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

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Expiating the Doctrine

After Utopia: Modernity, Socialism, and the Postcolony by Aditya Nigam (New Delhi: Viva Books), 2010; pp x + 282, Rs 895.

BOOK REVIEW – --     - -- - -     -     --       --   Expiating the Doctrine Dipesh Chakrabarty     someone involved for “eighteen years in the communist movement, ten of them as a full-time political functionary” (I assume, of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)). Going by the e vidence of the essays present T he air of Bengali Marxism that I breathed growing up in Calcutta in the 1960s and 1970s was laden with elements of communist party (CP) thought and some age-old Bengali ideas and practices, both contributing heavily to our cultures of debate. Our passion for social justice and our love of books and argumentation, no doubt, drew its oxygen from this atmosphere; at the same time our actual practices of argumentation carried the stamp of the Bengali institution of daladali (factionalism), the practice of jhagra (acrimonious quarrels), and a propensity to ascribe every difference of opinion to the utter stupidity or ignorance if not to some vile, morally i nferior and downright reactionary motivations of the person or persons we disagreed with. Labels, name-calling – not always in print – and expressions of selfrighteousness were the principal rituals of these debates. Some of it, surely, came from the Leninist tradition of mistaking invectives for arguments; a lot of it, I suspect, was our own contribution, derived in particular from an inherited brahminical tendency to dismiss the opposition as murkha or ignorant cum stupid. There was thus often more heat than light in these arguments, fuelling, ironically, our

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