Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What made Indian democracy work?

In a long article After Nehru by Perry Anderson, an ex-editor of  New Left Review:
"Why then has the sheer pressure of the famished masses, who apparently hold an electoral whip-hand, not exploded in demands for social reparation incompatible with the capitalist framework of this – as of every other – liberal democracy?
The answer lies, and has always lain, in what also sets India apart from any other country in the world, the historic peculiarities of its system of social stratification. Structurally, by reason of their smaller numbers and greater resources, virtually all ruling classes enjoy an advantage over the ruled in their capacity for collective action. Their internal lines of communication are more compact; their wealth offers an all-purpose medium of power, convertible into any number of forms of domination; their intelligence systems scan the political landscape from a greater height. More numerous and more dispersed, less equipped materially, less armed culturally, subordinate classes always tend, in the sociologist Michael Mann’s phrase, to be ‘organisationally outflanked’ by those above them. Nowhere has this condition been more extreme than in India. There the country is divided into some thirty major linguistic groups, under the cornice of the colonial language – the only one in which rulings on the constitution are accessible – of which, at most, a tenth of the population has any command. These would be obstacles in themselves daunting enough to any national co-ordination of the poor.

But the truly deep impediments to collective action, even within language communities, let alone across them, lay in the impassable trenches of the caste system. "
(via quarksdaily)

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