Shruti Kapila & Feisal Devji have said-
Though part of an ancient epic tradition, the Gita did not achieve its current pre-eminence until very recently.
This is false. Adi Sankara chose the Bhagvad Gita for his commentary and declared hearing it to be sufficient to gain liberation. So for over a thousand years, though interpretations may have differed, high caste Hindus accorded the Gita a very high status. More than that can not be maintained as 'pre-eminence' belongs to the Rg Veda.
Its resurgence and reinterpretation, in short, are coterminous with the formation of modern life and politics
This is wholly false. There was no particular 'resurgence' and all interpretations were 'reinterpretations' because the text was considered to have the quality of apoorvata- i.e. to truly read it would be to find something novel in it.
Devji, as a Muslim, may be excused for ignorance about the Gita. However, he must surely know something about 'modern life and politics'. Neither have much to do with the Gita because modern life and politics has little to do with Religion though no doubt Hindus as a group wanted various things which they got in independent India. On the other hand they had to run away from Pakistan because there it was the Muslims who got what they wanted.
Devji & Kapila say
the text of the dialogue was itself given new life during the colonial period, when it was praised and condemned by European or American thinkers in equal measure as the chief philosophical statement of Hinduism.
This is false. Westerners initially thought the Laws of Manu the most important text. At a later point, the dramatic nature of the Gita gained it some attention but this was an idiosyncratic affair. Indology as an academic subject was constantly finding new horizons. Those at its periphery, in an amateur fashion, praised or dispraised this and other exotic texts. But they also said stupid things about Sophocles and Ossian and Hamlet and Hafiz and so forth. Such was the parochial fate of 'universal' literature. It represented a peevish type of criticism ; it wasn't art. Anyway, all those boring old farts were soon discovered to be fucked in the head. Nobody bothered with them till stupid, whiney, Edward Said wannabe, po-co Professors started talking garbled nonsense about how Hegel saying something mean about the Hindus was very very important because...urm...Marx was Hegelian, right? And Communism is like Marxist right? And the Rooskies are still Commies, right? What's that? They aint Commies? Marxism just fucked off and died? Hegel doesn't matter any more? Well, let's just keep this under our hat and continue teaching worthless nonsense to our cretinous students...
It was as a transnational document of this kind that the Gita came to represent Indian or Hindu political thought.
To a couple of Professors whom everybody else just ignored. It was obvious that genuine political thought was about money and military might and geopolitics and international trade and finance.
And though other ancient texts, like the Arthashastra or Science of Power,
which was only rediscovered around 1905
might vie with the Gita in terms of international celebrity,
Fuck off! Nobody reads Kautilya's turgid shite. They may pretend to have done so- but that's why they are stuck teaching adolescents who will make way more money than them within a couple of years.
only the latter became a source for Indians who sought to deﬁne their politics in its terms.
Except not one single Hindu actually did so. Everybody defined their politics in purely political terms- parliamentary or Cabinet seats, or whatever else might help them get hold of money and power. Some Hindus might write a commentary on the Gita while in prison but they might equally write a children's history of the world or an autobiography or something of that sort.
The Gita has literary merit and thus did make an impression on cultured people in the West. Indeed, there was a Mexican President who signed himself 'Arjuna'. But, by then, there were Indians in America and Europe- some of whom were proselytizing for their sect while others were engaged in nationalistic work. In England, Yeats, Auden and Isherwood were targeted by Hindu holy men who got them to translate or help them to translate various Hindu texts. The Theosophical Society played a big role in promoting this horrible fad.
the Gita and with it Hinduism itself achieved a kind of territorial transcendence
just like Buddhism of various types. Some strains of Sufism too went 'global' as did the Ba'hai Faith at a later point.
by forsaking the rest of Asia to join a debate with the West alone, given that the book attracted little attention in other parts of the world. This debate, moreover, broke with the exegetical tradition within which the text had previously been studied.
in other words, the thing was a fad.
But at the same time as it allowed Hinduism to become in some sense a
but only as a fad
the Gita also permitted Indian political thought to part company with its European equivalent in the use that was made of it to rethink politics in a novel language of action without consequence.
i.e. as a fad or particularly stupid cult- like Tolstoyism or Theosophy itself.
