Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Guha's Dominance without Hegemony

The following is from the blurb of Ranajit Guha's Dominance without Hegemony which came out in 1998.

What is colonialism and what is a colonial state?

When one country grabs territory and establishes its rule somewhere else, then there is colonialism and a colonial state.  

Ranajit Guha points out that the colonial state in South Asia was fundamentally different from the metropolitan bourgeois state which sired it.

Hilarious! White Britain, which was technologically advanced and which had a cohesive and intelligent ruling class, was different from Brown India which was a shithole. Guha had to study History for many many years before he made this great discovery. But he didn't make this discovery in India. He had emigrated to England many decades previously.  

The metropolitan state was hegemonic in character, and its claim to dominance was based on a power relation in which persuasion outweighed coercion.

Only because Britain was militarily powerful and could put down any insurrection- or even an industrial disturbance- with a very fucking heavy hand. By contrast, the East India Company ruled India with a light hand. Since it was a commercial enterprise, it preferred persuasion to coercion though, no doubt, it could be as rapacious as its rivals.  

Conversely, the colonial state was non-hegemonic,

It was Imperial and thus highly hegemonic. People lived under their traditional Chieftains and Tax-farmers and Princes. Their own customs and religious laws continued to apply to them. British paramountcy involved little in the way of Dominance displays. Indeed, prior to the Great War, few ordinary Indians were aware that the country was ruled by foreigners. 

and in its structure of dominance coercion was paramount.

Nonsense! The Political Agent or District Magistrate might convey displeasure in veiled terms and, speaking generally, that was all that was required. True, incompetence in the Army led to a Mutiny which was put down at some expense and much brutality, but the thing was wholly avoidable. As Disraeli said in 1857, India hadn't been conquered. It was administered with its own consent. 

Indeed, the originality of the South Asian colonial state lay precisely in this difference: a historical paradox, it was an autocracy set up and sustained in the East by the foremost democracy of the Western world.

Nonsense! The foremost democracy was the US which ethnically cleansed the indigenous inhabitants while importing African slaves. England prior to 1832 was a limited monarchy with a highly restricted franchise. It wasn't till 1867 that one could say with certainty that it would evolve into an American style democracy. 

It was not possible for that non-hegemonic state to assimilate the civil society of the colonized to itself.

Yet, that is precisely what happened. British Civil Servants set up the Indian National Congress which took power from the Crown some sixty years later. India's civil society is a pretty accurate reflection of that of the UK. The military scarcely has any role while lawyers are plentifully in evidence. We even have ex-merchant bankers like Mahua Moitra. But then the UK has a Hindu P.M 

Thus the colonial state, as Guha defines it in this closely argued work, was a paradox—a dominance without hegemony.

Indians paid the Brits to govern them. They weren't particularly apt pupils but the fact is India is what it is because of Britain.  

If the Brits weren't hegemonic, how come all the leaders of the successor states in South Asia (with the exception of Burma) had English speaking barristers as their leaders? 

Dominance without hegemony had a nationalist aspect as well.

Guys with names like Hume and Wedderburn and Cotton helped found the Indian National Congress. The head of the Home Rule League was named Annie Beasant. These were pure White peeps who nevertheless identified with Indian nationalism.  

This arose from a structural split between the elite and subaltern domains of politics,

The elite domain is separate from the non-elite domain. Where two things are wholly distinct, it is foolish to speak of a structural split.  

and the consequent failure of the Indian bourgeoisie to integrate vast areas of the life and consciousness of the people into an alternative hegemony.

The thing wasn't worth doing because the consciousness of the people in a shithole is shitty as fuck. Still, Gandhi pretended that he was actually a starving peasant which was cool coz his brain truly was full of shit.  

That predicament is discussed in terms of the nationalist project of anticipating power by mobilizing the masses and producing an alternative historiography.

Telling stupid lies may produce an alternative historiography but the thing is utterly useless. Don't fucking do it.  

In both endeavors the elite claimed to speak for the people constituted as a nation

so what? Who gives a shit? Britain transferred power to those who would safeguard their interests. The thing went of very well for all concerned.  Burma was the exception. Atlee hadn't been able to prevent some mavericks supporting a Burmese politician who bumped of Aung San.

and sought to challenge the pretensions of an alien regime to represent the colonized.

But all those 'challenges' were stupid and useless. Some nutters chucked bombs and were hanged. A lot more preferred to queue up in an orderly fashion to go to jail from time to time so as to secure benefits for themselves later on. That's it. That's the whole story.  

A rivalry between an aspirant to power and its incumbent, this was in essence a contest for hegemony.

Fuck hegemony. Peeps wanted to climb the greasy pole and get the big jobs and big salaries and big pensions and big government contracts and a chance to throw their weight around and talk bollocks. The Commies had a theory of history which said they'd take over and kick ass but Indian Commies were shite and so they have all but disappeared. It turned out variegating Maoist shite with Gramscian shite didn't help any. Italy turned its back on Euro-Commie shittiness. Its current PM belongs to a lineal descendant of Mussolini's Fascist party. She praises Modi in immoderate terms. Meanwhile Guha, who is one hundred years old, continues to reside in Vienna. 

No comments: