Critical Reflections on Economy and Politics in India

A Class Theory Perspective


In this book, Das presents a class-based perspective on the economic and political situation in contemporary India in a globalizing world. It deals with the specificities of India’s capitalism and neoliberalism, as well as poverty/inequality, geographically uneven development, technological change, and export-oriented, nature-dependent production. The book also deals with Left-led struggles in the form of the Naxalite/Maoist movement and trade-union strikes, and presents a non-sectarian Left critique of the Left. It also discusses the politics of the Right expressed as fascistic tendencies, and the question of what is to be done.

The book applies abstract theoretical ideas to the concrete situation in India, which, in turn, inspires rethinking of theory. Das unabashedly shows the relevance of class theory that takes seriously the matter of oppression/domination of religious minorities and lower castes.

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Raju J. Das holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, Columbus, and is currently a Professor at York University, Toronto. He is the author of Marxist class theory for a sceptical world (Brill, 2017).
"This book argues that Indian society is characterized by a complex of forces such as low labor productivity in export-oriented and local subsistence production. The majority of people live in abject poverty. These forces and their economic result have to be understood via class analysis—how large groups of people relate to each other and to nature. Raju Das provides an extensive theoretical and empirical version of this analysis—the best ever written so far."
Richard Peet, Clark University, USA, in: Critical Sociology 47(6), pp. 1047-1048

"This book is a magisterial examination by Raju J Das of the current political and economic dynamics in India, and confirms his place as one of the leading social scientists contributing to our understanding of what is really happening on the subcontinent. After the hiatus of the cultural turn, this volume returns the focus once more to where it should be: a materialist approach based on political economy and class analysis. As such, it is situated firmly within the intellectual tradition of the best scholarship about India, as exemplified in the earlier mode of production debate. It will surely define how the Indian development path is studied and argued over for the foreseeable future."
Tom Brass, formerly of SPS, Cambridge University, and Editor of The Journal of Peasant Studies
List of Illustrations

1 Introduction
 1 Why Class?
 2 Why Not Class – Why Not a Class-Based Analytical Framework?
 3 Components of a Class-Based Framework for Understanding Contemporary India
 4 The Chapter Outline

2 Class in India
 1 Existing Criticisms against Class Analysis of India
 2 Existing Approaches to Class in India
 3 A Critique of Existing Approaches to Class in India
 4 Constructing a Class-Based Framework
 5 Conclusion

3 The Capitalist Character of Class Society in Post-colonial India: Moving Beyond the Mode of Production Debate
 1 The Development of Capitalist Relations, and the Barriers to This: A Brief Discussion on the Indian Mode of Production Debate
 2 A Critique of Some Influential Ideas in the Indian Mode of Production Debate
 3 Examining India’s Capitalist Character on the Basis of Marx’s Distinction between Formal and Real Subsumptions of Labor
 4 Class Struggle and the (Slow and Uneven) Transition to Real Subsumption of Labor
 5 Class Struggle and the ‘Blocked’ Transition to Real Subsumption of Labor
 6 Possibilities of, and Limits to, Real Subsumption of Labor
 7 Jairus Banaji’s (and Others’) Mistaken Subsumption of Labor Perspective
 8 Conclusion

4 Neoliberal Capitalism with Indian Characteristics
 1 Neoliberalism: Its General Traits
 2 Neoliberalism in India: The Context
 3 Neoliberalism with Indian Characteristics: Eight Theses
 4 Concluding Comments: What Is to Be Done?