Indeed, it is remarkable how many of India’s political and intellectual leaders of the last century and a half wrote detailed and extensive commentaries on the Gita, which they saw not simply in a romantic way as some authentic source of statecraft, but as a book that allowed them to reconsider the nature of politics itself.
What is remarkable about a bunch of guys in the same line of work writing the same sort of shite? Tilak does a version of the Gita, in his language, while in jail. This means Gandhi must do one in his language and Bhave in his and so forth. But all these versions of the Gita were silly. What's important about about a Religious text is the magnification of God's glory and the blissful Faith this generates because Grace is part of that Glory.
Meanwhile, the nature of politics does not change even if you claim some book has transformed you in some utterly marvelous way and so you will be less shite next time round.
And the essays in this special issue of Modern Intellectual History are concerned precisely with this effort to establish a new tradition of political thought in India, one that took the Bhagavad Gita as both its source and its model.
This tradition was vacuous shite but it helped pass the time in prison till India became independent coz of Hitler & Tojo. Each and every article in this book is foolish and based on mischievous academic availability cascades.
In this sense the text plays the kind of role in Indian political thinking that Machiavelli’s Prince or Hobbes’s Leviathan do for its European equivalents, being like them a thoroughly modern work.
Which nobody who was doing well in politics bothered with. Later some worthless pedants started gassing on about Hobbes and Locke like they weren't shitheads. Machiavelli, on the other hand, did write well and wanted a united Italy. But Italy wasn't a boring country then- being more of a geographical expression. Most other countries however had extremely boring politics.
As a text of colonial politics, the Gita
does not exist. It is merely a coded way of saying 'Hindus, arise! Get busy already! For fuck's sake, don't just sit there- do something!'
permits war to be placed at the centre of debate in a national movement that would not or could not wage it against Britain.
Initially, the notion was that Indians could get guns from Germany and liberate their country by military means. When that dream failed, there was the notion that going to jail often enough would be helpful in some occult way.
But rather than seeing the attention paid to war in these discussions as
a fantasy of imperialism’s violent overthrow, what is interesting about it is the fact that the enemy who must be killed is always, as was the case with Arjuna in the original, a brother, friend or teacher.
Which is why the Ramayan, not the Gita, was important. Lord Ram kills rakshasas who are smart and have cool tech, but who belong to a different species.
At no point, in other words, do these commentaries deﬁne the political opponent as alien, the problem being always the reverse, that he is familiar and far too intimate.
But this isn't much of a problem coz the guy is shooting arrows at you and so, either you get killed or you start shooting arrows back. If someone has to die- let it be an intimate rather than oneself. This is perfectly rational. We aren't talking of Macbeth stabbing a defenseless old man. We are talking of a war where, it was quite usual, for Princely cousins to be on opposite sides. Look at the Kaiser's war. Both the Tzar and the King Emperor were related to him. Still all these titled nincompoops fought each other till Empires disappeared in Europe and the Aristocracy fell on hard times.
As if this did not render the political relationship problematic enough, the text’s modern interpreters rarely if ever named the colonial power as their enemy, not out of fear so much as because they were interested in generalizing what they thought was the political truth enunciated by the Gita into a theoretical one capable of universal application.
But, because they had shit for brains and were shite at politics, what they wrote was worthless. True, if you are descended from one of these cretins, or can get paid to do so, you may pretend otherwise. But actual politics is about hiring Prashant Kishor, not reading some fucking commentary on the Gita.
In this way the Gita allowed Indians to think of politics beyond and after
But they could do this even better just by imagining how their lives would improve if they held the power currently in the hands of British officials. It is silly to bring the Gita- or Antigone or Macbeth or any other such dramatic work- into this type of thinking.
If Indian anti-Colonial politics was based on some ancient text, the question arises, what ancient text was the various African anti-colonial movements based on? Nepal wasn't conquered- was this because it had a superior interpretation of the Gita, or was it because the Gurkhas are darned good soldiers?
Yet such a politics was not conceived as a set of idealized interactions
predicated upon some normative vision of a national or international order, but instead continued to be spoken about in terms of the most disruptive violence.
