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Democracy versus Economic Transformation?

Author(s): Amita Baviskar and Nandini Sundar Reviewed work(s): Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 43, No. 46 (Nov. 15 - 21, 2008), pp. 87-89 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40278187 . Accessed: 07/06/2012 01:49
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Democracyversus Economie Transformation?

with capitalistmodernity, we have concernsabout his overallanalytical framework. Chatterjeesets up a numberof structural versus oppositions: corporate versus non-corporate capital;civilsociety politicalsociety;both civil and political AMITABAVISKAR,NANDINI SUNDAR society together versus marginalised groups(outsideanysociety); government setsup a number versus reading Partha Chatterjee's (as an arenaofnegotiation) capital Chatterjee and and market marvellously synoptic yet (impersonal, lacking ideology, buta ofstructural oppositions in accumulation); and fiequally provocativearticle on interested only and moreinsightful productive and EconomicTransforma- nally, as a characteristic of "Democracy dispossession ofongoing change tion in India",(19 April2008) we were themodern understanding balanced welfare economy by remindedof an old joke involving the measures. someof The domains dissolve ofcorporate wouldnotonly capiofHindicinema, and his tal and non-corporate Ajit, capital,according butalso invert arch-villain thesedistinctions Robert.Robert, side-kick ontocivil captured toChatterjee, having mapneatly society ofboth someoftheattributes the hero,asks his boss forinstructions. and political society respectively. and "political" "civil" society. A more insightfuland productive Ajitgivesa diabolicallaugh and replies, turn mein daal do. understanding iseliquid of ongoingsocial change, Robert, oxygen ise we argue,would not onlydissolvesome Liquidisejeenenahindega,aur oxygen marnenahindega (Puthimin liquidoxy- ofthedistinctions thatChatterjee setsup, him and The won't let the but also invert some of the of attributes live, gen. liquid won't let him The same both and civil We believe die). oxygen gruepolitical society. killedwhilebe- thatthismoment somefateofbeingslowly is particularly exciting alive seems to have for the future of Indian democracy ing keptartificially India'speasantry. Substitute cor- precisely befallen because it is notonlycorporate the state for Indian which has a narrative oftransition Robert, capital poratecapital forAjit,and the Indian(especially rural) and a visionof the future (p 61),butbehave the and we the of cause the battle been for has hero, gist joined byalterpoor Even as acforth article. native narratives primitive put by a multipliChatterjee's - ortheprocess ofdispossess- cityof groupsin society, withoften cumulation conunder the visions of the the (from pace tending democracy ing peasantry gathers Dal to to of the Naxalites the capital, Bajrang corporate peasimpetus hegemonic ofthegovernment thelegitimacy depends antsof Singur).Sadly,farfrom benignly withameliorative to whichit can addressthe intervening on the extent measures, The consequence theIndianstateseemsto be coming firmneedsofthoseaffected. down on one side of the measures militarisis a setofameliorative scale, negotiat- ly thanthrough the ing large swathesofthe countryside, ined "politically" (rather and characteristic the rules north-east and the Kashmir, cluding procedures proper and Naxalitebelt. Wherewelfaremeasures between India'srulers ofcivilsociety) intheclas- have been introduced, masses. Unlike theamorphous theyhave often ofwhatChatterjee sic model of industrialisation, however, been at the insistence orevennonwherethe peasantry society" givesway to an ur- wouldcall "political forecasts Take the Nabanised proletariat, Chatterjee society/marginal groups. willremain but"under tionalRuralEmployment Guarantee thatthepeasantry Act, the Forest and the altered conditions". to Act, Rights Right Incompletely Act- threepiecesoflandmark Whilewe agreewithmanyof Chatter- formation In- legislation, which owe as much to the aboutcontempoiary jee's observations his capacity ofsubaltern to wage susin particular dian politicaleconomy, groups Indian that role of tained rural the of campaigns rangefrom leading recognition to India to the of Jantar it undertake as Mantar, footpaths begins capital corporate Baviskar Amita {amita.baviskar@gmail.coin) of the rulingclass. no longer (thus capable as to the prescience globalacquisitions ofEconomic is at theInstitute Growth, the And Indian even as electoral termed of comprador), Sundar democracy being simply NewDelhi,andNandini at the whatthey is celebrated, in our opinion, classesfor disdainofthemiddle (jiandinisundar@yahoo.com) deservedly DelhiSchoolof ofSociology, Department an attempt to use see as theunruly poor,and the desireof there is increasingly DelhiUniversity. Economics, the urban to and and the existence poor engage procedural democracy villagers
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DISCUSSION for theConstitution disdain manifest -ledor their whether state to discourse ofwelfare, of independent institutions statutory didnotdeMarx and for the in social a more the form of substantive subvert legalprocess. corporate responsibildemocracy.1 an orderas accumulation with scribe to the has contend counter-claims Letus begin with theterminological primitive op- ity, "Inactuthat: noted but Our lawful and While of subaltern entitlements. that sets ly, process rights positions Chatterjee up. that cona fact al it is notorious is with Chattermain the need to the existconcern, however, history, signal recognising in and between civil ence of an overarching distinction murder, robbery, political quest, enslavement, system jee's capitalist the it that we now turn. and is to this the force, (as against semi-feudal, short, part"(Marx play greatest semi-capital- society Inholdsfor istsystem belovedofan earlier 1990: 874). The description generation 'Rule of Law' Civil and the of violent dia the Society ofanalysts), we failto understand he crushing peasant today: why showsthe to land acquisition on opposition restscrucially and non-corporate Chatterjee's usestheterm argument corporate collusion between civil and as againstsimply mercantile the distinction between and capitaland corporate political capital be decannot a that in coincides the India. The former The definition of classic