Modes of Power: Some Ambiguities
PARTHA CHATTERJEE'S Communication—'Modes of Power: Some Clarifications' (Social Scientist No. 141, February 1985)—continues the process of theoretical development of the concept of "Modes of Power" begun in Subaltern Studies-1 and elaborated in 'More on Modes of Power and the Peasantry^ in Subaltern Studies-11. It should be read together with the earlier exposition because many of the ambiguities in the formulation of the concept have been recognised and an attempt has been made to grapple with them. However, many of the problems which were pointed out in the earlier review ofChat-terjee's contribution (Section IX of 'Subaltern Studies-11* Social Scientist No. 137, October 1984) have still not been satisfactorily resolved or even confronted.
Partha Chatterjee says that his analysis is firmly rooted in the Marxist tradition and is compatible with the concept of modes of production. Certain grave problems are however involved in this. Not only is this compatibility based on a selective set of criteria but the formulations advanced by him are internally inconsistent.
The very definition of'Mode ofPower' is laden with ambiguities. Quoting from Balibar that a mode of production can be analysed in terms of the double nature of division of labour—the technical and the social—he criticises historians for ignoring the relations of production and only concentrating on the importance of the productive forces which he characterises as 'techno-economic determinism'. (His criticism of the work oflrfan Habib, Harbans Mukhia and Bipan Chandra in Bengal 1.920-194 7 : The Land Question, Calcutta, 1984 is also along these lines.) According to him, while adequate categories for the study of productive forces exist, this is not so for the relations of production. The concept of Modes of Power was developed to fill this lacuna—"These modes are distinguished in terms of the basis of the specification of the 'property" connection (the relations of production)..." (Subaltern Studies-11, p. 317). His criticism of'orthodox' Marxism is misplaced as both the structures of productive forces (real or material appropriation connection) and that of relations of production (property connection) are relations o( labourers, means of production and non-labourers which are reconstituted theoretically for analysis. A proper study of any mode ofpro-