Demystifying Delusion and Unveiling the Crypt

Satyaki Roy

A book review of The Indian Economy in
Transition: Globalization, Capitalism and Development
, Anjan Chakraborty Anup Dhar Byasdeb
Dasgupta, Cambridge University Press, New Delhi pp. 422.

Indian economy is at crossroads. The post-reform
changes, the history of the present has to be explained by theory. Changes in
policy and their impacts are accompanied by something that has not
changed.  The unchanged is often lost,
hidden and buried under the spectacle of capitalist development. The unchanged
is the story of exploitation, original accumulation and the intractable
‘constitutive outside’ of the circuit camp of global capital. This is where the
noise remains and perturbs the serenity of capitalist development. The present
book is primarily about theorizing the change, defining and problematizing
transition and its crisis and the evolving tension between two signposts of
contemporary change, ‘neoliberal globalisation’ and ‘inclusive development’. It
draws from post-deconstructive Marxism in the tradition of Resnick and Wolff
explaining realities from a class focused approach, realities as de-centered
and differentiated without any essentialist core and telos. It takes off from
Gibson Graham rejecting capital-centrism but
goes beyond that in explaining how capital becomes hegemonic within coexisting
and overdetermining disaggregated heterogeneous class processes. This is
different from the Gramscian notion of hegemony rather the idea evolves from post
Lacanian psychoanalyses defining hegemony as ‘spectral’ and capitalism as
‘delusional cosmology’. This delusion is symbolic making the world appear
capital-centric. The book is about demystifying this delusion and at the same
time unveiling the concrete of the ‘other’, the dark ‘other’ that has not been
co-opted hitherto by global capital. The agenda as the authors say is to
explore ‘what contemporary India can mean to Marxist’s today as also what sense
can contemporary Marxist’s make of India today’.