5 Capitalism and Technological Change: Reflections on the Technology-Poverty Relation
 1 The Literature on the Green Revolution and Poverty: The Thesis and the Anti-thesis
 2 The Literature on the Green Revolution and Poverty: A Critique of Neo-Malthusianism
 3 Technology, Population and Poverty: A Contingent Relation
 4 The Green Revolution and Poverty in India: An Empirical Analysis
 5 Conclusion

6 Low-Wage Neoliberal Capitalism, Social-Cultural Difference, and Nature-Dependent Production
 1 Shrimp Aquaculture and the Missing Laborer
 2 A Labor-Based Approach to Nature-Dependent Commodity Production
 3 The Local, National and the Global Contexts
 4 Working for Less and in Poor Conditions: ‘Capital’ Negated
 5 Making Sense of Low-Wage Capitalism: From the General to the Locally Specific
 6 Conclusion

7 Class Relations, Class Struggle, and the State in India
 1 Existing Views on the Indian State: A Critical Review
 2 The Indian State and Its Class Base
 3 A Coalition/Alliance of Proprietary Classes
 4 The Indian State, Lower Classes, and Lower-Class Struggle
 5 State Form, State Policy, and Class Struggle
 6 The Indian State and the Class Contradictions of Economic Development
 7 Conclusion

8 Class Dynamics of Poverty, State Failure, and Class Struggle
 1 Class Dynamics, State Failure and Poverty in Rural India
 2 The Naxalite Movement as a Form of Lower-Class-Struggle
 3 A Marxist Class-Theoretic Critique of the Naxalite Movement
 4 Conclusion

9 State Repression as Class Struggle from Above
 1 State Response to ‘Social’ Movement: A Conceptual Discussion
 2 The Indian State’s Response to the Naxalite Movement
 3 Why Does the State Repress the Naxalite Movement?
 4 Conclusion

10 Capitalist Development and Liberal-Democracy under a Right-Wing Regime
 1 BJP Government’s Record on Economic Development at the National Level
 2 The Winners under the BJP Regime: The Capitalist Class (and the Richer Elite)
 3 The Losers under the BJP Government : The Toiling Masses
 4 BJP Government’s Record on Protection of Democratic Rights
 5 People’s Response to False Promises
 6 Conclusion

11 Towards a Political Economy of Fascistic Tendencies
 1 Fascism and Fascistic Tendencies: Some Conceptual Issues
 2 A Short Introduction to the Fascistic Movement in India
 3 Political Economy of Fascistic Tendencies, Globally and in India
 4 Conclusion

12 Bourgeois-Political Dynamics of Fascistic Tendencies
 1 The Failure of ‘Reformist Democracy’ to Weaken Fascistic Tendencies
 2 The BJP , the Fascistic Movement, and (Neoliberal-Peripheral) Capitalism
 3 Political Techniques of the Fascistic Movement
 4 The Contradictory Character of the BJP
 5 Conclusion

13 Forward March of the Right and the Relative Weakness of the Left: What Is to Be Done?
 1 A General Theory of Left Politics in an Age of Fascistic Threats/Tendencies
 2 Left Forces in India: Their Strength and Weakness
 3 The Indian Left and the Two Forms of the Fight against Fascist Tendencies
 4 Such a Big Compromise?: Return to Vladimir Lenin
 5 Conclusion

14 Conclusions and Reflections
 1 Class Character of Indian Economy/Society
 2 Capitalism as Class Relations of Subsumption of Labor
 3 Capitalist Class Relation in a Neoliberal Form
 4 Capitalist Class Relation, Technological Change, and Labor
 5 Export-Oriented Neoliberal-Capitalism, Social Oppression, and Dual Metabolic Rift
 6 Class, Capitalism, and the Capitalist State
 7 Lower-Class Struggles and the State Response
 8 Economic Development and Democracy under the Right-Wing Government
 9 Capitalist Political Economy and Turn to Fascistic Tendencies
 10 Bourgeois Political System, and the Fascistic Movement
 11 What Is to Be Done?

Appendix 1: Processes Influencing the Balance of Power between Capital and Labor
Appendix 2: A Suggested Research Program on Agrarian Neoliberalism
University teachers and students interested in political economy and politics of India and South Asia will find the book useful. Those interested in concrete applications of class theory will also find value in it.
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