Monday, 20 November 2017

Reading Dipesh Chakraborty's 'Provincializing Europe'- part III

IT HAS RECENTLY BEEN SAID in praise of the postcolonial project of Subaltern Studies that it demonstrates, “perhaps for the first time since colonisation,” that “Indians are showing sustained signs of reappropriating the capacity to represent themselves [within the discipline of history].”1 As a historian who is a member of the Subaltern Studies collective, I find the congratulation contained in this remark gratifying but premature. The purpose of this essay is to problematize the idea of “Indians” “representing themselves in history.”
Subaltern Studies is shite historiography. Still, if Indians are utterly shite, it might still be part of a duty of 'epistemic affirmative action' to say something nice about it. But who actually did so? Some bloke named Ronald Inden. He's not a historian. He specialises in Bengali. He is talking up a worthless Bengali product in return for not being exposed as an ignoramus regarding those worthless Bengalis' mother tongue. Why is Dipesh 'gratified' by the words of a specialist in Bengali whom he doesn't think actually knows anything special about Bengal? Is it because that specialist is White?

If Inden actually knew anything about Bengal he'd be aware that the earlier generation of Bengali historians and sociologists actually wrote a lot in Bengali and very successfully 'represented Bengalis to themselves' in a manner which actually made Bengalis more useful and inspiring to non Bengalis. By contrast, Subaltern Studies and Post Colonial theory have made a laughing stock of those University Departments which harbour them.

This is not to say that it is only the Bengalis who shit the bed in History Departments
There are at least two everyday symptoms of the subalternity of non-Western, third-world histories. Third-world historians feel a need to refer to works in European history; historians of Europe do not feel any need to reciprocate.
So what? Name droppers don't expect those whose acquaintance they claim to reciprocate.
Whether it is an Edward Thompson, a Le Roy Ladurie, a George Duby, a Carlo Ginzberg, a Lawrence Stone, a Robert Darnton, or a Natalie Davis—to take but a few names at random from our contemporary world—the “greats” and the models of the historian’s enterprise are always at least culturally “European.”
WTF? A historian of Europe has to be at least culturally European. Consider my account of the origin  of the Crusades which focuses exclusively upon the Pope's inability to correctly perform the Sandhyavandanam ritual. It is worthless for the same reason that Guha's work is worthless. It has no genuine interest in its subject. It's purpose is only to advertise the author's cultural credentials.
“They” produce their work in relative ignorance of non-Western histories, and this does not seem to affect the quality of their work. This is a gesture, however, that “we” cannot return. We cannot even afford an equality or symmetry of ignorance at this level without taking the risk of appearing “old-fashioned” or “outdated.”
Appearing outdated to whom? Roberto Callasso draws upon an outdated Indology, but, unlike Inden, a book of his is a bestseller in its Hindi translation.
Dipesh like Guha Spivak Bhabha etc writes for a gesture political reason which can have no broad currency because it is only academic politics we are speaking of.

Dipesh's Marx
Marx said in that very Hegelian first chapter of Capital, volume 1, that the secret of “capital,” the category, “cannot be deciphered until the notion of human equality has acquired the fixity of a popular prejudice.”
 If people aren't equal, the superior can command labour power from the inferior in an unmediated manner. Obviously, slave societies can be 'Capitalist' but, Marx thought, the Economists of that Capitalist Society would not make a categorical distinction between Capital and Labour. He was wrong. Economists could make that distinction by defining Capital as physical not financial. This means that Neo-Classical Economics has a problem with measuring Capital similar to the Marxist problem with measuring the abstract yardstick of the Labour theory of Value. But the problem is merely technical. It does not represent a scandal.
To continue with Marx’s words:
'even the most abstract categories, despite their validity—precisely because of their abstractness—for all epochs, are nevertheless, . . . themselves . . . a product of historical relations. Bourgeois society is the most developed and the most complex historic organisation of production. The categories which express its relations, the comprehension of its structure, thereby also allow insights into the structure and the relations of production of all the vanished social formations out of whose ruins and elements it built itself up, whose partly still unconquered remnants are carried along within it, whose mere nuances have developed explicit significance within it, etc. . . . The intimations of higher development among the subordinate animal species . . . can be understood only after the higher development is already known. The bourgeois economy thus supplies the key to the ancient....
For capital or bourgeois, I submit, read “Europe” or “European.”
Let us try Dipesh's experiment. The passage now reads
'even the most abstract categories, despite their validity—precisely because of their abstractness—for all epochs, are nevertheless, . . . themselves . . . a product of historical relations. European society is the most developed and the most complex historic organisation of production. The categories which express its relations, the comprehension of its structure, thereby also allow insights into the structure and the relations of production of all the vanished social formations out of whose ruins and elements it built itself up, whose partly still unconquered remnants are carried along within it, whose mere nuances have developed explicit significance within it, etc. . . . The intimations of higher development among the subordinate animal species . . . can be understood only after the higher development is already known. The European economy thus supplies the key to the ancient....
 What does it now signify? Just that we're more advanced now than we were and we can understand the past better for this reason. There aint no 'subaltern' or PoCo theme here. In any case, Marx said America was more developed than Europe thanks to slavery. He wrote- Without slavery, North America, the most progressive nation, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Only wipe North America off the map and you will get anarchy, the complete decay of trade and modern civilisation. But to do away with slavery would be to wipe America off the map

