Knowledge and Human Liberation

Knowledge and Human Liberation

Towards Planetary Realizations

By Ananta Kumar Giri

Key Issues in Modern Sociology

Human liberation has become an epochal challenge in today’s world, requiring not only emancipation from oppressive structures but also from the oppressive self. This book seeks to rethink knowledge vis-à-vis familiar themes such as human interest, critical theory and cosmopolitanism.

PDF, 332 Pages


February 2013

£20.00, $32.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

Human liberation has become an epochal challenge in today’s world, requiring not only emancipation from oppressive structures but also from the oppressive self.  It is a multidimensional struggle and aspiration in which knowledge – self, social and spiritual – can play a transformative role. ‘Knowledge and Human Liberation: Towards Planetary Realizations’ undertakes such a journey of transformation, and seeks to rethink knowledge vis-à-vis the familiar themes of human interest, critical theory, enlightenment, ethnography, democracy, pluralism, rationality, secularism and cosmopolitanism.

Knowledge today is imprisoned not only in structures of domination but also in varieties of dualisms – expert and the lay, cognitive and emotional – and thus we are in need of a new art of cultivating non-duality and wholeness. The present book seeks to nurture the garden of liberatory and transformational knowledge by presenting alternative pathways gathered from many different global locations and traditions. Discussing diverse thinkers such as Sri Aurobindo, Jürgen Habermas, Erasmus, Kant, Tocqueville, Gandhi, Foucault, Daya Krishna, Ramachandra Gandhi and Martha Nussbaum, this text seeks to rethink some important themes in the contemporary discourse of knowledge, including: knowledge as power; knowledge as emancipatory interest; evolution; rationality; power; freedom; anthropology; history; law; compassion and confrontation; epistemology; ontology; political consumerism and responsible consumption; civil society and self-development; and rights.

Offering a groundbreaking and interdisciplinary exploration of ideas about social transformation, ‘Knowledge and Human Liberation’ bridges both Eastern and Western philosophy to create a definition of transformative knowledge that defies Eurocentric thinking. Via the discourses of sociology, philosophy, religion and spirituality, the text rethinks the relationship between knowledge production and ideas to offer a unique perspective on the issue of human liberation in today’s oppressive world. The volume also features a Foreword by John Clammer (United Nations University, Tokyo) and an Afterword by Fred Dallmayr (University of Notre Dame).


 “This book by Ananta Kumar Giri is very timely as the author discusses one of the key trends of contemporary global changes – knowledge, human liberation and planetary realizations. Indeed, sometimes too much attention is paid to the economic and also political dimensions of globalization while the role and transformations of the ‘human capital’ do not get much attention. Giri shows that what is really becoming the greatest value nowadays is the intellectual and moral background of civilization concentrated in the person, that in the globalizing world knowledge is acquiring the status of a high value and as the most important precondition for social development. In this book high academic standard is combined with the clearly displayed humanistic position of the author who advocates for bridging the East and the West, the First, Second, and Third Worlds on the background of shared knowledge and morality that underpins it. In his humanistic socio-historical stance Giri, at all significant distinctions in approaches, resembles another searcher of the world civilization’s foundations, Karl Jaspers. Indeed, Giri, an Indian who has worked intensively overseas, combines the East and the West in himself what makes his book even more interesting and instructive for the reader.” —Dmitri M. Bondarenko, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

“Perspective taking with a deep knowledge of reality and an imaginary view of future is a major requirement of the ‘critical theory,’ and it can be met only in a work like this book, and by a scholar like its author.” —Tong Shijun, Director of the Institute of Philosophy, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences

“Ananta Kumar Giri’s new book is an attempt at fostering epistemological awareness, making us conscious about the presuppositions within which we think and act. What it argues in particular is that this awareness is hidden in forms of knowledge that are permeated by power. Therefore we are forced to find this awareness by critical self-observation. To do so Giri draws on a series of, at first glance, highly divergent writers such as Habermas or Sri Aurobindo, an Indian social thinker and many others, to find a basis for this self-liberation. In addition, he adds what can be called an emotional component to this process of self-liberation, the quasi-religious idea of joy disentangled from repressive affects that permeate us through knowledge and acting. This book is to be recommended to all who want to have a look beyond what is normally discussed in treaties on epistemology. It makes us think more deeply about our normative presuppositions, about new foundations of a critical theory and about the role of religion in our craft as social and political theorists.” —Klaus Eder, Professor of Sociology, Humboldt University, Berlin

