Tuesday 31 May 2022

Nikhil Menon on Mahalanobis

Few readers of this blog will be aware that my first academic publication was on the topic of the Indian Planning Commission. It was 560,000 words long- i.e. about the length of Das Kapital- but failed to find a publisher because all those 560, 000 words were 'shit'. Still, that is what Indian Planning was- utter shit.

Nikhil Menon takes a different view.

The following is an excerpt from his interview with Chintan Modi of News 9

You describe "the Indian planning project" as "an arranged marriage between Soviet-inspired economic planning and Western-style liberal democracy." Why this metaphor?

Because it sounds better than just saying 'shit' 560,000 times. The truth is that the war economy had created Government controls over almost all economic activity. Furthermore, under Bretton Woods, cross-border financial flows, including f.d.i, were tightly regulated. Thus everybody had some sort of planning. Soviet planning was based on State control of almost all enterprises. But it was backed up by the sanction of getting shot in the head or shipped off to the Gulag. This wasn't remotely feasible in India where the 'kulaks' were the dads of the soldiers. If you tried to 'collectivize' their land they would kill you and take their time with your daughter. So, no marriage- shotgun or otherwise- was possible with Soviet style planning. 

Western liberal democracy was not wanted in India. The Hindus did want elected representatives to change their customary laws so as to reduce wasteful and stupid status competition between 'jatis', but they didn't believe in liberal democracy which means representation so as to have more taxation. Indians didn't believe tax money could ever be spent in a productive manner. They wanted no taxation but some representation which doesn't have any power save that of sending public signals that it was okay to abandon casteist or superstitious practices without fearing a law suit from relatives claiming your ancestral property on the grounds that you had become 'acharabrashta' or other nonsense of that sort. Also, get rid of polygamy. You pay for an IAS officer son-in-law but if the guy marries a hundred other girls for their dowries you are back with 'kulinism'. 

What did Hindus want if not 'liberal democracy'? The answer is a benign sort of Dictator. Gandhi had been too much of a crackpot. Nehru was more sensible. In any case, linguistic reorganization of the States was inevitable, so people looked to Delhi because they could not be sure they'd be on the right side of any new regional border. The other point is the creation of Pakistan had revived Hindu fear of an Islamic onslaught. Only a strong Center could provide the Hindu people with a powerful Army which could take the battle to the enemy rather than wait around for the next invasion. 

Nehru's power increased because of the Planning Commission of which he was the head. Control of the economy- license permit Raj- curbed the power of the Presidency cities and the entrepreneurial class which had financed Gandhi. The Textile industry was strangled because the next wave of entrepreneurs would have risen within it. 'Export pessimism' was pessimism about Delhi being able to control foreign exchange flows which would have been disproportionately concentrated in the port cities of the littoral. The Bengalis, who had already lost much and who would lose more through things like 'freight equalization', were mollified when one of their own- Mahalanobis was put in charge. The guy knew no economics whatsoever, so the real fun of clerks and peons in the PMO running everything could begin. Savvy industrialists settled for 'the best of monopoly profits- a quiet life' while various British Managing Agencies were taken over by Marwaris and very quickly run into the ground. I suppose there was some 'value release' from what were in effect stranded assets. 

Why did the US decide to give 'free money' (Ambassador Kaul's phrase) to finance this farcical 'Socialism'? Well, it turned out that the money wasn't free, it was inflationary and the US got an unexpected benefit- viz. intellectual coolies. Still, the fact remains that US foreign policy consists, in the words of Obama, of doing stupid shit. Indian Planning was definitely shit, so obviously they paid for it for a few years. 

To conclude, Indian planning was an arranged marriage between a senile prostitute- viz. the war economy regulatory machine- and an impotent Dick-tato (i.e. a cross between a Dictator and a Potato with the qualities of the potato predominating) for which Uncle Sam provided money so as to keep up an appearance of Liberal Democracy thriving in the second most populous shithole on the planet. 

Menon disagrees.

I used this metaphor because during the time of the Cold War and the competition between the two superpowers — Soviet Union and the United States — planning and democracy were seen to be incompatible.

This is nonsense. France and Japan had 'indicative planning' but most war ravaged countries had what was in effect the same thing. In any case, there was a little thing called the 'Marshall Plan'. The US actually knew more about planning than anyone else precisely because they had more resources to allocate.  

They didn't appear to have any natural inclination towards each other. So, India's choice to put these two together was an experiment, a leap of faith by the Indian state (which, in this metaphor, represents the parents doing the arranging!)

India's choice was based on the Hindu need for a strong Center able to respond proactively to Islamic aggression. Nobody wanted to go back to the days of Prithviraj Chauhan. With the Brits gone, Hindus had to hang together.  

But a strong Center meant one where industrialists have to go through New Delhi rather than find some new crackpot of a Mahatma to act as their cat's paw. 

What is it about India's Five-Year Plans that excites you as a researcher? What were some of the research questions that you started out with? How did they change over time? 
India's Five-Year Plans intrigued me because we are used to the debates about whether they succeeded or failed, but I felt that we didn't know enough about why India adopted them in the first place.

Because nobody then or now was going to come out and blab out the truth. Hindus wanted a strong Center. They didn't greatly like Banias and Marwaris and so forth. Also, maybe the Government could run industries better than some greasy Seth. What was certain was that public sector employment would rise. In India everybody was a philosophical anarchist who wanted a sarkari job for their son.  

How they came to define India's economy. The Planning Commission's decisions rippled across every aspect the economy, and the rhetoric of planning became part of the texture of public life in India.

Kishore Kumar, in Apna haath Jagannath, had a hit with 'Permit ke liye mar mit' in 1960. Whatever enthusiasm there may have been for Planning, it died quickly.  

When I first entered the archives for this project, I didn't have a very clear idea about what the book would look like. In some senses, I allowed myself to be directed by where the archives and libraries took me. That's what led me to the history of India's first computers, or the role played by Bollywood and sadhus in promoting Five Year Plans.

In the Fifties, some believed that there could be a sort of National Service scheme for school leavers. India might become a One Party state. The best and brightest would join the Party and this would grease the wheels and permit superior coordination. Nehru did start a technical cadre- engineers and other specialists- but the jealous IAS generalist strangled it quickly enough. Still, it seemed possible that Congress- perhaps after becoming dynastic (thus reducing intrigue and infighting)- would create an all Indian political cadre and then set goals for different industries. After all, there were one or two examples- e.g. Kurien and Amul- where a technocrat with good political protectors achieved something worthwhile. 

How would you describe to non-academics the role that PC Mahalanobis and the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata played in crafting independent India's economic trajectory?

The Mahalanobis model was based on the experience of the 1930's when there were high tariff barriers. It viewed India as a closed economy which needed to be technologically self-reliant. The main constraint was 'capital goods'- i.e. machines that make machines- and thus the Government needed to push resources into this sector regardless of profitability. It should be stressed that the Mahalanobis plan was modified greatly within two years of its introduction because of inflation and balance of payments problems. But it did come close to its target because of the favorable global climate. The Third Plan was more Sukhamoy Chakraborty's work but for obvious reasons it failed dismally. Plan Holidays followed till finally, with the Gadgill formula, the nature of the game changed to admitting that the real issue was the division of spoils between the Center and the States. In other words, Nehru's Centralization had failed. Indira Gandhi was more concerned with fucking over the Hindi belt than with distant States which were able to rise up a little.

Politically, one could argue that National cohesion required the sort of stupid shit Mahalanobis presided over but from the Economist's point of view the whole thing was utterly mad and pointless. It had negative hysteresis effects which stretch down to our own day. 

India never became technologically self-reliant. There wasn't enough money for creating a nation of inventors and engineers. Some people were sent abroad to study but when they came back they had to be given a clerical job under a stupid IAS officer pending availability of work for which they were trained. Even if this materialized, they had little scope to innovate or improve techniques. They were expected to conform to bureaucratic, not technocratic norms. The sensible ones stuck it out for a couple of years and then emigrated. Others quietly rotted away and became useless. Meanwhile there were some turn-key projects which did boost steel production and so on. But Indian steel destroyed value- i.e. exporting iron ore paid more. The result is a continuing culture of protectionism. The the Indian steel producer lobbies government to put high export duties on high grade iron ore to reduce its costs but Indian manufacturers suffer from high steel prices. That's why steel intensive goods- e.g. construction equipment- are bought from China. Meanwhile, people like Laxmi Mittal hired technocrats from the Indian steel industry and made a fortune for himself in places like Indonesia before settling in London. 

Making a budget involves having a plan. A good budget ensures that 'investment' generates financial returns- i.e. raises revenue. A bad budget pisses money against a wall because 'investments' turn out to need more and more monetary support. You have to cut down on food so as to feed your white elephant which was supposed to make you rich. But it can't do so. It isn't 'strategic' at all. It eats money and produces shit. 

The 'Gandhian' element to this was protection of cottage industries. But the motive was political. Textiles could be exported. Smarter, shrewder, entrepreneurs might rise up in the industry. They might back new political configurations in the country. Better be on the safe side and strangle the thing at birth.

The alternative to Mahalanobis was the Vakil & Brahmanand plan which would have let textiles and other wage good industries expand rapidly so that industrial employment could grow quickly thus ending agricultural involution and raising productivity- and therefore creating a food surplus- in that sector. However, neither of those two worthies- both being academic economists- appeared to be wholly sane. What was needed was a guy who understood budgets not one who pretended to understand gobbledygook. 

Mahalanobis, or 'the Professor' as he was known, was one of the most influential Indians of his generation.

If by 'influential' you mean 'shit'- sure.  

This was mostly because of the role that he and the Indian Statistical Institute played in authoring India's Second Five Year Plan (1956-61).

The craziest shite ever conceived. It ensured India would be a beggar. This meant reform would come from outside and take the shape of a 'Plan holiday'. However, as with our current malaise, the charitable view is that Mahalanobis too was being manipulated by a rent-seeking coalition. But, back then, there was more input from the PMO. There was a clear political purpose- keep the farmers starving so they don't wag their tail; strangle the new generations of Sarabhais and Birlas lest they find some Mahatma of their own and start up that satyagraha nonsense; concentrate all power in Delhi by reducing Calcutta and Madras and Bombay to an equal penury. Mahalanobis, being a Bengali succeeded with respect to Calcutta. Bombay fought back by fair means or foul and retained some dynamism. In Madras, the film industry drove out Congress and created a Dravidian model of development. The 'Andhrapreneur' then made Telugu Cinema more dynamic than that of Tamil Nadu and did well for themselves and their State. Some other States found their own modus vivendi to a modest type of affluence and dynamism. But the country as a whole suffered and continues to suffer. 

