POLITICAL THEORY – CONCEPTS AND DEBATES
IGNOU BPSC 103 Solved Free Assignment
BPSC 103 Solved Free Assignment July 2023 & January 2024
Q. 1. Examine J.S. Mill’s notion of liberty.
Ans. In the 1960s, J. S. Mill’s view on liberty was influential in the academic debates. Mill believed that the liberty was to encourage the attainment of individuality which means the distinctive and unique character of each human individual.
Freedom is the realisation of this individuality, which is personal growth or self-determination.
The property of individuality in human beings makes them active rather than passive, and critical of existing modes of social behaviour, enabling them to refuse to accept conventions unless they are found reasonable.
According to Mill, freedom does not simply the absence of restraints but the deliberate cultivation of certain desirable attitudes.
For this reason, his view on liberty gravitates towards a positive conception of liberty. He believed that a person who allows others to choose his plan of life for him does not display the faculty of individuality or self-determination.
The only faculty he or she seems to have is the ‘apelike’ faculty of ‘imitation’. A person who chooses to plan for himself, employs all his faculties.
To realise one’s individuality, and attain freedom, it is essential that individuals resist forces or norms and customs which hinders self-determination. Mill also believed that very few individuals have the capacity to resist and make free choices.
The rest are content to submit to apelike imitation, existing thereby in a state of unfreedom.
Thus, Mill’s view of liberty for this reason is seen as elitist because individuality can be enjoyed only by a minority and not the masses at large. Mill differentiated between self-regarding and other-regarding actions.
They are actions, which affected the individual only, and actions which affected the society at large. Any restriction or interference with an individual can be justified only to prevent harm to others.
Over actions that affected only himself, the individual was sovereign. Such an understanding conveys the idea of a society in which the relationship between individual and society is not parental which means the individual is the best judge of his interests.
Similarly, the idea that an act can be constrained only if it harmed others, rules out the idea that some acts are intrinsically immoral and therefore, must be punished irrespective of whether they affect anyone else.
Besides, Mill’s framework rules out ‘utilitarianism’, as enunciated by Bentham, which would justify interference if it maximized the general interest.
Yet, the division between the individual and the society is not strict in Mill in the sense that all acts do affect others in some way, and Mill believed that his principle did not preach a moral indifference towards the self-regarding behaviour of others, and felt that it was permissible to use persuasion to discourage immoral behaviour.
Also, Mill strongly believed in the instrumental value of liberty in the promotion of social goods.
This is especially true of his arguments for the complete liberty of thought, discussion and expression and the right to assembly and association.
Mill felt that all obstructions on free discussion should be removed because truth would emerge from a free competition of ideas.
It may be pointed out that in today’s catalogue of liberties, freedom of expression is valued perhaps more than economic liberty as a democratic ideal.
Free exchange between individuals is undoubtedly an important exercise of liberty and a society, which forbade all kinds of liberty and this would still be relatively free.
Q. 2. Discuss the Neo-Liberal view of liberty.
Ans. Neo-Liberalism, also called neo-classical liberalism, which started in 1970s, aimed to revive economic liberalism.
Its main proponents like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan wanted to increase economic growth and reduce the fiscal deficit of the government’s budget. They cut down the role of government and increased the role of the market.
F. A. Hayek stated that a man is free when he is not subjected to coercion by the arbitrary will of another. He said individual freedom is not political freedom, inner freedom and freedom as power.
In a politically free society, people can choose their governments, can take in legislation and have a control over administration.
Individual freedom should not be confused with freedom as power. Freedom of power means our power to act as per our wishes and desires.
An individual may have the effective power to get things done that he might not be able to do legally but that nowhere signifies that a society is free in its actions.
Hayek said an individual will be able to self-determine if there exists ‘freedom from constraints of the state’. He argued to minimize the coercive actions of the state as it is not an instrument of distributive justice.
Liberty and equality are an anti- thesis of each other. A state cannot coerce society that has different talents and skills to be equal, as it will create further inequality.
