Social, Political & Economic Landscapes in Kautilya's Arthashastra

Social, Political & Economic Landscapes in Kautilya's Arthashastra


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The Arthashastra (or Arthaśāstra) is one of the oldest surviving treatises on statecraft. There is considerable debate about the dating and authorship of the text; it underwent compilation, recension, and redaction several times over the centuries and is likely to have been a witness of religious and ideological transformations, political and socio-economic changes. As a śāstra, it purports to be authoritative and comprehensive and treats its knowledge as eternal, unchanging, and universally applicable. Many scholars have examined the text as the “science of politics” whereas others have seen it as the “science of political economy”, “the science of material gain” etc. Thomas Trautmann described it as the science of running a state, where kingship is identified with wealth. The text itself explains various meanings of the word 'artha'- as the source of livelihood, the earth inhabited by human beings, and the means of protection and acquisition of the earth.

The Arthashastra as a treatise on statecraft is not an isolated one in the tradition of this expert knowledge. The author explicitly mentions that his text is a compilation of the works of former teachers and throughout the text engages with the advice and arguments of these former experts. Corroborating this with the mention of various arthaśāstras in epics like Mahabharata, it has been argued that the Arthashastra relied on pre-existing texts but much cannot be inferred about its relation with these because none of them has survived independently. Mark McClish argues that the origin of the text was sometime in the late centuries of the 1st millennium BCE and its final form may have taken shape by the 3rd-4th century CE.

The 15 books of the Arthashastra revolve around one central figure - the king.

Later texts draw significantly on the Arthashastra. The author of the Kamandakiya Nitisara offers salutation to the author of the Arthashastra for compiling the nītiśāstras and relies so heavily on it that scholars have often described it as a “summary of the Arthashastra”. Some historians point out that this Nitisara focuses more on foreign policy and warfare and excludes the parts on administration and law. It is believed that the latter text was meant to be used by kings who could not manage to read the Arthashastra as they were preoccupied with the affairs of the state. There is also a Tamil text, Tirukkural, possibly from the 4th-5th century CE, that owes a lot to the Arthashastra.

Content

We must remember that Kauṭilya's Arthashastra does not provide us with a clear picture of social constitution, economic elements, or political developments. The primary concern of the text is the working of a state with the king at the apex. Hence, our reconstruction would be bound by the depiction of the state and its association with other aspects of society.

The 15 books of the Arthashastra revolve around one central figure - the king. Be it controlling the production of a wide range of goods, laying down rules for leisure activities, or prescribing food ration for every individual, Kauṭilya left no stones unturned to bring every possible aspect of the state and the lives of its subjects under the ambit of the king's control. He warns that without a king there will be matsyanyāya (Law of the Fish) that is weaker beings are devoured by stronger ones and hence a state cannot afford to be kingless.

The Arthashastra puts forward the saptanga theory of the state being comprised of seven constituent elements:

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  • the king
  • ministers
  • countryside
  • fort
  • treasury
  • army
  • ally

The pre-eminence of the king perhaps stemmed from the fact that he has the power to acquire and protect productive territory and tax the people living in it. Kauṭilya advises the king to use daṇḍa (punishment) neither too harshly nor too leniently in order to be honoured. The Arthashastra speaks about a wide range of topics and as if putting together a “textbook for kings”, it elucidates on almost all possible aspects that one can think of, such as:

  • the training of a prince
  • recruiting and appointing officials
  • resolving public disputes
  • pursuing criminals
  • maintaining troops and spies
  • conquering areas by defeating other kings.

Economy

The economic landscape of the Arthashastra is agriculture-centred. We find not just methods of agricultural expansion and details of taxation but considerable information about the granary, the storehouse of forest products, the armoury, and most importantly the treasury of the state and an overseer appointed to look after each of them. It must be noted that Kauṭilya showed grave concern about the kośa or treasury (and emphasized upon the means of the accumulation of wealth throughout the text) as he believed that the wealth determined the undertakings by the king and in turn the welfare of the state.

The treatise gives us a detailed account of wages of all kinds of people and taxes to be collected. Regarding the fiscal policy, Kauṭilya describes different sources of revenue for the state. The state-controlled the production and distribution of various groups but did not completely restrict private individuals from manufacturing and selling various products. A. L. Basham argued that the Kauṭilyan state resembled a sort of state socialism. The fact that Kauṭilya makes it the duty of the state to look after the certain disadvantaged groups has made several scholars argue that it represented a welfare state.

Society

Kauṭilya speaks at length about the king and the ministers of the state but several other working classes are also talked about. Let us look at two groups that find mention in the text but have hardly ever received limelight in this treatise or other historical accounts. The Arthaśāstra contains data on women from various backgrounds. Skilled artisans, spies of the state, female slaves, prostitutes, farmers earned their livelihood and paid taxes to the state. Prostitution was seen as an occupation and several categories of prostitutes are mentioned in the text. There were officials appointed to look into the affairs involved in these professions and the institutions that aided their smooth working. Suvira Jaiswal argues that Megasthenes' account of female bodyguards protecting the king was confirmed by Kauṭilya as the king's bed was surrounded by a troop of women archers. With the tendency of the text to control all aspects of the state and the lives of the subjects, it lays down rules of marriage, divorce and inheritance of property, punishments and crimes against and by women. Thus, the text may not tell us the perspective of women but in many ways gives us a glimpse into the variety of female experiences during that period.

The other group, perhaps quite unrelated to the first, is the forest communities. Separated from so-called civilized society, they are known as mlechchajāti. Aloka Parasher Sen argues that since agriculture was the dominant mode of production, settlement of new villages was seen as crucial in order to expand the areas of cultivation. For this purpose, the states and guilds cleared forests lands and displaced the āṭavika through the force of arms or direct negotiations. Not only was the forest seen as an important resource, but even the labour and knowledge of these groups is also something that the state can use profitably. Kauṭilya thus also recommends techniques of bringing forest tribes into the class society and hiring them as army auxiliaries and spies.

Foreign Policy & War

Intricately related to the expansion of the state is Kauṭilya's perception of ancient Indian warfare. His theory of warfare comprised of a set of rigid principles which could guarantee success. Kauṭilya is concerned not just by the war between states but also the intra-state wars or the rise of rebellions. He suggests extra taxation during emergencies but warns against it in the long run as he perceives internal security depends on the contentment of the subjects.

Kauṭilya lays down six measures of foreign policy in the 7th book and elucidates in the conduct of each:

  • peace
  • war
  • staying quiet
  • marching
  • seeking shelter
  • dual policy.

He advises that during decline one must try to make peace and when prospering, one should make war and provides techniques to deal with weaker, equal and stronger kings. He gives the theory of the circle of kings and recognizing friendly and unfriendly elements so that the king may bring regions under his rule and become the sovereign of the “four corners of the earth”.

Arthashastra & Dharmahastra

The intertextuality between Manu's Manava Dharmashastra and the Arthashastra of Kauṭilya has been studied by several scholars who have taken up the daunting task of analysing the style, structure, and contents of both these texts to understand their relations and contradictions and most importantly to reconstruct a picture of the society then. Many scholars argue that some sections of the Arthashastra are older than Manu's text by citing the presence of not just parallel texts but a common and unusual vocabulary. Olivelle has also argued that unlike the Arthashastra, the Manava Dharmashastra was written by a single individual who borrowed heavily from the Arthashastra's material on king, government, law and judiciary, but integrated the material into his own organizational scheme, presenting a unique text within the literary tradition of Dharmashastras. There is also a structural similarity between the seventh chapter of Manu and the Arthashastra.

