Sunday, September 3,
Soviet masses were let down
Review by Surjit Hans
Society by Paul M. Sweezy. Originally published by Monthly
Review Foundation, New York. Indian reprint by Cornerstone
Publications, Kharagpur. Pages 157. Rs 150.
catastrophe into which the world has thrust the socialist
proletariat is an unexampled misfortune for humanity. But
socialism is lost only if the international proletariat is
unable to measure the depths of the catastrophe and refuses to
learn the lession it teaches."
book is welcome in that it can be a basis of discussion of the
collapse of the Soviet Union. The essays written between 1967
and 1990 show the ravages of times. Changes in political
prospects have made the author modify, withdraw or contradict
what he had said earlier. Revolution spread to Eastern Europe
(13 articles) and "Soviet empire" (105); ruling
stratum or ruling class; classes as defined by their relation
to means of production and their struggle, and the class
struggle between the working class and the ruling elite. What
may sound like contradictions can be the starting points of
arguments from various angles in the debate.
Soviet Union was a stratified society, with a deep chasm
between the ruling stratum of political bureaucrats and
economic managers, on the one side, and the mass of the
working people, on the other. Society appears to be
effectively depoliticised at all levels, hence
nonrevolutionary. The concerns and motivations of individuals
and families are naturally focused on private affairs, in
particular individual careers and family consumption levels.
Privatisation of economic life leads necessarily to the
privatisation of social life — that is, the evisceration of
political life. Bourgeois values and modes of behaviour are
fostered. Politics becomes a speciality, a branch of division
of labour... And of course the perpetuation of alienation of
humans from their fellows, hence from themselves." A
recipe for dead souls.
standards based on the accumulation of goods for private use
— houses, automobiles, appliances, apparel and jewelry —
do not create a "new man". On the contrary, they
bring out the worst in the "old man", stimulating
greed in the economically fortunate, envy and hatred in the
depoliticised society must rely on private incentives.
For private incentives to work effectively, the structure of
production must be shaped to turn out the goods and
services which give meaning to money incomes. Private needs
and wants should be satisfied only at a level at which they
can be satisfied for all. The production of consumer goods
should be for collective consumption. In an underdeveloped
country, there should be no production of automobiles,
household appliances, consumer durables for private sale and
of "material versus moral" incentives is
inappropriately put. "It is more helpful to speak of ‘private
versus collective’ incentives. Recognisably, there is a
moral element in collective incentives. Behaviour directed
toward improving the lot of everyone is certainly more moral
than the one directed toward private gain. Equally it
presupposes a higher level of social consciousness."
In 1970 a
cynical East European slogan "Communism is better than
working" sums up the situations. Socialism stands on two
foundations: (1) socialist man is freer than a person under
capitalism; and (2) his productivity is higher than the one in
the earlier epoch. But the absence of the first principle,
lack of freedom, hence depoliticisation, made the second
principle into an impossibility.
Union never ever surpassed the West in productivity. A
correspondent had this to say: "In effect, much of
Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union has operated under a kind
of informal social contract. It provided that everyone would
be guaranteed a job and a minimum subsistence level so long as
he showed up for work and seemed to exert himself. It has been
a lazy man’s delight, a bargain in which many workers gladly
exchanged minimal effort for minimal, secure wages."
Marx wrote in
"The Poverty of Philosophy": "All history is
but the continuous transformation of human nature."
"Human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single
individual" but "the ensemble of social
relations". The central issue is this:the proletariat
must not only change the relations of production but in the
process change itself. It failed on the second count.
suspects that the slogan of the 50s "Laying the material
base for communism" was an "ideological" cover
— ideology not in the sense of class outlook but as a
process of "misinformation and misunderstanding."
Trotsky had warned that the introduction of wage
differentials, ranks in the army and support for the
institution of family had betrayed the revolution.
From being in
the minority of one, Lenin literally persuaded or forced the
central committee of the party to be the vanguard of the
socialist revolution. That the Communist Party is the vanguard
of the working class is a monumental assumption, valid or
invalid according to the circumstances. After the 1956 Poznan
(Poland) riots, the party leader confessed that "our
awareness of the actual situation, of actual moods in the
country, was insufficient and superficial." And Gomulka
returning to power said: "Recently the working class gave
a painful lesson to the party leadership." Very rude of
the working class to be blasphemous towards the Communist
dogma. The new party leader Gierek had the same thing to say
In 1922 the
number of workers employed fell from 11 million in 1913 to 4.6
million; two million in industry and 1.2 million as
agricultural labourers. And 1.4 million without employment.
The population of the country was 136 million. As far as
sociology is concerned, the party was only ideologically a
vanguard of the proletariat.
division of the great estates in the October Revolution left
Soviet agriculture with a relatively egalitarian structure.
The dominant trend during the first five years of the New
Economic Policy was a proportional increase in the number of
middle peasants, and a decline in the number of poor
peasants. The class of rich peasants also expanded but very
moderately... In 1926-27 the peasantry was divided as follows:
poor 29.4 per cent, middle 67.5 per cent; rich 3.1 per cent.
The contribution of the rich peasants to the marketed surplus
was 11.8 per cent."
was widespread receptivity to cooperative forms of
organisation during the NEP... Their existence, the
multiplicity of forms, the depth of tendencies (without
systematic aid from the Soviet Government and the hostility of
rich peasants) shows how great were the possibilities for
transition to a socialist organisation of agriculture."
requisitioning and forced collectivisation in the next two
years effectively destroyed worker-peasant alliance and barred
the road to a socialist development of the Soviet Union,"
making the police state a sociological necessity.
The purges of
the thirties destroyed the rump Communist Party. A majority of
the Central Committee members went down. By 1937, probably
according to Issac Deutscher, there were more Mensheviks than
Bolsheviks in the party. Vyshinsky, the prosecutor in the
trial of Bukharin, was one of them, later to become Foreign
Minister of the country.
most of Soviet history, the need to concentrate on heavy
industry and war production, and to devote most of consumer
goods production to meeting the elementary requirements of the
population, procluded the possibility of developing industries
catering to the latent demand of the higher-income strata for
consumer durables. There was a sort of enforced equality in
the Soviet Union."
