Monday, 15 January 2018

Mukul Kesavan on Majoritarianism

In a piece titled 'Murderous Majorities', every single sentence of which is either false or foolish or both false and foolish, Mukul Kesavan writes- (my comments are in bold)

The Rohingya are a community of Muslims concentrated in the northern parts of Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.  Rohingyas may also be Hindu. There have been Muslims in Rakhine for a thousand years but their numbers were substantially increased by migration from British India, particularly Bengal, during colonial rule. Rakhine was originally a Hindu/Buddhist Kingdom with an Indo-Aryan language similar to Bengali. The Burmese only began to assert themselves there  a thousand years ago. Before the recent forced exodus to Bangladesh, the Rohingya population in Myanmar was estimated at a little over a million, but that figure is contested. Naturally! Burma has been getting rid of Indic origin people- whether Hindu or Christian or Muslim for many decades now. The word Rohingya gained salience so as to create a different type of entitlement for these people who speak an Indic language and who wanted to accede to Pakistan at the time of Independence from Britain. The last census did not count them because the government did not wish to recognize Rohingya as a legitimate identity. Instead, they called them Bengalis so as to make clear that their fate would be similar to that of other Indian origin people. Including Rohingya refugees in nearby Bangladesh who fled during “clearances” conducted by Myanmar’s military rulers in 1978, the early 1990s, and 2012, their total number is likely larger. D'uh!

There are other Muslim communities in Rakhine and Myanmar, but they are culturally and ethnically different from the Rohingya, who have been singled out for violent discrimination. Because they wanted to accede to Pakistan- of which Bangladesh is the successor state. Their distinct dialect and ethnic “otherness,” combined with their concentration in northern Rakhine, have made them seem to Myanmar’s rulers unassimilable and a threat to the integrity of this avowedly Buddhist state. They speak an Indo-Aryan language. They genuinely are ethnically and linguistically different and don't want to be part of Burma. Furthermore, the Rohingyas have acquired a reputation for Islamic militancy because of their diaspora community in Saudi Arabia.

In late August 2017, Rohingya militants attacked police stations in northern Rakhine using knives and homemade bombs. So as to drive out the Burmese Buddhist minority and accede to Bangladesh. Twelve members of the security forces were killed. The Myanmar military retaliated by burning Rohingya villages, killing and raping civilians, and forcing more than half a million Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh. So as to drive out the majority which threatened the Burmese minority and, longer term, not have to cede territory to Bangladesh.

The scale of this ethnic cleansing represents the most extreme triumph of majoritarian politics in South Asia. The Bengali Muslim majority failed to drive out the Buddhist minority in a particular area but, instead, was chased out by the Buddhist army of Burma. The scale of this ethnic cleansing was tiny compared to the ethnic cleansing that occurred during and after the partition of India or during the Bangladesh war. More than 15 million Hindus have been expelled at one time or another from Bangladesh. Buddhists in the Chittagong hills- linguistically and ethnically related to populations in Myanmar- have been driven out or reduced to a minority in Bangladesh.

 The reason the Rohingya's suffering pales in comparison with what has happened in Muslim Bangladesh is because Burma, historically, has been much less densely populated.

The persecution of the Rohingya has made Myanmar something of an inspiration to majoritarian parties in neighboring states. Rubbish! Burma is a shithole. It does not inspire anyone. The Indian government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, announced in mid-August that the 40,000 Rohingyas in India (refugees from an earlier exodus) would be deported because they were illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants are deported by every country. Bangladesh has continually persecuted and expelled Hindus. They aren't keen on keeping the Rohingyas because they have been radicalised by the Saudis who, at one time, granted them refugee status before changing their minds and booting them out. Even in early September, after the ferocity of the Myanmar army’s “clearances” was known and the extent of the exodus became apparent, no one in Narendra Modi’s administration voiced even the pro forma expressions of concern by which governments often acknowledge widespread human suffering. India, quite correctly, signalled that it didn't want and wouldn't take Rohingyas. Had Modi done a Merkel and said 'Come one, come all', he'd have had to do a U turn because the Rohingyas aren't going to find decent livelihoods in over-populated India. Furthermore, there is even less tolerance of Wahhabi inspired 'militancy' in a Hindu country than in Islamic Bangladesh.

Majoritarianism—the claim that a nation’s political destiny should be determined by its religious or ethnic majority—is as old as the nation-state in South Asia; it was decolonization’s original sin. Sheer nonsense. This claim predated the nation-state. It was the basis of the Freedom Struggle. Why? The British were a minority in India but lived in nice houses and had the best jobs. So the majority grabbed power and kicked them outPostcolonial nations in South Asia began with varying degrees of commitment to the ideal of a pluralistic, broadly secular state, but after a decade or so of independence they were either taken over by military rulers or transformed into religious states by majoritarian politicians. Every single 'post colonial nation in South Asia' began with zero degree of commitment to the ideal of a pluralistic, broadly secular state. Pakistan was created for Muslims and was based on ethnic cleansing ab ovo. India was wholly Hindu- which is why its official name is 'Bharat'- though the cowed Muslim minority was retained for its labour power and obedience as a voting block. Ceylon, on relinquishing Dominion status for full fledged independence was clearly Buddhist and racially chauvinist. As for Burma- it was and is a shithole. 

Pakistan was carved out of British India to create a Muslim-majority country, and although its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, seemed at times to support the idea of a secular state, the genocidal violence of the 1947 Partition more or less purged the country of its non-Muslim minorities. In its short-lived constitution of 1956, Pakistan formally defined itself as an Islamic republic, and it has remained one for over sixty years. So, you were lying about Pakistan. It was always a confessional state.

Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, was founded in 1948 as a secular nation, but by 1956 its Sinhala Buddhist politicians were pushing to redefine it as a Buddhist republic with Sinhala, the language of the Buddhist majority, as the sole national language. This is misleading. People like Bandarnaike had a more complex identity. Indeed, the monk who killed him converted to Christianity before his  execution because back then identities were fluid.  This majoritarian push was aimed at marginalizing Tamil speakers, a substantial non-Buddhist minority concentrated in the north and east of the country. No, competition within the elite got out of hand for sociological reasons peculiar to Ceylon. Bangladesh, which won independence from Pakistan in 1971, was established as a secular Bengali-speaking nation though Hindus had to continually run away from it but after a coup in 1975, a military regime turned it into an Islamic republic. (The Supreme Court restored secularism in 2010, but Islam remains Bangladesh’s official religion.) Again this is misleading. Mujib was by no means a pluralist or a genuine secularist. He had dropped the pretence of Democracy before being killed. Coup and counter-coup followed. It was not the case that the military imposed Islamism. The fact is everybody- even the Afghan Regime- was trying to show itself as Islamic to get petro-dollars. India, for example, was throwing a hissy fit for being excluded from the Organisation of Islamic Nations.

Major General Aung San, who brought about Myanmar’s independence from Britain after World War II and was assassinated in 1947, envisioned it as a secular republic. Because he was the founder of the Communist Party of Burma. The constitution of 1948, however, which established Myanmar as an independent nation, conferred full citizenship on most ethnic minorities but withheld it from the Rohingya. Because they were contiguous to East Pakistan and wanted to join it. Throughout the 1950s, the government of U Nu, the country’s first prime minister, accommodated the idea of a Rohingya community and held out the prospect of citizenship for Rohingyas. U Nu was a moralising, Dale Carnegie spouting, nutjob. He made Buddhism the State Religion and banned beef. The census of 1961 even recognized “Rohingya” as a demographic category. Because U Nu was off his head.The evolution of Myanmar into an explicitly Buddhist state began in 1962 when a military government seized power in a coup d’├ętat and enforced a Buddhist nationalist ideology.  General Ne Win's first act on taking power was to abrogate U Nu's decisions re making Buddhism the state religion and banning beef and so forth. He was to the Left of U Nu. This process culminated in the 1982 Citizenship Law, which officially denied Rohingyas the possibility of full citizenship. Ne Win was as crazy as a bed bug. Okay, the Communists were even crazier, still it is sheer lunacy to speak of Burma as other than a batshit crazy shithole. No process culminated in anything. You just had murderous nutjobs killing each other in the jungle and sensible people running far far away.

Ironically, it was during the transition to civilian rule between 2012 and 2017 that the country became a purely majoritarian polity through ethnic cleansing and by formally excluding Rohingyas in particular and Muslims generally from every democratic process and institution. What fucking transition to civilian rule is Kesavan talking about? There is some window-dressing that is all. The violence of 2012 (which prefigured the ethnic cleansing of 2017) resulted in 120,000 Rohingyas being expelled from towns in northern Rakhine and confined to camps for internally displaced persons. There was a lesson to be learned in 2012. That lesson was majorities don't matter. Guns do. The 2014 census was designed to exclude “alien” minorities; nearly a third of Rakhine’s population went uncounted because the Rohingya refused to identify as Bengali Muslim, which would have lent credibility to the claim that they were foreigners, not citizens. Rohingyas are a side-issue for Burma. The 2014 census was about reaffirming the Buddhist nature of the country and the potential of that religion to bridge ethnic divisions. The census was used to compile the new electoral rolls for the country’s first democratic elections in 2015; it effectively disenfranchised the Rohingya and led to the total absence of Muslims from Myanmar’s parliament for the first time since independence. So what? There was no parliament a lot of the time and even when there was some token sort of Parliament it had no power.

That year, the government confiscated the registration cards that had entitled Rohingyas to health and education services and, until recently, to the right to vote, which they had previously been granted at the whim of the regime. Because, the right to vote is really has always been so very important in Burma. The cards were the only official documents of residence or identity that they possessed. Yeah, right! Like having an official document will prevent your being shot by the Army.These administrative actions successfully established Buddhist supremacy in Rakhine and in Myanmar as a whole. Administrative actions mean shit in Burma. Guns establish supremacy. Rohingyas were in a majority in North Rakhine but they've still had to run for the lives. Why? Was it some 'administrative action'? Is it because some clerk took away some piece of paper from them? Nope. It was because they didn't have nice guns whereas the Burmese army is very very good at shooting unarmed people.

The absence of an important minority from both the electoral process and parliament is the sort of total victory that majoritarians in South Asia have long dreamed of but never achieved. Utter nonsense! Pakistan always kept some token 'minority' Parliamentarians and even Ministers. So what? They didn't just ethnically cleanse Hindus, they also perpetrated genocide on Baluchi and Bengali Muslims.  In 2014, a year before Myanmar’s elections, Narendra Modi led the BJP to an absolute majority in the Indian general elections. That is why India has expelled millions of Muslims in 2015, 2016 and 2017. His majority was historic because it did not include a single Muslim member of parliament from the BJP. But the BJP did put up Muslim candidates and, what's more nominated Muslims to the Upper House. But twenty-three Muslims of other parties were elected to the Lok Sabha, the Indian parliament’s lower house; the absence of any Muslims from Myanmar’s legislature was a more comprehensive victory for majoritarianism. Parliament has always had a lot of power in India. It has always had none in Burma. It is no surprise that a right-wing Hindu nationalist party in India would keep its distance from Muslims, but in Myanmar it was the liberal opposition, the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, that didn’t field a single Muslim candidate. The 'Hindu nationalist party' fielded a lot of Muslim candidates. They didn't get elected. So they nominated Muslim MPs to the Upper House. By contrast, Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi didn't field any Muslim candidates at all! Mukul Kesavan knows MJ Akbar- he has probably written articles for him. Would it surprise him to learn that his old comrade is a Minister in the BJP government?
The NLD may have excluded Muslim candidates for strategic reasons—to ride out the anti-Rohingya sentiment stirred up by extremist clergy, to defer to the military’s prejudices during the sensitive transition to democracy, to avoid antagonizing Rakhine’s Buddhist majority—or because of the prejudices of its own members.  Or maybe, the NLD doesn't want to get shot in the head by the real power in Burma- guys with guns. The result was the political marginalization of an already threatened minority. Wow! I wonder how Mukul Kesavan would have analysed the Shoah. No doubt, he would have painstakingly correlated the decline in the number of Jewish legislators in the Reich to increased majoritarian pressure upon an already vulnerable community. Myanmar in 2017, with a parliament free of Muslims and 600,000 Rohingyas violently driven out, has proven that it is possible for a religious majority to achieve political domination. OMG! Religious majorities achieve political domination everywhere under Democracy! Burma isn't a Democracy. The reason the Burmese are dominant in some- not all- parts of Burma is because they are better at killing and chasing away anyone who challenges their army.

Majoritarianism insists on different tiers of citizenship. No. It only does so if the majority is doing less well than some specific group. Members of the majority faith and culture are viewed as the nation’s true citizens. There are Gulf countries where the 'true citizens' are a minority. This does not matter- provided it can kill or eject any other group. The rest are courtesy citizens, guests of the majority, expected to behave well and deferentially. Quite true unless the Judiciary rules otherwise. But, in that case, we are speaking of a Democracy under the Rule of Law- a wholly different kettle of fish. To be tolerated at the majority’s discretion is no substitute for full citizenship in modern democracies. Unless the Rule of Law obtains. It is a state of limbo, a chronically unstable condition. Which is why sensible majorities- like the Hindus of India- vote for the Rule of Law. A polity that denies full citizenship to its minorities will, sooner or later, politically disenfranchise them or expel them on the grounds that, despite being residents, they aren’t citizens at all and actually belong elsewhere—in India or Pakistan or Tamil Nadu or, as with the Rohingya, in Bangladesh. Myanmar has three categories of citizenship: citizen, associate citizen, and naturalized citizen. The Rohingya are classed as foreigners. Burma isn't under the Rule of Law. If it were, this classification would have been struck down. Suppose I were offered Burmese citizenship in return for setting up a munitions factory in that country. Would I think 'Aha! as a Burmese citizen, my investment will be safe.'? Nope. I'd know that the regime robs anyone it wants to. There is no rule of law. Burmese citizenship is worthless.

The one South Asian state that had formally resisted the temptation of majoritarianism until the 1980s was India. Really? How come I can't eat beef in many Indian States? Why is there a 'Directive Principle' in the Indian Constitution encouraging States to ban beef? Founded as a constitutional republic in 1950, it treated its substantial Muslim minority (it has the third-largest Muslim population in the world) as full and equal citizens. Muslims did not want to be 'full and  equal citizens'. They wanted to share power equally so that half of the Legislature, the Cabinet, etc would be Muslim even if they were only 20 per cent of the population. Despite its being 80 percent Hindu, there was no formal sense in which India’s religious minorities were expected to assimilate into Hindu culture. So, Hindus are nice guys. Okay. How is that relevant in discussing Burma? The only parties that demanded this assimilation, such as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the political ancestor of Modi’s BJP, were minor regional parties that had little power. For the first twenty-five years of the republic, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru and then his daughter Indira Gandhi, India remained a constitutionally secular state. Under Nehru, many educated Muslims emigrated to Pakistan. Under Indira, they were massacred. Under Modi, Gujerati Muslim entrepreneurs who had fled India started to return home and ramp up investments in India. Today, there are Pakistani Muslims applying to work and reside in India. If there was even an iota of truth in Kesavan's thesis, Aziz Premji should be packing his bags to flee to Karachi. Why isn't it happening?

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the political balance shifted following the Emergency, Indira Gandhi’s experiment with authoritarian rule between 1975 and 1977. But the new politics was also shaped by pogroms. In 1983, two thousand Muslims of Bengali ancestry were slaughtered in a matter of hours in the town of Nellie, in Assam. (Unofficial estimates place the number of deaths at more than ten thousand.) The indigenous Assamese who perpetrated the massacre thought the Muslims were illegal migrants from Bangladesh whose names had been included on the electoral rolls. Bangladesh, then a relatively new nation, was seen by unsympathetic neighbors as a net exporter of people, and since these immigrants tended to be Bengali-speaking Muslims, they looked and sounded conspicuously alien. Assam is multi-ethnic. It includes non Indo-Aryan speakers who have no love for Bengalis. India's North East has endemic tribal problems and is similar in that respect to Burma. 

The 1983 massacre in Assam was a landmark in Indian politics. Nonsense. It had zero impact outside the North East. The student organization whose anti-Muslim activism culminated in the pogrom established a political party that handily won the next provincial election. Which didn't change things in New Delhi at all.  The incident demonstrated that illegal immigration was a serious problem, that Bengali Muslims were a political scapegoat, and, most significantly, that pogroms could be politically profitable. Any yet there were no wider ramifications at all.

In 1984, the assassination of Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards led to the systematic murder of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, won a large electoral victory after this pogrom, and the lesson of Nellie was reinforced, this time at the national level. There was no 'lesson of Nellie'- nobody gave a flying fart about either Bengali Muslims or Bodo headhunters. Ask a Tamil or a Gujerati or a Haryanvi about Nellie and they will have no idea what you are talking about. Mrs Gandhi, however, was an icon. She was compared to Goddess Durga.   Subsequent pogroms of Muslims in Bombay (1992–1993) and Gujarat (2002) were followed by electoral victories for parties like the Shiv Sena and the BJP that were complicit in the violence.
What is Kesavan talking about? He is a South Indian. He very well knows that the Shiv Sena consolidated itself as a 'sons of the soil' movement targeting South Indians. Muslim extremists, reacting to the Babri Masjid destruction, provoked a backlash from which the Sena profited. 
The BJP had consolidated itself in Gujarat after a Congress Minister, with the help of a Don ('Raees' as played by Shah Rukh Khan) imported explosives from Pakistan's ISI to stage a terrorist incident. The don then killed a Muslim M.P who exposed his dealings. The Home Minister in Delhi got on the case. The don ran away to Pakistan but came back after falling out with his patrons. The police killed him because they had been on his pay-roll. The whole thing became a public scandal. Congress had shat the bed in spectacular fashion. The BJP, by contrast, was respectable. 
Thus when Congress backed Corporators in Godhra, on orders from the ISI, massacred some Hindus, the backlash against Muslims was beneficial to the BJP- and Modi in particular. Why? He called in the Army and gave shoot to kill orders to end the anarchy. He brought Gujarat under the Rule of Law by having gangsters shot out of hand. Congress, very foolishly, went after him for shooting bad guys. The result was that they lost the one effective card they have- viz. a supposed concern for the poorest. Thus they have been routed. What's more they have gained an 'anti Hindu' (and therefore anti-national) tag. Rahul is now trying to reverse this by projecting himself as a Saivite Brahmin. The most recent posters of him in his constituency depict him as Lord Rama. 
There has been no formal disenfranchisement of minorities, but majoritarian parties in India have learned that encouraging violence against minorities pays off electorally.
Violence against minorities means mobs running amok. In India, Hindus are not just the majority, they are also educationally and commercially ahead of Muslims. Hindus don't want to kill Muslims. They want to get rich of their labour. 
All the Hindu asks for is that Muslim gangsters and terrorists are shot out of hand. The only thing that 'pays off electorally' is good Governance and brighter economic prospects.Majoritarian violence had become a shortcut to power throughout South Asia. 
Sheer nonsense! The Khalistanis sponsored 'majoritarian' Sikh violence against Hindus in Punjab. What good did it do them? An ex-Royal- Amarinder Singh rules the roost there.
How about Kashmir Valley? Was the ethnic cleansing of Hindu Pandits 'a short cut to power' for the militants? Nope. They are either dead or languishing on short rations.
Rajiv Gandhi certainly presided over a huge pogrom of Sikhs. But he lost the election.

