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Religious Practice and Democracy in India


  • Date Published: July 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107041509

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About the Authors
  • This book demonstrates the close relationship between religion and democracy in India. Religious practice creates ties among citizens that can generate positive and democratic political outcomes. In pursuing this line of inquiry the book questions a dominant strand in some contemporary social sciences - that a religious denomination (Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and so on) is sufficient to explain the relationship between religion and politics or that religion and democracy are antithetical to each other. The book makes a strong case for studying religious practice and placing that practice in the panoply of other social practices and showing that religious practice is positively associated with democracy.

    • Focuses on religious practice rather than religion
    • Argues that religious practice creates a shared space for those who practise
    • Illustrates how religious practice can be associated with democracy
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'On the basis of several surveys, Pradeep Chhibber argues counterintuitively that the more they practice a religion, the more Indians support democracy. This correlation largely stems from the fact that 'ties created through religious practice build sympathetic ties between representatives and citizens'. Religious ties, indeed, foster horizontal bonds at the expense of the hierarchical arrangement of society. The correlative erosion of caste and other intermediate bodies may also result in Hindu majoritarianism. Chhibber very pertinently admits that ethnio-religious ideologies are the greatest danger for democracy in India. This book is most topical indeed.' Christophe Jaffrelot, CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS and King's India Institute, London

    'This is a path-breaking book. There are few empirical studies of the relationship between transformation of religion and democracy. This book is a subtle and powerful examination of this relationship. It will unsettle many entrenched assumptions about both religious practice and democracy. The book will provoke a lot of discussion.' Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

    'Political science can and should study the impact of religion on politics. This important book clearly articulates, and brilliantly demonstrates, how and why in India, high religious practice, more than caste, civil society, or parties, is the most significant variable associated with Indian citizens' positive sense of political representation.' Alfred Stepan, Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government and Director, Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration and Religion, Columbia University

    'In a highly original way, this book connects religious practice (not religious doctrine) and democracy in India. Religious practice in India does not show equality, as it is commonly understood. Rather, it creates a shared identity. In most sites of religious practice, if not all, the hierarchical social distinctions characteristic of India disappear, and the rich and the poor, the high and the low, 'find themselves in the same position vis-à-vis the divine'. Because religious practice is ubiquitous in India, and because survey evidence shows that the religious believe in democracy more than the non-religious, India's democracy, argues Chhibber, can be said to rest on the foundation of religious practice. In effect, in a deeply hierarchical society, religious practice and electoral practice are the only two 'public spheres' where social hierarchy tends to disappear. There is an affinity between the two spheres. This argument will touch off a new and vigorous debate about religion and democracy, both in India and elsewhere.' Ashutosh Varshney, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences, Brown University, Rhode Island

    'This book offers a helpful corrective to the long-standing beliefs that all aspects of religion contribute to authoritarianism and that only modern (Western) associations nourish democracy.' J. G. Everett, Choice Connect

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107041509
    • length: 218 pages
    • dimensions: 216 x 140 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • contains: 41 b/w illus. 6 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Religious practices, identities, and political representation
    2. The influence of religious practice
    3. Social domination: caste and political representation
    4. Avenues for the connected: civic associations
    5. Political institutions and the reproduction of inequalities
    6. Party competition, social divisions, and representation
    7. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Pradeep K. Chhibber, University of California, Berkeley
    Pradeep K. Chhibber is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also serves as the Indo-American Community Chair of India Studies. His two previous books have won awards from the American Political Science Association. His articles have been published in such journals as the American Political Science Review, the British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, the Journal of Politics, and Party Politics. He is an active contributor to the op-ed pages of the Indian Express.

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