In the 60s
the production of refrigerators, washing machines, automobiles
on an increasing scale became possible. The basic policy was
to channel a larger and larger share of consumer durable
production into private market.
automobile added a new dimension of inequality to the
structure of material inequality in the Soviet Union. Those
who have their private means of mobility tend to develop a
distinctive lifestyle. The car dominates their use of leisure
and generates demand for country houses, camping equipment and
sports goods. To put it bluntly, a society which goes in a big
way for private consumer durables also decides not to
make the raising of mass living standards its number one
between the advocates of "good things of life" and
the proponents of "austerity" is absurd. The truth
is that it is between those who want a small minority to have
the lion’s share of the good things and those who think
these good things ought to be produced and distributed in
forms accessible to the broad masses.
effect of the drying up of existing sources of labour, heavy
war time losses, and lower birth rates has been a slowdown in
the rate of increase of employment: 9.5 per cent a year
increase in the first two five year plans (starting from
1928); 3.8 per cent annual growth rate in the 60s; 2.2 per
cent in the 70s; and only 0.9 per cent between 1980 and 1985.
With its large-scale mining industry, currently the largest in
the world, the Soviet union was rapidly exhausting the most
accessible of natural resources. There was a great deal of
waste and inefficiency in the use of material inputs."
Union, with a much smaller industrial output than the USA,
produced twice as much steel and consumed about 10 per cent
more electricity in industry. Equally puzzling is the smaller
output of agriculture requiring 80 per cent more fertiliser
and three times as many tractors."
a renowned Sovietologist "production for production’s
sake" certainly expressed the position of the Soviet
economy, and neither the standard of living nor the national
income adequately benefited from it." With the exhaustion
of the resources the "magic" of the command economy
surprised to learn that there were agency-run houses,
cafeterias and even laundries that provided high-quality
services to the bureaucracy at favourable prices but did not
serve the man on the street for any kind of money (133).
Laundries? How stupid can you be?In 1973 I saw written on the
booking window of the famous Moscow circus the types of
persons who could jump the queue. That much for equality or
respect for the common man under Soviet socialism.
The book is a
resounding demonstration of the painful difficulty of
comprehending the emerging social reality even in making
elementary advances. Nobody could think that the masters of
state capitalism could one day turn themselves into
capitalists. That the Soviet Union collapsed without war or
revolution is a shameful compliment to the omniscent party
which presumed to be the embodiment of the movement of
liberation of the working class must be the work of the
working class, says the "Communist Manifesto".
Back to Sanskrit
for literary theory
Review by Akshaya Kumar
Alternative Critical Discourse by T.R.S. Sharma. IIAS, Shimla.
Pages 121. Rs 175.
theories emanating from sophisticated metropolitan academia of
the West has literally swept the Indian critic off his feet. It
requires tremendous intellectual grit and solid cultural
foregrounding to negotiate honourably with the new jargon which
these theories daily churn out. Academic critics in India,
overawed as they are by the glamour of this "new
knowledge", derive special hedonistic pleasure in
inflicting this jargon on raw students and innocent readers.
context, T.R.S. Sharma’s critical venture marks a step forward
in the search for an indigenous alternative critical frame that
can possibly redeem Indian critic as well as reader from the
onslaught of western theory. Here is a work that confronts
western monopoly over criticism without the self-righteousness
of a rabid sanskritist or nationalist.
When the West
has already been outwitted by the creative genius of the
so-called Third World writers, an impression is being created
that "critical theory" is beyond the ken of
"intuitive" and "arbitrary" Third World
mind. We are told that critical theory requires an exceptional
philosophical rigour and rational analyses which the
"fanciful" Third World critic is simply not capable
of. We are also told that theory now is much more creative than
the creative writing itself. Sharma’s work allays some of
these myths as it not only brings forth the critical rigour of
Indian mind from Bharata’s Natya-shastra onwards, but
it also underlines the flexibility of Indian mind towards
critical revisioning of its own well-laid out theories and
principles right from the beginning.
The book does
not throw overboard western theories and the author seeks to
rethink Sanskrit poetics in a broader comparatist frame. The
author posits that instead of reason, the accent in Indian
poetics in invariably on emotions. The doctrine of rasa ubiquitously
hailed as "master metaphor" of Indian poetics, deals
primarily with emotions as evoked by literary discourse. In the
western traditions, the primacy is always accorded to reason
over emotion. This is one reason which alienates the modern
European man from within. The author sees a possibility of
alternative aesthetics in the cognitive theory of emotions.
not mere "blind surges" of feeling; in fact they work
as censors. The apprehensions of Plato, Aristotle, Kant and
Bentham on the morality of emotions are countered through later
western thinkers like Justin Oakley and Owen Lunch who argue in
favour of emotions as moral responses. The locus of emotions is
body. Here again the author quotes French empiricist
philosophers Condillac and Diderot who insisted on the
embodiment of thought.
In the Indian
tradition, the author refers to bhakti poetry where body
is always looked upon as a temple. Even among the four purusharthas,
kama and artha, the two relatively mundane goals of human
life are coordinated by dharma. Quoting Wittgenstein, the
author holds that emotions are not just irregular outbursts;
they have their own inner logic and grammar.
establishing the cognitive strength of emotions, Sharma
undertakes a detailed study of the rasa doctrine which,
he believes, essentially belongs to the realm of body and its
emotions. The ontological associations attributed to rasa ia
a later phenomenon. Under the spell of Vedanta, rasa was
heralded as blissful state comparable to moksha; and
during the medieval period when bhakti became the rage, rasa
acquired bhakti as its principal component.
the basic sutra of the rasa theory — vibhavanubhava
vyabhichari samyoga rasa nishpattih — the author
concentrates on vyabhichari which he holds to be
different from sanchari in the sense that it stands for
deviant, wayward and transgressive emotions as against
transitory feeling allied to a durable emotion. Vyabhichari, he
goes on to add, "becomes a substantive part of a poetic
discourse in any post-structuralist context". The sthayibhava
is explained as "the chief signifier which directs and
commands other signifiers". Rasa occurs finally when
differences coalesce into unity. It constitutes a special form
explication of the rasa theory lends a new lease of life
to Sanskrit poetics. Hitherto, the major reservation against
Sanskrit poetics has been its applicability to modern
literature. By differentiating between vyabhichari and sanchari
the author tries to relate the rasa theory to modern
and post-modern experience. Also by attributing the status of
chief signifier to sthayibhava, the author tries to fit
the rasa paradigm in Sassurean frame of structuralism. By
locating rasa in the realm of body and emotions, the
author in a way contests the earlier attempts of its unwarranted
But there are
some problems too. One, to hold "emotion" as a
semantic equivalent of bhava is rather arbitrary. Bhava
means "to be"; ideally it is the traces that
emotion leaves behind on the psyche of a human being. Two, there
is nothing like reason-emotion binary in western thought.
