Monday 29 March 2021

Ram Guha on why India should have a Civil War


Ram Guha writes in

In 1873, the social reformer, Jyotirao Phule, published a searing critique of the caste system. Entitled Gulamgiri, the book was written in Marathi, yet it carried a dedication in English.

Why? Phule was financed by Whites and stood well with the British administration. He wanted them to read the English dedication so they might reward him suitably. There was nothing wrong in that. Lots of people sucked up to the Rulers and claimed that 'Gulamgiri' (slavery) had been imposed on them by Muslims, or Marathas or whoever had preceded the Brits.  

Sadly, Phule forgot one thing. If the Ruler thinks you support him because you fear some other group, then the Ruler has no incentive to help you. Instead, the Ruler will concentrate on placating the other group- perhaps by letting them exploit your people more intensively. That is what actually happened to the loyalist classes. Phule was smart in the short run but a fool longer term. 

This expressed the author’s admiration for “the good people of the United States” for their “sublime, disinterested and self-sacrificing devotion” to the abolition of slavery.

The US had fought a Civil War in which over a half million died. This was more than in both the World Wars put together and that too with a much smaller population base. Sadly, the position of most African Americans in the South tended to fall after the end of 'Reconstruction'.  

Phule hoped that the passion for racial justice expressed by reformers in America would act as a “noble example” for Indians who sought “the emancipation of their Shudra Brethren from the trammels of Brahmin thraldom”.

But India was ruled by Whites. The Brahmins, no doubt, were delighted to be equated with Whites. It occurs to me that Guha is of Brahmin heritage. 

Of course, the obvious remedy was conversion to Christianity. The problem was that Christianity too had a caste system in India while, in America and South Africa and so forth a color bar obtained.  

I was reminded of Phule’s dedication when reading reports of the prime minister’s speech in Parliament, warning Indians against what he damned as “foreign destructive ideology”.

Why? Phule wanted foreigners to rule over India. But they left some 50 years after his death. Many in India may mourn this outcome. But the Prime Minister is not one of them. He considers an ideology which says foreigners should rule India is destructive for India.  

The capacious cosmopolitanism of the lonely, struggling reformer

who was supported by the British because he was doing useful work and was properly appreciative of the many positive aspects of British rule

on the one side versus the paranoid xenophobia of the most powerful man in India, on the other.

Xenophobia? Modi seems to enjoy himself on his foreign trips. At any rate, his party does well by them. As for paranoia- that is perhaps a subject Guha has personal knowledge of though folie de grandeur would be a more apt diagnosis. 

Clearly, the Hindu mind was far more open when we were still under colonial rule than at present, when we are a professedly proud and independent nation.

That's true enough. Hindus don't think they'd be better off being ruled by Boris Johnson or Imran Khan. If Guha thinks differently, why does he not say so? There are plenty of Tamil Brahmins who have fled India for White ruled countries so that their kids get an equal chance of getting a Government job or a place in a medical college.  

Through the 19th century and well into the 20th, the leaders of Hindu society were entirely aware of its weaknesses.

Because the country was ruled by foreigners from a distant, much smaller, island.  

They knew that the disabilities that Hindus suffered from were in part, indeed in good part, self-inflicted.

No. They knew all Indians were shit, compared to the West Europeans, regardless of religion. But the same was increasingly the case of Iranians and Turks and so forth.  

Our failures could not merely be blamed on the malevolent foreigners who had colonised us.

Indeed. They had to be blamed on the benevolent foreigners who were freezing up the violent means by which those who were a little less shit conquered those who were more shit and then forced them to change their ways. That's how Western Europe rose up.  

In ridding ourselves of these disabilities, in preparing to meet the challenges of a complex, interdependent and ever-changing world, Hindus had to take counsel from, and listen to, critical voices both internal as well as external.

Nonsense! Listening to shit don't change shit. Tardean mimetics is the way to go. Phule was imitating those communities who had got a little ahead through education and a display of loyalty to the Raj. That was the smart thing to do.  

Three strands of social reform

The modern tradition of Hindu social reform begins with Rammohan Roy.

Who begged the Brits to send more colonists so as to form a bulwark against any reassertion of Muslim power. For Roy & Tagore, 'gulami' was associated with Muslims just as it was associated with High Castes for Phule.  

Far from thinking (as our present Hindutvawadis do) that Hindus were pure, perfect, infallible, Roy faulted his compatriots on three grounds in particular – their treatment of women, their lack of interest in modern knowledge and their trust in scripture over reason.

The silly man thought idol worship was very evil. Catholics and High Anglicans were bound to go under while the Unitarians rose up. 

A society which treats women like shit can still rise up if it kills and enslaves those around it. Modern knowledge doesn't matter a fart. Military technology matters but you can always import technicians and then get slave labor to mass produce the thing. Nobody gives a toss about scripture- why pretend otherwise? As for reason- Roy couldn't reason his way out of a paper bag.  

These three strands of social reform were deepened and furthered by activists who came in the wake of Roy, who pressed for, among other things, the raising of the age of marriage, the encouragement of the practice of widow remarriage, the promotion of modern education for men and for women, an end to caste discrimination and a culture of open debate through a free press.

All of which would have still left India unable to feed, clothe or defend itself. What was needed then and now was to get rural girls into factory dormitories. A little basic literacy and numeracy would raise their productivity. As for boys- conscription of some sort would be needed to make them useful.

The Soviet Union and China and so forth did not rise up thanks to a free press. 

Rammohan Roy had travelled widely in the West,

No. He'd made the sea journey to England where he died. 

and interacted with many Western thinkers and activists.

Some of a certain cast of mind- yes, but he died on his first trip. 

Yet, as Rabindranath Tagore once wrote, “with a wonderful breadth of heart and intellect [Roy] accepted the West without betraying the East”.

He demanded that more Brits come and take Estates in India so as to keep the Muslims in check.  

As a scholar of Sanskrit, Bengali and Persian, Roy “had ground of his own on which he could take his stand and where he could secure his acquisitions. The true wealth of India was not hidden from him, for this he had already made his own. Consequently he had with him the touchstone by which he could test the wealth of others.”

Tagore's grandfather was another such 'touchstone'. But he went bankrupt. Indeed, it seems only one Bengali comprador did well out of lending money to British officials.  

Like Rammohan Roy, Tagore was a Bengali deeply curious about other parts of India, and an Indian keenly interested in other parts of the world.

So what? Did he do anything to make India stronger or richer? No? Then fuck him.  

Notably, his range of cosmopolitan reference was not (as is often the case with Indians) merely restricted to Europe and North America. His search for knowledge took him to Japan, China, Java, Iran and Latin America too.

He was drumming up money for Shantiniketan. He'd have gone to the moon if the lunatics there had any money to give him.  

When, as a consequence of these travels, he established a university in rural Bengal, he named it “Visva-Bharati”, which we may translate as “The World in India”.

First came Shantiniketan, then the travels. Previously, he'd been content to travel on business in East Bengal or to London. The Nobel Prize lifted his horizon. He went wherever some cash might be collected. I suppose you could say Tagore anticipated the begging bowl diplomacy of Nehruvian India. R.K Laxman had a cartoon of a Minister trying to find some spot on the map from which foreign Aid had not been forthcoming so as to rush there and plead for charity.

The university’s memorandum of association described its objectives as the bringing together of “thinkers and scholars of both Eastern and Western countries, free from all antagonisms of race, nationality, creed or caste...”, and their realisation “in a common fellowship of study [of] the meeting of East and West”.

What was the outcome? Hot air- though, I suppose Tan Yun Shan was an exception.  

In 1920-’21, Mahatma Gandhi launched the non-cooperation movement. While wishing for India’s liberation from colonial rule, Tagore worried about the xenophobic tendencies within the popular movement for freedom.

Why? He had Estates in the Muslim majority East. He knew he'd lose them- indeed Hindu would be massacred- if the Brits left.  

Are “we alone to be content with telling the beads of negation”, asked Tagore of Gandhi’s followers, “harping on others’ faults and proceeding with the erection of Swaraj on a foundation of quarrelsomeness?”

Tagore was rich. The rich can be as stupid as shit and yet possess a shrewd survival instinct.  

In a private meeting with the Mahatma, Tagore told him that “the whole world is suffering today from the cult of a selfish and short-sighted nationalism... I have come to believe that, as Indians, we not only have much to learn from the West but that we also have something to contribute. We dare not therefore shut the West out. But we still have to learn among ourselves how, through education, to collaborate and achieve a common understanding”.

Tagore needn't have worried. Gandhi called off Non Cooperation and meekly went to jail. Both men were Phules under the skin. They knew they'd be fools to let the Brits run away.  

Rammohan Roy and Rabindranath Tagore were visionaries who saw in a fuller engagement with other cultures the enrichment of their own.

Fuck off! They were boring cunts. The Brahmo Samaj has a miniscule membership. Shantiniketan is an utterly shitty place.  

So did the other Indian reformers of the day. Hence Phule’s invocation of the abolition of slavery in America as an inspirational example for his own lifelong struggle to abolish caste distinctions.

Is Guha utterly mad? How is the American Civil War an 'inspirational example' for India? 2 percent of Americans perished in that war. In India that would be 27 million people! 

Phule himself never travelled outside India; but his great successor, BR Ambedkar, did. Ambedkar’s education in the United States of America made a profound impression on him. Like Phule, he came to see the striking parallels between the treatment of Blacks in America and Dalits in India.

African Americans were former slaves. Dalits were not. There was no 'striking parallel'. Ambedkar studied Sociology and Anthropology. He was aware that European castes- which were associated with serfdom- had been dissolved by proto-Capitalist relations of production before America was settled. 

Meanwhile, the teachings of the philosopher, John Dewey, alerted Ambedkar to the vital importance of education in nurturing a sense of common citizenship.

Dewey was talking about something else entirely- viz. educating citizens to see through the lies of the Yellow Press. Universal education as the necessary corollary of citizenship was a shibboleth as old as the Republic. 

India, of course, was different from America. Education would involve linguistic sub-nationalism. 

From Roy to Ambedkar via Phule, Gokhale, Tagore, Gandhi, Periyar, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and many more, there was a long line of social reformers who worked assiduously to liberate their compatriots from the burdens of the past.

But who are now merely burdens of the past. They have nothing to teach us because they didn't get that the only thing which matters is getting rural girls into factor dormitories and letting small farmers go bankrupt. End Agricultural involution, embrace demographic transition and fight ferocious wars with nations not too much weaker than you. That's how countries rise up. Talking bollocks changes nothing.  

For the Hindu society they knew and had experienced was at once unequal, uneducated and unfree.

Like every other country caught in a Malthusian trap which was not required to defend or govern itself.  

These reformers were determined to make their society more equal, by ending discrimination against women and low castes; more educated, by promoting modern secular learning in schools and colleges, and making such knowledge accessible to all; and more free, by cultivating a culture of public debate and discussion.

They failed. Why? The poorest increased their numbers faster than they could be catered for in this manner.  

The work of generations of reformers in opening the Hindu mind culminated in the framing and adoption of the Constitution of India.

Coz Cow Protection is totally scientific!  

This drew on the best practices from across the world, incorporating laws and ideas from Europe and America as seemed fit.

