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Ambedkar’s idea of a moral democracy

GS Paper 4

Syllabus: Moral Thinkers

Deccan Herald, The Hindu

Context: 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.


Types of morality according to Ambedkar:

Ambedkar divides morality into social morality and constitutional morality.

  • Social morality was built through interaction and such interaction was based on the mutual recognition of human beings.
  • Social morality was based on equality among human beings and a recognition of respect.
  • Constitutional morality for Ambedkar was a prerequisite to maintaining a system of democracy in a country. 

Ambedkar’s concept of moral democracy must also be studied through the lenses of particularism (a political theory where one group promotes its own interests without regard to the interests of larger groups) and universality (a theory that some ideas have universal application or applicability).


Ethics perspective of morality:

Humans tend to rate themselves more highly than other people not just on factors like intelligence and friendliness, but also ironically, on modesty.

This is the “self-enhancement effect”, and it holds true for several parameters.

  • Believing ourselves to be more moral than other people is problematic for more than one reason — the first, and most obvious, is that it is irrational to believe so, and can cause us to look down upon people who act differently than we do, either due to circumstance or by choice.
  • Second, and perhaps even more troubling, is that believing oneself to be morally superior leads to a phenomenon known as moral licensing. This is when somebody acts morally and then relaxes their moral standards and allows themselves to act unethically in other circumstances.
  • This moral licensing plays out in our lives in small ways every day. I might feel less guilty indulging in a big serving of chocolate cake post-dinner if I ate a salad for lunch. I might also feel justified liberally using environmentally unfriendly paper towels to clean my kitchen simply because I drive an electric car.


Insta Links:

Morality and Sources of Morality


Mains Link: UPSC 2019

Q. What is meant by the term ‘constitutional morality’? How does one uphold constitutional morality?