V. 32: No. 1-2 January February 2004 #368-369
Editorial note, p. 1
"Gandhiji, Secularism and Communalism," Bipan Chandra, p. 3
"Historicism and Revolution," Prabhat Patnaik, p. 30
"Magnitude and Profile of Child Labour in the 1999s: Evidence from the NSS Data," Shakti Kak, p.
"Obituary: Remembering Krishna Raj," G.P Deshpande, p. 74
BOOK REVIEWS: p. 77
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The practical attack on our secular polity by the Hindutva forces has been accompanied by a parallel attack in the realm of ideas by a number of intellectuals, not necessarily aligned with the Hindutva forces, on the concept of secularism itself on the grounds that it is an imported "Western" concept. Secularism in the sense of a separation of religion from the State, it is argued, is a part of the European tradition, while the appropriate concept in the Indian context, consistent with "our tradition", is respect for all religions (sarva dharma samabhava). The latter, no matter how benign it may sound, constitutes, however, the thin end of the communal wedge: it entails, instead of a separation, a conflation of religion with the State, which, apart from being socially retrograde (e.g. on questions of caste and women's rights), cannot but pave the way for a conflation of the majority religion with the State. In defence of their argument, the proponents of this alternative view of a so-called "sui generis Indianstyle secularism" often invoke the authority of Gandhiji, whose inclination towards this view is alleged to have been subverted by the Nehruvian and Leftist predilection for the borrowed Western concept.
We are glad to publish in this context the lead article by Professor Bipan Chandra, the eminent historian of modern India who traces with great care the evolution of Gandhiji's id eas on secularism and shows that Gandhiji too was a subscriber to the modern, and so-called "Western", concept of secularism, entailing a complete separation of religion from the State.
The term "historicism" is used in two very different, and even diametrically opposite senses, one in the Popperian sense, and the other in the sense of "Western Marxism". While the Popperian critique of "historicism" is by now passe, much debate has occurred within and around the Marxist tradition on "historicism" in the second sense, i.e. in the sense of a "historicist" interpretation of Marxism. Even critiques of Marxism such as Maurice MerleauPonty's in his Adventures of the Dialectic take Marxism to be essentially "historicist", while Louis Althusscr, the famous Marxist philosopher, considered historicism to be only a variant of empiricism. Prabhat Patnaik's article, while going over this ground,
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argues that the very concept of a People's Democratic Revolution, which Marxism considers to be on the historical agenda in third world societies, necessarily entails the acceptance of a non-historicist interpretation of Marxism. Like Moliere's Monsieur Jourdan speaking prose without knowing it, we have in other words implicitly rejected historicism all along without always knowing it.
Both these articles, by Professor Bipan Chandra and by Prabhat Patnaik, are due to appear shortly in a Festshrift for Professor Sukumari Bhattacharya the distinguished historian of ancient India who has also been a frequent contributor to Social Scientist and whom we hold in high esteem. We are grateful to the editors of that forthcoming volume for allowing us to bring out these articles in our journal in advance of the publication of that volume, and use this opportunity for paying our own homage to Professor Bhattacharya.
The elimination of child labour must occupy a pre-eminent position in any agenda for social change. In India while there has been a decline in child labour over the last several years, according to the National Sample Survey data, this decline has slowed down in the nineties. Moreover even such decline as occurred in the nineties has to be seen in the context of generally declining employment opportunities in this period, so that the perceived decline in child labour may well be a reflection of higher child unemployment rates. We have in short a very long way to go in achieving this basic social objective, as Shakti Kak's article argues. Kak uses NSS data to provide a picture of the magnitude and profile of child labour in India in the 1990s, which can be of great use in devising ways to overcome this problem.
Finally we publish an obituary on Krishna Raj, the renowned editor of the Economic and Political Weekly, who passed away in January, written by Govind Deshpande who has been a long-standing contributor and columnist of that journal. The editorial board of Social Scientist joins me in expressing our condolences over his death.
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