The Marxist analysis of capitalist development in the Third World has necessarily relied on the classical model of feudalism and capitalism and the process of transition from one to the other. This classical model, elaborated by Marx and developed subsequently by a number of writers, is an abstraction based on the British experience, with its own specificities. This implies that attempts to assess the actual nature of the process of capitalist development in the West as well as in the Third World have to be concerned not merely with the degree of approximation of reality to certain characteristics of the classical model, but also the significance of whatever deviation is visible for the process of capitalist development itself. Thus, as Amiya Kumar Bagchi argues, in his Chintan Memorial Lecture published as the lead article in this issue: 'Lenin's work on the development of capitalism in Russia can be read as a delineation of the peculiarities of that capitalism as well as a demonstration that the system could grow on that social matrix, in spite of, and sometimes, because of, those .peculiarities.'
Seen in these terms, it could be argued that capitalism in the Indian context has not yet triumphed over pre-capitalist production relations in most parts of India. Nor have Indian capitalists succeeded in evolving an ideology that has a hegemonic presence in society as a whole. This has not only made the exploitation of workers and peasants more intense, but adversely affected the nature of the capitalist class as well. For example, the rules of closure of capitalists as a group in India, while based on the possession of property, reflects the influence of c'aste, leading to a situation where the capitalist class itself becomes the bastion of caste and communal ideology. This inadequate development of the capitalist class erodes the thrust for profit through improving productivity, reflected in policies in areas as diverse as literacy and mass education, on the one hand, and indigenous technology generation and foreign technology import, on the other.
The gradualism of capitalist development is influenced by and in turn strengthens the caste system and caste ideology. The origin and consolidation of that system is the concern of the subsequent two articles by Vivekanand Jha and Suvira Jaiswal. Jha suggests that, opinions to the contrary notwithstanding, the evidence favours the view that the varna system was a post-Harappan, late-Vedic development. It had definitely not existed in the Harappan period, was not brought to India by any group or wave of Aryans and was an indigenous development that was not a reality in the Rigvedic period.
Social Scientist, Vol. 19, Nos. 3-4, March-April 1991