National Self Determination and Justice: Rawls and Tagore

Culture and Dialogue 7 (2):117-139 (2019)
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This essay is a study on national self-determination and justice from the differing perspectives of John Rawls and Rabindranath Tagore. Both thinkers have addressed the problem of conflict caused by national loyalties. Influenced by Immanuel Kant’s philosophy of cosmopolitanism, John Rawls articulates the “Law of People” that suggests that mutual consent consists in economic interdependence among nations and tolerance for cultural diversity under monitored conditions of the international relations. Such an arrangement is not inclusive as it excludes the subaltern perspectives and reinforces the hierarchies between East and West. Tagore offers post-colonial versions of nationalism and cosmopolitanism that call for a creative and spiritual unity of nations through cultural exchange where each is equal in dialogue. The essay makes a case for Tagore’s cosmopolitanism being more inclusive than Rawls, yet, limited in its accommodation of the “other” as Tagore’s creative unity domesticates this “other” on the basis of spiritual familiarity. The essay also critiques Martha Nussbaum’s cosmopolitanism that suggests reconciliation of both. It makes a case for a paradoxical understanding of hospitality, friendship and otherness theorized by Jacques Derrida as the basis of self-determination and global justice.



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