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PSIR 1A-2: Theories of State – Previous Year Questions & Answers

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] Eurocentrism is both the target and the motive force of the post-colonial political theory. Discuss. [2023/15m/200w/3c]

Eurocentrism is a key concept in post-colonial political theory and was coined in the 1970s by the Egyptian Marxian economist Samir Amin.

We can see Eurocentrism as a target when Post-colonial theory critiques the historical actions of European powers, which sought to establish imperial dominance through colonization. This colonization often involved the imposition of European norms, values, and institutions on colonized peoples, erasing or subjugating local cultures and identities.

On the other hand, Eurocentrism has also been a driving force behind post-colonial political activism, seeking to redress the legacies of colonialism. This includes advocating the restoration of indigenous rights, recognition of cultural diversity, and challenging economic and political structures that perpetuate global inequality.

According to world system theorist Immanuel Wallerstein; social science is a product of the modern world-system, and Eurocentrism is constitutive of the geoculture of the modem world. Social science emerged in response to European problems, at a point in history when Europe dominated the whole world-system. It was virtually inevitable that its choice of subject matter, its theorizing, its methodology, and its epistemology should reflect the constraints of the crucible within which it was born. However, in the period since 1945, the decolonization of Asia and Africa, plus the sharply accentuated political consciousness of the non-European world everywhere, has affected the world of knowledge just as much as it has affected the politics of the world-system.

If social science is to make any progress in the 21st century, it must overcome the Eurocentric heritage which has distorted its analyses and its capacity to deal with the problems of the contemporary world. Post-colonial theory seeks to challenge and transcend the Eurocentric worldview, ultimately striving for a more equitable and inclusive global society. [284 words]

2] Examine the liberal theory of State in contemporary politics. [2022/20m/250w/3a]

The liberal theory of the state is a political theory that emphasizes the role of the state in protecting individual rights and liberties. It is based on the idea that individuals have natural rights that are inherent to their humanity and that the state has a responsibility to protect and defend these rights.

The liberal theory of the state is based on the principles of classical liberalism, which emerged in the Enlightenment period as a response to the absolutist monarchies of the time. It advocates for limited government intervention in the economy and the protection of individual freedoms such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to private property.

And even in contemporary politics, the liberal theory of the State continues to be a dominant force, influencing the political discourse of many countries around the world. The key features of modern politics i.e. individualism, limited government, protection of individual rights, rule of law, free markets etc. trace their origin to the liberal theory of state.

It is also argued that the emphasis on individualism and free markets can lead to inequality and social injustice, and that the State should have a greater role in regulating the economy and promoting social welfare. And that the liberal theory of the State is overly focused on individual rights, and that attention should be paid to the collective well-being of society as a whole.

While the old era of state sovereignty and nationalism paves way for the age of globalizations and interconnectedness, the liberal theory of state appears to be the only way capable of accommodating global diversity and provide some form of global governance, albeit by amending itself, the way it has done historically. [284 words]

3] Comment on feminist critique of the State [2021/10m/150w/1a]

The patriarchal nature of the state is the central theme of feminist critique. It was epochal largely in the second wave feminism, i.e. during the 1970s and continues to come.

The fundamental critique of the state adhered by the feminist is that the philosophy of state is power-centric, and the power is often defined, used and operationalized by the male or his representative structures.

Accordingly, norms, structures, values, knowledge and realities, etc. are the construction of power. There is a manipulation of male-dominated leadership to hold on to power and take advantage of them. Feminism is critical and resistant to this form of power that legitimizes the hegemony against women. Hence, feminist political theory is constructed around the existing power relations as represented by and constructed with the state.

The radical feminists maintain that the state’s role is to form patriarchy and to ensure its continuity. The radical feminist Mackinnon in ‘Toward a Feminist Theory of State’ critically maintains that liberal legalism is a medium for making male dominance.

We also witness liberal feminists and the postmodernists accepting the intervention of the state in the key areas of concern, like abortion, anti-rape legislation, pornography and such other issues against which there were popular movements.

To summarize, feminists of all levels often criticize the unitary role of the state, which seems to be male biased, objectivist and instrumental. While some argue to reject the state, some of the feminists are not against utilizing the state to advance their cause. [248 words]

4] Comment on post-colonial theory of the state. [2020/10m/150w/1a]

Post-colonial theory does not propose any new theories of state. Instead, it analyses the problems of newly independent nations, particularly in relation to colonial and neo-colonial powers.