There are no shortcuts to power- at least in India. Majorities- at least Hindu majorities- aren't murderous by nature. Listen to Narendra Modi give a speech. He has spent his entire adult life preparing for his role. Rahul Gandhi got a shortcut. Listen to his speeches. They are shit. Why? He hasn't prepared for the role thoroughly enough.
In Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, insecure military rulers sought legitimacy by aligning the state with its religious majority, while in India and Sri Lanka, nativist parties won elections by promoting the idea that the nation was being subverted by predatory minorities. 
Utterly wrong! Pakistan was created as a confessional state ab ovo. Mujibur Rehman was part of the Pakistan movement as a firebrand student leader. However the civilians were shit at running the country and, furthermore, the Bengalis formed the majority. However, they were militarily weak. So the Army took power. But Ayub Khan wasn't an Islamist at all. He actually brought Fazlur Rehman back from Canada to synthesise a 'modernist' Islam to overcome sectarian divisions. 
Yahya, ludicrously, appointed General Pataudi- the one sober colleague he knew of- as a Minister for Islamic something or other. Bhutto threw Pataudi into jail for this! But it was Bhutto who declared the Ahmadis to be non-Muslim. Zia, it is true, went one step further even trying to ban the saree! Mrs. Pataudi, however, stuck to her accustomed costume and Zia could but grin his hyena grin. 
Sri Lanka was different from India in that the elite was highly anglicised and Christianised. The upcountry Buddhist Sinhala felt left out. Tamils got English education and took the clerical jobs. Thus the Sinhala felt left out. Still, what plunged Sri Lanka into anarchy was the threat of a 'Burgher' army coup. Thus the military was emasculated. This meant crazy Leftists could try to effect a coup. At that juncture, both India and Pakistan came to the rescue. The Sri Lankan Army- like the Bangladeshi army- had terrible morale because the leadership was distrusted or divided. 

In India, by contrast, the Hindus ruled the roost. The poor 'poojary' in the village could see that the country was ruled by a Pundit. The two bit shop-keeper saw that a 'Bania' was revered as the 'Father of the country'. Even the Princes were happy because it was their former Estate Managers who were running things.
It is true that some on the Left distrusted the Army. But the Army proved its worth. It genuinely preferred fighting the enemy on far frontiers to laying siege to the Capital.

By the end of the twentieth century, majoritarian parties were either in power or the principal opposition in every South Asian nation. Kesavan is too modest in his claim. By the end of every century, majoritarian parties are in power in any Democratic country. This is also true at the beginning of every century and in the middle of every century and at every point in between. 
Thus a party called 'The Muslim League' is not in power in Norway. It is in Pakistan. Similarly a party called 'Christian Democratic Party' is not in power in Pakistan though it may be in Germany.

In his essay for Islam and the State in Myanmar, a collection that addresses the relationship between Myanmar’s Muslims and their government, Benjamin Schonthal demonstrates the extent to which Buddhist majoritarianism in Myanmar is akin to Sinhala nativism in Sri Lanka, noting recent meetings between the Sri Lankan Bodu Bala Sena (Army of Buddhist Power) and the explicitly anti-Muslim monk-led 969 movement in Myanmar. Ashin Wirathu, its most notoriously Islamophobic preacher, visited Colombo in late 2014 to sign a memorandum of understanding between the Bodu Bala Sena and 969. People in both countries, Schonthal suggests, “are beginning to see their own actions in a broader regional framework.” Sri Lankan Buddhists have a special place for Thervada countries like Thailand and Burma and so on. In the Fifties, there were some English speaking 'Humanist' Buddhist monks in Burma who were constantly meeting their even better educated counterparts in Burma. Then there was a Leftist 'Liberation theology' type of Sri Lankan monk who would correspond with similar shitheads in Burma. One version of the CIA 'Domino theory' stressed the supposed subversion of the Sangha in South East Asia by clever Sri Lankans. It was all fake news. Monks don't matter. Guns do.
In another essay in the collection, Nyi Nyi Kyaw compares 969’s campaigns to those of Hindu chauvinist organizations in India like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP. 
Right! Coz a guy named Nyi Nyi Kyaw is such an expert on India! Does he really think some shitty little bunch of nutjobs in his shitty little country can produce a World Statesman like Narendra Modi?
The supposed fertility of Muslim men and their practice of polygamy are seen as threats to the future of Buddhists in Myanmar. The allegation is that Muslim men are waging a “Love Jihad”; as Kyaw notes, Ashin Wimalar Biwuntha, a 969 monk, has accused Muslim men of seducing Buddhist women “for their reproductive tactics. They produce a lot of children, they are snowballing.” But Muslim men in Burma are being killed or forced to flee for their lives. What chance of 'love jihad' do they have?

The terms “Love Jihad” and “Romeo Jihad” are lifted straight from the lexicon of Hindu bigotry.  Kesavan is a Hindu. Clearly these terms feature in his lexicon. They don't in mine- but then I am merely an Iyer whereas he is an Iyengar.  The BJP and its affiliates are committed to fighting so-called predatory Muslims practicing “Love Jihad” with street vigilantes organized in “Anti-Romeo squads.” Once again, Kesavan may be speaking from superior personal familiarity with 'the BJP and its affiliates. No doubt, he routinely beat up MJ Akbar for being a Romeo. Perhaps that's why MJ Akbar joined the BJP. As a Minister, Akbar is probably prowling around beating up Romeos even as I write this now. The chief minister of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, a Hindu monk called Yogi Adityanath, has for years led a private militia, the Hindu Yuva Vahini (Hindu Youth Force), in the battle against this phantom enemy. So, they are battling ghosts are they? How come they aren't a public laughing stock? Oh! They belong to a majority community. Kesavan believes that any majority community is completely bonkers. Start killing a few people from a minority and, immediately, that majority starts voting for you. In fact, his principal credential for the chief minister’s office in 2016 was his proven ability to mobilize the “Hindu street” against Muslims. Okay! So that's how to become Chief Minister. Just get a few street urchins to beat up Muslims and you too can rule over India's largest State! It's so simple! 

The imagined threat of demographic extinction at the hands of fast-breeding, evangelizing Muslims is central to majoritarian mobilization in India, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. So the majority communities in India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar are utterly devoid of rationality. Is it because they are somewhat dusky in complexion? Several Indian provinces have passed laws that strictly regulate religious conversion. So have most Muslim countries.Their unstated goal is to prevent conversion to Islam or Christianity; conversion to Hinduism, on the other hand, is seen as reversion. It is referred to as ghar wapsi, or “homecoming.” In the discourse of Hindu majoritarianism, all Muslims and Christians are ancestrally Hindu. Makes sense. Historically, when Muslims or Christians become sizable in numbers they make things hot for Hindus and finally either expel them or are themselves beaten into submission.

Myanmar remains at the vanguard of majoritarianism in South Asia, in its capacity to violently expel an ethnic minority, disenfranchise those who remain, and make the prejudices of Buddhist chauvinists into law. Pakistan has been way more successful in expelling religious minorities. The Organization for the Protection of Race, Religion, and Belief, popularly known as Ma-Ba-Tha (the abbreviation of its Burmese name), began in 2013 as a campaign to pass what were collectively known as the Race and Religion Protection Laws. In a little over two years these laws were approved by the legislature and signed into law by the president.

Of all the laws governing monogamy, birth control, religious conversion, and interfaith marriage that implicitly target Muslims, the most flagrantly discriminatory is the Myanmar Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Law. A Buddhist woman under twenty years of age needs parental consent to marry a non-Buddhist. By contrast, in Pakistan and many other Muslim countries, a Muslim woman can't marry a non Muslim at all. Local registrars are empowered to post marriage applications. The couple can marry only if no one objects, but any citizen can contest the application, causing it to be challenged in court. In the event of a divorce, the woman automatically gets custody of the children. The purpose of the law is to make intermarriage between Buddhist women and non-Buddhist men as difficult as possible. Monks, priests, and majoritarians in every country in South Asia will have taken note that the government of Myanmar has been able to stand out as the defender of the faith by legally discriminating in favor of the country’s majority on the basis of religion. Pakistan is a country in South Asia. Why should it take note that there is less restriction on Buddhist women in this matter than there is on Muslim women in their own country? 

Majoritarianism in South Asia isn’t necessarily about targeting Muslims. Because Muslims are the majority in two South Asian nations and have very successfully targeted and decimated non-muslim populations. Nor is it provoked by the need to discipline recalcitrant minorities in general. Majoritarian politics results from the patiently constructed self-image of an aggrieved, besieged majority that believes itself to be long-suffering and refuses to suffer in silence anymore. Really? What 'patient construction' was required for massive killing of Hindus in East Pakistan in response to the Hazratbal incident? A hair goes missing in Kashmir and Hindus are killed in Dacca? Why?
What about pogroms against Copts in Egypt? What 'patient construction' of suffering at the hands of this minority occurred?
ISIS slaughtered a lot of Yezidis. Where was the 'patient construction' there Dr. Kesavan?
The cultivation of this sense of injury is the necessary precondition for the lynchings, pogroms, and ethnic cleansing that invariably follow.
Yes, yes. Very true. When the Whites exterminated the Tasmanians it was because there had been a 'patient construction' of a sense of injury. This was the necessary precondition for hunting down the natives as a matter of sport.

Majoritarianism promotes equal-opportunity bigotry. Really? Whites were a minority in South Asia. Did they show no bigotry towards the majority? Still, Whites didn't ethnically cleanse South Asia because they didn't want to settle there. They were solely concerned with making money off the labour of the people- whatever their religion or race- settled on the land.

Where Majorities feel they are making money off the minorities, they may be bigoted but they preserve the appearance of equality under the law so as to provide an incentive to the minorities to be as productive as possible. 

Yes India's Hindu majority is very tolerant and morally high toned but only at such times and in such places as it profits by the labour of the minorities. 
But this is also true of Europe and America and everywhere else.

Kesavan concludes by saying- 'The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya is a particularly vicious chapter in a long history of majoritarian nationalism in South Asia. Unless that history is acknowledged and its legacy contested, more tragedies lie in store.'
What he is really saying is 'listen guys, I'm from South Asia. I've studied its history. People like me are important. You should give us more money and prestige so that we can research history and explain it to the stupid people who are the majority in South Asia. That way, tragedies can be averted'.

