Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: October 2011

CHAPTER 2 - From ‘Śoksabhā’ to ‘Societalism’: Tagore's Search for Civil Society in India and the Problem of Colonialism


The aim of this book is to assess Tagore as a social theorist on the anvil of modern concepts and ideas. Therefore, this chapter begins by focusing on his views on the possibilities and role of a civil social sphere in colonial India for many reasons. First, the concept of civil society has witnessed a tremendous resurgence in modern political theory. Western political leaders, sophisticated political theorists, economists, sociologists, and international bankers – none have left any stone unturned in promoting it in the East and the South. A noted Lockean scholar has jestingly shown how an issue of a financial daily carried the resolve of the then US President that without trying to become the ‘world's policeman’, his government would “do what we can to help civil societies emerge from repression”. Three years after that, General Colin Powell, who later became the US Secretary of State, taught us that “at a minimum a civil society is one where whose members care about each other and about the well-being of the community as a whole”.

Secondly, Tagore's search for non-state spheres in ancient and his contemporary India is taken up, not only to show that he anticipates many of the recent concerns of civil society, but that he can be profitably used by scholars who want to explore its possibilities in the South.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO