B.R. Ambedkar and M.K. Gandhi are two figures who have had the most enduring impact on India. Their well-documented divergence and combativeness is met with either facile attempts at synthesis, or the forbidding of any attempt to study them in proximity. Resisting both these positions, Aishwary Kumar’s Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy offers an archeology of the interminable tension between two visions of democracy, two ways of grasping at sovereignty, in the colonial world. With close readings of texts, statements and political stances, Kumar identifies the sites where the two thinkers come closest to each other, while also revealing their irreconcilable distance in thought. Their shared grammar of struggle becomes the ground of their absolute incommensurability. Radical Equality challenges us to think afresh the ideas of equality, justice, freedom and dissent.
Aishwary Kumar is professor of political philosophy and intellectual history in the Department of History of Consciousness at University of California-Santa Cruz, and Senior Fellow in Human Rights and Constitutional Politics at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg: The Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study. He received his MA from Jawaharlal Nehru University and earned his doctorate at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. He has previously taught history and political theory at Stanford University.
‘Kumar is a writer in whose company Ambedkar’s specters make forceful utterances’—Kalyan Kumar Das, in his Foreword
‘Kumar displays a great mastery of sources, and powerfully makes a claim for Ambedkar as a political theorist’—Indian Express
‘There is justice, rare justice in Aishwary Kumar’s book’—Soumyabrata Choudhury, Humanities Underground
‘Radical Equality is an achievement… It rejects an all-too-common trend to read Gandhi and Ambedkar solely in oppositional terms’—Manu Bhagavan, American Historical Review
‘Kumar has restored Ambedkar’s focus on the reclamation of liberty as the freedom to reason’—Oliver Godsmark, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History