“‘Knowledge and Human Liberation’ not only calls for transcivilizational and transcultural dialogues but practices them in a beautiful and engaged manner. Ananta Kumar Giri juxtaposes for instance Jürgen Habermas with Sri Aurobindo, Martha Nussbaum with Mahatma Gandhi, and Fred Dallmayer with Daisaku Ikeda, drawing important lessons from each encounter. For him, personal self-development, global democracy and cultivation of our cosmic humanity go hand-in-hand. Giri is replacing anti-colonial anger with a dialogue on cosmopolitanism; and simultaneously reminds Western progressive cosmopolitans of their limited and biased understanding of other cultures. Warmly recommended reading for anyone interested in the future of humanity!” —Heikki Patomäki, Professor of International Relations, University of Helsinki

“Ananta Kumar Giri’s book is one of the first major works of a new era. The global South has passed through stages of copying, denying and outflanking the global North. Indian scholars have been busy trying to adapt modernization theory to India, to develop a nationalist frame of reference and to portray Indian traditions as an alternative to the modern West. In all of these attempts, the West has remained the frame of reference. We are now entering an era in which the global South is actually starting to develop new frames of reference. Giri’s book is situated at this junction and in one important regard even beyond it. It calls for a global epistemology conceived as conversation of differing traditions and frames of references. The book exemplifies this conversation with regard to the European critical epistemology and Indian spirituality. This is a first step out of the impasse of the struggle of -isms and post-isms” —Boike Rehbein, Professor of Asian and African Societies, Humboldt University, Berlin

“Going beyond the conventional functions of description, explanation and prediction of the knowledge enterprise, which is currently a tool of commercialization and political domination, Dr. Ananta Kumar Giri attempts to provide a framework for creating compassionate and transformative knowledge in which, the self, the other and the world (encapsulating both humanity and nature) are partners in producing knowledge so that knowledge becomes liberative. Admittedly, this book deserves to be widely read, discussed and commented.” —T. K. Oommen, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

“One of the conditions under which knowledge can be a force for liberation from narrow concerns and false dichotomies has to be knowledge’s own liberation. The issue then becomes how we can know what liberation might be. If anyone can at once pose and answer this question, it is Ananta Kumar Giri.” —Dame Marilyn Strathern, William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology (Emeritus), University of Cambridge

Author Information

Ananta Kumar Giri is an associate professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies in Chennai, India.



Key Issues in Modern Sociology

Table of Contents

Preface; Acknowledgments; Foreword by John Clammer; Introduction: The Calling of Transformative Knowledge; PART I – NURTURING THE GARDEN OF TRANSFORMATIONAL KNOWLEDGE: ROOTS AND VARIANTS: 1. Knowledge and Human Liberation: Jürgen Habermas, Sri Aurobindo and Beyond; 2. Beyond West and East: Co-evolution and the Calling of a New Enlightenment and Non-duality; 3. The Modern Prince and the Modern Sage: Transforming Power and Freedom; 4. Kant and Anthropology; 5. Tocqueville as an Ethnographer of American Prison Systems and Democratic Practice; PART II – RETHINKING KNOWLEDGE: 6. Some Recent Reconsiderations of Rationality; 7. Contemporary Challenges to the Idea of History; 8. Rule of Law and the Calling of “Dharma”: Colonial Encounters, Post-colonial Experiments and Beyond; 9. Compassion and Confrontation: Dialogic Experiments with Traditions and Pathways to New Futures; 10. Rethinking Pluralism and Rights: Meditative Verbs of Co-realizations and the Challenges of Transformations; 11. The Calling of a New Critical Theory: Self-Development, Inclusion of the Other and Planetary Realizations; PART III – ASPIRATIONS AND STRUGGLES FOR LIBERATION:TOWARDS PLANETARY REALIZATIONS:12. Rethinking the Politics and Ethics of Consumption: Dialogues with “Swadeshi” Movements and Gandhi; 13. Swaraj as Blossoming: Compassion, Confrontation and a New Art of Integration; 14. Civil Society and the Calling of Self-Development; 15. The Calling of Practical Spirituality: Transformations in Science and Religion and New Dialogues on Self, Transcendence and Society; 16. Spiritual Cultivation for a Secular Society; 17. Cosmopolitanism and Beyond: Towards Planetary Realizations; Afterword by Fred Dallmayr; Advance Praise


No Podcasts for this title.
Comodo SSL