This is self-serving shite. The ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas is a wholly unremarkable chapter in Burma's long history of expelling Indian people. 'Majoritarian nationalism' isn't a big problem if the Majority is Hindu and minorities are peaceable and productive in a manner which enriches the majority. Even if they are fractious, shooting a few bad guys in a timely manner defuses the problem.

It may be that Islam is a different kettle of fish. Even after ethnically cleansing all non-Muslims, these guys still seem to slaughter each other on the basis of sect or tribe or clan. But, surely, that's only true when the rule of law breaks down. 
Buddhism too may appear to have some pathology absent in Hinduism. But there's a sociological reason for it. Essentially, the pre-Independence Hindu intelligentsia were not wholly deracinated (as in Ceylon) or entirely adolescent (as in Burma) in their thinking. It was only some 'phoren educated' people of Kesavan's generation- i.e. 'Midnight's Children'- who came of age in the Sixties or early Seventies- who write and talk utter shite. So long as people thought Rahul baba would follow in their footsteps, Congress declined. Now, he is rediscovering his Brahmin roots and claims to be 'janeodhari'- Congress may go back to being the party of Brahhmins like Mukul and me. Why? Because true Secularism means Prime Minister should be the son and grandson and great grandson of Prime Ministers only. Anything else smacks of 'Majoritarianism'. Mind it kindly. Aiyaiyo.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Spivak vs Chibber

This is Spivak attacking Chibber who previously had criticized her. This passage arrested my attention.
No psychological essentialism here, especially since polymath Kosambi, whose polymath father became a Buddhist under BR Ambedkar’s influence, is speaking of how the converted Buddhist Emperor Asoka’s new imperial-universal notion of dhamma, not to be found in the classic Arthasastra, was in its turn miscast into dharma, both instruments of class reconciliation between sovereign and subject.
Acharya Kausambi was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1902. B.R Ambedkar was 11 years old at that time. Yet, Spivak says Ambedkar converted Kausambi to Buddhism. This seems a little strange since every Indian knows that Ambedkar himself only interested himself in Buddhism from 1950 onward. He converted in 1956, by which time Acharya Kausambi was dead.

Let us look a little closer at the passage cited above.

She says-
(Kathleen Collins sees that) southern Italy has a conjuncture comparable (of course not identical) to Central Asia—mixture of capitalist and pre-capitalist ideological formations (not psychological essentialism, as per Chibber)—separating proletarian and subaltern.
This is as startling as the news that Ambedkar converted Kausambi. Is Kathleen Collins really such a fool as to think Central Asian clans are similar to anything to be found in Southern Italy? No. Her book is available on Amazon. It makes no such claim.
Both Central Asia and Mafia ridden parts of South Italy have a problem with contract enforcement. But, that is purely economic and has no corresponding 'ideological formation'.

Spivak says that some 'conjuncture' separates proletarian from subaltern. How? It is impossible to distinguish the two. A guy from a subaltern class- say a travelling gypsy- gets a job in a factory. What 'conjuncture' separates him from proletarian status? As a matter of fact, Poles and Czechs and Albanians have been working in factories and workshops in South Italy for many years now. No 'conjuncture' separates them from their fellow workers.  In the Fergana valley, on the other hand, there have been cases of ethnic tension leading to demographic changes. Perhaps Spivak knows of cases of Puglinese expelling Neopolitans similar to Khrgyz expelling Uzbeks. No doubt, she thinks Soviet policies were a 'mixture of capitalist and pre-capitalist ideological formations'. Otherwise, how could they have magically appeared in 1990?
Suppose kin selective altruism a la Hamilton's rule gives rise to 'psychological essentialism' such that people cluster together on the basis of perceived common descent, then the problem between Khyrgyz and Uzbeks is immediately clarified.

Chibber, ignoring this type of possibility, takes ‘subaltern’ as a synonym for ‘proletarian’ and offers the usual mechanical Marxist utopian pronouncement. It is on this level of generality that Chibber insists that what produces a connection between all the ‘subaltern classes’ (according to his definition) all over the world is ‘physical well-being’ (200 – 202). There is no grand narrative on the level of ‘physical well-being’, or it is so grand that it is inaccessible to the subject. (Levinas’s argument in Otherwise than being [1998]).
Urm... is Spivak saying people don't know or care about their own physical well-being and don't understand how this makes for interconnections between them? Why? Is our material world a fabrication of a some 'Matrix' which is using our physical bodies as batteries? Is that what Levinas said?
No. Of course not. Levinas says we ought not to care only about own physical well being. He isn't saying there can't be a grand narrative in which it features. It's just it would be grander yet if it were based on compassion and altruism. The test is if you are actually doing something material to promote the well-being of others. But Chibber and Marx and everybody else has always been saying the same thing.
If I chop off your head and shit down your neck, I have not contributed to your physical well-being. If I help cure you of a disease and help you to a better livelihood then Spivak would consider me a horrible person. Why?
The moment you go from body to mind, from physical well-being to fighting for physical well-being, there is language, history and ‘permissible narratives’ (Said 1984, 27– 48).
The moment I stop cutting of your head and consider that you have a mind and that you will be grateful if I promote your physical well-being then, if some other passerby comes to you and tries to cut off your head so as to shit down your neck, I will 'fight for physical well-being'- yours, in this case. This is very very naughty of me because it involves language and history and 'permissible narratives' and other such stuff which Professors have to pretend to teach. If only people would stop worrying about each other's physical well-being, language and history and narratives would stop so Professors wouldn't need to do any work.
For example, the mother thinks honour, the daughter thinks reproductive rights. What history happened in between? A change in localized permissible narratives that still cannot touch pharmaceutical dumping.
WTF! Mother does not think 'honour'. She thinks 'I don't want my teen to have a baby with the local drug dealer coz I'll end up changing the nappies while her boyfriend turns my house into a crack den'. What reproductive rights concern the daughter? Do girls start demanding to have babies the moment they hit puberty?
'Permissible narratives' are about what you can and can't say. A Professor can't say he wants to fuck or eat his students even if he does. Spivak can say Kausambi was converted by Ambedkar. Chibber won't call her on it because either he is equally ignorant or too much of a gentleman.

The puzzle, to my mind has to do with why 'localized permissible narratives' can't touch 'pharmaceutical dumping'. Spivak lives in America. If an Indian manufacturer of generic drugs 'dumps' (i.e. sells at below cost) pharmaceuticals in America will American Pharma not immediately flood the media with 'localized permissible narratives' of salt of the earth rednecks being driven to cannibalism by evil Indian generic drugs?
If physical well-being were a race-free, class-free, gender-free grand narrative, there would be no point in having any theories of justice, politics, human rights and gender compromise. (Ellen Bostrup and Amartya Sen’s work on women’s notion of preserving physical well-being is by now honourably dated.4 )
Physical well-being is about physical bodies. I need to take Vitamin D supplements coz I iz bleck. My Doctor isn't a horrible racist for prescribing them. I also have to lose weight because South Asians should have a lower height weight ratio than Nordics. In India I'm classed as morbidly obese I don't like it but, if I want to avoid health problems, I have to adjust my diet. 
The grand narrative of physical well-being is the Life and Economic Sciences. It involves studying STEM subjects not worthless shite.
Indeed, there is no point in Marx’s (1990) exhortation to his implied readership in Capital volume 1 to change their self-concept from ‘victim of the capitalist’ to ‘agent of production’. (The ‘subaltern’ is not an agent of capitalist production.)
Marx was saying- 'don't smash the machines or cut the throat of its owner. That's not going to help you. You've got to produce things in order to consume them. It isn't true that the evil capitalists have a magic bag full of gold which you can steal and thereafter live a life of ease.'

How is the subaltern 'not an agent of capitalist production'? How does he earn his living? No doubt he chases leprechauns and catches them and gets a big pot of gold. That's why the subaltern won't speak. He's afraid of giving away the location of his big pot of gold.
If we go back to ‘whose physical well-being, by what permissible narrative’, we are back in the division within organized labour in terms of outsourcing, of the sub-proletariat, its complete ignorance of the nongeneralizable subaltern populations of the world, its usual lack of sympathy for women and homeworkers and its connections with management.
So, if we talk about material reality in connection with working people, we will have to address genuine political problems- for example balancing the interests of older permanent workers and the younger zero-hour contract 'precariat'. We would have to have a dialogue about offshoring and about gender equality.
We can't do that. It's too much bother. Politics must end along with Literature and History. It is not a permissible narrative because if it were Professors of shite subjects would have to do some actual work not just dash off any schizophrenic word salad that occurs to them.
The required reading, at two ends of the spectrum, is the entire vanguardism –social-democracy debate, of which Rosa Luxemburg’s The mass strike (2007) is a part, and the new thinking started by DD Kosambi, whom Guha cites at the very beginning of Dominance without hegemony (35).
WTF! D.D. Kosambi didn't start any new thinking whatsoever. He had zero political involvement or impact. He went off the rails after being released from onerous teaching duties thanks to the largesse of the Tatas. His raging amour propre drove him from folly to folly.  He kept proving the Reimann hypothesis using Statistical techniques! Where is Rosa Luxemburg and where is Kosambi? What great strike or insurrection did Kosambi organise?
This is like justifying war or peace through the Christ story(a different permissible narrative.
But both Wars and Peace have in fact been justified through the Christ story. Nothing has been justified by some imaginary spectrum of vanguardism featuring Kosambi.
No psychological essentialism here, especially since polymath Kosambi, whose polymath father became a Buddhist under BR Ambedkar’s influence, is speaking of how the converted Buddhist Emperor Asoka’s new imperial-universal notion of dhamma, not to be found in the classic Arthasastra, was in its turn miscast into dharma, both instruments of class reconciliation between sovereign and subject.
Urm... Ashoka converted to Buddhism- no doubt under Ambedkar's influence. Kautilya wasn't a Buddhist so d'uh, Ashoka's dhamma was different from that to be found in the Arthashastra. But it wasn't 'imperial-universal'. Ashoka stopped imperial conquest after he became a Buddhist. He relied on 'soft power' instead. Still, his polity was not incentive compatible. His Empire collapsed. Kalinga- under a Jain King- rose up and revenged itself on Magadha.

