An earlier version of this essay was published in Outlook magazine
“The young students are not interested in establishing that neoliberalism works – they’re trying to understand where markets fail and what to do about it, with an understanding that the failures are pervasive. That’s true of both micro and macroeconomics. I wouldn’t say it’s everywhere, but I’d say that it’s dominant.
“In policymaking circles I think it’s the same thing. Of course, there are people, say on the right in the United States who don’t recognise this. But even many of the people on the right would say markets don’t work very well, but their problem is governments are unable to correct it.”
Stiglitz went on to argue that one of the central tenets of the neoliberal ideology – the idea that markets function best when left alone and that an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth – has now been pretty much disproved. Read the full report by Will Martin here
One often hears over-zealous warriors of neoliberalism say of Leftists that they live in a time- warp; that the world has long changed and that the disappearance of state-socialism has finally proved that all their beliefs were little more than pipe-dreams. They talk as though history came to an end with the collapse of actually existing socialisms and the global ascendance of neoliberalism in the early 1990s. As though all thought came to an end; as if the distilled essence of everything that could ever be thought, or need be thought, was already encapsulated in the neoliberal dogma.
Continue reading New Politics of Our Times and Post-Capitalist Futures
Guest post by SOUMITRA GHOSH
One of the biggest and most visible problems plaguing the anti-capitalist social movements of today is the statist framework which conditions, shapes and governs their thoughts and actions. Thus the political praxis which should ideally be moored in a post-capitalist (hence post-state) vision of society, is seldom reached, and the movements are stuck in the morass of extremely limited actions informed by their purely normative and emotive thoughts about how the present society should function. The war-cry of justice is aired, millions take to the street demanding it, yet this ‘justice’ is rarely explained in terms of the real and the grounded. It is taken for granted that the state will be transformed from its overtly pro-capital avatar to a more radical one by this means or another because the movements want it to change: what is forgotten is that history has seen hundreds of experiments with such ‘changed’ states—each one of which failed in the long run, and led to a more coercive rule of capital.
Also, today’s social movements are non-violent and democratic, which in reality means that they prefer working within the framework of parliamentary democracy, and where that is absent, fight for it. Once again, the history of the institution of parliamentary democracy is forgotten: willy-nilly, it’s ignored that historically—more so going by today’s neo-liberal situation—such democracy is intrinsically linked with capitalist production systems and the hegemony of capital in both our societies and polities. Continue reading Whither Social Movements? Exploring the Problematic and Action Strategy: Soumitra Ghosh
I am grateful to Ravi Sinha for his post responding to the question of religion and politics that arises out of the brief exchange between Subhash Gatade and myself on Subhash’s post some time ago. Much has happened since the first draft of this response was written and with the advent of Narendra Modi as prime minister, ‘secularism’ too is back in public debate with renewed vigour.
Meanwhile, with Shiv Visvanathan entering the debate, flogging the long dead secularist horse, sections of the liberal and left intelligentsia seem to have gone into a tizzy. Shiv’s argument merely restates in 2014 what political analysts like Ashis Nandy had been saying at least since the mid-1980s and it does so without its nuance. The long and short of this argument is that secularism is the creed of a deracinated English-speaking, West-oriented elite which cares little about the beliefs and ways of thinking and being of the majority of their compatriots. (See also Visvanathan’s piece in Economic and Political Weekly, May 31, 2014, on ‘Narendra Modi’s Symbolic War’)
Somewhere between the two poles of the fast-dwindling tribe of the Leftist gung-ho secularist and the breast-beating liberal, the possibility of a serious debate dies a quiet death. The 1980s-1990s debate on secularism had raised all the important questions about secularism and its problematic practice that Shiv Visvanathan’s piece raises but which, it seems bypassed a whole generation of Leftists who either still seem to find it scandalous to relate to religion or are suddenly discovering their alienation or worse, the virtues of religiosity. Needless to say, such a rediscovery, in the face of political adversity is not likely to be anything more than instrumental use of religion.
The issues in 2014 invite us to revisit and indeed, go beyond what the earlier debate allowed for. Continue reading Religion, Modernity and Politics – Some Reflections on ‘Secularism’
A Muslim lecturer friend some time ago described a troubling moment. The incident took place when he pulled into the parking lot of a supermarket with his wife few weeks ago. As they got out of the car, a group of men standing by first stared at his wife, who was wearing a headscarf, and then looked intently at him. In a split second, his day was disturbed; he reflected on this moment for quite some time. Was this a harmless gaze or did it reflect a change in attitude towards Muslims? My friend described his own reaction to that momentary stare as one that brought on fear. What did he fear? And why?
The Muslim community is in a state of fear in Sri Lanka. That is what many Muslim intellectuals, activists and community leaders have been saying in recent months at various forums. Do they fear the fringe groups mobilising Sinhala Buddhist nationalism against the Muslim community? Or is it the reception of anti-Muslim rhetoric by broader sections of the Sinhala community? Or is this fear rooted in the support given to such extreme forces by the ruling regime? Or is it fear of the Sri Lankan state itself, responsible for the security of its Muslim citizenry? Continue reading Fear and the Predicament Facing Muslims in Sri Lanka
I have been thinking about the recent warning issued by the Home Secretary G.K.Pillai to Indian intellectuals, especially to those who are seen to be sympathetic to the Maoists. He says that they could be booked for their intellectual support to the dreaded enemy of the nation called Maoists. I felt like thanking him. For once the government, rather the state seems to have taken notice of the importance of the breed called ‘intellectual’. They do matter! Their opinion is valued! The masses are influenced by them!!! They are heard!!! Continue reading Welcome to a Leninist State
Responding to the call by the Home Minister and prime Minister of India to halt violence to facilitate talks, Maoist leaders ridiculed them and asked them to get their history right. According to them it was wrong to say that the ‘war’ that is now being played out in the theatre of the jungles of Chhatisgarh, Jangalmahal of Bengal, Jharkhand , Orissa and other states is of recent origin. This is only the latest phase of the “people’s war” that is being waged since 1967 and would not stop until the ultimate objective of establishing Communism is achieved. The Constitution of the CPI(Maoist) is very unambiguous, “The ultimate aim or maximum programme of the party is the establishment of communist society. This New Democratic Revolution will be carried out and completed through armed agrarian revolutionary war i.e. the Protracted People’s War with area wise seizure of power remaining as its central task.”
Area wise seizure of power is what the Maoists are busy with. They have succeeded, partially or fully in many areas of different states. What needs to be understood is that it is not development they are opposed to as is evident from the statements of their leaders. They are ready to let development activities take place, provided it is under their supervision. They are interested more in making themselves the lone political voice of the people. One should ask why do they keep abducting, harassing, threatening or killing the members and leaders of other political parties in the areas where they rule using the strength of their guns? Why do they force people to resign from other political parties? Their answer is very simple: whoever is seen to interrupt or impede the armed people’s war is either a class enemy or an agent of the class enemy represented by the state and is therefore on the other side of the war.
Continue reading Maoist Revolution, Liberal Naivete