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Topic : Radical Democracy

GS-2 Mains : Polity

Revision Notes


  • Societal crises often lead to calls for change and new ideologies.
  • 19th century: Shortcomings of liberal democracy led to revolutions against capitalism.
  • Initial solutions: Collectivism & centralized planning, but these devolved into dictatorships.
  • Post-WWII disillusionment with dictatorships led to the search for an alternative.

Manabendra Nath Roy’s Radical Democracy:

  • Developed by Indian philosopher Roy and colleagues after WWII.
  • Seeks to combine individual freedom and social justice.

New Humanism (Philosophical Foundation):

  • Builds on traditional humanism with modern science.
  • Morality arises from reason, not divine authority.
  • Human dignity, sovereignty, and creativity are key.
  • Roy’s work “Reason, Romanticism, and Revolution” emphasizes collective action for societal change.

Revolution and Rationality:

  • Revolutions occur when people recognize the need for change.
  • Individuals can cooperate rationally to create a just and free society.

A Radical Approach to Democracy and Elections:

  • Roy critiques superficial voting in traditional democracies.
  • True democracy requires informed voters capable of independent judgment.
  • Local conferences would discuss issues and select independent candidates.
  • These candidates are accountable directly to the people, not parties.
  • This system aims to reduce demagogy and corruption.
  • Local democracies with recall and referendums empower citizens.

Humanist Economics:

  • Focuses on human needs rather than profit.
  • Criticizes capitalism and state-controlled economies for neglecting well-being.
  • Advocates for:
    • Modernizing agriculture
    • Improving rural infrastructure
    • Cooperatives for rural consumers and industries
  • Aims to increase production, provide jobs, and meet rural needs.

Comprehensive Social Programs:

  • Unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, and other social welfare measures.
  • Aligns economic production with human needs (health, housing, education).

The Necessity of Radical Democracy:

  • Need for freedom and justice remains crucial in the modern world.
  • Scientific thought and humanist philosophy are key to progress.
  • A society driven by reason and creativity can create true democracy.


  • Radical democracy offers a framework for balancing freedom and justice.
  • By emphasizing reason, local participation, and human needs, it aims for a more equitable and participatory society.


Additional Information

Critique of Existing Systems:

  • Rejects traditional democracies for failing to address:
    • Economic inequality
    • Social justice under capitalism
  • Opposes all forms of authoritarianism despite promises of positive outcomes due to suppression of individual freedom.

Core Principles:

  • Scientific Humanism: Reason and critical thinking are the foundation for:
    • Morality
    • Social progress
  • Individual Agency: Individuals are responsible for shaping their own destiny and society’s.
  • Community Empowerment: Local “people’s committees” make decisions and choose representatives.

Structure and Participation:

  • Independent Candidates: Local committees choose representatives, reducing special interest influence.
  • Direct Citizen Participation: Practices like referendums increase accountability and empower citizens.
  • Education and Awareness: Public education cultivates critical thinking and informed citizens.

Economic Justice:

  • Opposes both capitalism and centralized economic models.
  • Advocates for a system prioritizing:
    • Human needs
    • Social justice
  • Emphasizes:
    • Modernizing agriculture
    • Developing local cooperatives
    • Empowering rural populations
    • Equitable wealth distribution
  • Acknowledges the need for social security measures:
    • Unemployment insurance
    • Pensions


  • Addresses the crisis of modern governance and lack of citizen engagement.
  • Offers a path forward through reason, critical thinking, and active citizen participation to shape a better future.


Source : The Hindu

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