Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)
1] Factors like community, culture and nation weaken the hegemony of neo-liberalism today. Discuss. [2022/20m/250w/2a]
Neoliberalism upholds full autonomy and freedom of the individual. It seeks his liberation from all institutions which tend to restrict the vision of the world, including the institutions of religion, family and customs of social conformity apart from political institutions.
However, even under the hegemony of neoliberalism, which strongly opposes the collective society, the idiom that humans are social animals stands strong. And, amidst the neoliberalism’s individualistic rat race, people still need to find meaning somewhere in their lives. And so there has been a retreat to tribalism and identity groups, with civic associations replaced by religious, ethnic, or other cultural affiliations.
Neoliberalism’s war on “society,” has made people more protective of their culture and community when they see the degradation. In many countries, in order to ensure the social security in the society and for the general election purposes, the government has to provide incentives to the people, unlike the neo-liberals idea of rolling back of the state. The recent example is being the Brexit referendum where people voted out of the EU and chose not to be part of a big free market economy.
On the other hand, neoliberals sometimes use identity as a shield to protect neoliberal policies. The neoliberal experiment has failed to combat extreme poverty, has exacerbated global inequality, and is hampering international aid and development efforts. The same example of Brexit had undertone of xenophobia and a suspicion towards the immigrants who supposedly take the jobs of the natives.
The ideas and practices of neo-liberalism have produced growing economic insecurity and inequality, has led to the loss of our political values and ideals, and even precipitated our current populist backlash. [276 words]
2] Comment on liberalism as a revolutionary idea. [2020/10m/150w/1c]
The shades of Renaissance started colouring Europe in the late 14th century and the focus was shifted from God to the human who appeared holistic and reasonable.
The renaissance was followed by reformation and the scientific revolution, and gradually the demise of all the oppressive structures began. The reformation overthrew the authority of catholic church which was the core of feudalism with the help of absolute monarchy. The science also revolted against the church and the divine right of king shattered.
These circumstances gave rise to the idea of natural rights of life, liberty and property brought in by Locke which became the basis of the Glorious revolution of England which is seen as the first victory of the middle class. The age of liberalism had started, and the glorious revolution was followed by the American war of independence in 1776. The liberal slogan of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ also became the beacon of the great French revolution which ultimately buried the ‘ancient regime’. French revolution based on liberalism was so radical that it gave birth to the conservative philosophy by Burke. The revolutionary nature of liberalism is also seen in Adam Smith’s writing when he says that self-interest is not sinful but a fact of human nature.
The ideology of liberalism has developed over 300 years, however we can say that the revolutionary edge of liberalism faded with each liberal success and it became increasingly conservative, illustrated aptly by its present variant i.e. neoliberalism. [245 words]
3] Compare negative and positive concepts of liberty. [2019/15m/200w/2c]
The concept of liberty was classified in 1969 as negative liberty and positive liberty by Isaiah berlin in his celebrated wok – Two Concepts of Liberty.
The term ‘negative’ in negative liberty indicates injunctions that prohibit acts that restrict freedom. Negative liberty rests on two main axioms. First, that each one knows one’s own best interest best. And secondly, that the state has limited role to play. For Berlin, negative liberty is the opportunity to act, not action itself. The central problem with the negative concept of liberty is its indifference to the quality of action. It makes no distinction between being liberated to pursue the occupation of one’s choice and the liberty to starve.
The concept of positive liberty proceeds with the idea that each self has a higher self and a lower self. The higher self should attain mastery over lower self for an individual or a people to be liberated in understanding of positive liberty. Positive liberty is freedom to do. It is exercising and availing of the opportunities while negative freedom is just having opportunities. Thus, while negative liberty restricts the state from acting, positive liberty enables the state to act so that individual can realise his/her liberty.
Many liberals believe that positive concept of liberty carries with it a danger of authoritarianism. But berlin also believes that the role of positive liberty as self-mastery complements the view of negative liberty as non-interference. [236 words]
4] Write on the “Revolution in Permanence” [2022/10m/150w/1c]
“Permanent Revolution” was Leon Trotsky’s explanation of how a communist revolution could occur in an industrially backward, peasant-dominated Russia.
