Snippets from here and there.

October 19, 2014 at 11:12am
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What’s important is not whether the critic liked the film or disliked it (based on your perception of his review). What’s important is not whether his thumb is up or down or pointing north by northwest. What’s important is what the critic has to say. This isn’t an evaluative profession but an analytical one, even a forensic one. Put differently, a critic isn’t a judge with a gavel but a scientist with a microscope.

— Lights, Camera, Conversation… “The critic doth protest too much?” | Baradwaj Rangan

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So far, the 21st century has been a rotten one for the western model,” according to a new book, The Fourth Revolution, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. This seems an extraordinary admission from two editors of the Economist, the flag-bearer of English liberalism, which has long insisted that the non-west could only achieve prosperity and stability through western prescriptions. It almost obscures the fact that the 20th century was blighted by the same pathologies that today make the western model seem unworkable, and render its fervent advocates a bit lost. The most violent century in human history, it was hardly the best advertisement for the “bland fanatics of western civilisation”, as the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called them at the height of the cold war, “who regard the highly contingent achievements of our culture as the final form and norm of human existence

— The western model is broken | Pankaj Mishra | World news | The Guardian

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Some commentators have compared India to the United States, in that both are large, ecologically diverse, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious democracies. This may have been somewhat true in the twentieth century, but Dasgupta persuasively argues that the India now emerging may perhaps have more similarities to Russia. Both countries have moved from a state-centered economy to a system that claims to be “free-market” but is in fact based on close connections between individual entrepreneurs and individual politicians. Post-Soviet Russia and contemporary India, he rightly observes, have both witnessed “the emergence of a class of oligarchs who used the political system to take control of their countries’ essential resources.”

— Rana Dasgupta’s “Capital: The Eruption of Delhi” Review: Delhi’s 1% | New Republic

October 15, 2014 at 5:40am
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Fanon, a student of Césaire, was to turn the Marxist schema upside down, almost as profoundly as Marx had done with Friedrich Hegel. Fanon argued that in colonial settings, “Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched” because, he argued, “the economic substructure is also a superstructure. The cause is the consequence; you are rich because you are white, you are white because you are rich”.
Class is too important to be left to racists to misuse at will in the defence of white supremacy.

— Class theory finally decolonised | Opinion | Analysis | Mail & Guardian

October 8, 2014 at 5:00am
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Allende, who took office in November of 1970, had swiftly nationalized the country’s key industries, and he promised “worker participation” in the planning process. Beer’s mission was to deliver a hypermodern information system that would make this possible, and so bring socialism into the computer age. The system he devised had a gleaming, sci-fi name: Project Cybersyn.

— The Socialist Origins of Big Data

September 30, 2014 at 12:46pm
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In the decade preceding the consolidation of All India Radio (circa 1936), there was an alternative model for broadcasting in India. It rejected the premise that there was a national audience, a national culture, or a national politics, or that radio’s key function was to create them. In these negations of broadcasting’s nation-statist implications, this model for Indian radio departed from the standard of the 1930s for the mass medium in the Western democracies and authoritarian states alike. Decreeing that discrete local services were the natural correspondent to the subcontinent’s fractured social landscape, the model affronted the legitimacy of Indian nationalism. In this it mirrored the conservative face of colonial rule.

— Cambridge Journals Online - Modern Asian Studies - Abstract - The Imagined Reign of the Iron Lecturer: Village Broadcasting in Colonial India

