traditions, the danger of cultural reductionism and the undue imposition of Western terms and categories during the comparative process. Consequently, this article argues for a historical approach to Brahmanical-Hindu political thought that examines distinctions between genres, concepts, terms and categories, including how these distinctions influence the historical meaning of political ideas. To illustrate my argument, a revised interpretation of the Sanskrit word mtsyanyya -- which had been unfortunately translated into the familiar phrase 'state of nature' -- both clarifies our understanding of Brahmanical political thought and displays how existing comparisons 'domesticate' important differences between European and Brahmanical political ideas. Such analysis exposes a culturally reductive interpretive process operating within existing comparative scholarship.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106-9420, USA, Email: stuartgray@umail.ucsb.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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