Social Scientist. v 11, no. 124 (Sept 1983) p. 26.


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SUDIPTA KAVIRAJ^

On the Status of Marxs Writings on India

It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic.

Lenin1

WHAT KINDS of things are the observations Marx made about India? I think this question has a logical priority over all others; this has to be answered before one goes on to consider how exactly to construe their meaning, and what we can do with them. This paper deals with the first problem, not the other two. I argue that Marx almost never wrote about India, i e, to solve empirical or conceptual problems of Indian history; and much of the debate about his views has been logically misguided. I recognise that this is a rather unusual claim to make in face of the statements in his works which contain references to Indian history.2 But these perform other functions in his historical discourse. In the rest of this paper I shall try to give some reasons why I think so, and to explain what, if they are not what they have ordinarily been taken for, these remarks do in Marx's theory of history.

In a strict sense, the problem I am addressing is distinct from those of the historians' concern. Although historians have long worked up, analysed and learnt from the same material, they do it in a way quite distinct from the one I propose to take. They go into Marx's works to seek helpful suggestions for their particular empirical enterprise:

to see if what Marx said about India or other non-Western societies (though for Marx the relevant contrast is between modes of production, capitalist and pre-capitalist forms, not between cultures—European and non-European)3 can be used. as reliable empirical statements about Indian history. My purpose is to understand the logical circumstances in which those propositions were made, what they were doing in Marx's works, and what was the structure of his intentionality. Such considerations, though exclusively logical, are not eventually extraneous to the historians' enterprise. Logical considerations of this sort must precede the usual historical ones. It is precisely because this order has not been

*Centrc for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.



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