A Gramscian Reading of State Power in India

Arup Kumar Sen

The eminent Marxist thinker, Antonio Gramsci, made seminal observations on a variety of subjects including politics and state power in his Prison Notebooks. The editors, Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, of Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci warned us:

“…any unequivocal assertions about the aim and status of Gramsci’s theoretical project as contained or sketched out in the Notebooks are necessarily speculative and must be recognised as such”.

Though Gramsci’s writings in the Notebooks are fragmentary in nature and are subject to multiple interpretations, his political reading of modern state power has enriched our understanding of politics of our time. To put in in the words of Gramsci:

“Unity of the State in the differentiation of powers: Parliament more closely linked to civil society; the judiciary power, between government and Parliament, represents the continuity of the written law (even against the government). Naturally, all three powers are also organs of political hegemony, but in different degrees: 1. Legislature; 2. Judiciary; 3. Executive. It is to be noted how lapses in the administration of justice make an especially disastrous impression on the public…”.

Gramsci did not formulate a universal theory of inter-relationship between the three domains of power. In fact, configuration of power between the three domains of the State takes specific forms in a social formation at different points of time.

The recent developments in India blatantly show that sheer majority of the ruling party, the BJP, in the Parliament has blurred the distinction between the Legislature and the Executive and, consequently, magnified the power of the Executive. The recent judicial pronouncements on a number of burning issues in our country have propelled even eminent scholars of jurisprudence, who served the Indian judiciary, to raise serious questions about the supposed relative autonomy of the Judiciary vis-a-vis Executive power of the State.

Back to Home Page

Dec 5, 2020

Arup Kumar Sen

Your Comment if any