ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Once There Was a CSDS

The Centre for the Study of Developing Societies completed 50 years recently. Here one former member of the faculty recounts what made the CSDS special and why it changed later.

The story of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) spelt out in the Outlook and Seminar magazine issues recently, creates a simple frame. To me what made CSDS famous was that it was a quarrel, a conversation and one with much causality. The CSDS was one of the serious attempts to construct a social science outside economics, which could provide a different imagination for democracy in India. Visualised by Rajni Kothari, Gopal Krishna and other scholars, the CSDS grew as a part of the Nehruvian imagination, an attempt to professionalise electoral studies. Inspired by American social s­cience and especially by scholars like Robert Dahl, Karl Deutsch and Myron Weiner, the CSDS created a world of electoral studies as a social style combining quantitative rigour and analytical insight.

Election studies was method, a technique, a site for the drama of social science and democracy and of the choices and decisions democracy demanded. One must confess that this by itself could not have created a vision of political I­ndia in the Nehruvian era. The missing gestalt was provided by Rajni Kothari’s classic book Politics of India. Horribly written and superbly analysed, it provided a masterwork that people could attack and praise. It was a landmark and still remains a milestone in the annals of politics. In this book, Rajni took over the key ideas of Gopal Krishna, that the Congress was a coalition of interests and represented a notion of plural India. The Congress as a microcosm of India sustained the idea of Nehruvian India. Politics of India gave Indian political science a masterwork, a claim to identity, a flag, a totemic identity, a sense of a paradigm and an exemplar.

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