Milton Friedman argued that a capitalist and competitive society can maintain conditions of freedom where an individual self-determine his actions and thoughts.
The state should only supplement the market and do work that cannot be handled by the latter or is too costly to bear the cost by the market.
He too negated the concept of equality as it impinges on the liberty of individual to self-determine.
Robert Nozick said that an individual can enjoy the liberty of self-determination only if the state performs limited functions, that of the protection of property rights.
It is not the duty of the state to engage in re-distributive transfers, as the inequalities that exist at the time of production should not be corrected at the time of distribution.
An individual who has acquired goods through three sources – application of their selves-bodies, brains, etc; through acquiring natural world resources like land, water resources or minerals; and by applying themselves to the natural world resulting in agricultural or industrial products.
On all these sources, an individual has rightful entitlement unless he voluntarily transfers to others.
Nozick explains that if an individual has invented a medicine of rare disease, he can demand a price for it.
But if there is only one water body in a desert, then no one should be allowed to monopolize it. Here, the state should work as a dominant protective association to secure liberty of every individual.
Q. 1. Elaborate upon Alienation from human nature.
Ans. Alienation, which has been derived from the Latin word alius (meaning another), refers to a state in which a thing is separated. It has three elements: a subject, an object and the relation between them.
The subject could be an individual or a social group. For example, alienation can be experienced by a person called ‘A’ or it can be experienced by a social group of workers in an unorganised sector.
The object can be another object, or a person, or an environment. For example, person ‘A’ working in a shoe factory might be alienated from product of its labour, that is, a shoe.
Person ‘A’ can also be alienated from a co-worker, person ‘A’ might be alienated from the factory environment and finally, person ‘A’ might be alienated from himself as a human being.
In capitalism, labour is forced. Work has no relationship to our personal inclinations or our collective interests. The capitalist division of labour increases our ability to produce, but those who create the wealth are deprived of its benefits.
We can act collectively to further our interests. However, in capitalism that ability is submerged under private ownership and the class divisions it produces.
Oppression leads to alienation. In pre-capitalist societies, for example, the oppression of common subjects by priests led to alienation of the former from God.
In capitalist societies, exploitation of workers by capitalists leads to alienation of workers from the product of labour, labour process, fellow human beings and human nature itself.
However, the channel for self- realisation opens through this process of alienation. Only through alienation, the vision to critically engage with the existing exploitative reality comes and thus, an urge to get rid of it.
Marx recognised that the alienation also involves the emergence of a good individuality which in due course becomes central to human flourishing in a communist society.
For example, during the British rule, the exploitation by British imperialists reached such a stage wherein Indians internalised the inferiority of themselves, as preached by the British.
It was a stage of alienation wherein most of the Indians got separated from their true-self.
However, only in this alienation Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi could see the real exploitative structure of colonialism and the strength to oppose it.
Gandhi believed that to bring any kind of reform, even at individual level, the alienation of the reformer from the subject of reform is necessary.
If one is blind in love with the existing relationship, then the scope for reform is closed forever. Thus, alienation which is associated as a product of oppression is a stepping stone towards freedom.
Q. 2. Examine the concept of equality of outcomes.
Ans. Equality of outcomes is aimed at providing substance to the concept of equality. It is different from formal equality which dictates behavior through the application of rules and procedures consistently.
Equality of outcomes seeks to inject a principle of morality into the application of equality.
Equality of outcome stands on the idea that the principle of equal treatment sometimes needs different treatment for certain grounds of disadvantage.
The social philosophy behind it is an egalitarian understanding of social justice and good life.
Equality of outcome means equal distribution of rewards such as income, wealth and other social goods irrespective of the social and family backgrounds or talents and efforts.
Equality of outcome necessitates the introduction of the measures by the state for necessary changes to be visible in society.
This emphasis on ‘outcomes’ rather than ‘opportunities’ shifts focus away from the starting point of life to its end results.
Equality of outcome focuses on equal distribution of rewards among all sections of society and does not consider the starting points, efforts, skill and talent of individuals.
The idea of equality of outcome contradict the formal equality. The demand for equal outcomes is mostly related to the idea of material equality, social circumstances and wages.
