viernes, enero 23, 2009

Chakravarty. Habitations of Modernity. Intro and Chapter 2

If modernity is a concept we must find some people or practices or concepts that are nonmodern. For 19th and early 20th century western philosophers and intellectuals there was a distinction between those modern and premodern. For Chakravarty “Western powers in their imperial mode was modernity as coeval with the idea of progress” and many “nationalists saw in it the promise of development” (xix). But can the description of something or some group as pre or non-modern be anything but the gesture of the powerful? How can we define those people (peasants and subaltern classes) who are contemporaries but at the same time challenging our “modern” separation between secular and sacred, feudal and capitalist, nonrational and rational? Some write about alternative or plural modernities, other about modernity at large. Modernity has lost its value but it is still necessary when dealing with issues of democracy and development, although we must exercise a spirit of vigilance with it. We are all traversed by the world capitalism but the pathologies of modernity itself should be considered in places such as India where issues of colonization and postcolonization produce a particular form of modernity. Chakravarty makes the distinction between modernity, democracy and civil life, India has become a greater democracy but not necessary liberal or nonviolent. Here the problem is how to characterize Indian modernity, many authors tried to call it using negative definitions borrowing European notions (not bourgeois, not capitalist, not liberal, or incomplete modernity, or incomplete bourgeois modernity), but for Chakravarty the most successful attempt to identify a positive way of describing the situation was Guja’s “dominance without [bourgeois] hegemony” although the without also suggested negative function. But the problem is that societies are different and sometimes it is hard to translate concepts or historical process from one to another, “Our use of negative labels may be read as an index of the problems of translation that we, academic intellectuals, encounter in describing Indian social acts through the filter of European-derived social sciences and political philosophies” (xxiii). For Ckakravarty write about modernity self-reflexively is not to equate being human with being political but the self-reflexivity about "the political" and the "modern" is itself something political. More over, (modern) notions of the political are secular but in the case of India for many groups political action implied a mix with religion. For the left there is no possibility to mix them because Indian secularism has to cultivate a rational outlook. But Indian historians (marxist, left-liberal) “have never been able to develop any framework capable of comprehending the phenomenon” (22) [the relation between politics and religion in India]. Religion can barely mean (for the historian such as Sarkar) a mean for a political end, but he cannot see that sometimes becomes and end en in itself. This is because Sarkar sees history as a continuous struggle between forces of reason and humanism and forces of emotion and faith. “The self-image of modern Indian secular scholarship, particularly the strands that flowed into Marxist social history writing, not only partakes of the social sciences’ view of the world as ‘disenchanted’, but even displays antipathy to anything that smacks of religious” (25). The problem for Ch. is that the (post)colonial hyper-rationalism lacks a language and “analytical categories to do justice to the real, everyday, and multiple connections that we have to what we, in becoming modern, have come to see as nonrational” (26). If religion and politics are irrevocable separated and opposed, then, modernity in India, according to secular historians, has seemed to be incomplete. But no one considered the possibility that India has its own modernity, and not a bad version of something that was an unmixed good, but the blame was in the colonialism, “colonialism stopped us from being fully modern” (28). But even the categories such as religion were/are not the same in Europe or India and so other categories used to understand Indian’s modernity. For Ch. the translations and the categories used are hybrid, impure and incomplete. And this process of colonization/modernization was at times violent and at times through persuasion, two forms of violence, one that institutionalizes and founds law and one that maintains law. But which is the relation of the intellectuals with those two kinds of violence. “If it is true that Enlightenment rationalism requires as its vehicle the modern state and its accompanying institutions-the instruments of governmentalitym in Foucault’s terms-and if this entails a certain kind of colonizing violence anyway, then one cannot uncritically welcome this violence and at the same time maintain a critique of European imperialism in India except on some kind of essentialistic and indigenist ground” (32). But the work is not to reject ideas of democracy, development or justice, the “task is to think of forms and philosophies of history that will contribute to struggles that aim to make the very process of achieving these outcomes as democratic as possible” (33) and we “write, ultimately, as part of a collective effort to help teach the oppressed of today how to be the democratic subject of tomorrow” (33) in a dialogue non-teleological recognizing that the history of subaltern social groups are fragmented and episodic. Fragmentary in a sense of fragments that challenge, not only the idea of wholeness, but the very idea of the fragment itself: “here, we conceptualize the fragmentary and the episodic as those which do not, and cannot, dream the whole called the state and must, therefore, be suggestive of knowledge forms that are not tied to the will that produces the sate” (35). “The subaltern is the ideal figure of the person who survives actively, even joyously, on the assumption that the statist instruments of domination will always belong to somebody else and never aspires to them” (36). “To critique post-Enlightenment rationalism, or even modernity, is not to fall into some kind of irrationalism” (37).

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