Wendy Doniger brings forth the contradiction that underlies the Arthashastra and the laws of Manu and highlights the subtle subversion of dharma by the Arthashastra. She explains that ideas from Manu were stitched into Arthashastra often leading to a pro-Brahmanic and pro-dharmic revision of the text. She cites examples like the difference in the harshness of punishment for the verbal abuse of Brahmins according to the Manava Dharmashastra and the Arthashastra to show how the latter trod lightly in its critique of dharma. Doniger argues that this pervasive un-dharmic agenda was made possible by coating it with a thin veneer of dharma and disregarding rather than challenging the power of Brahmins.

Regarding the Manava Dharmashastra and Arthashastra, we may ask what was the scope of dissent against dharma in ancient India? Was the world beyond the one that people knew about more important than achieving material well-being in this world or was it the other way round? When two authoritative texts laid down contradicting rules and punishments, which text superseded the other and why? And finally, if we assume that the different members of the priestly class wrote these texts and the monarchs read them carefully, to what extent were the common men and women (possibly illiterate) affected by what was laid down in these treatises?


An introduction to Kautilya and his Arthashastra

More than 2,000 years ago, some time during the last half of the fourth century BCE, Vishnugupta Chanakya (son of Chanak) Kautilya, who was addressed as an Acharya (professor) and statesman, wrote The Arthashastra – the science of wealth and welfare [1]. It contains 150 chapters, which are distributed among 15 books. Writing style in ancient India was quite different from that of today. Generally, the ancient writers used to express their ideas in the third person to avoid any appearance of being egoistic. The Arthashastra develops three interlinked and mutually complementary parts:

Arthaniti (economic policies) to promote economic growth

dandaniti (administration of justice) to ensure judicial fairness and

videshniti (foreign affairs policy) to maintain independence and to expand the kingdom.

Kautilya was an independent thinker and it would be an error to label him as an administrator. He has been credited with destroying the Nanda rule and installing Chandragupta Maurya (321 BCE-297 BCE) on the throne. However, there is no reference to the emperor Chandragupta or to his kingdom Magadha in The Arthashastra since it was meant to be a theoretical treatise. Kautilya believed that the establishment of a rule of law, an impartial judicial system, and private property rights, devising an incentive mechanism to ensure efficient and honest government officials, encouraging dharma (ethics), the moral and spiritual rules of human behavior, provision of infrastructure and capital formation were the key ingredients for the creation of a prosperous, safe and secure nation.

Kautilya as a founder of political economy: It is claimed that Kautilya is an early pioneer of political economy before Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. A strong critique of the prevailing orthodoxies regarding the origins of economics and Adam Smith being its founding father is provided. It is not claimed that Kautilya provides any formal proofs or offers fully developed concepts or that The Arthashastra is as sophisticated as Samuelson's (1947) foundations. But it can be claimed that Kautilya's Arthashastra is much more pragmatic, more consistent, broader in scope and, analytically more rigorous than Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. It is shown that despite the non-availability of modern analytical tools to him, his economic analysis was reasonably organized, adequately developed, and applied to a variety of problems. The Arthashastra contains a sufficient number of coherent economic concepts and hypotheses and an inter-dependent system of relationships. Table I provides a partial list of some of the concepts originated and appropriately used by Kautilya.

Table I. Partial list of the concepts used by Kautilya in his Arthashastra and their reemergence

Undoubtedly, the social, the political and the economic institutions and conditions prevailing at the time of Kautilya during the fourth century BCE were markedly different from those of today. Yet, remarkably almost all of his insights, concepts, and methodology are as relevant today in our post-industrialized, and globalized world as they were in his time. The Arthashastra far removed from the heat of current controversies provides a clearer picture of universal human tendencies, such as risk-aversion, rent-seeking and greed and Kautilya recommends that society should tirelessly search for ways to reduce risk and contain excessive greed and rent-seeking activities.

So far as the Western world is concerned, Adam Smith has been credited for founding economics during the eighteenth century. However, economic reasoning had achieved a much higher level of sophistication 2,000 years earlier in India. Clearly, both Kautilya and Adam Smith are true giants and should be so acknowledged. As Samuelson (Review of Economic and Statistics., 1959, 183-4) puts it very appropriately, “Scientific theories are like children in that they have a life of their own. But, unlike children, they may have more than one father”. May I add that the grown-up children (economists) have a chance to adopt a second worthy father of economics rather than the father adopting a child?

Balbir S. SihagDepartment of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA

The author is deeply indebted to Dr Masud Choudhury, Editor of Humanomics and the Emerald Publishing Group for their superb professionalism and extraordinary courage, and wisdom in disseminating Kautilya's contributions through a special issue of Humanomics.

1. These five articles in this special issue contain a majority of the basic concepts applied by Kautilya. However, the following references provide many additional concepts, which are contained in The Arthashastra.


KAUTILYA: POLITICS, ETHICS AND STATECRAFT

Kautilya was the minister in the Kingdom of Chandragupta Maurya during 317 – 293 B.C. He has been considered as one of the shrewdest ministers of the times and has explained his views on State, War, Social Structures, Diplomacy, Ethics, Politics and Statecraft very clearly in his book called Arthashastra . The Mauryan Empire was larger than the later British India which expanded from the Indian Ocean to Himalayas and upto to Iran in the West. After Alexander left India, this was the most powerful kingdom in India and Kautilya was minister who advised the King.

Before Kautilya there were other philosophers in India who composed the Shastras but his work was robust and encompassed all the treaties written earlier. I considered Kautilya for three reasons. Firstly, I wanted to highlight the patterns of thinking in the east which was present long before Machiavelli wrote his “Prince”. Secondly Kautilya’s ideologies on state, statecraft and ethics are very realistic and vastly applicable in today’s context. Thirdly, I feel Kautilya’s work on diplomacy is greatly underrepresented in the western world and it is quite apt to analyze his work in that area.

If we compare statesman on the four dimension framework of: War & Peace, Human Rights, International Economic Justice and World Order Kautilya had a strong opinion on all the four aspects. In fact people like Bismark and Woodrow Wilson in recent history had been able to demonstrate their views only on two of the four dimensions. Kautilya’s work is primarily a book of political realism where State is paramount and King shall carry out duties as advised in his book to preserve his state. Kautilya’s work is so deep rooted in realism that he goes to describe the gory and brutal means a King must adopt to be in power. This could have been one reason why Ashoka, the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya whom Kautilya advised renounced violence and war thus taking the path of Dharma or Morals. In this paper, I shall primarily focus on Kautilya’s thoughts on war, diplomacy and ethics. I have devoted a section to compare Kautilya with great philosophers like Plato and later ponder over why Machiavelli’s work looks so abridged and succinct in comparison to Kautilya’s work. Kautilya’s work is then seen in the light of today’s politics and ethics. As Max Weber put it aptly in his lecture, “Politics as a Vocation”, he said Machiavelli’s work was harmless when compared to Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

George Modelski, “Kautilya: Foreign Policy and International System in the Ancient Hindu World”, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 58, No. 3. (Sep., 1964), pp. 549-560.

E. V. Walter, “Power and Violence”, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 58, No. 2. (Jun., 1964), pp. 350-360.

Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation,” in H.H. Gerth and C.W. Mills, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 77-127.

Roger Boesche, “Kautilya’s Arthashastra on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India”, The Journal of Military History, Vol. 67, (January 2003), pp 9-38

Ritu Kohli, “Kautilya’s Political Theory – Yogakshema: The Concept of Welfare State”, 1995, Deep and Deep Publications, ISBN 81-7100-802-x

N.Siva Kumar & U.S. Rao, “Guidelines for Value Based Management in Kautilya’s Arthshastra, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 15, No. 4 (April 1996), pp 415-423.

Joseph J. Spengler, “Kautilya, Plato and Lord Shang: Comparative Political Economy, Vol. 113, No. 6 (Dec 1969), pp 450-457

O. Pflanze, “Realism and Idealism in Historical Perspective: Otto von Bismarck,” in C.J. Nolan, ed., Ethics and statecraft: The Moral Dimension of International Affairs (Westport, C.T.: Praeger, 1995) pp. 39-56.