The above passage of Dipesh's, did not feature the word Capital. But the sentence preceding it did. Let us substitute 'Europe' for 'Capital' as Dipesh requests and see what we get.
the secret of “Europe,” the category, “cannot be deciphered until the notion of human equality has acquired the fixity of a popular prejudice.”
Cool! It's the kind of thing Saint Merkel might say- 'Europe won't become itself- understand the secret of its own identity- till the notion of human equality has so thoroughly entrenched itself that we see no difference between a refugee in a Hijab and a fat bloke in lederhosen. Once again, there's no excuse for PoCo shite here.

Dipesh teaches at a University. Some University Departments are advancing. Others are stagnating. Is there any way to predict which will advance and which will stagnate? One possible criteria is whether that Department could have a 'Subaltern' or 'Po Co' theorist on staff. If it can, it will turn to shit.
I pursue Marx’s philosophical concept “capital” in order to examine closely two of his ideas that are inseparable from his critique of capital: that of “abstract labor” and the relation between capital and history.
What is Marx's 'philosophical concept' of Capital? We know his formula for it, but a formula is not a concept.
Marx’s philosophical category “capital” is global in its historical aspiration and universal in its constitution.
This is nonsense. Marx's formula does not fit the non monetary economy. Thus even if there were a coherent 'philosophical category' here it couldn't be 'universal in its constitution' (unless we live in an Arrow-Debreu universe with time travel).
ISIS is 'global in its historical aspirations'. As is the internet meme of 'planking'. So what?
Its categorial structure, at least in Marx’s own argumentation, is predicated on the Enlightenment ideas of juridical equality and the abstract political rights of citizenship.
The idea of 'juridicial equality' is linked to choice of arbitrator or judicial forum in non-coercive exchange. For incomplete contracts, it is important that both sides have a Muth Rational expectation of equitable treatment. The enforcement agency may be quite different, but the forum must be perceived as unbiased and protocol bound. Dipshit may think no such fora existed before the European enlightenment. Even Marx wasn't that stupid.
Labor that is juridically and politically free—and yet socially unfree—is a concept embedded in Marx’s category of “abstract labor.”
No. Marx's 'abstract labour' arises simply from the notion of an artificial 'socially necessary labour' yardstick, or 'numeraire' such as Economists are obliged to use. It could be linked (though it wasn't by Marx) to the sort of wage we think is necessary for a decent life. We could say 'socially necessary' should be determined by society itself and thus coincide with 'socially acceptable' or even 'socially optimal'.
The idea of “abstract labor” thus combines the Enlightenment themes of juridical freedom (rights, citizenship) and the concept of the universal and abstract human who bears this freedom.
Sheer nonsense! One might as well say that Slutsky's indifference curve combines Capitalist hedonism with Soviet curviness. I suppose one could construct a Slutskian Marxism but since the poor fellow kept his head down under Stalin, let's not. The odd thing he showed that Capitalism's crises are Stochastic not Social in origin while working under Kondratiev.
More importantly, it is also a concept central to Marx’s explanation of why capital, in fulfilling itself in history, necessarily creates the ground for its own dissolution.
This is not true. Having or not having a labour theory of value does not cause Capitalism to fall. It can only help us understand why it will have worsening crises and why that's actually a good thing because something better will emerge from its demise.
Examining the idea of “abstract labor” then enables us to see what is politically and intellectually at stake—both for Marx and for the students of his legacy—in the humanist heritage of the European Enlightenment.
Rubbish. A good statistician like Slutsky could usefully examine the idea of 'abstract labour'. He could show that people who want a better society now needn't be discouraged by the appearance of scarcity or some ineluctable miserabilist law. On the contrary, there is a Mechanism Design that can be done today which is both more just, more humane and also makes everything better for everybody in the long run. The Japanese 'peasant/Sage' Shontoku Ninomiya showed how this could be done in 'feudal' Japan.
The idea of “abstract labor” also leads us to the question of how the logic of capital relates to the issue of historical difference.
Historical difference is overcome by diffusion and extinction, The logic of Capital- buy low, sell high- is what the Marginal Revolution gave a mathematical expression on an analogy with Statistical Thermodynamics. Marx was a jurist and so he couldn't grasp these developments. There is no reason why Marxists should not compensate for his incapacity in this respect.
As is well known, the idea of “history” was central to Marx’s philosophical understanding of “capital.” “Abstract labor” gave Marx a way of explaining how the capitalist mode of production managed to extract from peoples and histories that were all different a homogenous and common unit for measuring human activity.
Abstract Labour is like 'putty putty' Capital and depends, for coherence, on an artificially constructed yardstick with a specific Econometric description. The French metre or the English yard were used in French and British Colonies to measure things. But the existence of the metre or the yard did not explain why, historically, some regions of the world are at a higher or lower altitude than others.
“Abstract labor” may thus be read as part of an account of how the logic of capital sublates into itself the differences of history.
Sublates? How can a yardstick, that too an abstract one, sublate anything? If Mommy uses a tape measure to find out how much baby has grown, does she keep the tape measure, because it has 'sublated baby into itself', while consigning the infant to the drawer for odds and ends?