Emotions of pity and fear that a tragedy arouses in the
spectator, Aristotle holds, do clarify a vision of life.
Throughout the romantic phase of British poetry, emotion is held
to be an uncorrupted and organic form of logic and reasoning.
Three, it is unfair to project India or the East to be the
votary of emotion alone. From the Sankhya darshan to nyaya
vaishishka school of philosophy, there is a clear accent on
logic and syllogism. Moreover, how can bhakti or dharma
be taken as emotions?
identification of vyabhichari bhava with post-structuralist
deviance or transgression is hard to digest; for, any post-structuralist
reading of a text is not a premature response to it. Vyabhichari
is a very early stage of the meaning-formation process.
Post-structural reading is a post-meaning misreading which comes
into being only after the text seems to settle in favour of some
essentalised meaning. Equating sthayibhava with chief
signifier is also arbitrary because far from controlling other
signifiers, it is controlled by them. It is highly disputable to
speculate whether the rasa nishapattih takes a linear
course starting from vibhava and anubhava to vyabhichari
bhava or all these components acts together and
simultaneously in unison. In case samyoga of these bhavas
is simultaneous, then sthayibhava cannot be chief
signifier directing other signifiers.
The author has
been so carried away by the rasa theory that other
schools of Sanskrit criticism receive rather scant treatment.
Reducing dhvani to merely a "semiotic
construct", the author finds its use in non-literary
discourses much more pronounced than it is in literary
discourses. He observes that dhvani "blossoms in the
ad-world through creating a verbal hypnotism in adverting".
The domain of dhvani is not contained to secondary
meanings or metaphorical connotations; it spills beyond. Vyanjana
shakti of a word is its tertiary meaning, and as such it is
not an equivalent of verbal hypnotism.
The book has
its own cultural politics as it very conveniently glosses over
the seminal significance of G.N. Devy as an emerging Indian
critical theorist. Since Devy’s nativist predilections pose a
challenge to the very use of the term "Indian" for
Sanskrit poetics, Sharma chooses to ignore him altogether. This
is clever ducking. The relevance of Sanskrit poetics needs to be
defended and debated not only against an uncritical over-use of
western tools by Indian critics, but also against the nativist
critique of this poetics as being the poetics of ruling
instead of accepting the possibility of alternative autonomous
"little" traditions in Indian literary canon, try to
overstate their contribution to the making of bhasha literatures.
Sharma tries to steer the safe middle course by way of
suggesting a dialogic transaction between the subaltern and the
dominant, but his bias towards Sanskrit as "a pan-Indian
phenomenon" shaping and informing regional literatures and
languages remains irrepressible. In order to push forward the
claims of Sanskrit poetics as "Indian" poetics, he
discovers a flair of taxonomy in Tamil ancient text Tolkappiyam
which is much similar to the one found in Sanskrit poetics. Tolkappiyam
mentions the rasa siddhanta from Bharata’s Natyashashtra.
Diachronically speaking, Tamil has resisted as well as
assimilated Sanskrit at different levels, revealing the tense
but creative relationship between the loka and the shashtra
in the Indian context. Hardcore desivadis, however,
refute this assimilationist stance of sanskritists.
poetics, surprisingly enough, is silent on the issue of
translation. During the ancient period down to the middle ages
when this poetics held sway, almost all regions of India
witnessed a revolution in the field of translation. Tulsi’s Ramcharitmanas,
in a very liberal sense, is after all a translation of
Balmiki’s Ramayana.With minor interpolations to suit
the local taste, all major canonical texts were rendered in
local dialects by bhakti poets. It is indeed inexplicable
as to why Sanskrit aestheticians kept themselves away from
speculating on the processes of translation.
take up the issue of translation vis-a-vis Sanskrit poetics but
instead of exploring the possible contours of translation theory
under the rubric of this poetics, he merely refers to
difficulties in translation in terms of translator’s inability
to cope up with rasa, dhvani, riti, and alankara of
the original text. By invoking Indian aesthetic categories to
underline the "fascinating failures" of translation,
the author hardly makes any tangible headway in the field of
Sanskrit poetics as well as translation studies. However, terms
like Hopkins’s "inscape", Nietzsche’s "the
form creating shape", and author’s own "inner
rhetoricity" for rasa and Robert Frost’s
"sound of sense" or "voice-tones" for riti
do reveal the author’s dissatisfaction with the existing
English parallels of Sanskrit terms.
The title of the book raises
expectations of an "alternative critical discourse",
but at best the book is nothing more than a re-thinking on rasa
siddhant which itself is not a mean task. The book marks a
stage higher than Kapil Kapoor’s recently pubished book on
Sanskrit poetics entitled "Indian Literary
Theory" in one major respect.And that is, it does not
merely translate Sanskrit poetics for the consumption ofEnglish
students, it revisions this poetics and updates the debate of
its relevance in contemporary times.
woman’s call to purdah
Review by G.V. Gupta
Beaten Track —Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian Women by
Madhu Kishwar. Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Pages 290.
is given to few to continuously evolve, to attempt to be free
from prejudice, to widen the area of choice for action without
losing sight of the issue of justice. This collection of 18
essays, all published in the Manushi monthly magazine which is
devoted to women’s problems, along with an introduction and
maps, traces the growth of a young shrill activist into one
with firm faith in the efficacy of state action. And finally
to be absolutely sure of her stand shaped by pure academic
discourse to a mature and understanding proponent of effective
action. Today Kishwar is conscious of the multidimensional
implications of what she does.
justice is not an imposition of will. It can also not be
unmindful of historical circumstances of acceptance of such
practices as look obviously unjust today but are sustained by
honest faith of its practitioners. Must law make a criminal
out of them or is there a chance of reform by a process of
development of conscience?
Kishwar very near to the path followed by Gandhi. She starts
the last essay with a quotation from Gandhi: "I have a
horror of ‘isms’, especially when they are attached to
proper names." No wonder that the self-appointed high
priests of academically dominant discourse and armchair
activists enjoying life on doles from western foundations feel
betrayed. Madhu Kishwar does not mince words while saying so.