S. Hoffmann, Duties Beyond Borders: On the Limits and Possibilities of Ethical International Politics (N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1981), pp. 1-43.

Kenneth G.Zysk, “Kautilya’s Arthshastra A Comparative Study”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 107, No. 4 (Oct – Dec 1987), pp 838-839

Torkel Brekke, “Weilding the Rod Punishment – War and Violence in the Politcal Science of Kautilya, Journal of Military Ethics, Vol 3, No. 1 (2004), pp 40-52

Roger Boesche, “Moderate Machiavelli? Contrasting The Prince with Arthshastra of Kautilya, Critical Horizons, 2002, Vol. 3 Issue 2, p253, 24p

Roger D. Spegele, “Three forms of Political Realism”, Political Studies, Vol. 35 (1987), pp 189-210

Kauṭiliyaṃ Arthaśāstram. The Arthasastra of Kautilya. Ed. by R. Shama Sastri, Mysore, Printed at the Government Branch Press, 1909. xxi, 429, 6 p. 23 cm

Yogi Ramesh, “Ethics of Chanakya”, 1997, Sahni Publications, New Delhi, ISBN 81-7564-013-8

Bharati Mukherjee, “Kautilya’s Concept of Diplomacy”, August 1976, Minerva Associates Publications, Calcutta, India. ISBN: O-88386-504-1

Kautilya's Arthasastra' and Machiavellism - a Reevaluation, The Quarterly review of historical studies, 1984 vol: 23 iss: 2 pg: 10

Pushpendra Kumar, “Kautilya Arthasastra: An Appraisal” 1989 Nag Publishers, ISBN: 81-7081-199-6


Administrative ideas in Kautilya’s Arthashastra

Kautilya was the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya. Chandragupta found the Mauryan Empire with his help. Arthashastra was written by him. It is the most important source for writing the history of the Mauryas and is divided into 15 adhikarnas or sections and 180 Prakaranas or subdivi­sions. It has about 6,000 slokas. The book was discovered by Shamasastri in 1909 and ably trans­lated by him.

It is a treatise on statecraft and public administration. Despite the controversy over its date and authorship, its importance lies in the fact that it gives a clear and methodological analysis of economic and political conditions of the Mauryan period.

The similarities between the administrative terms used in the Arthashastra and in the Asokan edicts certainly suggests that the Mauryan rulers were acquainted with this work.As such his Arthashastra provides useful and reliable information regarding the social and political conditions as well as the Mauryan administration.

Kautilya suggests that the king should be an autocrat and he should concentrate all powers into his own hands. He should enjoy unrestricted authority over his realm. But at the same time, he should give honour to the Brahmanas and seek advice from his ministers. Thus the king though autocrat, should exercise his authority wisely.

He should be cultured and wise. He should also be well-read so as to understand all the details of his administration. He says that the chief cause of his fall is that the king is inclined towards evil. He lists six evils that led to a king’s decline. They are haughtiness, lust, anger, greed, vanity and love of pleasures. Kautilya says that the king should live in comfort but he should not indulge in pleasures.

The major ideal of kingship according to Kautilya is that his own well-being lies in the well-being of his people of only the happy subjects ensure the happiness of their sovereign. He also says that the king should be ‘Chakravarti’ or the conqueror of different realms and should win glory by conquering other lands.

He should protect his people from external dan­gers and ensure internal peace. Kautilya maintained that the soldiers should be imbued with the spirit of a ‘holy war’ before they march to the battlefield. According to him, all is fair in a war waged in the interest of the country.

Kautilya maintains that the king should appoint ministers. King without ministers is like a one-wheeled chariot. According to Kautilya, king’s ministers should be wise and intelligent. But the king should not become a puppet in their hands.

He should discard their improper advise. The ministers should work together as a team. They should hold meetings in privacy. He says that the king who cannot keep his secrets cannot last long.

Kautilya tells us that the kingdom was divided into several provinces governed by the members of the royal family. There were some smaller provinces as Saurashtra and Kambhoj etc. administered by other officers called ‘Rashtriyas’. The provinces were divided into districts which were again sub-divided into villages. The chief administrator of the district was called the ‘SthaniK while the village headman was called the ‘Gopa’.

The administration of big cities as well as the capital city of Pataliputra was carried on very efficiently. Pataliputra was divided into four sectors. The officer incharge of each sector was called the ‘Sthanik. He was assisted by junior officers called the ‘Gopas’ who looked after the welfare of 10 to 40 families. The whole city was in the charge of another officer called the ‘Nagrika’. There was a system of regular census.

Kautilya says that the king should maintain a network of spies who should keep him well informed about the minute details and happenings in the country, the provinces, the districts and the towns. The spies should keep watch on other officials. There should be spies to ensure peace in the land. According to Kautilya, women spies are more efficient than men, so they should, in particular, be recruited as spies. Above all the kings should send his agents in neighbouring countries to gather information of political significance.

Another significant information that we gather from Kautilya is about shipping under the Mauryas. Each port was supervised by an officer who kept vigil on ships and ferries. Tolls were levied on traders, passengesand fishermen. Almost all ships and boats were owned by the kings.

Kautilya says that poverty is a major cause of rebellions. Hence there should be no shortage of food and money to buy it, as it creates discontent and destroys the king. Kautilya therefore advises the king to take steps to improve the economic condition of his people. Kautilya says that the chief source of income was the land revenue in villages while the tax on the sale of goods was the chief source in the cities.


Administrative ideas in Kautilya’s Arthashastra

Kautilya was the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya. Chandragupta found the Mauryan Empire with his help. Arthashastra was written by him. It is the most important source for writing the history of the Mauryas and is divided into 15 adhikarnas or sections and 180 Prakaranas or subdivi­sions. It has about 6,000 slokas. The book was discovered by Shamasastri in 1909 and ably trans­lated by him.

It is a treatise on statecraft and public administration. Despite the controversy over its date and authorship, its importance lies in the fact that it gives a clear and methodological analysis of economic and political conditions of the Mauryan period.

The similarities between the administrative terms used in the Arthashastra and in the Asokan edicts certainly suggests that the Mauryan rulers were acquainted with this work.As such his Arthashastra provides useful and reliable information regarding the social and political conditions as well as the Mauryan administration.

Kautilya suggests that the king should be an autocrat and he should concentrate all powers into his own hands. He should enjoy unrestricted authority over his realm. But at the same time, he should give honour to the Brahmanas and seek advice from his ministers. Thus the king though autocrat, should exercise his authority wisely.

He should be cultured and wise. He should also be well-read so as to understand all the details of his administration. He says that the chief cause of his fall is that the king is inclined towards evil. He lists six evils that led to a king’s decline. They are haughtiness, lust, anger, greed, vanity and love of pleasures. Kautilya says that the king should live in comfort but he should not indulge in pleasures.

The major ideal of kingship according to Kautilya is that his own well-being lies in the well-being of his people of only the happy subjects ensure the happiness of their sovereign. He also says that the king should be ‘Chakravarti’ or the conqueror of different realms and should win glory by conquering other lands.

He should protect his people from external dan­gers and ensure internal peace. Kautilya maintained that the soldiers should be imbued with the spirit of a ‘holy war’ before they march to the battlefield. According to him, all is fair in a war waged in the interest of the country.

Kautilya maintains that the king should appoint ministers. King without ministers is like a one-wheeled chariot. According to Kautilya, king’s ministers should be wise and intelligent. But the king should not become a puppet in their hands.

He should discard their improper advise. The ministers should work together as a team. They should hold meetings in privacy. He says that the king who cannot keep his secrets cannot last long.

Kautilya tells us that the kingdom was divided into several provinces governed by the members of the royal family. There were some smaller provinces as Saurashtra and Kambhoj etc. administered by other officers called ‘Rashtriyas’. The provinces were divided into districts which were again sub-divided into villages. The chief administrator of the district was called the ‘SthaniK while the village headman was called the ‘Gopa’.