Perhaps that what Dipshit's Mom actually did. It would explain so much.
In the second part of this chapter, however, I try to develop a distinction that Marx made between two kinds of histories: histories “posited by capital” and histories that do not belong to capital’s “life process.” I call them History 1 and History 2, and I explore the distinction between them to show how Marx’s thoughts may be made to resist the idea that the logic of capital sublates differences into itself. I conclude this chapter by trying to open Marxian categories up to some Heideggerian ruminations on the politics of human diversity
Clearly, Dipesh fails History I because he doesn't understand what a numeraire, in Economics, is.
What about History II? Let us see.

Reading Dipesh Chakraborty's 'Provincializing Europe'- part II

How does Dipesh 'provincialize Europe' ? The answer is he deploys an impartial ignorance of both Europe and India.

Consider the following-
A dramatic example of this nationalist rejection of historicist history is the Indian decision taken immediately after the attainment of independence to base Indian democracy on universal adult franchise. 
Ceylon got universal suffrage in 1931 because the Sinhalese upper class accepted Sidney Webb's system of safeguards for minorities. India could not because Caste Hindus represented a majority and no system of safeguards was acceptable to the minorities. Since the Congress was confident it could win majorities under universal franchise, there was never any doubt that independent India would chose that route. But then no country adopted anything else- if they had free elections at all.

Dipshit thinks otherwise-
This was directly in violation of Mill’s prescription. “Universal teaching,” Mill said in the essay “On Representative Government,” “must precede universal enfranchisement.”
This shows Mill didn't matter. The fact is the cry 'we must educate our masters' was raised after Disraeli's fait accompli of 1867.
Dipesh lives in a fantasy world where writers on the Curriculum issues prescriptions which Society faithfully followed because they were based on ineluctable Science.
Even the Indian Franchise Committee of 1931, which had several Indian members, stuck to a position that was a modified version of Mill’s argument.
Because none of its Indian members were from the Party which would have won on an universal franchise. The (Motilal) Nehru Report stipulated for universal adult suffrage in 1928. Gandhi lobbied for it at both Round Table Conferences. It was accepted as Congress policy by 1932. Its success in Ceylon rather reinforced this view.
The members of the committee agreed that although universal adult franchise would be the ideal goal for India, the general lack of literacy in the country posed a very large obstacle to its implementation.
They did so because Minorities were afraid that the Majority was also educationally more forward.
And yet in less than two decades, India opted for universal adult suffrage for a population that was still predominantly nonliterate.
No body opposed it- the only question was whether villages should vote en bloc or not but this proposition was not seriously entertained.
In defending the new constitution and the idea of “popular sovereignty” before the nation’s Constituent Assembly on the eve of formal independence, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, later to be the first vice president of India, argued against the idea that Indians as a people were not yet ready to rule themselves.
Nonsense! India was already ruling itself. No Indian was saying 'we can't rule ourselves, let's ask Whitey to come back.' Actually there was one  idiot who did write a book which ended by an appeal for the Coloniser to return. But he was Bengali. And a Historian. In other words, a dipshit like Dipesh.

As far as he (Radhakrishnan) was concerned, Indians, literate or illiterate, were always suited for self-rule. He said: “We cannot say that the republican tradition is foreign to the genius of this country. We have had it from the beginning of our history.” What else was this position if not a national gesture of abolishing the imaginary waiting room in which Indians had been placed by European historicist thought?
Radhakrishnan was an Oxford Professor who had achieved celebrity status in the Thirties as Robert Graves and Alan Hodges have recorded. He had no political or ideological importance. What he said was what Professors say about things nobody cares about. India was making a lot of nationalist gestures at that time. This was the least of them.
Needless to say, historicism remains alive and strong today in the all the developmentalist practices and imaginations of the Indian state.
Only because they are crap and have little practical effect.
Much of the institutional activity of governing in India is premised on a day-to-day practice of historicism; there is a strong sense in which the peasant is still being educated and developed into the citizen.
No such 'education' is occurring. The State can't get its teachers to stop playing truants and actually teach some kids. How the fuck is it going to 'educate' peasants?
But every time there is a populist/political mobilization of the people on the streets of the country and a version of “mass democracy” becomes visible in India, historicist time is put in temporary suspension.
A species of time which can be put on 'temporary' suspension isn't time. It is nonsense. Why speak of it?
And once every five years—or more frequently, as seems to be the case these days—the nation produces a political performance of electoral democracy that sets aside all assumptions of the historicist imagination of time.
Really? Is that what happened in 2014? Modi got in and the Dynasty was thrown out. Dipshit may think this was just a 'performance' or tamasha but Indians don't feel the same way. Previously, one bunch of goons was getting rich. Now a different set of goons is getting rich. This matters if you are a goon or related to a goon or depend on a goon financially- which, in a segmentary society, adds up to quite a lot of people.
On the day of the election, every Indian adult is treated practically and theoretically as someone already endowed with the skills of a making major citizenly choice, education or no education.
The same is true of the American voter who elected Trump, the Italian voter who elected Berlusconi and the British voter who precipitated Brexit.
Dipesh may be a fool but he gets a vote so as to cancel out the equal and opposite imbecility of some other Bengali Professor.