There are several perspectives explaining the nature of post-colonial states. The modernization view, supported by the World Bank, holds that Third-World countries will prosper if they are integrated with international economy.

On contrary, Marxist scholars such as AG Frank, Sameer Amin, Immanuel Wallerstein accuse that the ‘international economy’ has kept Third-World countries in a state of dependence. The developed countries (core) prosper while there is a development of underdeveloped (poverty) in the periphery.

Hamza Alavi has given the concept of ‘overdeveloped states.’ According to him, states in South Asia are imported institutions. Although the states are as equally developed as in western countries, the social and economic system of post-colonial societies remain basic. These states are, thus overdeveloped.

The post-colonial theory of state covers aspects untouched by conventional theories and offers theoretical tools to tackle the problems faced by these countries. [168 words]

5] Write a short note on pluralist theory of the State. [2019/10m/150w/1b]

The state can be defined as a legal, political entity which exercises sovereignty over a group of people. Though state is a universal phenomenon, the nature of sovereignty, remains contested.

Pluralists suggest that state is not the only sovereign entity. There are other institutions like international organizations and laws, church, society etc. as well, which exercise sovereignty over man’s life.

Man has multiple needs which necessitate multiple associations and each one enjoys man’s obligation to the degree it satisfies his needs. In the words of Laski, ‘it has become an impossible misadventure, to locate the sovereign in a modern state’.

Pluralism can be contrasted against monistic theory of sovereignty proposed by Hobbes and Austin, which suggests that, two sovereigns cannot coexist.

Though Laski & MacIver both are pluralists, there is difference in degree of pluralism they propose. Laski (moderate pluralist) regards state as keystone, while MacIver (extreme pluralist) calls it, a child of law, not above the people who created it.

In a contemporary world, marked by globalization and regionalization, we can certainly agree that pluralism is more realistic and a better approach to explain the nature of state. [189 words]

6] Critically examine the neoliberal theory of State. [2018/20m/250w/2a]

During the second half of the twentieth century some thinkers in the liberal tradition founded the theory of ‘welfare state’ that came with the Keynesian economic to be inimical to individual liberty, and sought to revive the original concern of this tradition with laissez-faire philosophy. It is described as neo-liberalism or ‘libertarianism’. The chief exponents of neo-liberal theory include F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman and Robert Nozick.

Neoliberal theory is based on the idea that minimising the government will foster “perfect competition.” Although, markets are vulnerable to their own failures, such as a propensity towards monopoly/oligopoly and profits.

Moderate libertarians concede that government may legitimately engage in police protection and enforcement of contracts for which civil as well as criminal courts might be established. In addition, it may undertake national defence, but nothing beyond these functions. Thus they uphold, at best, a ‘nightwatchman state’.

Neoliberal theory particularly defends the right to acquire and hold property and freedom of contract. These rights are by no means the product of the state itself, hence the state cannot be allowed to intervene for any artificial balancing of rights. It even condemns taxation of the rich for the benefit of the poor. It argues that taxation for welfare of certain sections of society involves the forced transfer of fruit of one man’s labour to another, which serves as a disincentive to individual. On the contrary, if all individuals are free from state compulsion, they will put their best into the system. In effect this means that laissez-faire capitalism is most conducive to social progress.

When seen critically, there is no scope for an ideal competition because there is already a class system in society that prevents equal access to knowledge and expertise. As a result, there are no level playing fields for fair competition and that results in severe disparities in income distribution. Even in an environment where there is competition, the market may not offer the incentives needed to undertake critical expenditures in infrastructure, social overhead capital (such as the health and education systems), and technology R&D.

Neoliberalism has a propensity to emphasise economic growth and efficiency while minimising the social and environmental costs of economic activity. Negative effects include environmental deterioration and the disregard for marginalised populations may result from this. It weakens the welfare state by privatising social services, which may prevent vulnerable populations from receiving necessary services.

Although, libertarianism upholds full autonomy and freedom of the individual; it sustains and exacerbates the inequality in the society and also on a global level. [421 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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