Social Scientist. v 24, no. 278-79 (July-Aug 1996) p. Editorial Note.


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Editorial Note

"Modernity", Jasodhara Bagchi argues in her Amal Bhattacharji Memorial Lecture published in the current issue of Social Scientist, is a process of the self-formation of Europe, a device for self-ethnicisation. But while this calls for a rejection of any perception of societies like ours as being engaged in an unfinished project of "modernity" a la Europe, invoking the notion of a pre-modern "community" as a counterpoint to "modernity" is equally unacceptable. It amounts to endorsing the very dichotomy, "modern-traditional", that was propagated by European "modernity". Besides, the image of this "community" is a powerful instrument in the subjugation of toiling people, of minorities, of marginal groups, and of women: a patriarchal social order for example castigates the women's movement for subverting the "community" under the corrupting influence of "modernity". The struggle against the so-called "modernity" project therefore must entail a transcending of this dichotomy itself.

Sukumar Muralidharan's article reiterates the critique of empiricism in the philosophy of science through the process of recapitulating the development of that critique through the history of ideas. He traces the growth of empiricism right until Wittgenstein's Tractatus and then underscores Wittgenstein's own change of position that saw him launch an implicit critique of empiricism in his Philosophical Investigations, a work that echoed some of Marx's ideas. But, while Muralidharan's critique of empiricism is well-mounted, his own proposals raise a number of questions, notwithstanding his emphatic distancing of himself from any trace of Heideggerian idealism. His argument that scientific categories being socially determined cannot lay claim to universal validity "when the practices with which they are associated tend to perpetuate the dominance of a favoured few over others" may appear to some as smacking of a "societal reductionism" reminiscent in some ways of early Lukacs, who, by his own later admission, had treated nature as a societal category and thereby missed the significance of the man-nature dialectic. But while readers may respond to the article differently few would deny its extremely stimulating and provocative nature.



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