state, compact capital society exchange. of the imstretch as "civil" scribed not with and is se its byany by per (and variety) corporate capital governed just corporate exare the notable itis driven the of law. coincides is that the of accumularule Political society agination.3 Equally by logic to and is marked concessions as or with subsistence tion, against granted corpotraordinary exchange. non-corporate capital ofland for Butmore in theform to summon the legitimacy ratefirms thisdistinction fails by itsinability mining, importantly, to capture theinterlinked thepresent ports,special economiczones,whichset nature ofmuch oflaw. InChatterjee's analysis, and proceand noncorporate corporate capitalin a momentin Indian politicaleconomyis aside labour,environmental havebeen Even the world whereflexible marked the in the dural rules. connects relative production by "ascendancy judiciary when multinational firms to domesticproduc- powerof the corporate as in class capitalist complicit allowing"exceptions" have been and rural At defendants livelihoods are to the landed elites" the tion, powerful falling apart compared (p 56). underthe onslaught of corporate theSupreme Court capital, the same time,"theurbanmiddleclass, enough. Forinstance, and wherethemoneylender Swamialso doubles whichonce playedsuch a crucialrole in condoned the well-connected of the Akand running the autonomous narayan sect's construction and seed agent.In fact, producing up as thefertiliser theme a closerlookat someofthe"welfare now to shardham state..., appears parkin Delhi religious pro- developmental on Yamuna the moralon the that come under describes as have encroaching floodplain, grammes" largely Chatterjee in master the an area the of serve as city plan designated (p 57). bourgeoisie" offsetting dispossession, actually politicalsway zone. On theother classesmakeup thedomain as an ecological forms of "welfare colonialism" whereac- Thesemiddle hand, as well as of poor squatters inIndia;they aretreated cesstomicro-credit is premised on buying ofcivilsociety by the eviction was in the farmers in the citizens the state as dieselpumps, which vicinity fertiliser, living etc, legal rights-bearing actually the on the court Howendorsed the Constitution. tie peasants closer into a dependent senseimagined grounds by by oftherural market ever, population that the law must be upheld. More largesections economy.2 Courtglossedover the Supreme is something and the urban poor are excludedfrom recently, theideathat there Second, Vedanta of the that the inhabit the domain new about measures like employment civilsociety. Groupby illegalities They itsflagship ofgiving terms"politicalsociety"and thesimple subsidised food,and primary Chatterjee expedient guarantees, lease in a bauxite Sterlite and in company claimson government, in response to a new phase of "maketheir mining education, obin the framenot within turn are governed, is debatable the strong accumulation, Niyamgiri Orissa,overriding primitive resident the defined inof stable work population. by jections constitutionally poor-house goesbacktothedaysofthe temand laws,butrather Evenwhenexercising rights dustrial revolution. through and unstable contextual eminentdomain,the colonial state, at porary, arrange- Reversingthe Facts what is actuallythe direct arrived at thatexisting ments leastin principle, political Chatterjeeinverts through recognised of the soit is members case: of The claims The dif- negotiations..." neededtobe compensated. (ibid). generally, politirights laws with break who civil alcalled benefits for to de- cal society governmental if any,in people'sability society ference, therules that demand and who cannot "these comesnotfrom ways remainillegitimate: mandrehabilitation impunity today of members whereas for waived be standard be metbythe of the often them, increased application recognition government to become to strive the declaown ofrulesand frequently buttheir oftheir legal, society political demands, require legitimacy from and entitlements of gain recognition ofan exception" andtheir increased ration oforganisation (p 61). Members degree treatdifferential state's The the state. and corthe"unruliness resent to speak in termsofthe verylaw civil society ability in ofthesetwoclassesis exemplified thatis used to dispossess them(butmore ruptionof systemsof popular political ment and encroachments of the case of task of thatin the nextsection). Indeed,the representation" irregular manag(p 62). The and politi- land use in Delhi. While the law was civil between between ingthesetensions ofthegovernment stop-go policy of to demolishthe settlements and innovative enforced is the "difficult and the cal society thepreservation ofthepeasantry class ofpolitics" outlines process needs of capitalthatChatterjee people (ibid)inIndiatoday. penalising squatters, working to failure ofthe state's whenwe examinethe work- who werevictims a 1980 article are familiar from However, by David to amended it was lowcost urban build the the colonialstate. ings of corporate housing, Washbrook, capitaland describing and construction the is classesin India,whatis striking "regularise" illegal Whatis new now is thata paternalistic middle
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violationof zoning codes by well-to-do traders and homeowners. Itwas thepoor who desperatelydis'jhuggi'-dwellers claims to citiplayedtheirdocumented zenship - voter ids, ration cards and tokensissued by the slum department. The rich encroachers simplydemanded thattheir be condoned and they illegality in getting succeeded their way. Civilsociety is thusnota domainofheas Chatterjee describes,but of gemony domination.Its attempts to make economic liberalisation thecommon sense of ourtimes are accompanied state bybrutal and theanomalousexercise of repression law. Atthesametime, thecategory ofpolitical is inadequate fordescribing society thevariety ofsocialformations thatstand rangedagainstor in collusionwith the and urbanmiddleclasses. For corporate thesilence ortacit example, support given Dal activists to Bajrang to burnChristian inOrissaand Karnataka, orto selfhomes ofculture custodians toattack exhistyled burn etc,suggestsa growbitions, books, in thatsphereof ingintolerance precisely which claimslives civilsociety Chatterjee as a the well as stateunrules, by growing this. tocurb willingness Ifoneperceives as political bepeasants the and state is bound to do perforce ings,