But the thing was still quickly amended into being 'anything goes'. Its utter useless was demonstrated for all to see by the Emergency.  

Notably, this open-minded engagement with other constitutional traditions drew the ire of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. In the last week of November 1949, after the final draft of the Constitution had been presented by BR Ambedkar, the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, complained that “the worst [thing] about the new Constitution of Bharat is that there is nothing Bharatiya about it... [T]here is no trace of ancient Bharatiya constitutional laws, institutions, nomenclature and phraseology in it”.

This was true enough. The thing was based largely on the 1935 Act and the Nehru Report.  

A letter in the Organiser expressed outrage at a writer who had praised Ambedkar as the “Manu of Modern India”. This, said the RSS ideologue, “is an instance of depicting a Lilliput as a Brobdingnag. It borders on ridicule to put Dr Ambedkar on par with the learned and god-like Manu...”

Ambedkar had the last laugh by becoming a Boddhisattva. That's one up on a Mahatma. Incidentally, Buddhism had exported Untouchability to Japan. Hindu Bali has Brahmins but no Untouchables.  

Jyotirao Phule.

This disparagement of Ambedkar by the RSS was in character.

Which is how come the RSS is still around and going great guns. It turns out worshipping Gandhi or Tagore or Ambedkar or Phule doesn't really do any good.  

For, unlike the reformers I have praised in this column, the sangh thought there was nothing Hindus had to learn from other cultures or countries.

Nonsense! It had to learn how to fuck up internal and external enemies rather than babble on and on and on about learning from the Taliban and the Nazis and so forth.  

On the other hand, they claimed that Hindus had been put on earth precisely to teach the world.

As opposed to sucking random cock. 

This conceit that Hindus were destined to be some sort of “vishwa guru” permeates the writings of prominent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologues from MS Golwalkar onwards.

Cool! At least the guy wasn't saying you've got to learn from random dicks by getting them to jizz down your throat.  

The worldview of the RSS is a peculiar mixture of triumphalism and paranoia.

Guha's worldview is paranoid simply. 

On the one hand, there is the fervent proclamation of global domination by Hindus.

In Guha's imagination. 

On the other hand, there is the continuing stigmatisation of Indians of other faiths, and of Muslims particularly.

I wonder why. 

And there is an absolute unwillingness to acknowledge that some, perhaps many, of the failings within Indian society may be attributable to the thoughts and actions of Hindus themselves.

By contrast, Guha is always willing to attribute his failings to his own thoughts and actions and the fact that he isn't gargling enough with random jizz.  

Over the decades, as the sangh parivar has grown in power and influence, the Hindu mind has shrunk

while Guha's ego has grown to gargantuan proportions 

– shrunk in its capacity for free thought, for self-critique and for self-reflection.

Because stuff of that sort is a waste of time when there is only one sensible course of action and no time to lose in taking it 

Now, with the BJP and the RSS so dominant in our political and institutional life, this closing of the Hindu mind is manifest at the highest levels of government, as Union ministers and chief ministers exalt superstition over science, disparage the independence of women and issue periodic rants against the West.

but only in Guha's opinion. The real work that is being done is opaque to him. 

Lower down the sanghi hierarchy, this closing of the Hindu mind is displayed through the thuggish attacks on journalists, artists, writers and film-makers who dare present the truth about the continuing injustices in our society.

Fuck is so important about saying 'India is a shithole. Lots of people are starving and those who aren't are raping the shit out of each other. Why can't we be like China? Do we have to keep adding another 400 million to the population every other decade?  At this rate, the country will be 'standing room only' by the time China catches up with Amrika.'

Back in the 19th century, long before air travel and the internet had been invented, Jyotirao Phule could mentally reach out across the oceans to study the process of social emancipation in a country far distant from his own.

No he couldn't. Don't be silly. You are talking of astral projection. The thing does not exist.  

Now, in the 21st century, when the world is so closely interwoven, the prime minister of India asks us to turn inwards into ourselves. We shall not listen.

We only listen to Guha to laugh at him. The fact is, a country where less than one percent earn enough to pay Income tax has little to learn from countries where the median voter is a net contributor. 

Still, it tickles the Indian funny-bone to have Huccha Venkat type Historians pretend Phule thought a Civil War in India would be a good idea. 

Why not simply demand that Indians get Casino licenses for their Reservations like they do in the States? Has Guha's Hindu mind shrunk so small he is no longer capable of raising such vital issues? 

Kobad Ghandy's fractured Freedom

 The Indian YMCA at 41 Fitzroy Square has provided accommodation to many young Parsis who came to London to qualify as Chartered Accountants. One such is in the British House of Lords. The vast majority of the rest had distinguished careers around the globe with various MNCs or Merchant Banks or other such Institutions. Little will be remembered of most of them. The exception is Kohad Ghandy- whose book 'Fractured Freedom' has just come out. 

Ghandy was a Doon School lad who did a Chemistry degree at St. Xaviers. His father held a high position with Glaxo. Perhaps, if foreign exchange had been easier to come by back then- this was the late Sixties, just after devaluation- young Kobad would have been sent to America for Graduate work in Organic Chemistry or something of that sort. Better yet, he should have been taken on to the Management Training scheme of some sound Parsi enterprise. He would have more than paid his way because he probably was an honest and dedicated man.

London, at this period, was unwelcoming to 'coloureds' because Enoch Powell was using Race as a means to fire up the dockworkers and so forth and thus cause trouble for Ted Heath's beleaguered Tory administration. At the same time, Harold Wilson's wing of the Labor Party was back-pedaling from egalitarian policies (which hadn't won them votes) so as to focus on things the voters really cared about- viz. the exchange rate- i.e. how much you could spend on your holiday in Franco's Spain- and 'wage differentials' (i.e. protecting the 'labor aristocracy'). Thus, young working class people with shit for brains were radicalized- either you were a racist skin-head with a license for 'Paki-bashing' (which the Police turned a blind eye to) or else you were a Trotskyite. There were even a few Maoists. Thankfully, Mrs. Thatcher came to power and so Indians in the UK started to do well. What dissolves racial and class animosity is the chance to get rich through private enterprise. Ghandy never learned this lesson. He returned to India to, in the words of the Bible, 'trouble his own house' and 'inherit the wind'. 

What radicalized the fellow? By his own account, Ghandy, had a privileged life-style in Bombay, and thus was greatly shocked by British racism though he wasn't particularly dark and his spoken English was 'upper class'. Perhaps this made things worse for him. 

Faurkh Dhondy was another young Parsi who was very radical at the time. Indeed, he was pretty much running the British branch of the 'Black Panthers', after Darcus Howe lost interest, much to the hilarity of darker skinned Indians like myself. Dhondy later rose high in the Media world and wrote some silly books. Another, more cerebral Parsi, Jairus Banaji was a Classical scholar who became a Marxist theoretician with a pitiful propensity for 'mass outreach'. He even tried to embarrass Modi at some industrialist's conclave almost 20 years ago. Unlike Ghandy, his theory- which explains India's 'damaged modernity' as caused by 'merchant capital' continuing to dominate 'industrial capital' (thanks to restrictive land and labor laws, though Jairus does not say so) could gain little traction amongst India's indigenous eggheads with the result that, as even the vastly stupider Ghandy now acknowledges, no Revolution is likely, let alone 'inevitable, in India. The Parsis- India's one almost entirely bourgeois denomination- won't have their throats slit by the proletariat even if this means that Ghandys and Bananajis must weep bitter tears.

The fact is, India's industrial proletariat is too dispersed into small scale units. The participation rate for women is declining or failing to get off the ground. India's Left destroyed in advance their own vehicle to class power. There is a great irony that many Parsis themselves started off as a proto-proletariat of carpenters and even mill-workers. But the petty compradors displaced them. Their accumulation of merchant capital through the Opium trade and, later, the Civil War Cotton boom, enabled their rise. So long as they pursued their own self-interest they played a vanguard role in India. But when they subordinated themselves to a National sense of Grievance, they hindered India's economic rise. Ghandy was foolish to adopt a type of hysterical Nationalism which made no place for the genius of his own people. Like other such Parsis, he harmed himself without helping his country or the great mass of its people who would like nothing better than to emulate the Parsis and to rise in like manner. By contrast, if Parsis pursued their own self-interest, their own unique genius, they thrived and made an outstanding contribution. Thus, it was Freddy Mercury who was the apotheosis of the Parsi boy who makes good at that period. But the Revolution he heralded was Pink, not Red. His 'praxis' was liberative not just for himself but for a large and rising class of young people all over the world. 

Ghandy's anger at British racism led him to discover the anti-Imperialist literature of an earlier age. Oddly he does not mention Saklatvala, one of the first Communists to sit as an MP at Westminster, but rather Palme Dutt who tended to be soft on the Nehrus. 

In an extraordinary passage in his memoir, Ghandy- who had been arrested and beaten by the police for making an anti-racist speech- harangued a British judge by raking up all Britain's old inequities concerning India. Savarkar could not have done the job better. Ghandy- it seems- was a Nationalist, not a genuine Communist. But the Judge thought him dangerous and he served two months in Brixton Jail.

If the guy had just said he was drunk and now felt very silly for all the trouble he'd caused- he'd have been fined a Fiver. 

 Still, he wasn't deported. This suggests that he wasn't really involved with dangerous people. The fact is Heath's administration was paranoid about Communist infiltrators. Heath declared a State of Emergency, but the head of the Civil Service went mad and started rolling around on the carpet of Number 10 screaming about Communist machinations. Thus, unlike Indira, Heath faced an ignominious defeat- which Thatcher would later avenge.

Interestingly, Ghandy was keeping a distance from the Indian High Commission- whose legal adviser could have intervened to get the young chap off- because he thought he might be sent to Calcutta and shot in the back of the head! This suggests, once again, that he was a naive young man with little understanding of how things work in either India or the UK. What he should have done is let elders of his community take charge and smooth things out for him. If he wanted to quit Accountancy, he could have taken a job at a Restaurant or Grocery Shop and then swotted up on Marxism at Birkbeck and then Ruskin College and so forth. He'd have probably qualified as a barrister and gotten steady work from the Trade Unions and so forth. Why did Ghandy turn his back on his community- which, after all, had plenty of experience with young chaps who turn Commie after a spot of bother with racist Bobbies or what have you? They become perfectly respectable lawyers or actuaries or ship brokers or whatever. Indeed, this was something of a tradition in the City of London.

The truth is, back then, it was quite usual for the scion of a business family to get into trouble of this sort. Vikram Seth's younger brother used to be pretty left wing while his elder brother gathered up the glittering prizes and set off for America. However, prosecutions were generally dropped after the Minister Political at India House had a quiet word with his counterparts in Scotland Yard or the Home Office. 