Why? Because all politics conceived as everybody being nice and no one being nasty is utterly puerile.
Rather than being wedded to a conventional, if not utopian, notion of a nationalist future, therefore, the men and women described in the essays that make up this volume insisted upon thinking of politics in an open or undetermined way.
Which is why their thoughts were shit- except when they weren't because neither Sita, nor Gita nor Meeta nor Cheetah played any fucking part in their thinking.
As a foundational text of anticolonial politics the Gita
did not exist for the excellent reason that natives who want to get rid of colonists don't need no fucking texts. They just need to believe they will be better off slitting the furriner's throat and taking all his cool stuff.
thus announced the end of a certain reckoning of time and history.
Nope. There may have been some tribes somewhere which rebelled against Whitey coz they thought the End of Days was at hand but nothing of the sort happened in Hindu India.
Again, without being a prescriptive or doctrinal text, it nevertheless provided a stable point of conceptual referents.
Fuck are these fuckwits talking about? Gita is prescriptive and doctrinal for caste Hindus. It says perform your hereditary duties- even if only on a part-time basis if you are fortunate enough to be able to pursue some more lucrative profession.
Thus while the questions of ethics, war and action remained stable, there was a range of multiple interpretations on these issues.
No. The Gita says if you have undertaken to perform a particular duty- just do it already. Don't start vaporing like a sissy. Indulge in no soliloquies. Do what you promised or be regarded a poltroon.
Fundamentally, these interpretations were concerned with the formation of the political.
No they weren't. For the formation of the political you have to found a polis by clearing land and inviting settlers and setting up social choice and judicial mechanisms. The Gita has nothing to say about this.
It is striking that Western canonical thinking on the political
is completely shit. That is why you can make lots of money either as a lawyer or as an economist or a lawyer turned politician or a politician with an economic agenda, but you are regarded as a cretin if you teach political philosophy to adolescents.
took the state as its central point of reference concerning issues of violence, sovereignty and authority.
What else were they supposed to do? A polis is a State. Politics is Statecraft. These guys would have looked silly if they had taken the toilet as the central point of reference for issues of sovereignty, authority and judicial punishment.
Precisely because the realm of the state in India was at once alien and also the source of colonization,
The realm of the State in India was India. However, ultimate power over the realm of India was wielded in Westminster- a very alien place indeed. The source of colonization was the Royal Navy- again something pretty alien to Indian landlubbers.
the Gita, with its focus on fratricidal violence, became the point of departure for questions both political and ethical.
But the answers were immediate. Do what you are paid to do. Don't be a shirker. God will take on your sins provided you only committed them while dispassionately discharging your duty.
In short, the political by deﬁnition existed beyond the state in these formulations.
If so, the definition was stupid and useless. One may as well say, 'meaning by definition exists beyond the shite I write so gimme tenure already in some worthless University Dept. BTW I iz bleck. So this is a case of intellectual affirmative action.
An instructive point of comparison in this case would be the underlying implications of violence and transformation in Thucydides’ interpretation of the Peloponnesian War that has unsurprisingly remained productive for Western political theory.
But that sort of Western political theory has not been productive at all. It is merely some shite adolescents have to swot up to get a credential whose value declines from decade to decade.
Whereas the fundamental issues in the Greek-inspired literature are the consequences of human hubris in the destruction of the state,
Tell this to Bo Jo whose hubris might yet wreck this United Kingdom. He can read Greek, you know. Much comfort that will be to us.
modern discussions of the Gita, by contrast, ﬁrst and foremost make God an aspect of the human through the character of Lord Krishna.
Why stop there? Why not make mermaids and unicorns aspects of the human?
This descent of the divine to an earthly battleﬁeld pointed both to the limits of the human and to the nature of war as a necessity for the restoration of a moral order (dharma).
Death does represent a serious limitation to what humans can do. Wow! This sure is a very profound essay! Killing nasty peeps may be necessary to restore niceness but what works even better is making it clear that they have a choice between playing nice and dying nasty. This is called incentive compatible mechanism design- or reverse game theory. Oddly, the Mahabharat teaches that knowledge of statistical game theory is necessary for a Principal to overcome 'vishada'- abulia.