formula of preserva- NOTES so, a functionalist tion-dissolution falls apart. Instead,at- i For example,the Bharatiya JanataParty used Modi's electoralvictory in 2002 to justifythe tention must be focused on howthe"great ofinstitutions genocidein Gujarat;theexistence transformation" of our times (Polanyi like the National Human RightsCommission is used to deflect attention from India'shuman to 1944) - the attempt by the economy and evenas thecashfor votesdeals record; rights dominate forth in the 2008 trust votebecame an "opensecret", society-summons powerwere subsumed within a framework ofparthey ful counter-movements that resist the liamentary procedure.commodification of land and labour,as 2 This is brought out clearlyin ongoingresearch a PhD studentat the by Malwa Muniswamy, well as groups thatare setup precisely to Jawaharlal Nehru University, on the Velugu divide society.The career of corporate a WorldBank fundedmicrocredit programme, scheme in Andhra Pradesh. capitalin ruralIndia is morecomplicated at Maikanch 3 See for instance, policefirings village thanChatterjee allows;besidesprimitive inRayagadadistrict, inwhich three Orissa, people were killedprotesting land acquisition for accumulation it includesforays against into the bauxitemining in 2001; at Tapkara in Ranchi disformal of labourto capital subsumption Jharkhand in which ninewerekilled trict, protesttheKoelKarodamin2001; at theKhuingagainst as well as thereal (e g, contract farming) dam site in ga district, Churachandpur Manipur of labourto capital(e g, diin whichthree werekilledin 2005; at Kalinganasubsumption in in which 12 were killed protesting rect takeoverof land for agroforestry). gar Orissa, againsta Tata steelplantin 2006; at Nandigram Most recently has not in West where some were killed in2007 corporate Bengal 15 capital fora special protesting againstland acquisition been contentwith ruling behind the economiczone. This is by no meansan exhaustivelistof recentpoliceviolencerelatedto land have actually enscenes,butitsmembers acquisition. too,as in thePoscosteel Increasingly tered Parliamentor state legislatures in eastern theAlcanbauxite project Orissa, project in Kashipurand the SEZ in Nandigram, themselves. The counter-movements armed that and assisted gangssupported bythecompany by resistcorporate moves are also diverse thelocaladministration andpolicehavebeenused tocoercevillagers into with their land. and deploya rangeof political resources parting that far exceed Chatterjee's description. suchas civilsociety and politi- REFERENCES Categories cal society failto capture thecharacter of Marx, Karl (1990) (1867): Capital,Vol 1 (London: Classics). Penguin domination in India today, missthereby Polanyi, Karl (1944): The Great Transformation: and desperation The Politicaland Economic and,deingthebrutality Origins of Our Time (Boston:BeaconPress). the inherent and these, spite dynamism David(1981):"Law, State andAgrarian SociWashbrook, inColonial Modern Asian hopethatstill persists. India", ety Studies, 15(3).