Of course, it may be that Ghandy is deceiving us. Perhaps he was recruited in London by the Chinese or something of that sort. This would explain his cutting off ties with old chums from School. It would also explain his glomming onto a rising academic from an influential Communist family- Anuradha Shanbag- who married him in 1977. Perhaps he steered her in a leftward direction with the result that she went underground in the early Eighties. Or perhaps, the shoe was on the other foot- as he himself suggests. Anuradha was- as appears from the historical record- the driving force in the partnership. Her father was a respected lawyer. She had contacts with Academia and the Media and so forth. As a feminist, her grass-roots work might be considered to have some value. Getting guys not to keep raping every female comrade they can lay their hands on might be considered a worthwhile type of work. Furthermore, by getting involved with resource rich tribal areas like Bastar, money 'for the cause' could be made. Ghandy says that the Naxals in prison came eagerly to him thinking he was a genuine big-shot with pots of money. They abandoned him to Afzal Guru, the Kashmiri who was hanged, when they discovered the hadn't pocketed the extortion money paid by Big Business Houses in Naxal infested areas.

What can one say about lives like that of the Ghandys'? Indeed, what can one say about any type of Gandhis of the political sort? They were and are as stupid as shit. Still, if the Indian taxpayer won't cough up money to make them feel important in one way or another, would it not be the case that the evil British Imperialists- or else the forces of Neo-Liberalism- have prevailed? Surely we owe it to our ancestors- billions of whom were robbed, killed, and subjected to heinous acts of cunnilingus and fellatio by perverted White Capitalists- to contribute a little money towards either keeping these nutters in jail or keeping them in a Lutyen's bungalow or, if we are too mean to even do that, can't we at least cough up the price of a bullet like the one used by Nathuram Godse? Have we really become so miserly and materialistic that we won't do our duty by the politically engaged Gandhis or Ghandys of this world? The answer- sadly- is yes. We don't want these guys to be beaten or killed on our dime. Let them just exhibit their imbecility to each other by writing a blog same as the rest of us. Also, they should get proper jobs and pay taxes not go around lecturing Dalits on the evils of 'Brahminism'. Why not the evils of 'Parsi-ism'? After all, Parsis, not Brahmins, are a Capitalist class. 

Sunday 28 March 2021

Agnes Callard's jejune Jealousy


An essence is something true in all possible worlds. To make communication more utile and capable of abstraction we use words, or have what David Lewis calls 'conventions', which pick out 'essences' as having 'Schelling focality'- i.e. they are natural solutions to coordination problems because, no matter which perspective you approach them with, the same essence is salient to you. They enable us to communicate more effectively and to some utile purpose.

Existentialism was a silly byproduct of Phenomenology which thought it could get rid of essences so as to better grapple with the authentic problems of existence. But, shitting higher than its ontological arsehole, it quickly degenerated into ex falso quodlibet nonsense.

However, thanks to the steep decline in the I.Q of, first the students, then the Professors, in Philosophy Departments, pop-existentialism is making a come back. 

An example of this genre is Agnes Callard who writes in Point- 

Tolstoy was a moralist.

Surely, he was much more- or less- than that? Philosophy- or Soteriology- seem central to his project. There is a concern to accurately reflect tempora & mores- but like Gogol & Dostoevsky, a concern with Russia as a God bearing nation (naród-bogonósec) increasingly supervenes- possibly as a result of a more or less pronounced mental illness. This causes him to resile from a 'natural' view of oikeiosis as part of God's mysterious plan- oikonomia mysterion- of Government for the World. Towards the end, he is embracing something like the Indian notion of 'sanyaas'. But then, he genuinely had a severe mental illness while his Nation trembled on the brink of a greater apocalypse then it had in 1805.

He wrote one novel—Anna Karenina—in which infidelity ends in death,

the infidelity would not have mattered- Anna's husband wanted to take her back- the tragedy arose from her soulless fidelity to Wronsky sundering her from her own son and a wider economy of social utility.

and another—War and Peace—in which his characters endure a thousand pages of political, military and romantic turmoil so as to eventually earn the reward of domestic marital bliss.

Or just prosperity in peace time- but the protagonists may become Decembrists so this is but an interlude 

In the epilogue to War and Peace we encounter his protagonist Natasha, unrecognizably transformed. Throughout the main novel, we had known her as temperamental, beautiful and reflective; as independent, occasionally to the point of selfishness; as readily overwhelmed by ill-fated romantic passions.

She is girlish and impulsive at a time of National upheaval and 'storm and stress' but she grows up in the same manner that Russia settles down under conditions of peace and, for the landowning class, increasing prosperity.

Marriage and motherhood turn out to sap Natasha’s interest in music, in parties, in dance, in her appearance; in fact they seem to sap her interest in having interests of her own.

Because kids aren't your own at all. They are forced upon your by Autocracy or Neo-Liberalism or some other such abstraction.  You must tell your kids to fuck off and  pretend to like music and enjoy parties to achieve lived authenticity.

In her new life, she self-consciously and gladly subordinates her mind to her husband’s,

does she though? Or does she merely seek to maximize a joint utility function on the basis of natural, Price Equation type, oikeiosis? Isn't her 'jealousy' simply 'appropriation'- which is one sense of the word oikeiosis- and the zealous guarding of what belongs to her oikos- or household- from those who might make ducks and drakes of her children's patrimony?

and finds the fulfillment of her domestic duties both thoroughly rewarding and utterly absorbing. All of this makes her, in Tolstoyan ethics, “an exemplary wife and mother.”

Surely, his 'ethics'- at least as they would come to develop- would involve some more Christ like self-sacrifice for the sake of the suffering masses?  

There is only one moment in the epilogue in which we catch a glimpse of the old Natasha. Her husband Pierre has just come home from a trip, and Natasha launches into a speech that begins as a dutiful affirmation of the advantages of marital stability over mere romance—

“What stupidity,” Natasha said suddenly, “that the honeymoon and the first time is the happiest. On the contrary, now it’s best. If only you didn’t go away. Remember how we quarreled? And it was always my fault. Always. And what we quarreled about—I don’t even remember.”

“Always the same thing,” said Pierre, smiling, “jealo…”

“Don’t say it, I can’t bear it,” Natasha cried. And a cold, angry gleam lit up in her eyes. “Did you see her?” she added, after a pause.

“No, and if I had, I wouldn’t have recognized her.”

They fell silent.

Old married people are greatly chuffed if their spouse shows a spark of jealousy. It means one isn't wholly decrepit. But there is nothing very remarkable about this passage. Pierre's return home had been delayed by a couple of weeks. His wife had grown anxious. But their world had changed- it had become safe and gemutlich. The war was romantic. Now there is peace and prosperity. But the Decembrist uprising is around the corner. 

The reader hasn’t been told about “her”—the events in question must have happened in the years the novel leaves undocumented—so the reference could be to anything from a full-blown affair to an infatuation existing mostly in Natasha’s imagination. All we know, looking on this scene, is that some early fracture continues to reverberate through their relationship.

Not really. All we know is that this is something which wasn't really a fracture. 

Is Natasha’s continued jealousy the one flaw in their otherwise perfect union? Or is it the spark of life keeping the relationship from flattening into deadness? Could it, somehow, be both?

It is neither. It didn't matter.  

Jealousy is an unattractive emotion,

in unattractive people- yes. But, in Natasha it may have been quite fetching. God in the Old Testament is Jealous- El Kanna- but this is not unattractive, it is sublime and awe inspiring.  The essence of Jealousy- as opposed to Envy or 'mimetic desire' or 'Rivalry'- is that it demands an equal and reciprocal dedication irrespective of any potential tertius gaudens.

but unlike hate, contempt or spite, it is not a forbidden emotion.

Hate is not forbidden. I'm allowed to hate Hitler. Contempt for what is contemptible is salutary. Spite, by definition, is mean and dishonorable. A strong person exacts vengeance without being sullied by it.  

If we knew that Pierre had cheated on Natasha, we would find her jealousy intelligible and even reasonable.

But it is intelligible and reasonable provided Pierre is rich and heterosexual. Some artful minx would find it in her interest to get him into her toils such that Natasha and the kids are left financially worse off. Even otherwise, there is a risk of sexually transmitted disease. Syphilis isn't a welcome addition to any family. 

We would understand. Or, at any rate, we would say, to ourselves and to her, “I understand.” We are very quick to find such “justified” jealousy intelligible—so quick, that the very speed of our response testifies to our disinclination to look into the matter too deeply. But let us do so anyway.

Why? Emotions are 'Darwinian algorithms of the mind'. Jealousy has survival value. Fucking everything that moves could cause your nose to fall off and your wife to die a slow agonizing death. 

Our comfort zone, when it comes to jealousy, is the righteous anger of the betrayed spouse.

Actually, the Jews seem to have done just fine with El Kanna- Jealousy as God. Fidelity is generally a good thing. It permits better correlated equilibria and thus public signals of a jealous type are useful.  

It seems to speak to us in the rational language of entitlements and violations and justice.

There is no 'rational language of entitlements'. Either there is an incentive compatible remedy for a rights violation or there is no entitlement. It is irrational to indulge in such language unless the matter is justiciable under a protocol bound vinculum juris of an essentially incentive compatible type.  

Thus Natasha’s attitude towards Pierre is that he “had to be kept in such a way as to belong entirely to her, to the household.”

Marriage is a partnership based on both parties maximizing a joint Utility function. This is a feature of oikeiosis. But oikeiosis broadens out into wider and wider circles of affiliation. Thus once a partnership is up and running, the partners may take on pro bono work so as to benefit the wider community. This is actually beneficial for the partnership.  

But the enforcement of contract is not the real concern of the jealous spouse; infidelity is not really about property rights.

It is about oikeiosis- belonging and appropriation- which may have justiciable aspects.  

It is true that marriage is a contractual relationship,

No it isn't. We can't factorize it even as an incomplete contract because there is an essentially ontologically dysphoric element to it. But what precisely that is, it skills not to ask. The thing is too ideographic to be effable.  

but how many marriage vows actually specify sexual exclusivity?

Laws relating to marriage 'read in' sexual exclusivity to such vows. It is not the case that infidelity is not grounds for divorce. 

I have never yet been to a wedding in which the couple explicitly promised each other not to sleep around; certainly I did not promise this.

Yet, to have legal force, this was read into the vows or other forms of assent used in the ceremony. 

And yet, when it comes to the many things that are explicitly promised—to love, honor, obey, care for, etc.—people rarely end up insisting on their contractual rights.

It may be that there are a few people who like being hated, dishonored, disobeyed and beaten by their spouses. But this is not generally the case. 

Every divorce is a violation of the “as long as we both shall live” clause, and yet neither spouses nor onlookers are inclined to be outraged over that fact.

It may be that divorce is now accepted as just one of those things which happens even in the best of families. But Scripture condemns it. Prophet Muhammad described it as the worst of permissible things.  

Even if one were to write a “no infidelity” clause into one’s marriage vows,

though the law already 'reads it in' 

that wouldn’t make it the case that the primary problem with infidelity lay in the breaking of that agreement.

Yes it would.  

It is the jealous person who understands all this better than anyone. She may speak (in a calmly furious way) of ownership, but she has a very accurate and precise understanding of the limits of such claims.

But that is a problem re. justiciability or enforcement. Still, depending on jurisdiction, she may be entitled to exemplary damages of some sort. 

One cannot own another person; one has no “rights” over their body, or, for that matter, over their affections or interests or attention.

Yes one does- when it comes to babies. It is a different matter that some jurisdictions can't enforce similar claims with respect to spouses for practical reasons or because of the less defeasible nature of Human Rights. 

The marriage ceremony may include me saying, “I am yours,” but the truth is that I am not and cannot ever be anyone else’s, and no proclamation of mine can change that fact.