Equality of outcome is a prerequisite for securing individual liberty as a certain level of material prosperity is essential to lead a worthwhile life.
Socialists, communists and anarchists view equality of outcome as the most vital form of equality since without it other forms of equality are futile. Conservatives and liberals believe such measures to be immoral or unnatural.
Q. 3. Write a note on equality and the Indian Constitution.
Ans. Equality is one of the defining principles of the Indian Constitution. Article 14 endorses that the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
The equal protection of the laws has been taken from 1-14th Amendment of the constitution of the US. It entails that all citizens are equal before law and allows for protection of laws.
Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex, or place of birth. Article 16 focuses on equal opportunity in public employment and Article 17 bans untouchability.
Various Supreme Court judgements have also upheld the principle of equality. In the case of E. P. Royappa vs State of Tamil Nadu & Anr, the Supreme Court of India said: “Equality and arbitrariness are sworn enemies” and thus, the state cannot be arbitrary in treatment towards individuals coming from different sections of society, in such matters as public employment.
Thus, equality was held to be antithetical to arbitrariness in state action. In 1976, in the case of State of Kerala vs. N.M. Thomas, the Supreme Court held that Article 14, 15, and 16 were equality rights and sought to achieve real equality.
It was held that Section 15 (4), and 16 (4) which allowed for special provisions and reservations for the marginalized were not exceptions to 15 (1) and 16 (1), and, in fact, flow from them to bring to reality the goal of equality.
This was concretized with another judgment in 1992 which upheld this principle.
The constitution aims to provide formal and absolute equality. This would also necessitate actions by the state for the removal of inequality and promote the sentiment of unity in diversity among the citizens of India.
This is even more prominently evident in Article 25 of our Constitution that promotes equality of religious practices to guarantee the religious freedom of diverse communities in India.
A more recent instance of reinstatement of constitutional equality was the reading down of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
The colonial law criminalized same sex relationship between citizens as unnatural and therefore, punishable, until recently.
On 6th September, 2018, the Supreme Court repealed Section 377 for consenting adults in the country.
The section was seen as a violation of the various fundamental rights like that of equality and was, thus, regarded as unconstitutional.
It is via this judgement that equality was considered the antithesis of discrimination in the constitutional framework.
Thus, when it comes to the constitutional meanings attached to the concept of equality, it is seen that the meanings are subject to change through time.
However, the core principle of unity in diversity for the citizens of India is upheld. An important point to understand in the context of the Constitution and the concept of equality is that there is a difference between Constitutional ends and means.
The State administers constitutional means to address social inequality that has been historically present via affirmative action.
The equality before law is addressed at either minimising or eliminating inequalities in terms of income, status, access to the facilities and opportunities made possible by the state.
It also implies securing adequate means of livelihood and promoting educational and economic interests of weaker sections of society.
This includes the protection of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. Equality, a positive right, postulates not merely legal equality but also real equality.
Thus, in this vein, reservations and other special provisions extended by the state from time-to-time, for the protection of minority rights is meant to address social inequality that already exists, and protect those who are unequally placed in society.
They are, thus, the means of achieving equality at a certain point of time in the future and are not ends in themselves.
Q. 1. Need for Social Justice.
Ans. Inequalities and injustices have existed in the society for centuries. Societies existed as a stratified and hierarchical where a particular segment of society faced discriminatory social practices.
The widespread prevalence of racial or class disparities, their living conditions and social status have been dictated by the whims of upper strata of society and they have been reduced to destitution.
They have remained socially and economically backward. A wide gap existed between power holding upper strata of the population and the toiling class.
For the uplift of these marginalized sections, states have adopted the policy of protective discrimination which involves the deliberate act of preferential treatment in favour of the underprivileged groups.
Q. 2. Justice as Fairness.
Ans. Behavioural approach emerged and the emphasis on value-neutral and fact-based political theory was given after the Second World War.
John Rawls who brought normative principles and values in the discipline of political science through his theory of justice, which stood for distributive justice and just distribution of primary goods.