Kosambi, as sometimes happens to promising mathematicians who are over or under stimulated was busy writing nonsense. So what? Cantor- depressed by the hostility of the Academy- wrote a silly book proving Shakespeare was actually Bacon or something of that sort. Carl Schmitt, in the doghouse after the war, too wrote some such shite. Kosambi had less excuse for writing silly shite. But then he probably thought the Commies would takeover and give him one of the Tata's mansions.
Historical change, class accommodation, not psychological essence. Just dhamma, dharma, ‘Improvement’, ‘civilizing mission’ in general theory, today ‘development’; allowing invented ‘tradition’ to work at reconciling established class/caste convictions in the lower social strata, related to, but certainly not identical with, building temples and churches (119).
Gayatri is against historical change- like how dates change from day to day- because they make it difficult to prove Kosambi was converted to Buddhism by Ambedkar. We need a history in which there is no change and no dates and no facts and inconvenient stuff of that sort.

Class accommodation is what actual Political Scientists study. It is full of facts and statistics. Ideology should be free of such bothersome things.

Psychological essentialism is utterly evil. Why? Because human beings with bodies have psychology. Their material wellbeing affects their psychological state. So this sort of essentialism is scientific and can be treated in a STEM subject like way. You can't just write any shite that comes into your head and get away with it.
To say that ‘Guha does not consider that the shift to capitalist social structures might actually fit quite well with the idiom of traditional politics’ (52), or that ‘postcolonial theory ... portray[s] the East as an unchanging miasma of tradition’ (291), is astonishing.
Why? Traditional politics has an idiom for 'tijarat'- that is commerce- and its relationship with 'imarat- that is institutional power. The Mongol pastoralists fond no difficulty in translating Leninist ideas into their Khalkha vernacular. Sukhabator and Choibalsang were not inferior to any Commissar. Indeed, the latter was as cruel.

Spivak portrays India as an unchanging misasma of tradition where neither the Guleri Rani nor, a hundred years later, her own Great Aunt, has any agency or ability to speak. It is astounding that Spivak can't see this.
Would Professor Chibber correct Rosa Luxemburg and DD Kosambi? No, because he knows they are primary texts.
Chibber has addressed this. Spivak is a Professor of Literature. Good Professors correct primary texts- removing interpolations, correcting scribal or other errors, and providing cross references.
It is perfectly proper to footnote things the 'primary text' gets wrong.
He misses out on Guha because Guha has been placed within an academic battle between what I keep calling Little Britain Marxism and located postcolonial historiographies, here confused with the metropolitan second-generation version, particularly in the US.
What is this shite? Guha moved to Vienna long ago- though he became a British citizen in 1959. What has he to do with 'Little Britain Marxism'? He wrote some ignorant shite and was called on it. Is that what Spivak means?
There is no 'metropolitan second-generation version' of anything because historiography is not a hereditary profession. Does Spivak mean 'second generation immigrants who take up colonial history'? Who knows?
Chibber’s knowledge of the detail of Marx is shaky, but his convictions, coming as they do from a disciplinarization in sociology, notoriously quantitative in the US, with some notable exceptions, such as his alma mater Wisconsin, especially if the degree comes through their spectacular Center for South Asia, are remarkable in their qualitative vigour. I therefore guess that, if I remind Chibber of the famous first paragraph of Kosambi’s An introduction to the study of Indian history (1975), he will perhaps say that, although this is acceptable in a dated classic, his own general idea that Indian colonial and postcolonial history ‘are subject to the same basic forces and are therefore part of the same basic history’ (291). He does not have enough auto-critical skills to know that his own position is also dated and spaced within a turf battle slightly more than academic; that the same basic history is a site of conflictual differences. Here is Kosambi: The light-hearted sneer ‘India has had some episodes, but no history’ is used to justify lack of study, grasp, intelligence on the part of foreign writers about India’s past. The considerations that follow will prove that it is precisely the episodes—lists of dynasties and kings, tales of war and battle spiced with anecdote, which fill school texts—that are missing from Indian records. Here, for the first time, we have to reconstruct a history without episodes, which means that it cannot be the same type of history as in the European tradition. (Kosambi 1975, 1)
What 'turf battle slightly more than academic' is Spivak talking about? She doesn't say. Why not? Doesn't she want Chibber to understand why he is 'dated'? Why is she being so mean to the boy?

Kosambi was a dilettante who wrote nonsense. Indian history may be difficult to reconstruct but it is composed of the same type of episodes as any other history. Currently, statistical studies are showing persistent hysteresis effects from remote events- e.g. that fewer royal male heirs a thousand years ago still correlates with worse economic outcomes.  Kosambi's own mathematical work has some bearing on this.
I have indicated that Kathleen Collins found, in accounting for clan/goon politics in some places and not in others, that such politics was determined by the gap between the establishment of the absolutist state and democracy.
Nonsense! What Collins found was that weak contract enforcement correlates with clannish Mafia style interessement. How could she have found some gap between 'the absolutist state' and 'democracy' when neither commodity was present when she made her study?
Into this argument we can also place the colonial state, without direct access to the agency of P at the top and, of course, the totalitarian state.
This is meaningless. What is P? Did anybody actually read this shite before it was published?
Let us now consider Chibber’s remark about the subalternists’ assumption about democracy: ‘subalternists attribute to the bourgeoisie a democratic mission that it in fact rejected and fought against. The idea that modern democratic culture derives from the beneficence of capitalists is central to Ranajit Guha’s work’ (286, emphasis original). To begin with, the passage is problematic because ‘bourgeoisie’ and ‘capitalists’ are used as synonyms. (As for the passage on page 147, where Chibber does grant that there is a ‘link between capitalism and democratization’, there he again thinks the subalternists mean ‘capitalists’ when they say ‘bourgeoisie’; the bourgeoisie are actually the politico/ideological, the juridico/ legal, the intellectual/rentier; a section of the bourgeoisie may be capitalists.)
Chibber has responded to this. However, the truth is, Indian Marxists use words as they please. Everybody is a Fascist- unless, like Bose, they actually cuddled up with Hitler and Tojo.
Anyway, back in the Fifties, the whole Commie schtick was about saying India wasn't actually free at all and democracy was a sham till some nice White people came to tell them to say the reverse because the Kremlin commanded it.
But let us lay that aside. It is not capitalist beneficence that calls forth something that looks like democracy. Marx abundantly acknowledged capital’s social productivity. Capitalism manages it for sustainable underdevelopment.
Like the sort Spivak and Chibber have to put up with in America.
Capital needs to establish uniformity in order to function well.
Nonsense! Product differentiation- i.e. 'branding- is ubiquitous in Capitalism. Homogenisation on open markets would drive the profit rate down to zero. That was what Marx was talking about.