Nonsense! The thing happens all the time. We join Armies or Business Enterprises or the Church on precisely the same basis. We are another's to any extent we care to be. Many have laid down their lives to prove this is so.

Of course there may be a few people who are so constituted that they are lying when they say 'I am yours' or 'I will faithfully discharge such and such obligations'. That is a separate matter. Sociopaths we will always have with us- though people may give them a wide berth. 

Jealousy is this knowledge, combined with the intolerability of it: understanding that I don’t own, and needing to own.

Passion of any sort may be described in the same way. Gluttony is the knowledge, combined with the intolerability of it: understanding that the chocolate eclair I've just eaten is turning into shit in my intestines and that the same thing will happen to the next chocolate eclair in the box that I just purchased and which I currently own. 

But it is more the latter than the former.

but, yet more, it is neither.  

Jealousy is often

simply taken for granted as a 'Darwinian algorithm of the mind' which it is pointless to prose over 

mischaracterized as a negative attitude, misclassified into the family to which fear, anger, aversion and denial belong.

why not simply speak of it as involving threat perception? If Mummy gives more time and attention to baby, maybe I'll starve to death  

To see why this is mistaken, consider Natasha again.

In the excerpt cited above, we see Natasha living in the opposite of denial. She is haunted by something that happened years ago; moreover, she is actively keeping herself haunted—fueling the fires of her own ancient passion. Her question—“did you see her?”—is uttered not in the voice of anxiety or fear but in the voice of an emotion that launches her backward in time.

This sounds like mimetic desire and the scapegoat it requires. 

Her sudden cold gaze and her angry voice connect her to an incident whose details we don’t know, but which she appears to be unable to let go of. That woman, whoever she was for Pierre, is for Natasha some kind of link to a past self, or, even more likely, to an alternative version of her present self: someone she could have been but is not. Whether or not Pierre is telling the truth when he says he wouldn’t even be able to recognize her anymore, I imagine she means much more to Natasha than she does to Pierre.

So, we are speaking of mimetic desire. Having a rival sharpens one's wits and gives color to life. 

You may object that I am reading a lot into these few lines.

Callard is reading too little. 

That is true. I can imagine all this with some vividness, because I have occupied both positions: I have been the other woman, and I have also been other-woman-ed. In both roles, I felt intense jealousy, wanting with my whole being to occupy the place of my counterpart.

So why not gas on about the Hegelian Struggle of Recognition and each consciousness hungering for the extinction of every other consciousness and Simone de Beauvoir beavering away boringly and then Rene Girard ensconcing himself in Stanford on the basis of Proust scholarship and some bogus African anthropology regarding the atrociousness of twins and so and so forth? 

There is nothing so desirable to the Other Woman as the established and secure position of the woman who was there first; to whom, in turn, there is nothing so appealing as the carefree spontaneous romance she imagines he has with the Other.

The beautiful Begum in Sarojini Naidu's poem is discontented because her husband can bring home no worthy rival. Then one arrives by herself. It is her daughter. That's how these stories end. Daddy yields with good grace to sonny boy. Mummy retreats before Daddy's little princess. Thus has it always been. Running off with some rotten Vronsky, leaving your kid in the lurch, is a blind alley. 

The primal scene of jealousy is this: I see a mark on my lover’s body, and my mind traces it to Her.

This is certainly what happens in Tamil Sangam era poetry.  

How do I respond?

The Sangam heroine disdains her man. He has accepted trash and thrown gold away.  

You imagine I feel angry at being robbed of what is mine; or afraid of losing him altogether. But those are not my real emotions; they are merely the faces my jealousy wears when I am in the business of eliciting sympathy from you. The inner truth of what I feel is so much more maddening than anger and so much more violent than fear: it is desire. Desire of desire. I want, quite simply, to have been wanted with the desire with which She was, at that moment, desired.

This is silly. The encounter may have been mediated by drink or boredom or peer pressure. God is jealous because the Jews are better than mere worshippers of golden calves. An unfaithful spouse is likely to have cheated with a person of an ignoble sort. They have cheapened themselves. Jealousy can be sexy. Disgust kills. 

Not the same kind or degree of desire, but with that token, past act of desire. Jealousy desires the love intended for and directed at another, the very love one can be assured of never securing.

But this can happen without any envy or jealousy. One may desire to be loved in the manner one's own spouse loves the dog or- in a Graham Greene novel- God. One is not jealous or envious of the dog or of God. But then, I may desire to be admired as Beyonce without wishing to be a woman or being able to twerk. Equally, I may desire to be Einstein or A.R Rahman. No jealousy is involved in these impossible projects. 

Jealousy hungers after this desire impossibly, unattainably, unsatisfiably.

As I hunger after recognition as Beyonce. Ontological dysphoria is infinitely plastic. That is why Satrean shite is shite. Existential psychoanalysis can make exactly the same heavy weather of my Beyonce impersonation or bathroom singing as Jean Genet's more sordid, or splendid, misadventures.

Like all that is truly erotic, it quests for what cannot be had.

But also like all that is merely silly or deeply eccentric. 

Jealousy is a positive emotion. Jealousy is a form of lust.

Love is a positive emotion. Jealousy may express love or seek to guard a loving relationship. It is not a form of lust. Fucking won't quench it. 

Lacan, commenting on Plato’s Symposium, tells us that eros is “giving what one does not have.”

No it isn't. That's cheating or pretending to be a psycho-analyst. Sex does not involve giving away a penis or a vagina. There may be an exchange of bodily fluids and that may cause a baby to come into the world. But there is no 'mirror stage'. Baby aint a 'specular mirage'.  

Think of how often, in a romantic relationship, one’s image of a romantic gesture will be precisely whatever act one’s beloved is disinclined to perform. If you are not in the habit of complimenting my clothing, then that’s what I need from you, “for once!”

But the same is true of workaday relationships which aren't romantic at all. We may resent a boss who does not praise us or notice changes we have made to the work process. 

But this is not the case of 'giving what one does not have'. Rather it is a case of a necessary metanoia such that you give what others need without having to be nagged to do it.  

If you never fold the laundry, then it’s that.

But one might say this of a flat-mate whom one is obliged to get along with. We can imagine Monica shrieking at Rachel about something like this. The thing won't end in kisses- worse luck.

The harder and unlikelier it is, the more romantic the prospect of your doing it will strike me; and yet if you actually rise to the challenge, that will always be somewhat anticlimactic.

You get your boss to finally say something nice about you- and, yes, it is an anticlimax. But so is finally getting your hands on that i-phone you queued up all night for.  

The romance lay in its being undone and undoable.

In which case my relationship with the Number 28 bus is romantic as is my affair with my old Hewlett Packard laser printer.                                     

One time, in a furious lover’s quarrel, it was pointed out to me that “nothing I do could ever count as the thing you want; as soon as I did it, it wouldn’t count!”

This is cabin-fever- not love. 

That was perfectly true. I wanted him to show me his love—but not just any love. I wanted to see the love he didn’t have.

You might want your prison cell-mate to be very different from what he is- more particularly if he is showing you a love he ought not to have.  

The love a person doesn’t have is, by and large, not visible—because it is not there.

Though its absence eclipses him ontologically such that in the mirror of non-being sodomy occurs. That's the problem with talking nonsense. You get sodomized on some other ontological plane.  

But in the special case where he loves another, the love he doesn’t have for me becomes something concrete and embodied—it is embodied in Her body, it is clothed in Her flesh.

But this also happens when you imagine your beloved eating a chocolate eclair with a relish which she never shows for your body. One may say the same thing of her reading a Harry Potter novel or going for a swim.  

And that, finally, is the moment when the laser beam of my erotic passion locates the impossible love it was born to lust after, namely his love of Her.

Or his love of chocolate eclairs.  

Jealousy ushers eros into its own; jealousy makes the invisible visible.

Jealousy may increase one's powers of observation. It may be sexy- that's true enough. But to say anything useful about jealousy you must distinguish it from other emotions or sentiments. To do this you need to look at its essence- i.e. what is true about it in all possible worlds but isn't true of other sentiments or emotions. Existentialism refused to do this. That's why it turned to shit. 

As long as the invisible stays invisible, we can tell ourselves a set of noble lies:

We can tell ourselves noble lies even when the Truth is staring us in the face and shoving things up our backside so as to make us scream with pain. 

that there is a romantic gesture that would count; that all the love I seek from him is love that is or could be mine; that romance is a two-body problem.

Heterosexual romance is likely to lead to a third body and then a fourth and so on. But successful homosexual romances too may have this property- the home shelters more and more. We are speaking of non-dissipative oikeiosis, not chaotic systems- though, no doubt, this is not always clear from the get go. All happy families are alike etc, etc.   

Most of the time, Natasha lives in the space of these noble lies, a space within which she can say “my husband,” and mean it—or at least imagine that she means it.

There is no 'noble lie'. She really does have a husband. She may lose him to the Decembrists. But, equally, she may consider to have gained him yet more firmly for her Mother Russia.  

Jealousy exposes the presence of the sometimes fleshy, sometimes ghostly, always unwelcome and never fully eliminable third party to the relationship.

This is true of any 'matching' problem, or incomplete contract, in Econ.  However, relationships can be much more than contracts. The 'stable marriage problem' may have a paradigmatic solution of a type which involves superior 'common knowledge' and 'Aumann agreement'. 

Jealousy is a form of attraction that repulses us.

It is not a form of attraction. It may be a symptom of it. It does not repulse everybody. Most men feel that if a woman shows jealousy then it might be worthwhile 'popping the question'. Why? Jealousy suggests that an uncorrelated asymmetry has arisen and this can be formalized through a public signal such that a superior correlated equilibria is attainable.

Existentialism is stupid shit. Mathematical Econ was advancing at precisely the time Sartre was off his head on amphetamines and writing stupid shite in the Critique of Dialectical Reason.  

I’ve never understood how polyamory is supposed to survive erotic rivalry, but I have exactly the same objection to monogamy. The fact is, the two diverge only in the specifications of the relevant contract,

Contracts only diverge in terms of their specifications. But relationships are more than contracts. 

and this difference seems laughably superficial in the face of a problem situated at the molten lava core of the soul.

or in the face of a problem situated in the molten lava core of the intestines. Shitting uncontrollably over each other can be a mood killer.  

If erotic passion means wanting what is not and cannot rightly be yours, then how can it ever be stable?

If x means not x, how can it ever be stable? Erotic passion can be stable if its object can be appropriated by a 'natural' type of oikeiosis. Thus, you can marry the pretty typist on the Third Floor whom you have also seen at Church. However, your erotic interest in the photocopier on the Fifth Floor is unlikely to be reciprocated. 

Jealousy is the thread in which romance is woven, and the thread that unravels it.

Or it is the loom on which romance is woven and the loom which collapses rending it asunder. But this is just a manner of speaking. One may say, with greater truth, Leisure, or Economic Security, or good Reproductive Health, is the loom or the thread or the warp and woof of Romance or Bromance or Marital Bliss or whatever else you are writing about.  

Is there any solution to this erotic predicament?