That document provided the policy blueprint that India's economy followed for the next few decades, until the market reforms of the 1990s.

But rent seeking had become entrenched. Some export led growth occurred but more and more rents were captured. Billionaires increased in number but so did beggars. 

As someone who engages deeply with the history of capitalism,

which India didn't have. It had feudalism and then a corrupt type of socialism and then a corrupt type of billionaire culture based on borrowing from Government banks or the LIC etc. 

how do you look back at the liberalisation of India's economy in 1991? Does it seem like a failure of the promise of the welfare state?

There was no welfare state. Why speak of promises? 

Can the inequalities that exist in India today be attributed to that moment?

No. They can be attributed to Indian economists being shit and Indian politicians being shit and Indian industrialists being shit.

I should begin by saying that I'm not an economist, so I don't study this in the manner that they do. As a historian, I look at changing patterns in economic thought and practice and offer explanations for them. With that qualification, I would say that market liberalisation was a seminal moment for the Indian economy. While India was forced into it due to a crisis, it clearly led to a substantial increase in GDP and growth rates. As a result, not only did the Indian economy change, but so did consumer patterns and hence popular culture as well. The uptick in growth has contributed to a reduction in absolute poverty and an increase in income and wealth inequality. India could have harnessed this growth towards more equitable outcomes by acting, as you suggest, like a welfare state. However, our investment in social security programmes, health and education still remains low.

Because subsidies go to the rich. The game has been rigged in advance. That's the problem with Centralization. You get 'Agency Capture'. The regulator becomes the puppet of the entity she is supposed to keep on the straight and narrow. The Banker becomes the henchman of the Bank robber.  

What continuities do you notice between the Planning Commission and the NITI Aayog? The NITI Aayog resembles what the Planning Commission had become towards the end of its run — the government's think tank. In the 1950s however, as Planning Democracy reveals, the Planning Commission was an enormously powerful body.

Or so it appeared. What it actually was an enormously pliable body.  

To the extent that a Finance Minister John Matthai resigned in protest of the Planning Commission's sprawling powers. He said that it was more like a "parallel cabinet"!

Nehru's initial instinct was to put business minded, non political, people in charge of Finance. But the temptation to concentrate power in his own hands was too strong.  

What makes you conclude that India's civil society needs/wants a technocratic saviour? 
I think there is often a want, though I am unsure that there is a need. While these trends ebb and flow, I am struck by how often there is a popular appetite for a technocrat to solve our problems. We saw this with the lionisation of Mahalanobis, as we did later with Manmohan Singh in the 1990s, and as we have seen more recently with the celebrity of someone like Raghuram Rajan. A few years ago, a newspaper ran a column with the title 'Who Will Be the BJP's Mahalanobis?' I think we need to find a balance between yearning for a technocratic saviour and rank anti-intellectualism. In India currently, the latter appears the much bigger issue.

A healthy sign. Economics is something successful businessmen in open markets understand better than pedants. There is nothing wrong with having a sort of political entrepreneur who recombines factors of production and improves allocative efficiency by relaxing stupid red tape regulations without blowing a hole in the budget. This can be done by a CM but not a PM because India is too varied. Subsidiarity is the need of the hour. Let decisions be taken as close as possible to the people affected. Indian Trade policy is crazy shit. There needs to be experimentation at the margin. The top-down approach is still with us because of embedded rent seeking. Breaking that nexus appears an elusive dream. To be fair, Modi and Shah do seem to be learning from their mistakes. The question is whether they can last long enough in office for the country to benefit by the knowledge they have gleaned. 

Monday 30 May 2022

Sarkar, Samskar & Amartya Sen

I recall reading of a forgetful Vicar who would read the burial service while marrying people or the rites of baptism when burying the dead. However, he never tried to justify his behavior by giving reasons why getting married was a type of death. This is what Sen's 'idea of Justice' does. Justice can, like the senile Vicar, misfire but it can't, or ought not to, justify its mistake by giving a 'plurality of reasons'. 

 Sarkar is a word of Persian, and thus Indo-Iranian, origin which means the Governor or Government. Sar means head. Kar means action or actor. Samskara is a Sanskrit word which means ceremony or spiritual trait or residue. Sam has the meaning of completion or joining together. Ritual actions join together human and divine. However, if the round of rebirth is not seen as returning to eternity in God then a notion of samsarana- going round in a circle- defines existence. Without God it is pointless. Thus Buddhism points to a way out of samsara- nirvana- though in the end both are the same as are human and divine in Hinduism. But that is merely philosophy acknowledging it is the love it seeks, not any type of informative knowledge at all. 

Justice in Hindu thought is a 'samskar'- it is itself conditioned and defeasible. So is authority or Kingship. There is no Divine Right to Rule nor does it arise by nature. What is true of sarkar is also true of samskar. Both are contingent and ideographic. This is the common sense view. Some pedants or sycophants may gas on about the perfection and divinity of this King or that Constitution. But their arguments are absurd.

Governance and Justice are both service industries. They can always be improved in a piece-meal fashion provided the overall stability or incentive compatibility of the system is maintained- i.e. the system as a whole remains robust. Since Knightian uncertainty obtains- i.e. all possible future states of the world and their probabilities are not known- a regret minimizing approach must be taken. 

Sen's idea of Justice is that it should be evaluated along a continuum. That's sensible. What is not sensible is to say that it should be evaluated by anybody other than those who pay for that Service industry. If tax-payers feel they are getting better Governance or better Justice then, well and good. They will pay more so Governance and Justice delivery can improve yet further. If Governance and Justice delivery worsen, people will find ways not to pay for either. Service industries which are crappy get disintermediated. People find alternatives. 

Sen never understood economics. He didn't understand that everything is about supply and demand. Supply shite and demand for it falls. The thing will disappear or get confined to a repugnancy market. It is of course possible to create an abstract model for the determinants of demand. There is nothing wrong with a transcendental or axiological approach to this provided it can 'operationalized' and tinkered with to make good enough predictions. What is utterly pointless is 'evaluating' what exists without consulting the people who pay for it. Where there is competition of some sort, the people supplying stuff will try to improve the product to retain customer 'loyalty' and prevent 'exit'. Giving more 'Voice' to the customer can help achieve this outcome provided you filter out the antagonomic nutters and virtue signallers and pedants of all descriptions.

A theory has to filter out stuff which is irrelevant. Thus a theory of Gravitation has to filter out theology and aesthetics and mythology. All relevant reasons must be purely within the realm of Physics. Justice as a service industry has two components. The technical aspects of the subject, on the one hand,  and the economics behind how it is financed, on the other. This is the opposite of Sen's approach. He thinks both the Sarkar and Samskar exist only to be evaluated and given marks by pedants. The basis of that evaluation can be plural so that Teacher can give gold star to the good looking cretin he wants to fuck and a fail grade to the smart kid who belongs to the wrong race or class. 

Sen says- 

The plurality of reasons that a theory of justice has to accommodate relates not only to the diversity of objects of value that the theory recognizes as significant, but also to the type of concerns for which
the theory may make room, for example, on the importance of different kinds of equality or liberty.

This is foolish. Justice isn't the only service industry around. There are others. Political reasons must be accommodated by Politics. Didactic reasons by Education. Aesthetic reasons by Art. Judges who decide they should run everything are judges who will soon be told to go fuck themselves. If they have coercive power for some other reason, they may not fuck off. But this is unjust. It is coercion pure and simple. 

 Judgements about justice have to take on board the task of accommodating different kinds of reasons
and evaluative concerns.

No. Only one thing matters. Is the thing value for money? Does it contribute to robustness or will it crash the system? If not it isn't value for money at all. It is a luxury Society can't afford. 

 The recognition that we can often prioritize and order the relative importance of competing considerations does not, however, indicate that all alternative scenarios can always be
completely ordered, even by the same person. 

Sen is speaking of preferences. Judgments are protocol bound and buck stopped. They can always be totally ordered. Indeed, that is the function of the Supreme Court. 

A person may have clear views on some rankings and yet not be sure enough about some other comparisons. The fact that a person can reason his or her way into rejecting slavery or the subjugation of women does not indicate
anything at all. Neither matters in the slightest to our daily lives. We are merely expressing a preference of an affiliative kind. This has nothing to do with arriving at a judgment in the manner that juries do. 

 that the same person must be able to decide with certainty whether a 40 per cent top rate of income tax would be better than – or more just than – a top rate of 39 per cent.

This is not a judgment we are required to make. The Chancellor of the Exchequer- sure. But not the rest of us.

 Reasoned conclusions can easily take the form of partial rankings,

not if they are conclusions. Sen is still thinking of preferences. But once you've picked your pizza toppings and paid your money a conclusion has been reached. 

 and, as has been discussed earlier, there is nothing particularly defeatist in that acknowledgement.

But there is something demented about it. Sen misunderstood decision theory and then thought judgments were the same kind of decision. Kant had some crazy theory about how people make a judgment to make judgments. This was because he didn't know the Law but he had a vague idea that a well run State had super nice Judges and like everybody should be a Judge giving themselves nice laws and everything not verboten is compulsory. 

If incomplete resolution can be a part of the discipline of an individual’s evaluative assessment, 

it can't if the assessment is action-guiding- i.e. genuine. What you do is the result of your assessment. You may argue that your assessment was incomplete. Had you had more time to reflect or not been off your head you wouldn't have punched your boss and got naked at the Christmas party. 

it plays an even more prominent part in what public reasoning can be expected to yield. 

No. Why? Public reasoning may be based on virtue signalling or affiliative concerns. Preference Falsification will be rife. People will pretend they want stuff which they don't at all. 

When dealing with a group, there is need for accommodation not only of different individuals’ respective partial rankings, but also of the extent of incompleteness that may exist in a shared partial ranking on which different individuals can reasonably agree.

Fuck off! Econ theory says 'transferable utility'- i.e. paying people off- is what keeps groups together. Partial rankings fade away coz peeps be partial to moolah. 

 It was Mary Wollstonecraft’s claim that if and when people examine with impartiality the reasons for respecting women’s basic freedoms, they will agree that ‘reason calls for this respect’. 

She was wrong. It took a hundred years for married women to gain control of their property but that only happened because wealthy women were preferring to remain spinsters while maybe having sex with gigolos on their Continental excursions. The bottom line is that women were proving good money managers. The bourgeoisie came to see them as safer custodians of family wealth. Also, wealthy women might give money to the Radicals and help them get into Parliament. Ultimately, women were more likely to be Conservative so the Left was slitting its own throat for a virtue signalling reason. 

The actual disagreements that exist may be removed through reasoning, helped by questioning established prejudices, vested interests and unexamined preconceptions.

Only if there is no plurality of reasons. We can agree on which car is faster or which car gives better mileage. We can't agree on which is the best car absent any budget or other constraint. 

Many such agreements of real significance can be reached, but this is not to claim that every conceivable problem of social choice can be settled this way.

Transferable utility is the answer. Pay off some. Tell others to fuck off before you shove your boot up their arse. 

Plurality of reasons can sometimes pose no problem for a definitive decision, whereas in other cases it can pose a serious challenge.

No. It is easy to show that 'plurality or reasons' is stoooopid shit. One could speak learnedly of Kunh's no neutral algorithm argument or you could stick with just tell Sen-tentious cunts that they are stoooopid.

 The case of the three children with claims on a flute, discussed in the
Introduction, illustrated the possibility of an impasse in trying to decide what would be the just thing to do. 

Nonsense! The kid who made the flute owns it. There is an uncorrelated asymmetry which picks out one and only one candidate. This is a canonical solution. 

But the acceptance of a diversity of considerations does not entail that an impasse would
necessarily arise. Even in the case of the three children, it may turn out that the child who has made the flute, Carla, is also the poorest, or the only one who knows how to play the flute. Or it might be the case that the deprivation of the poorest child, Bob, is so extreme, and his dependence on something to play with so important for a plausible life, that the poverty-based argument might come to dominate the
judgement of justice.

But Bob loses the flute when a poorer kid comes along. His title is not secure. Only Carla has an uncorrelated asymmetry. 

 There can be a congruence of different reasons in many particular cases. The idea of justice does, it would seem, include cases of different types, with easy resolution in some instances
and very hard decisional problems in others.
Not in this case. There is a clear uncorrelated asymmetry. If Bob says he made the flute but has now forgotten how to do so because Carla, after learning the technique from him, whacked him on the skull, then there may be a hard decisional problem if Anna backs his story. Otherwise the kid who can make flutes must have made this flute. 

One implication of this line of reasoning is the recognition that a broad theory of justice that makes room for non-congruent considerations within the body of that broad theory need not thereby make
itself incoherent, or unmanageable, or useless.

Non-congruent considerations relate neither to questions of fact or law. They don't belong in a theory of justice. They do belong to the realm of political science. 

Justice is a separate 'Samskar' or set of samskars. You don't read the burial service at a wedding. On the other hand, the 'Sarkar' has to weigh up different 'non-congruent' considerations. But, ultimately it has to do with what promotes its own robustness. 

 Definite conclusions can emerge despite the plurality.

Judges can decide that the matter is not justiciable by reason of the doctrine of political question. Similarly, the Sarkar can say 'this is a matter for Religion and Spirituality or personal Faith. It is outside our scope.' India did not get rid of its Army at Independence. Nehru made it clear that Gandhi was a spiritual, not a political, guide for the INC. 

When the competing concerns reflected in that plurality have far-reaching merits, on the relative strength of which we remain partially undecided, then it would make good sense to try to see how far we can go even without resolving completely the problems of relative weights.

In other words we can do stuff without endless deliberation and exhaustive reasoning. But that's why executive privilege exists. 

 And sometimes we can go far enough for the theory to be of very considerable use in application, without sacrificing any of the rigorous demands of each competing line of argument.

Sen's ideas have been useless to all but time wasting bureaucrats and shitty academics. On the other hand this does involve 'transferable utility'- i.e. buying off minorities and nutters of various sorts by paying them be 'consultants'. 

The competing criteria will yield different rankings of alternatives, with some shared elements and some divergent ones. The intersection – or the shared elements of the rankings – of the diverse orderings generated by the different priorities will yield a partial ordering that ranks some alternatives against each other with great clarity and internal consistency, while failing altogether to rank other pairs of alternatives.

This is not the case unless the competing criteria themselves are wholly independent in a certain mathematical sense. Otherwise, a ranking according to one criteria will be partially determined by another criteria. The problem is that we don't know how to 'carve up reality along its joints' or get a pure theory of Justice that is different from a pure theory of Government or Economics or Aesthetics or whatever. Even if we have pure criteria, a small change in the information set might not alter the ranking of the pure criteria (whose robustness arises out of purity) but would alter every other ordering. 
In practice, the problem is solved by 'transferable utility'- i.e. moolah or the threat of a thrashing. 

The Sarkar uses 'saam-daam-dhand-bhed' (persuasion, bribes, punishment and 'divide and rule' tactics. Sen-tentious shite may be part of this corrupt practice but because it is stoooooopid it will quickly backfire. The taxpayer will rebel. 

 The commonality of the shared partial ranking can then be seen as the definitive outcome of that broad theory. 

In which case the theory doesn't matter. Just looking at preferences is enough to establish a universally acceptable program. As a market of fact, there are plenty of pollsters and focus group mavens and so forth doing stuff like that. They don't need to read Sen's garbage. Look at Prashant Kishore. He is the King-maker of India. He understands Samskar and Sarkar well enough to actually bring about the sort of change he wants to see. 

Definitive conclusions are of use as and when they emerge, without there being
any necessity to look for something of a guarantee that a ‘best’ or a ‘right’ choice must invariably emerge in every case in which we are tempted to invoke the idea of justice.

In which case there is no idea of justice. If 'definitive conclusions' emerge, well and good. But no theory or idea has contributed to it. It just so happens that people's preferences are unanimous on certain points. However, they may all be wrong. It may not be just to sacrifice your first born to Ba'al. 

The basic issue here, which is simple enough when shorn of the
analytical formalities, is the need to recognize that a complete theory
of justice may well yield an incomplete ranking of alternative courses
of decision,

This can't be the case. Protocol bound, buck stopped, juristic procedures give a total ordering- but only over justiciable matters. There, in each and every case, there is a single 'ratio' not a 'plurality of reasons.  

and that an agreed partial ranking will speak unambiguously
in some cases and hold its silence in others.

In which case we don't need no theorists. But reality is different. We do need a theory of every particular type of reason. If the reason is 'Gravity' we need a theory of gravity. If the reason is 'fair division' we need a theory of fair division. These can be as ideal or utopian or artificial as they like.  

When Condorcet and Smith argued that the abolition of slavery would make the world
far less unjust,

Condorcet said slavery is a crime. He did not consider whether a greater injustice- e.g. the colonization of Africa- might not result if African potentates could not trade captured slaves for guns and trade goods. 

they were asserting the possibility of ranking the world with and without slavery, in favour of the latter,

No. Condorcet says 'this is a crime like murder. Stop it now.' He wasn't 'ranking the world'. Had he lived longer he might have decided that slavery was a crime that we must tolerate till France is strong enough to suppress that evil.  

We all make judgments of this sort. Putin is committing a crime in Ukraine. But it that crazy mofo threatens to blow up the world we may have to turn our backs on Zelenskyy's valorous people. We prefer a world in which some people are killed or enslaved to a world where nobody is left alive. 

that is, showing the superiority – and greater justice – of a world without slavery.

This simply isn't true. There are necessary evils we have to put up with. 

In asserting such a conclusion they were not also making the further
claim that all the alternatives that can be generated by variations of
institutions and policies can be fully ranked against each other.

 And yet, unless they knew all the various possible states of the world, they had no justification for saying a world without slavery would be better. Furthermore, if all things are connected to each other- i.e. a butterfly's wings could cause a tornado in a distant place- only an omniscient being would be able to rank things on a consequentialist basis- i.e. as leading to world with more or less of a particular desiderata. Religion says that there are 'supererogatory' actions. But this does not mean God is indifferent to them. There is no reason for us to believe that an omniscient being who possesses a 'slingshot' reason wouldn't have a total ordering. This was certainly Liebniz's conclusion. God ensures this is the best of all possible worlds. You can be an occassionalist and think that God is the efficient cause when agitating, as a windowless monad, for the passing a law to make slavery a crime.

Slavery as an institution can be assessed without evaluating – with the same
definitiveness – all the other institutional choices the world faces.

Unless you live under the Caliphate. If they had prevailed militarily, sooner or later we'd have to rationalize granting diplomatic recognition to them. One reason, the Saudis chose America over Britain is that the Americans had no problem handing back runaway slaves who tried to claim asylum on diplomatic premises.

We do not live in an ‘all or nothing’ world. 

We live in 'all or nothing' jurisdictions.  

It is important to emphasize, particularly to avoid a possible misunderstanding, that the agreed acceptance that is sought is not exactly the same thing as complete unanimity of different persons’ actual preference rankings over the domain of the reasoned partial ordering. 

The problems here relate to preference revelation. There is a good reason we hide our own true preferences even from ourselves. There is evolutionary survival in both deceit and self-deceit. Kafka's toxin shows why our beliefs and preferences and so forth should be strategic. 

In any case, getting preference rankings costs money and people soon tell market researchers to fuck off unless they get paid good money. But they then give nonsensical answers.  

There is no presumption here that every slave-owner must opt for renunciation of his rights over other human beings – rights that are given to him by the established laws of the land.

Manumission was legal. But the laws can change and rights can be taken away from some and bestowed on others. It is a different matter that the slave owners may receive monetary compensation. That's what happened in the British West Indies. But it isn't what happened in the American South.  

The claim that Smith or Condorcet or Wollstonecraft made was, rather, that arguments in defence of slavery would be overwhelmed by the case for abolition, given the requirements of public reasoning and the demands of impartiality.

But an equal and opposite claim was made by their opponents. In general, they prevailed. Anyone can make a claim.  

The elements of congruence of surviving impartial reasonings form the basis of a partial ordering underlying the claims of manifest enhancement of justice (as was discussed earlier).

This is not the case. The law of Gravity might not survive impartial reasoning but it will have to be accepted. Everybody might agree that there should be no war. But there will be war. The only partial ordering that Sen has been able to pin point is that of preferences. But preferences are not judgments. They are not decisions. Impartiality is all very well but 'uncorrelated asymmetries' and oikeiosis triumph over all for a reason to do with evolutionary biology.  

Samskars matter. But different Samskars deal with different things. The Vicar does not read out the burial service at a wedding.

Similarly what the Sarkar does matter. Both Samskar and Sarkar are partial and based on previous 'residues and derivations' as Pareto put it. Reasoning for a particular purpose can become 'canonical' to a greater and greater extent. But this is not the case for a 'plurality of reasons'. For all we know, there may be a 'slingshot' or 'theory of everything'- i.e. just one big reason. It may appear that some deliberative process has achieved a 'partial ordering'. This is not true. A particular decision was made and there may have been some 'transfer of utility'. This could be because people with little 'skin in the game' give in to the nutters. But that is preference falsification not revelation. 

To be useful, a social ranking must

actually exist. But to get a social ranking would be very very expensive. We can afford a Census only once every 10 years. That provides some basic information. To get a 'social ranking' would be very very time consuming. There are many a priori reasons to believe that what you get will be junk. If I am forced to fill out a 1000 page questionaire, I will simply tick boxes randomly or declare that it is against my religion or that I am illiterate.  

 have some substantive coverage, but need not be complete.

In which case, it could be argued that till it is complete, all the other choices are impugned. Indeed, a defense in law is to say that the action is not justiciable. It falls under the rubric of something where no judicial decision one way or another has been made. 

A theory of justice has to rely fundamentally on partial orderings based on the intersection – or commonality – of distinct rankings drawing on different reasons of justice that can all
survive the scrutiny of public reasoning.

No. It has to have a doctrine of justiciability. It is not required to make certain sorts of judgments but must be able to say which law or right has superiority over all other rights or laws in a particular case.  

In the particular example of the three approaches to allocating the flute (discussed in the Introduction), it is quite possible that no unanimity may emerge at all in the rankings between those three alternatives.

The reverse is the case. There was an uncorrelated asymmetry which picked out one and only person in a robust manner. This was the canonical solution.  

If we are specifically concerned with a choice between precisely those three alternatives, we shall not be able to obtain help from a ranking that is incomplete in that choice.

This may be true of choice. It is not true of protocol bound, buck stopped, juristic reasoning. There is always a 'ratio' which decides between options unless the thing is not justiciable or trifling. 

On the other hand, there are a great many choices in which a partial ordering with specific gaps could give us a great deal of guidance.

The Court may indeed take numerous considerations into account in deciding how to make the victorious defendant whole in a civil matter. But the judgment is either guilty or not guilty. After that, if the solution given by the Court is found to be ineffective, the injured party can re-approach the Court asking for a different remedy. 

If, for example, through critical scrutiny of reasons of justice, we can place an alternative x above both y and z, without being able to rank y and z against each other, we can comfortably go for x, without having to resolve the dispute between y and z.

This is foolish. The Judgment has to be guilty or innocent. As I said the remedy may be subject to revision if inefficacious or inequitable.  

If we are less lucky, and scrutiny of reasons of justice does not yield a ranking between x and y, but places both x and y above z, then we do not have a specific choice that emerges from considerations of justice alone.

I suppose a Judge could say 'actually, in this case there are two ratios I could have used.' But that is obiter dicta. He has to plump for one ratio. If he gets it wrong, the judgment may be reversed on appeal. 

And yet reasons of justice would still guide us to reject and shun altogether the alternative z, which is clearly inferior to both x and y.

This is not the case. A Judge may say ratio x and y apply strongly but there is a reason of State why they won't be used in this particular case. This is obiter dicta. The ratio of the judgment may be inferior but it it is required in the public interest.  This could also be the case where conviction is unsafe by reason of the manner in which facts were ascertained. 

Partial orderings of this kind can have quite a significant reach; for example, if it is agreed that the status quo in the United States, which does not come anywhere close to universal medical coverage, is distinctly less just than a number of specific alternatives which offer
different schemes of coverage for all, then on the grounds of justice

no, on the grounds of public interest- this is a political not a judicial matter though, no doubt, a particular policy instrument may be judged unconstitutional.  

 we can reject the status quo of non-universal coverage, even if reasons of justice

these are reasons of public policy not reasons of justice. Of course, if there were a human right to medical assistance, then judges can get involved. They could ask the Executive to provide a mechanism for this. But if the Government does not have the means to do much, then Justice has no further recourse. There is an entitlements failure.  

do not fully rank the alternatives that are all superior to the status quo.

Reasons of justice can't rank possible states of the world. A Court can issue a judgment but if it can't be enforced, the matter ends there. Sen did not get that India could not magically give everybody a First World Education and Medical Service just by passing laws saying the State was obliged to do so. Ultimately, such laws are seen as 'arthavada'- mere puffery- not 'vidhi'- binding law.  

We have excellent reason to scrutinize and critically examine the arguments based on considerations of justice to see how far we can extend the partial ordering that emanates from that perspective.

If we actually are Judges in India- sure. But judicial activism soon found there was little it could do in the social sphere. On the other hand they could get a Temple built in Ayodhya. Property disputes can be resolved by the Law. No idea of Justice can make people better off. That is job of Political Economy properly so called- not the worthless shite Sen teaches.  

We have no great reason to turn down the help we get from the partial ordering that we end up with, even if it leaves some choices beyond reach. In the case of healthcare, we would have reason enough to press for universal medical care coverage through one of the specified ways, even if we are unable to agree on other issues of social

Was this true of America? No. Obamacare raised coverage and lowered the rate of increase of premiums. The huge opposition to it shows that pressing for 'universal coverage' would have been electorally disastrous. But this has nothing to do with 'partial ordering'. It has to do with what is politically feasible and likely to withstand judicial review. Politics has been called, by Bismark, the art of the possible. Is it also that of the 'next best'? No. Sometimes, it is the worst possible course. This may cause a 'shakeout' of the inefficient or the crazy,  or else a reaction such that the country can get back to doing sensible things. Politics is mainly the art of the convenient. Justice is mainly 'stare decisis'- upholding what went before. But the convenient is generally also what is possible. What went before is likely to work just as well now. The Sarkar gains by these 'Samskars' which reassure people that they live in a predictable world. This increases confidence in 'pooling equilibria'. By contrast, Sen's approach- which is to focus on outcomes and do stupid shit just because everybody falsifies preferences to say they believe in pious reasons- causes loss of confidence. Everybody hedges using costly signals (e.g. identity politics) so as to establish 'discoordination games' or 'separating equilibria'. Rights which were meant to protect vulnerable minorities may become the basis of claims by the very rich. Thus has it always been. In medieval times, a stout and sturdy knight would pretend that his property was actually owned by a wee bairn who might be born to ten named matrons of the parish- all above reproductive age. 

The Sarkar understands the Law's Samskars can be used to defeat the ends of Justice or harm the public good. That is why Politics sets limits on the operation of the Law while using it as a check upon itself. 

What is remarkable about Sen's account of the idea of Justice is that he ignores everything that Indian and Anglo-Saxon and every other type of Jurisprudence have taken as settled matters for thousands of years. 

Why did this happen? The answer is he thought bad things only happen because of injustice. If people are poor it is because the rich robbed them. But misfortune is quite separate from injustice. Similarly, preferences or choices are not the same thing as judgments- which, of their nature, are protocol bound and bucked stopped. Lastly, 'impartiality' is not a good thing in itself. Relationships are based on partiality. True, for some specific protocol bound juristic process, impartiality may be desired. But, what is better still is never to have to get involved with such proceedings. If a lawyer catches you by your dhoti, take it off and run naked through the village till you can barricade yourself in your own home. Once people understand you were fleeing the toils of the law they will praise you for your sagacity rather than censure you for public nudity.

Such, at any rate, is the Hindu idea of Justice. After death, Yama can judge us all he wants. While alive we prefer Yamuna and Samskars or a life affirming type. That Sarkar is best which talks bollocks least. 

Amit Chaudhri provincialising Dipshit

Almost twenty years ago, the cretin Amit Chaudhri wrote as follows about the bigger cretin Dipshit Chakrafuckoff's 'Provinicialising Europe'  

I went to a Protestant school in Bombay, but the creation myth we were taught in the classroom didn’t have to do with Adam and Eve. I remember a poster on the wall when I was in the Fifth Standard, a pictorial narrative of evolution. On the extreme left, crouching low, its arms hanging near its feet, was an ape; it looked intent, like an athlete waiting for the gun to go off.

No it didn't. It looked like an ape. Apes don't go in for competitive sports.  

The next figure rose slightly, and the one after it was more upright: it was like a slow-motion sequence of a runner in the first few seconds of a race.

Only our tree dwelling ancestors had curved spines Our hominid ancestors in the Savannah had straight backs. Amit is misremembering the poster. It would have looked like this-


The pistol had been fired; the race had begun. Millisecond after millisecond, that runner – now ape, now Neanderthal

who had straight backs but were more robust than our gracile ancestors 

– rose a little higher, and its back straightened. By the time it had reached the apogee of its height and straight-backedness,

All hominids roaming the savannah were straight backed. 

and taken a stride forward, its appearance had improved noticeably; it had become a Homo sapiens, and also, coincidentally, European. The race had been won before it had properly started.

Clearly that 'Protestant School' did something very wicked to this Bengali boy. It should have showed Hanuman accomplishing great things. Then it should have depicted Tagore sitting on the floor but getting a Nobel prize for writing stuff which maybe meant something. Finally it should have ended with Dipesh spinelessly crawling down the sewer of some Academo-bureaucratic availability cascade of nonsensical shite. Incidentally, there are plenty of Chaudhris and Chakrobortys who look White, talk White, and sneer at White proles. Anthony Burgess, who was only an NCO during the War records his seething resentment of one such 'Aryan' officer who, like Amit and Dipesh, spoke the ultimate 'Aryan' language. Why is Amit pretending that he is a Dravidian or Sub-Saharan African darkie like wot I iz? 

This poster captured and compressed the gradations of Darwin’s parable of evolution,

It was a theory, not a parable. 

both arresting time

Nope. It represented a temporal sequence.  

and focusing on the key moments of a concatenation,

What 'key moments'? It simply showed a sequence featuring different stages of evolution 

in a similar way to what Walter Benjamin thought photographs did in changing our perception of human movement:

But the poster wasn't a series of photographs. It did not capture reality. It illustrated a theory.  

'Whereas it is a commonplace that, for example, we have some idea what is involved in the act of walking (if only in general terms), we have no idea at all what happens during the fraction of a second when a person actually takes a step.

 Photos were able to help a guy win a bet that a galloping horse has all its hooves off the ground at some point.  I imagine that sports coaches use photographs to study how star athletes run so as to figure out how to improve technique. 

Photography, with its devices of slow motion and enlargement, reveals the secret. It is through photography that we first discover the existence of this optical unconscious

No we don't. I suppose Benjamin thought that telescopes reveal our unconscious perception of distant Nebulae. The fact is the naked eye has physiological limitations.  

just as we discover the instinctual subconscious through psychoanalysis.'

Nope. We discover through psychoanalysis that psychoanalysts are charlatans.  

The poster in my classroom, too, revealed a movement impossible for the naked eye to perceive: from lower primate to higher, from Neanderthal to human, and – this last transition was so compressed as to be absent altogether – from the human to the European.

Clearly Bengalis are some sort of monkey- at least in their own opinion when they compare themselves to Europeans. Amit doesn't get that he went to an English medium school which was set up for European Christians. The teaching materials it used were imported from the UK or other White English speaking countries.  

