Thursday, January 28, 2010

International law should also accommodate Gandhi, Kautilya and Sri Aurobindo

The Scandal of Enlightenment and The Birth of Disciplines: Is International …
P Singh, F De Dret, O de la Globalización - Prabhakar Singh, 2010 -
Page 1.
Prabhakar Singh

This paper addresses the existential dichotomy of international law. What began as barely audible notes of dissent in TWAIL has developed into a powerful chorus of protest yoking science and pre-science, history and pre-history and legal and pre-legal together. Science, from an anti-modernist view, is corrupt and the international law is today preoccupied with, as Koskenniemi rightly points out, proving its scientificity. This makes international law all the more unwanted. Thus if international law is proven a science, will it become anti-indigenous, anti-poor, anti-subaltern or anti-tribal, like sciences? The answers are not that obvious.

Analysing J C Bose and Ramanujan, India‘s two great scientists, Nandy remarks how their life was torn between their practice of foreign science as professional scientists and indigenous beliefs that by objectifying and impersonalizing knowledge and by dehistoricizing the producers of knowledge one could argue away the imperfect realities of living persons and human history from the world of knowledge. No wonder, therefore, Indian alternative science for even the most ardent alternative seeker like Nandy is impossibly unmanageable. It not only seems a half-dissent, it also seems inefficient, chaotic, abstruse, amorphous, and unsure of itself. China does much better comparatively. The effect of science through colonisation on Asia, thus, has produced mixed emotions. An anti-modernist view of science sees its effects as an effort of the aggressor trying to … demystify the ordinary Indian as a pseudo-alternative to the Western man: hypocritically spiritual while being shrewdly materialistic, violent and self interested; neither a dedicated counterplayer of the West like Japan, trying to defeat the West at its own game, nor clearly Oriental like Confucian China, which, while manifestly hostile to the West, shares with the West some basic values like performance, organization and instrumental rationality; neither a person who meets the norm of civility in the West, nor openly noble savage.

International law, unfortunately, is not free from this attitude. In this paper, some obvious narratives of MILS via political science, psychology, sociology and anthropology have been either discussed faintly or ignored for obvious reasons. Economics, history and psychology have been chosen to read through international law because both the disciplines are two ends of the complete circle of the disciplines. Between them a complete rainbow of disciplines lies that mandates a series of efforts on the part of the observers of international law to register comments. It is hoped that the readers of this work would pick up the threads left open by this paper to weave an entire fabric of international law in the future. Though limited in its breadth of coverage, the paper, nonetheless, seeks to take a step in the right direction. Post colonial and anti-modernist voices in international law have made a strong case for a new international law. We must save international law from sweeping generalisations and interventionist universality while proving its scientificity. If proving international law a science would mean overlooking contextual milieu of its application, this science would remain undesirable.

International law today should be an exercise in restoring the symmetry of the forgone days. It should not only be a debate about Kant, Grotius, and Vitoria. It should also accommodate Gandhi, Kautilya and Sri Aurobindo. A theory of justice from Rawls and Dworkin must also be complemented with the theory of justice of Amartya Sen. Chimni's six fold perspective of international law shows the new directions to be developed further. International law in its current form cannot be sold as the medicine to world‘s problems. It has developed on its own experience as an agenda of capitalist avarice. But, its structure, howsoever, discriminatory cannot be pulled down. All we can do is to pull down individual discriminatory bricks and replace by a better one. But this is easier said than done. One should not forget that today, living in the Third world is bad breeding; becoming a Third-World social scientist is even worse. The former is like the original sin, the latter like acquired viciousness.


Sen‘s vision of justice and a perfect social order is non-parochial, inclusive and humane. It is entrenched in reason and helps remove inequities. His idea of justice is free of the tyranny of majoritarian will and one that touches lives that people actually live. In the process, it takes global concerns into account; Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice (Penguin-Allen Lane, London 2009).Also, Sen, Development as Freedom (OUP, Oxford 2001). […]

Nandy observes that the universalism that had fuelled the early British reformers had given way to a second phase of tolerance of Indian culture because of obvious fears of a second mutiny. See, Nandy, supra note 1 at 6, footnote number 8. Nandy thinks that such an analysis comes from the works of Francis Hutchins, The Illusion of Permanence, British Imperialism in India (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton 1967). […]

Ashis Nandy, The Uncolonized Mind‘ in A. Nandy (ed), Exiled at Home: The Intimate Enemy, supra note 1 at 80. […] B.S. Chimni, The Sen Conception of Development and Contemporary International Law Discourse: Some Parallels (2008) 1:1 Law & Development Review, art. 2 available at  […] B.S. Chimni, Alternative Visions of Just World Order: Six Tales from India (2005) 46:2 Harvard International Law Journal 289-402.

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