September 22, 2014 at 12:07pm
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This wouldn’t have been so bad had the mills functioned like the meritocracy they implicitly claimed to be—that is, if they had combined equal employment opportunity with such performance-based rewards as a bigger house. But the mills were nothing like a meritocracy. They didn’t practice equal opportunity hiring. Instead, caste nepotism ruled. The whole township was an upper-caste fiefdom, mixing caste nepotism and housing segregation into a soul-corrupting brew. During this visit, as my parents and I walked by the Staff quarters, I recorded the names of ex-residents. I also noted names that came up in conversations with ex-neighbors and ex-colleagues. Below is this list of about hundred names, a highly representative sample of the Staff members of the Birlanagar textile mills. Bania (most Marwari): Mandalia, Kabra, Bajoria, Ganderiwal, Jhaver, Poddar, Singhania, Tibrewal, Chandgothia, Nahar, Budhia, Chapparia, Kathuria, Dwarka, Mittal, Poddar, Samalia, Saraf, Neekhra, Ajmera, Dalmiya, Lakhotia, Rungta, Makharia, two Shrimals, two Chauradias, two Goyals, many Guptas, many Agrawals
Brahmin: Chakravarty, Fotedar, Kaul, Deshpande, Karandikar, Gopal, Tyagi, Saraswat, Gaur, Joshi, Dindhaw, Kalia, Mishra, two Dikshits, many Shuklas, many Sharmas
Khatri: Tandon, Khanna, Kapoor, Batra, Oberoi, Sehgal, Chand, Vohra, many Aroras
Thakur/Jat/Others: Bhadoria, Rathore, Rathi, Taparia, Singh, Rastogi
Kayastha/Vaidya: Saxena, Shrivastava, Ghosh, Sinha, Sengupta, Dasgupta
Christian/Sikh/Jain/Others: D’Souza, Briganza, Alexander, George, Thomas, Singh, Mauj, Jain, Merchant The iconic building of the Birla Industries Club
This list confirmed my long held suspicion that the supposed diversity of Birlanagar was deeply deceptive. I found not a single Muslim, Shudra, Dalit, or Adivasi among the Staff. No women either. In short, not even one person from the constituencies that make up almost 90 percent of Indians! ‘Our management had an unwritten policy of not hiring Muslims,’ father remarked casually. Labor employees did include lower-caste men but almost all Staff employees at this ‘temple of modern India’ were twice-born Hindu males, with a profusion of Marwari banias—especially in senior management, starting with Aditya Birla himself—the rest being a smattering of privileged Christian, Jain, and Sikh men. Father told me that other Staff members quietly resented the domination of Marwari banias. Staff hiring and promotions pivoted mostly on caste, not merit, and diversity wasn’t valued at all. It struck me much later that no one from the Labor class ever visited the Birla Industries Club. While theoretically open to all employees, the club had become an exclusive playground for the Staff, all upper-caste. JC Mills even had separate entrances, and both mills had separate canteens, for Staff and Labor. This sort of segregation never struck me as problematic back then; it even seemed like the natural order of things. The neighborhood of my formative years was exclusively upper-caste. No wonder I grew up so blind to the unfair advantage of caste in my own life and the handicap it was for others. This blindness, still rife among my family and friends, was an attribute of my caste privilege. It allowed the boys in my neighborhood to use ‘chamaar’ and ‘bhangi’ as casual abuses for each other.

— A Place Called Home - Shunya’s Notes

September 18, 2014 at 3:07am
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If Adorno were to look upon the cultural landscape of the twenty-first century, he might take grim satisfaction in seeing his fondest fears realized. The pop hegemony is all but complete, its superstars dominating the media and wielding the economic might of tycoons. They live full time in the unreal realm of the mega-rich, yet they hide behind a folksy façade, wolfing down pizza at the Oscars and cheering sports teams from V.I.P. boxes. Meanwhile, traditional bourgeois genres are kicked to the margins, their demographics undesirable, their life styles uncool, their formal intricacies ill suited to the transmission networks of the digital age. Opera, dance, poetry, and the literary novel are still called “élitist,” despite the fact that the world’s real power has little use for them. The old hierarchy of high and low has become a sham: pop is the ruling party.

The Internet threatens final confirmation of Adorno and Horkheimer’s dictum that the culture industry allows the “freedom to choose what is always the same.” Champions of online life promised a utopia of infinite availability: a “long tail” of perpetually in-stock products would revive interest in non-mainstream culture. One need not have read Astra Taylor and other critics to sense that this utopia has been slow in arriving. Culture appears more monolithic than ever, with a few gigantic corporations—Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon—presiding over unprecedented monopolies. Internet discourse has become tighter, more coercive. Search engines guide you away from peculiar words. (“Did you mean … ?”) Headlines have an authoritarian bark (“This Map of Planes in the Air Right Now Will Blow Your Mind”). “Most Read” lists at the top of Web sites imply that you should read the same stories everyone else is reading. Technology conspires with populism to create an ideologically vacant dictatorship of likes.

— Pop Culture and Power

September 10, 2014 at 6:56am
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In 1962–63, when I (Kanshiram) got the opportunity to read Ambedkar’s book Annihilation of Caste I also felt that it was perhaps possible to eradicate casteism from society. But later, when I studied the caste system and its behaviour in depth, there was a gradual modification in my thoughts. I have not only gained knowledge about caste from the books but from my personal life as well. Those people who migrate in large numbers from their villages to big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata take no possessions with them but their caste. They leave behind their small huts, land and cattle, etc. in the village and settle in slums, near sewers and railway tracks, with nothing else but their one and only possession—their caste. If people have so much affection for their caste then how can we think of annihilating it? That is why I have stopped thinking about the annihilation of caste.

— Goodreads | Bhupinder Singh (London, ON, Canada)’s review of Kanshiram: Leader of the Dalits

September 6, 2014 at 12:11pm
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Reblogged from dhrupad


Anhey Gorhey Da Daan, Alms For a Blind Horse (2011)