If stupidity creates a predicament, greater stupidity can resolve it. Callard demonstrates this immediately-  

Portuguese poet, philosopher and all-round literary genius Fernando Pessoa

who was stupid and boring and not really representative of Portuguese culture 

offers one. His Book of Disquiet includes a set of sex tips for a group of people he calls “Unhappily married women,” though he clarifies that “Unhappily married women include all who are married and some who are single.” Pessoa is addressing all women who find themselves in the erotic predicament, and he tells them:

Picture your husband with a whiter body. If you’re good at this, you’ll feel his whiteness on top of you.

Kiss the husband on top of your body and replace him in your imagination—remember the man who lies on top of you in your soul.

Substitution is less difficult than you think. By substitution I mean the practice of imagining an orgasm with man A while copulating with man B.

All pleasure is in the mind; all crimes that occur are committed in dreams and in dreams alone!

This is hateful shit. Women don't need 'men on top'. Why not just close your eyes and think of England- or the apartheid South Africa where Pessoa was educated for ten years? A guy who babbles about 'whiteness' and 'men on top' may seem a great philosopher to Callard. But the rest of us think him shite. 

Pessoa understands that the triad is the unit of eros, whereas stability calls for the dyad.

He, like Callard, understood shit. 

His solution—squeezing three into a space for two by way of an infidelity of the mind—reflects an almost perfect grasp of the problem.

But the man on top too is fantasizing about a fourth and so forth. Why can't these cunts just look at a dirty magazine and wank?  

Almost perfect. Pessoa’s one error can be traced to his masculine perspective, or, at any rate, his failure to successfully abstract it away. Any woman of sufficiently erotic temperament could have explained to Pessoa that the right advice to an “Unhappily Married Woman” is not to tell her to imagine having sex with a different man, but as a different woman.

Or as a goat. Callard's blatant speciesism is triggering me! She should be cancelled with immediate effect.

Saturday 27 March 2021

Aravind Subramanian & why Development Econ is retarded

 Sukhamoy Chakravarty was once considered a great Development Economist. Then people noticed that India had not developed at all- it had sunk lower in the economic league table- thanks to worthless mathematical economists like him. 

Meanwhile countries which pursued export-led growth had risen up rapidly.

In an article published by EPW in 1986, Sukhamoy offered this defense of his type of Development Econ which Ian Little had derided- 

History has shown Cline was a cretin. China got on the elevator and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty very quickly. Oddly, the World Bank was able to help it because Chinese activists, funded by Western NGOs, who protested against Development got a bullet to the back of the head. This is the reason the World Bank couldn't help India in the Nineties. It paid better to be against Development than to be for it cause the Ford Foundation and so on would send you lots of green green dollar bills. 

Sukhamoy's great stupidity should have been obvious from his first publications. Consider his 'optimal savings with finite planning horizon'. Everybody knew that where 'planning' was implemented, people ran away and took their money with them. You could try to impose optimal savings on those who remained but they were either drunk off their heads or were clearly starving to death. To develop your resources you had to do deals with greedy foreign corporations who would extract resources and wave goodbye to you after stuffing their pockets with loot. 

No doubt, some 'planning' could be done and Governments could mobilize resources for this by giving people a safe place to park their precautionary balances and the niggardly sums they had set aside for their retirement. But this did not involve any sort of 'optimal savings' rule. You tried to maximize National Savings and then you tried to maximize the return on the assets you created using those  Savings. If you succeeded, then the National Savings Schemes were disintermediated. People borrowed or saved through for profit enterprises- though, no doubt, at the margin, the very poor might avail of micro-finance and Christmas Clubs and so forth. 

Sukhamoy, in some other article, speaks of 'inelastic demand for agricultural surpluses' as a limit to growth. Think about this for a second. Suppose there is so much food it price falls. What happens next? The marginal farmer quits farming for some other type of employment. Those who remain in agriculture earn more as their productivity rises. But so do those who are now working in factories or offices or brothels or Universities or whatever. Endogenous growth just took off!

Project Syndicate has an article by Aravind Subramanian- who quit as advisor to the Government of India to return to Columbia some three years ago though, for some reason, he took a job at Ashoka University- which he has since quit- instead- and Davesh Kapur who is at John Hopkins

Their article is titled- The Absent Voices of Development Economics

Development economics focuses on improving the well-being of billions of people in low-income countries, but the Global South is severely underrepresented in the field. A small number of rich-country institutions dominate, and their growing use of randomized controlled trials in research is entrenching the imbalance.

This is a bit like saying- 'why are there no Chinese restaurants in China?' The answer is all restaurants in China are Chinese restaurants except one or two which are run by Americans or Italians or whatever. People who are doing Development in the 'Global South' aren't called Development Economists. They are called Economists or just plain Businessmen. 

The lack of representation of marginalized groups in the corridors of power – political, financial, and cultural – is a growing source of global concern.

To whom? The guys who feel 'marginalized' because they want to make more money in the corridors of power. But less than a millionth of a percentage of the population of 'the global south' has any access to the 'corridors of power'. Moreover, they gain nothing even if one or two dusky complexioned academics capture a rent in such places.  

Knowledge confers power, so who creates it matters.

Genuine knowledge- yes. You can set up a business and get rich and money buys you influence which is power. But repeating nonsense is not knowledge. It is a nuisance. 

As the Nobel laureate economist Paul Samuelson famously said, “I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws…if I can write its textbooks.”

Samuelson's textbook said the Soviet Union could catch up with America in terms of living standards. He looked a fool when the thing collapsed. Ultimately, textbooks don't matter if they are filled with garbage. In the short run they may have some effect. Medium to long term, they are ignored. 

Development economics focuses on

providing jobs to Development Economists not 

improving the well-being of billions of people in low-income countries,

China did not bother with Development Economists. It imitated what Taiwan and South Korea and Singapore had done. Taiwan did listen to two Chinese-American economists (not development economists) at Cornell and Korea listened to Irma Adelman - whose background was Agricultural Economics. Her advise was 'devalue and promote export industries'. But the UK too needed that type of advise. Adelman did get some work as a 'Development Economist' but not being much of a mathematician she was never considered a star in the subject.  

but the Global South is severely underrepresented in the field.

Because the Global South either created straight-talking critics of the Aid industry or else it nurtured mathematical nutters whose work had no relevance to the real world.  

Unfortunately, a small number of rich-country institutions have appropriated it, with serious consequences.

Since rich countries dole out Aid money, they give jobs to their own cretins in this field so as to keep them from harming their own economies.  

And the problem appears to be getting worse.

Yet, those countries which completely ignored Development Economics developed rapidly. 

Consider the Journal of Development Economics, a leading outlet for research papers in the field. Neither the journal’s editor nor any of its ten co-editors are based in a developing country. Just two of its 69 associate editors are, with Africa and Asia completely unrepresented.

This is because developing countries are shit-holes. Indians have been chief-editors of the Journal for about half the time it has existed. But they were either wholly ineffective- e.g T.N Srinivasan- or useless, like Pranab Bardhan- or both useless and incomprehensible like Maitreesh Ghatak. Okay, I may be wrong about Ghatak but, the fact is, he isn't going to want to move back to India or Africa because then he'd no longer get the type of students with the mathematical chops to advance his research program. Why? If they were bright enough to hack the maths, they could make much more money in the private sector- thus helping India to actually develop.

Then there is the World Bank’s prestigious Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE). The 2019 event celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Bretton Woods conference that established the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, but none of the 77 participants were from an institution located in a developing country. And our analysis of the ABCDE’s three-decade history shows that just 7% of those authoring conference papers have been from developing-world institutions.

The World Bank is about the rich lending to the poor. Naturally, the donors have the whip hand. Anyway, as Edward Lim pointed out- in India anti-development agitation pays better than actually getting the thing done. That is why India could not rise in the same manner that China did with the World Bank's help.  

The long-standing problem of underrepresentation is being amplified by the growing use of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to test the effectiveness of specific poverty-reduction interventions in low-income countries. Although the RCT movement deserves immense credit for highlighting the need for evidentiary rigor in development economics, it has had exclusionary consequences.

The thing is silly. Imitating what smart people are doing is better than RCT. The thing is an auditing tool for non-mission critical expenditure of an essentially ostentatious, or reputation building, type.  

By virtue of their well-deserved academic reputations, RCT-oriented economists now work at the world’s most prestigious universities and research institutions and serve on the editorial boards of top economics journals. This crucial gatekeeping role gives them agenda-setting power.

No it doesn't. The 'andolanjivi' activists will get money from Soros & Co to block Development no matter what evidence pointy headed RCT mavens bring forward. In any case, it is child's play to destroy their results by pointing out methodological errors. 

In the long term, Rossi's Metallic Law applies- a large enough RCT study would show null impact no matter what it focused on.

Two decades ago, for example, there were virtually no RCT-based papers in development economics; in 2020, according to our analysis, they accounted for about 40% of the articles in the leading journals.

& nothing whatever changed on the ground. Jeff Sachs had a project in Kenya. Whatever happened to it? Who knows? Who cares? The thing is just a fad- or moving deckchairs on the Titanic.

And exclusion characterizes the RCT movement itself. At the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), the most influential global center for development-related RCT research, about 5% of the nearly 225 affiliated professors are based in developing countries, with no representation from institutions in East Asia.

Because East Asia was interested in actual Economics- not retarded Developmental shite. 

Moreover, conducting RCTs is expensive, which means that poverty-reduction research – and funding for it – is increasingly concentrated in the richest universities (J-PAL was established at MIT).

Apparently the guy who founded it was a Saudi Toyota distributor. The family is smart and has great business-savvy. As Muslims, they have an obligation to share their wealth with the poor. Clearly they wanted to do it in a rational and enlightened manner. Good for them. They represent the future of their country as a great hub of business and fintech innovation.  

Indeed, the cost of carrying out RCTs can run into millions of dollars per paper,

this is misleading. The cost of conducting RCT declines because of new technology and learning effects, though, of course, whatever benefit is being distributed may increase in size. We want bigger programs to help the poor and we want admin and assessment costs to go down as a proportion of the budget. This is certainly feasible and the technique can be incorporated into Government run schemes. 

making it difficult for developing-country researchers to study their own countries without genuflecting to wealthy institutions’ academic orthodoxies.

But there are plenty of Indians who represent those 'wealthy institutions''' academic orthodoxies'. The authors are Indian themselves. Why do they feel so alienated from people pretty similar to themselves? 

If these researchers cannot do RCT-based studies, they have little chance of getting published in leading journals, and risk being consigned to second-class status.

Newsflash! You guys have third-class status.  

Even on a generous interpretation of authorship, our analysis suggests that developing-country institutions accounted for less than 10% of RCT-based papers in the top six economics journals in 2020.

But it easy enough to have affiliations with shithole Institutions. Just be a visiting Prof there. The bigger question is why so many Indian journals are utterly shite. The answer is that Universities are utterly shite. Academia is what you go in for if you are too stupid to do anything useful.

A subtler cost concerns prioritization of research. There is an inherent power imbalance between relatively weak developing-country governments

like India? Are these guys kidding?  

and reputationally and financially powerful researchers,

who can be beaten or fatwaed if they get out of line 

as well as tension between what policymakers in lower-income economies consider important and what academics deem worthy of publication in top journals.