According to traditional Marxism, the conditions for a communist revolution were only present in advanced capitalist societies with sizable working classes. Russia did not meet either requirement. The proletariat revolution, which established a dictatorship in preparation for the transition to communism, came after the bourgeois revolution, according to Karl Marx, who also envisaged a two-stage revolution.
The two-stage idea was rejected by Trotsky. Instead, he claimed that Russia was in an unbalanced period of development where both the bourgeois and proletarian revolutions were taking shape concurrently under the influence of the developed West.
Thus, Trotsky predicted that once a revolution broke out in Russia, it would be permanent as the result of an East-West dynamic. The bourgeois majority revolution would be overthrown by a conscious proletarian minority that would carry forward the torch of revolution.
However, a second phase was also necessary: namely, the proletarian revolution in Western Europe ignited by the Russian proletariat’s initiative; The West European proletariat now in power rescues the beleaguered proletarian minority in Russia, and the path is opened to the international communist revolution. [198 words]
5] What is the contemporary relevance of Marxism? [2019/15m/200w/4c]
Marxism is the world’s most influential body of thought and has changed the course of human history. And even today, it can prove to be relevant for addressing humanity’s urgent challenges despite the desperate efforts by the capitalist class to bury it.
The world today is a far different place than it was in Marx’s time. Even then, however, Marx saw the emerging contradictions that would eventually develop into the crises. Capitalist economic globalization, production on an unfathomable scale and the resulting concentration and centralization of wealth, the mass communications, social media, and technological revolutions, all have created a fundamental contradiction: the economic ability to address all human material needs paired with a “crisis of extremes.”
The drive for maximum profits and wealth accumulation lead to ever more extensive and destructive crises like the 2008 global financial crisis, mass economic migration, poverty, hunger, disease, and the growing displacement of workers through technological revolution.
Capitalism is incapable of solving these crises. Their resolution demands intervention through the organized might of the working class and people, global working class solidarity, and the radical reorganization of society.
Capitalist development has also generated two existential threats to humanity and nature i.e. the climate crisis and the danger of nuclear war.
If nothing, then, Marxism is a methodology of understanding and analysing the world that is both dynamic and malleable, but without losing the fundamental goal of attaining a society where exploitation of one by another finds no room to establish itself.
Moreover, it is important under current circumstances where the brazen and crude pursuit of affluence and consumption has not only deepened the material fissures of people, but it has also threatened the world in which people exist. Thus, as a methodology, Marxism is still a relevant enterprise in the current international system. [299 words]
6] Fascism displays an ambivalent stance towards parliamentary democracy. Explain. [2023/20m/250w/3a]
Fascist movements often uses the existing democratic institutions and processes to gain power. They might participate in elections and, once in power, manipulate these systems to their advantage. This tactical approach is evident in the rise of figures like Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany.
Fascism is inherently authoritarian, emphasizing a strong and centralized state led by a charismatic leader. Once fascists gain power through democratic means, they typically move to consolidate their authority, often dismantling democratic checks and balances in the process.
Fascist regimes tend to reject the pluralistic nature of liberal democracies, seeing it as weak and divisive. They often seek to suppress political opposition and establish a one-party state, effectively eliminating political pluralism, freedom of speech, and other democratic principles.
Fascist leaders are characterized by a cult of personality, which can make getting a vote easier but can turn democracy into mobocracy.
Harold J. Laski, in his State in Theory and Practice, observes that so long as the marriage of capitalism and democracy continued, capitalism continued to extend concessions to the masses, giving them a sense of satisfaction. But when it sought to withdraw those concessions, it had recourse to fascism: Fascism came to rescue capitalism from this dilemma.
The dual nature of engagement with democratic processes for undemocratic ends makes fascism a significant challenge to democratic societies and a source of historical concern. [230 words]
7] ‘Nothing against the state, nothing over it, nothing beyond it’. (Mussolini). Comment. [2018/10m/150w/1e]
The statement was the philosophy behind Italy’s Fascist Party led by Benito Mussolini.