The administration of big cities as well as the capital city of Pataliputra was carried on very efficiently. Pataliputra was divided into four sectors. The officer incharge of each sector was called the ‘Sthanik. He was assisted by junior officers called the ‘Gopas’ who looked after the welfare of 10 to 40 families. The whole city was in the charge of another officer called the ‘Nagrika’. There was a system of regular census.

Kautilya says that the king should maintain a network of spies who should keep him well informed about the minute details and happenings in the country, the provinces, the districts and the towns. The spies should keep watch on other officials. There should be spies to ensure peace in the land. According to Kautilya, women spies are more efficient than men, so they should, in particular, be recruited as spies. Above all the kings should send his agents in neighbouring countries to gather information of political significance.

Another significant information that we gather from Kautilya is about shipping under the Mauryas. Each port was supervised by an officer who kept vigil on ships and ferries. Tolls were levied on traders, passengesand fishermen. Almost all ships and boats were owned by the kings.

Kautilya says that poverty is a major cause of rebellions. Hence there should be no shortage of food and money to buy it, as it creates discontent and destroys the king. Kautilya therefore advises the king to take steps to improve the economic condition of his people. Kautilya says that the chief source of income was the land revenue in villages while the tax on the sale of goods was the chief source in the cities.


Du Bois's Dark Princess , Kautilya's Arthashastra , and the Welfare State

W. E. B. Du Bois's novel Dark Princess (1928) has become a paradigmatic text for left internationalism and Afro-Asian solidarity. Du Bois's hybrid progressivism enchants the American welfare state by giving it an intellectual genealogy that emphasizes Eastern political thought. Dark Princess engages with the Arthashastra , an ancient work of political theory that was ostensibly written by the chief adviser to Chandragupta, who unified the Indian subcontinent. The Arthashastra , and the legend concerning its composition, stimulated a Du Boisian fantasy of global leadership, one that parallels the contemporary recuperation of the Arthashastra for power politics. However, the Arthashastra 's discussion of social programs and infrastructure also introduces the concept of the welfare state. Interweaving the Arthashastra with Black life in Chicago, Du Bois gives the progressive activist Sara Andrews a surprising agency. Today the most important aspect of Dark Princess is its vision of an antiracist and culturally syncretic New Deal.


Emptinez

The study of Buddha’s political ideas must be done through a contextualist approach to the social, economic and political conditions of the time during which the historical Buddha lived and expounded his ideas, with a close attention to the existing socio-political discourses in ancient India. In this chapter, I will do a literature review on the study of the ancient Indian political thought in an attempt to establish the existence of much speculation and elaborate conceptualization of social and political organization in ancient India as confirmed by both classical Hindu and Buddhist texts. Second, I will make an attempt to contextualize the Buddha and the study of his political ideas in its arrival and reception among Indian and Western philosophers and political scientists or the lack of it. Besides the missionary accounts of India, the West first began a serious study of India and its past in the late eighteenth century with the works of scholars who have been described as the Orientalists or Indologists (Thapar, 1978, 2). As Thapar notes, the discovery of the relationship between Sanskrit and certain European languages excited the scholars and the study of classical Sanskrit literature attracted and produced extensive scholarship (2-3). As a pioneer in the study of ancient India and Sanskrit, Sir William Jones (1746–1794) founded the Asiatic Society in 1784. In the Society’s journal Asiatic Researches, Jones published his works: the linguistic discoveries about the familiarity and even superiority of Sanskrit and its grammatical structures to Greek and Latin (Edgerton, 231), the project of studying ancient Indian law through translation of works like Manu’s Laws and the formulation of a methodology for the study of Indian history (Majeed, 1992, 12). Majeed asserts that Jones’ interest in studying Sanskrit was encouraged by his legal project of curbing the power of the pundits and maulvis, i.e. his purpose was to undermine what he perceived to be the legal authority of the sacerdotal classes of Bengal (Majeed, 20). This seems to be a plausible position, because Jones was a lawyer by profession and he had orchestrated an ambitious project of translating the law-book of Manu from Sanskrit before his demise (Majeed, 20). The literary theorist, Edward Said (2003), confirms this in his Orientalism by stating that seven years before Jones’ arrival in India, Warren Hastings (Governor General of Bengal) declared that the Indians were to be ruled by their own laws which existed only in Sanskrit and embarked on a mission of “a complete digest” of laws, figures, customs and works (78). Jones’ appreciation of ancient India, its literature and philosophy can be seen from his works on comparative literature and philosophy. Jones’ English translation of Kalidasa’s Shakuntala, the greatest work of dramatic literature, excited his European contemporaries like Herder and Goethe, and he also translated (not quite completely) the Gitagovinda, called the “Indian Song of Songs” into English (Majeed, 20). Jones compared Indian philosophy to that of the Greece and Rome, and suggested that Indians or Indian philosophy may have influenced Greek philosophers. Jones’ legal works on India had considerable influence on the utilitarian philosophers like Jeremy Bentham and James Mill (Majeed, 21-2). Romila Thapar (1978) suggests that the study of Sanskrit as one of the Aryan languages was significant for the Western scholars because Sanskrit is believed to belong to a period earlier than that of Greek, and thus it deserves more attention and places the language itself to be “in a purer state of preservation” (3). It is important to recognize the political context of the scholarship, which initiated the efforts, and its purposes. As indicated above, this study arose principally from the East India Company and the scholars, to use Said’s vocabulary, were the early Orientalists who were mostly legal scholars with administrative positions in the British India. In a discussion on the distinction between pure and political knowledge, Said (2003) exposes the practical or actual difficulties of the distinction given that political society reaches into such realms of civil society as academy and saturates them with significance of direct concern to it (11). Said establishes the political nature of the knowledge or academic interest of the Western scholars in the Orient:

My idea is that European and then American interest in the Orient was political according to some obvious historical accounts of it that I have given here, but that it was the culture that created that interest, that acted dynamically along with brute political, economic, and military rationales to make the Orient the varied and complicated place that it obviously was in the field I call Orientalism. (2003, 11)