Trump is a Capitalist. Does his Tax bill equalise the proportionate burden between Warren Buffet and his secretary? Don't be silly! Of course not. The Capitalists spend a lot of money on lobbying so as to have heterogeneous jurisdictions and fiscal demarcations for revenue streams.
(I prefer that to ‘universalization’, but it is not a serious objection; simply a preference.) Capitalism, and its organic intellectuals, who are probably members of the bourgeoisie, finesses this in various ways so that capitalist social relations of production can be preserved.
Utter rubbish! Capitalists didn't like the 'social relations of production' which obtained in the Seventies when shop-stewards sat down with Management and Presidents and Prime Ministers were on a first name basis with Trade Union leaders. What happened next? Urm... they moved their factories to greenfield sites or to poor countries where the Labour movement was weak. There was no finessing going on at all.
This is not a romantic belief. It continues to our own time. I am sure Professor Chibber has read the work of Jack Snyder, Fareed Zakaria, Nicholas Doyle and many others, arguing that the enforceability of democracy depends upon per capita income and a good working capitalist system.
What on earth is Spivak getting at? No one is so stupid as to think 'enforceability of democracy depends on per capita income.' Why? Well the biggest democracy in the world has a very low per capita income. Its capitalists were hamstrung most of the time.
‘Exporting democracy’ and ‘liberating women’ have also led to some tremendous wars, beginning in the turn of the twenty-first century, in the oil circuit of the Middle East; Syria will not be the last domino to fall.
What is this shit? Does Spivak not get that oil, not democracy nor 'liberating women', was what the Gulf wars were about?
Syria isn't a domino and it hasn't fallen.
To get a detailed argument about the connection between the establishment of democracy in the American South and the play of Northern capital, controlled by Northern capitalists, to undermine labour’s agency of capital, once again I would recommend consulting WEB Du Bois’s Black reconstruction in America (1998).
Why consult Du Bois now? African American Economists are at the forefront of their profession. They have progressed a great deal- though Du Bois remains a peerless stylist.
What does 'labour's agency of capital' mean? Nothing. It is a non sequitur. When was proper 'democracy established in the American South'? 1965. Du Bois had been dead for two years. Northern capital didn't give the Southern African American the vote. What is wrong with Spivak? She was in America at the time. How far up her own arse did she stuff her head?
Chibber’s confusion of the bourgeois and the capitalist is a serious problem if one wishes to understand what people like Guha—and there were not too many like him when he began—are talking about when they compare the colonizing and the colonized bourgeoisie.
Why is it a serious problem? Guha himself uses the terms interchangeably.
These are people who are steeped in the long debate between vanguardism and social democracy, within which the critique of imperialism and the possibility of socialism are launched—even with deep background in inconvenient people like Bakunin, and that is where the argument is coming from.
There are people steeped in their own filth because they are hopeless alcoholics. So what? They changed history to the same extent as people 'steeped in the long debate between some shite and some other shite.'
This is why, if I may leap forward a bit, Chibber is unable to understand, when Chatterjee is criticizing Nehru and Gandhi, that Chatterjee may be thinking of the possibility of socialism, not of giving up on reason; that he may be questioning the version of reason that grounds Chibber’s own conviction that economic growth is human development—a position opposed by millions of people in the world outside the academy as well:
This is typical Spivak- she leaps forward and backward but never substantiates any claim she makes.
Chatterjee was a Leftist. Obviously he criticised Nehru and Gandhi and Nehru's cat and Gandhi's goat for not being Lefty enough.
Nobody opposes economic growth- some may pretend to but they also want more money spent on whichever worthless institution they have fastened upon vampire fashion.
‘[I]n the era of decolonization parts of the Global South have dramatically improved their material conditions’ (275). Kosambi could have told him that many on the left thought Nehru was selling capitalism in the name of democratic socialism.
Chibber knows that Indian Communists were saying India wasn't independent at all in the early Fifties. It was by no means certain that the Congress would embrace Socialism as it did it the Avadi Session in the mid Fifties.
And Ranajit Guha actually quotes a cluster of passages from Gandhi, in Domination without hegemony, claiming that his theories of corporate social responsibility were there to fight socialism. I give one example here: ‘“I enunciated this theory,” he [Gandhi] said, “when, the socialist theory was placed before the country in respect to the possessions held by zamindars [landowners] and ruling chiefs”’ (Guha 1998, 37). Professor Chibber may not agree, but he cannot accuse Chatterjee of illogic if he suggests that, in different ways, Gandhi and Nehru are continuing the old ‘improvement’ logic.
Chibber may have his faults but he isn't an utter fool. He makes no such claim. No one does.
Professor Chibber, in spite of the good motive to clean the house of poor theorizing, cannot, to quote my old friend Teodor Shanin, understand that ‘socialism is about justice, not development’ (here our generation understood ‘development’ as ‘exploitation’).
Shanin's people suffered under Stalin. Communist 'development' was based on Gulags and genocide. India has never had anything similar. Chibber is speaking of 'post colonial theory' not 'Soviet studies'.
It is also clear that Chibber has not read the Subaltern Studies material clearly. One of their research undertakings was to point at Gandhi’s separation from peasant movements.
Why point to a separation when there was never a union? Gandhi- like the other prominent lawyer/politicians of the day- was called upon by every and any mass movement. But, he wasn't a peasant and didn't stick his nose into farming. Spinning worthless thread to benefit starving weavers was his schtick.
If Chibber wants to get a sense of this, he may also want to look at the exchange between Sumanta Banerjee (2013) and David Hardiman (2013) in the pages of Economic and Political Weekly.
Because both are clearly horny handed peasants who know what they are talking about.
Is it only the subalternist historians who believe that liberals supported modernization as capitalist development in order to keep socialism at bay? Professor Chibber comes out with a centrist common-sense bit of criticism: ‘ [Chatterjee] simply denies what so many nationalist leaders saw as selfevident—that whatever else the postcolonial state did, it would have to find a way to develop the local productive forces’ (287). Is this what Verso wants to propose as a socialist solution, mindful of classes, in globality? To continue with the things that one must be familiar with in order to point out that subaltern studies have not been useful, I cite ‘abstract average labour’, or labour-power. It is not ‘a dimension of concretelabors’; nor does it ‘refer to properties that the latter have in common, properties which can be compared with one another and which are rewarded by the market’. ‘The most important such property is’ not ‘labor’s productive efficiency, which can be measured in its throughput’ (140, emphasis original). It is the product of what today we call ‘quantification’. In order for the capitalist to progress, labour must be put in the form of value (‘contentless’, says Marx [1990] in Capital, volume 1), so that calculations can be made. It is as simple as that.
Spivak believes Marx said 'contentless'. He didn't. The English translation says of slight content and the English version is right because English, not German, was the language of Ricardian Economics.

