Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 17-18 (June 1989) p. 91.


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The Politics of Development:

A Statement and a Case

The Narmada River Project

DB^rfn Raina

Consequent upon the state and nation-building histories of the western world from the sixteenth through to the end of the eighteenth century, a dominant and paradigmatic teleology formulated itself. Rooted in the historic alliance that took place between Reason and Capital in the middle of the eighteenth century and camouflaged thenceforth in the ideology of the 'objective' and non-negotiable status of science, this controlling structure of the capitalist west came to express itself chiefly in terms of a monolithic economic model.1 The influential historical fallout of this occurrence was the relegation of politics as a useful arena of discourse and practice, and the foregrounding of a seemingly less problematic and perceptibly more profitable march of 'value-neutral' (that is, simultaneously, value self-evident) technologies toward s 'development'. Human fulfilment thus became less a question of holistic cultural efflorescence across heterogenous populations, more one of the homogenizing power of the production, circulation and consumption of goods and services among new economic elites.2

As Europe, desirous of primitive capital accumulation, set about looking for colonies whose wealth could be extorted to mother countries through transfer of revenue and straightforward loot, it was obliged, as we have come to understand today, to fabricate a congenial ideological construct which it called the 'orient', requiring them to be civilized by the historically superior white races. With respect to the Indian sub-continent, 'orientalism' was constituted through an 'altruistic' attention to ancient Indian texts, taking care to refuse the social and historical contexts of these chosen texts. Hinduism, for example, was thus sought to be established as a tradition of thought rather than as a diachronic, pragmatic and oppressive social formation. India thus became, in essence, mystical and transhistorical. Indian time and space acquired a character unamenable to any cognizing historical methodology. We recall that for Hegel the history of the oriental states was 'for the most part, really unhistorical, for it is only the repetition of the same majestic ruin.'3 And it is instructive that even Marx and Engels could theorize that 'Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history.'4 Having thus evacuated the sub-continent


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