Culture and Political Analysis in India
By political analysis I mean the study of the structures of power and dominance in a society and of the processes of reproduction, negotiation and challenge which contribute towards sustaining and modifying those structures. Defined in this way, political analysis need not be a concern of political scientists alone but may be undertaken within the framework of many academic disciplines.
It is noticeable that the concept of culture is being given considerable importance in contemporary political analysis. It is not just that the politics of culture itself is being investigated from a number of different perspectives but the cultural context of social and political processes in general is also being considered much more seriously than was earlier the case. It is felt that analysis of the cultural context can help us to understand the framework of meaning within which political processes take place. Further, the actions and responses of people also may be understood in terms of cultural codes and meanings.
The emphasis which is being placed on the interpretation of culture in contemporary political analysis marks a major shift from the kind of studies which were made in the earlier part of the century. The dominance of positivist/empiricist methodologies at the time had made it difficult to study the cultural dimension of reality, the tendency was to relegate culture to the sphere of values, it was considered subjective, 'internal' in some way and therefore not accessible to sfcientific analysis. Thus in studies made within liberal/individualist assumptions the focus was on the legalistic study of institutions and the strategic interactions of individuals. Marxist theory of course has always recognised the political importance of culture through its concept of ideology but here also, under the influence of positivism reductionist notions of ideology and culture prevailed for many years. It was only with the work of Lukacs and Gramsci—arid the translation of their work into different languages in the post-war period—that the concept of culture acquired importance in Marxian analysis.
Lady Shri Ram College/ Delhi University, Delhi
Social Scientist, Vol. 19, Nos. 9--10, October-November, 1991