No more for her the slogan-shouting for the benefit of the TV
crew. No more for her the bohemian conduct mistaken for
freedom and assertion of individual rights.
on a variety of issues. There are the problems of dowry and
denial of land rights; issues of sati and sex
determination tests; sex harassment and slander; beauty
contests and love marriages; reservation and empowerment;
violence and elections and, above all, the issue of identity
and myths. She is lucid and logical and never afraid of
abandoning strongly held positions if truth and experience
require otherwise. She also has few tips for right conduct on
the part of activists reminding one again of what Gandhi used
to insist on from his satyagrahis.
three essays deal with the problem of "dowry". The
dowry demand is not merely a matter of greed of the in-laws.
People pay it for various considerations. It may be today the
attraction of a beneficial alliance with a powerful bureaucrat
as it was of an alliance with a powerful ruler in the past. It
is also to justify the disinheritance of the daughter. For the
daughter, however, it is the necessary stridhan which
will provide her with some security. Manushi’s programme of
total social boycott of dowry givers or takers had to be
abandoned on realisation of its adverse impact on the bride.
lost whatever little security they could get by way of dowry.
They had to face social disadvantage with the husband and the
in-laws. And all this as a sacrifice for an advantage that
goes to her parents, brothers and others in the natal family.
This anti-dowry movement without insisting on a proper share
in parental property for a girl is merely a patrimonial
discourse in a more emotionally charged form. In reality this
amounts to blackmail of the bride.
The only just
solution is the grant of this share fairly, promptly and
justly. This will also obviate the moral burden of a
"must marriage" for a daughter for which terms such
as praya dhan and kanyadan are part of a
psychological burden on a girl child. Parents must realise
that in the modern world the only way to be just is to ensure
the daughter’s share in their property.
chapter deals with the futility of resort to court action in
enforcing the rights of the illiterate and the ignorant, where
even sympathetic lawyers cannot help in the absence of clearly
recorded rights and evidence acceptable to the court The issue
involved was of a tribal woman inheriting the estate of her
brother or father as against collaterals. Courts are useless
because the judges are ignorant of local customs and rely on
the reports of corrupt local officials, with the laws written
in archaic English. Moreover, the courts are located in
distant places, the procedures are cumbersome and even decrees
favourable to the poor are so difficult to enforce. Public
interest litigation, so much loved by the non-political urban
elite, is no substitute for social and political action to
protect the rights of the oppressed in far-flung areas.
study of Roop Kunvar locates the support to sati in the
politics of modern nationalists as also its opposition by
modern secularists. A highly articulate woman educated in a
prestigious college of Delhi and married to an advocate
defended sati with an eye on the next elections.
Secularists were merely making criminals out of poor and
illiterate bystanders, who have mythical faith in the efficacy
of sati’s powers to heal their personal pains, by
asking for stricter laws, assuming everyone present there to
be an accessory to the crime.
liberators have no democratic engagement or any dialogue with
the locals on the issue of gender justice. No action was taken
against the real perpetrators of the crime of murder if it was
so. Rajput women never had a religious commitment to sati.
Meera had provided a large liberal space to Rajput women. Her
commitment to her Girdhar was a way of liberation. Both
falsified this liberal space provided by Meera.
The next 10
essays deal with the problems of political representation,
sex, marriage and feminism. Here the author falls back on the
Indian tradition of sexual and material renunciation,
effective use of the image of mother and sister, emphasis on
nonviolence and dependence on democratic dialogue as the real
way out. Sexual or material renunciation by a man or a woman
gives him or her a strong moral authority vis-a-vis local
society. This has always been a strong instrument of social
change and has provided space to the oppressed.
The image of
a mother has again empowered Indian woman to take the lead in
doing good to society. The desire to be treated as sister has
brought out a moral obligation even on the part of hardened
men. These essays deal with real incidents in which Indian
images rather than state action proved problem-solvers.
Sita, no to Ram" is a study of folklore of Mithila. Sita’s
agni-pariksha is a point of reference for every Hindu
girl both as a symbol of emancipation as also of oppression.
Every moment is a test through fire as a measure of
oppression. But a single test raises her distinctly above Rama
and emancipates her. People in Mithila, therefore, build
temples for her and not for Rama. They also do not want their
daughters to be married in the direction of Ayodhya. For them
Rama is the man who put their daughter through an uncalled for
ordeal of a test through fire. This is the tradition that
provides space to women in Mithila. It is just. It is poetic.
It is to be cherished.
The last is
her statement about herself. It is a statement of her
commitment. This can be read with profit by those engaged more
in symbolism of women’s emancipation through state action.
This should also reaffirm the faith of those who are following
the path of liberation through the use of their own traditions
with their feet firmly on the ground.
Madhu Kishwar is to be
congratulated for bringing out this volume.
beauty, too much of it
Review by Rekha Jhanji
Aesthetics by Wolfgang Welsch translated by Andrew Inkpin. Sage,
London. Pages 209.
book under review is a collection of essays on art and
aesthetics written between 1990 and 1995. They are motivated by
the belief that understanding contemporary aesthetics is not
possible without an understanding of our present condition. The
book includes a comprehensive account of new issues in
aesthetics which encompass also the "anaesthetic". He
believes that this opening up of aesthetics beyond art would
prove useful for the analysis and understanding of art itself.
first essay centres on the aestheticisation process. He begins
by pointing out the fact that in our times more and more
elements of reality are aestheticised. This becomes most obvious
in our treatment of urban space — everything around us is
subjected to a face-lift, be it a railway station, shopping area
or a cafe. With this aestheticisation everything is becoming a
domain of experience.
aestheticisation as an attempt to "furnish reality with
aesthetic elements, sugar-coating the real with aesthetic
flair". In surface aestheticisation the most superficial
aesthetic values dominate: pleasure, amusement, enjoyment
This trend is
increasingly determining the form of our culture as a whole.
Experience and entertainment have become the guidelines of
contemporary culture. This has its purpose — aestheticisation
makes unsaleable saleable and boosts the saleability of the
saleable. The prominence of advertising in our life has made
aesthetics completely autonomous and the primary guiding value.
Thus in all spheres it has become the essential dominating
force. Aesthetics thus no longer belongs to the superstructure,
but to the base.
has also been subjected to derealisation and aestheticisation.
Television is an apt example of this derealisation.
Televisionary reality is no longer binding and inescapable. It
is changeable, disposable and avoidable. Reality is becoming a
tender through media, which down to its very substance is
virtual, manipulable and aesthetically modellable.
the author does not stand for beauty but virtuality and
modellability. This virtuality extends itself from the
environment to the individual. One could rather say that this
aestheticisation reaches its culmination in the individual in
the styling of body, mind and soul. In these processes the
"homo aestheticus" is becoming the new role model.