These still figures gave us an ‘optical unconscious’ of a political context, the context of progress and European science and humanism.

No it doesn't. Schools which use materials from English speaking countries are going to show White, not Indian, people because the vast majority of English speaking countries are populated by White people. The political context is that White peeps be White. Boo hoo! 

Here, too, Benjamin has something to say. In a late essay, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, he stated: ‘The concept of the historical progress of mankind cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through a homogeneous, empty time.’

Meaningless shite. The concept of a trajectory can't be sundered from the concept of Time- unless you are smart and know about configuration spaces and so forth.  

‘Homogeneous’ and ‘empty’ are curious adjectives for ‘time’: they are more readily associated with space and spatial configuration.

Benjamin wasn't a physicist. He was merely invoking Newton's description of Time.  

Certain landscapes glimpsed from a motorway, or the look of a motorway itself, might be described as dull and ‘homogeneous’;

Dull, yes. Homogeneous no.  

streets and rooms might be ‘empty’.

only relatively speaking. 

My mentioning motorways isn’t fortuitous.

It is foolish.  

When Benjamin was formulating his thoughts on progress and history, and writing this essay in 1940, the year he killed himself, Hitler, besides carrying out his elaborate plans for the Jews in Germany, was implementing another huge and devastating project: the Autobahn.

That predated Hitler. The first such highway was inaugurated by Cologne's Mayor Adenaeur. The War halted autobahn construction. It restarted in the post-war period. Why does Amit think it was devastating?  

The project, intended both to connect one part of Germany to another and to colonise the landscape,

It had already been colonised. Germans lived all over the place.  

was begun in the early 1930s; it’s clear that Hitler’s vision of the Autobahn is based on an idea of progress –

Bengalis are against progress. They want to go hang from tree branches by their tails while eating bananas.  

‘progress’ not only in the sense of movement between one place and another, but in the sense of science and civilisation.

Amit is against Hitler not because he was a shitty psycho but because he built highways and believed in science and civilization.  

In India, in other parts of the so-called ‘developing’ world,

Amit is against 'developing'.  

even in present-day New York, London or Paris, it’s impossible properly to experience ‘homogeneous, empty time’ because of the random, often maddeningly diverse allocation of space, human habitation and community.

Whereas Calcutta aint maddening at all.  

It is, however, possible to experience it on Western motorways and highways.

Or on a train or a plane.  

Hitler was a literalist of this philosophy of space and movement:

So that was his major fuck up- in the opinion of a cretin.  

he wanted space to be ‘homogeneous’, or blond and European.

He wasn't blonde. Also he let Indians into the Waffen SS while killing lots of blonde peeps.  

Benjamin knew this first-hand; he was writing his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ as a Jewish witness to Nazism and one of its potential victims.

Smart Jews did not stick around to be a witness to evil shit.

Hitler’s anxiety and consternation at Jesse Owens’s victory in the 100 metres at the Munich Olympics in 1936

He wanted a German to win. 

came from his

Racist belief not the sort of 

literalism of space,

which people who don't want to bump into things tend to have 

his investment in progress and linearity.

But FDR and Churchill were more invested in both. That's why they kicked Hitler's ass.  

That idea of space was at once reified and shattered when Owens reached the finishing line before the others.

For Amit. He would totally lose his shit if he watched a pole vault competition.  

Benjamin had been thinking of history in terms of space for a while;

Why not Chemistry in terms of masturbation? That was my approach. 

and, not too long before he wrote about ‘homogeneous, empty time’, he’d posited an alternative version of modernity and space in his descriptions of the flâneur, the Parisian arcades and 19th-century street life.

Benjamin was welcome to move to Calcutta which had that sort of street life and plenty of pseudo-intellectuals. It too smelled bad.  

The Parisian street constitutes Benjamin’s critique of the Autobahn:

It failed. On the other hand it would be fun to see Amit wandering up and down the M1 being a flaneur till he gets flattened by a lorry.  

just as the crowd, according to Benjamin, is ‘present everywhere’ in Baudelaire’s work,

Baudelaire translated Poe whose 'man in the crowd' only exists with others. Bawdy says the poet can enter into everybody around him in a crowd. Benjamin saw Poe's story as the prototype of the empiricism of the detective story. Bawdy's take is more spiritual.  

and present so intrinsically that it’s never directly described, the Autobahn is implicitly present, and refuted, in Benjamin’s meditations on Paris. The flâneur, indeed, retards and parodies the idea of ‘progress’.

But those guys were making progress in the Arts. Bawdy was an innovator.  

‘Around 1840 it was briefly fashionable to take turtles for a walk in the arcades,’ Benjamin writes in a footnote to his 1939 essay on Baudelaire. ‘The flâneurs liked to have the turtles set the pace for them. If they had had their way, progress would have been obliged to accommodate itself to this space. But this attitude did not prevail; Taylor, who popularised the watchword “Down with dawdling!”, carried the day.’ The flâneur views history subversively; he – and it is usually he – deliberately relocates its meanings, its hierarchies. As far back as 1929, Benjamin had explained why the flâneur had to be situated in Paris:

in the 1840s- sure. Fads are only cool in the moment. Anyway, under the Second Empire, Paris got boulevards. 

The flâneur is the creation of Paris. The wonder is that it was not Rome. But perhaps in Rome even dreaming is forced to move along streets that are too well-paved. And isn’t the city too full of temples, enclosed squares and national shrines to be able to enter undivided into the dreams of the passer-by, along with every shop sign, every flight of steps and every gateway? The great reminiscences, the historical frissons – these are all so much junk to the flâneur, who is happy to leave them to the tourist. And he would be happy to trade ” all his knowledge of artists’ quarters, birthplaces and princely palaces for the scent of a single weathered threshold or the touch of a single tile – that which any old dog carries away.

What could be more Italian than the passageiata?  

There’s an implicit critique of the imperial city,

Paris had Emperors and lots of Colonies. Rome hadn't had any such thing for almost 1500 years.  

and the imperialist aesthetic, in this description of Rome, with its ‘great reminiscences’ and ‘historical frissons’, and in the contrast of ‘national shrines’ and ‘temples’ with the ‘touch of a single tile’. Benjamin is not alone in using these metaphors; both Ruskin and Lawrence (who probably took it from Ruskin) use Rome as a metaphor for the imperial, the finished, the perfected, as against the multifariousness of, say, the Gothic, the ‘barbaric’, the non-Western.

The Goths were Western. The English may have pretended that Paris wasn't the center of culture, but Rome was pretty shabby back then. 

Benjamin doesn’t quite romanticise the primitive as Lawrence at least appears to: instead, he comes up with a particularly modern form of aleatoriness and decay in the ‘weathered threshold’ of a Parisian street.

Decay isn't aleatory. It is deterministic.  

Of course, the flâneur was not to be found in Paris alone. There was much wayward loitering in at least two colonial cities, Dublin and Calcutta. This – especially the emergence of the flâneur, or flâneur-like activities, in modern, turn of the century Calcutta – would have probably been difficult for Benjamin to imagine. Benjamin’s figure for the flâneur was Baudelaire, and for Baudelaire – and, by extension, for the flâneur – the East was, as it was for Henri Rousseau, part dreamscape, part botanical garden, part menagerie, part paradise.

Though lots of it was ruled by boring White bureaucrats. 

Could the flâneur exist in that dreamscape? Dipesh Chakrabarty, the author of Provincialising Europe, whose meditations on the limits of Western notions of modernity and history are impelled by Benjamin but who also has the word ‘postcolonial’ in his subtitle, was born in Calcutta.

But he got the fuck away from there quickly enough.  

His inquiry is partly directed by the contingencies of

teaching retarded shite to retards though there might be a couple of CIA agent wannabes among his students.  

being a South Asian historian in America, and also by being a founder member of the subaltern studies project, which attempted to write a South Asian or, specifically, Indian history ‘from below’, by bringing the ‘subaltern’ (Gramsci’s word for the peasant or the economically dispossessed) into the territory largely occupied by nationalist history.

This was more safely done from places like New York or Vienna because there are too many actual subalterns in India. Some of them became Chief Ministers.  

But the inquiry is also shaped by the Calcutta Chakrabarty was born in, much as Benjamin’s work is shaped by the Paris he reimagined and, to a certain extent, invented. From the early 19th century, the growing Bengali intelligentsia in Calcutta was increasingly exercised by what ‘modernity’ might mean and what the experience of modernity might represent, specifically, to a subject nation, and, universally, to a human being.

Paris started to get electric lighting in 1878. Calcutta did so about a year later. In 1886 Tagore was singing his songs by electric light at the second INC conference.  

Chakrabarty’s book is not only an unusually sustained and nuanced argument against European ideas of modernity,

Which is why he settled in America. 

but also an elegy for, and subtle critique of, his own intellectual formation and inherit-ance as a Bengali.

But he doesn't write in Bengali. Whatever his inheritance, he wants no part of it.  

The kind of Bengali who was synonymous with modernity and who believed that modernity might be a universal condition – irrespective of whether you’re English, Indian, Arab or African – has now passed into extinction.

No. There are plenty of Bengali scientists and hedge fund managers and so on. Purnendu Chatterjee is about the same age as Dipesh. He became a billionaire after working for Mckinseys. He has big investments in India in petrochemicals and other such sciencey stuff.  

Chakrabarty’s book is in part a discreet inquiry into why that potent Bengali dream didn’t quite work – why ‘modernity’ remains so resolutely European.

Or Chinese or Japanese or Korean or Malaysian or Emirati. But this modernity is American- not European.  

Chakrabarty’s writing is not without irony or humour;

or stupidity or ignorance 

the cheeky oxymoron of the title is one example.

Europe became provincial, if not a protectorate, in 1945. 

At least a quarter of Chakrabarty’s work was done, and his challenge given an idiom, when he reinvented this terrific phrase, which was probably first used with slightly more literal intent by Gadamer.

He said ' Europe... since 1914 has become provincialized,... only the natural sciences are able to call forth a quick international echo'. 

According to Ranajit Guha, who is or used to be to subalternist historians roughly what Jesus was to the apostles, the ‘idea of provincialising Europe’ had ‘been around for some time, but mostly as an insight waiting for elaboration’ before Chakrabarty articulated and substantiated it so thoroughly.

Europe bankrupted itself during the First World war. It became dependent on American capital. Poverty made it provincial. After the Second War, American soldiers were stationed on its soil. Their music and their cinema and their diet became the foundation for youth culture. Academics looked for ways to emigrate to the US. They repackaged their stupid shite for the American market. Sometimes they needed to pretend to be Leftists in order to make their hegira. It was hilarious to see little brown monkeys praising a Socialism they had done everything possible to escape. Also 'post colonial theory' explained why those shitholes had become colonies in the first place. Brown peeps be as stupid as shit.  

