Kautilya Meets Buddha: Arthaśāstra Between the Realpolitik and Moralpolitik of Aśoka’s Mauryan Empire

  • Deepshikha Shahi
Part of the Global Political Thinkers book series (GPT)


Aśoka’s Mauryan Empire is a remarkable exemplar of Kautilyan ‘Political Realism between realpolitik and moralpolitik’. Noticeably, Aśoka’s Mauryan Empire—as a fusion of realpolitik and moralpolitik—offers a non-Western alternative to the ‘rationalist-reflectivist debate’ on legitimate exercise of power in Eurocentric IR. The rationalist-reflectivist debate on legitimate exercise of power in Eurocentric IR revolves around the diverged doctrines of realpolitik and moralpolitik: as such, ‘realpolitik’ (as in rationalist theories of Classical Realism and Neorealism) legitimizes the exercise of power in international politics even if it has antagonistic tensions with abstract moral-ethical concerns, whereas ‘moralpolitik’ (as in reflectivist theories of Critical International Theory, Feminism, Postmodernism etc.) does not legitimize the exercise of power in international politics if it has antagonistic tensions with abstract moral-ethical concerns. Counter to these diverged doctrines in Eurocentric IR, this chapter sets out to install Aśoka’s Mauryan Empire as a peculiar meeting point of the ‘commonalities’ between two ancient Indian political thoughts: (i) ‘Kautilyan’ (usually depicted as realpolitik); and (ii) ‘Buddhist’ (generally accepted as moralpolitik).


Aśoka Kautilyan Buddhist 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Deepshikha Shahi
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DelhiNew DelhiIndia

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