Subaltern  Studies

(The) problem of how to conceptualize the historical and the political in a context where the peasant was already part of the political was indeed one of the key questions that drove the historiographic project of Subaltern Studies. My extended interpretation of the word “peasant” follows from some of the founding statements Ranajit Guha made when he and his colleagues attempted to democratize the writing of Indian history by looking on subordinate social groups as the makers of their own destiny. I find it significant, for example, that Subaltern Studies should have begun its career by registering a deep sense of unease with the very idea of the “political” as it had been deployed in the received traditions of English language Marxist historiography. Nowhere is this more visible than in Ranajit Guha’s criticism of the British historian Eric Hobsbawm’s category “prepolitical” in his 1983 book Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India. 34 Hobsbawm’s category “prepolitical'.
Marx lived in London. There was, till quite recently, a British Marxist tradition. Hobsbawm belonged to it. But the British working class outgrew Marxism. It was foolish and ignorant.

If Guha wanted to criticise Hobsbawm he would have needed to shown it was shite with respect to British history. If he had wanted to say anything about Indian history, he would have had to study primary Indian sources. But Guha was a worthless lump of shite. All he was capable of was pretending that  Hobsbawm was important and that attacking him using spurious Indian sources somehow redeemed Indian National honour and entitled him and his disciples to tenure in wholly worthless Departments of Western Universities.

Ranajit Guha emigrated to Britain and took British citizenship even before Niradh Chaudhri. He pretended to be interested in Indian tribals and peasants and so forth because he was a shite historian who needed to disguise himself as some sort of theoretician who might gain salience if some particular clique gained control of the CPM in Bengal.
In the old days, some naive American might believe Guha, if not Hobsbawm, knew something about the country he claimed to speak for. This is no longer the case. Dipshit jumped on the wrong bandwagon and so this book of his won't concern itself with historians like Hobsbawm and Guha but rather with, the Economist, Marx, and the Philosopher, Heidegger.

Can this Historian, who is shite at his own job, really understand Economics and Philosophy? Let us see.

Reading Dipesh Chakraborty's 'Provincializing Europe'- part I

Keynes once very sensibly observed that, Raj era, Indian Economics was shite because both the 'native' savant and the Mandarin 'Sahib' knew nothing of other comparable Economies and schools of Economic thought.

Dipesh Chakrabarty writing towards the end of the Century which provincialised Europe- indeed, which saw alien troops- including 'Negros' & 'Mongols'- garrison those parts of it which had little or no Colonial history- is striking evidence for a proposition wider than Keynes's- viz. that comprador class Historians or Social Scientists or Professors of Comp Lit whose epistemic orientation is towards Europe are utterly shite with respect to both Europe and their own benighted Babudom.

It's because they can't think as well as the most provincial 'chai-wallah' in their natal land.

Dipshit says-
The phenomenon of “political modernity”— namely, the rule by modern institutions of the state, bureaucracy, and capitalist enterprise—is impossible to think of anywhere in the world without invoking certain categories and concepts, the genealogies of which go deep into the intellectual and even theological traditions of Europe.
If this were true, how the fuck did Narendra Modi become Prime Minister of India? Perhaps, Dipesh is saying Modi's degrees aren't fake- he genuinely studied Poli Sci at Uni, albeit as an external candidate.
The problem with this view- other than that it legitimises and exalts Modi's techne- that Ghanchi's ability to extract the essence of the Western political episteme- above that of Brahmin prodigies like himself- is that NaMo aint no Xi Jinping.  It is not his personality cult which has waxed as the collegial aspect of his Party has waned, but, rather, that the R.S.S has gained and- as its simplest pravachak, or presbyter- Modi has faded into its shadow as did Ayaz in the shadow of Sultan Mahmud.

