V.29: No. 9-10 September October 2000 #328-329

Editorial Note, p. 1

"Notes on the Concept of Class," Prabhat Patnaik, p. 3

"Gendering (Anglo) India: Rudyard Kipling and the Construction of Women," Indrani Sen, p. 12

"Modernity's Edges: A Review Discussion," Sasheej Hegde, p. 33

Book Review by Nilima M. Chitgopekar p. 87
Of a book by Subrata K Mitra & V. B. Singh,
Democracy and Social Change: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the National Electorate. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1999, Rs. 425

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Editorial Note

The incorrectness of methodological individualism, which takes the individual agent as the starting point of analysis, and which characterises much of bourgeois social theory, especially in the realm of economics, does not arise from the mere empirical fact that in the actual social universe we see collective, or supra-individual, actors; it arises from two basic considerations: first, these collectives are qualitatively different from, and cannot be reduced to, mere "coalitions" of individuals; and, secondly, starting from the individual we can never explain a whole range of observed phenomena, not just historically significant ones such as social revolutions, but even such quotidienne ones as the existence of involuntary unemployment under capitalism. Indeed "mainstream" bourgeois economics is forced to deny the very existence of involuntary unemployment, while heterodox bourgeois writers who do recognise its existence are forced willynilly to fall back on some concept of a collective, distinct from "coalitions" of individuals, to explain this existence. Prabhat Patnaik in his article in the current number of Social Scientist sees this as a vindication of the Marxist approach to social analysis, an answer to the question: why should we at all be interested in the Marxist concept of class? He goes on to explore not only why class as a collective can not be replaced by any other concept of a collective, even in societies like ours, but also why class categories should be privileged over other categories.

Javeed Alam has for some time been engaged in a project of considerable importance, namely to rescue "modernity" from its exclusive association with a predatory capitalism, and to argue instead for a "modernity" freed of bourgeois encumbrances. As part of his argument he draws a distinction, between "entrenched modernity",


which got realised with capitalism, and a possible modernity that could represent the embodiment of certain other Enlightenment ideas, which were left untapped after what got embodied, and which according to him constitute an "untapped surplus". Instead of turning our backs upon "modernity", he argues, we have to tap this "untapped surplus"; but the realisation of ariy alternative to the "entrenched modernity" requires according to him, among other things, an allout struggle against imperialism which is out to swallow our civilisation.

Alam's defence of "modernity" against its opponents, while it is extremely interesting, raises a number of issues which are in need of wider discussion. For instance the relationship of his argument with the Marxist problematic, as commonly understood, remains unclear; indeed even the place of the concept of "modernity" within such a problematic is a matter that requires further examination. To initiate a discussion on these issues we publish in this number a long review article by Sasheej Hegde on Alam's book India: Living with Modernity, where Alam has discussed a number of issues, such as nationalism, communalism, democracy, and Inda's post-independence political history from his theoretical perspective.

Finally we publish a study by Indrani Sen on the construction of women in some of Rudyard Kipling's literary texts. In his writings concerned with the white woman in the colony, Kipling generally perceives the power of white female sexuality as a threat to the maintenance of colonial power relations and gender hierarchies. While in this respect he echoes perhaps the views that were quite pervasive among his contemporaries, he is, intriguingly, somewhat more understanding in some of his writings about the Indian woman. The reason for this difference, according to the author, may have more to do with his perception of the Indian women as unthreatening for the colonial project, than with any questioning of racial prejudices, though on rare occasions he does appear to contest such prejudices.

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