The ‘idea’ itself is set out and argued for in the introductory chapter. Chakrabarty begins with a disclaimer: ‘Provincialising Europe is not a book about the region of the world we call “Europe”. That Europe, one could say, has already been provincialised by history itself.’ The essay has two epigraphs: the first, from Gadamer, seems to speak of Europe as a ‘region of the world’; the second, more tellingly, from Naoki Sakai, describes the ‘West’ as ‘a name for a subject which gathers itself in discourse but is also an object constituted discursively’.

Did History make Dipshit stupid or was his stupidity self-constituted by his own alterity as the ipseity of the discursive practices of stupidity? 

What Chakrabarty wants to do with ‘Europe’, then, is in some ways similar to what Edward Said did with the ‘Orient’: to fashion a subversive genealogy.

Europe's mummy was a big fat ho who put out to Neanderthals.  

But instead of Said’s relentless polemic, Chakrabarty’s book features critique and self-criticism in equal measure. For me, Chakrabarty has the edge here,

coz he's a fellow Bengali 

because for Said the Orient is a Western construct, an instrument of domination: he doesn’t – and never went on to – explore the profound ways in which modern Orientals (Tagore, say) both were and were not Orientalists.

Tagore ponced around in a kaftan because he was the hereditary leader of some silly sect. He was an Oriental in the profound sense that he scolded the West for a payment of $700 per scold.  

Chakrabarty’s work suggests, I think, that the word ‘Eurocentric’ is more problematic than we thought; that, if Europe is a universal paradigm for modernity, we are all, European and non-European, to a degree inescapably Eurocentric.

If we write in a European language or live in a White country- sure.  

Europe is at once a means of intellectual dominance, an obfuscatory trope and a constituent of self-knowledge, in different ways for different peoples and histories.

Sadly, you have to be smart or do smart things to get to 'intellectually dominate' anything.  

Said’s great study takes its cue from the many-sided and endlessly absorbing Foucault,

i.e. it was ignorant, paranoid, shite. 

in its inexhaustible conviction and its curiosity about how a body of knowledge – in this case, Orientalism – can involve the exercise of power.

Though it was obvious that the profitable exercise of power is what paid a few pedants to prose on in a bigoted fashion.  

Much postcolonial theory, in turn, has taken its cue from Said and this strain of Foucault.

Which is why it is shit. Economics matters. Geopolitical strategy matters. Pedants don't matter. Why get exercised about mean things Kant or Hegel said about darkies? Nobody reads either of those cunts unless they want to be stupid and boring or are paid a little money to bore the shite out of students too stupid to do STEM subjects. 

Chakrabarty’s book comes along at a time when this line of inquiry, which has had its own considerable rewards and pitfalls, seems one-dimensional and exhausted. In spite of the ‘postcolonial’ in the subtitle, it owes little to the fecund but somewhat simplified Foucauldian paradigm.

So, paranoia is played out. Let's try dementia instead.  

Instead, its inspiration seems post-structuralist and Derridean, and it rehearses a key moment in Derrida: the idea that it is necessary to dismantle or take on the language of ‘Western metaphysics’ (which for Derrida is almost everything that precedes post-structuralism and, in effect, himself), but that there is no alternative language available with which to dismantle it – so that the language must be turned on itself. For Derrida’s ‘Western metaphysics’ Chakrabarty substitutes ‘European thought’ and ‘social science thought’:

European thought is both indispensable and inadequate in helping us to think through the various life practices that constitute the political and the historical in India.

It is wholly misleading. Prashant Kishore doesn't bother with that shite. He gets paid a lot of money and is called the 'King maker' of India. Mamta isn't calling Dipshit for help when election time comes around. He knows shit about Indian 'life practices'.  

Exploring – on both theoretical and factual registers – this simultaneous indispensability and inadequacy of social science thought is the task this book has set itself.

But social science thought is statistical and game theoretic. Dipshit doesn't know maths. Purnendu Chatterjee knew math which is why he became a billionaire. Prashant Kishore has a Statistics degree and then worked in data analysis. Had Congress put him in charge it could have a chance in 2024.  

This is not very far from Derrida, who writes at an important juncture in Writing and Difference of

conserving all these old concepts within the domain of empirical discovery while here and there denouncing their limits, treating them as tools that can still be used.

Nothing wrong with instrumentalism. 

No longer is any truth value attributed to them:

Cash value is. Pragmatism, which is an American philosophy, has triumphed. Phenomenology pooped itself. Only retards study that shite because all dissertations under that rubric are equally meaningless.  

there is a readiness to abandon them, if necessary, should other instruments appear more useful. In the meantime, their relative efficacy is exploited, and they are employed to destroy the old machinery to which they belong and of which they themselves are pieces.

This silly cunt didn't get that instruments- tools- aren't parts of a machine. You use a spanner to tinker with a machine. It isn't part of that machine.  

This is how the language of the social sciences criticises itself.

No. The language of social science is statistics. If you show that a theory involves a correlation which the data contradicts, then the theory is wrong.  

Derrida is reflecting here on Lévi-Strauss, who when confronted with South American myths finds the tools of his trade obsolete but still indispensable.

But everybody now thinks Anthropologists are monkeys with PhDs.  

The idea of Chakrabarty registering a similarly self-reflexive moment about thirty years later, in relation to Europe, modernity and ‘life practices in India’, is poignant and ironic: he belongs to the other side of the racial and historical divide; to a part of the world that should have been, at least in Lévi-Strauss’s time, and by ordinary European estimation, the object rather than the instigator of the social scientist’s discipline.

There were successful Indian anthropologists in Levi-Strauss's time. Then the Indians discovered they had shit for brains.  

It would have been next to impossible for Lévi-Strauss to foretell that something resembling his anxiety about the social sciences would one day be rehearsed in the work of a man with a name like Dipesh Chakrabarty.

Why? The dude read 'Man in India' an anthropological journal started by Sarat Chandra Roy. What Amit is getting at might be the sort of disgust expressed by Connor Cruise O'Brien for post-modern Indian historiography. He thought Indians should first get modern- i.e accumulate data sets- before following French fads.   

And this, of course, is the crux of Chakrabarty’s book. ‘Historicism – and even the modern, European idea of history – one might say, came to non-European peoples in the 19th century as somebody’s way of saying “not yet” to somebody else.’

But, as Ranajit Guha points out, Ramram Basu had written the first Bengali history book in 1802. True, it was shit but it did express Kayastha hatred of Brahmins so it was definitely a part of Indian historiography which consists of praising your caste or sect and shitting on its rival. 

The fact is, if someone can say 'not yet' to you and you accept that verdict, then you really aren't ready.  

To illustrate what he means, he turns to John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and On Representative Government – ‘both of which,’ Chakrabarty says, ‘proclaimed self-rule as the highest form of government and yet argued against giving Indians or Africans self-rule.’

He was also against feeding the starving Irish Catholic whom he considered lazy and mendacious.  

According to Mill, Indians or Africans were not yet civilised enough to rule themselves.

Like the Irish.  

Some historical time of development and civilisation (colonial rule and education, to be precise) had to elapse before they could be considered prepared for such a task. Mill’s historicist argument thus consigned Indians, Africans and other ‘rude’ nations to an imaginary waiting-room of history.

Including the Irish. Catholics are lazy creatures. 

The ‘imaginary waiting-room of history’ is another of Chakrabarty’s compressed, telling images. I don’t know if he picked it up from the German playwright Heiner Müller, who uses it of the ‘Third World’ in a 1989 interview; but he employs it to great effect.

Dipshit is part of a Ponzi scheme in which kids are told they aren't ready to think for themselves or get jobs. The University is a real 'waiting room' which is fine if you are doing STEM subjects but a calamity if you are studying stupid shit.  

The phrase has purgatorial resonances: you feel that those who are in the waiting-room are going to be there for some time.

Because they aren't good enough for Heaven nor bad enough for Hell. If you study shite at Uni it is because you aren't yet bad enough for a life on the dole. However you probably are good enough to rise through thrift and enterprise and hard work.  

For modernity has already had its authentic incarnation in Europe: how then can it happen again, elsewhere?

Mimetics. Japan rose. Then Korea. Then China. They didn't bother with any 'waiting room'. Calcutta, in the other hand, fell steeply.  

The non-West – the waiting-room – is therefore doomed either never to be quite modern, to be, in Naipaul’s phrase, ‘half-made’; or to possess only a semblance of modernity.

Unless per capita income and technological innovation overtakes that of all others.  

This is a view of history and modernity that has, according to Chakrabarty, at once liberated, defined and shackled us in its discriminatory universalism; it is a view powerfully theological in its determinism, except that the angels, the blessed and the excluded are real people, real communities.

Dipshit is crying his little eyes out because Bengal is a shithole. That's racial discrimination innit?! Whitey should work harder to become poor and weak and stupid. If you take my course, you too can become as stupid and useless as me. 

Chakrabarty’s thesis might seem obvious once stated; but the ‘insight waiting for elaboration’, to use Ranajit Guha’s words, must find the best and, in the positive sense of the word, most opportunistic expositor.

Both Guha and Dipshit write gobbledygook. They are good expositors only of obvious nonsense. 

In Chakrabarty, I think it has. (The urge to provincialise Europe has, of course, a very long unofficial history. It’s embodied in jokes and throwaway remarks such as the one Gandhi made when asked what he thought of Western civilisation: ‘I think it would be a good idea.’

This was a joke which frequently appeared in American humor magazine in the 1920s.  

Shashi Tharoor is having a dig at historicism when he says, in The Great Indian Novel, ‘India is not an underdeveloped country. It is a highly developed country in an advanced state of decay.’)

India received advise from the best economists in the world. If development econ weren't worthless shite, it would indeed be 'developed'. But most of what the Planning Commission initiated was already obsolete and bound to decay. If a thing is not fit for purpose the resources for its maintenance won't be available.  

Chakrabarty has given us a vocabulary with which to speak of matters somewhat outside the realm of the social sciences, and to move discussions on literature, cultural politics and canon formation away from the exclusively Saidian concerns of power-brokering, without entirely ignoring these concerns.

What fucking vocabulary has he provided? He recycles cliches in a stupid manner because what he is going for is 'intellectual affirmative action'.  

In the light of Chakrabarty’s study, Naipaul’s work begins to fall into place. Here is a writer who seems to have subscribed quite deeply to the sort of historicism that Chakrabarty describes.

