Article on E.M. Forster 1

Click here to view my article on law in A Passage to India.  Here is an abstract:

E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India presents Brahman Hindu jurisprudence as an alternative to British rule of law, a utilitarian jurisprudence that hinges on mercantilism, central planning, and imperialism.  Building on John Hasnas’s critiques of rule of law and Murray Rothbard’s critiques of Benthamite utilitarianism, this essay argues that Forster’s depictions of Brahman Hindu in the novel endorse polycentric legal systems.  Mr. Turton is the local district collector whose job is to pander to both British and Indian interests; positioned as such, Turton is a site for critique and comparison.  Forster uses Turton to show that Brahman Hindu jurisprudence is fair and more effective than British bureaucratic administration.  Forster’s depictions of Brahman Hindu are not verisimilar, and Brahman Hindu does not recommend a particular jurisprudence.  But Forster appropriates Brahman Hindu for aesthetic and political purposes and in so doing advocates a jurisprudence that does not reduce all experience to mathematical calculation.  Forster writes against the Benthamite utilitarianism adopted by most colonial administrators in India.  A tough figure to pin down politically, Forster celebrates the individual and personal relations: things that British rule of law seeks to suppress.

One comment

  1. Allen,

    In addition to the list below, I just wanted to express my appreciation for your inclusion of Iyer’s book, Utilitarianism and All That (1983, first published by Chatto and Windus in 1960) among your “works cited” (although out of alphabetical order!). The late Professor Iyer was among my teachers at UC Santa Barbara and from whom I took remarkable courses on anarchist thought, politics and literature, and political philosophy. His wife, Nandini Iyer, also one of my former teachers (Sanskrit, comparative mysticism, etc.) is my best friend. Their son is the writer Pico Iyer, who recently penned a wonderful piece on Henry Miller for the NYRB (Dec. 23, 2010). As I don’t tire of telling folks, Raghavan wrote a nonpareil study, The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi (2nd ed., Concord Grove Press, 1983, 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 1973).

    Utilitarianism today is far more sophisticated than its earlier and imperialist ideological incarnations. As Iyer notes, “like every original and powerful political doctrine, [utilitarianism] can be and has been invoked on behalf of authority as well as freedom,” indeed, it was the elder Mill who “formulated in its extreme form the absurdly extravagant doctrine of ‘oriental despotism’ which provided an alibi for the translation of British utilitarianism into the theory and policy of imperialism in India.”

    For a recent sophisticated invocation of utilitarianism on behalf of democratic governance, see Robert E. Goodin’s excellent collection of essays in his book, Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy (CUP, 1995).

    Thanks generally for the link to your article (I’m otherwise allergic to anything under the adjectival heading of ‘Libertarian…’!).

    For those interested, here’s a list of non-fictional works on Indic and Hindu Law:

    Agarwala, RK. Hindu Law. Allahabad: Central Law Agency, 2003.

    Agnes, Flavia. Law and Gender Inequality: The Politics of Women’s Rights in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000.

    Austin, Granville. The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1966.

    Baird, Robert D., ed. Religion and Law in Independent India. Delhi: Manohar, 1994.

    Banerjee, Tapas Kumar. History of Indian Criminal Law. Calcutta: Riddhi, 1962.

    Baxi, Upendra. The Crisis of the Indian Legal System. New Delhi: Vikas, 1982.

    Buhler, G., trans. The Laws of Manu. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 25. DelhiL Motilal Banarsidass, 1988 (1886).

    Dasgupta, Ramaprasad. Crime and Punishment in Ancient India. Varanasi: Bhartiya, 1973.

    Datta, Bhakti. Sexual Ethics in the Mahabharata in the Light of Dharmashastra Rulings. London: Asia Publ., 1979.

    Day, Terrence. The Concept of Punishment in Early Indian Literature. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1982.

    Derrett, J. Duncan M. Essays in Classical and Modern Hindu Law, 4 Vols. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1976-78.

    Derrett, J. Duncan M. History of Indian Law (Dharmaśāstra). Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973.

    Derrett, J. Duncan M. Religion, Law and the State in India. New York: The Free Press, 1968.

    Desai, Satyajeet. Mulla [on] Principles of Hindu Law. New Delhi: Butterworths, 17th ed., 2000.

    Diwan, Paras. Customary Law (of Punjab and Haryana). Chandigarh: Panjab University, 1984′

    Diwan, Paras and Peeyushi Diwan. Modern Hindu Law: Codified and Uncodified. Allahabad: Allahabad Law Agency, 9th ed., 1993.

    Doniger, Wendy and Brian K. Smith, trans. The Laws of Manu. London: Penguin, 1999.

    Dumont, Louis. Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications. Chicago, IL:
    University of Chicago Press, revised ed., 1980.

    Fisch, Jörg. Cheap Lives and Dear Limbs: The British Transformation of the Bengal Criminal Law, 1769-1817. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1983.

    Galanter, Marc. Law and Society in Modern India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989.

    Glucklich, Ariel. Religious Jurisprudence in the Dharmaśāstra. New York: Macmillan, 1988.

    Jain, M.P. Outlines of Indian Legal History. Bombay: N.M. Tripathi, 4th ed., 1981.

    Jois, Rama. Seeds of Modern Public Law in Ancient Indian Jurisprudence. Lucknow: Eastern Book Co.,
    Kane, P.V. History of Dharmaśāstra, 5 Vols. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1968-74.

    Kangle, R.P. The Kautiliya Arthashastra. Bombay: University of Bombay, 1972.

    Kulke, Hermann, ed. The State in India 1000-1700. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995.

    Larson, Gerald James, ed. Religion and Personal Law in Secular India. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001.

    Leslie, Julia, ed. Rules and Remedies in Classical Indian Law. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991.

    Lingat, Robert (J. Duncan M. Derrett, trans.). Classical Law in India. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1973.

    Luthera, Ved Prakash. The Concept of the Secular State and India. Calcutta: Oxford University Press, 1964.

    Menski, Werner. Hindu Law: Beyond Tradition and Modernity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    Menski, Werner. Modern Indian Family Law. Richmond: Curzon Press, 2001.

    Nanda, Ved P. and Surya Prakash Sinha, eds. Hindu Law and Legal Theory. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

    Olivelle, Patrick. Dharmasūtras: The Law Codes of Āpastamba, Gautama, Baudhāyana and Vaisistha. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

    Olivelle, Patrick (with Suman Olivelle). Manu’s Code of Law: A Critical Edition and Translation of the Mānava-dharmaśāstra. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    Purohit, S.K. Ancient Indian Legal Philosophy: Its Relevance to Contemporary Jurisprudential Thought. New Delhi: Deep & Deep, 1994.

    Rajan, Rajeswari Sunder. The Scandal of the State: Women, Law and Citizenship in Postcolonial India. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

    Rocher, Ludo. Jīmutavāhana’s Dāyabhāga: The Hindu Law of Inheritance in Bengal (edited and translated with an introduction and notes). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    Sarkar, G. Hindu Law. Calcutta: Sarkar & Sons, 8th ed., 1940.

    Sharma, Arvind. Hinduism and Human Rights: A Conceptual Approach. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    Sontheimer, Günther-Dietz. The Joint Hindu Family: Its Evolution as a Legal System. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1977.

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