Vicki C. Jackson, Equal Voting and Common Knowledge: “Best Lights” Understandings of India’s Founding Democratic Constitutionalism, 4 Jus Cogens 35 (2022) (reviewing Madhav Khosla, India’s Founding Moment: The Constitution of a Most Surprising Democracy (2020)).
Abstract: This review of Madhav Kkhosla’s book, India’s Founding Moment, sees his approach as one of “best lights” understandings, that is, an effort to identify and explain the conceptual underpinnings of India’s founding constitution in their best lights. Khosla emphasizes as key the ways in which the constitution’s requirements of full adult suffrage, its intense specificity of language, and its strongly centralized government form, all contribute conceptually to the creation of the democratic citizen of India—a citizen whose rights across the country were secured by a common constitution and central government, whose knowledge of and ability to exercise rights were enhanced by the constitution’s codified approach, and a citizen whose capacities to participate in democratic processes would be developed by the exercise of democratic rights. The review focuses attention on choices about suffrage, comparing India’s with the less inclusionary founding impulses of the United States constitution. It explores nuances of how codification would and would not promote exercises of citizenship rights, noting the importance of adjudication in the construction of the “common knowledge” to which (according to Khosla) the founders aspired. And the review argues that today, as more illiberal, authoritarian regimes are on the rise, the book’s emphasis on the importance of ideas, words, and common knowledge in constructing liberal, democratic politics is of urgent contemporary importance.