Tag Archives: Indian middle class

E-commerce platforms: Corona Warriors or Disaster Capitalists?



In 2007, in her book, ‘Shock Doctrine’, Naomi Klein argued that history is a chronicle of “shocks” – the shocks of wars, natural disasters, and economic crises, but more importantly, of their aftermath characterised by disaster capitalism, calculated, free-market “solutions” to crises that exploit and exacerbate existing inequalities. This is why Big-Tech-to-the-rescue in times of the virus does not strike the right chord. It started with the lockdown order issued by the central government on March 24 with the exemption for essential services and supplies getting extended to delivery of foods, pharma products and medical equipment through e-commerce channels. The upper classes had to be assured that their means of shopping would not be affected. Notably, the order issued no such explicit exemption on the movement of foodgrains through Food Corporation of India channels, integral to the Public Distribution System. The lockdown order was a candid admission that e-commerce companies have now become infrastructural utilities indispensable to India’s aspirational middle class.

Continue reading E-commerce platforms: Corona Warriors or Disaster Capitalists?

The Indian Illusion: Shashank Kela

Guest post by SHASHANK KELA

Some time ago, I wrote an article seeking to dissect certain myths about Indian politics – and the class that dominates it, despite protestations to the contrary, the middle-class.[1] It is one of the habits of this class to see, and self-pityingly portray itself as victim – of mass politics, reservation policies, the great unwashed, of politicos bent upon appeasing the poor at the cost of sound principles and policies. Its conviction, of course, is that India was great, and on the cusp of becoming so again. This unfading glory is no more to be disputed than the existence of the sun, although opinions differ upon the precise placement of our golden age.

To the rabid fanatics of Hindutva, it resides in an unspecified Vedic time, when Hindus (not Indians) mysteriously succeeded in inventing aeroplanes, dynamite, nuclear weapons, the wheel, zero, and what have you (and mysteriously losing most of these wonderful things). To the Nehruvians, it is the age of Akbar, Ashoka, Harsha, periods of syncreticism and unique tolerance, where people of different faiths lived together peacefully and a composite culture flowered. To them, and to Gandhians, it also resides in the figure of Gandhi and the tradition of practical spirituality. To the fanatics of Islam, it is probably the age of Alauddin Khilji, the reign of Aurangzeb, and so on.

The never-ending debate about India’s pasts contains a diversity of opinions; however, on its future destiny, these begin to converge. The RSS and BJP believe, for example, that India is destined to become a great industrial power. So did Nehru, and assorted Indian Marxists. Indeed, it is an article of faith for the burgeoning middle-class (mostly, but not entirely Hindu) that India can, should and will equal China to become a great power, economic and military (thus leaving Japan and South Korea in the dust). Continue reading The Indian Illusion: Shashank Kela

The Middle-class and the State: Shashank Kela

Guest post by SHASHANK KELA

These fragmentary reflections on the historical relationship between the middle-class and the state may help to place the brouhaha over Anna Hazare in a fresh perspective.

No one celebrates capitalism quite as enthusiastically as your average (well, all right, above average) Marxist historian. Few conservative encomiums on the subject have the lapidary elegance of Perry Anderson’s Lineages of the Absolutist State, or the remorseless logic of Robert Brenner’s celebrated paper on the origins of capitalism.[1] This line goes back all the way to Marx in whose work praise of capitalism and execration of its effects are perpetually balanced.

Capitalism’s motor is the bourgeoisie or the middle-class. Its ancestors – the burghers of the medieval west European town and large landowners in the countryside – transformed the crisis of feudalism into opportunity with the help of the state. The result: mercantilism, enclosures, poor laws; the reorganization of agriculture on rational, commercially profitable lines. The cumulative effect of these developments was to extinguish avenues of subsistence hitherto available to the poor, throwing them on the market as sellers of their labour. Continue reading The Middle-class and the State: Shashank Kela

Anatomy of a prejudice

The BSP’s politics may trouble the popular conception of Indianness, among English speaking middle classes, who understand India as one whole, where the ‘Indian’ identity dominates and the rest, which reflect real India (inequality and conflicts) are hushed up. On the other hand, the BSP’s politics reiterates that India is a country of various minorities (castes, religions, regions) who may be victimised by fellow Indians in different contexts. Emphasising the BSP or Mayawati’s Dalitness ignores the complexity of caste society and associated politics. Kanshiram in the past and Mayawati now raise issues of caste not to sustain inequality but to challenge them. What Mayawati and BSP’s growth represents is the deepening of democracy in India. [Suryakant Waghmore]

A sham called election reporting

A ‘Kashmiri’ ‘Gurjar’ ‘Muslim’ is contesting the Dausa Lok Sabha seat. As an independent. For the simple reason that after delimitation, Dausa became a reserved constituency. Rerseved for the Scheduled Tribes. Meenas are ST’s. Gurjars wanted to be ST’s. Not only didn’t they not get that, they were deprived of Dausa, where the feudal PIlots had been Gurjar kings.

So someone thought of this simple idea: get a Kashmiri Gurjar. Kashmiri Gurjars are ST’s.

That candidate is campaigning around Dausa, and I gather that even the Brahmins of the area are supporting him! Him! A Kashmiri Muslim Gurjar! Continue reading A sham called election reporting