No doubt, Marx was a confused thinker and wrote carelessly. Still, this aspect of his thought was derivative and thus well understood in England- not Germany.
The Proletariat is defined as the class that reproduces itself. Marx is not saying that the value he speaks off can be produced by Labour which starves or otherwise perishes during the production process. Marx would have said that Stalin's impressive 'development' was nothing of the sort because people perished in the production process.
Marx didn't want to link this 'slight content' (i.e. sufficient for life and reproduction) of his notional labour numeraire to be defined narrowly on the basis of Count Rumford type 'bare subsistence' calculations. The 'slight content' could be upwardly elastic and socially defined. Indeed, human beings stop having lots of babies as they get richer. This pushes up real wages. Marx approved of that. He did not propose- though Sen & Dobb did- that the State extract surpluses from very poor people for the sake of investment in 'development'. Marx looked forward to a technologically advanced economy where, even with high living standards, the value created by a worker would greatly exceed the socially decided minimum of subsistence.
Since Chibber seems not to have grasped this at all, and ignores the ins and outs of the so-called ‘reification’ debates—which are now going completely in the direction of liberal humanism in the work of Axel Honneth (2012) and others. Honneth’s recent Tanner lecture simply put the critique of reification in the classless identitarian area of ‘recognition’—which reflects a tendency much more insidious than anything the efforts of the subalternists might signal.
 Honneth isn't an economist. Marx was. How is he relevant? Chibber isn't making any appeal to phenomenology or pathologies in the inter-subjective. Why should he? He is a Marxist.
But Chibber is located in the tendency among Little Britain Marxists patronized by the now defunct British new left, which produces, periodically, peculiar texts demolishing any attempt at expanding the scope of a general Marxist discourse—by which I mean something like the ‘broad left’ now innovated in Greece, facing the depredations of the eurozone, internal colonialism, if you like—into the interplay of capital and colony.
Well, we all know what happened to the 'broad left' in Greece. If fucked up big time and sold out to the Chinese. Piraeus is now a colony- China's Hong Kong in Europe.
Again and again, Chibber shows us that capitalism does indeed create social difference. But of course. This is the double bind of capital that Marx pointed out in a spectacular passage quoted by Guha towards the beginning of his book. Capital creates tremendous social productivity and to manage this capitalism must proletarianize; and, after Gramsci, we have also learned to say ‘subalternize’.
What 'double bind' is Spivak wittering on about? This is not a Marxist concept. It is nonsense of a pop psychological type. Learning to say 'proletarianize' or 'subalternize' is not beyond the capacity of a parrot. Why bother with it? What good does it do?
 Chibber accuses the subalternists of romantic Orientalism. Because he cannot acknowledge the difference between the conduct of the Industrial Revolution using so-called Enlightenment practices at home and coercion at best in the colonial field within which these practices needed to be played out as the markets expanded, he has a romantic notion of how the entire world has changed, which shows very clearly that he has no idea at all of Gramsci’s attempt to distinguish the subaltern from the proletarian.
But Gramsci too had no idea of this difference. How could he? The man never visited a colony and wrote most of his stuff in an Italian jail. Moreover, with respect to India, no such differentiated 'coercion' existed as far as the development of Capitalism was concerned.
Indeed, the great mass of Indians were never proletarianised in the first place. The Brits decided that villages should be collectively responsible for tax bills in the Bombay presidency. In other places they segmented the market for land between hereditary agriculturists and traders. They permitted a nightmarish tangle of co-parcenary entitlements and subinfeudations which engrossed over half of agricultural output and kept the lawyers busy.
To bring together the subaltern and the proletarian, both seen as riddled with prejudices—and Gramsci was after all in the thick of things, not just writing books—
He did most of his writing in prison, not the thick of things.
was the last piece of writing Gramsci was engaged in when he was nabbed by the fascists. This piece was already distinctly different from the kind of positive reinforcements that, as a leader of the communists, he had wisely produced for the Turin proletariat hitherto. Acknowledging that the General Strike of 1920 had not worked, he was now looking at the possibility of making long-term change. Once incarcerated, Gramsci (1971) expands this concern into the period of self-study leading to a book (which he did not have the time to write) that would take all of this into consideration. And in that period he distinguished the subaltern very carefully as follows: The subaltern social groups [gruppi soziali], by definition, are not unified and cannot unite until they are able to become a ‘State’:
Which had already happened in Italy
their history, therefore, is intertwined with that of civil society [an extended discussion would have to consider Gramsci’s special understanding of ‘civil society’] ... and thereby with the history of States and groups of States. Hence it is necessary to study: I. the objective formation of the subaltern social groups, by the developments and transformations occurring in the sphere of economic production; their quantitative diffusion and their origins in preexisting social groups, whose mentality, ideology and aims they conserve for a time;
Why is it necessary to study this? Mussolini didn't. Yet it was Gramsci who was locked up.
2. their active or passive adherence to the dominant political formations, their attempts to influence the programmes of these formations in order to press claims of their own, and the consequences of these attempts in determining processes of decomposition, renovation or neo-formation;
No! Gramsci very specifically uses the elision of the term masturbazione mentale (falsely cathexed as kulak invagination because kulak means fist in Russian) to insist upon the priority of a de-constructivist reading- not a Heideggerian destruktion- of the catachresis of re(nova)tion. I've explained all this in my next book.
3. the birth of new parties of the dominant groups, intended to conserve the assent of the subaltern groups and to maintain control over them;
and stealing all the oil in their hair
4. the formations which the subaltern groups themselves produce, in order to press claims of a restricted and ‘partial’ character;
like not having all the oil in their hair stolen by evil Capitalists
5. those new formations which assert the autonomy of the subaltern groups, but within the old framework; 6. those formations which assert the integral autonomy ... etc. (Gramsci 1971, 52) How Gramsci would have developed these thoughts and his many meditations on the relationship between the intellectual and the subaltern classes can only be surmised. This, however, remains one of his most important themes, precisely because of the fact that the subaltern is not the proletariat. Politics did not permit him to write his books. Many of his notes end in ‘etc’. The subalternists must take into account, however tacitly, the difference between the Italian state, and the colonial state. They use Gramsci and transform him some.
Okay, reality check. A guy locked up in prison writes a bunch of stuff. Why? Because he can't do anything else. Meanwhile, other guys not locked up don't bother with studying any of the shite Gramsci thinks ought to be studied and, guess what?!, they actually seize power and create a totalitarian state to their own taste.
Why bother with Gramsci? Did Italians who read his works actually go on to achieve anything worthwhile? Nope. Their workers ended up voting for Berlusconi- who may actually return to power this year.
What about the Indian Subatern Studies group? Only two of these writers, to Spivak's knowledge, still lives in India and one of those doesn't have Indian citizenship. What great things have they achieved? Absolutely nothing. They are stupid careerists simply.
Chibber, ready to tilt at the subalternists, and unaware of Gramsci’s distinction between subaltern and proletariat (although he does comment upon the Risorgimento), produced the universalist romantic utopian leftist narrateme that I have cited above. The sentence ‘there was simply no way to accommodate subaltern demands for improvement in their living standard, while keeping domestic capitalists on board, except through a modernizing agenda’ (268) shows no awareness of the subaltern social groups’ distance from the state.
Right! Subalterns can't speak. They are distant from the State because...urm... when a General gives a command that command must be carried out by a Field Marshall- not one of 'subaltern', that is, junior status. Why? Well, the General will want to know whether his orders have been carried out. A subaltern wouldn't be able to speak to the General because Spivak proved that subalterns can't speak. So the General would have him shot. Thus, subalterns keep a distance from the State. Poor things! What else are they to do?
This is a disciplinary problem, an inability to read philosophical writing that is also political, and diagnosing it as nonsense. After all of the attempts by people who are not necessarily less intelligent than Chibber to establish how ‘discourse’ works at the social construction of reality—not necessarily my position, but I can certainly read this work in order to learn from it—Chibber produces a sentence that shows an ignorance of the entire field of discourse studies. I refer him to Discourse and power by Teun A van Dijk (2008).
WTF? This guy lectures on 'Critical Discourse Analysis'. How fucking stupid do you have to be to think that's not a waste of time?
Structuralism and poststructuralism, never discussed, are similarly dismissed as irrational—this is a book, not a rant! These are fields that, again, the subalternists assume to be part of the familiar background of all kinds of actors attempting to rethink a left that was moving more and more towards totalitarianism.
WTF? The left was moving towards totalitarianism! When? How come no one noticed? Oh! It didn't really happen. No, I'm wrong- there was Comrade Bala holed up in Tooting with his slaves.
I remember clearly that just after 1989, at a Radical Philosophy conference in London, nearly all of the papers presented were still involved with the Jerusalem built on England’s green and pleasant land—therefore to call Ranajit Guha useless because he did not understand the British and French revolutions is not surprising from Verso but it’s somewhat shocking nevertheless that this kind of thing still continues.
British people think Guha doesn't understand British history. French people think he doesn't understand French history. Indian people think he doesn't understand Indian History. There's a pattern here is all I'm saying.
I don't know which 'Radical Philosophy' conference Spivak attended in London. Perhaps she strayed, by mistake into a Women's Institute Conference and heard their anthem.
It may indeed be true that in these small countries, which by then had national languages more or less understood by everyone, ‘the peasants ... had to reach out to the dignitaries in order to get the reform coalition to turn into a revolutionary one’ (75).
Oh! Britain and France are small countries. So they had national languages. So peasants could reach out to dignitaries who could understand their jabbering. This couldn't happen in India because the bhadralok zamindar- like Tagore- couldn't understand Bengali. The Sikh Maharajas- like the new C.M of Punjab- couldn't speak Punjabi.
If, on the other hand, instead of ‘examin[ing] the British and French experience in far greater depth than does Guha’ (54), Chibber had tried to look at India in deep focus, he would have seen how absurd it is not to acknowledge the obvious differences between Britain and France, taken as ‘Europe’, and the huge multilingual, multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious reality of the Indian subcontinent in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Wow! What a great discovery! India has many languages. Thus a peasant is unlikely to be able to speak the same language as the land-lord or other dignitary. Take the case of a Tamil IAS officer posted to Bengal. When Bengalis come to him he can't understand what they say. What's that? Indian Civil Servants have always been obliged to learn the language of the District in which they serve? Really? But surely Bengali landlords didn't speak Bengali. They must have conversed only in Japanese.
It is derisive to say that in ‘the broad sweep of modern political history in the Global South, there is ample evidence that’—a nice compendious footnote would have persuaded me against my common sense—‘in nationalist movements during the colonial era, and continuing into the postcolonial era—organizations of the popular classes have pushed in much the same direction as did their counterparts in Europe’ (152 –153). What ‘counterparts’? In Peru, Guatemala? In Egypt? Bangladesh? Sri Lanka?
Yes, in Peru. That's why it threw out the Spanish. Yes in Guatemala. Yes in Egypt- where land reform was under Nasser was far more radical than anywhere in Europe. Yes in Bangladesh. Yes in Sri Lanka- which had a failed Communist putsch in the early Seventies which the Indians and Pakistanis jointly helped crush.
All the countries mentioned have Trade Unions and political parties and so on. With the exception of Egypt, they are all fully functioning Democracies.
This is not a ‘critique of Eurocentrism’. In the elementary schools for the rural landless where Spivak has trained students and teachers to learn and teach the state curriculum for nearly three decades now she tries to make her groups friendly with the wretched map of the world on the back cover of the geography book.
Referring to ourselves in the third person, eh? Tut tut. Not a good sign.
She points at the northwestern corner of the huge Eurasian continent and tells them that that is Europe and that, though so small, they still won. She discusses with them how they won and even uses such mid-Victorian examples as James Watt watching the lid dance on the pot of boiling water. She reminds herself not to be an ‘improver’, and discusses with her increasingly more aware coworkers (male and female teachers and supervisors) from the community the fact that she is not drawing profits from the work for and with them.
Wow! How shite is Spivak? She's telling kids not be 'improvers'. Does she want them to make things worse? She also 'discusses with her increasingly more aware coworkers' the fact that she is working for free. No doubt, that's not her only way of expiating upon her own moral greatness. Her 'increasingly more aware coworkers' must be laughing their heads off at this idiot who thinks James Watts was mid Victorian.
Although they are not well acquainted with the world map and know nothing about colonialism, and have not seen any factories of any significant size, they do understand what profit or munafa is.
Spivak doesn't. Otherwise she wouldn't boast of working for free at that school thus boosting her own status and earnings. She is lying when she says she does not profit from this otherwise worthless work of hers. The villagers well understand what type of munafa she is getting.
They are subaltern, they have no special psychological essence, they are not ‘the East’, or ‘the Non-West’, they can be examples of a general argument that notices that they vote in a postcolonial nation that they do not know as such.)
So, they don't benefit at all from Spivak's worthless school. If they did, they would have a special psychological essence. Why? All the students of a really good teacher develop psychologically in a particular way. This essence is recognisable. It is a type of transferable charisma.
A limiting concept of ‘Europe’ must come to terms with the fact that Europe is part of a much larger world now.
As opposed to when exactly?
Europe’s moment was historically important but not all-consumingly determining. Not everyone has to have a correct interpretation of the English and French revolutions.
No one needs to have a correct interpretation of stuff that happened long ago.
It is enough to think of the relationship between the Chartists and the Reform Bills, even Labour and New Labour; of the 18th Brumaire; even Aime´ Ce´saire and Frantz Fanon versus Vale´ry Giscard d’Estaing.
She's had a stroke. What is the relationship between the Chartists and the Reform Bills? It is one of pressure from below. But Labour and New Labour? There is nothing similar. As for Black Francophone writers, what relationship could they possibly have with whitebread Giscard?
The sun rises at different times upon the globe today.
Wow! Is that what she teaches those subaltern kids in India?
Paying good attention to England and France is not going to ‘plac[e] Indian modernity in a global context’ (79). When the stock exchange closes in London, it must wait for Tokyo and then Mumbai
Nonsense. Stock Exchanges work to traditional hours. They don't wait for each other. In any case, one can trade from anywhere electronically.
, and in-between opens the turbulent and wildly unstable speculative ‘marriage of socialism and capitalism’, where the ‘turnover rates are ten times higher’ (Wong 2006), where the rules are much different from Professor Chibber’s boutades about capital/capitalism equated, yet uniformization/universalization is raring to break through (like the steam in the steam engines that we travelled by in my childhood and adolescence): Shanghai and Shenzen. This inability to read any other kind of writing is shown in an embarrassing footnote where, I must say, Chakrabarty would have done well to acknowledge the source. Citing a passage where Chakrabarty is clearly paraphrasing Walter Benjamin’s notion of ‘now time’, Chibber asks the rhetorical question, ‘Is this passage meant to explain anything at all?’ (220).
In the passage, Dipesh speaks of a messianic moment. But, since no Revolution occurred, it can't explain anything because it was conspicuous by its absence.
It would be more convenient for him simply to dismiss Walter Benjamin as a fool and a knave, and ‘correct’ the ‘Theses on the philosophy of history’ (1968), but unfortunately the inability to hold on to the present as present is a bit of the mundane experience of life that has been considered philosophically by too many people, including Hegel—another fool to be corrected—for Chibber simply and blithely to dismiss.
Spivak studied English literature at College level. A twelve year old who wrote like this would get an F. What is wrong with her?
I am a literary critic, so let me cite an example from poetry, which also should perhaps be dismissed because it does not accede to the Enlightenment as understood by Chibber—a rational choice as defined by academic infighting: The last line of William Butler Yeats’s poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’: ‘Of what is past, or passing, or to come,’ spells a non-accessibility to the stability of the present, a gesture, protecting from claims to influence.
Spivak's thesis was on Yeats. She knows of Yeats's esoteric Neo-Platonism. Yeats wants to climb the chain of Being so that all Time is univocal and known directly. Past, present and future are known immediately. 'the stability of the present' is an oxymoron- the present isn't stable. Yeats wasn't a Buddhist desiring satori in a momentary universe. In this poem, Yeats is renouncing the flesh to open himself to great masters like Plotinus. He wants to be influenced and raised up by the great seers who have gone before.
The present is a vanishing relationship, constituted by its vanishing.
No, the present is a relationship between the past and the future. It doesn't vanish, save for a specific type of eschatology which denies henosis.
Let us look at Benjamin’s powerful articulation, which I will cite again at the end. ‘The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant of its recognizability, never to be seen again. ... History is the object of a construction, whose site forms not with homogeneous empty time, but time filled with the now time.’
 Benjamin was contrasting two different types of time- that of the Historicist who accumulates data and deduces Cliodynamic laws and regularities as against a messianic moment which has some mysterious Kairotic power to effect change by a type of cognition which isn't Historicist at all.
Yeats’s time, the time for literary action, for literary activism, now time, not a present of the sort that you can catch as something that actually exists. (Benjamin 1968, 255, 261)
Yeats's time was not for literary activism. He was sick of what that had done to Ireland. His was the Neoplatonic Time of the seers.