This humanization of God in the face of the inhumanity of war allowed for the relativization and indeed the transcendence of the issues of good and evil.
Sadly, saying cats are dogs would have exactly the same effect. That's how ex falso quodlibet works. Admitting a falsehood allows the relativization of the transcendence or the anti-transcendence of the de-relativization of the cat which is a dog which ate my homework and so just gimme tenure already coz I iz bleck and come from a real shithole of a country and am too stupid to teach anything sensible or useful.
Rather than being a classical god and hero, Krishna and Arjuna become in effect Everyman and his inspired leader.
No they don't. They become an athlete and his coach. Part of the job of the charioteer is to keep up the spirits of the warrior.
This also stood in stark contrast to Christian reformulations of Western political theory that at least until Nietzsche had struggled between the imperatives of political need and ethical injunction.
Rubbish! Both the Gita and Christian doctrine re. just war or judicial punishment say exactly the same thing- viz. if you do your duty dispassionately, no sin attaches to you. True, if you jerked off while stringing up a felon, or sodomized the corpse of the enemy you had slain, then some atonement might be due.
The foreshadowing of these deeply modern concerns was precisely the reason why, and the context in which, the Gita acquired a new life from the late nineteenth century within the global arena.
Rubbish! It is a highly dramatic story- though these cretins don't know exactly how tightly wound the dramatic tension really is- and thus the sort of thing which belles lettrists were bound to jizz all over.
Arguably, this new life of the Gita was entirely dependent on modernity itself.
if 'new life' is defined as 'life in modern times' then, sure, if modernity didn't exist then the thing would only have its rotten old life. Sad.
The constitutive issue for all modern commentaries on the Gita thus rested on the question of human action itself, with neither the frailty of humanity nor God’s providence being at stake.
What was that question? Presumably it was- 'what is the right action for a human to take?' The answer was 'do your duty as defined by your oikeiosis- i.e. family and clan tradition or, in spiritual or intellectual matters, follow your own genius or sense of in-born affiliation.' But this was already normative.
these commentaries on the Gita aimed to equip human action with appropriate meaning.
No. Commentaries written in the vernacular language aimed to express a new consensus, or common denominator, for Hindus as part of a wider project of unifying and homogenizing Hindu practices and beliefs. This could be called 'Hindutva'- the essence of Hinduism.
No doubt, some Europeans read other things into the Gita. For Andrei Weil it meant 'don't fight. Run away.' Oddly, this put Weil in greater danger than he otherwise would have been. The fact is Weil studied the Gita too early. He had met Emmy Noether but did not see that karma and dharma are conserved by the symmetries that generate the Mahabharata. He didn't get that the Vyadha Gita and Nalophkhayanam are the dual of the Bhagvad Gita and deal with the vishada of the principal. They establish that if you chose your own goals, then you need a statistical, game theoretic, knowledge or 'Sankhya'. But Von Neumann hadn't yet formalized Game Theory. So Weil got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Still, one may say Grothendieck's 'Yoga' is in this tradition. But that tradition does not exist in 'political philosophy' or whatever slow witted shite cretins like Kapila & Devji teach to their equally moronic students.
In these formulations detachment emerged as a dominant condition for human action.
No. It was suggested as prescription for better outcomes from human actions of a non self-regarding type. But it was foolish and vacuous.
At the same time, this allowed for action to assume different manifestations, ranging from a form of duty through that of sacriﬁce, all highlighting the issues of violence and non-violence.
Actions are manifestations and they have always differed. Telling stupid lies may allow you to claim that when you scratch your buttocks, you are actually repairing the Cosmos. But people may not allow you to continually repeat this claim in their vicinity. They may chase you away. Gandhi tried to recruit soldiers for the King Emperor. No doubt, he talked some stupid bollocks. But he was chased away with vim and vigor and seems to have had some sort of nervous breakdown.
The essays in this issue encompass the range of ideological formations from liberalism to revolution as these intersected with and interrupted the dominance of nationalism.
In other words, these essays are stupid shit which engage with stupid shit which changed nothing.
