Monday, March 06, 2006

karl goes to india

Some quotations from Marx's "On Imperialism in India," 1853, an essay I'm inclined to like and dislike at the same time:

If you will, go still more back to antiquity, take the mythological chronology of the Brahmin himself, who places the commencement of Indian misery in an epoch even more remote than the Christian creation of the world.

We must not forget that these idyllic village communites, inoffensive they they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism . . . contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external cicumstances instead of elevating man to be the sovereign of circumstances . . . and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.

It was the British intruder who broke up the Indian hand-loom and destroyed the spinning wheel. England began with driving the Indian cottons from the European market; it then introduced twist in Hindostan and in the end inundated the very mother country of cotton with cottons. From 1818 to 1836 the export of twist from Great Britain to India rose in the proportion of 1 to 5,200. But at the same time the population of Dacca decreased from 150,000 inhabitants to 20,000. This decline of Indian towns celebrated for their fabrics was by no means the worst consequence. British steam and science uprooted over the whole surface of Hindostan, the union between agricultural and manufacturing industry.

From the Indian natives, reluctantly and sparingly educated at Calcutta, under English superintendence, a fresh class is springing up, endowed with eh requirements for government and imbued with European science . . . The day is not far distant when . . . that once fabulous country will thus be actually annexed to the Western world.

Old Karl, that ghost of history, is a personal spectre of mine. While certain ideas about social antagonisms and commodity fetishism do stand the test of time, Marx makes a couple of ill-begotten suggestions:

1) the de-mystification of reality
2) a metanarrative of world-wide homogeneity - another will to mastery in disguise - that is a functional continuity of the Western imperialism that he claims to overthrow.

1 comment:

David said...

Marx was a materialist, but would deny being so.

Also, his theories can't explain such things as, say, religious rebellions, and thus dogmatic Marxists always resort to teleological reasoning.