Thus, the portrayal of the Orient in the Western imagination is carried through a whole series of “interests” which, by such means as scholarly discovery, philological reconstruction, psychological analysis, landscape and sociological description in their creation of the Orient with certain intentions of not only control, but also manipulation and incorporation (Said, 2003, 12). In the case of India, the general Orientalist portrait of India, and especially, its past was that the Indian society was an “unchanging” and “backward” civilization, where the village community was the idyllic center of Indian life, and such was the background of lifestyle for the qualities like gentleness, passivity and other-worldliness (Thapar, 3). This characterization of the Indian past as static and the people as passive and disinterested in politics had huge ramifications on the subsequent scholarship and the West’s perception of India. James Mill (1773-1836) is one of the most significant figures in the Orientalist construction of India. Mill was a utilitarian, a close friend of the father of classical utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham, and the father of John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), who surpassed his father’s eminence and made substantial contribution to advance the theory of classical utilitarianism (Ball, 2013, 1). James Mill and Jeremy Bentham formed a political and philosophical alliance after discovering that they were in some respects kindred spirits, and their political project was to reform the British political system and work towards legal reforms favoring freedom of speech and press (Ball, 5). This political interest of Mill seems to explain his enthusiasm to study Jones’ works on ancient Indian legal texts like the Manu’s Laws. James Mill’s massive and most influential work, History of British India (1818), where in he proudly declares and asserts in its preface that his “objectivity” is guaranteed by the fact that he has never visited India (Ball, 9). Mill’s History delineates the Indian civilization as a civilization devoid of the principal values of rationalism and individualism, and that it showed no great concern for political values, which made her vulnerable to foreign attacks and the rule of despotism (Ball, 9). Mill denounces the “rude” and “backward” culture for its cultivation of ignorance and its veneration of superstition, and suggests that a strong dose of utilitarian rationalism is the correct antidote (Ball, 8). Intentionally or not, Mill’s History does offer a defense of the British colonization of India with his arguments crafted in the philosophical doctrines of utilitarianism. Majeed (1992) quotes the English Orientalist, H. H. Wilson, to have commented, “For James Mill, India was a testing ground for some of Bentham’s theories” (125). Some scholars maintain that the main fame of Mill’s History rests on its transformation of utilitarianism into a “militant fait” (Majeed, 123). Besides the prescription of utilitarianism to India, Mill’s critique of Indian practices and customs includes: that the Hindu culture is “immature” and exhibits characteristics of “the rudest and weakest states of society” that the ancient Hindu texts like the Puranas contained exaggerated ideas about the antiquity of Indian civilization that the Indian chronologies conveyed little factual information about ancient history and its legends are the “offspring of a wild and ungoverned imagination” (Majeed, 164). Clearly, Mill was skeptical about the positive portrayal of ancient India by William Jones who applauded not only its rich spiritual and philosophical traditions, but also the great power and magnificence of the sovereigns of Hindustan. As Ball notes, Mill’s conception of the human nature is that “man is a progressive being” and education is the chief engine of progress (Ball, 8-9). It seems that Mill subscribed to Hegel’s philosophy of history or at least maintained a notion of history as possessing a directionality or meaning. Despite its embodiment as a representative work of early Orientalism, it seems plausible to say that the influence of Mill’s History is unquestionable. The History became the standard work for East India Company officials, and eventually a textbook for candidates for the Indian Civil Service (Majeed, 128). Majeed argues, “the History shaped a theoretical basis for the liberal program to emancipate India from its own culture” (127). In that sense, Mill’s History was not so much an attempt to understand India, but to change it. And the “change” was double-edged: while it offers a justification for the British intervention in India, India also functions as a laboratory for the experimentation of utilitarianism. James Mill also influenced his son, John Stuart Mill, in his understanding and the conception of Indian civilization. Said (2003) points out that J. S. Mill made it clear in his On Liberty and Representative Government that his views cannot be applied to India because the Indians were civilizationally, if not racially, inferior (14). Generally, the Enlightenment thinkers rejected the religious interpretation of history but theorized their own teleology, the notion of progress –the idea that humanity is moving in the direction of a better and more perfect civilization (Little, 10). Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) posits history as an intelligible progress moving towards a specific condition –the realization of human freedom. Little (2012) puts it, “Hegel constructs the world history into a narrative of stages of human freedom, from the public freedom of the polis and the citizenship of the Roman Republic, to the individual freedom of the Protestant Reformation, to a civic freedom of the modern state” (12). In his lectures on The Philosophy of History, Hegel states that the spread of Indian culture is pre-historical, for History is limited to that which makes an essential epoch in the development of Spirit (2001, 157). In his construct of specific moments as “world-historical” events bringing human freedom to world history, not a single event or an individual in the hitherto Indian history qualify as such like the Napoleonic conquest of Europe. Hegel concludes that the diffusion of Indian culture is only a “dumb,” “deedless” expansion with ‘no political action’ and the Indian people achieved no foreign conquests, having been vanquished themselves on every occasion (159). It seems that Hegel’s main aversion or the central feature of Indian culture and history that troubles him the most is the caste system. Hegel subjects the Indian culture and society to a harsh critique and terms the caste system “the most degrading spiritual serfdom” (162). He makes several references to Manu’s laws and the implementation of criminal law (danda), and comments how there are discriminatory and completely caste-ridden (168). Following a discussion on how Brahmins exploit the lower classes, Hegel makes the conclusive statement that, “this arrangement (caste system) is fixed and immutable, and subject to no one’s will. All political revolutions, therefore, are matters of indifference to the common Hindoo, for his slot is unchanged” (172). As a result, Hegel’s dialectical change and development of history towards the goal of human freedom cannot be applied to the Indian history because of its stationary and fixed nature. The following seems to perfectly capture Hegel’s view of the Indian mind and its civility:

Characteristic of the Hindoo’s humanity is the fact that he kills no brute animal, founds and supports rich hospitals for brutes, especially for old cows and monkeys –but that through the whole land, no single institution can be found for human beings who are diseased or infirm from age. The Hindoos will not tread upon ants, but they are perfectly indifferent when poor wanderers pine away with hunger. (Hegel, 177)