This is sheer make believe. There may be some small countries where this is true- but that is a function of their small size, not the fact that their Development Economists aren't getting top jobs with Journals and Universities and other Institutions. 

These factors surely privilege research that yields high private returns to researchers based in rich countries but meager public returns to developing-country decision-makers.

What on earth does this mean? Either this type of research is shit which 'yields high private returns' to stupid or evil researchers- in which case the thing should be banned or ignored- or else decision-makers in developing countries are utter cretins. They believe any shite which they are presented with. In this case, these guys need brain transplants. Better still, bring Whitey back to rule those shitholes.

True, scholars from developing countries in these elite institutions make important contributions to development economics.

But the thing is still shite. 

But the incentives and priorities of the institutional cultures they inhabit play a powerful role.

They are told to shit out shite papers otherwise they won't get paid. 

The final cost relates to the type of knowledge that is ignored. Several highly successful economies – including South Korea, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Mauritius, and Botswana – did not rely on RCTs to change their destinies and lift their large populations out of poverty.

Because they knew Economics is just mimetics plus common sense. Development Economics is for Indian Pundits or Western nice-but-dim nitwits.  

Yet, academics from these countries generally do not sit on the editorial boards of major journals or participate prominently in development economists’ conferences and seminars – an omission that is particularly telling in the case of China, with its historically unprecedented economic transformation. It is as if these countries’ development successes have no lessons to offer.

The lesson is obvious. Development Economics is a pile of shite. Indians knew this long ago. Sukhamoy Chakraborty was reviled. Amartya Sen was praised for emigrating and taking up a worthless type of philosophical Social Choice theory.  

To preempt the Global North’s monopoly of knowledge creation in development economics requires, first, recognizing that the Global South has ceded dominance as much as the North’s elite institutions have appropriated it.

Nobody forced Indian Universities to turn into shitholes.  

Many developing countries have severely undermined their own universities and knowledge-production systems both through lack of funding and political interference, with the latter being especially pernicious in the social sciences.

In other words, Leftist nutters took them over and turned them into cess pits.  

Unless they remedy this, they will continue to suffer the consequences of the global imbalance.

The Indian solution was to have separate IITs and IIMs and Medical Colleges and one or two Sciencey places for the Defense Industry. The Social Sciences and shite like Development Economics was left to the monkeys who flung their feces at each other. A few did manage to emigrate on the basis of Mathsy Degrees in Econ type shite. But they were 'inert game theorists' and such like.  

We also must heed the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2017 Nobel lecture, in which he urged a broadening of “our common literary world to include many more voices from beyond our comfort zones of the elite first-world cultures.”

But the guy is as British as fish and chips! 

That means searching “more energetically to discover the gems from what remain today unknown literary cultures, whether the writers live in far-away countries or within our own communities,” while taking “great care not to set too narrowly or conservatively our definitions of what constitutes good literature.”

The guy is talking about fiction- which very poor people in shithole countries may be good at precisely because their life sucks and they need to escape into a fantasy land. He isn't saying we should talk to stupid and ignorant people in shithole countries to discover new things about Quantum Chromodynamics or Nanotechnology. 

Substitute “development economics” for “literature,” and Ishiguro’s injunction yields a constructive agenda of corrective action for intellectuals in the Global North.

i.e. hire more dusky folk. If you can prove your country is a more horrible shithole than your rival, then you get to be Head of the Department. What's next? Appoint Professors of Literature on the basis of their inability to read or write?  

It also suggests that diversity and broader representation are the best safeguards against intellectual narrowness resulting from elite capture.

Capture of what? Publishing stupid shite. Let rich countries subsidize their own cretins and get them to pretend they are helping the poor. Why should poor countries follow suit? The way to develop is by imitating those who were like you but who got richer by doing smart things. That's it. That's the whole story. Nothing more to see here, folks. Move along now. 

Thursday 25 March 2021

Ashoka's faculty's fantasy land

Pratap Bhanu Mehta resigned from Ashoka University alleging 'political interference'- i.e. he wanted us to believe that Modi, angered by Mehta's articles, had put the squeeze on the rich people who set up that 'Liberal Arts College'. This was not a credible charge because 

1) Ashoka had already acquired the land it needed in Haryana

2) the enmity of the ruling party at the Center would be more than offset by the friendship of the ruling party in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab etc. The fact is influential businesspeople- some of whom are NRIs or do their main business abroad- who can open Colleges and factories have the whip hand. The States have to compete with each other for f.d.i

Gurcharan Das, who has contributed money to Ashoka, writes in the Times of India

No one seemed to know why Mehta resigned. I discovered there hadn’t been any pressure from the government. Many of the 150 donors of Ashoka, however, were offended by Mehta’s weekly bashing of PM Modi and the state.

For God's sake why? Businessmen should want a Professor to flay the Government for the leaden footed pace of reform of Labor Law and Land Law and so forth. The problem was that Mehta wasn't supplying cogent economic criticism. He was babbling about 'reactionaries' and the great evil which is done when people say 'Lord Ram' instead of just 'Ram' and when Temples are built to a Deity who needs no Temples. 

Not surprising, donors are conservative.

No. Donors want reform so that the private sector can soar. If the economy grows rapidly, then Ashoka will be a great success. The demand for 'liberal arts' is highly income elastic. If growth doesn't return to its peak values, then there is a reverse 'accelerator' effect- i.e. a shakeout of Liberal Arts colleges. 

By contrast, if labour and land laws are reformed, there will be a positive accelerator effect. Ashoka will get lots more funding. Employers will want to put a lock on its graduates. Ten years from now, people would expect to see its alumni heading up Hedge funds and Law Firms and Accountancy Firms or else building up Ambani or Adani type conglomerates.  If the Economy limps along, as it is currently doing, kids will opt for skills training or professional qualifications not a liberal education.

The university worried that if funding dried up, the university might have to cut scholarships, raise student fees, freeze faculty salaries, chop new academic programmes.

This is the crucial question. Has money dried up? Why has nothing been built on the 50 acres which was acquired 3 years ago? Is it because some Professors have given the place a bad name? This is unlikely. Only money matters. 'Liberal Arts' is a positional good. When the economy slows down, the demand for it collapses. Some private colleges have to change orientation or else turn into unloved step-children or 'stranded assets'.

Still, no one asked Mehta to resign or to stop writing. But Mehta himself began slowly to realise that he was becoming a political liability. In an act of integrity, he resigned.

Integrity would require waiting till the holidays and going quietly by 'mutual agreement'.  

Dhawan had mixed feelings. As a genuine liberal, committed to dissent,

Surely he'd have been committed to pro-market criticism of the ruling party? Why would he want the warmed up sick of the Left being flung in the newspaper reading public's face by a guy whose USP was not being a typical jhollawallah?  

he felt sad. But as a protector of his baby he felt relieved.

The baby will grow up stunted and mentally retarded because the Economy shows no sign of ever booming again. You'd be better off opening a scrap metal business and joining an RSS shaka rather than getting a worthless degree.

I suppose Dhawan understands this well enough. Perhaps Ashoka will pivot to being a tony private College preparing kids for careers in Law and Accountancy and Marketing and so forth so that they can make their way in the world with credit to themselves.   

Five years ago a young, very well qualified, Statistics Lecturer named Rajendran Narayanan, resigned from Ashoka because he felt non-teaching staff were being victimized for expressing political views (re. Kashmir).

That scholar is now with Aziz Premji University- which has an explicit social mission- and appears to be doing useful work monitoring things like MNREGA. However, that work will soon become useless as more and more people realize that the thing is a hostage to the election cycle as mediated by the fiscal position. It isn't a magic wand. 

The problem with an anti-poverty academia which won't acknowledge that redistribution is no panacea is that it is part of the underlying problem, not the solution. Only raising productivity and elasticity of demand and supply can raise incomes and reduce a repugnant type of exploitation. 

Narayanan writes in Scroll-

Dismantling the labyrinth: What I learnt about power and privilege when I quit Ashoka in 2016

What we will learn from his article is that the man is a cretin. True he did his PhD at Cornell, but he was from India. He should have known that a private University won't tolerate a 'karmachari' Union. It may pay-lip service to 'academic freedom'- to pretend to be like Harvard and Yale- but it won't treat the admin and custodial staff on a par with either the special little snowflakes it looks after or the celebrity eggheads it hires to burnish its reputation.  

To truly create sanctuaries of learning and questioning, the right to be heard impartially must be universal.

Rajendran Narayanan

This is obviously false. Totalitarian countries can have great Universities. The 'right to be heard impartially' must not be universal. We don't want the janitor getting to air his views on how to perform cardiac surgery on an equal footing with the Professor of that subject.

Why is Narayanan saying something so absurd? Or, if he is being funny, why stop there?  Surely, the people who live in the neighborhood of the College too have a right to be heard impartially? So do the parents of the kids who attend. So does everybody else. Recent research shows that dolphins are pretty smart. Why are dolphins not being heard on a wide range of academic issues?  

Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s resignation from Ashoka University has been met with widespread condemnation from various academics. Rightly so.

He shouldn't leave his students in the lurch so as to pretend that he matters so much to Modi that the Government would put the squeeze on a large number of the businesspeople who finance this venture.  

He is one of the foremost scholars and an articulate commentator on the Indian Constitution and politics.

But that scholarship and commentary is shit.  You actually have to be a constitutional lawyer to say anything interesting about the Indian Constitution. As for politics, that requires being able to handle Big Data and use advanced Statistical techniques- i.e. the sort of thing in which a Prashant Kishor shines. How can Mehta compete with tech savvy youngsters of that sort? Of course, Kishor may end up a Yogendra Yadav type nonentity. But then again, he may not.  

His resignation triggered the resignation of the renowned economist, Arvind Subramanain, who was India’s Chief Economic Advisor between 2014 and 2018. Both are eminent international figures.

Who want out of rural Haryana to pursue more enticing prospects. 

Soon after Mehta’s resignation, the faculty members of Ashoka University released a public statement in solidarity with him. The faculty members expressed grave concern that the university may have acceded to government pressure in taking such a step and alluded to “academic freedom on which Ashoka University has been set up”. In particular, the letter noted, “It would also set a chilling precedent for future removals of faculty, curtailing our sense of who we are as researchers and teachers.” The letter further urged the university administration to rescind Mehta’s resignation.

Such a statement of public solidarity by the Ashoka faculty is welcome. However, the “chilling precedent” had been set as early as 2016 with three resignations, including mine, which had been covered in many media outlets. Mehta joined Ashoka University as its Vice Chancellor after these incidents.

I resigned from Ashoka University on December 14, 2016. 

There were two broad reasons why the Ashoka administration was not happy with me. The first of them was because of my involvement in creating a Workers’ Welfare Committee on campus that would seek to redress grievances of all sorts of workers on campus – academic staff, non-academic staff including housekeeping staff and maintenance staff. The committee aimed to ensure that every person on campus – not just faculty or students – had equal access to fair procedures, grievance redressal and claim-making at the university.

This failed immediately.  

The second, concerned a petition on Kashmir that was signed by many students, two non-teaching staff and me. I do not know the full extent of pressure that the university faced but my sympathies continue to be with the university for having received the unintended consequences of the petition.

