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Rereading Das Kapital in the 21st Century

Marx’s Capital (three volumes) offers a unified framework to make sense of some of the most troubling issues facing humanity today, in particular, rising economic inequality, deepening economic instability, and growing unsustainability of human–nature interactions, signifying a looming planetary crisis. To the extent that the text throws light on capitalism in the abstract that transcends the unique features of the English or European context, it offers us various insights and critiques about how to understand and intervene in societies beyond Europe.

The Structure and Content of Das Kapital

Karl Marx’s magnum opus, Das Kapital, presents an analysis of the long-run dynamics of a mature capitalist economy. The analysis is conducted at two primary levels of abstraction—“capital in general” (where competition between individual capitals is abstracted from) and “many capitals” (where the phenomenon of competition between individual capitals is introduced)—and the presentation is organised into three volumes. In terms of structure, the analysis in the first two volumes is located at the level of “capital in general,” and the analysis in the third volume is located at the level of “many capitals.” In terms of content, the first volume analyses the production and accumulation of surplus value; the second volume investigates the problems of realisation of surplus value; and the third volume analyses the mechanisms that lead to the distribution of surplus value into income streams of different fractions of the ruling class—as profit of enterprise, commercial profit, interest and rent (and monopoly profit more generally). The three volumes together give a comprehensive picture of the workings of a mature capitalist economy and highlight its long-run, contradictory tendencies.

The Significance of Marx’s Theory of Money

The highly abstract formulation of Marx’s theory of money in Capital, Volume I is just the first step of a materialist analysis of concrete monetary phenomena. His concrete analysis of monetary phenomena in Capital, Volume III has remarkable resonance in today’s world. While Marx emphasised the primacy of production, he saw capitalist dynamics as being deeply entwined with money and finance.

A Marxist Approach to Understanding Ecology

Two seminal books, John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York’s The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth and John Bellamy Foster’s The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet suggest that the rift between humanity and nature must be analysed in its intertwining with other kinds of alienation, all stemming from the adverse effects of the very nature and structure of capitalist society. Nothing short of an eco-social revolution is required to deal with the social and ecological crisis.

Capital(ism), the Progenitor of Socialism

After clarifying the question of “socialism” in Marx’s understanding, this paper draws from “Capital”—Marx’s economic writings in the period 1857–81, including manuscripts in different notebooks and his correspondence with different people—to throw light on his argument concerning the genesis of socialist society from the contradictions of the existing one.

Promise and Performance of the Forest Rights Act

The Forest Rights Act, 2006 has the potential to democratise forest governance by recognising community forest resource rights over an estimated 85.6 million acres of India’s forests, thereby empowering over 200 million forest dwellers in over 1,70,000 villages. However, till date, only 3% of this potential area has been realised.

Political Economy of Community Forest Rights

The various dilutions, contradictory policies and litigations challenging the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act reveal the range and depth of opposition from an entrenched forest bureaucracy on the one hand and non-state actors on the other. The lack of implementation support to it also indicates a refusal of the political system to embrace the historic opportunity created for democratic governance of forests in India.

Forest Rights in Baiga Chak, Madhya Pradesh

Translating the potential of the Forest Rights Act into reality is a challenge even in regions “meant for” Adivasis, such as the Baiga Chak in eastern Madhya Pradesh, given the weak capacity for collective action, tangled relationship with the forest department, changing youth aspirations, and people’s conception of the environment at variance with some provisions of the act.

Biodiversity Conservation and Forest Rights Act

Several wildlife groups have opposed the Forest Rights Act as being anti-conservation. However, field experience indicates that the act can and is being used by local communities for arresting biodiversity decline by opposing the diversion of forests to mega-development projects and by using situated knowledge and values to bring about conservation.

Forest Governance

The Forest Rights Act provides a much-needed counterweight to state-centric forestry, as it reinstates the rights of forest dwellers in all dimensions of forest governance. However, the multi-stakeholder ecosystem of forests requires a multilayered governance framework in which the regulatory, funding and operational roles are separated and democratised. This will help resolve the prevailing tension and confusion regarding forest governance in the post-FRA era.

Tebhaga–Telangana to Naxalbari–CPI(ML)

Even as the Naxalbari uprising was quickly crushed, the revolutionary communists painstakingly spread the movement and founded the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries and the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist). Naxalbari differed from the Telangana uprising, which did not spread to other provinces and left no immediate trail after the setback mainly because no all-India party was built for the purpose. The movement–party dialectic is explored to better understand the radical communist movement in India.

From Naxalbari to Chhattisgarh

Even as the Naxalite/Maoist movement continues to haunt the Indian state, its future is not secure, for Mao’s revolutionary strategy for China of the 1920–40 period is no longer applicable in today’s India. The movement has, however, unwittingly acted as a catalyst of progressive reform in rural India. A post-Maoist revolutionary strategy is, nevertheless, long overdue.

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