Unsurprisingly, Karl Marx (1818–1883) inherited the Hegelian interpretation of Indian civilization and incorporated it into his materialist conception of history. While serving the New York Tribune’s chief European correspondent, Marx wrote extensively on Indian history, society and culture, which became a source of controversy as the critics of Marx points to these writings (especially those of 1853) for its Eurocentricism (Anderson, 2010, 9) Anderson argues that Marx’s writings of 1853 are clearly influenced by Hegel, and agrees with the French sociologist Michael Lowy’s contention that the Hegelian influence led Marx to a “teleological and Eurocentric” notion of progress in these writings (14). However, as some Indian historians have argued, the distinguishing element between Marx and Hegel’s view of India seems to be that while the latter maintains the Indian religion (Hinduism) as the determinant of India’s civilizational stagnation and political immaturity, the former holds the peculiarities of Indian culture that were really themselves the consequence of Indian social organization –pre-eminently the village community (Anderson, 16). Marx employs his materialist conception of history as he begins to interpret Indian social structure and commerce, and in his articles for the Tribune in 1853, Marx indicates his library studies on the military and social organization of the Mughal Empire and quotes “old Francois Bernier” at length with complete certainty and authority when he concludes: “Bernier rightly sees all the manifestations of the East –he mentions Turkey, Persia, and Hindustan –as having a common basis, namely the absence of private landed property. This is the real key, even to the eastern heaven” (Anderson, 13). This preconception of absence of private landed property was really “key” to Marx’s own interpretation of Indian and Asian history at large, and in his defense of British rule of India. In his article, “The British Rule in India” June, 25, 1853, Marx makes a similar argument for British rule of India as James Mill, and even goes on arguing that the British have gone below its surface into breaking the entire framework of Indian society and its social structure that has “remained unaltered since its remotest antiquity” (MECW Vol. 12, 125). Even though it is understandable given the circumstances of lack of interaction and opportunity for consulting with extensive material, it is quite shocking to realize how narrow and prejudicial Marx’s interpretation of Indian society and culture was. Commenting on Indian society and caste system, Marx argues that, “We must not forget that these little communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances instead of elevating man the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Kanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow” (MECW Vol. 12, 125). As Hegel points to the caste system as “the most degrading spiritual serfdom,” it certainly played a central role in Marx’s interpretation of Indian history and society, but the caste system was, theoretically, important yet problematic to Marx because it rendered the Indian social and economic structure unfit into his economic theory of history as punctuated by epochs of different modes of production. As indicated, Marx sketches a concept of “Oriental Despotism,” which he applies broadly to Asian societies like China, Egypt, Persia and India, and argues that the common feature of these societies is that they have three departments of government: that of Finance or the plunder of the interior that of war or the plunder of the exterior finally, the department of public works (Anderson, 15-16). In relation to India, Marx argues that “disorganized, patriarchal and inoffensive social organizations” and the idyllic village-communities of India have always been the foundation of Oriental despotism, and that in such social organizations the human mind is restrained within the smallest possible compass –“making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies” (MECW Volume 12, 1953, 125). Marx invented the notion of “Asiatic Mode of Production” as a peculiar mode of production for Asiatic societies including India. Although there are nuanced philosophical debates about Marx’s notion of historical materialism as a theory of history, it seems safe to say that for Marx history is marked by different “modes of production,” propelled by the nature and relationship between the means of production and the relations of production (Marx & Engels, 1848). In this scheme, the Asiatic societies were an anomaly because in these societies, according to Marx, perennially, the state owned the common land and there were no private landed property. The absence of private landed property in Asiatic communities meant that the entire surplus is collected by the state and the village communities were under complete subjugation of the state. Kancha Ilaiah notes, unlike modern European scholars who have conducted extensive study aimed at understanding the political philosophies of ancient Greek political thinkers, modern Indian political scientists and historians were occupied with studying the political philosophy of the ancient Greeks, instead of the ancient Indian political thought (Ilaiah, 2001). However, in recent years, few scholars have turned their attention to the study of ancient Indian political philosophy even though the focus of their attention seems very limited. Indian political scientists and scholars like A.K. Sen and K.P. Jayaswal have been significant in their effort of refuting and discrediting the Western misconception of the Indian or Hindu mind as unconcerned or uninterested in politics, i.e. these nationalist scholars have in some ways successfully refuted the Western assumption and asserted that the ancient Indian mind had contributed much to political thought (Ilaiah, 3-5). However, given the limited scope of attention, it almost seems as if their sole purpose was to reject that misconception. Ilaiah contends that the nationalist scholars like Jayaswal and Sen largely relied on Kautilya’s Arthashastra and Manusmriti or Manu’s “laws.” Kautilya’s Arthashastra is considered as the most comprehensive treatise of statecraft of classical times of ancient India, and according to Shamasastry, even though its scope is wider than statecraft, centrally, Arthashastra argues for an autocracy managing an efficient and solid economy as well as the duties and obligations of a king (1915). The Manusmriti is the Hindu code of ancient India, which deals with the relationships between social and ethnic groups, between men and women, the organization of the state and the judicial system, reincarnation, the workings of karma, and all aspects of the law (K. Jaishankar & Debarati Haldar, 2004). As Jaishanker and Haldar notes, Manusmrit shows that the criminal justice system in ancient India was based on the caste system, and it defined crime and punishment for each Varna in a hierarchical mode (Jaishankar & Haldar, 2004). In Hindu Polity (1955), Jayaswal argues that the Arthashastra of Kautilya (300 B.C.) can be called the Imperial Code of Governance of the Early Mauryas, and asserts that given the extensive references Kautilya makes to social, economic and political issues of early periods it is clear that politics had been studied for centuries before the author (4). Jayaswal toils through the Vedic literature in trying to find and present the earliest records of Indian social institutions, and recognizes the existence of quasi-democratic republics during the time of the Buddha as evidenced by the records in the Buddhist Pali canon (21-22). However, Jayaswal’s cursory look at early Buddhist political organization shows that he is not interested in the marginal political currents of ancient India. But he couldn’t avoid recognizing the unique political institutions inspired and advocated by the early Buddhists, mainly because of the multiple references that Kautilya makes to Sangha communities in Arthashatra. Given that his central concern is to conceptualize an ancient Hindu political thought, it is not surprising to see his hurried scrutiny of the early Buddhist political ideas. Ilaiah argues that the aim of the nationalist scholars and political scientists were only limited to refuting the Western view by constructing a Hindu monolithic, authoritarian and varnadharma based theory of political system (Ilaiah, 18). As indicated, the notion of varnadharma was central to both Kautilya and Manu, and the ancient Hindu polity was essentially a political ideology based on the social structure of the four castes –where each varna or class had its own set of duties and obligations (sva-dharma) prescribed for the sake of the solidarity and progress of society as a whole (Embree, 1988, 221). The quintessential example of following one’s svadharma can be found in the Bhagavad Gita of the great epic Mahabharata, where Arjuna is instructed by Krishna to uphold his dharma as a Kshtriya during the Kurukshetra war (Miller, 1986, 23-5). As Brown (1953) argues, the foundation of Hindu society lies in the concept of dharma:

The conception of dharma was a far-reaching one embracing the whole life of man. The writers of dharamashastra meant by Dharma not a creed or religion but a mode of life or code of conduct, which regulated a man’s work and activities as a member of society and as an individual and was intended to bring about the gradual development of a man and enable him to reach what was deemed to be the goal of human existence. (15-16)

It was only mid-twentieth century when the writings of Dr. Ambedkar first brought light to the study of the Buddha’s political ideas and values. Ambedhkar’s writings sparked interest in the study of Buddhist and the Buddha’s political ideas as a contending school of thought to the Hindu political thinking as presented in Manu’s Laws and Kautilya’s Arthashastra (Ilaiah, 18-21). Ambedhkar for the first time presented the Buddha’s political ideas as a rival and adversary to the mainstream Hindu polity. This provoked as well as excited some scholars, but it never got a wider audience. It is quite plausible to assume that Ambedkar was politically motivated as an activist and advocate for the rights of dalits and untouchables he fought a constitutional fight for securing a separate electorate for the dalits and lower castes (Mukherjee, 1988). Ambedkar’s extensive studies concerning the historical emergence of the untouchables as a social class would introduce him to the Buddha’s liberal and progressive political ideas. As opposed to Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar believes that the hatred for Buddhism coupled with contempt for beef-eating were the main reasons for making the people untouchables (Mukherjee, 1988, 7). In the West, while there have been great reception and interest in the study of Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy in both popular and academic realms, especially in fields like comparative religion and philosophy in the latter, no attempts have been made to study the Buddha’s social and political philosophy informed by the extensive texts of the early sutras. The study of Buddha’s political ideas are inextricably linked to the already existing brahmanical views that are premised on the Vedic socio-moral worldview. So it is against the background of a society largely dominated and shaped its social structures by the brahmanical traditions that the historical Buddha, Gautama Siddhartha, lived and expounded his ideas in all fields of human knowledge, including on political organization and society. The Buddha and His Dharma (1957) provides a new framework to understand ancient Indian political thought from not only the point of view of the oppressed masses, but also from a non-Hindu perspective (Ilaiah, 21). As indicated, the study of the Buddha’s political ideas is not only very recent, but is still largely ignored by political scientists and philosophers from trying to construct his ideas into a coherent political philosophy. The absence of such intellectual and academic undertaking has resulted in the restriction of the Buddha’s teachings to religion –disregarding his significant contribution to ancient Indian political thought and its contemporary relevance.


Administrative ideas in Kautilya’s Arthashastra

Kautilya was the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya. Chandragupta found the Mauryan Empire with his help. Arthashastra was written by him. It is the most important source for writing the history of the Mauryas and is divided into 15 adhikarnas or sections and 180 Prakaranas or subdivi­sions. It has about 6,000 slokas. The book was discovered by Shamasastri in 1909 and ably trans­lated by him.

It is a treatise on statecraft and public administration. Despite the controversy over its date and authorship, its importance lies in the fact that it gives a clear and methodological analysis of economic and political conditions of the Mauryan period.

The similarities between the administrative terms used in the Arthashastra and in the Asokan edicts certainly suggests that the Mauryan rulers were acquainted with this work.As such his Arthashastra provides useful and reliable information regarding the social and political conditions as well as the Mauryan administration.

Kautilya suggests that the king should be an autocrat and he should concentrate all powers into his own hands. He should enjoy unrestricted authority over his realm. But at the same time, he should give honour to the Brahmanas and seek advice from his ministers. Thus the king though autocrat, should exercise his authority wisely.

He should be cultured and wise. He should also be well-read so as to understand all the details of his administration. He says that the chief cause of his fall is that the king is inclined towards evil. He lists six evils that led to a king’s decline. They are haughtiness, lust, anger, greed, vanity and love of pleasures. Kautilya says that the king should live in comfort but he should not indulge in pleasures.

The major ideal of kingship according to Kautilya is that his own well-being lies in the well-being of his people of only the happy subjects ensure the happiness of their sovereign. He also says that the king should be ‘Chakravarti’ or the conqueror of different realms and should win glory by conquering other lands.

He should protect his people from external dan­gers and ensure internal peace. Kautilya maintained that the soldiers should be imbued with the spirit of a ‘holy war’ before they march to the battlefield. According to him, all is fair in a war waged in the interest of the country.

