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Course 1007: Subject, Subjection and Freedom

Duration: 14 weeks


In this course, we will read the Western literature on the modes of (modern) subjectification. We will examine how subjectification and subjection are inextricably linked through tropes such as power, knowledge and exclusion, which bring the subject into being. Further, what political horizon of emancipation is engendered through such an understanding of subjectification / subjection? How do concepts such as liberty and equality inform this horizon? The critique of such subjectification and its promise of emancipation will also be studied. Such critiques have been made by Western and postcolonial thinkers (e.g. Foucault, Heidegger, Gandhi, Nandy et al). What recourse do these critiques take to the pre-modern? These are the questions the course will discuss.

 Objectives of the course:

 i.   Students would get an overview of the debates on the modes of subjection/subjectification
ii.    The tropes through which such subjection is contested and negotiated : (e.g. Liberty and Equality)
iii.   Various engagements and critiques of these tropes


One long essay – 8000 words




Week-1 :  Modernity and Subjection/ Subjectification

Fasolt, Constantin. 2004. ‘A Dangerous Form of Knowledge’ In The Limits of History Chicago:The University of Chicago Press. 3-29. (Link found here)

Balibar, Etienne. 1991. ‘Citizen Subject.’ In Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor, Jean-Luc Nancy (eds) Who Comes After the Subject? New York: Routledge. 33-57 (Link found here).
Nandy, Ashis. 2002. ‘History’s Forgotten Doubles’ In The Romance of the State and the Fate of Dissent in the Tropics New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 82-109.

Week -2 : Hegel on the State and Civil Society
Selections from Hegel’s Philosophy of Right [trans Knox] ,
“Civil Society” – pp. 122-133 , “The State”, pp. 155-212
Shlomo Avineri, Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State,
Chapter 5 - Modern Life and Social Reality
Chapter 9 – The State – the Consciousness of Freedom
Z.A Pelczynski (ed), The State and Civil Society: Studies in Hegel's Political Philosophy
Pelczynski  - Introduction
Pelczynski  - Political community and individual freedom in Hegel’s philosophy of state

Week -3 :  Promise of Modernity: Liberty
Liberty - General introduction:
J.S. Mill – general introduction -

Week - 4 :  Promise of Modernity : Equality

Williams – general introduction -
Equality – general introduction  -
Williams, Bernard. 1997. ‘The Idea of Equality.’ In Robert E. Goodin, Philip Pettit (eds.) Contemporary Political Plilosophy An Anthology Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 465-475.
John Rawls, Justice as Fairness, Part – 1 §1-7 
“Freer than others” by Bernard Williams

Week-5a: Hobbes and Modern Sovereign

Week-5b : Locke and Rousseau

Marx's critique of liberal modernity: I (Alienation and Materialism)
For general introduction on Marx :

Marx: On the Jewish Question -  Theses on Feuerbach-
Introduction to a Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy -

Week-7 : Marx's critique of liberal modernity: II (Commodification, Unfreedom and the possibility of Emancipation)
[We will occasionally refer to Capital ]

Marx:Preface to a Critique of Political Economy

 Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy

Critique of the Gotha Programme:
First Draft of Letter to Vera Zasulich
Laclau : Beyond Emancipation in Emancipation(s)

 Week-8: Radical Democracy: Citizenship (subjected-freedom)

 Etienne Balibar : “Citizen-Subject” E. Cavada, P. Connor, J.L. Nancy, eds., Who Comes after the Subject?, Routledge 1991 (Link found here)
E. Balibar : from Masses, Classes, Ideas
Chapter – 2: “Rights of Man” and “Rights of the Citizen”: The Modern Dialectic of Equality and Freedom
Chapter – 9:  What Is a Politics of the Rights of Man?

Mahmood Mamdani:  Citizen and Subject

Introduction , pp. 3-27
Chapter 5 – The Native Authority and the Free Peasantry

Week-9: Disenchantment with Modernity: Nietzsche and Heidegger

Week-10: Mid-career Foucault's critique: (up to Discipline and Punish)

Week-11: Later Foucault's critique: Lectures at the College de France [Hermeneutics of the Subject]

Week-12 & 13 : Indian critiques of Modernity:
Subaltern as the double registers of subjection – Colonial and National
Subaltern Studies : Before and After Spivak's intervention
Plus: Lata Mani and Ashish Nandy

Week 14 : Gandhi's critique of the modern state and the notion of swaraj

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