No doubt, Dipesh could counter that Savarkar or Moonje or Hedgewar and so on were actually profound 'Europeanists'. Perhaps they were. What is certain is they failed. What about Deen Dayal Upadhyaya? Well, he did get a couple of degrees before the British left so, ok- but he too failed. Who succeeded? We don't know. They don't have names in our Histories. Good folk, no doubt, gratefully remembered by their families and neighbours and colleagues and so on. But we aren't speaking of anyone who incarnated 'History on horseback'- just that little old Gujerati man who stopped his tonga for me to clamber onto because, from my complexion, he deduced me to be either Untouchable or 'Madrasi'.  Or so I thought. It turned out the fellow was a retired School Teacher with a son in You Ess. He picked me up because he thought I was a Muslim (I had a thick beard) and we were in a Bihari pilgrimage spot and there had been a 'communal riot' in a nearby town. He was astonished that I was staying in a Jain Ashram and I was astonished that this beautiful, Gandhian, widower was a 'hard core' RSS 'bakth'. This happened around the time Dipesh was correcting the proofs for this-
Concepts such as citizenship, the state, civil society, public sphere, human rights, equality before the law, the individual, distinctions between public and private, the idea of the subject, democracy, popular sovereignty, social justice, scientific rationality, and so on all bear the burden of European thought and history. One simply cannot think of political modernity without these and other related concepts that found a climactic form in the course of the European Enlightenment and the nineteenth century.
These concepts are essentially contested not regulative. Most Europeans lived their lives without troubling greatly with them preferring to hold, with Alexander Pope-
For forms of Government let fools contest
Whatever is best administered is best.
There was once a small Indian Liberal party but, as Ambedkar pointed out, it surrendered to Gandhi's atavistic nativism. It turned out that it was impossible for the great mass of the Indian people to 'think of political modernity' in the terms Dipesh mentions. Why? Because the terms assume the existence of an infinite source of power which can establish them in their ideal form. In India, there are obvious limits to power. 
It may be that Dipesh can't think of political modernity in any other terms than those of his profession- but his profession is without influence, indeed is widely despised, in his natal country. What he can't think isn't evidence of anything save his stupidity and the worthless nature of his subject.
Dipesh admits as much almost immediately.

These concepts entail an unavoidable—and in a sense indispensable— universal and secular vision of the human. The European colonizer of the nineteenth century both preached this Enlightenment humanism at the colonized and at the same time denied it in practice. But the vision has been powerful in its effects. It has historically provided a strong foundation on which to erect—both in Europe and outside—critiques of socially unjust practices. Marxist and liberal thought are legatees of this intellectual heritage. This heritage is now global. The modern Bengali educated middle classes—to which I belong and fragments of whose history I recount later in the book—have been characterized by Tapan Raychaudhuri as the “the first Asian social group of any size whose mental world was transformed through its interactions with the West.”
West Bengal had a Marxist Government dominated by Chakrabarty's class when Dipesh wrote these words. That administration fell and its goons have switched sides. One might plausibly find a European intellectual genealogy for Jyoti Basu or Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, but what about Mamta Bannerjee and her Trinamool goons?

The truth is that Bengal has been in continuous decline for as long as Dipesh has been alive. His class has emigrated in order to cling on to gentility. But they have no political or social salience with respect to India.

Postcolonial scholarship is committed, almost by definition, to engaging the universals—such as the abstract figure of the human or that of Reason—that were forged in eighteenth-century Europe and that underlie the human sciences.
That's why Postcolonial theory is useless.
Universals don't exist. You can't get engaged to them or marry them or have babies with them.

It was not just the Europeans, everybody everywhere decided a very long time ago that Philosophy was worthless. People who talk about the 'abstract figure of the human or that of Reason' are gibbering pedagogues whose job is to stop their young charges from copulating in public.
This engagement marks, for instance, the writing of the Tunisian philosopher and historian Hichem Djait, who accuses imperialist Europe of “deny[ing] its own vision of man.” 
Europe may have retained enough power of force projection to grant or deny something to their near neighbours across the Meditteranean, but it has no power to do anything with respect to India. The penultimate Viceroy, the soldier Wavell, made it clear that Britain could not hold India. The best he could do was to evacuate the White population via the Muslim dominated regions. Dipesh knows this. Why is he sticking with a theory which consists of whining to Whitey to come back and fix things?

Fanon’s struggle to hold on to the Enlightenment idea of the human—even when he knew that European imperialism had reduced that idea to the figure of the settler-colonial white man—is now itself a part of the global heritage of all postcolonial thinkers.
Why? The French left Algeria within a few years of Fanon's arriving there. Okay there were White people in Rhodesia and Angola and South Africa. But no one needed to read Fanon in order to cut their throats, once it was safe to do so, and grab their property. It seems the global heritage of postcolonial theorists is useless. Why do they insist on handing it down?

 The struggle ensues because there is no easy way of dispensing with these universals in the condition of political modernity. Without them there would be no social science that addresses issues of modern social justice.
Economics is a Social Science. Incentive compatible Mechanism Design is needful for achieving Social Justice. This means having to learn Maths.  There are no 'Universals' anywhere. They don't exist. There is an easy way of dispensing with things which don't exist. Just stop talking about them. Simples.

But, says, Dipesh, these 'Universals' are taught in the Academy. Surely this means they are meaningful?
The answer is, no- University education is merely a screening or signalling device. The content of the course can be wholly worthless.

