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INAUGURATION OF THE LIBRARY

LECTURE BY A. P. RANA

With the generous support and constant encouragement of Shri Balvant K. Parekh, Chairman, Pidilite Industries, India, the Centre for Contemporary Theory and General Semantics now operates from its new premise. To inaugurate the library, the Forum under the Occasional Lecture Program, invited Dr. A. P. Rana, former Professor of Political Science a the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, to deliver a talk on “The

Philosophical Basis of Public Policy: An Illustrative Case Study Projecting Indo-US Security Concerns and Politics, Post Non-Alignment” on November 26, 2008 at the Centre. The lecture held a special status especially because Dr. Rana chose to dedicate his talk to Shri Balvantbhai Parekh in acknowledgement of his kind support to the Centre. Dr. Ramesh Goyal, Vice-Chancellor, M.S. University of Baroda was present at the occasion and appreciated the efforts and contributions of the Forum.

Dr. Rana began his talk by identifying the major fundamental concerns in International Relations discipline as its epistemological basis. Expressing deep concerns about the lack of a foundational/conceptual framework, Rana expressed the need for change in the pejorative use of political theory, as theory is seminal in the production of knowledge. This theoretical basis ought to be retained to have a proper link between theory and politics that in turn forms the basis of public policy. He firmly held that public policy too needs to be theory-bound and theory-driven. Adopting an epistemological basis, he argued, has a positive impact advancing both knowledge and civilization at large. However, the theoretical basis of international relations per se is different from that of political theory per se. Here, Rana used John Dunn’s understanding of theory for diagnosing practical problems. He stated that though theory refers to phenomenal reality, much hidden things have to be excavated to comprehend practical problems. It enables us to capture the contingent nature of reality central to theory as this is not Reality fixed and static; replacing the existing foundations. He argued that theory in politics has a different connotation as its central concern is linking existing reality and normative projections.  He also mentioned that International Relations Theory is not as sophisticated as political theory.

 

However, it cannot avoid the theoretical concerns and ought to free itself from the chronological approach of mere facts. Referring to this point, Rana claimed that the drawback of India’s Foreign Policy is its lack of a single proper conceptual framework. He emphatically stresses that at this stage of ‘asymmetrical globalization’ what we need is cogent communicative discourses. It is asymmetrical because the disadvantages of globalization are far more with the poor, and the advantages of it are more with the big and rich states.  It also does not sufficiently group the importance of identity politics. In its impact globalization misses the ‘ought’ requirement. Dr. Rana has also argued that one should not forget that globalization does not dilutee the power of sovereignty and national security. In the case of India the asymmetry is due to the ‘is-ought’ confusion and its troubled internal political system. He also pointed out that there are quite a number of remarkable commonalities between India and US both in terms of good and bad where social convergence is better than political convergence. He reflected that this asymmetric globalization is more advantageous to China and its policies, and harmful to democracies like India. To avoid many mismatches, Dr, Rana stated, we need to adopt multilateral framework at the international scenario that maintain the security systems. This multi-polarity has to break the lopsided symmetry too. For this, he opines, International Relations theory in particular has to avert mere narration of facts. There needs to be a proper combination of theory and ‘imagination’ (not being rhetorical) that lays down the epistemic basis of these facts. In terms of a conclusion, Dr. Rana made a few remarks: a. Freeing IR from pseudo-historical accounts; b. Alternatives should be muted on the basis of a proper theory; c. Pseudo premises should be avoided with proper definitions. Hence, public policy perspectives, even in the International Relations discipline, cannot avoid an epistemological and a philosophical basis.   

 

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