Kautilya maintains that the king should appoint ministers. King without ministers is like a one-wheeled chariot. According to Kautilya, king’s ministers should be wise and intelligent. But the king should not become a puppet in their hands.

He should discard their improper advise. The ministers should work together as a team. They should hold meetings in privacy. He says that the king who cannot keep his secrets cannot last long.

Kautilya tells us that the kingdom was divided into several provinces governed by the members of the royal family. There were some smaller provinces as Saurashtra and Kambhoj etc. administered by other officers called ‘Rashtriyas’. The provinces were divided into districts which were again sub-divided into villages. The chief administrator of the district was called the ‘SthaniK while the village headman was called the ‘Gopa’.

The administration of big cities as well as the capital city of Pataliputra was carried on very efficiently. Pataliputra was divided into four sectors. The officer incharge of each sector was called the ‘Sthanik. He was assisted by junior officers called the ‘Gopas’ who looked after the welfare of 10 to 40 families. The whole city was in the charge of another officer called the ‘Nagrika’. There was a system of regular census.

Kautilya says that the king should maintain a network of spies who should keep him well informed about the minute details and happenings in the country, the provinces, the districts and the towns. The spies should keep watch on other officials. There should be spies to ensure peace in the land. According to Kautilya, women spies are more efficient than men, so they should, in particular, be recruited as spies. Above all the kings should send his agents in neighbouring countries to gather information of political significance.

Another significant information that we gather from Kautilya is about shipping under the Mauryas. Each port was supervised by an officer who kept vigil on ships and ferries. Tolls were levied on traders, passengesand fishermen. Almost all ships and boats were owned by the kings.

Kautilya says that poverty is a major cause of rebellions. Hence there should be no shortage of food and money to buy it, as it creates discontent and destroys the king. Kautilya therefore advises the king to take steps to improve the economic condition of his people. Kautilya says that the chief source of income was the land revenue in villages while the tax on the sale of goods was the chief source in the cities.


Chanakya’s Arthashastra

Republican form of governments were well estabilished in ancient India. At the time of the invasion of Alexander of Macedonia ( 4th century B.C.) there existed a large number of independent Ganas ( Republics ) like Agrasenies in the Indus Valley , Kambhoj in the West, Panchals in the North etc.( Sen 1920: Ch3 , Ghoshal , 1923:2), Kautilya , the Author of Arthashastra , was a product of this era. He played a main role in defeating defeating the forces of Alexander. Kautilya believed that the Aleaxander’s successful conquest of ( a part of ) India was due to the absence of of a strong centralized Indian Empire. He was determined not to let history repeat itself . Hence the Mauryan Empire, which he was instrumental in founding , was ( relatively) centralized and very different from the then prevailing republican systems. His treatise – Arthashastra , therefore deals only with the governance in a monarchial state.

Many Occidental scholars have argued that the Hindu Philosophy is anti – thetical to the concept of a state. Max Mueller ( 1859:31) has observed that

” The Hindus were a nation of philosophers. Their struggles were the struggles of thought, their past , the problem of creation , their future , the problem of existence …. It might therefore be justly said that India has no place in the political history of the world.”

The Rationality Ethic is the basis of many ancient Dharmic Texts. Treatise like the Arthashastra advocate the application of reason to statecraft to such an extent that many Occidental Scholars have called Kautilya as the ” Machiavelli Of India.”

Rao (1958:15-18) has argued that Kautilya’s contribution is similar to that of Aristotle’s than of Machiavelli’s. Both Aristole (in Politics) and Kautilya (in Arthashastra) have outlined their their respective conceptions of a ‘state’. Interestingly , both the masters belong to the same era and both were teachers of the two clashing titans – Ariistotle of Alexander and Kautilya of Chandragupta.

ORIGIN OF ARTHASHASTRA

Kautilya was from ”kutil gotra” , hence the name Kautilya . Since he was born at Chanaka and his father’s name was also Chanaka , he came to be known as Chanakya(Rao 1958:3) . Kautilya’s Arthashastra is a compendium of and commentary on the then existing texts on polity and statecraft.’ Kautilya presented them in a coherent and and systematic manner and referred them on the basis of his enornomous experience as the chief minister in the court of Chandragupta Maurya.

There is a controversy regarding the authorship of Arthashastra. Many Occidental scholars have argued that Kautilya is merely a pseudo name for a later author(s) who belonged to the school of thought associated with Kautilya. These contentions are disputed by Indian Scholars who point out that many of the concepts used by Kautilya are infact associated with only the fourth century B.C. (Shamasastry, [1915]

Chandragupta Maurya founded the Mauryan Empire in 321 BC. He had defeated the two greatest powers of the era-Alexander of Macedonia and King Nanda of Magadh – the largest Indian Empire. Chandragupta’s son , Bindusara and grandson Ashoka are well known for their huge and benign empires. Ashoka’s empire was probably the truest manisfestation of Kautilya’s conception of an ideal empire.

Traumann (1971) has used mathematical programming to study the authorship of Arthashastra . His proposition ( validated by previous research ) is that the basic style ( eg the average length of the sentence , the frequency of occurence of compound words, the frequency of use of simple participles etc) of an author remains constant throughout the text even if the author has spent years to write the text. On the basis of inticrate mathematical analysis, Trauman has concluded that Arthashastra has been authored by atleast three persons.

THE ORIGIN OF STATE ( KINGSHIP) ( ARTHASHASTRA 1.13.6-9)

. Anarchy of Matyasyayana (1.4 17-18)

. To get rid of this Hobbesian kind of a situation , people selected Manu,the Vaivasvata as their first king

. The King was expected not only to ensure their “safety and security” and “punish” people with anarchic tendencies, but also to ”maintain individual and social order.”

. Royal dues equivalent to “one-sixth of the grain grown and one-tenth of merchandise.”

. The King was expected to ensure the Yogakshema of the subjects and was also authorized to act at once, as Indra and Yama acted, while dispensing rewards and punishment.

THE ORGANIC STATE: THE SAPTANGA THEORY

SEVEN ELEMENTS (PRAKRITI)

1. The Swami, the sovereign King

2. The Mantrin , The ministers

3. The Janapada , the people and the territory

4. The Durga, the fortification

6. The Sena or the Danda, the army

FORMS OF GOVERNMENT

. Mention of Dvairajya (rule of two) , Vairajya (rule by foreign ruler) , Sanghavritta (council of rulers),

. V.R. Mehta suggests not to categorize government either an absolute monarchy or oriental despotism or constitutional monarchy.

. Monarchy is assumed to be the normal form of Government (R.P. Kangle)

CHECKS ON THE ABSOLUTE POWER OF THE MONARCH

. Training in Dandaniti (R.P.Kangle) to use his power with judiciousness

. Purohita to remind him his duties

. Moral Pressure : fear of losing throne

. Popular uprising against Oppressive Rule (eg : Last rulers of the Maurya and Shunga Dynasties and Govinda 4 of Rashtrakutas)

. Threat to migrate to better governed state (AS Altekar)

HEREDITARY MONARCHY: SUCCESSION TO THE THRONE

. Continuity of rule in same dynasty – if Prince is properly trained.

. If lone Prince is not Properly Trained, Daughter’s son may be appointed

. In the absence of such Prince , Princes or Widow of the late Ruler to be vested with powers

. The widow to wield authority till a son is born to her (by Niyoga) and duly crowned

PROPER UPBRINGING/ QUALITIES OF THE PRINCE: THE HEIR APPARENT

. Qualities of an inviting nature (Abhigamika Guna)

. Qualities of intellect and institution (Prajyna Guna)

. Qualities of enthusiasm (Uthasa Guna)

. Qualities of self restraint and spirit (Atma Sampad)

To control Shatru-Shadvarga the six enemies of sex, anger, greed, vanity, haughtiness, and over joy (V.P Verma)

As Dandhara

. Ability to conserve and promote Trayee , ,Anvikshiki and Vaarta (RP Kangle)

As Trustee Of Kingship

. To regard his own happiness as that of his subjects (AS Altekar)

Advocacy for a Strong Centralized Monarchial Bureaucratic All India State

. J.C. Heesterman rejected the nature of Kautilyan state as being centralized

. RS Sharma has projected Kautilyan State as centralized bureaucratic state and

. Romila Thapar has asserted that circumstantial evidence reflects some scope for federal relations among the peripheral areas of Mauryan State while the core or centre along with metropolitan areas around Pataliputra depict centralized elements of the State.

