Post-modernism Today

A Brief Introduction



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Against Unilinear View

Marxism does not endorse a unilinear process of social development. A sound familiarity with the works of originator of Marxism — obviously not partial familiarity with two or three sentences taken out of their vast works - will enlighten the reader how Marx substantiated, revised and even abandoned some of his observations made in early life with the increasing accumulation of newer facts in the course of his long life. It is also true that the unilinear model for all societies i.e. Primitive Society, Slavery, Feudalism, and Capitalism, gained currency in the international Marxist circle during the 30s and 40s of the last century. And as Marxists are not fundamentalists they debated this model with the appearance of Marx’s Grundrisse and his notes on India, Algeria, Sri Lanka, etc written in his last life. Marx wrote his two famous papers, ‘The British Rule in India’ and "The Future Results of the British Rule in India" in 1853 based on British parliamentary papers, Francois Bernier’s memoris of his travels and ex-colonial officers’ reports on the India socio-economic system. The concept of the Asiatic Mode of Production formulated in the preface to ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ was the result of his early studies. That Marx did not have in his mind a unilinear or Western model for countries like India is crystal clear from his formulation of the Asiatic Mode. The Asiatic Mode was marked by self-sufficient village communities, the absence or near-absence of commodity production, repressive ‘oriental despotic’ state, absence of private property in land, etc. However, it was Marx who did not cling to old ideas unflinchingly with the unearthing of newer facts, with the re-opening of debate on pre-colonial Indian society during the praparetion of the second and the last volume of Capital. Between 1879 and 1880 Marx wrote Notes on Kovalevsky and scruputously detailed Notes on Indian History. In 1881 when he replied to the letter of Vera I. Zasulich, he compiled his notes on J.B. Phear’s and Henry S Maine’s books on India. In the later years we can identify a clear change in the way Marx perceived Indian society. Yet Marx, as some Marxist scholars go on record, never, even in his later years, recognised the West European type of feudalism in India.[Osamu Kondo, Feudal Social Formation in Indian History in the Making of History (eds) K.N. Panikkar, Terence J Byres, Utse Patnaik, Tulika, New Delhi, 2001, pp. 57-58; Diptendra Banerjee (ed), Marxian Theory and the Third World, Sage Publications Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi, 1985; Daniel Thorner, ‘Feudalism in India’, the shaping of Modern India, Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 1980, p. 288] It must be kept in mind that Baden-Powell’s more reliable studies on Indian land system and society, the land system of British India, Indian Village Community saw the light of the day after Marx’s death.

If Marx accepted one thing common to all societies it was the labour process. Marx said that for all societies there is "the labour process independently of any specific social formation" and it is "the everlasting nature-imposed condition of human existence, and it is therefore ... common to all forms of society in which human beings live". [Karl Marx, Capital, Vol.I, Harmond Worth, 1976 p. 283, 290. Quoted in Terrell Carver, Marx and Non-European Development, in Diptendra Banerjee (ed) Marxian Theory and The Third World, Sage Publication Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi, 1985, p. 45]

Marxists like Lenin, Mao, et. al. rebuffed the unilinear model to make revolution in their respective countries. If unilinear trend prescribing a single-way of progress in history, downplaying the specificites of the societies concerned, made its presence in the international Marxist movement on certain occasions, it did not surely emerge from liberation pessimism of the post-modernists bitterly rejecting any model of revolution for destroying the existing system of human bondage. ‘Let hundred flowers blossom’ was the clarion call of Mao after the revolution and it had its results too. We admit that a wrong trend supposing to cast all into a single mould ignoring differences or mechanically applying a fixed belief has had its negative impact on the Marxist movement. In the future socialist society the question of people’s democracy in various specific features and contradictions must be accorded paramount importance drawing lessons from the failures of the earlier socialist systems.


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