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Does the Left Need to Introspect?

Even in states like West Bengal, which have a long heritage of left politics, the new generation has become apathetic to such politics. Left activists of all shades, from mainstream to radical, need to introspect on the ways in which the left approaches state power. It tends to conform to the capitalist world order instead of using power to provide or seek alternatives. Is the old-generation left prepared for such an introspection?

Reality of US Farm Subsidies

With the formation of the World Trade Organization in 1995, the United States farm subsidies had moved towards income support, reducing spending on price support measures. The explicit reason was that the WTO had held that the latter forms were more market distorting and had thus put limits on their spending. The new Farm Act 2014 has changed the orientation of farm spending in the opposite direction. Pricebased measures are back in focus, and the US seems less concerned about breaching its WTO limits.

Antinomies of Nationalism and Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore's best known work, Nationalism (1917), is often mistaken for the sum and substance of his thoughts on nationalism. However, a look at the evolution of his idea over different stages suggests that his thoughts on nationalism cannot be accommodated within the stereotypes of "internationalism" or "anti-nationalism" in which commentators cast him. To focus only on that is a reductionist over-simplification of Tagore's evolving approach to the antinomies of nationalism as he perceived them.

Paltry Vanities of Intolerance

The terms "tolerance" and "intolerance" that dominate our public discourse today are bandied about as if they were self-explanatory. Matters have come to such a pass that intellectuals are accused of subjecting the Prime Minister to a barrage of intolerance since 2002. At this precise moment of our political history it might be worthwhile to revisit the debate on toleration in political theory, and raise once again a core question: why is toleration a political virtue; indeed, why is it an essential asset of a good society?

Social Science and Democracy

Social sciences need democracy, not wealth, to prosper. It is only in those societies that centralise citizenship have disciplines such as economics, sociology, political science, as well as the humanities, made significant advances. This is because democracies alone robustly satisfy the foundational principles of social sciences, namely, allowing for human errors and the recognition of others in making choices for oneself.

The Last Polymath

Benedict Anderson was among the most influential intellectuals of our times. His seminal book Imagined Communities has changed the way the world understands nationalism and the nation state. Its influence permeates across disciplines and beyond the academia. Yet, Imagined Communities was only one part, even if the most visible, of Anderson's intellectual travels and engagements. A personal account of Anderson--the scholar, the traveller and the raconteur.

A Brief History of Panchsheel

Contrary to popular belief, Panchsheel did not draw its inspiration from Indian philosophy, nor did it reflect lack of political realism on the part of Jawaharlal Nehru. Panchsheel was promoted by China and India as an instrument for advancing their respective national interests in the mid-1950s. China, the originator of the five principles, sought to reassure neighbours who had developed misgivings about it during the Korean War, and to wean them away from the United States. India viewed Panchsheel as providing some degree of reassurance in the context of the border dispute with China, as well as a means of countering US moves to create new military alliances in Asia. In a final twist of irony, the five principles found a place in the Shanghai Communique (1972), normalising Sino-US relations.

Human Migration as Crisis of Europe

Europe achieved continental unifi cation through economic means, liberal constitutionalism and a currency union. It set goals of peace and security that encourage everyone to be liberal with unfettered freedom to access the market, and, on the other hand, allow the European Union to follow interventionist policies near abroad. The consequences of the union are to be found in Europe's restrictive and contradictory policies and programmes relating to immigration and refugee protection. The European migration crisis originates from this contradiction.

Conservation 'Wars'

Wildlife conservation is increasingly being portrayed as a "war," where conservation organisations take moral positions against poaching. Military methods are being heavily used to complement the already existing fences. The discourse advocating militarisation largely ignores the complex underlying historical, social, economic and political drivers of poaching. This article argues that militarisation in conservation is problematic not just from a philosophical position but also has significant practical implications on the ground upon which conservation projects operate.

Cow Slaughter Ban and the Welfare of Cattle

In recent years, state after state, under the rule of parties with diverse ideologies, has enacted legislation banning cow slaughter without serious consideration of the rationale and content of the laws or the practical problems of implementing them. Now we have aggressive attempts by vocal sections of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its affiliates to insist on extending the ban to cover production, sale and consumption of beef. This article looks at the issue of management of cattle and buffalo livestock in its entirety to shed light on what needs to be done and what shouldnot be done.

Capital and the New Xenophobia

Xenophobia, the fear or dislike of strangers, can be seen throughout the course of history in the form of communal riots, racist attacks, religious hatred and genocide. This article traces the changes in xenophobic thinking over the past three decades and examines the unexplored relationship of xenophobia with power and capitalism. It shows how changes in capitalism have altered the construction of the stranger, defi nes xenophobia in terms of structures of power, and argues for a re-conceptualisation of "civil" and new forms of xenophobia.

Silencing Caste, Sanitising Oppression

The Hindu notions of purity and pollution, inextricably linked with the caste system and the practice of untouchability, underlie the unsanitary practices in Indian society. These beliefs perpetuate the oppression of the "polluted castes," who are forced to undertake manual scavenging, unclog manholes and clean other people's filth. The availability of cheap Dalit labour to do these dehumanising jobs can be cited as one of the reasons why development of toilet facilities and a modern garbage and sewage management system have been neglected so far. As long as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan attempts to delink the relationship between caste and sanitation, its lofty goal of cleaning India will remain unachievable.

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