Politics, Resistance, Change

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS3DP2082

Semester and Year Offered: Semester 3

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Imran Amin

Email of course coordinator:


Course Objectives/Description:

By placing political at the very heart of subjectivity and identity, this course tries to look at how power operates, and what are the possibilities for resistance and transformation of the social and the historical in such operation? In turning away from the ‘individual’ and the ‘abstract-theoretical’, the course focuses on exploring the discursive and the performative method of contesting power, oppression and injustice of the resultant inequality. Marked by the philosophy of ‘personal as political,’ the course will also engage with ‘everyday forms of protest’ as a mode of isolated dissent. The role of the state and civil society, the relation between global and local dimensions, and between private and public will be important themes.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Be familiar with ‘politics’ and ‘the political’ as well as resistance to it in its historical dimension and its conceptual-philosophical perspectives.
  2. Be political in their thinking and in their relation to the world as well as reflect on the political to develop critical faculty vis-à-vis ‘the political’.
  3. Reflect critically on the transformative social praxis instituted
  4. Capacity to transform extant practices of rural development

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit 1: On ‘Politics’ and ‘the Political’ The course begins by looking at some of the philosophical and theoretical discussions on the idea of politics and the political in classical Greek and early modern European scholars. In these conceptions, the rise of collective organizations and the need for redistribution of material and non material resources lies at the heart of the dialectics of politics and resistance. The scope that this dialectics offers for social transformation and change has been negotiated over issues of: justice and happiness; sovereignty, rule of law and the self interest of private property; and rights of liberty and equality. The struggles and negotiations over these issues have given way for wide range of organizing/legitimizing principles and institution mechanism for social formation.

Unit 2: Alternative view of ‘the Political’: Ecological/Feminist/Non Western The second units looks at 3 alternatives view of ‘the political’ that emerged in the 20th century, viz: ecological, feminist and non western/non violent. The Ecological takes on ‘the political’, in terms of its legitimizing principle and institutional mechanism, brings the concerns of ‘nature’ in the politics over the well being of human beings as a species. It challenges the technologically driven, Enlightenment views about control of nature to ensure unlimited progress by bringing the arguments about ‘limits of growth’. The ecological contestations, in terms of legitimate institutional mechanism to redistribute global commons to all members of the planet, now and forever, and speaking of ‘responsibility of damage’ across the last three centuries takes politics beyond time. As part of the non-Western approaches, we examine the works of Gandhi to explore what it meant by swaraj or self-governance, and the relationship it sets forth between non-violence and change.

Unit 3: The Practice of ‘the Dialectics of Politics and Resistance’ With the rise of Enlightenment, politics was increasingly seen as the struggle for power based on persuasive and coercive means and concerned with the State. This unit looks at how scholars have looked at and analyzed the exercise or practice of power, the inherent resistance involved in any exercise of power, the resultant probability of power to bring about causal effect in social relation. It looks at the knowledge based and institutionalized violence based exercise of power. In doing so, it looks at the Foucauldian view and Arendtian understanding of power. Having done so then it turns to the issues of resistance to both forms of power.

Unit 4: Resistance and/ to Resistance In this unit, we explore the two meanings of resistance: that which marks political struggle, and that which surfaces in the psychoanalytic encounter. How is resistance as dialectical opposition to be distinguished from resistance as aporetic breakdown? Is it to be strengthened or is it to be overcome? What is the predicament of the development practitioner when the supposed beneficiaries of your interventions resist the introduction of a scheme? What if the rural does not welcome the social empowerment of women? What if Iraq does not want to be democratized by the U.S? In taking the conceptualizations on subjectivity as a crucial site of struggle, we will use Freudian metapsychology to complicate the theorization of resistance.

Unit 5: Social Justice and Scope of Transformation: Having looked at the practice of politics and the inherent resistance involved in it, the course concludes by evaluating the scope of social transformation possible in this dialectics of control. In doing so we look at the theories of social justice contested over issues of liberty and equality as reflected in demands of political representation and autonomy; economic redistribution to redress inequality of poverty, and social recognition to facilitate self determination of each human collective. In this context, the evaluative mechanism takes the form of participation parity in collective actions, with the idea of participation drawing from its conception as a citizenship right as well as developmental approach.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Critical Review Paper: Personal in Political (50%)
  • Reflective Paper: Resisting Subjectivity as Agency (50%)

Reading List:

  • Section on Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes and Locke in Steven M Cahn (ed), Political Philosophy The Essential Texts, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. pp. 1-169, 185-273.
  • Mercur Olsen, The Logic of Collective Action, Harvard University Press, 2002.
  • Leo Strauss, ‘What Can We Learn from Political Theory’ in The Review of Politics, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Fall, 2007), pp. 515-529.
  • Section on Science, Technology, Environment and Resource in Wolfgang Sachs (ed.) The Development Dictionary a guide to knowledge as power (2nd edition, first in 1992), Zed Books: London, 2009. pp. 24-38, 228-259, 308-322.
  • James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State, New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1988.
  • Arun Agarwal, 2005, ‘Chapter 6: Making Environmental Subjects: intimateGovernment’ and‘Chapter 7: Conclusion: The analytics of environmentaliry’ in Environmentality: technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects, OUP,Delhi.
  • Richard Peet and Michael Watts, 2004, ‘Introduction’, in Liberation Ecologies: Environment,development, social movements, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 1-45.
  • Mark C. V. Stoddart, 2007, Ideology, Hegemony, Discourse: A critical review of theories of knowledge and Power, in Social Thought and Research, Vol. 28, pp 191-225
  • Michel Foucault, 1982, The Subject and the Power, in Critical Inquiry, vol 8, no 4, pp 777-95
  • Judith Butler, 1997, The psychic life of power: Theories in subjection. Stanford Universit Press,
  • Hannah Arendt, 1973 The origins of totalitarianism. Vol. 244. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
  • Nikolas Rose, 1990, Powers of freedom: Reframing political thought. Cambridge university press.
  • Max Weber, Bureaucracy, in Aradhna Sharma and Akhil Gupta (eds.) The Anthropology of the State: A Reader, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2006. pp. 49-70
  • Michael Foucault, Governmentality, in Aradhna Sharma and Akhil Gupta (eds.) The Anthropology of the State: A Reader, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2006. pp. 131-143.
  • Antonio Gramsci, State and Civil Society, in Aradhna Sharma and Akhil Gupta (eds.) The Anthropology of the State: A Reader, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2006. pp. 71-85
  • Huntington, Political Order and Political Decay
  • Mario Diani and Daini Dellaporta 2006 Social Movement An Introduction, Blackwell
  • Doug McAdam, et. al. 2001 Dynamic of Contention, CUP.
  • Sidney Tarrow, 2011, Power in Movement: Social Movement and Contentious Politics, Chp1
  • Mahatma Gandhi and Anthony J. Parel. 1997 Gandhi : “Hind Swaraj” and Other Writings. Cambridge University Press,.
  • James C. Scott, 2008 Weapons of the weak: Everyday forms of peasant resistance. Yale university Press.
  • Freud, S. (1914g) Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through, S.E., 12. Freud, S. (1921c) Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, S.E., 18.
  • Mathew Clayton and Andrew Williams (eds.) Social Justice, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford, 2004.
  • David Miller, Principle of Social Justice, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1999.
  • Nancy Fraser, Scales of Justice, Columbia University Press, 2009.