Faced with the task of analyzing developments or social practices in modern India, few if any Indian social scientists or social scientists of India would argue seriously with, say, the thirteenth-century logician Gangesa or with the grammarian and linguistic philosopher Bartrihari (fifth to sixth centuries), or with the tenth- or eleventh-century aesthetician Abhinavagupta.
Indian social scientists are shite. However, Hindus do use Niti Shastras when analysing social developments. This involves hermeneutic arguments in which Gangesa or Bratrihari might feature. Abhinavagupta is particularly interesting. It is no accident that descendants of his School have played such a big part in modern India.
Sad though it is, one result of European colonial rule in South Asia is that the intellectual traditions once unbroken and alive in Sanskrit or Persian or Arabic are now only matters of historical research for most—perhaps all—modern social scientists in the region.They treat these traditions as truly dead, as history.
So what? These guys are brain dead and so everything is dead to them or dies the moment they get their grubby little hands upon it.
 Although categories that were once subject to detailed theoretical contemplation and inquiry now exist as practical concepts, bereft of any theoretical lineage, embedded in quotidian practices in South Asia, contemporary social scientists of South Asia seldom have the training that would enable them to make these concepts into resources for critical thought for the present.
But 'contemporary social scientist', in South Asia, means 'stupid jhollawallah talking bollocks while aiming for tenure at some cowbelt College.
In America, the Hare Krishnas do spend a lot of time thinking about fundamental ideas in Vaishnavite philosophy. In India, every single sect possesses some thinkers of this sort. There are also some Indians who analyse Indian politics in terms of Niti Shastras. However, they are as shite as Dipesh's jhollawallahs because, as the Nalopakhayanam teaches, the Just King has got to learn Statistical Game theory to overcome his 'Vishada' or Hamlet like, Academic, indecision.
And yet past European thinkers and their categories are never quite dead for us in the same way.
Only if we're getting paid to pretend they are alive for the sake of a pay cheque.
South Asian(ist) social scientists would argue passionately with a Marx or a Weber without feeling any need to historicize them or to place them in their European intellectual contexts.
Nope, that's not what happened. At one time there were electable Marxist parties and so it was worthwhile to pretend to be engaging with Marx. Weber said some nasty things about us, so shitting on him is a reflex.
The fact that we don't bother to 'historicize' European figures shows they don't matter and are a fit subject only for magical thinking. I didn't 'historicize' Shao Lin Kung Fu when, as a kid, I pretended I knew the 'poison fist' technique and could kill my elder sister with a single blow.

By contrast, we are very careful to historicize businessmen whom we are seeking to emulate. We need to know not just how Steve Jobs gained his 'Reality distortion field' but under what circumstances it was successfully deployed.
Yet the very history of politicization of the population, or the coming of political modernity, in countries outside of the Western capitalist democracies of the world produces a deep irony in the history of the political.
What 'deep irony' can arise from mimetic diffusion? It is only that Time, which turns the father carrying his infant son into a bag of bones being carried by his strapping son, reverses roles. But History can't confine itself to Timeless Universals and so ought to stop gnawing the knuckles of amazement at 'deep irony'.
This history challenges us to rethink two conceptual gifts of nineteenth-century Europe, concepts integral to the idea of modernity. One is historicism—the idea that to understand anything it has to be seen both as a unity and in its historical development—and the other is the very idea of the political.
These are gifts? Fuck off! They are everywhere present. Sir William Jones referred to Nawadwipa as his third University. Does Dipesh really believe that his own ancestors at that seat of learning did not know how property and customary rights had changed and were changing? Did they have no concept of the political? How is it that Indians could lobby Westminster in the Eighteenth Century using historical and political arguments if historicism and the 'idea of the political' were gifts of Nineteenth Century Europe?
What historically enables a project such as that of “provincializing Europe” is the experience of political modernity in a country like India.
Why? Suppose India had chosen not to subsidise degrees in worthless subjects, then Dipesh wouldn't be writing this. But, India only chose to subsidise degrees in worthless subjects so as to create a class of sycophants who, lacking any useful skills, would do what they were told while grinning obsequiously.

European thought has a contradictory relationship to such an instance of political modernity. It is both indispensable and inadequate in helping us to think through the various life practices that constitute the political and the historical in India.
Why is it indispensable? Dipesh and his ilk are immensely dispensable. They have hogged resources and set up their own little cliques but they have produced unreadable junk. India has pulled the plug on them. The peasant in the Punjab is clamouring for a seat in Medical College, or Engineering College for his son or daughter. He is prepared to sell land to pay the inflated fees. But Post Colonial Theory? Does anyone want their child to study that shite?
Exploring—on both theoretical and factual registers—this simultaneous indispensability and inadequacy of social science thought is the task this book has set itself.
Dipesh says 'social science thought' is inadequate by its very nature. We agree and have dispensed with it. It is true that Medical thought is inadequate but we haven't dispensed with it. Why? Because it is constantly improving. Social Science thought has not improved. It has degenerated into a schizophrenic word salad.

Is Dipesh saying that 'social science thought' can be rectified and put on an upward path? No. He makes no such claim. The task he sets himself is to explore a sterile moonscape of no use to God or man. Why? Well, twenty years ago, the Marxists were still well entrenched in Dipesh's Bengal which continued to decline as a result. But now the Bengalis have themselves rusticated those imbeciles so that a more naked type of hooliganism can prevail, Dipesh's project too should be rusticated. Drop Po-Co shite from the Curriculum already. Do it now. You know you want to

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Kafka's toxin

All confusion being but of human tongues not anguine signs
So sanguine its lungs' perfusion, Pneuma repines
Signifying dust, our second fall.

