There have been many studies on Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s conceptualization of democracy, predominantly explained through the lens of social, political, and economic philosophies.
- Ambedkar’s last work, The Buddha and His Dhamma shed light on how he understood democracy as a concept that affected every aspect of human life; it was essentially a way of life.
- Ambedkar’s moral principles were rooted in Buddhist philosophies, he was also critical of extreme individualism that was a possible outcome of Buddhism, as such characteristics failed to engage in activism that challenged social order. Thus, he believed that there needed to be a balance between individualism and fraternity for a harmonious society.
- Ambedkar gave utmost importance to practicality. For him, concepts and theories needed to be tested as they were supposed to be practised in society. He used rationality and critical reasoning to analyze any subject matter, because he believed that a subject must first pass the test of rationality, failing which, it must be rejected, altered, or modified.
- Ambedkar divides morality into two categories: Social Morality and Constitutional Morality.
- Social Morality: It was built through interaction, and that interaction was based on mutual recognition of human beings. However, due to the rigid systems of caste and religion, such interaction was not possible because one did not accept another person as a respectable human being because of their religion or caste background. Social morality was founded on human equality and respect.
- Constitutional Morality: It was a prerequisite for maintaining a democratic system in a country. He believed that only through a negation of hereditary rule, laws that represented all people, with people’s representatives and a State which has the confidence of the people, can democracy be maintained. A single person or political party cannot represent the needs or desires of all people.
- Ambedkar realized that the caste system did not fit with his understanding of moral democracy. This was due to the traditional caste structure’s hierarchical rule, with no mutual respect among individuals and complete subjugation of one group by another.
The Buddha and His Dhamma
- Ambedkar elaborates in The Buddha and His Dhamma on how the concepts of Dhamma, which include Prajna or thinking and understanding, Sila or good action, and finally Karuna or kindness, emerge as a morally transformative concept that dismantles regressive social relations.
- The incorporation of such rules aids in transforming the traditional approach to democracy in order to create a new form of democracy based on moral concepts.
- Thus, Ambedkar’s concept of moral democracy rejects traditional caste-based religion that hinders social interaction and universalizes negative particularistic values, replacing them with positive particularistic values and moral orders that bind human beings together.