44. “The Oft-Ignored Mr. Turton: The Role of District Collector in A Passage to India”

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Abstract: E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India presents Brahman Hindu jurisprudence as an alternative to British rule of law, a utilitarian jurisprudence that hinges on mercantilism, central planning, and imperialism.  Building on John Hasnas’s critiques of rule of law and Murray Rothbard’s critiques of Benthamite utilitarianism, this essay argues that Forster’s depictions of Brahman Hindu in the novel endorse polycentric legal systems.  Mr. Turton is the local district collector whose job is to pander to both British and Indian interests; positioned as such, Turton is a site for critique and comparison.  Forster uses Turton to show that Brahman Hindu jurisprudence is fair and more effective than British bureaucratic administration.  Forster’s depictions of Brahman Hindu are not verisimilar, and Brahman Hindu does not recommend a particular jurisprudence.  But Forster appropriates Brahman Hindu for aesthetic and political purposes and in so doing advocates a jurisprudence that does not reduce all experience to mathematical calculation.  Forster writes against the Benthamite utilitarianism adopted by most colonial administrators in India.  A tough figure to pin down politically, Forster celebrates the individual and personal relations: things that British rule of law seeks to suppress.

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