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Rabindranath Tagore and the Democracy of Our Times

Capital is not simply an additive to the Foucauldian conception of power, but is integral to it. Karl Marx’s analysis of the worker shows the operations of biopower in the factory, in the governmental fashioning of the internal motivations of the worker that complements the disciplinary regime of the factory. While Marxist analysis holds out prospects of liberation, it remains too preoccupied with the state. In this context, Rabindranath Tagore is a figure who not only refuses to compromise with the totalising force of governmental power as manifested in colonialism (especially its education policy), but also identifies in cooperation, a social principle that holds out the possibility of freedom from capitalist power knowledge.


Translated by Jayanti Chattopadhyay and Pradip Kumar Datta. We are grateful to Visva–Bharati University for permission to publish this extract from Asok Sen’s book Rajnitir Pathokromey Rabindranath (2014: 1421). For constraints of space, a few portions have been omitted. Some subheadings have been added. Thanks are also due to Russwati Sen for her immense help.

From Rescue Measures to Fuller Democracy

The author is grateful to Partha Chatterjee, Amiya Dev and Rudrangshu Mukherjee for their comments and suggestions.Asok Sen ( retired from the faculty of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata. The idea of the strategy of "a politics of organisation" that is "accompanied by no structural transition" as argued by Partha Chatterjee is extended in this essay to setting a perspective for cumulative and sustainable improvements in the life and work of India's labour force of peasants and informal non-agricultural workers. For its realisation, such a possibility requires further clarification of the civil and the political across the social space and, very importantly, a proactive civil society in its strong role of defending democratic rights.

The Frontiers of the Prison Notebooks

The paper argues in what sense we can trace the frpntiers of the "Prison Notebooks" in its abandonment of 'materialist' reductionism, in the logical and historical implications of the passive revolutions, and in a tension between the levels of mediation analysed by Gramsci. It follows that the frontiers can then be suggestive of historical forces and their strength which are not necessarily anchored in an adequate development of capitalism and its nexuses of civil society THE "Prison Notebooks"1 were not meant to be a new manifesto for the communist movement. Gramsci's entire political experience sharpened his disbelief in the cot- lapse of capitalism under the pressure of its own economic crisis. While the Second Internationars perspective of waiting for an inevitable natural collapse was falsified by the Bolshevik revolution enacted under LeninU leadership, the rest of Europe found no ready means of revolutionary proletarian seizure of power through the same route. Gramsci's own efforts to build the base of Soviet power in factory councils and to integrate them with the organisation of a party on the Bolshevik model had little success in the Italian context. This was so despite Gramsci's correct emphasis on the workers- peasant alliance against the Italian bourgeois order characterised by the north-south structural duality., 'Amidst such circumstances of history, Gramsci saw that much remained to be done by way of reexamining the forms and content of bourgeois power before one could signify the social and cultural identities adequate for the struggle to abolish capitalism. Further, such identities do not present pre- constituted characters who arc bound to act according to the project of the mediator. In the very nexus of exploitation, the oppressed are subject to the dialectic of acquiescence and protest. It would then be futile to affirm the proletarian will to power, and yet to expect that the same might emerge just from their suffering or from the enlightened determinations monitored by the mediator. The necessary engagement of the oppressed in the liberation process can go from strength to strength only when their consciousness becomes the key force in the struggle to free themselves.

Commercialisation and Economic Analysis

Asok Sen Commercialisation of agriculture is an inevitable and essential feature of the emergence and consolidation of capitalism. Yet, such process is imbricated with dualities and regional variations especially in the colonial countries. Indeed, it is not possible to homogenise the historical impact of commercialisation. Taking as its point of entry, a recent volume of essays on commercialisation of Indian agriculture, this article analyses the complexities of interpreting the processes of commercialisation in colonial structures. This analysis emphasises that commercialisation alters the modalities of allocation and accruals in a society But its terms are not clarified for the toiling people. The author urges the abandonment of any 'stage paradigm' or any idea of a linear progression where a 'retarded colonial capitalism' establishes its dominance after political independence. The review extends to broader questions relating to the use of categories in social science research.

The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism

Asok Sen Marx warned against a straightforward application of his conclusions in "Capital" to experiences outside western Europe. Marx's method of understanding historical development is tied to many different considerations of structures and processes. This is evident in the debate regarding the transition from feudalism to capitalism. The main features of this debate are presented here, especially the recent contribution of Robert Brenner which reveals significant variations in the patterns of feudal-capitalist transition in western Europe.

Marx, Weber and India Today

Asok Sen The capacity and initiative of the bourgeoisie to establish its own hegemony over developing civil society had been essential to the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Marx's own observations are quite explicit in this respect and constitute a major plank of the Marxian theory of historical change.

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