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Everyday Interactions between Citizen and State

Claiming the State: Active Citizenship and Social Welfare in Rural India by Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner, Cambridge, New York, Port Melbourne (Australia), New Delhi and Singapore: Cambridge University Press, 2018; pp xxii + 318, price not indicated.

This book sets out to discuss how citizens interact with the state on an everyday basis, in “non-electoral” contexts (p 11). Claim-making against the state, is defined as “state targeted citizen action in pursuit of social welfare.” In other words, claim-making literally is the act of approaching the state directly (for example, via an elected member of the gram panchayat) or indirectly (for example, via a broker) with the aim of accessing individual or collective welfare goods or services. The underlying motivation for the book is based on the view that “claim making matters, both for access to social welfare and as a form of citizenship practice” (p 185) and that it has “intrinsic” value (p 8) as an end in itself, not only as a means to access resources. The author sets out to understand both what motivates and enables claim-making and equally, the reasons for inaction or disengagement from the state. It is argued that the extent and complexity of claim-making gives us an insight into democratic practice and how citizens pursue inclusion in the political process. By the author’s own admission what we do not know from the book in as much detail, is how respondents’ pursuit of claims translates to actually accessing welfare (pp 186, 191).

The book is based on primary research conducted in four districts of Rajasthan—Ajmer, Jodhpur, Kota and Udaipur—all of which are purposively selected. Any student of research methods in the social sciences will benefit from carefully reading Appendix 1, for the attention paid by the author to designing the research. A sample survey of 2,210 randomly selected households across 105 villages from the above-mentioned districts was conducted in 2010–11, as part of the author’s doctoral research. In-depth interviews were conducted in a smaller set of survey villages and households. The book makes for a fluid and engaging read, and this is in part because of the nuance brought to bear on the work as a result of semi-structured interviews.

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Updated On : 13th Sep, 2019

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