Here too I comment on Little Britain Marxism, as follows: 'Many people think that ‘homogeneous empty time’ was a phrase coined by Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities, a book which does not grant us the ability to understand what we are about, or to understand and use the great economic and political narratives of liberation that come from Europe.
Why is it so being mean? Tell you what- you just tell it that you are a nice white lady, put on a mask if you have to, and then it will be forced to grant you the ability to understand what you are about.
Many people think that Benedict Anderson wrote ‘homogeneous empty time’ and that Homi Bhabha opposed it, but in fact, it comes from this extraordinary passage in Benjamin where he talks about the time of action. (Spivak forthcoming)
So what? Benjamin Anderson got the phrase from the positivists who ultimately got it from Newton who in turn got if from some book in Latin.
 Granted it was a silly phrase. But so is talk about 'print capitalism'.
When Chakrabarty suggests that there should not be a ‘simple application of the analytics of capital and nationalism available to Western Marxism’  he is  appealing for complexity and not the top-down approach that mere application implies.
Very good of him I'm sure. Did his appeal change anything?
Chibber is fixated on ‘political psychology’. It is not a question of being ‘disdainful’ (89; no documentation for this nice psychological term) of subaltern agency; it is a question of, given what the ‘subaltern’ is—as defined by Gramsci, ‘on the fringes of history’ and not yet generalizable—that entire social group falling through the cracks of the theory applied.
Gramsci was locked up. He and other such prisoners where at the fringes of history. Others weren't. They may have been pretty miserable but their descendants aren't. Why? It's because they didn't bother with Gramsci. They did bother with stuff like Engineering and Medicine and making a tastier type of pasta or a more beautiful racing car or handbag.
French theories of ‘relative autonomy’ would not help here, as Chibber suggests in a footnote. The ‘metanarrative’ Chakrabarty is speaking of contains the relatively autonomous fields of politics, ideology and the economic in a structural fit. In his earlier work as well, he is speaking of the strong hold of an older ideology (‘residual’ on the Raymond Williams model) rather than a ‘unique psychological disposition of Indians’ (178)—all Indians? Incidentally, Chibber’s dismissal of the History 1/ History 2 distinction would also dismiss the entire rethinking of historiography introduced by Fernand Braudel.
Nope. Braudel actually uncovered some alethic data. He wasn't as wholly worthless as Dipesh.
As a result of this problem of reading, Chibber does not understand what Guha is doing in the defining sections of Dominance without hegemony.
Nobody doesn't understand that Guha was posing as some sort of Leftie. Not the sort who actually does anything mind you- but the type who might emigrate to England and teach at Sussex.
I have given enough examples of this to say here, simply, that, far from asserting that there is an immutable difference in the Eastern psyche, Guha is suggesting that, if ‘Indian history [is] assimilated to the history of Great Britain’—as Chibber suggests—it would be ‘used as comprehensive measure of difference between the two countries’ (Guha 1998, 3). Already in the first paragraphs of the book, Guha makes it quite clear that he is not claiming that the European liberals did everything they promised. I think the only difference that he is arguing is that in the context of an imposition of a stage of capital not yet arrived at in the colonized space—here the work of Ritu Birla (2009) is essential—the nationalist historians did not recognize that the peasants found in so-called religion a way out of simply individual interests into a more world-historical perception.
What is this shit? Nationalist historians shared the same religion as the peasants and thought in the same terms. Yes, some deracinated Marxists who emigrated to Ivy Leaf Ivory towers were ignorant of that religion. But, they were also ignorant of History and Politics and everything else.
The description of religion as the insurrectionists’ way beyond mere personal suffering towards ‘the world historical’ matters a great deal today, as does the construction of an ‘ideal consciousness’ for the deserving and undeserving other by the human rights lobby and the self-selected moral entrepreneurs of the so-called international civil society as well as by the proliferation of ‘empty abstractions [in] tertiary discourse’ (Guha 1983). This use of religion can then be contrasted to the ideological script of dharma as urging patriotism to the Indian nation
It was the Prophet who said 'hubb al watan min al iman'- Patriotism is part of Religion. This is the credo of millions upon millions of patriotic Indian Muslims. Perhaps, Spivak thinks Abdul Kalam was put in charge of the missile program, or elected President, because he opposed Indian patriotism.
 Since Chibber can only see this as an Orientalist statement about the East being psychologically different, he cannot see how bold it is.
 Either the Italian subaltern is different from the Indian one or it isn't. If it is different, why invoke Gramsci? If it is the same, why write worthless books unless you are in prison and can't raise up the oppressed directly through political action?
Guha wasn't bold. A guy holed up in Blighty- or more recently in Vienna- is either a poltroon or his Politics are wholly gestural.
In the context of the Arab Spring that he brings in at the end of his book, this particular opposition, between liberalism and religion as access to the world-historical, the clash of discursive fields tangling with irregular class and gender formation, becomes crucial. I cannot go there in a review, but this needs to be considered more carefully. Professor Chibber takes Ranajit Guha to task for ‘never tak[ing] up the question of why popular forces failed to gather enough strength to push the INC [Indian National Congress] in a more radical direction’ .
Chibber is right to do so because Guha was actually in India in the Fifties. Instead of emigrating, he could have been part of the 'popular forces' demanding urgent action on land reform, begar, debt bondage etc.
Our point would be that the entire work of Guha, Chakrabarty and Chatterjee is about how this was prevented by both leadership and historiography.
But what stopped them from providing leadership? Why didn't they try to change history instead of shitting on historiography? Gramsci did it. Rosa Luxemburg did it. Why did DD Kousambi or Guha or Dipesh or Partha not do it?
But if we are wrong, we ask Chibber why? Is it because they were psychologically ‘different’ from the French and British ‘popular forces’ so many centuries ago?
Yes. You guys think Indians are psychologically different from the French or British or Americans or Viennese or Australians where you've holed up. For a start, you can't bluff Indians that you know about India.
I want to close with a reference to feminism, of which there is no mention here at all. Some of us have argued for rather a long time that feminist movements had an oblique relationship with the tradition of imperialism. When the nature of this relationship is not recognized, it is precisely the subaltern woman who is ignored.
Really? What happens when it is recognised? Does the subaltern woman get invited to tea?
I was visited two days ago by a young Indian-American woman wanting to make a film about the rape of Jyoti Singh, by consulting ‘experts’ like Noam Chomsky, Sudhir Kakar and Gayatri Spivak. I was not able to rise to her request, because I felt that this was not a productive enterprise.
Good for you!
In the process, since she was also using the fact that this idea came to her through her son’s sex education class in the Midwest of America, I tried to tell her about the use made by men on the left, so-called, of women who believe in the Enlightenment, just exactly as use is made of women who believe in anti-feminist traditions. I told her that the general sympathy for a mother –son discourse, family values (my son’s sex education class) and women who still make use of it would be diagnosed by the most relentlessly honest philosopher of the Enlightenment as keeping women enclosed within an absence of ‘civil personality’, with ‘tradesmen, servants ... minors’ (Kant 1991, 139).
Tradesmen have civil personality. So do servants. Minors can enfranchise themselves or be made wards of court. Even women have civil personality. Kant can't change that.

What we have here is an Indian-American who thinks her boy should be taught to respect a woman's right to say no at any stage in a courtship or other intimate moment. That is perfectly reasonable. It doesn't have anything to do with the Jyoti Singh case, but we can grasp the lady's motivation. Chomsky would say 'Media manufactures a particular type of aggressive male sexuality and this is linked to Consumerism'. Kakar would say 'Indian Society creates a sense of exorbitant privilege in male children'. Spivak would say 'the (in)vaginationalism of the Hegelian catachresis of the invagination of the Freud and this is something I said in my forthcoming book which is ironic because I already published it but they said Spivak is such an authority on the subaltern which is why I teach ignorant villagers because I'm so great and nobody understands this because Marx said it was contentless (das arselickin') and Spivak pointed out that I am pagal which is an Indian word which means rose like.'
I told her we must learn to disprove this. I must repeat this at the end of my review because there must be a feminist consideration of Chibber’s emphasis on the heroism of the subaltern classes misunderstood as simply part of the world’s disenfranchised existing within ‘the same history as Europe’, supporting his desire to dismiss Subaltern Studies as a part of postcolonial studies. That desire I should have liked to contest in terms of my own conflictual but instructive experience with this group. But since I have no foothold in this book except as an object of mockery, I think that would be, to quote the language understood by Chibber and his cohorts, bad form.

So, Spivak tells an American woman- admittedly of Indian ancestry- that she and Spivak must learn to disprove the notion that women in America have no civil personality. How could they do it? Well, for a start they could demand the right to vote. What? They have the right to vote? Well, in that case they should disprove Kant by demanding the right to own property and hold down jobs. What? They have that already? Oh. In that case ...urm... let's disprove the notion that subaltern women in India don't have civil personality. How? We must get them the right to vote and hold public office- even become Prime Minister! What? You don't say! Indira Gandhi was a woman? Well, I never! Okay, Chibber is right- Subaltern Studies is shite. Indians share the same history as Europe. Be a dear and keep it under your hat. A lot of us would lose our jobs if word got out.