Social Scientist. v 13, no. 141 (Feb 1985) p. 53.


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COMMUNICATION

Modes of Power : Some Clarifications

IT IS INDEED gratifying for those involved in the preparation of Subaltern Studies II that their efforts have provoked such an enthusiastic and stimulating critical review by a group of young Marxist scholars in the pages of Social Scientist (137, October 1984). Perhaps because of the ralative novelty of many of the theoretical and methodological issues raised by different articles in this series of writings, and also the inherent complexity of the problems which large agrarian societies like India have always posed for Marxist analysts beginning from Karl Marx himself, there nevertheless exists a great deal of confusion regarding the terms of the debate. Only continuing discussions can lead to a more consistent demarcation of these terms. This note seeks to clarify some of the issues raised by the reviewers (in Section IX of their review) regarding my article 'More on Modes of Power and the Peasantry*. Despite the unqestioned seriousness of their critical endeavour, the reviewers have unfortunately made some fundamental errors in judging my theoretical intentions.

First of all, my exercise is quite firmly rooted in the theoretical ground of social analysis prepared by Marx. Therefore, I do not for a moment challenge the elementary formulation that a mode of production is defined by a special combination of the forces and the relations of production. On the contrary, I suggest that a critique can be made of a large part of Marxist historical writing, in India and elsewhere, precisely because it violates this fundamental definition and proceeds as though the forces of production were an autonomous determinant of historical change. How often have we heard that such and such a change in economic structure or social organisation occurred because of the 'emergence* of a "superior" or 'more productive* technology! Can we not show in the 'transition' literature on virtually every country in the world the belief, explicit or implicit, that capitalisjm must inevitably triumph because—and this is the fundamental determinant—it had historically demonstrated the capacity to achieve a Superior level of development' of the productive forces, or that it had not triumphed yet because no significant increase of the productive forces could be observed ? That is techno-economic determinism. And should it seem that this is merely s^n occasional aberrant tendency in Marxist historiography, it would be worth our while to consider a methodological work such as G.A. Cohen's Karl Marx's Theory of History (Oxford, 1978) which encompasses with much lucidity



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