Why did these fools sign a stupid petition? They were merely virtue signaling. If they wanted to show that their College was not actually funded by anti-nationalists then they succeeded. But why bother doing any such thing? If people won't act out of enlightened self-interest, preferring to virtue signal with respect to a foolish ideology, then they are not scholars- they are cretins who live in a fantasy world. 

In his resignation letter Narayanan wrote- 

I joined Ashoka because it seemed like a promising environment to nourish critical pedagogy, freedom of expression, and liberal values.

But what good do 'critical pedagogy and liberal values' actually do? A few people get to virtue signal and live out a fantasy of 'resisting Neo-Liberalism'. But it is play-acting merely. 

Narayanan joined Aziz Premji University which is focused on rural development. But it too will fail because it has become reliant on an ideology which believes that demanding things on behalf of the poor actually benefits the poor.

This is the notion that 'second order public goods'- i.e. agitating for more first order public goods- is as meritorious as actually helping poor and vulnerable people. The truth is, in a big country like India, you actually have to raise productivity not just demand a redistribution which amounts to nothing more than buying votes while there is enough money to do. When the money runs out, there will be entitlement collapse and these fools can get to feel virtuous by whining about it. But it isn't they who will starve or have to relocate to some slum. 

No doubt, with wounded innocence, they will write resignation letters- if they are employable elsewhere- expressing the loss of a trust which no sensible person would have ever had in the first place-

However, I have lost trust with the GB. I believe by continuing any further, I would be compromising both on my integrity and self-respect.

Integrity and self-respect come from actually creating goods and services and jobs and paying taxes. Demanding other people pay to help poor people should not contribute to 'integrity and self-respect'. Otherwise, you end up like Prince Harry- believing you are saving the world by indulging in adolescent angst. 

Another Cornell alumni, Sociologist Amita Baviskar, who hasn't yet resigned from Ashoka writes in the Wire 

                 After having worked most of my life in a public university and research institute, I started teaching at Ashoka last year. So my response to the many commentaries on the ongoing debacle at this private university comes from being an outsider as well as an insider. This ‘squint-eyed perspective,’ as fellow-sociologist Satish Deshpande has described it, is also a habit acquired over years of participant-observation, our discipline’s classic method of engaging with the world.

Why is this silly lady boasting of having a 'squint-eyed perspective'? Does she think parents want to pay 10 lakhs a year so their kids can develop a squint? Why not simply charge them 20 lakhs a year and poke their eyes out?  

Double vision seems to be a dubious faculty to take pride in, but I feel it is indeed what helps most of us academics – or for that matter, anyone who practises a vocation where ideals wrestle with rude political economy – make sense of our work.

In other words, if you want to indulge in a fantasy of yourself as a 'scholar' then you should have double vision so as to be able to make a living by prostituting yourself while believing you are actually a virginal Princess in a fairy tale.  

First, let’s set aside the schadenfreude that a crisis in an institution like Ashoka inevitably attracts.

If you want to 'set it aside', why mention it at all?  

Any number of commentators on social media can barely disguise their glee that a fast-rising university, flaunting its glittering faculty, hyped by its marketers as providing an ‘Ivy League education in India,’ has been publicly embarrassed.

No. We are laughing at the notion that anybody could have been stupid enough to think kids who didn't get into D.U would be capable of receiving 'Ivy League education' or that any good Professors would be content to teach there. 

It is the hypocrisy as much as the narcissism of Mehta & Co which attracts our derision.  

So much for your vaunted liberal values, they snigger. Some measure of malice and envy motivates such responses; they are best shrugged off.

The facts can't be shrugged off. You can't provide Ivy League education unless the kids in your class are as smart or smarter than the Professors. Only if you are attracting the best and the brightest can you afford to gas on about 'liberal values' and 'free speech'.

At Harvard, every Prof knows that there are 18 year olds in his lecture hall who are smarter than him. But most 21 year olds know they are also better informed about recent developments than their Professor. That's why Ivy League students should have freedom to point out that they are being taught stupid shit. Obviously, they don't actually do that. They change their major to something useful or drop out to found a billion dollar company.  

A tony private College is by no means a bad thing. But the kids aren't smart enough to challenge their Professors. Thus, the Trustees must weed out ideological nutters or histrionic fantasists. 

More serious analysts point to what they see as the fatal flaw in Ashoka’s conception: the contradiction between private ownership and the ability to uphold the public good.

That isn't the fatal flaw at all. It is that you would need to pay, not charge, 10 lakhs a year to get the smartest kids to come to Haryana. There is no point hiring the best Professors. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Smart people want the smartest students so as to push forward their Research Program. The son of Sethji and the ladli daughter of Lala Sahib may be very sweet and lovable. But there is no point introducing them to cutting edge research. Only a small portion of kids around the country are going to be able to run with that stuff. It would be cruel to expose the mediocre to it. Let Ashoka be a tony private College with lots of extra-curricular activities and very good Test prep for Law and Accountancy and so forth. 

When push comes to shove, they say, the funders will invariably yield to political pressure to protect their perceived bottom line.

Fuck off! If there were money in being anti-national everybody would be doing it. Political pressure can go hang if you profit by telling the Government to go fuck itself.  

Freedom of speech and, more broadly, the fundamental conditions where faculty and students can question, think and act independently, will be sacrificed at the altar of investment and growth.

Unless 'asking questions and thinking and acting independently' contribute to 'investment and growth'. In that case the thing pays for itself. Money is spent on fucking up any politician who tries to fuck with this productive activity.   

Central and state universities, these critics argue, are inherently better  placed to realise the progressive mandate of higher education.

Socialist methods are better at advancing Socialist mandates. It is foolish to imagine that people will pay through the nose to be told it is wrong to be rich. 

Private versus public, elite versus egalitarian: these are the binaries that underlie such a response.

No 'binaries' underlie anything at all. In this case, stupid people- i.e. academics- are pulling the hair and scratching the eyes of other stupid people- also academics. What neither side will accept is that academics don't matter. They are a superior type of child-minder- nothing more.

The larger context of economic liberalisation lends substance to some of these charges. It is true that most public universities have been gutted through mismanagement and political interference at a time when private universities have been on the ascendant. (I’ll leave out the long history of capitation fee colleges and the teaching shops that have made a travesty of technical education) But, even at the best of times, it is difficult to sustain the claim that public educational institutions wholly and solely serve the good of society.

In India, it is completely impossible. We firmly believe that you go to College so as to learn how to beat people with hockey sticks or else to mark time before joining the Civil Service or Chartered Accountancy or, for girls, just getting married and having babies.  

If large numbers of Indian Institutes of Technology graduates, whose four years of study have been heavily subsidised by taxpayers’ money, end up working in non-engineering businesses or settling abroad, what exactly does the public gain from this brain drain? 

Remittances. D'uh. We also gain when plumbers and construction workers go to the Gulf or our Doctors go to Britain or America.  

If Azim Premji University works dedicatedly to improve government schools across India, isn’t it making a valuable contribution to the public good?

Only if it actually does so. My fear is that it will turn into a safe space for ideological cretins and virtue signalers.  

  The public versus private distinction needs a lot more nuance, and waving it like a flag only distracts attention from the common problems that confront both.

In this case, the truth is that kids take the private option because they can't get into the public colleges of their choice. We can look at other countries where this happens and quickly come to the realization that though the graduates of these colleges may benefit from their time there, no ideological agenda will be advanced, though no doubt some elderly eccentrics on the faculty will cherish other illusions. But then look at Chomsky. MIT does well because MIT grads ignore that cretin.  

The truth of higher education

is that if it aint STEM it is shit- something this Sociologist can't bring herself to admit 

The argument about elite versus egalitarian institutions is best answered by turning to the sociology of education.

No it isn't. There are no 'egalitarian institutions'. You can have an open admission College but the stupid are weeded out because they can't pass the end of year exams. Of course, one could always get a PhD in finger painting from some crackpot College- but that isn't egalitarianism. It is 'special needs education' for very special little flowers.  

Pierre Bourdieu pointed out that schools and colleges mainly serve to reproduce class inequalities, not eliminate them.

Why? Coz Mummies and Daddies having intercourse are mainly serving to reproduce class and gender and racial inequalities, not eliminate them. But the same could be said about breathing or shitting. This is why we must all resolve to stop breathing till equality is established. Declare a tatti bandh now! You know you want to.  

Whether public or private, universities enable those who are already better placed to accumulate more cultural capital.

Just as breathing and shitting permit those who are already breathing or shitting comfortably to breathe and shit yet more. By contrast, people who are choking to death or who are terminally constipated may not live long enough to breathe or shit again.  

While affirmative action provides social mobility to some disadvantaged individuals, by and large, institutional practices of gatekeeping, recognition and reward, favour the already endowed.

For the same reason that Medical Services which enable people to breathe or shit reward those whose health is so good they are breathing and shitting very well without any help.  

We know that the ‘reserved category’ student with uncertain English skills is the one most likely to drop out of, say, Delhi University’s social science courses.

Because you cunts won't teach them English of a useful sort. But then, you don't yourself know any such language. What is the point of quoting some French guy who is saying something which is bleeding, fucking, obvious?  

We also know that those who come from reputed private schools (read: have well-off parents)

why read any such thing? It isn't true. Reputable private schools- Eton, Harrow, Winchester etc- make a point of recruiting a few really bright and motivated kids so as raise the general level. Perhaps this does not happen in India to the same extent. But then most Indians aren't really 'well-off'. Scions of Civil Servants get a quota in good schools. This works out quite well because the kids know they have score high marks to have a chance to escape to Amrika. 

will be more adept at the art of passing examinations, getting internships, applying for studies abroad.

Education enabled Indians to escape abroad. That was the big driver of academic achievement. Suppose the Brits hadn't imposed immigration restrictions in the early Sixties, who would have bothered with College? Everybody would have run off to Blighty to work in factories or set up shops. Indeed, there was a story of an Indian diplomat at the UN who quit to run a hot-dog stall. Money matters. Education only matters if you can make some money by it.  

Initial advantages combine with credentials and social networks acquired by studying at a ‘good’ university to cement class privilege.

Class privilege serves to cement class privilege. What an amazing discovery! No wonder Sociology has been a byword for Stupidity for over fifty years.  

Whether it is Presidency or Manipal, all universities are complicit in the cultural reproduction of unequal life chances and lifestyles.

But so is breathing and shitting.  

However, the degree to which they do so differs.

For the same reason that some are better at breathing and shitting than others. 

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has an admissions policy that actively recruits students of disadvantaged castes and classes, genders and regions.

Who then turn into shitty little jhollawallahs. They don't get rich. They don't raise productivity. They just continue the cycle of stupidity. This is why JNU, sooner or later, will either be reformed or will be defunded.  

Ashoka’s student body is nowhere as diverse as JNU’s. Even though half of the students receive some form of aid, its institutional culture undoubtedly reflects the fact that the other half are paying Rs 10 lakhs a year.

Which is cool if they acquire a bit of polish and get good at passing Professional Exams. Also being out in rural Haryana is a good thing. It keeps them away from the bars and night-clubs of the Capital. People world rather have a son-in-law or daughter-in-law who went to a College of this sort. 

However, for most of the adivasi boys I meet in ashram schools in Madhya Pradesh, both JNU and Ashoka lie far beyond their reach, as does college education altogether.