Naipaul wasn't exactly subtle. His work falls into place quickly enough. But he was bigoted towards Africans and Afro-Caribbeans and even African Americans. I suppose this had to do with the sense of inferiority felt by rural Hindus towards urban Presbyterians and Afro-Caribbean people. 

From the middle period onwards, in books such as The Mimic Men, A Bend in the River and In a Free State, Naipaul gives us a vision – unforgettable, eloquent – of the Caribbean and especially Africa as history’s waiting-room.

No. He gives us a racist picture of Africans as crazy killers. Mimic Men is milder- after all an Indian is the protagonist. Yet Trinidad's most notorious pirate and mass-murderer, Boysie Singh, was of purely Indian descent. 

Modernity here is ramshackle, self-dismantling: it exists somewhere between the corrugated iron roof and the distant military coup, the newly deposed general.

No it doesn't. Modern countries lack any such things. 

The ‘not yet’ with which Forster’s narrator indefinitely deferred, in A Passage to India, the possibility of a lasting friendship between Fielding and Aziz are also the words that describe Naipaul’s modern Africa.

No. Africa will revert to cannibalism. The sad thing is that soon after Naipaul's stint in Kampala, some African dictators were in fact accused of cannibalism.  

The opening sentence of A Bend in the River (which so exasperated Chinua Achebe) – ‘The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it’ – owes its tone less to religious pronouncements than to

Samuel Smiles on speed. 

a belief in what Benjamin called ‘the march of progress’ in the ‘homogeneous, empty time of history’.

No. You can be a nothing and still march along with everybody else. Naipaul was saying you have to be something, be someone- you have to assert yourself.  

Naipaul’s theology stems not so much from Hinduism, or the brahminical background he’s renowned for, as from Mill.

His daddy read Samuel Smiles. As an atheist, the man had no theology.  

It was Mill, as Chakrabarty points out, who consigned certain nations to a purgatory, in which, in different concentric circles, they’ve been waiting or ‘developing’ ever since.

Mill had no such power. Like his Daddy he was a pen-pusher for the East India Company. 

In fiction, the greatest explorers of this Millian terrain have been Naipaul and Naipaul’s master, Conrad.

Nonsense! Millian terrain is English Liberalism, rights for women etc. Shaw buried Mill to take his place.  

Chakrabarty’s study also helps to clarify the ways in which we discuss and think of the ‘high’ cultures of the so-called developing countries: not only the ancient traditions, but the modern and Modernist ones as well.

We'd actually have to study Sanskrit to discuss and think of India's high culture or 'margi' tradition.  

This is an area of self-consciousness, and a field of inquiry, that is potentially vast, important and problematic; it also happens to be one that ‘cultural studies’ has largely missed out on, being more concerned with popular culture and narratives of resistance to empire.

Narratives of resistance to empire make a lot of money at the box-office. Po-Co shite is for losers.  

Yet for almost two hundred years, in countries like India, there has been a self-consciousness (and it still exists today) which asks to be judged and understood by ‘universal’ standards.

As opposed to what? Standards set by your Mummy?  

It isn’t possible to begin to discuss that self-consciousness, or sense of identity, without discussing in what way that universalism both formed and circumscribed it.

If you form a thing you also set limits to its size and spatial location.  Sadly, universalism can't form anything. Only particularity can do so. 

In some regards, then, cultural studies is hostage to

worthless shitheads 

the kind of historicism that Chakrabarty talks about: it can’t deal with the emergence of high Modernism in postcolonial countries except with a degree of suspicion and embarrassment,

unless the thing sells big time. Modern Yoga may be a hybrid or hotchpotch, but it is big business. Namaste! 

partly because of the elite contexts of that Modernism, but partly, surely, for covertly historicist reasons, such as a belief that no Modernism outside Europe can be absolutely genuine.

Or much cop because the thing is an imitation of an imitation by a guy who is probably half starved. Thus, the Indian versions of Superman, back in the Eighties, were pretty shitty.  

Take the Bengal, or Indian, Renaissance: the emergence of humanism and modernity in 19th-century Calcutta. The term ‘renaissance’ was probably first applied to this development by the eminent Brahmo Shibnath Shastri; it was later employed by historians such as Susobhan Sarkar.

Bengali was being Sanskritized. The Brits supported Sanskrit scholarship. On the other hand the native Navya Nyaya school declined and disappeared. By 1857, the Occidentalists prevailed and so Calcutta University neglected Indology. However Punjab University went the other way a couple of decades later.  

Marxist and, later, subalternist historians have with some justification raised their eyebrows at the term. They have tried to dismiss it as intellectually meaningless, mainly because they see it as an elite construct, an upper-middle-class invention that raises too many questions, and which, while identifying too closely with British ideas of ‘progress’, was also an instrument of vague but voluble nationalist blarney. All this is true.

No. It is a fact that the bildungsburgertum turned away from Persian towards secular  or humanistic Sanskrit literature. That was a Renaissance in the European sense. But, ultimately, it was English which won out. Bengalis was a dialect of vacuous bombast. English was the language of achievement. 

But it ignores the fact that a construct can be a crucial constituent of an intellectual tradition.

Because that tradition is a construct.  

The European Renaissance is a case in point: we now know that it is largely a 19th-century invention,

No we don't. The term rinascita ('rebirth') first appeared in Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists circa 1550. 

but that doesn’t reduce the role it has played in the drama of European intellectual and cultural history – it only problematises it.

How? It is a fact that the Black Death meant that productivity had to increase. It is also a fact that Muslim expansion brought Greek intellectuals into Italy. There was a virtuous circle between an expanding economy and an increase in the demand for knowledge of a secular type.  

The opening of Susobhan Sarkar’s

a Marxist. He thought the bourgeoisie was very wicked.  

Notes on the Bengal Renaissance, which first came out as a booklet in 1946, makes clear the unease that historians felt on first using the term:

The impact of British rule, bourgeois economy and modern Western culture was felt first in Bengal and produced an awakening known usually as the Bengal Renaissance. For about a century, Bengal’s conscious awareness of the changing modern world was more developed than and ahead of that of the rest of India. The role played by Bengal in the modern awakening of India

was entirely the work of the Brits 

is thus comparable to the position occupied by Italy in the story of the European Renaissance.

Back in the early nineteenth century, some educated Bengalis were very enterprising and crafty. But once they turned into rack-renting absentee landlords, they declined. Still, so long as the Brits were ruling Calcutta it couldn't turn into a complete shithole.  Unlike Italy, which was independent, Bengal could only play a role because that's where the Brits ruled India from. 

Whether these claims are true or not is open to debate; but they’re disabled by their uncritical investment in the idea of Europe as the source, paradigm and catalyst of progress and history, both in an earlier and in the colonial age.

But, in Bengal, it was as clear as daylight that the place only rose because of the Brits and that if declined after they departed.  

The habit, in the context of Indian culture, of not only invoking Europe but making it the starting point of all discussion, was

a product of Brits ruling the fucking country! 

inculcated by 19th-century Orientalists: the translator and scholar William Jones

the guy was a British Judge!  

called Kalidasa, the greatest Indian poet and dramatist of antiquity, the ‘Shakespeare of the East’. To do this, Jones had to reverse history – Kalidasa preceded Shakespeare by more than a thousand years.

No he didn't. He was saying Kalidasa was pre-eminent among Sanskrit dramatists in the same way that Shakespeare was pre-eminent among English dramatists. Everybody has heard of Shakespeare. Few in India know a Kalidasa from a hole in the ground. 

Jones is not so much making a useful (and supremely approbatory) comparison as telling us inadvertently that it’s impossible to escape ‘homogeneous, empty time’: that as far as Kalidasa is concerned Shakespeare has already happened.

Nonsense! Jones's work attracted attention because Indian culture was ancient.  It may have predated the Greeks. 

This language persisted in the subsequent naming of periods in culture, and of cultural figures; and educated Bengalis followed the example of the Orientalist scholars. Thus Bankim Chandra Chatterjee,

who worked for the Brits as a 'Dipty'. 

India’s first major novelist, became the ‘Walter Scott of Bengal’.

Because Derozio died young. He was trying to be an Indian Walter Scott. Indians got the message. Don't write English verse. God will fuck you up. Michael Madhusudhan Dutt started off in English. But like Derozio's, his English was horrible. Perhaps the same is true of his Bengali. Could Aurobindo's Savitri have been less boring and stupid if he'd written it in Bengali? Perhaps. 

Both Scott and Chatterjee wrote historical novels, but when the comparison was first made, on the publication of Chatterjee’s first novel, Chatterjee claimed he’d never read Scott.

Though he was a graduate of Presidency College. Perhaps, Chatterjee was telling the truth. Smart peeps don't read books. They just pretend to have done so.  

Even if he had, to call him the ‘Walter Scott of Bengal’ is subtly different from, say, Barthes remarking, ‘Gide was another Montaigne,’ where a continuity is being established, a lineage being traced.

No. Gide wrote two essays on Montaigne but admitted, in his Journal, that he was bending Montaigne's sayings to express his own very different views. Barthes was a silly man. The fact is everybody sees himself in Montaigne who, after all, pretty much invented the essay. Few are like Gide.

In the phrase that describes Chatterjee, however, an inescapable historicism refuses a literary continuity, and turns Chatterjee into an echo. Walter Scott in Bengal is Walter Scott in the waiting-room.

Nonsense! Bankim immediately inspired the Hindu Revolutionaries who, however, to Tagore's disgust, alienated the Muslims. Indeed the 'Vande Mataram' issue remains as divisive as ever.  

The ‘first in Europe, then elsewhere’ paradigm that Chakrabarty speaks of – what is now the developmental paradigm – is what made the process of modernisation in non-Western countries seem to many, European and non-European, like mimicry.

Nothing wrong with mimicry. We learn to speak and acquire skills in no other way. But this involves adaptation and discarding some mimetic targets in favor of others which are more feasible. We may start off wanting to be Einstein and settle for being a Software developer.  On the other hand, mere copying is foolish. 

‘We pretended to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New World,’ Naipaul’s narrator, Ralph Singh, says in The Mimic Men; Chakrabarty’s friend, the exuberantly impenetrable Homi Bhabha, has an essay on mimicry and colonialism, ‘Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse’, that has long been part of every postcolonial primer.

Because it teaches you how to write in a manner which may appear scholarly but is actually stupid and ignorant. The joke here is that these guys are mimicking stupidity because they are pedants teaching stupid shite about mimetics.  

In it he tries, using Lacan and referring in passing to Naipaul’s great, intractable novel, to complicate and even rescue the idea of mimicry, to make it subversive: mimicry undermines the coloniser’s gaze by presenting him with a distorted reflection, rather than a confirmation, of himself.