A Mutazilite Theodicy

Life is a Holy Book in which to buttress Belief
Lecteur, wipe your arse upon its daily leaf
Thus, to Theophany, clear-eyed, come
Till, reading, you die with an unwiped bum.

Ian Jack & is Apu Racist?

Ian Jack's article in the Guardian on Apu as a Racial Stereotype, shamelessly panders to the racist myth that White people don't know when they are having their legs pulled when dusky folk like me, with names we ourselves find unpronounceable, play the Race card.

I also object to Jack's characterisation of Sambo- actually a great Uncle of mine who studied at Cambridge and whose contribution to Indian Agricultural policy was indeed based on turning tigers into butter and then going cap in hand to the Americans for PL 480 food shipments.

I recall, on first coming to London at the age of 14. being mocked mercilessly for my 'Peter Sellers' 'Goodness Gracious me' accent by my parents and other relatives. This was scarcely my fault. My generation didn't grow up watching films like 'the Millionairess' or 'the Party' (which Indira Gandhi actually liked). Thus our funny Indian accents tended to be regional- Punjabi, Bengali, Madrasi and so on. It was only at University that I met a class of second generation Asians who had grown up watching Peter Sellers and who could prattle away faultlessly in an Apu accent because they had been properly coached to do so by the champion Mike Yarwood of their local primary school. My point is that the canonical Apu accent is the discovery of a great British comedian. Hank Azaria has great talent and his tribute to Sellers' works very well. You can't put in any random brown dude to do the job. You'd have to hire the best Asian comic voice artist. But those guys would be earning the big bucks back home.

As a right-wing Hindu or a particularly obnoxious type I was prepared to react with umbrage to Homer Simpson dressing up as the God Ganesha to put a halt to Apu's marriage. However, the episode actually highlighted a Hindu theological truth- viz. Lord Ganesha is both the creator and remover of obstacles. Homer's intervention, as an obstacle to an arranged marriage, creates the condition for it to turn into something purely voluntary.

I am not, of course, denying that this Society isn't blighted by Racism- more particularly the pitiless racialist taunting my relatives direct at me- but Apu isn't part of the problem. Artistic virtuosity never is. I don't say it can solve Society's problems either. We, as individuals, must take on that responsibility. To take a case in point, if you make it a practice to ring up your cousin in the middle of the night and demand a delivery of 'saag aloo' in a thick Yorkshire accent- you must expect to get an earful of Racialist abuse- unless of course you speak in English rather than your mother tongue so as to give the deception some measure of  plausibility.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

China's religious Nanhai better than India's Secular Nalanda

India's Nalanda International University is a miserable failure. China actually contributed a million dollars to it a few years ago but, it seems, was already constructing its own more splendid version which has now successfully launched with more students than the Indian venture.

India's Nalanda seems doomed to failure. You can't have a post-grad 'soft subject', Research based, University in the middle of nowhere. It is already haemorrhaging students and appears to be shifting to an exam based degrees.

China's Nanhai seems bound to succeed. The local people benefit from value added tourism. The students are likely to be able to work while they study and gain secure employment on graduation, and the State benefits by an increase in 'soft power'. Why is Nanhai the polar opposite of Nalanda in all these respects?
The answer is that China's University is a dedicated, monastic, Buddhist University teaching courses which add value for Buddhist practitioners and Institutions in a manner which creates synergy for the local economy and gives credibility to the tag of 'pure land' used to promote the area.

Nalanda is an imitation Ivy League Research University with no link to the local economy and whose Secular vision is antithetical to the Buddhist associations of its ancient site.

A Buddhist website reports, that the subjects taught at Nanhai for a four year undergraduate degree are-
Chinese Buddhism, Temple Administration and Management, Buddhism and Life Sciences, Social Work and Charity Management, Meditation and Tea, Buddhist Art, and Buddhist Architectural Design and Preservation. In addition, students can follow courses in three languages: Chinese, Pali, and Tibetan. The academy is circumventing Sanskrit—the language which is usually taught in Buddhist studies programs—and replacing it with Chinese.

Clearly the aim is to disintermediate, not just India but Eurocentric Buddhist studies. The new academy will also be useful in creating a comprador Tibetan Buddhist clergy. Eventually, some portion of the Tibetan diaspora might find themselves reintegrated into Chinese Society such that the special Spiritual status of their Language is recognised in return for their loyalty.

Unlike India- where Buddhism lost salience hundreds of years ago- an increasingly affluent China has an almost unlimited ability to absorb and create decent livelihoods for Buddhist monks and upasakas trained at Nanhai Academy or others like it.  By contrast, Western Academic Buddhism can't create livelihoods for actual Buddhists because Academic appointments will go to more or less demented Philologists or Logicians or Po Co theorists.

Nalanda International University was envisaged by Amartya Sen as an autonomous institution where Professors would enjoy diplomatic immunity and thus feel empowered to 'speak truth to power' without fear of India's laws against libel and hate speech. Furthermore, if a Naxalite insurgency once again took root in the region, Leftist Professors and students could play a vanguard role without living in fear of the National Security Act.

