Aijaz Ahmed quotes D.D Kosambi as saying-
'The outstanding characteristic of a backward bourgeoisie , the desire to profit without labour or grasp of technique, is reflected in the superficial research so common in India. Ironically enough, so much of what is published in the metropolitan countries displays this very characteristic of the 'backward bourgeoisie;' when it comes to the 'Third World'.
D.D Kosambi was a very promising Mathematician. He felt stifled teaching in Pune and so he got a well paid job with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research where he did no fundamental research of any kind. Instead, he published imbecilic proofs of the Reimann hypothesis in third rate Indian Journals. He also pretended to be an expert on Sanskrit and to be a great Historian. He certainly showed the outstanding characteristic of a worthless shithead who desires 'to profit without labour or grasp of technique' by publishing superficial 'research' which is praised by ideological allies and otherwise ignored.
What about India's 'backward bourgeoisie' as represented by the Tatas, the Birlas, the Bajajs, the various Mittals, and- later on- Ambanis and so forth? Do they 'profit without labour or grasp of technique'? No. If they were rent-takers in protected markets they shrivelled up and died. If they survive in competitive markets, they embrace state of the art technology and emerge as Globally dominant firms.
Something similar happens in Academia. Fifty years ago, there were good Marxist historians and social scientists who were doing genuine research. But, they closed themselves off from competition and became rent-takers simply. Their research was wholly incestuous and produced increasingly sterile imbeciles. Thus, they lost salience. Even the much vaunted 'Post Modernists'- who were good at publicising themselves- lost salience because they chose to become rent-seekers shielding themselves from competition by lending themselves to a Credentialist race to the bottom in terms of permitting Research Degrees to be awarded to very backward aspirants to Clerical status.
Portions of the Western Academy turned into Third World ghettos increasingly staffed by refugees from the actual Third World. This was an intellectual 'affirmative action' program which destroyed the intelligence of those it enrolled leaving them no horizon more Orient than that of whining about Dead White Men.
It also produced pseudo-profundity of this sort-
Why is the above fucked? The answer is that it presupposes that a Literature is a market of a specific type. Economics knows how to treat any given market as a 'theoretical object'. Marxism, after all, is an Economic theory. However, no Economic theory- even the Marxist one- holds that 'productions' can be or should be 'examined in relation to their objective determinations by the development of the culture as a whole.' Why? The answer is that 'objective determinations'- e.g. that of Value- fluctuate stochastically and for exogenous reasons. Even suppose there is a univocal 'golden path' for all Societies from which they only deviate briefly this would still be the case provided any given Literature production could have two different 'use values'. But this must always be true. Aijaz Ahmad may have intended the passage quoted above as 'Punditry' but we read it as a parody of a particular type of pseudo-Lefty mental masturbation.
The 'material condition' for everybody either ignoring Ahmad or using his worthless prose for some Careerist or merely Comic purpose is that no State thinks it worthwhile to beat us if we make fun of this silly man.
No difficulty arises in 'thinking of Indian Literature'. Why? India exists. It spends money teaching various types of Literature only some of which are considered 'Indian'. Thus there is already a 'buck stopping' extensional acceptation for the term. That acceptation may change. Some 'Indian' languages- like sabak-e-hindi
Persian or scholastic Arabic- may one day be declared alien. So might the novels of R.K Narayan and the profound philological meditations of Vagina Dentata Choothopahdyaya.
It is a different matter that Academics who write about the difficulty of defining 'Indian Literature' are worthless shitheads who only indulge in a meaningless methodenstreit
on this entirely made-up issue because they are too stupid and ignorant and lacking in taste to write about actual Literature of any description- let alone the Indian variety.
Unlike Indian academics, Aijaz- who is Pakistani-American- has no animus against the Indian State or, indeed, against the Hindu majority of that Nation. However, it must be said, this is a trait he shares in common with devout Indian Muslims. I am not charging Aijaz with being a crypto-Islamist but, I'm sorry to say that his ancestral background has prejudiced him and thus, as if motivated by the hadith 'hubb al watan min al iman'
he makes a patriotic plea for more State support for inter-translation between Indian languages so as to foster pan-Indian identity and values. However, by the Grace of Secularism's No-God, even his hereditary instinct in this respect is vitiated by the type of argument he is obliged to make-
Miran doesn't make sense in any Indian language save to a Theist. She can be translated into any language for Theists by Theists who have thrilled to the medieval theistic poets of the target language.
There are some differences due to climate and material culture. England is generally cold- an English poetess will speak of the Virgin holding the soles of the feet of her baby to her breast so as to warm the poor creature. India is generally hot. But we can make a mental adjustment so that we are equally affected by the image. Indian languages have no difficulty celebrating the Theistic traditions of far away countries with very different climates and terrains. Nor do European languages which is why Hinduism and Buddhism can flourish far from their place of origin.
Proficiency in a lingua franca
or link language is not needed for successful translation between two wholly alien literary traditions. Good poets, truly imaginative writers, may hear a story at third hand and yet produce something equally imbued with mystery and significance. On the other hand, Professors- like Amul Dairy Mehrotra translating Kabir
- write shite doggerel because they are shite. A 'Sarkari' Translation bureau won't produce poetry. It will just turn everything into a homogeneous mass of bureaucratic shite.
Aijaz thinks 'print capitalism' made a difference. It didn't. Books, qua books, as opposed to such reveries as they occasion, are shite. Only stupid people read because they like reading.