The colonizer beats you if you look at him crossways. His gaze is directed at natural resources or sweated labor to exploit. Niggers prancing around in top hats didn't subvert shit. White peeps would pay good money to have a hearty laugh at the spectacle.  

Some of the essay’s formulations about mimicry – ‘almost the same but not quite’; ‘almost the same but not white’ – are close enough to the kinds of problem Chakrabarty addresses.

But these are the kinds of problems which only preoccupy 14 year old girls. By 16, they've gotten over it. Boys are too thick to have any conception of this sort of stuff. They are too busy masturbating or playing ball.  

Once again, though, as with Said, I think Chakrabarty’s work gives us a richer, more penetrating language to deal with modernity and the colonial encounter.

We want modernity- that stuff is cool. We don't want no fucking colonial encounters up our backside.  

There’s a barely concealed utopian rage in Bhabha against the compulsion towards mimicry, and also an unspoken nostalgia for a world in which mimicry isn’t necessary.

Yet he has spent his life mimicking Lefty bullshitters though he is a shrewd enough Parsi from Mumbai.  

For Chakrabarty, ‘Europe’ is a notion that has many guises, and these guises have both liberated us and limited us, whichever race we belong to.

Not if you are starving in some slum in the Turd World.  

There is, therefore, a valuable element of self-criticism in his study: to provincialise Europe is not to vanquish or conquer it – that is, provincialising Europe isn’t a utopian gesture –

vanquishing and conquering aint utopian. Does Amit really not know this? Perhaps. But it is equally likely that he just jots down any shite that floats into his head.  

but a means of locating and subjecting to interrogation some of the fundamental notions by which we define ourselves.

These fuckers think they are the Gestapo! Even if Amit can locate me, he can't interrogate me because I'll slap him silly.  

Despite its title, it might be more productive to read The Mimic Men with Chakrabarty’s book rather than Bhabha’s essay in mind. Ralph Singh, a failed politician from the Caribbean island of Isabella, now retired at the age of 40 to a boarding-house in London, and writing something like a memoir, is not so much disfigured by ‘mimicry’ as haunted, even entrapped, by the language called ‘Europe’. It’s not a life story he wishes to compose. ‘My first instinct was towards the writing of history,’ Singh says, and he returns again and again to an analysis of a way of thinking and seeing. ‘I have read that it was a saying of an ancient Greek that the first requisite for happiness was to be born in a famous city,’ he writes. ‘To be born on an island like Isabella, an obscure New World transplantation, second-hand and barbarous, was to be born to disorder.’

Because the Brits fucked off. That was Niradh Babu's point. He ends 'Unknown Indian' by appealing to Whitey to come back and rule over Bengal. But the Colonial enterprise was no longer profitable. Bengalis had seen to that. 

‘Second-hand’, like ‘half-made’, is a word weighted with the historicism

or just racism. Whites rule, Darkies drool.  

that gives Singh his sense of being a failure from the start, and Singh’s creator much of his pessimism. Even memory, the site of renewal for the Romantics and Modernists, is deceptive: ‘My first memory of school is of taking an apple to the teacher. This puzzles me. We had no apples on Isabella. It must have been an orange; yet my memory insists on the apple. The editing is clearly at fault, but the edited version is all I have.’

American kids give teacher an apple. This was clearly a confabulation. On the other hand I really did tour the world as a Secret Agent back in the Sixties. I shot a lot of people and had sex with Arsulla Undress. But I wouldn't kiss her on the mouth. Girls have cooties.  

The orange exists in the waiting-room.

No. It is a confabulation. 

Its historical and physical reality counts for little; Ralph Singh’s memory is ‘discursively constituted’,

No. It is a confabulation. The guy is writing in English and trying to fit a rich Caribbean reality into 'lean unlovely' prose.  

and has its own truth; and, at the time of the narrative’s composition, it is all he has of Isabella.

Unless he pops down to the offie and buys a bottle of its famous Rum.  

Connecting the two halves of Chakrabarty’s study – the first largely a self-reflexive appraisal of social science writing,

which the cretin can't do because he doesn't know Statistics. But then neither does Amartya Sen. Guys who understand the Ito calculus can get very rich running a hedge fund.  

the second a critical engagement with modern Bengali culture – are not only the themes of historicism and modernity, but the figure of Benjamin. Chakrabarty picks up the key insight about the ‘homogeneous, empty time of history’.

History populates time with events. It provides data sets to the Social Sciences. Gassing on in Hegelian vein may have been cool while the Soviet Union existed. It is silly to do so now.  

The phrase was made current in the social sciences by Benedict Anderson in his classic discussion of the rise of the nation-state, Imagined Communities;

which may apply to Indonesia. Sukarno laid claim to Malaysia. Then it turned out he had little grasp on Reality. The good news is that Hindus and Muslims joined together to slaughter Commies.  

but Chakrabarty’s usage of it, concerned primarily with the European notion of modernity, is Benjaminesque in spirit.

Which would be cool if Dipesh swallowed a lot of morphine tablets and topped himself.  

Yet the references to Benjamin after the introduction are relatively few. This is an interesting and intriguing elision: perhaps Chakrabarty needs him to be an invisible presence.

Or maybe Dipshit doesn't want people to start shoving morphine tablets down his throat.  

In the second half of the book I sensed him most powerfully in the chapter ‘Adda: A History of Sociality’; and it might have been enriching to have the connection made explicit, or to know whether Chakrabarty himself was fully conscious of it. ‘The word adda (pronounced “uddah”)

Fuck off! It is pronounced addah.  

is translated by the Bengali linguist Sunitikumar Chattopadhyay as “a place” for “careless talk with boon companions” or “the chats of intimate friends”

Not necessarily. Members of a particular adda may have no other social or personal connection.  

Roughly speaking, it is the practice of friends getting together for long, informal and unrigorous conversations.’ Never was adda so theorised and romanticised as it was in Calcutta, as both a significant component and symptom of Bengali bourgeois culture in the first three-quarters of the 20th century. Even the usage of the word is different in Bengali from Hindi, say, where it means a meeting-place not a practice.

A 'mehfil' would be more structured and rigorous. People would be expected to think before they speak though, no doubt, some contributions would be spontaneous.  

Chakrabarty goes on:

By many standards of judgment in modernity, adda is a flawed social practice: it is predominantly male in its modern form in public life; it is oblivious of the materiality of labour in capitalism;

But Bengali labour in capitalism is often wholly immaterial. All want employment, none wants to work.  

and middle-class addas are usually forgetful of the working classes.

Amit and Dipshit are constantly crying their little eyes out as the remember the plight of the proles.  

Some Bengalis even see it as a practice that promotes sheer laziness in the population. Yet its perceived gradual disappearance from the urban life of Calcutta over the last three or four decades – related no doubt to changes in the political economy of the city – has now produced an impressive amount of mourning and nostalgia. It is as if with the slow death of adda will die the identity of being a Bengali.

No such luck. Adda survived the lockdown.  

The figure who comes to mind when I read this is Benjamin’s flâneur;

who was smart and who thought before he spoke 

and, though Chakrabarty doesn’t explore the correspondence between flânerie and adda, the resemblances are striking. Both adda and flânerie are activities whose worth is ambivalent in a capitalist society: they rupture the ‘march of progress’. Flânerie is ‘dawdling’, and adda a waste of time which, at least according to one writer, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, ‘virtually killed family life’.

Very true. Wives tend to discourage the babbling of nonsense in all but itty babies. 

Neither flânerie nor adda is a purely physical or mental activity; both are reconfigurings of urban space.

Because when you take a leisurely walk or stop for a chat, the roads and buildings all get reconfigured. Shit like that happens all the time- to those on a pub-crawl.  

The flâneur, as Benjamin saw him, walked about the Parisian arcades of the 19th century, but as Hannah Arendt pointed out, he did so as if they were an extension of his living-room: he deliberately blurred the line dividing inside from outside.

In India, the roads are a toilet. We've gone further in blurring the lines.  

Something similar happened with adda in Calcutta in the 20th century; it either took place in drawing-rooms, in such a way as to disrupt domesticity and turn the interior into a sort of public space; or on the rawak or porches of houses in cramped lanes, neither inside the home nor in the street. For historical and social reasons, both activities are largely the preserve of the male; there are few female flâneurs

though female street-walkers get more money

and, as Chakrabarty points out, female participation in an adda is exceptional.

Bengali women are smart. Both East and West Bengal are ruled by the tough women. 

Benjamin’s relationship to the flâneur and his subterranean affirmation of daydreaming in his meditations on flânerie lend his work an odd poignancy and ambivalence; given that Benjamin was a Marxist, the flâneur could never be wholly legitimate either outside or inside his work.

Unless he was killing the class-enemy. Stroll around by all means, but keep knifing the bourgeoisie and praising Stalin.  

Some of Chakrabarty’s concerns in this book – modernity, adda and the shadow of Benjamin’s flâneur –

have no connection whatsoever. Socrates was a flaneur. A symposium was an adda, Neither are modern.  

occupy a similarly ambivalent position in relationship to his provenance as a subalternist historian.

That shite was played out. It was obvious that these guys weren't studying Munda languages and compiling oral histories and so forth. They were just pretending to have some connection with the Naxals in the tribal belt.  

The subaltern is certainly an interloper in this book (especially in a terrific essay, ‘Subaltern Pasts, Minority Histories’), but the modern is an equally problematic one: they both challenge the historian, in this case the subalternist historian, with the limits and responsibilities of his discipline.

Dipshit first studied Physics and then did an MBA. His history PhD was from Australia. But he wasn't doing statistical work or ethnographic or philological work and knew less Indian history than the average UPSC candidate. Still, he was entrepreneurial and did well enough for himself. But Purnendu Chatterjee became a billionaire and is providing good jobs to tens of thousands of people. 

It is the ambiguity of Chakrabarty’s own position as both a critic and archivist of modernity that gives his study its poetic undertow and its intelligent irresponsibility.

If you want to do 'subaltern' history, you have to do a lot of ethnographic work and then make complicated econometric models. You can't just stick with your ancestral Bengali and Convent School English. There is no ambiguity in Dipshit's position. He is an entrepreneurial charlatan just like Gayatri Spivak or Homo Baba. They could have learnt something useful from the West and translated it for the folk back home.  Instead they provincialized themselves and got tenure on the basis of intellectual affirmative action. Shame on them. Amit, by contrast, wants to be a real boy wot rites novels. But real boys want to have adventures or, if they can't, they make them up. Nobody sets out to write a more vacuous and boring novel than Tagore. But that's what happens when overeducated Bengalis, shunned from every adda, take up the quill.