Naturally, the Govt of India had little incentive to permit Nalanda to flourish. Nor, to be honest, was the Government of any other country enthused by the prospect of sending students to be indoctrinated in subversive ideologies.

 Asian Buddhist intellectuals had turned against the project earlier.

Dr. Kalinga Seneviratne wrote in 2013- a year before Nalanda opened-
the revival of Nalanda University is seen by many as the restoration of the ancient intellectual exchanges between the two great civilisations of Asia – India and China.

When in 2006, after a symposium in Singapore, a grand scheme to revive the ancient Buddhist university was announced, it was widely welcomed across Asia, especially in Buddhist countries.

Singapore’s then foreign minister George Yeo hit the correct note when he told the symposium that the project was “about Buddhist values and philosophy which have become an integral part of East Asian civilisation”. He added that as Asia re-emerged on the world stage, Asians could “look back to their own past and derive inspiration from it for the future”.

Unfortunately, more than six years later, this inspiration has turned into sourness and deep resentment among Buddhist intellectuals in Asian countries, who see the Nalanda Mentor Group, headed by Nobel Economics laureate Amartya Sen, as a self-appointed group mainly educated in the West and adrift from the Asian Buddhist intellectual community.
Secular curriculum
The resuscitation of Nalanda University has recently been questioned by Buddhist groups across Asia. The biggest lament is that no Buddhist scholars or monks have been elected to its board.

“Why is it that the regeneration of a once great ancient academy is based on a secular curriculum entirely focused on humanities and economics?” asked Lim Kooi Fong, a Malaysian Buddhist and the founder of the Buddhist Channel, the world's foremost Buddhist news website.

“At first glance, it would seem that its hallowed name has been borrowed to entice funders to rebuild a fabled campus,” noted Lim. “What is truly tragic, however, is the revivalists' lack of vision and courage. They totally missed the core philosophy and ingenuity of the original Nalanda.
“If Nalanda were to claim back its glory, it needs to be 'monumentally ahead' of its time, just like its predecessor. More importantly, it needs Buddhist teachings and ideals as its core identity to drive its sense of purpose,” added Lim.

“Why submit a famous academy to mundane courses (where it has to compete with numerous and better endowed institutions) when it has the chance to explore an ancient teaching so radically ahead of its time and create undreamed of synthesis using tools of modern science?”
In a recent article in Sri Lanka’s Daily News, lawyer and Buddhist activist Senaka Weeraratne called for wide-ranging discussion across the Buddhist world on the direction, curriculum and aims and objectives of the Nalanda project.
“There is a huge difference between the scope and direction of the old and the proposed new Nalanda University,” he observed. “There is no Sri Lankan representation on the board [of governors] despite this country’s claim to have the oldest continuing Buddhist civilisation in the world.”

Weeraratne pointed out that most of Sen’s recent comments on the Nalanda project have tried to play down its Buddhist heritage and promote the wisdom and validity of secularism.
“It is tantamount to blasphemy to downsize your own, that is Indian, wisdom and religious heritage merely to display that one is on the right side of intellectual fashion in the West,” he argued.

Nalanda’s Mahavihare education tradition has been preserved and nurtured for centuries by Buddhist universities whose offshoots still exist, such as the Buddhist and Pali University in Sri Lanka – which even has an offshore programme in Singapore – Mahamakut and Mahachulalongkorn universities in Thailand and numerous others in Myanmar and Cambodia, as well as the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara in Nalanda itself.

None of the above have been invited to participate in the new Nalanda project. Nava Nalanda Mahavihara was set up by the first president of independent India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, to ‘revive the great Nalanda tradition’ and it now functions as an autonomous university under India’s Ministry of Culture.
In 2011 it had over 400 students, a quarter of them foreign students, studying in 10 departments. This university has been totally ignored and few seem to be questioning whether it would not be better to help expand this Nalanda rather than build a new one.

Political ballgame
The project itself has become a political ballgame, with its main funds coming from non-Buddhist countries such as Australia, Singapore, India and China after the East Asia Summit in Thailand adopted the project in 2009. It is believed that China’s support is conditional on keeping the Dalai Lama and his supporters out of its way.

As Lim pointed out: “It is inside these walls that much of Tibetan Buddhism as we know it, both its Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, stems from the late 9th-12th century Nalanda teachers and scholars. Mahayana Buddhism that followed in Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan flourished from the scholarly endeavours of this university.
“Nalanda became the synthesis and fusion centre where new ideas of Buddhist psychology and philosophy were debated, coded and classified. It is here – through inter-disciplinary study, practice [of meditation] and translation – that Buddhism became a global religion.”
There is much scope for modern medicine, bio-ethics, neuroscience, food and agricultural science, information technology and communications to adopt Buddhist principles in developing new courses for the 21st century.

If Nalanda is going to realise its true potential, the challenge facing its initiators is not to make it a clone of Harvard or Cambridge located in Asia with an Asian cover page.
It needs to be developed with an Asian mindset, and many Asian intellectuals with that mindset do not have PhDs from the West. That needs to be acknowledged first and only then will the revived Nalanda University be able to provide a world-class university that is defined by an Asian context.