Classes, Capital and Indian Democracy


to the Partha Chatterjee responds three comments byShah,John and Baviskar and and Deshpande, his on Sundar, essay"Democracy Transformation and Economic inIndia".

is Partha Chatterjee (partha@cssscal.org) in Social Sciences for Studies with theCentre theColumbia and also with Calcutta NewYork University,
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is immensely to be comgratifying mentedupon and even criticised by scholars whoseworkone has younger admiredand whose views are a greatly to thatIndiansocial pointer thedirection science willtakeintheyears tocome.I am thankful to MaryJohnand SatishDeshpande, MihirShah, and AmitaBaviskar and Nandini Sundar for the care and seriousnesswith which theyhave read my article "Democracyand Economic Transformation in India" (19 April2008, hereafter det). My responsebelow is in thespirit ofcontinuing thediscussion.

John and Deshpande are right in thatin det, I have tried to insuggesting whether the quire apparently hegemonic positionrecently acquired by corporate inurban inIndiaalsoextends capital society tothecountryside. I havealsotried toflesh out the dynamics of whatI call "political earlier worked outfor urban society", popuin the rural lations, contemporary context. Theroute I havechosen indet istoconnect withan olderMarxist discussion oftransition to capitalism, revolution of passive and the of the subaltern capital politics classes,and to ask if an adequateundersituation standingof our contemporary a of those oldrequires reconceptualisation er categories. of is This, course, onlyone to an understanding of possibletrajectory thepresent needless to other aveand, say, nuescouldbe profitably explored. that Hence,ifMihirShah is convinced class analysis of the Marxistvarietyis