v. 32.: No. 9-10, September-October #376-377
Editorial, p. 1
"The Siege of Imagination," Ashok Mitra, p. 3
"The Republic of Hunger," Utsa Patnaik, p.9
"Fascism in the Age of Global Capitalism," Margit Koves, p.36
"'Introducing Sociology': An Indiscreet Text from the NCERT," Subrata Bagchi, p.72
"Obituary: Comrade Hiren Mukerjee," Jyoti Basu, p.76
"Obituary: Dr Samar Ranjan Sen," Prabhat Patnaik, p.79
Book Reviews, p.82-
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An idea has been assiduously promoted of late that the Indian economy has shown a remarkable reduction in poverty since the introduction of neo-liberal policies. In the lead article in the current issue of Social Scientist, which is the text of a lecture delivered in memory of Safdar Hashmi on April 10, 2004, Utsa Patnaik refutes this claim on the basis of a wealth of evidence. Of course a practical refutation of this idea, which constituted a part of the "India Shining" campaign, was given by the electorate in May when it threw out the NDA government from power. Nonetheless this intellectual refutation, advanced even before the electoral verdict, remains highly relevant, especially because the elements which thought India was "shining" are now busy claiming that the electoral verdict had nothing to do with distress and hunger.
Patnaik shows that per capita food availability in India as a whole has declined precisely over the liberalization period, to a level in 2001-02 which is roughly the same as in the late nineteen thirties, i.e. on the eve of the second world war. One can be almost certain therefore that the per capita food availability in rural India and especially for the rural poor would be lower than what it was, for these very groups, on the eve of the second world war. Since the concept of poverty in India is linked to calorie intake, rural poverty ratio should have increased noticeably during the liberalization period; and this is precisely what has happened according to direct data on the calorie equivalent of the quantities of food consumed. Official sources give a contrary impression because they rely on an estimation method that is faulty, and also apply this method to data that are acknowledged to be contaminated.
Margit Koves in her paper on fascism in the age of global capitalism, argues, on the basis of Eastern European experience, that the real antagonism that "global capitalism" produces is between "full citizens" and the "underclass" which is excluded from the public space, and for which the neo-liberal State accepts no responsibility. The "underclass" moreover is increasingly ethnicized; and ethnic, race or religious solidarity takes the place of class solidarity. Since a characteristic of fascism is to transform class antagonism into racial, ethnic, cultural and religious antagonism, fascisization constitutes an
Social Scientist, Sept-Oct 2004, p. 2
immanent tendency of contemporary global capitalism. It can be countered with the emancipatory project of the Enlightenment, with the demand for "universality" and the rejection of the false choice between ethnic/religious fundamentalism and multiculturalism. The violence of the market and the violence of terrorism can both be countered by class struggle and the promotion of a socialist culture, for which it is essential to start identifying with the immigrants and the "underclass".
Ashok Mitra's Abanindra Nath Tagore lecture sees the spread of globalization as a force destroying people's art. In fact it is the slowness of the percolation of globalization in the vast countryside that constitutes India, in which he sees a source of hope. It allows for a longer survival of people's art and provides precious breathing time for preparing for the battle that will decide the fate of "native, non-automatic cogitation".
Finally, we carry two obituaries, for two stalwarts of very different kinds who passed away in recent weeks. Jyoti Basu reminisces about Professor Hiren Mukherjee, one of the outstanding intellectuals of the country whose ideas had nourished the Communist movement for long. And Prabhat Patnaik pays a tribute to Dr.Samar Ranjan Sen, well-known economist who played a leading role in the initiation of the process of planned development in the country.
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