The Gramophone record and Film and Radio and Railway trains which permitted drama troupes to tour- stuff like that made a difference because the demand for them wasn't 'derived'.
At one time, University Departments too had a contribution to make. The Professor of Punjabi at Godhulia Gornmint College wrote excellent Punjabi verse and was fluent in several languages. Nowadays, we are stuck with tenured Professors who published some worthless pseudo-Leftie shite in the Nineties and got tenure without being able to string two sentences together in any language. So what? Who cares? What matters is that artists continue to have an incentive to cultivate precisely that pan-Indian- indeed, universal- Literature which Aijaz thinks can be studied 'as a theoretical object' even though every meta-theory in the Social Sciences- Economic, Linguistic or Computational- denies that the feasibility of any such approach.
Literature isn't something just anybody can produce- witness the failure of my own worthless books- and the study of Literature isn't something just any one ought to do. Now, forcing students to regurgitate worthless shite about specified texts, for screening purposes or to ration clerical employment, may appear to be about 'hegemony'. It isn't. It's a case of being forced to eat a peck of dirt so as to destroy your morale and teach you your place in the scheme of things.
Aijaz, poor fellow, doesn't get that the rise of the BJP wasn't about some sudden access of epistemic prestige to the Ramayana or Mahabharata. Rather, it was because the RSS came to be seen as the least corrupt and, at least potentially, the most beneficent political or moral force in the country. The educated elite was initially fearful that these guys from second tier cities would hamper economic development in the name of 'Gandhian 'Swadesi' economics' but this did not happen. Still, we remained fearful of these Hindi speaking provincials till our English speaking intellectuals started babbling outright nonsense- making out that urban India was as affluent as White America and ought to be ceaselessly harangued into more and more affirmative action.
According to this trope, Hindus were equated with White Anglo Saxon Protestants and thus were guilty of some terrible crime against Muslims and Adivasis and so on. Manmohan Singh- a hero to the Right- suddenly started babbling about Muslims getting 'first call' on the Nation's resources- which would have been funny except the guy was presiding over massive corruption such that oily little Madrasis were looting the Treasury to their heart's content- and so, suddenly, we started listening to Modi- whose Hindi, unlike Rahul Baba's English, actually makes sense- with the result that, now, the BJP is
the undisputed Indian National Party of Governance.
Aijaz may have believed that the indefeasible univocity of Indian literature- at least to Indians who are capable of producing literature- was a Brahman plot. After all, Vajpayee was a Brahman. But, now, it is Rahul Baba who claims to be a janeodhari
Brahman Shaivite. Romila Thapar, a Khatri, who advised his Mother on Indian Culture (!), is no where to be seen.
Aijaz thinks that Jains and Tamils and so on were marginalised by North Indian Brahmans. The truth is, people of my father's generation did nurse some such fear- more particularly because it seemed inevitable that the P.M would be a Hindi speaker from U.P- where Brahmans are a sizable voting block. No such fear now obtains. Jainism has been granted minority status and, predictably, Congress under Rahul Baba is trying to create an anti-Jain backlash. Thus Amit Shah is accused (by Raj Babbar!) of being a crypto-Jain who murdered a Hindu Marwari Judge, with the connivance of Chief Justice Mohit Shah (probably a crypto-Jain), and who is propping up an out and out card-carrying Jain in the post of Chief Minister of Gujarat! Hai! Sanatan Dharma
is in danger. Those money-grubbing Jains are running everything! Please vote for Rahul Baba. He is a janeodhari
Shaivite and will slaughter those depraved atheists (who deny our sacred Vedas!) like the great Kings of old.
Aijaz thinks 'European Literature' can exist because European Universities produce large numbers of intellectuals who are multi-lingual and can cross translate. Poor fellow! He is living in the past. There was a time- as Edward Said reported- when Literature Professors in America and Europe knew two Classical language, were fluent in three modern languages and had a reading knowledge of perhaps a half dozen more. Those times have gone because Literature Departments have been colonised by the most 'backward' of the aspiring, not Bourgeoisie, but aspirants to Bildgungsburgertum status- i.e. white collar employment.
India always had multi-lingual savants which is why 'Indian Literature' existed- even in the Academy. It doesn't any longer- in the Academy, that is- because the Academy has turned to shit. Aijaz's own work- which is well written if foolish- has contributed to the fecalization of Indian scholarship in this regard. His ancestors must be turning in their graves.
Aijaz was born in 1932. Thus his English is good. He felt his 'bi-linguality' was suppressed by the Academic racket. What he didn't predict was that it would suppress even mono-linguality. There is no up and coming Professor of Comp Lit who, in good conscience, can write a proper sentence in any language whatsoever.
The bond market is indeed more profitable than Literature as a 'Social Science' (an oxymoron Auden asked us to abjure). Why? It's because even Communist countries- like China- need to ensure that there is an adequate real rate of return on bonds. This means that every country needs to observe certain canons derivable from the theory of riskless assets. By contrast 'Literature as a theoretical category' serves no useful function. It doesn't matter if it degenerates into ka ka. People capable of appreciating Literature will still do so. 'Multi-linguality' will arise spontaneously. The Academy can't stop this happening because it was disintermediated long ago. Becoming ashamed of its belletristic origins, it transgressed the first rule of Literature- viz. don't write shite- and lost its 'interessement' mechanism in consequence. True, in France, some academics were capable of the sort of purple passage we find in Edward Said, but when all is said and done they were French.
Look at that Macron fellow. He was Paul Ricoeur's secretary. And he married his Drama teacher. I mean to say... what? what?