Thinking Conceptually about Politics
Rana Sudhir Kumar
The ‘idea of a good society’ incorporates the principles of liberty, equality, justice, rights and recognition
within itself. These principles have been enshrined in the constitutions of most of the democratic nations
of the world. These also constitute the core of ‘Politics’ – the activity by which the framework of society is
evolved and sustained. ‘The destiny of man presents its meaning in political terms’, remarked Thomas Mann.
Politicians, philosophers, academicians, businessmen and civil servants alike, entrusted with the task of
creating a just society through maintenance or transformation of the human environment, recognize politics
as the universal dimension of human life, which sustains the common world in which we live. Politics is
what David Easton calls ‘the authoritative allocation of values’. In other words, it is these principles that tell
us what should be admired and what should be condemned. Only a ‘good society’ would be able to do that.
A ‘just’ or a ‘good’ society, in turn, would be one which upholds the values of liberty, equality, justice, rights
and recognition. This presupposes the existence of a democratic social order based on freedom of enterprise,
welfare of the people, and above all, ethics and morality.
Chapter 1 discusses ‘liberty’, as a central concept of political life, clarif es its meaning and signif cance, and
then elaborates on the important distinction, which is made between ‘negative liberty’ and ‘positive liberty’.
Chapter 2 examines ‘equality’, recognized essentially as a principle of uniform apportionment, and
attempts to answer the all-important question: equal in what? The two basic forms in which ‘equality’ is used in
political philosophy – ‘foundational’ and ‘distributional’ are discussed in detail. Some of the more contemporary
perspectives such as ‘equality of capability’, ‘complex equality’ and ‘equality of status’ are also examined
brief y.
Chapter 3 attempts to uncover the meaning and essence of ‘justice’, explores its relevance as an ethical
principle in business, and then examines, brief y, various theories of ‘distributive justice’ with special
reference to John Rawls’ theory of ‘Justice as Fairness’.
Chapter 4 contains an analysis of the nature, characteristics, kind and basis of the doctrine of ‘rights’
and highlights the signif cance of ‘human rights’, particularly in relation to the corporate world.
Chapter 5 is a short essay on the concept of ‘recognition’. Realizing the importance of taking ‘differences’
into account in democratic practice, an attempt is made to examine the various dimensions of the ‘politics of
Chapter 6 seeks to understand diverse systems, structures, processes and principles, which together
could serve as the foundation of a ‘good society’.
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