Arthasastra: Selections from the Classic Indian Work on by Mark McClish, Patrick Olivelle

By Mark McClish, Patrick Olivelle

The single extant treatise on statecraft from classical India, the Arthasastra is a useful source for figuring out historical South Asian political idea; it additionally offers a complete and exceptional panoramic view of Indian society through the interval among the Maurya (320–185 BCE) and Gupta (320–497 CE) empires.

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Faults within the text of a śāstra can only be explained, therefore, as human error that has crept in as they have been transmitted. The true knowledge that lies behind the śāstra as text—which we might think of as the real śāstra itself—is singular, harmonious, and perfect. 19) and corrects the erroneous opinions given by previous teachers. 8). For him, the procedures of proper governance are to be found not only in texts, but also in what living people actually do. The śāstra itself, as authoritative knowledge on statecraft, however, remains distinct from the specific practices of any given kingdom.

The term daṇḍa here refers to the staff or scepter wielded by the king as the symbol of his unique royal authority. As one of his royal accoutrements, the staff as a weapon represented the king’s ability and willingness to use violence in ruling his kingdom. It represented his monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Thus, the concept of “administration of the staff” refers to the theoretically constructive use of violence in service of upholding justice, preserving public order, and empowering the king—in other words, “government”: What provides enterprise and security to [the various areas of human endeavor] is punishment (daṇḍa); its administration (nīti) is Government (daṇḍanīti).

8). For him, the procedures of proper governance are to be found not only in texts, but also in what living people actually do. The śāstra itself, as authoritative knowledge on statecraft, however, remains distinct from the specific practices of any given kingdom. This appeal to timelessness and placelessness explains a curious feature about the Arthaśāstra that we have noted before: it reveals nothing directly about when or where it was written. It does not refer to contemporary historical events or persons that might aid us in locating the text in space or time.

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Arthasastra: Selections from the Classic Indian Work on by Mark McClish, Patrick Olivelle
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