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Constructing Regions Inside the Nation

When the nation or the “centre” and their relations with constituent states are challenged by forces that are neither disciplined nor stabilised inside national territories, then economic regions expand and challenge the capacities of states to regulate them. This paper presents insights gained from new maps of India’s material and cultural regions, manifestations of the spatial patterns of Indian capitalism. Specifically, the focus is on regions of agrarian structure (rent, petty production, and capitalist production and exchange relations) and regions of social identity (caste, ethnicity, and gender).

Three Planes of Space

There are three ways of looking at the question of regionality in India: “generalisation,” “fragmentation” and “composition.” Generalisation means gathering primary information from a determinate region, and assuming that all parts of India possess identical or similar characteristics. Fragmentation means believing that, since the regions are so fundamentally real, nothing existing beyond the regional level has any serious, compelling historical reality. Composition asserts that regions are historical and remain bound together within one single frame of some kind: political, economic or cultural.

Delhi’s ‘Regional’ Capitalism

The regional capitalism of Delhi described in this article is not a minor energy in the world today. It has abandoned some of its more provincial ways and also realised that the particular skills it possesses—the skills of infiltrating the political machine, the skills of using licit and illicit money, or legal and extralegal techniques— open up an immense zone of economic operation that is largely closed, say, to American corporations.

The Agrarian Question amidst Populist Welfare

Tamil Nadu’s emergence as a developmental model rests on its ability to combine economic growth with poverty reduction and high levels of human development. Scholars attribute such outcomes to a set of social policies implemented in response to a long history of “democratic action.” It is, however, not clear whether such intervention through social policies can also enable a more inclusive trajectory of economic development. This paper uses the analytical lens of the “agrarian question” to examine this aspect of the state’s development. In doing so, the paper argues that while social welfare nets are crucial to negotiate the vulnerabilities of a market-driven growth process and open up new political and economic spaces, they are inadequate in a context where the secondary sector has not been able to absorb labour to the extent anticipated.

First Nature and the State

The process of policymaking in India has largely ignored the nature of the interaction between nature and institutions. One aspect of this interaction, that is, the consequences of the efforts of the state to overcome the constraints posed by nature is discussed in this essay. It does so by taking William Cronon’s concept of first nature to the southern Karnataka district of Mandya to argue that, despite the success of the Krishnaraja Sagar dam, small peasant agriculture that was the consequence, at least in part, of first nature limited the growth of agrarian capital in the district, leaving it dependent on state capital.

Regional Economies and Small Farmers in Karnataka

The divergence between economic growth and equality in the Indian context can be attributed to the disconnect between the macroeconomy and regional rural economies that host small landholdings. Comparing the agrarian peripheries of two distinct capital-accumulating urban areas in Karnataka, a decipherable pattern in distributional outcomes, food and livelihood security as well as sustainability are revealed. The portrayal of capital-centric urbanisation as an opportunity for livelihoods and poverty reduction among India’s agrarian communities is questioned.

Space and Time Through an Urban-Industrial Hinterland

Ethnographic accounts have provided vivid accounts of the colonial encounter, and encounters with industrial capitalism. This article argues that space be seen as an encounter of time(s). It concurs with Doreen Massey’s thesis of space as a combination of trajectories and a place as a socio-historical event. A major force that shapes the contours and trajectories of space is capital. This is a preliminary attempt to process theoretically the entanglements of time and space, based on ethnographic research in Howrah. Structures of globally dispersed systems of capital shape a particular slice of landscape on the west bank of a river a little north of the Bay of Bengal.

Revolutionary Expectations in 1917 Russia

The February Revolution of 1917 not only overthrew the Russian monarchy but raised great expectations among the population. The essay looks at the expectations of several key segments—workers, soldiers, women, peasants, upper and middle classes, and nationalities. As the Provisional Government was slow to fulfil their expectations, the population turned leftward politically. In a matter of months this led to the rise of the extreme left and the Bolshevik seizure of power.

The Bolsheviks Come to Power in Petrograd

How did the Bolsheviks win out in the struggle for power in 1917 Petrograd? The author, among the world’s leading historians on the Bolsheviks, the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the Russian civil war, revisits the conclusions of two of his major works, Prelude to Revolution: The Petrograd Bolsheviks and the July 1917 Uprising (1968) and The Bolsheviks Come to Power: The Revolution of 1917 in Petrograd (1976), to grapple with this still thorny and deeply politicised question.

The Bolshevik Heritage

The Russian Revolution of 1917 is one of the most enigmatic events of modern history. It arose out of massive popular disgust with war; yet heralded a civil war leading to an even greater loss of life. The revolution began with a quest for democracy, yet resulted in a regime wherein the political police took centre stage in the lives not only of political opponents but of the ruling party itself. It was legitimised in the name of the soviets, yet in three years these organs of workers’ power were reduced to shadows of their former selves. Its success was based upon a worker–peasant alliance, yetthat alliance was torn to shreds long before the collectivisation of the 1930s. Was it one revolution or two? Was the second one the “real” revolution or did it put an end to the aspirations of the first? Did Bolshevism signify living proof of the so-called Marxist “laws of history,” or the completely contingent nature of historical events? These questions are part of the enigma of Bolshevism. A century after the revolution unfolded, we have the benefit not only of hindsight, but also of a massive, hitherto unseen archive, made accessible after 1991. An entire century passed in the shadow of 1917.It is time to think of it afresh.

Revolutionary Democracy in 1917 and the Bolsheviks

It was the highly proletarianised Bolshevik party that was central to revolutionary democracy coming into being in 1917, but the bulk of the non-Bolshevik left chose to go along with liberalism. Hostile to any notion of revolutionary democracy in opposition to bourgeois institutions, the major non-Bolshevik left parties felt more at ease with the liberals than with the “dark” proletarian masses, who appeared uneducated or semi-educated, and who seemed to be moved by illusions rather than the left intelligentsia’s doctrinaire understanding of Marxism. What mainly killed the fledgling revolutionary democracy was the reluctance of the other socialist parties to form a government with the Bolsheviks on the basis of an acceptance of the Congress of Soviets as the foundation of that proposed government’s power. The Left Socialist Revolutionaries pulling out of the Soviet government and the coming of the Civil War did the rest.

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