Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 19 (May 1990) p. 61.


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Capitalism and the Cultural Process

D Sudipta Kaviraj

Sudipta Kaviraj having studied at Calcutta University now teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University/ Delhi. His current research spans the area of political theory', study of the Indian state, and the politics of culture. He has just completed a long study on Bankimchandra Chatto-padhyay in the context of Indian nationalism and the manuscript titled, 'The Unhappy Consciousness' is due for publication. This work, completed during his Fellowship at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi (1987-89), has been circulated in five parts in Nehru Museum's Occasional Papers Series;

the chapter titled 'Signs of Madness: The Figure ofKa-

malakanta in the V^ork of Bankimchandra Chatto-padhyay' has been published in the Journal of Arts and Ideas Nos. 17-18, June 1989.

His current work on the Indian state has been presented in parts in seminars in Leningrad, Berlin and Delhi. 'A Critiaue of the Passive Revolution', a part of the argument from this forthcoming book, has been published in the 1988 Annual Number of the Economic and Political Weekly.

Sudipta ^aviraj is also beginning work on a projected book, 'The Jjogic of Otherness in Social Theory', which will incorporate his work on Marx and Weber.

What I am going to present to you is in a rather radical state of disjointedness, and though I got some time to put it into some order I decided not to do that. A logician had once remarked that there is nothing sadder than a syllogism because it can go only in one direction and come to only one conclusion.

There's also a second reason why this is disjointed I want it to be part of an argument which will be put into a book on the Indian state. And I found that while making a marxi^t argument about the nature of the ruling coalition and the line of the economic crisis is simpler, the making of a marxist argument about a line of cultural crisis is analytically much more difficult. I would be delighted if you come back to it and give me comments on it, particularly those parts of the theoretical argument you consider weak.

There are two ways in which I think we can approach the question I'm trying to address. One way of putting it in a long-term frame would be to ask: acknowledge that as marxists, or liberals, when we try to understand the destiny or the trajectory of capitalism in this country, we have to go through a whole lot of myths which we are bred into. And whether we are economists or analysts of culture we see very quickly that some of these myths come apart the moment we try to apply them to India. So one way of looking at this question would be, why doesn't the trajectory of capitalism that we are familiar with get replicated here?

But there is also another way of posing the problem. In this, in spite of the desultoriness of what I am going to do, there will be three parts: in the first part I will try to make some theoretical propositions, out of which I will try to weave some sort of a model; in the second,


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