Morals pass as
constructs of a near artistic order. That is why morals are
fluctuant rather than binding. The aesthetic constitution of
reality has been emphasised not only by philosophers like Kant,
Nietzsche and Feyrabend but also by scientists like Bohr, Dira,
Einstein and Heisenberg. Today conscious and systematic attempts
are being made to bring aesthetic factors to bear in the
cognitive process. The author highlights the fact that over the
past 200 years truth, knowledge and reality have assumed
The author sums
up his position by stating that current aestheticisation is
neither to be affirmed nor to be rejected without
qualification.It is from an aesthetic point of view that
objections to current manifestations of aestheticisation are
both possible and necessary. However, as we shall see later, the
only aesthetic objection he makes is from the point of view of
the necessity of contrasts for experiencing the aesthetic.
directs our attention to the aesthetic-poetic character of
thinking. Wittgenstein’s dictum that one can only write
philosophy "as a poetic composition" becomes the
hallmark of these essays.
In his essay on
aesthetics beyond aesthetics, the author shows how traditional
aesthetics moved from an essentialist conception to a
pluralistic one, for the former failed to deliver the goods. The
author contends that the inner pluralisation of artistics —
the shift from a monoconceptual analysis of art to the
consideration of different types, paradigms and concepts of art
— should be supplemented by an outer pluralisation of
aesthetics by an expansion of the discipline’s field of
transartistic questions. The groups of reasons that he offers
for the broadening of aesthetics emanate from the contemporary
fashioning of reality and the contemporary understanding of
The author sees
in this aestheticisation also a redemption of the older
aesthetic dreams. He cites the example of German idealism which
advocated the mediating role of aesthetic by linking through it
the rational and the sensuous. He also recognises that the
results today are quite different from the original
expectations. He writes: "What was meant to endow our world
with beauty ends up in mere prettiness and obstrusiveness, and
finally generates indifference or even disgust — at least
among aesthetically sensitive people. In any case, nobody would
dare to call the present aestheticisation straightforward
gives three reasons for the dissatisfaction with this
aestheticisation: (a) fashioning everything beautiful destroys
the quality of the beautiful, for beauty thrives on contrasts
between beauty and ugliness; (b) aesthetic indifference is the
inevitable attitude that follows this ubiquitous
aestheticisation; and (c) it generates a need for the
non-aesthetic — "a desire for interruptions and
disruptions for breaking through embellishments".
The author is
conscious of the fact that the supportive, legitimising and
idolising power of traditional aesthetics is at least partly
responsible for the modern tendency of aestheticisation.
One sees in
these essays a clear ambivalence — on the one hand, the author
advocates the breaking of the barriers of aesthetic and the need
for incorporating into it the "unaesthetic" and, on
the other hand, he is clearly perturbed by the pervasiveness of
the aesthetic visible in the contemporary drive for
makes some interesting comments on the contemporary experiments
with reality. He points out that with the impact of the media,
reality is losing its gravity; it is losing its compulsoriness
and is becoming playful. The author writes, "The real is
tending to lose its insistency, compulsiveness and gravity; it
seems to be becoming ever lighter, less oppressive and
obligating." This is already creating indifference in the
interesting dimension of the dominance of media is the challenge
to the primacy of vision. The traditional primacy of vision was
due to its distance, precision and universality. Now vision is
no longer a reliable sense for contact with reality.
the contemporary developments, the author reiterates the need
for aesthetics to expand its horizons and incorporate into its
fold other disciplines. He has taken pains to discuss some of
the philosophical problems related to these recent developments
in the electronic media. The media ontology is quite different
from the hierarchically organised world of conventional
ontology. This is a world of lateral connections and networking.
The electronic world influences our understanding of reality.
In fact media
presentation gives a seal of authenticity to everyday reality.
Because of this media presentation the everyday world is
increasingly modelled according to media laws. Many real events
are staged because of their media presentability.
The author is
not frightened by any of these developments, although he does
recognise their problematic character. He writes, ‘‘...It’s
not by denying the coalescence of reality and simulation, but by
making oneself aware of this status quo and learning to take a
stand within it that you arrive at different, and possibly more
One has no
necessary reason to counter Welsch’s optimism in the constant
improvement in human life engendered by the various developments
in technology. However, one cannot completely ignore the
complexity and artificiality generated in human life by these
ventures. Welsch’s belief that "the highly developed
electronic world goes hand in hand with a new appreciation and
revalidation of non-digital forms of experience" may be
more a fond hope than a reality.
One would not
contest that Welsch’s two-way model where the electronic
experience goes hand in hand with revalidated traditional forms
of experience is the only viable model for our times but this
harmony of the natural and the electronic is hard to bring about
in actual life. In practice one always tends to swing to one of
the two extremes.
All told, the book is quite
original in its approach and makes enjoyable reading. It also
forces one to ponder over some of the issues that need to be
confronted in the present times.
rights and Third World
Review by Shelley Walia
Conquest Continues by Noam Chomsky. Verso, London. Pages 331. $
conquest of the world may be compared with the Nazi ideology and
October 11, 1992, brings to a close, to use Hofer’s phrase,
"the five-hundred-year Reich". Quoting Adam Smith,
Chomsky in his recent book "Year 501: The Conquest
Continues" sees no advantage arising out of imperialism to
the old continent or the new. Adam Smith points out that
"the savage injustice of the Europeans" rendered an
event, which ought to have been beneficial to all, ruinous and
"destructive to several of those unfortunate
In spite of the
integration and disintegration in Europe or the fissures within
the USA notwithstanding the global impact of its monolithic
culture, there is no western interest visible in Third World
cultures except to grab all that they encounter and put it to
immediate profit. Adam Smith goes on to conveniently call the
people of the Americas "savages", an idea that
remained the basis of most political and social scholarship
until the awakening of the 1960s finally put the picture
straight. Cultures and societies can be described and understood
from other more liberal perspectives.
It is not only
Adam Smith who regards the natives of the American continent
slaves but Hegel too in his lofty prediction that we approach
the final phase of history when the human spirit grows mature,
sees these savages as "mere things", objects of no
value except slavery. He goes to the extent of remarking that at
midnight a bell had to be rung to remind these savages of their
matrimonial duties in order that more propagation would beget
Conquest Continues" is about the emergence of new political
ideas in the past 500 years and their close involvement with the
complexities of the imperial experience. The area for the
struggle between conservatives and utilitarians becomes
increasingly defined in relation to a set of conflicting
attitudes towards the colonies. These new political languages
involve the formulation of aesthetic attitudes which were an
important component of imperialist views. Politics of
imagination had a lot to do with the defining of cultural
identities with which political languages were preoccupied.
