Crafting State Nations: India and Other Multinational Democracies

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I. Introduction It is rare for academic research to claim utility in avoiding violence, ethnic conflict, and even war. Crafting State-Nations: India and Other Multinational Democracies by Alfred Stepan, Juan J. Linz, Yogendra Yadav makes such an assertion, if only indirectly. The authors state their intention to “establish a normative standard to which multinational democracies can aspire” (p. 7) in order to peacefully manage diversity within their borders. Do they succeed? The book argues convincingly that multinational democracies—contrary to theoretical expectations—can elicit a high degree of trust, positive identification with the state, and support for democracy when they deploy a specific set of political institutions that the authors dub “state-nation policies.” Such policies facilitate identification with the state-wide political community while also establishing “institutional safeguards for respecting and protecting politically salient sociocultural diversities” (p. 5). In making their case, the authors privilege breadth over depth: their methodological approach encompasses ideal-type theorizing, cross-country survey data, a detailed case study of India, and shorter descriptions of the Ukraine and the United States. The authors thus do justice to their intention to “expand our collective political imaginations about what is feasible, and unfeasible, in different contexts,” (p. xiv) but the lack of depth means Stepan, Linz, and Yadav do not adequately address the all-important question of what makes a “robustly multinational” polity amenable to state-nation policies in the first place; this flaw undermines the book’s potential utility for leaders of such states. This paper will assess Crafting State-Nations as a resear... ... middle of paper ... ... policymakers on matters of such fundamental importance. V. Conclusion The authors of Crafting State-Nations assert, alternatively, that they intend to “expand our collective political imaginations about what is feasible” and “argue that political leaders in [robustly multinational polities] need to think about craft, and normatively legitimate a type of polity with characteristics of a “state-nation” (p. xiv, p. 3-4). The first goal evidently motivated the authors to employ a wide range of methodological tools and cover as many existing arrangements for managing diversity as possible. The second goal would have been better served with a deeper and more focused research design. While this compelling book certainly succeeds in forcing the reader to rethink political institutions in multinational settings, the normative case for state-nation policies is less clear.

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