Fascism stands for a doctrine, ideology or a set of principles underlying the movement founded in Italy in 1919. For this purpose, Mussolini combined his fasci of workers i.e. the small groups organized to bring about revolutionary changes in the political structure of Italy, into the Fascist.
The doctrine of fascism arose as a reaction to democracy, socialism and communism. While democracy and communism represented progressive forces of the modern age, fascism sought to promote a movement in the reverse direction, in support of the former outmoded, repressive, social and political conditions and policy.
As against the liberal-democratic cult of reason, fascism relies on faith and emotion as the motive force of human actions. Instead of regarding individual as an end and the state as a means, fascism exalts the state as an end and reduces individual to the means. It establishes the monopoly of the nation-state in all internal and external matters. It does not tolerate any human association or organization within the state to compete with the state for the loyalty of individual. Thus, it rejects the pluralistic cult of liberal-democracy. In the international sphere, it does not support international organization for settlement of disputes, and relies upon military solutions.
Fascism tends to project an image of a unified nation with an indivisible interest to repudiate the theory of class-conflict. It even refuses to rely on reason for arriving at truth. Instead, it eulogizes the creative power of the myth to muster the support of all classes in society.
Fascism, besides its retrograde class character, symbolizes a sick mental and political attitude. It fosters anti-human, anti-progressive forces, seeks to curb liberty and equality and distorts justice. [291 words]
8] Distinguish between liberal feminism and radical feminism. [2019/15m/200w/3c]
The feminist ideology is studied in different waves, and has also evolved with the economic and political development in the society. While liberal feminism is the earliest form of feminism, it also co-exist with its successors like radical feminism.
The ideas of liberal feminism are rooted in liberalism and encourages the development of freedom, particularly in the political and economic spheres. According to liberal feminists, there is gender inequality because women do not have the same rights as men. They claim that once this is achieved for women, that this will eradicate the inequalities that persist. They also believe that sexism is the fundamental cause of discrimination against women.
Liberal feminists have most notably fought for women’s right to vote, to work, to have an education, and to have equal pay to men. Many liberal feminists believe that their fight for these rights means that their battle is largely won. However, many others believe there are still issues to work on such as the gender pay gap, and representation in politics and the media.
Radical feminism on the other hand, seeks to dismantle the traditional patriarchal power and gender roles that keep women oppressed. They see patriarchy as the root cause of gender inequality, and seek to up-root this.
Radical feminists believe that the cause of gender inequality is based on men’s need or desire to control women. They argue that global change in the patriarchal systems is required to achieve liberation for women. According to radical feminists, women are objectified, and many experience violence from men as a way for them to gain control and dominate women.
A criticism of both radical and liberal feminism is that they are mainly prominent in western cultures, aiming to tackle gender inequality, particularly for western women. Intersectional feminism would suggest that radical and liberal feminism may fail to account for different groups of women and how oppression affects them uniquely. [318 words]
8.8] End of Ideology
9] Discuss the end of Ideology debate. [2019/10m/150w/1c]
Ideology means a set of ideas which are accepted to be true by a particular group without further examination. These ideas are invoked in order to justify or denounce a particular way of understanding the reality.
Scholars have called the period since the French Revolution as the age of ideology. But this notion was examined in the 1950s and it started the debate of end of ideology. Daniel Bell wrote a book with the same title and said that ‘today ideologies are exhausted’ and added that in the western world there is a rough consensus on political issues like acceptance of welfare state. He also says that post-industrial societies are bound to similar development path irrespective of ideological differences.
Additionally, Seymour Lipset also observed that in the western democracies the differences between the left and the right are no longer profound.
On the other hand, some scholars saw these as messages to the third world to focus on their industrial development and stay away from the mirage of communism.
C Wright Mills dubbed the upholders of end of ideology thesis the advocates of status quo. he saw the end of ideology as the one promoting political complacency and meant to justify the established social structure. Macintyre said that ‘end of ideology’ itself is an ideology.
The debate was meant to project the supremacy of liberal-democratic system and denounce socialism. But it is quite obvious now, with the rise of ultra-conservative parties in the western Europe itself and emergence of new ideologies like environmentalism that End of Ideology is not near anytime soon. [262 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)