Chomsky is of
the view that after the destruction of the indigenous
populations of the western hemisphere, of India, and almost the
complete subjugation of Africa, "the fundamental themes of
conquest retain their vitality and resilience, and continue to
do so until the reality and causes of the savage injustice are
honestly addressed". The great work of subjugation and
conquest has changed little over the years.
Haiti, Cuba, Latin America, and different pockets of the Third
World, Chomsky draws parallels between the genocide of colonial
times and the exploitation associated with the modern-day
imperialism in which there is a correlation between aid sent by
a great power like the USA and the human rights climate.
scholar, Lars Schoultz, discovered that US aid "has tended
to flow disproportionately to those Latin American governments
which torture their citizens". Though human rights is a
soul of modern-day democracies, throughout the history of
encounters, "fierce savages" have not been spared.
book is a remarkable work on history and world politics, written
with that one humanist motive that man is not condemned to
become a commodity. It re-examines not just the past but sheds
light on contemporary realities of racism, domination and
views and Hartley’s associational psychology stand rejected
within the paradigm of his analysis. The human mind is
undoubtedly a tabula rosa at birth, and education moulds the
mind of the individual by inculcating the ideas best calculated
to further individual and general happiness. But the analogy
cannot be applied to the primitive or oriental societies which
definitely cannot be shaped according to utilitarian dictates.
Though Mill was
influenced to an extent by Bentham’s "Corrigenda of Laws
in General", he conveniently left out Bentham’s moderate
view that some amount of consideration must be given to
indigenous systems, using them as far as possible to bring about
reforms rather than substitute them indiscriminately.
Nevertheless, Bentham’s view was also a subtle imperialist
feared the idea of Coleridgean imagination which could be used
to define cultural and national identity. Both Bentham’s and
Mill’s projects were based on the premise that cultural
differences were insignificant, but in the late 18th and early
19th century, there was a major shift to the opposite: cultures
were being increasingly defined in relation to newly discovered
literary, historical and mythological material.
There is, in
fact, a connection between the erosion of the implicit or
explicit universalist claims of western epistemology and
ontology and the increasing impact of other cultures on European
thinking. Other cultures are to be encountered by means other
Given the extent to which European post-modernism and
Euro-American post-structuralism stressed cultural relativity as
an insight into their most radical thought, it is a blatant
irony that the label of "post-modernism" is
increasingly being applied hegemonically to non-European
cultures and texts.
of colonial texts which continuously react to such hegemonic
control brings about a crisis of European authority, and its
epistemology and ontology operate through such labelling to
relegate the non-white world into a subjugated position. There
is a need to dismantle and unmask such systems of knowledge and
labels which underpin the imperial enterprise and go towards
building a master narrative that works towards cultural control
and limits any post-colonial definition of the self.
indigenous narrative forms and metaphysical systems would
promote the post-colonial strategy of challenging the western
master narratives. Myths are not only unifying symbols; they are
the product of that imagination which Coleridge describes as
unifying and idealising, and which he used in the "Biographia
Literaria" to restore a sense of national unity.
narrative brings order to the social disorder of colonialism and
neo-colonialism and unifies the colonised in opposition to the
coloniser. But it can also become a form of legitimisation of
oppression for it depicts social life in terms of a romantic or
tragic struggle in which history as a possibility is lost. While
mythical narratives function as forms of resistance to
colonialism, they can also accommodate forms of oppression,
particularly national bourgeois dictatorships in the noe-colonial
of Columbus", in the words of Basil Davidson, an African
historian, spread all over the world. It all began with the
union of warfare and trade. Brutal wars were fought to gain
monopoly over trade and power. To cite an example, the USA
backed the Indonesian army by supplying the names of thousands
of Communist Party leaders who were immediately gunned down.
Apart from this inside information, Indonesia was also given
critical military and diplomatic support for its monstrous
intellectuals in the British universities lectured on the value
of their traditional culture and the new world order in the
post-cold war era, British aerospace and Rolls Royce entered
into a trade agreement with Indonesia and became one of the
largest suppliers of arms to any country in Asia. Interestingly,
under the cover of the Gulf crisis, the world was kept in the
dark about the America supported atrocities and large-scale
massacre of the tribals of West Papua and Dili.
idealism and its counterfeit discourse on international law and
justice proceeded unhindered by such events. No notice is given
to the fact that Indonesia is supported by Australia, Britain,
Japan and the USA in its exploitation of the oil mines in the
Timor Gap. What would the world feel if western powers had
joined hands with Iraq in exploiting the oil mines in Kuwait? In
fact the war against Saddam was not waged to save democracy for
which the West’s Arab allies have as little interest as the
Iraqi leader. The sole aim of the conflict was to not allow the
control over oil to pass into the hands of a country which is
not a protege of the West. The western stability and
civilisation depends on the free flow of oil. This is no secret.
It only shows
the mechanics of the white man’s strategy of incorporating
non-whites into their hegemonistic programme. It is the
expediency of a neo-colonial, neo-mercantilist policy that
Chomsky is emphasising when he says: "The gleam of light in
Asia in 1965-1966 and the glow it has left until today
illuminate the traditional attitudes towards human rights and
democracy, the reasons for them, and the critical role of the
educated classes. They reveal with equal brilliance the reach of
the pragmatic criterion that effectively dismisses any human
values in the culture of respectability."
relationships with a country like Brazil meant industrial
development only if it did not interfere with American profits
and industry. It is a "logical illogicality" that
governs the American global policy: control over military
supplies to Latin America means economic and political leverage
enabling the USA to deter nationalist tendencies and to counter
"subversion". The motives always remain the
establishment of predominant US military influence in many
countries of Latin America.
developments over the past 50 years have made outspoken
representatives of previously subdued or unrecognised
subcultures turn the cultural laboratories of ethnology,
literature, folkloristics, cultural anthropology, history, and
socio-psychology into a battlefield of group identities, making
full use of the traditional materials and creating new ones. The
problems of hegemony, colonial discourse and the writing of
literary art forms take up the oppositional consciousness of the
tongueless other and posits nothing less than new objects of
knowledge and new theoretical models which alter the prevailing
paradigmatic norms. The intention is to end domination and
coercive systems of knowledge by exposing the West’s contempt
for human rights. After all, it is not only the Third World that
has lawless dictators who need only to see the birth of all
totalitarian ideology in western civilisation during the past
100 years. White mythologies need to be deconstructed to
understand the western grip on the psyche of the Oriental.
Within the wide agreement that
socialism is in crisis, new antagonisms have appeared both in
western capitalist societies and the Third World. It is
imperative to reformulate the theoretical basis of the socialist
programme through the critique of essentialism which envelopes
the significant developments in contemporary theory:
post-structuralism’ philosophy of language and hermeneutics. A
necessary dialogue between left-wing politics and the
anti-essentialist theoretical basis would help to throw light on
the nature of the social and political struggles characteristic
of the major crisis in contemporary democratic politics and late
rationalist as short story
Review by Kavita Soni-Sharma
Reflections Of A Hen In Her Last Hour and Other Stories by
Paul Zacharia. Penguin Books, Delhi. Pages 218. Rs 200.
OWE the existence of these stories to many good beings, not
the least among them being God, however much I may disagree
with him in regard to certain details of the World
Order." Thus Paul Zacharia acquaints the Anglo-phonic
reader to a part of his stories written originally in the
Malayalam language. As one moves from story to story, written
over a period of 30 years, one cannot but notice that God did
give special power to Zacharia’s pen even when Zacharia was
poking fun at him.
reflect the different moods and inspirations of the writer.
They have the rare and endearing quality of simplicity of
expression. His range too is vast and varied. Zacharia has
already earned a name for himself in Malayalam literature for
his outspoken ideas on religion, traditional society,
sexuality and the irrational. While reading his stories one
tends to compare them to the rather vapid, but much hyped,
literature being written by Indians in English.
in this book have evolved from Zacharia’s commitment to a
sense of modernity in Malayalam literature which appears to
have become more pronounced over the past 50 years. In the
satirical "The end of third rate literature" he
pokes fun at his own tall claim to good writing. A
sub-standard short story writer of inferior skills with the
help of the devil comes up with a diabolic scheme to ruin a
first rate Ezhava writer. However, timely advise from an angel
helps the good writer overcome his downfall and marks the
disappearance of third-rateness and jealousy from high
modernist Malayalam literature.
There is a
story of "Brother Lukose and the devil" in which
Zacharia derides religion and theology. The evil being asks
Lukose for 10 conclusive proofs of the existence of God.
Lukose has faith but is otherwise foolish. Unable to come up
with an answer on his own, he prays to God for a way out.
Benign help comes to him in a series of farts!! But good
triumphs over evil.
you see the looking glass" is set in biblical times and
it explores the mind of the 30-year-old Jesus which seems to
be battling with his fears and apprehensions regarding the
state of men and matters of his times. Then there is Zacharia’s
story about corruption, bribery, dereliction of duty and
associated social ills which takes us to meet the officer
in-charge of the gas chamber in his district. This officer is
charged with democratising death and thereby establishes
purity of society.
chamber administration has, however, its own weaknesses. One
rather conspicuous one was for the more beautiful among young
women who were brought for the purge.
The chief acharya
of a nearby ashram is a man of flexible morals and
he reaches an understanding with this gas chamber officer. The
officer now begins to send the more beautiful women to the acharya
for spiritual upliftment before purging them.
the pre-purge spiritual training of young women broadens out
to include the Minister, the secret police chiefs, the
soldiers, the contractors and even other priests. For the
spiritual insight that the young women obtain the officer in
charge of the gas chamber is adequately compensated. But soon
the Purge Mazdoor Sabha declares a strike. At this the exalted
leader has the officer sent for a purge.
As is evident from this
rather brief description of some of the stories in this
collection, here we have some of the best of the storyteller’s
art as it has evolved in Malayalam. The most admirable quality
about this collection, however, remains that the stories
continue to retain their power of illustrating the nooks and
crannies of small town Kerala and its residents even in
translation thus giving lie to the complaint that good
regional literature loses its charm on being translated into
of farm credit
by Randeep Wadehra
Credit Markets: Financial Sector Reforms and the Informal
Lenders by Anita Gill. Deep & Deep, New Delhi. Pages
xi+163. Rs 350.
a predominantly agricultural economy rural credit has a vital
role to play. According to the author, rural credit markets
have always been the focus of policy intervention in
developing countries like India. Traditionally, rural finance
in India has been dominated by the informal sector — namely,
the usurious moneylender. Despite the progress made by the
formal rural banking segment, our village economy is largely
dependent on the moneylender - cum - pawn - broker - cum -
wholesale - grain - dealer - cum - commission - agent - cum -
much else. Of course, one will find variations in his role
from region to region, and often from village to village, but
it goes without saying that he is very much a part of the
rural credit scene.
sector comprising cooperatives and commercial banks, has not
been able to measure up to the demand for finance in the
agricultural sector. Non-availability of credit at the right
time and in a right amount has been the bane of our economy,
especially in rural areas. Due to uncertainties of
agricultural output — whatever the reasons — a significant
number of cultivators resort to borrowing as income from their
produce may not be enough to meet their material needs. The
vagaries of rural economy requires prompt availability of
funds, something that the moneylender alone has been able to
provide so far.
out that agriculture is the vehicle of our economy’s quest
for self-reliance, and even prosperity. She provides a
detailed elucidation of interlinked transactions in villages,
highlighting their pros and cons by referring to field studies
done in the past and also presenting case studies of her own.
has divided her research thesis in such a manner that one gets
a preliminary, but comprehensive picture of the rural finance
scene, before she proceeds to systematically analyse the
credit market structure in the sample area. Economic problems
and their resolution too have been dealt with comprehensively.
She is right in concluding that even in an agriculturally
well-developed state like Punjab credit institutions "are
far behind times in their insistence upon collateral. They
have not been able to push informal lenders out of business,
because these lenders have displayed greater foresight in
shifting to a better collateral, and overcoming the problem of
other reasons too like under-valuation of land by lending
institutions, etc. Suffice it to say that the formal sector
has yet to offer ruralites a viable alternative to the
chosen Punjab as her area of study, since it is "the most
advanced" agricultural state. The sample has been taken
from six villages of Patiala district. First, she gives the
salient features of the area chosen for study. Then she
analyses the agriculture credit structure in the sample
villages before focusing entirely on the credit scene there.
She has selected 181 households to analyse. Out of these 29
belong to landless labourers. However, it is not clear whether
the rest belong to the landowning class or other economic
groups. Nor has she explained the respective size of
landholdings under study.
question that crops up is whether all the sample households
belong to the same caste. The rural demographic profile is
incomplete and hazy in the volume. We all know that like any
village elsewhere in India, the village population in Punjab
consists of diverse caste and community groups. Each group has
a distinct position in the village hierarchy.
