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

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Practising Sociology through History

Part 1 of this paper considered those sociologists who used classical texts, i e, Indological sources, with a view to understanding contemporary social structures, institutions, and cultural practices. Part II looks at the work of later sociologists, who make up a different category: Those who take into account and narrate the historical background of the social reality that constitutes their research. This paper lays stress on the necessity of a "substantive" use of history for sociological purposes. It takes particular note of those sociologists who have used history rigorously to arrive at broader levels of explanation, generalisation and theoretical abstraction, in the process thereby ensuring a "completion" of their sociological mission. It is this process that needs to be further exploited by present day sociologists. [This is the concluding part of the paper; the first part was published last week.]

I t has been observed that in studying social and protest move-ments in India, the historical approach has had a compara-tively greater appeal among practitioners of sociology. In this context it is necessary to begin with a review of the work of AR Desai. Although a student of G S Ghurye, Desai was not in the least fascinated by Indology. In his frequently cited work, Desai (1982) has attempted a variant of Marxist analysis and interpretation of various socio-political and nationalist movements that gathered momentum, particularly after the spread of western education and the consequent rise of new social classes in India during the colonial period. Desai has perceptively applied cate gories of class analysis and the method of historical materialism1 in understanding processes of socio-economic transformation in colonial India. He has not only highlighted contradictions inherent in the growth of parasitic capitalism in India but also revealed through historical assessment of the built-in deciencies in the Indian national movement deciencies emanating from the class background of its leadership [Desai 1982: 384-86]. Diversity of class interests that surfaced in the form of the Indian National Congress did not, however, weaken the anti-imperialist freedom struggle. On the contrary, Desai argued that inux of new social forces built considerable pressure on its leadership to accommodate as many of them as possible by making serious comprises on the one hand and brought dynamic energy to the movement on the other hand. Nonetheless, the capitalist class the Indian bourgeoisie effectively controlled the rising aspi rations of those forces that in turn were tied to foreign capitalism, i e, metropolitan capitalism, to be precise (Ibid, pp 114-22). To Desai the class character of leadership explains why the process of nation-state formation remained decient as well as incomplete in India. In his writings on rural transformation and agrarian struggles in India after independence, Desai extended similar explanation as to why most of the state-sponsored deve lopment

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