Pratap Bhanu Mehta is President, Centre Policy Research, New Delhi, one of India's top think tanks. Before he started engaging with contemporary affairs, he taught political theory at Harvard, and briefly at JNU. He has written extensively on intellectual history, political theory, law, India's social transformation and world affairs. He is the recipient of the Infosys Prize, the Adisheshiah Prize and the Amartya Sen Prize. He has been singularly blessed with wonderful colleagues and is grateful that all the institutions he has been associated with, value their independence fiercely. He misses having students, since nothing better expresses the idea of a good life than a good seminar. He believes the purpose of writing is to provoke thinking not to provide instruction. Although politics and the contemporary world excites him, the high point of the day for him remains "retiring with the ancients," to use Machiavelli's phrase. There is nothing like retiring with old books, that have more of the world in them than we often recognize.
Modi government’s backward-looking instincts keep pulling down its forward-looking mission.
Now in power in states like J&K and Assam, the BJP will be on test for its nation-building capacity
Our punitive impulses are an expression of deep institutional failure.
The lesson should not be to exult in a moral high ground, but to realise that the party is still tottering.
India comes across as trying to compete with China by being China. It’s not a winning strategy.
A new alignment of incentives and unrest is emerging . It could make reservations an important political axis
The role of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army in the mainstream national movement and how their moral compass was rooted in non-violence.
On IPL, to accuse the court of a politics of distraction is to miss the point.
Angry populism against corrupt elites could grow. But in India, reaction will be muted.
Fundamental military alignments with US, taking place without open debate, may foreclose India’s options.
If this bill with far-reaching implications for rights, accountability and the powers of the state is a money bill, then practically any legislation can be converted into a money bill.
It was undergirded by a set of meta-assumptions, all of which are now being contested.
Budget confuses government’s rabid rightwing supporters more than it annoys its opponents.
Rather than being threatened by currents of world history, India can take any current of thought and make it its own, but in a way that exudes that ineffable sense of being shaped by India.
Nothing that JNU students did poses nearly as much of a threat to India as government's subversion of freedom
A starting point could be the doing away of the myth that modernity alone will deal with caste
Is assimilating the other as xenophobic as excluding him? Tabish Khair explores the link between xenophobia and capitalism in this new book.
One can only meditate on the deep truth of his letter, its yearning for a space beyond power and rancour
Can elements of a secular morality be enforced in ways that don’t reinforce a sense of state arbitrariness?
We need to engage with Abhinavagupta to find a language in which to articulate our experience.
It cannot happen where language is corroded, resentment is paramount. In 2016, let’s reset ourselves.
From a history of Rome to a monograph on Ashoka and a masterful biography of Edmund Burke, the stand-out books of the year examined the intersection of morality and politics.
We seem happy to hollow out the public sector where we shouldn’t and regulate the private in harmful ways.
Political, economic and institutional dysfunction threatens to cloud India’s prospects
The first volume of Niall Ferguson’s biography of Henry Kissinger would have served its subject better if he had submitted him to a Kissingerian analysis.
Constitutional settlements require a measure of statesmanship and generosity missing in Nepal today.
True patriotism requires you to be able to say that I am ashamed of my country in certain respects.
It is to keep the European project alive — and to find a political solution to the quagmire in West Asia.
Bihar has been transformed from the graveyard of revolutions to a source of new hope.
The Congress is as afraid of coming clean as the BJP is quick to exploit ambiguities on the issue.
The judiciary came to the conclusion that the NJAC, as currently constituted, would be a threat to judicial independence. It is hard to disagree.
Shiv Sena’s real threat is this: It can shift markers of language and public norms.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership has implications for India’s integration with the world economy.
Mohammad Akhlaq’s death is a tragedy. It exemplified the depths of the barbarity that lurks behind the veneer of our civilisation.
Nepal’s constitution inaugurates the new, but it protects too much of the old.
The book is full of incidental insights across a range of subjects: the Hindi public sphere, the economics of publishing, labour relations within the press, new art forms.