Ranging from Bayly’s discussion of the Gita’s problematic relationship with liberalism
The problem being that it had none.
through Kumar’s discussion of law as a form of violence,
why not law as a form of revenge porn? or monetary policy as a form of twerking? If you are going to talk bollocks why not talk contemporary bollocks?
they examine the institutionalized but secret histories of the state.
e.g. its Panopticon project to watch you poop. Wake up sheeple! Neo-Liberalism is causing Narendra Modi to build indoor toilets for poor Indian people. This is because the plutocrats get their jollies watching us poop. The State may keep this secret, but lots of institutionalized lunatics will reveal this secret in between trying to saw your head off.
Devji and Kapila’s interventions focus on the radical reformulation of the political in relation to the ethical.
Which was so fucking radical that it was wholly invisible. That's rad- like Anil Kapoor in Mr. India.
These essays chart anew the power of ideas, text and place in the making of the modern world.
That power was zero. Technology mattered as did stupid Aristocrats losing big wars. But shitheads writing 'political philosophy' had no impact. Guys who seized power could just make up any shit they liked and everybody else would be obliged to say that that shit was actually chocolate cake and tasted yummy.
While Mehta and Chakrabarty-Majumdar extract the iconic Gandhi from the ethical prison in which he has languished for so long,
No. Gandhi wasn't languishing in any type of prison. Godse may have been stupid but he was a good enough marksman. Gandhi died long ago. Get over it.
Chaturvedi centres historicism as a form of violence.
But Trivedi centers violence as a form of Historicism which permits Dwiwedi to say Hinduism was invented by the RSS. Wake up sheeple! Narendra Modi (real name- Nicholas Maugham) is watching you poop!
Sinha and Sartori, by contrast, trace the conversion of the Gita into a travelling-text of ‘spiritualism’ both within and beyond the conﬁnes of India.
Like the Tibetan book of the Dead or the Aztec Calendar of Doom or Vivek Iyer's 'Dieter's guide to weight loss through farting'.
The following essays thus seek to intervene in current debates within political theory and intellectual history
by being even more stupid and ignorant and thus worthy of tenure
and to offer new perspectives.
to the blind.
They do so with the presumption that the place of India
should be run away from so as to get any sort of worthless academic berth in Europe or America. Sadly, this involves the pretense that people back home care about the stupid shite you are spouting under the rubric of fighting Fascism and Neo-Liberalism and peeps getting to eat nice things and other such atrocities perpetrated by godless Consumerism.
and its political thought is instructive for
cretins. It should be the foundation for very special education for very very special snowflakes, recovering from horrific epistemic self-abuse, in the safe spaces of elite Campuses.
and foundational in the making of the national and post-national global order.
i.e. reading this shite will enable you to understand why the Global Plutocratic Alliance- which secretly rules the world- needs to watch you poop so as to exert its occult methods of 'manufacturing consent'. Wake up sheeple! There are Japanese billionaires right now who are jizzing as they watch 8k video footage of your anal sphincter expelling a turd!
As these essays point out, neither the diffusion nor the parochialization of Europe and its political thought was at stake for Indian commentators on the Gita,
If so, these essays are based on a lie. Indian commentators on the Gita were a playing a game of high stakes- viz
1) claiming that Hinduism was as good or better than Western Christianity or Communism or whatever
2) even if this were not the case, the Hindu had a duty to fight for his side against the fucking Imperialists.
and nor is it the aim of this collection to reinscribe the concern with dialogue, dissent or difference as the primary way of treating colonial, national and civilizational encounters.
In other words, this shitty book doesn't want to do anything useful at all. That's cool because the internet enables us to easily access primary texts re. specific cases of that dialogue and dissent and thus to help resolve the reappearance of such problems by tried and trusted methods.
Rather, this collection aims to revise perspectives on violence, war and sacriﬁce, the political and the ethical, that continue to inform the world we inhabit.
Why stop there? Why not revise perspectives on death, quantum mechanics and twerking? If you are going to talk worthless bollocks, why confine yourself to the 'political'- when everybody can see you have zero political influence- and the 'ethical'- when everybody can see you have run away from a poor country so as to make a living by telling stupid lies?