Then why mention them? The answer is that this cretin is virtue signaling about meeting 'adivasi boys' and not humping them dry.  

They are destined to become marginal farmers and labourers.

Unless manufacturing takes off. But for that to happen, Sociologists must be disintermediated so that wealth inequality can rise and 'class privilege' extends to more and more people of S.T background. 

This is the truth of higher education, public and private, but it is a cynical and selective truth.

In which case, it is not the truth.  

Like any important institution—elections, the media, the family—the university too only has legitimacy when it stands above the interests of powerful groups or individuals, when it is seen to uphold the greater common good.

This silly woman does not understand the meaning of the word legitimacy. She is using it in a wholly ignorant and illegitimate way.  

The family has legitimacy if 'oikos' is legitimate- i.e. kids are born to Mummies and Daddies who are married to each other. Even if the entire family is subservient to a Patriarch or Matriarch, its legitimacy is not questioned. This is true even if it is head is referred to as 'The Godfather' or the 'capo di tutti capi'. 

Why is this silly woman pretending otherwise? Did someone say to her 'you are a bastard. You were born out of wedlock. Because your Mummy controls your family it follows that it must be illegitimate'. 

The Media has no specific legitimacy. It may or may not have a reputation for being truthful. But a reputation is not legitimacy. 

Elections are either free and fair or they are not. Arguably, a free and fair election confers 'legitimacy' on the winner. But, de facto, only if Courts can enforce the outcome through the Police and the Army is this genuinely the case. 

Universities which clearly improve life-chances and which don't sell admissions or sheepskins may be considered to be legitimate by appropriate licensing or regulatory Agencies. But this is not necessarily the case. We may object to a University of Alchemy or Astrology on a priori grounds even if there is considerable proof that those who graduate from such places gain much higher income. 

It has never been the case in any country or at any period in history that a University has lost respect, authority or legitimacy in the eyes of Law or Society a a whole purely on the basis of being controlled by a few or not contributing to the common good. Thus even an atheist will accept that a Doctorate in Theology represents a legitimate academic credential. Similarly, a Business College, or Technical University is accepted as a legitimate Institution of Higher Education even by people who deplore the oligarchs who have established it or the manner in which such education might enrich them further while, perhaps, bringing on an ecological catastrophe.

For the university to have credibility, this claim to universality must work.

Fuck off! For a University to have credibility we have to see that really smart kids attend it. If they are all drooling imbeciles, it won't have any credibility at all. This University could be wholly Nazi in its ideology. Sooner or later, there will be an 'Operation Paperclip' to get hold of its alumni and get them to do advanced scientific work.  

It cannot be mere smoke-and-mirrors, nor some PR mantra.

Yes it can. A bit of hypocritical play-acting is cool if your people keep getting Nobel prizes or becoming Tech billionaires.  

The notion of the university as a shared endeavour to think and dream, question and challenge, must remain alive.

Like the notion that fairies live at the bottom of the garden. This is Bilgrami's cue to start babbling about 'enchantment'.  

Distinguished scholars lend their charisma to the institution that employs them.

Fuck off! There are no 'distinguished scholars' in non-STEM subjects. All that matters is that there is a school where the smartest kids want to go.  

At the Delhi School of Economics, where I studied in the 1980s, André Béteille and JPS Uberoi

shitheads both. Still, at the time Anthropology was more prestigious than Sociology. It was the sort of subject it would have been okay for Prince Charles to have studied. But that's not saying very much.

were not only teachers, they were leading figures in the department’s folklore. The economics department too cherished its legends about Sukhamoy Chakravarty and Amartya Sen.

Chakravarty's stint as Planning Chief put paid to any lingering doubts that Bengali mathematical economists weren't the stupidest and most worthless cunts on the planet. Sen is now universally reviled. If he is for x, we know x is the most foolish thing to do. He also shat the bed by taking the Chancellorship of Nalanda- a white elephant if ever there was one.  

But, more than the stars, it was the sincerity of all the teachers that struck a chord with students.

They may have been sincere, but they were genuinely cretinous. 

That common sense that this was work worth doing.

Wasn't common even back then. We laughed at these cretins and hoped they'd just fuck off to Amrika and leave India alone.  

At Ashoka, too, I see this shared belief permeating everyday practices.

D School was quite tough to get into. Ashoka- not so much. A belief that isn't entirely absurd at one place and at one time ought not to permeate a very different place at a very different time.  Incidentally, D School turned to shit when it became a part of Delhi University. 

A young colleague rewrites her lecture, again and again, to make sure it’s the best she can deliver.

Sadly, her older colleagues are just coasting on fumes.  

Another spends days designing ways of helping students with disabilities.

Good for her. That's an actual marketable skill. Suppose Ashoka becomes the best place for that type of pedagogy then it will more than pay for itself on the global market. Also it would be doing something genuinely useful. Disabled people have a lot to contribute. Helping them helps us all.  

Students linger after class, intent on thrashing out a particular concept or argument.

But they didn't bother at the place she last taught. This may be because she is a shit teacher teaching in a shite Department.  

Others tell me of a course that’s made them change direction from economics to philosophy,

which is a terrible idea 

or from biology to psychology.


Students campaign vigorously for the rights of contract workers at Ashoka.

Good for them. If the contract workers become demoralized the Institution suffers.  

They were at Shaheen Bagh and at Jantar Mantar.

That's cool when you are a kid. Once you are a partner in a good Law or Accountancy firm, you can reminisce about your imaginary Campus radicalism in the hope that the bored young intern relents and gives you a handie. 

Many distributed supplies to victims of political violence in north-east Delhi; they spoke out in support of the JNU Students Union.

And where did that get them? Their Professors are now either  running away from them or writing articles in the Wire explaining that what the kids should be doing is getting arrested for sedition so as to be sodomized in jail. 

Some work with groups fighting climate change; others against caste injustice.

These things can be done for free. Daddy and Mummy don't have to shell out lakhs so you get to do it.  

Just like progressive students and dedicated teachers elsewhere, those at Ashoka too are living and affirming the liberal promise of the university.

But this can be affirmed without paying any fees. Just enroll in Khan Academy in between getting arrested.  

They are making the university.

No. Money made the University. But that Money can disappear. 

Only someone with an utterly bleak vision of the world as totally captive to capitalism would believe that they are fooling themselves.

They are being fooled because they think 'this is what kids at Harvard and Yale are doing. We too will earn mega-bucks if we jump on the bandwagon and do what Cornell alumni tell us to do.'  Meanwhile, the country is run by a chai-wallah who joined the RSS and got external degrees. 

To be sure, such high-minded striving is not constant or perfect: in public and private universities people succumb to posturing and bouts of solipsism;

This lady succumbed to this certainly. But she never recovered.  

there are pressing anxieties about jobs and careers. Many students focus on keeping their heads down and their grades up. The conditions for thinking and questioning are vitiated by the larger environment.

i.e. Reality. If only we could get rid of Reality we could realize our vision of a truly egalitarian University where no one would need to breathe or shit and thus all would be equal to Karl Marx- who can no longer perform either activity.  

As more teachers are forced to work in temporary or ad hoc positions, persistent insecurity eats into the joy of practising a vocation.

Vocation? More like a permanent mental vacation in fantasy-land. 

At the same time, authoritarian directives from the state are getting more frequent and more dire.  The heavy tread and heavy breath of the stormtroopers stalking our steps make us second guess: will I get into trouble for saying this?

Stormtroopers, eh? Well, it was bound to happen. The woman thinks she is living in Germany in the Nineteen Thirties. She is too deracinated to speak of lathi wielding lads in khaki knickers.  

In this climate, it is disappointing, but not altogether surprising, that the founders and administration of Ashoka should have fumbled so badly. 

How have they fumbled? It looks like they made the right calculation. Losing Mehta and Subramanian means that parents and donors will say 'okay, Ashoka is going to settle for being a tony Law & Accountancy Test Prep based College. That's actually a useful and good thing. Employers like hiring kids with social poise who can crack various types of professional exams- e.g. in Banking, Insurance, Financial Services etc. Add on a couple of foreign language courses and these kids become eminently hirable. 

However—and this is why this crisis feels like a betrayal—unlike their counterparts in public universities who were deliberately appointed to push the ruling regime’s agenda, Ashoka’s founders and leaders folded of their own accord.

We don't know that. What is more likely is that they saw that hype about 'Ivy League' has been seen through.  A Rich kids' Law or Business College, on the other hand, is a credible proposition. Get shot of expensive 'super-stars' and worthless PhD research. Go back to basics. Make this a fun College where nice samskari kids get a bit of Angrezi polish.  

They failed to appreciate that the institution they started had acquired a life larger than their fears.

For the excellent reason that it hadn't at all. If Ashoka carries on, it will be a posh College for fundamentally decent kids from good families.  It was always a pipe dream that they could be turned into urban Naxals.

As the faculty and students at Ashoka struggle to institute structural reforms that will firewall the university from its donors,

in which case the money dries up and the expensive frills- e.g. PhD research- are dispensed with so that the place can pay for itself.  

there is an important lesson to be learned from the experience of public universities.

No there isn't. A place where the State picks up the tab is nothing like one where poor old Mummy and Daddy have to stump up their hard earned cash.  

Political meddling has indeed eroded the autonomy of public universities

what fucking autonomy is this cretin babbling about?  

but some of the damage was self-inflicted.

Because Indian academics are shit- or became so within ten years of Independence. The Govt. poached talent and then, later on, smart peeps emigrated. You were left with jhollawallah scum.  

Well-intended but ill-conceived rules stifled innovation.

Rules can't stifle shit because the innovative find ways to get around them. 

Patron-client relations trumped talent and ability.

Yet Japanese STEM subject research flourished despite a feudal type of relationship between mentor and disciple.

So long as patrons compete for excellence, they recruit the ablest to be their clients.  

Supremely mediocre faculty members were promoted on grounds of ‘seniority’. 

As happens in the Civil Service. But there is always a work around- for those who will seek it.  

Mutual esteem and trust frayed away into factionalism. When good faith gives way to suspicion, collegiality to barbed remarks and backbiting, when faculty meetings become a minefield, the institution loses its esprit de corps.

So what? Henry Kissinger remarked on the envenomed bitterness of academic politics (because the stakes were so small) but that didn't prevent the US from tearing ahead of its European competition  

We can try and craft perfect rules but how do we restore our shared identity and sense of purpose?

It never existed. Stop pretending there was once a golden age.  

Perhaps the answer to this is to be found in my feelings when I was asked: Well, you will also leave, won’t you?  What an odd question, I thought.

Because there was no long line of VeeCees outside her door begging her to join them on a higher salary and research budget.  

  Just as when the Modi government came to power and someone said, I can’t live in this country anymore. At that time, I drew strength and comfort from my circles of comrades and friends.

as opposed to your enemies. Hopefully, your teddy bear hugged you tightly and urged you to stop shitting yourself with fear of 'stormtroopers'.  

And at this time, I am inspired by my students and colleagues at Ashoka.

But not at any other time.  

This university is worth fighting for. And those who are striving in their own ways to uphold the integrity of the institutions that they work and believe in will recognise the value of this endeavour.    

But others won't. Why? Because these silly people and their private fantasies about their own importance don't matter to anybody else.