Recognizing the Relational Logic of the Political Elite’s Point of View: Insights from the Puzzling Case of Nehru’s Shifting Point of View on Land Reforms in India

Sourabh Singh, Florida State University

: In this article, I claim that the prevalence of categorical analysis in the political elite scholarship prevents us from recognizing shifts in the political elite’s point of view on social changes within democratic political systems. We can overcome this problem by introducing relational logic to comprehend the political elite’s point of view. In this article, I adopt Bourdieu’s insights into the relational logic of political habitus to empirically study and explain shifts in Nehru’s point of view on land reforms in India. Using qualitative and quantitative data, I claim that Nehru’s political trajectory during the colonial period shaped his political habitus to view populist political practices as meaningful when in a relationally dominated position and networking political practices as meaningful when in a relationally dominant position. Hence, despite ostensibly championing land reforms, Nehru failed to ensure their implementation during his nearly twenty-year reign over Indian politics (1947-64). My study shows that the possibility of social change in a democracy must be studied as a historically specific phenomenon within the temporal flow of the changing relational structure of politics.

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 Presented in Session 158. Protest and Reform