Rawls supported a contract based theory of justice, based on the original position, individual rationality and decision-making.
Rawls combined liberty and equality in his conception of distributive justice that he called justice as fairness.
In opposition to the utilitarian theory of justice that dominated Western liberal thought since the 19th century, Rawls tried to make his theory to meet the needs of the liberal democratic welfare state that emerged after the Second World War.
He described justice as the first virtue of social institutions and all political and legislative decisions should be based on justice to determine the distribution of primary goods are the ones for which it is rational for a person to want more rather than less. These are of two types.
Natural Goods: These goods are intelligence, health, talent which are affected by social institutions but not distributed by
Social Goods: These include income, wealth and opportunities that are not affected by social institutions directly but are distributed by them.
Rawls talks of a state of nature where people consensually decide the type of society in which they will live.
In this state of nature, he urged that the individuals are in an original position. To eliminate selfish interests and biases of different kinds,
he assumes that the original position means the following:
People are mutually indifferent, self-interested but not egoists.
. They seek to maximize their own interests like liberty, income by agreeing to form the society. ails like skill, social
. There is a veil of ignorance between the individuals which prevents them from knowing details like background, income etc about others.
Q. 3. Desert and similar concept.
Ans. Some words are interchangeably used for desert. Merit and entitlement are two such words.
Desert and Merit: David Miller differentiates a main marker used to differentiates desert from merit.
David Miller points out that merit is used know a person’s admirable qualities whereas desert is used in cases in which someone is responsible for a particular result.
A person can get merit treatment based on factors over which that person had little or no control.
Desert and Entitlement: There are situations in which one deserves different treatment without being entitled to that treatment or in which one is entitled to something that one does not also deserve.
For example, a student performed very well in a dance competition. But at the last minute he slipped while performing.
In this situation, he failed to win the prize. It is clear that the student is not entitled to the prize, but deserved to win for the requisite efforts made.
There are situations wherein a person is entitled to something, but is not deserved to it.
For example, a legal heir might be entitled to an inheritance left by the mother, but the person (legal heir) might not have done anything to deserve that inheritance.
Q. 4. Human Security and Global Justice.
Ans. In 1994, the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report highlighted seven threats to human being community, economic, environmental, food, health, personal and political.
Addressing these threats will ensure that individuals have better chances to attain their development.
Protection of individuals from traditional (military) as well as non- traditional threats like poverty and diseases are needed.
A number of governments like Japan and Canada have included human security in their policy discourse during the 1990s and early 2000s.
The United Nations has also been working at the global level to ensure human security along with the state governments.
Q. 5. Difference between Rights and Entitlements.
Ans. Rights include the freedom to do as one pleases within certain limitations and the opportunity to excel, attain and succeed.
They also include the freedom from being harmed by or burdened or inconvenienced by the government and others, as well as the privilege to serve or give in any way that one chooses.
The concept of rights first appeared in the theory of natural law that existed in the state of nature, in which people enjoyed certain rights sanctioned by natural law.
The natural law ruled the society and nobody had any power to violate the natural rights and natural law. It was also maintained that both natural law and natural rights were based on morality.
Both were moral order. Any human authority like the state or the government had no power to limit the natural rights or interfere with the natural law.
Examples of rights in contemporary world include those set forth in the Indian Constitution, like the freedom of speech, religion and assembly. Rights do not include money, material items, or services.
Thus, you do not have a right to forcibly take these things from others or authorize the government to perform this type of confiscation for you.
Entitlements are established by governments through elected representatives or direct votes by the people.
They include money, material items, services and various forms of aid and assistance. Entitlements can be started or revoked at any time.
Entitlements can be fully or partially earned. However, many entitlements are completely unearned.
Examples of these would be welfare schemes and medical aid. In short, rights are freedoms from oppression by the state or by society through ethnicity, religion and gender. These rights do not entail government handouts.
However, entitlements are welfare measures entailing government handouts. Rights are not limited by budget constraints, but entitlements are restricted by budget constraints. Rights are universal but entitlements are not universal.