Yet, over a
period of time there have been occupational changes. For
example, moneylending is no more a profession of mercantile
castes alone. Several agricultural families too lend money.
non-mercantile castes like the Jats and the Ramgarhias have
almost replaced the traditional moneylending castes like the
Khatris, Baniyas, and the Brahmins. Does this have an impact
on the rural credit scene in any manner?
One must also
arrive at a dispassionate conclusion regarding the end-use of
a loan whether from an institution or individual. This will
put in perspective a rash of suicides in Punjab, as in Andhra
Pradesh, highlighted by the media. Was it poverty or the
borrower’s profligacy that triggers the suicides? The answer
will enlighten the policy-makers, bankers and social
academic analysis, the author should have gone into this
aspect as it provides the necessary feedback that helps in
policy formulation at the higher levels. If a research scholar
does not provide such an input, who would? Especially when we
know how efficient our government departments are in
collecting relevant data for such purpose. This, however, does
not diminish the utility of Anita Gill’s well-researched
« « «
Guide to the Globalisation of Finance by Kavaljit Singh.
Madhyam Books, Delhi. Pages xi+187. Rs 150.
economic activity has become highly sophisticated and
production, distribution and consumption have given rise to
complex patterns of human behaviour in the course of business.
Though the fundamentals of economics have remained constant,
there is a qualitative and quantum change in the various
processes that keep an economy bustling. Above all else,
financing of these processes has become a highly specialised
activity, acquiring a global character.
several advantages of this interdependence on such a large
scale. Surplus funds in one part of the world, or in one
segment of the global economy, are now gainfully employed in
the fund-starved economies. This enables stragglers to catch
up with leaders, or at least come respectably close to them.
The global level economic imbalances can thus be redressed to
a significant extent.
economies like communist China and the erstwhile Soviet Union
now offer the biggest investment opportunities to foreigners.
Now India too has joined the race for inviting foreign
capital. Our pundits are convinced that this is the only way
to economic nirvana.
But there is
a flip side too. Foreign investments are generally fickle in
nature. Most of these aim at quick, short-term profits and
exit after making a fast buck. The remainder flees at the
first sign of economic or political trouble, adding to the
woes of the country that is already in the doldrums. This is
precisely what happened in South-East Asian countries in 1997
and in Mexico two years earlier.
Korea and Thailand the reason for the currency crisis was not
a disruption of the fundamentals, but too much reliance on
short-term capital and portfolio flows. These flows reversed
direction the moment the first sign of economic downturn
became visible, sending the economies into a tailspin.
Kavaljit Singh points out that had the respective governments
not been too liberal and intervened at the right time, the
crises could have been averted.
troubled countries needed help, according to the author,
"the USA, which has played an important role in the
success of South-East Asian economies through market access,
security support and economic aid in the past four decades,
however, was reluctant to intervene in the bailout process.
Given the fact that the USA has a dominant position in the IMF’s
policies (it controls nearly 28 per cent of IMF’s total
capital), it along with Japan pushed the IMF centre-stage and
made only a small contribution in the bail-out
has underscored the hazards of over-dependence on foreign
capital. He has also dwelt upon the need for capital controls.
He avers that when a country is opening up to global capital
inflow, regulations become essential.
lenders and borrowers assume that in case of trouble they will
be bailed out by the government(s) at the taxpayers’
expense. The problem gets exacerbated due to a herd mentality.
This is exactly what happened in Mexico, and later on in the
ASEAN region. Debunking the theory that a free market sans
government control is ideal for sound economic growth, Singh
points out that history is replete with examples of market
failure; sooner or later it has to turn to the government for
author recommends an economic regime with a sound policy for
an effective regulating mechanism. Proper monitoring of
financial flows is essential. He even recommends a global tax,
citing the recommendation of Nobel laureate Prof James Tobin,
who advocated this tax to discourage speculation in short-term
foreign exchange dealings, thus softening shocks from
large-scale currency movements. This would, thus, control the
volatility of international currency markets and protect to a
significant extent a government’s ability to formulate
national fiscal policies.
Singh has done a good job of explaining the nitty-gritty of
international finance and the implications of global
investments, especially in the short-term capital markets. A
useful book for students of economics, and their teachers too!
« « «
Shroff: Titan of Finance & Free Enterprise by Sucheta
Dalal. Viking, New Delhi. Pages xi+158. Rs 295.
He could be
brutally frank, honest to a fault and yet was a successful
business tycoon. A patriot and a visionary, who built
financial institutions and made valuable contributions to
banking, insurance and industrial finance, A.D. Shroff was
acclaimed a financial wizard during his lifetime. In 1936, the
Reserve Bank of India’s first Governor, Sir Osborne Smith,
wanted Shroff to be the RBI’s Deputy Governor.
was Osborne’s friend, replied to the offer thus: "I am
unfortunately too conscious of the fact that the views I have
expressed on public matters cannot be acceptable to the
government, but whatsoever others may think of it, frankly
speaking, it does not matter two brass buttons to me what the
government may or may not think of me. I have not so far
sought any patronage from government officials nor do I intend
It was this
abrasive stance and this pro-Congress loyalties that made the
British wary of him. Yet, after independence, disappointed
with Nehru’s socialist policies, Shroff was equally acerbic
in his comments on the post-independence regime. He was a
caustic critic of such policies as nationalisation of
insurance, which he felt was against national interest. This
only earned him the hostility of the powers that be. But
perhaps he would have been immensely satisfied with the
opening up of the economy that is now under way.
Ardeshir Dorabshaw Shroff’s achievements are impressive. A
trained banker, he began his career as a stockbroker. He went
on to become the founder-director of the Investment
Corporation of India, chairman of the Bank of India and the
New India Assurance Company, and director of Tatas and many
other leading companies. He was also associated with the HDFC.
He was among the earliest exponents of free enterprise. He
represented India at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference which
established the World Bank and the IMF. He authored the Bombay
plan, a blueprint for India’s postwar economy prepared by
eight leading industrialists.
Sucheta Dalal, a noted
financial journalist, has done an impressive job of portraying
Shroff’s achievements and character. The narrative is
riveting. This makes one wonder whether patriotism is not much
more than singing appropriate songs on marked days. Perhaps
solid work for national betterment is more patriotic than all
those dollops of platitudes and homilies which are insincerely
churned out and promptly cast aside, once they have serve a