The Dialectics and the Concrete
The pretext seems to be curving out a Marxist perspective
out of the concrete of the non-West, India being its theatre, its entry point.
The narrative is meant to locate the capital-labour contradiction in a complex,
overdetermined space. It also talks about perceptions of delusion that makes
capital far more emphatic and hegemonic. The delusional cosmology, the
totalizing Leviathan like presence clouds the ‘crypt’. The crypt is defined as
the ‘topographical arrangement made to keep (conserve-hidden) the living dead’.
The crypt is ‘alive in action and dead in language’. This ‘irreal’
understanding of capitalism, the dream like delusion silences the crypt and the
current text is to read the reality as a conflict between the delusion and the
crypt. The dialectics however is not framed in a ‘self-other’ binary structure
such that the other can only speak in the language of the hegemonic and hence
the dependent other is co-opted. Rather there are foregrounded and foreclosed
signifiers. The fore grounded other is the assimilated other, it is the lacking
other which the authors call the Third World. The Third World is assimilated in
the circuit camp of global capital, this is the ‘victim third’. On the other
hand there is the other ‘other’ which is the larger part which is the
foreclosed ‘other’, the dark other with which global capital and its camp is
trying to negotiate and intrude. This is the ‘evil Third’ which is defined as
World of the Third; the other which is hysterical, irrational and archaic. The
delusion seems to include the Third World and the crypt remains unchanged in
the World of the Third.
The World of the third is the ‘constitutive outside’ that
has no exchange with the global capital. It is the other which is expunged from
the discourse as if it does not exist at all. It is the space of ‘informality’
extremely heterogeneous in terms of class processes but the persistence of the
‘abnormal’ demands attention to policymakers who gaze at the dark from the high
balcony of global capital and get disturbed by the shrill noise of the
uncivilized and the nonnegotiable. Policy debates around poverty, SEZ, home
sector are discussed in this context. The notion of ‘original accumulation’ is
revisited. It adheres the non-temporal version of ‘primitive’ accumulation what
Marx actually talked about and argues that this accumulation occurs not only
through wholesale forcible dispossession of property rights. The non-classical
mode may be a deliberate process of privatizing resources that makes existing
forms of livelihood simply insane and unviable.
The book demystifies the delusional cloud and
familiarizes the concretes of neo-liberalism as the rise of the ‘enterprise
economy’. This is Foucault in the Birth
of Biopolitics
explaining how neo-liberalism is different from liberalism,
how the state is far more active in the ‘social’ instead of being confined to
the economic. How the neoliberal state defines the ‘conduct of conduct’ and
articulates the art of governance through capillaries of power. It is this architecture
of power that the authors demystify in the context of neoliberal policies. It
is also the rise of the homoeconomicus,
the redefining of the human being as an enterprise confronting capital with
differing entitlements of human capital. It is only about facilitating
competition, dismantling barriers of entry while maintaining silence about the
eternal barriers that perpetuate inequalities. The book discusses the recent
policy changes in regard to industry, investment, pension, education and health
in this Foucauldian light. In other words how the exclusion works via inclusion
in the post-colonial present.
In course of delineating the structure of articulation
of the circuit-camp of global capital 
with the Third World as well as with the World of the Third the analyses
problematizes ‘need’ that is neither required to produce surplus nor creates
conditions for the fundamental class process to take place. It separates the
space of need from the space of class process and also distinguishes production
surplus from social surplus. And therefore conveys a politics of class struggle
over the distribution of surplus as distinct from although not independent of
the development struggle over distribution of the social surplus. It also
distinguishes inclusive growth from inclusive development and explains how
logic of neoliberalism is smuggled into the World of the Third through
microfinance and various instruments of insurance. The authors locate the
current transition crisis of the Indian economy as not being able to replicate
the wiping out of the informal segment the way it happened in China and South
Korea where the growth of the economy and the growth of the labour force was
managed to be sequenced in a particular time frame. And therefore it seems as
if it is about to take a turn towards erasing the discourse of ‘inclusive
development’ altogether.
Unsettled Tensions
The theory underlying the narrative of change and the
rendition of the concrete seems to be having some unevenness and tension. Despite
being a commendable exercise of theorizing the post-colonial moment, the
comprehension of the dialectics remains unsettled in the discursive space. The
implicit characterizing of the crypt as the ‘constitutive outside’ locates
exploitation, class and original accumulation only at the outside of global capital
and therefore the World of the Third appears to be the only site for collective
politics. The theft of labour in the process of expanded reproduction and the
continuous alienation of the worker go hand in hand even within the circuit
camp of global capital. The dispossession continues here also. The crypt within
therefore remains unheard and the delusion that clouds the crypt within the
realm of global capital remains unnoticed. This original separation in the conceptual
schema unfolds in delineating the need and class processes. The authors further
differentiate class struggle over distribution of production surplus from developmental
struggle relating to need and redistribution of the social surplus.
True indeed the ‘need’ is different from the notion of
‘necessary’ in Marxian analyses because in the eyes of capital according to
Marx the ‘necessary’ is only recognized when it is producing surplus. Otherwise
capital does not recognise life of labour as necessary and hence the space of
need is actually the space of political struggle. However the stance of
individual capital is different from that of interest of the capitalist class
as a whole and reproducing the hegemony of the class requires maintaining the
future flow of labour. But the ‘necessary’ or the ‘socially necessary’ within
the class process is also a moment of self-valorization of labour which is
determined by nothing other than class struggle. Therefore differentiating the
struggles relating to ‘necessary’ and ‘need’ becomes somewhat problematic. The
conceptual separation further becomes complicating and superfluous with the rise
of what Negri and Tronti calls ‘social factory’. The evolving design of
organizing capitalist production increasingly brings the realm of production
and reproduction close to each other. Global capital invades every nook and
corner of livelihood and infuses every disposable moment into the calculus of
profit. The separation exists only in the abstract and as ‘necessary’ comes
closer to ‘need’ the developmental struggle essentially dissolves into class
One can also notice the underlying tension within the
discursive space, the movement between theory and the narrative of the
concrete, the coming and going seems to be uneven. The theory as if has yet to
be dissolved in the narrative of the concrete. The theory says more and the
narrative somewhere lags behind. The discussions on transition and the
commentary on the policy debates appears to the reader as some familiar critique
of the left and the sparks of new conceptual categories illuminate the
discursive space only occasionally. This is probably because of the unresolved
tension that exists within the framework itself in locating reality in the
larger frame of history. The authors denounce historical materialism in the
passing. It rejects essentialism and determinism in Marxian analysis. But
whatever be the name ‘circuit-camp of global capital’ captures an ‘abstract
social totality’ that characterises reality in concrete time and space. One may
not search for ‘immutable laws’ because such laws do not exist and historical
materialism is not about straight jacketing history onto structural cages of
inevitability. Nonetheless one can hardly present history as tangled but
formless record of unrelated incidents. This book also didn’t try to do that as
well. In other words it shares the tension of locating reality avoiding what Laibman
says the ‘twin traps of incalculable utopia and unalterable dystopia’. The
narration of reality and its analyses as a result does not get absolved from an
abstract structure which the theory might have liked to suggest. Hence in many
occasions narratives largely converge to what follows from conventional Marxian
The unsettled question of transition/transformation is
also on the table. The authors however speak in the voice of others and seem to
be undecided between big-bang revolution and incremental path of struggle by
way of expanding the possibilities of non-capitalist space within capitalism.
It apparently rejects the systemic schema of directionality of replacing or
overthrowing one ‘ism’ by another ‘ism’. It is committed to its
non-essentialist framework and hence maintains adequate restraint in
essentialising the state as well. The state however raises its ugly head again
and again, the way it plays an instrumental role in instituting the neoliberal
‘conduct of conduct’. But the imagery of transition stops here only. Social
transformation seems to be aborted in theory. It does not envisage the
possibility of state instituting a ‘conduct of conduct’ of a variety altogether
different from the present one. The scope of emancipation as if dies within the
sleeves of Foucauldian governance. But the dream remains. The crypt might
assume its voice loud enough creating a spectral which could be ‘irreal’ but
becomes essential not only to demystify but to destroy the delusional cloud of
capitalism. May be revolution is the symbolic of the counter-hegemonic ‘delusion’
and the dream emerges with adequate restraint in the penultimate chapter ‘In
the interminable process of overdetermination and contradiction the narrative
of the next phase(s) of the transition of the Indian economy will be written,
erased, and written, again and again, till the time when the concept of
capitalism itself becomes the issue and the crypt the focus premise the object
of the political.’
Foucault, M. 2008 The
Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-79
, London,
Plagrave , Macmillan.
Laibman, David 2006 ‘The End of History? The Problem
of Agency and Change in Historical Materialist Theory’, Science and Society, 70(2), pp. 180-204.
Negri, Antonio 1991 Marx beyond Marx: Lessons on
the Grundrisse
, New York: Autonomedia/Pluto.
Tronti, Mario 2013 ‘Factory and Society’,
Satyaki Roy is with the Institute for Studies in
Industrial Development, New Delhi.
This review was published in Economic and Political Weekly, April 9, Vol.51 No.15.