The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, September 3, 2000

How Soviet masses were let down
Review by
Surjit Hans

Back to Sanskrit for literary theory
Review by
Akshaya Kumar

A woman’s call to purdah
Review by
G.V. Gupta

Beauty, beauty, too much of it
Review by
Rekha Jhanji

USA, human rights and Third World
Review by
Shelley Walia

A rationalist as short story writer
Review by
Kavita Soni-Sharma

Complex picture of farm credit
Write view by
Randeep Wadehra


How Soviet masses were let down
Review by Surjit Hans

Post-Revolutionary Society by Paul M. Sweezy. Originally published by Monthly Review Foundation, New York. Indian reprint by Cornerstone Publications, Kharagpur. Pages 157. Rs 150.

"The 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."

— Rosa Luxemburg, 1918.

THE 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.

"The 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.

Higher living 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 less fortunate.

"A 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 use."

The question 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.

The Soviet 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.

Sweezy 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."

In 1937 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 1970.

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.

"The 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."

"There 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."

"Forced 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.

"For 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.

"The 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 priority."

The debate 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.

"The net 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."

The Soviet 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."

According to 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 evaporated.

I was 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 history.

"The liberation of the working class must be the work of the working class, says the "Communist Manifesto".

— Rosa Luxemburg, 1918.


Back to Sanskrit for literary theory
Review by Akshaya Kumar

Towards an Alternative Critical Discourse by T.R.S. Sharma. IIAS, Shimla. Pages 121. Rs 175.

CRITICAL 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.

In this 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.

Emotions are 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.

After 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.

While analysing 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 of knowing.

Sharma’s 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 metaphysicalisation.

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?

The 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 brahmanical elite.

Sanskritists, 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.

Sanskrit 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.

Sharma does 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.


A woman’s call to purdah
Review by G.V. Gupta

Off the Beaten Track —Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian Women by Madhu Kishwar. Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Pages 290. Rs 495.

IT 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.

Action for 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?

This takes 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.

She touches 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.

The first 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.

The brides 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.

The fourth 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.

The case 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.

The so-called 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.

"Yes to 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, beauty, too much of it
Review by Rekha Jhanji

Undoing Aesthetics by Wolfgang Welsch translated by Andrew Inkpin. Sage, London. Pages 209.

THE 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.

Welsch’s 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.

Welsch defines 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 without encumbrances.

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.

Social reality 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.

Aesthetics for 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 aesthetic contours.

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.

He constantly 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 reality.

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 fulfilment."

The author 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 aestheticisation.

The author 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 viewer.

Another 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.

By highlighting 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 humane, options."

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.


USA, human rights and Third World
Review by Shelley Walia

501: The Conquest Continues by Noam Chomsky. Verso, London. Pages 331. $ 34.95

EUROPE’S 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 countries".

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 more slaves.

"The 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.

Analysing 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.

A leading 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.

Chomsky’s 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 exploitation.

James Mill’s 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 strategy.

Mill also 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 than domination.
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.

Appropriation 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.

Resorting to 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.

Mythical 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 period.

The "curse 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 crimes.

And while 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.

Western 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."

Neo-colonial 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.

Global 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 capitalism.


A rationalist as short
story writer
Review by Kavita Soni-Sharma

The Reflections Of A Hen In Her Last Hour and Other Stories by Paul Zacharia. Penguin Books, Delhi. Pages 218. Rs 200.

"I 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.

These stories 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.

The stories 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.

"Till 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.

The gas 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.

Before long 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 English.


Complex picture of farm credit
Write view
by Randeep Wadehra

Rural Credit Markets: Financial Sector Reforms and the Informal Lenders by Anita Gill. Deep & Deep, New Delhi. Pages xi+163. Rs 350.

IN 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.

The formal 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.

Gill points 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.

The author 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 overdues..."

She gives 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 ubiquitous moneylender.

She has 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.

Another 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.

In fact 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 scientists.

As an 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 tome.

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A Citizen’s Guide to the Globalisation of Finance by Kavaljit Singh. Madhyam Books, Delhi. Pages xi+187. Rs 150.

Today, 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.

There are 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.

Former closed 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.

In South 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.

When these 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 process..."

The author 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.

Often private 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 rescue.

Therefore the 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.

Kavaljit 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!

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A.D. 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.

Shroff, who 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 to."

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.

Nevertheless, 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 narrow purpose.