Policy Sciences

, Volume 22, Issue 3–4, pp 415–436 | Cite as

Language policy and political strategy in India

  • David D. Laitin


The official language policy of India is described as a 3 ± 1 language outcome. The central question that guides this paper is to explain why, when Congress leaders attempted to provide for India a single indigenous language for official communication, have they suffered more opposition than have rulers of states that consolidated in earlier centuries? Standard explanations for the different outcome, relying on special attributes of Indian culture and history, are found to be inadequate. A game theoretic analysis of political strategy helps to highlight two variables that best explain India's language outcome: the world historical time of state consolidation; and the nature of politician/bureaucrat relations for postcolonial states.


Theoretic Analysis Economic Policy Historical Time Special Attribute Language Policy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Apte, M. L. (1976). ‘Multilingualism in India and Its Socio-political Implications: An Overview,’ in William M. O'Barr and Jean F. O'Barr, eds. Language and Politics (The Hague: Mouton).Google Scholar
  2. Austin, Granville (1966). The Indian Constitution (Oxford: Clarendon Press).Google Scholar
  3. Bendix, R. (1978). Kings or People (Berkeley: University of California).Google Scholar
  4. Bhattacharyya, Jnanabrata (1987). ‘Language, Class and Community in Bengal.’ South Asia Bulletin v. 7.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, A. (1969). Custom and Politics in Urban Africa (Berkeley: University of California).Google Scholar
  6. Das Gupta, J. (1970). Language Conflict and National Development (Berkeley: University of California).Google Scholar
  7. Das Gupta, J. (1976). ‘Practice and Theory of Language Planning: The Indian Policy Process,’ in William M. O'Barr and Jean F O'Barr, eds. Language and Politics (The Hague: Mouton).Google Scholar
  8. Deutsch, Karl (1953). Nationalism and Social Communication (Cambridge: MIT).Google Scholar
  9. DiMaggio, P. J. and W. W. Powell (1983). ‘The iron cage revisited: institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields.’ American Sociological Review (April), 147–160.Google Scholar
  10. Dixit, Avinash and Barry Nalebuff (forthcoming). Strategic Thinking and Action.Google Scholar
  11. Dua, Hans R. (1985). Language Planning in India (New Delhi: Harnam Publications).Google Scholar
  12. Dua, Hans R. (1986). Language Use, Attitudes and Identity among Linguistic Minorities (Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages).Google Scholar
  13. Esman, Milton J. (1987). ‘Language Regimes and Political Community in South and Southeast Asia.’ Paper prepared for presentation to conference on Language Planning and Political Development, Bad Homburg, West Germany.Google Scholar
  14. Fishman, Joshua, Charles A. Ferguson and Jyotirindra Das Gupta, eds. (1968). Language Problems of Developing Nations (New York: Wiley).Google Scholar
  15. Frykenberg, R. E. (1965). Guntur District 1788–1848 (Oxford: Clarendon).Google Scholar
  16. Gandhi, K. L. (1984). The Problem of Official Language in India (New Delhi: Arya Book Depot).Google Scholar
  17. Hardgrave, R. L. and S. A. Kochanek (1986). India (San Diego: Harcourt Brace), 4th edition.Google Scholar
  18. Harrison, Selig (1957). The Most Dangerous Decades: An Introduction to the Comparative Study of Language Policy in Multi-Lingual States (Language and Communication Research Center, Columbia University).Google Scholar
  19. Katzenstein, M. F. (1979). Ethnicity and Equality (Ithaca: Cornell).Google Scholar
  20. Kher, B. G. (1956). ‘Report of the Official Language Commission’ (New Delhi: Government of India Press).Google Scholar
  21. Kelkar, A. (1980). ‘Marathi as a State Language.’ New Quest (Bombay), no. 23.Google Scholar
  22. Laitin, David (1988). ‘Language Games.’ Comparative Politics 20, 3.Google Scholar
  23. Laitin, David (forthcoming). ‘Migration and Language Shift in Urban India’ in a volume to be edited by Carol Eastman.Google Scholar
  24. Mallikarjun, B. (1986). Language Use in Administration and National Integration (Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages).Google Scholar
  25. Nayar, B. R. (1969). National Communication and Language Policy in India (New York: Praeger).Google Scholar
  26. Pandit, P. B. (1972). India as a Sociolinguistic Area (Poona: Deccan College).Google Scholar
  27. Patil, V. T. and B. C. Patil (1982). Problems in Indian Education (New Delhi: Oxford).Google Scholar
  28. Poggi, G. (1978). The Development of the Modern State (Stanford: Stanford University Press).Google Scholar
  29. Potter, D. (1986). India's Political Administrators 1919–1983 (Oxford: Clarendon Press).Google Scholar
  30. Price, Robert (1975). Society and Bureaucracy in Contemporary Ghana (Berkeley: University of California).Google Scholar
  31. Robinson, F. (1974). Separatism among Indian Muslims (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  32. Rubin, Joan and Björn Jernudd, eds. (1971). Can Language Be Planned? (Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press).Google Scholar
  33. Rudolph, L. I. and S. H. Rudolph, ‘The Subcontinental Empire and the Regional Kingdom in Indian State Formation,’ in P. Wallace Region and Nation in India (New Delhi: Oxford, 1985).Google Scholar
  34. Srivastava, R. N. (1983). ‘Linguistic Minorities and National Languages’ (Delhi University: mimeo).Google Scholar
  35. Schwartzberg, J. E. (1985). ‘Factors in the Linguistic Reorganization of Indian States,’ in P. Wallace Region and Nation in India (New Delhi: Oxford, 1985).Google Scholar
  36. Taub, R. (1969). Bureaucrats Under Stress (Berkeley: University of California).Google Scholar
  37. Weber, E. (1976). Peasants into Frenchmen (Stanford: Stanford University).Google Scholar
  38. Weber, Max (1968). Economy and Society (Berkeley: University of California).Google Scholar
  39. Weiner, Myron (1978). Sons of the Soil: Migration and Ethnic Conflict in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press).Google Scholar
  40. Whiteley, W. H. (1971). Language Use and Social Change (London: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  41. Zamen, Muchtar (1984). The Language Policy of India: Problems of its implementation and their solution (Islamabad: National Language Authority).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • David D. Laitin
    • 1
  1. 1.Political Science DepartmentUniversity of ChicagoChicagoU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations