ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Coming Crisis in West Bengal

The studies in this special issue on local government and politics in rural West Bengal that were carried out in 2003-06 ask the question, "What explains the extraordinary stability of Left Front rule in West Bengal?". The papers - one based on a large sample quantitative survey across all districts and the others on close ethnographic observation of six purposively selected gram panchayats - find merit in both the explanations suggested in the literature on contemporary West Bengal politics: one, the institutional effectiveness of the structures of rural government and mobilisation of political support built by the Left Front and, two, a form of clientelism in which the Left parties hold their supporters under some sort of permanent dependence. The studies, however, propose several nuanced modifications of the arguments and also offer some new explanations for our consideration. However, several critical events have taken place in West Bengal since 2006 (Nandigram, Singur, the results of the panchayat election of 2008). Is it then possible to shift our perspective and read the results reported in these studies as an answer to a different question? Instead of the question that has been conventionally asked about West Bengal, could we ask: "What are the reasons internal to the institutions of government and politics in rural West Bengal that might endanger the stability of Left Front rule?". This brief introduction to the special issue offers the beginnings of such a reading.

Classes, Capital and Indian Democracy

Partha Chatterjee responds to the three comments by Shah, John and Deshpande, and Baviskar and Sundar, on his essay "Democracy and Economic Transformation in India".

Democracy and Economic Transformation in India

With the changes in India over the past 25 years, there is now a new dynamic logic that ties the operations of "political society" (comprising the peasantry, artisans and petty producers in the informal sector) with the hegemonic role of the bourgeoisie in "civil society". This logic is provided by the requirement of reversing the effects of primitive accumulation of capital with activities like anti-poverty programmes. This is a necessary political condition for the continued rapid growth of corporate capital. The state, with its mechanisms of electoral democracy, becomes the field for the political negotiation of demands for the transfer of resources, through fiscal and other means, from the accumulation economy to programmes aimed at providing the livelihood needs of the poor. Electoral democracy makes it unacceptable for the government to leave the marginalised groups without the means of labour and to fend for themselves, since this carries the risk of turning them into the "dangerous classes".

The Near Future of Social Science Research in India

It is important to make the ICSSR truly autonomous, but the question is whether the Review Committee's detailed plan for autonomy is desirable and feasible. One could also consider alternative plans to the committee's proposals for introducing accountability in the research institutions.

CSSSC-Papiya Ghosh Memorial Fund

We write to appeal for contributions to the CSSSC-Papiya Ghosh Memorial Fund, which has been set up to honour the memory of Papiya Ghosh, renowned historian and teacher, whose life was tragically cut short when she was murdered at her home in Patna on the night of December 3, 2006. Papiya Ghosh was...

Social Viciousness

Letters Social Viciousness M any of us have been scandalised by recent events in Hyderabad. The physical assault on Taslima Nasreen was entirely uncalled for. The increase in the number of violent incidents of this kind indicates that the rule of law is ceasing to exist in this country. Any group...

Empire after Globalisation

Revisiting the accounts pertaining to the East India Company's annexation of Awadh in 1856 reveals the similarity of many arguments that persist even at the beginning of the 21st century. It is clear that the formula 'democracy at home, despotism abroad' is perfectly applicable today in the context of realist discourses of national interest, that the liberal evangelical creed of taking democracy and human rights to backward cultures is still a potent ideological drive, and that even the instrumental use of ideological rhetoric for realist imperialist ends remains entirely available, as seen in the case of Iraq. But the question is whether people of occupied countries will accept the renewed state of colonial tutelage.

Institutional Context of Social Science Research in South Asia

There seems to be a pervasive sense that social science research in all south Asian countries is in deep crisis and that the great institutions of social science research built in the 1950s and 1960s are in some sort of terminal decline. A study of social science research in south Asia finds, however, that the story is not quite so simple. Not all regions, institutions or disciplines share a sense of decline or crisis. In some countries such as Nepal, for instance, this is partly because the foundations of serious social science research have not been adequately created; and in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and some regions of India, existing institutions have declined because of the cumulative impact of the political circumstances in which they had to operate, the shortage in the assured government funding of established institutions and other factors.

How We Loved the Bomb and Later Rued It

Later Rued It Partha Chatterjee BARELY two weeks after the test explosions in Pokhran. the euphoria in India has evaporated. When parliament debated the issue on May 28 and 29, the mood was critical, worried, sometimes introspective. Many members, not only from the opposition but also from parties in the ruling coalition, expressed doubts about the clarity of the government's nuclear policy and some strongly criticised the way in which the situation resulting from the tests had been handled. In general, though, there were repeated declarations from all sides of a 'national consensus' on the nuclear issue, one that had been supposedly established at least since the first nuclear test in Pokhran in 1974. The critics were alleging that the Vajpayee government had deviated from those agreed principles, while the government kept insisting that it had only acted according to the inherent logic of that consensus.

Five Hundred Years of Fear and Love

Partha Chatterjee Vasco da Gama's arrival in Calicut in 1498 and all those processes of great consequence in the subsequent centuries which this event is supposed to have inaugurated constitute a veritable ideological minefield. Of course, there are certain safe routes through the field that have, been charted and well traversed, at least since the era of decolonisation in the middle of the 20th century. Those who wish to play it safe speak of universal humanity and brotherhood, of the falsity of the distinctions between east and west, of history as indubitable progress from backwardness to modernity, of universal access to the benefits of modern science and technology and, in more recent years, of unfettered entry into the dreamland of universal consumption in the millennium of globalisation. Not wishing to tread this safe path, the author in this paper turns to some of the political and moral issues posed by the history of relations between Europe and south Asia in the last five hundred years.

Community in the East

Community in the East Partha Chatterjee In the received history of Western political theory, capital and community have been antithetical. When the new history of Eastern modernity gets written in the 21st century, perhaps capital will at last find a resting place in community. In the course of that journey, political theory as we have known it for so long will also get rewritten.

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