Arthashastra as Science Of Political-Economy

. The substance of mankind is termed Artha (wealth) , the earth that contains and is termed Artha (wealth) the science , which deals the means of acuiring and maintaining the Earth.

. Politics (Dandaniti) deals with (1.4.6)

. the acquisition of what has not been gained (Alabdha Laabhaartha)

. The preservation of what has been acquired (Labdha Parirakshani)

. The accentuation of increase of what has been preserved (Rakshit Vivardhani)

. Due – apportionment or the bestowal of the surplus upon the deservers (Vriddhasya Tirthesu Pratipaadini)

Image Source: The Quint

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Kautilya’s Arthashastra is considered to be one of the most important texts in the sphere of politics and diplomacy. This ancient Indian political thought was written around 325 BC and was published in Shama Shastri in the year of 1909. Chittaranjan Roy mentions that the book was divided into 32 divisions based on paragraphs. Moreover, the book has 15 adhikaranas (sections) with 180 prakaranas (sub-sections). Kautilya’s ideology makes it absolutely clear that he was probably not the first one to study the subjects and statecraft in such a detailed manner. Moreover, he goes on to mention that by compiling the thoughts of the previous masters with regards to the polity and adding his own thoughts, he developed his own ideology that saw protection and maintenance of sovereignty as one of the fundamental functions of the king. Also, protecting dharma and territory was the fundamental function of the state. Moreover, while talking about society, he was aware of the caste hierarchy and rampant social inequalities present in society. He subjected the Brahmanas to capital punishment for doing something wrong and allowed the Shudras to testify in court. Thereby, raising the social status of the Shudras. Kautilya also laid down strict rules with regards to children, women, workers, artisans, poor people, etc. of the society. This clearly shows how Arthashastra manages to reflect the complex realities of society. Kautilya’s Arthashastra manages to come up with scientific management of the statecraft and lays down ideas with regards to the management of the complex societal problems.

One of the most splendid contributions to political thought by Kautilya has been the Mandala theory. This theory has given rise to questions from around the world about its relevance in the contemporary political scenario. Moreover, it is believed that the foundations of Mandala theory were laid down for the first time in the writings of Manu (a lawmaker) which soon formed the basis of India’s foreign policy (in ancient India). Roy suggests that evidence of the theory is available in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The fact that war was a part and parcel of life was realized by the Indian political writers and keep them under control several measures of maintaining a balance of power between states was suggested. This particular theory found in the writings of Smriti and Niti writers was based on this idea. Moreover, it is imperative to mention that a more comprehensive view of the theory was found in the writings of Kautilya thereby proving itself to be something that comes to the aid of even those belonging after Kautilya.

According to Kautilya, a king who understands the worth of diplomacy can emerge as the conqueror of the world. The basic premise of his Mandala theory concentrates on the actions of the Vijighisu (the primary king), his friends, and his a friend’s friend. These emperors form the three primary kings constituting circles of the state. Roy mentions that each of these kings contains the five elements of sovereignty whereas a circle of states consists of eighteen elements. Moreover, he made clear the fact that every immediate neighbour was the enemy of Vijighisu or the conqueror should be aware and wary of the actions of such a date. In accordance with this calculation, the state after the enemy would naturally be an ally of the conqueror (enemy’s enemy a friend). It also should be mentioned that Kautilya divided the Vijighusi’s kingdom into front and rear.

The Vijighisu: Kautilya considers him to be the conqueror or the king who holds the central position. Such a king must have the ambition to go on conquest and possess the potential to grow. However, it must be noted that there can be n number of Vijighisu if they possess the strength and the potential of one as prescribed by Kautilya.

The main elements of the Mandala theory regarding kingdoms in front of the Vijighisu are:-

  • The Ari: The immediate neighbour is the Ari or the Enemy. As mentioned above, every immediate neighbour is considered the Enemy. The Ari is the Enemy in the front.
  • The Mitra: The King after the Ari is the Mitra or the friend. According to Kautilya, the enemy’s enemy is the ally. Hence, this emperor is an ally of the Vijighisu.
  • The Ari Mitra: This is the ally of the Enemy and the Enemy of the Friend. Thus, naturally, this emperor is also the enemy of the Vijighisu.
  • The Mitra Mitra: The state adjacent to Ari Mitra is the Mitra Mitra. This state is the friend of both Mitra and the Vijighisu. However, it is the enemy of Ari Mitra and Ari.
  • The Ari Mitra Mitra: The kingdom is a natural enemy of the Vijighisu and is aligned with its enemies.

Hence, it must be noted that the Vijighisu, Mitra, Mitra Mitra are allies whereas the Ari, Ari Mitra, and the Ari Mitra Mitra are allies and enemies of the Vijighisu.

The main elements of the Mandala theory regarding kingdoms in the rear of the Vijighisu are:-

  • The immediate neighbour is the Paarshnigraaha. This the enemy in the rear of the Vijighisu.
  • The ally in the rear of Vijighisu is known as the Akranda.
  • The ally of the rearward enemy is the Paarshnigraahasara.
  • The ally of the rearward ally is the Akrandasara.

Hence, in the rear, we have the Paarshnigraaha and the Paarshnigraahasara as the enemy whereas the Akranda and the Akrandasara are the allies.

Apart from this, there are two other kings, namely, the Madhyama who is the indifferent one and the intermediary and the Udaasina who is neutral.

  • The Madhyama king is said to occupy a position of strength on the basis of which it can choose to either help the Vijighisu or his enemy Ari or not help at all. Thus, this king occupies a very important position in Kautilya’s Mandala. Also, this king lies close to both.
  • The Udaasina lies beyond the territory of the kings. This kingdom is powerful enough to help the conqueror, the enemy, the Madhyama together or individually. This kingdom can also resist each one of them.

Moreover, to enhance ones political foothold, Kautilya prescribed 6 methods off foreign policy, namely, Sandhi, Vigraha, Asana, Yana, Samsraya, and Dvadibhava.

Taking into consideration the various aspects presented by Kautilya with regards to polity, it can be said that this theory is still relevant in the sphere of International Relations and politics. Developing a value-free realist model regarding politics much earlier than Machiavelli or any other scholar of the sort, his work brought forward the sheer brilliance and intelligence with which politics was observed. Although his idea can be found in some form or the other in modern-day diplomacy and politics, several scholars have pointed out some of the disadvantages of the theory.

  • Firstly, scholars have pointed out that his concept of how one’s immediate neighbour is the enemy may not be always true depending on the contemporary situation.
  • Secondly, his writings are ambiguous with regards to Udaasina and Madhyama. Although these kings have been given a detailed description, their role in the political process has received little to no attention.
  • Thirdly, Kautilya’s model has been claimed to be of self-destructive nature. This theory explains how the king will embark on a never-ending military journey and will be always embroiled in conflict. Hence, equilibrium is greatly affected.
  • Finally, this system lacks a stabilizing force. Thus, it stands in direct confrontation with the evolutionary theory.

However, the attention to the concept of “external” sovereignty makes the theory a relevant part of politics. Its pragmatic outlook and importance of geography prove to be something that might be very helpful in contemporary times.


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Comments:

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  2. Rawgon

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  5. De

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  6. Gara

    and this has the analog?



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