Partha Chatterjee, The Wages of Freedom and Those Fond Memories of the Raj

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1 Partha Chatterjee, The Wages of Freedom and Those Fond Memories of the Raj The Wages of Freedom Betrayal? From interviews with veterans of the freedom struggle in rural Bengal conducted in the 1970s: The interviewees repeatedly return to the present and express a sense of betrayal. They had entered the struggle, because Gandhi ordered us, because they wanted change, a better life, with no expectations other than freedom, or with expectations of a better society, without consideration of risks involved. But now, when asked to recollect those days and speak about what motivated them to take those risks, what thoughts they had had, they break their recollections frequently to comment on the present. I could not help being struck by the note of despair and bitterness in their voices. 4. Achievements Chatterjee next turns to the achievements of the political leadership that led the freedom struggle and then assumed power in the new state. These were by no means inconsiderable. First, transformations that were directly political : a democratic political system. Chatterjee while acknowledging continuities with the colonial state, rejects Khilnani s remark that India s constitutional democracy was an absent minded adoption, and argues that the ethically significant aspects of the modern state national sovereignty, citizenship, equal rights, adult franchise were thought through and formulated over a long period by the leadership before it was implemented. These cannot to attributed to British rule. Although the Constituent Assembly which finalized these proposals was elected by a tiny electorate, the nationalist elite was committed to these principles and was acting in good faith. Second, the reorganization of states, the federal units, along linguistic lines. There were delays but it was not an easy process. The principle however had been accepted in the 1920s in constituting provincial committees and from that time on, it had been accepted and practiced. Chatterjee claims that this policy was adopted on the ground that the use of the regional language for political communication was a primary condition for increased democratic participation (6). Thus another major condition for democratic politics was accepted long before its implementation. A new ethical ground was thus achieved. But barring these national sovereignty, representative democracy, fundamental rights, universal suffrage, linguistic political units There were many respects in which the modes of governance of the colonial period were directly carried over into the postcolonial realm (7). Instrumental and pragmatic justifications were offered. The bureaucracy, the armed forces, the police and the judiciary: left undisturbed. Civil and criminal law also.

2 The colonial rationale maintaining order, securing basic needs was replaced by appeal to the idea of development, defined as growth with equity. Not qualitative transformation but qualitative expansion. Economy and efficiency were the criteria of evaluation, rather than democratic participation and social justice. Nehru era achievements: construction of a viable structure of the nation-state. Territorial integration. This was partly achieved by partition itself, which rendered the remaining part of India less conflict ridden. The other aspect: the princely states, took longer to resolve. A new ruling coalition of industrial bourgeoisie, urban middle class and rural propertied classes. Mobilizing support for state policy: This was achieved through the Congress system : a differentiated structure of the party organization from the central to the provincial to the district and local levels accommodating different class and group interests (8). The authority of Nehru helped. The key legitimizing principle was the ideology of development stemming from the nationalist project of modernization of Indian society. Poverty, identified as the root cause of social backwardness, hence industrialization the first priority. State penetration into society was rapid. Civil society, political society and the State How have social scientists analysed these political developments? Rudolph and Rudolph: in terms of a tussle between demand polity and command polity. Rao and Frankel: rising power of low status groups and the defensive moves of upper caste, middle class groups. Atul Kohli: electoral pressures lead to decay of democratic institutions, crisis of governability. All three share a conception in which there are two domains : state and civil society and the need for balance in relations between them. The state-civil society duality is a characteristic of western societies. Non-Western societies do not always conform to it. Even though the requisite features are seen to be absent, analysts nevertheless continue to talk about state-society relations on the plea that the model itself, the liberal definition of civil society, is too Eurocentric and unaccommodative of variations. In other words, rather than describe and theorize the difference, they tinker with the definition of the root concept and continue to use it. This revision leads to a blindness to something specific to this society: that the given social institutions (which the analysts take as equivalent to western civil society) were targeted for transformation, rather than taken as such. The nationalist leadership wanted to create a civil society on the western model. This is the spirit of the Nehruvian project. Modernity was a mission forever waiting to be completed.

3 While state apparatuses reached nearly all the population, civil society in the strict Hegelian sense was a fairly small section of what may be called proper citizens. This is the mark of non-western modernity, the always incomplete project of modernization, and the pedagogical role of an enlightened elite to the rest. How to characterize the rest? The common approach is the traditional/modern dichotomy. Chatterjee s alternative: political society. Political society: a domain of institutions and activities where several mediations are carried out. 11 Unlike the concept of civil society, which is assumed to be composed of the nuclear family as basic unit. This assumption untenable in India. A conceptual move to population. Foucault, but also colonial anthropology and administrative theories. Population is descriptive, empirical, nor normative like the family. Population has primordial, prerational attributes. By knowing them, they can be made targets of policy. Civil society: consists of institutions set up by nationalist elite in colonial modernity, emulative of western modernity. This recognized as limited, exclusive domain of elite. With the public at large, this civil society engaged not in free association but in a pedagogical role. Political society Explicit form of nation-state in India: liberal democracy. Early nationalist politics confined to a small circle. Wedded to normative principles of modernity. A different mediation between the population and the state than bourgeois civil institutions. Politial impetus: colonial state targeting large sections of population with its policies. Nationalist politics had to come up with a response, in order to stay in the game. The answer: to mediate politically between the population and the nation-state of the future. The most dramatic and effective form of this mediation: Gandhian moment of manoeuvre. A new political society is the site where this happens. Not consistent with the principles of association in civil society. What principles govern political society? Developmental state with governmental function of welfare. Democracy is the name for the major form of mobilization by which political society (parties, movements, non-part political formations) tries to channelize and order popular demands on the developmental state. 15 Modernity and democracy

4 Tendencies introduces in politics in Nehru era: one, continuation of project of modernization of existing social institutions. This was a class project, employed legal and administrative powers to carry out social reforms; employed cultural instruments to inculcate values of an Indian modernity. Two, governance requirements called for knowledge of population groups, proliferation of technical apparatuses of governance. Here the criterion of evaluation is economic. Populations here were empirical objects of government policy, not citizens who participated in the sovereignty of the state. Sovereignty and governmentality; rights and policy. One spoke the language of modernity, the other the economic language of policy. One was composed of citizens, but not all were citizens. The gap was acknowledged by the language of policy. A constitutive contradiction: between modernizing aspirations and a commitment to democracy. Contradiction managed on the terrain of political society. Compromises had to be made, rules had to be bent, political society was a field where meanings did not remain fixed, laws might not operate. Speaking both languages at once -- of rights as well as policy the state had to manage the contradiction. Under Nehru, political society most effectively mediated between state and civil society, kept both projects going. By the 1970s, the picture begins to change. Now a situation has arisen where modernity and democracy appear to be irreconcilable options. Those fond memories of the Raj The Indian myth of the British that prevails among India s elites. Manmohan Singh as a proponent of the myth. He was awarded an honorary doctorate, described the moment as a very emotional day, although he already had a Phd he had worked for. Not surprising, an economist-bureaucrat, member of the professional middle classes. Beneficial consequences of British rule. good governance introduced by the British. But not in the same form as in Britian. Chatterjee then paints the true picture. Judiciary, constitutional government, press freedom, civil service, universities. All regimes have beneficial effects. But why point it out now? Not because of new gained confidence, but because as popular democracy deepends in India its elites yearn for a system in which enlightened gentlemen could decide, with paternal authority, what was good for the masses Singh has only expressed a desire of the Indian elite which Gandhi recognized a long time ago: English rule without the Englishman.

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