Colonialism in India primarily delineates the process of the British occupation of India and its long-term impact on the various aspects of our national life. For a better understanding of the issues involved, it starts with introductory essays on some of the theoretical concepts like capitalism, colonialism, neo-imperialism, post-colonialism and nationalism. It is based on the authors's life-long engagement both in terms of research and teaching. It marks a departure from the usual history books as its approach is inter-disciplinary. To that end, it adopts a thematic rather than a chronological order. It is basically designed as a textbook for both undergraduate and postgraduate students including those of Political Science and History. It is based on new and updated sources and marked by lucidity and felicity of linguistic style. Besides, it is free from ideology-based debunking and wooly sentimentalism. The book would prove useful to students of Political Science and History, civil service examinees and even for the general readers.
Ram Chandra Pradhan, a well-known social activist and Gandhian Scholar, taught at Ramjas College, University of Delhi for several decades. As one of the conveners of the Lokayan project and as an activist thinker of the Movement for Peace and Alternative Development, he travelled all over the world and interacted with activists and scholars across the continents. Dr. Pradhan has been a recipient of the Senior Fulbright Fellowship (1979-80) and the Indo-Canadian Shastri Fellowship (1993). He is the author of several books including Raj to Swaraj, Raj se Swaraj (Hindi) and Reading and Reappraising Gandhi. He is engaged in writing a multi-volume study of the Indian Socialist Movement. Presently, he is an Honorary Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Gandhian Studies, Wardha (Maharashtra).
I taught a course on 'Colonialism and Nationalism' in India for several decades at Ramjas College, University of Delhi. The idea of writing an authentic and standard textbook on the subject cropped up during my teaching years. The primary reason for such a felt-need was the absence of a standard textbook on the themes covered by the course. True, there are several history books. But they suffer from two major limitations. One, they are too heavy on facts and somewhat short on political developments and their analyses. Two, they appear to have fallen between two stools of research and textbook writings.
Prompted by all these reasons, I penned, Raj to Swaraj : A Textbook on, Colonialism and Nationalism in India which is being used by a large section of the teaching and student community. It has run through several reprints and has a Hindi version also. There is a plan to get it translated in several regional languages of India. I followed up with another book Reading and Reappraising Ganthi. Both these books present a comprehensive picture of our national movement.
However, on account of the introduction of the semester system in several Indian universities, including the Delhi University, there has been a separation of colonialism and nathionalism on semester basis. Hence, there has been a felt-need for a separate volume on colonialism as several new themes including the concepts like capitalism, colonialism, post-colonialism etc., have been included in the new syllabus. The present work attempts to cover all these themes between the two covers of the book.
I have retained my basic approach of an inclusive presentation of all viewpoints in this work as I have done in 14 earlier works. Such an approach is based on my conviction that any doctrinaire approach violates the basic norms of the textbook writings. Besides, it alone could enable the readers to see through the smokescreens created by the passionate argumentation and counter argumentation of the rival schools.
So far the arrangement of the material is concerned, I have adopted a thematic instead of a chronological order. Besides, several other reader-friendly measures have been taken viz. lucid and facile style, a fine balance between factual presentation and interpretative evaluation; interweaving each chapter with its historical context, so that each of them could be read independently. The book is divided in three parts. Part I deals with major theoretical concepts like capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, post-colonialism and nationalism. Part II deals with the issue of the British occupation of India and its overall impact on the several aspects of our national life. The major theme of Part III of the book is how India responded to the British challenge in three different ways: armed rebellion, socio-religious reform movement and through the emergence of national movement.
I owe a lot of intellectual debt to a number of scholars whose books I have used in the preparation of the present work. The list of such scholars includes historians like R. C. Majumdar, Tara Chand, B. R. Nanda, Bipin Chandra, Sumit Sarkar and Partha Chatterjee, and sociologists like T. N. Madan, D. L. Seth and political scientists like Rajani Kothari and Ramashray Roy. Macmillan Publishers India Ltd has been more than supportive of all my works.p>
In a book like this, it is quite natural for a few errors to have crept in both in terms of facts and interpretations. I invite my readers to join me in identifying them. However, presently, I alone should be taking the responsiblity for any error on these counts.
Capitalism/liberalism and socialism/Marxism have been two major ideologies offering two different socio-economic political order in our times. However, after the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union and the communist China too taking to the capitalist road, Marxism as a working system has been on the decline, though purely at an ideological level, it still continues to be popular among a section of intelligentsia and even among the common masses. We know from the study of the world history that socialism/ Marxism came up with a vibrant promise to remedy and remove the infirmities and iniquities afflicting the capitalist system of production. But in the course of its historical developments, it led to the emergence of a totalitarian system headed by a 'new' class which indulged in self-promotion putting aside the real interests of the common masses. All these developments ultimately led to its collapse in 1991.
Capitalism, on the other hand, is still going strong as a system, though at times, it appears to be on a life-support system. But from every crisis, it reappears in a new 'avatar' with a renewed determination to meet the challenges confronting it. Naturally, it raises an interesting question: What is the source of its enormous adaptability to the new challenges and new situations? Such an enquiry would also enable us to peep into its future and that in turn would require a close look at its historical developments. But first of all, one must have a view of its various definitions offered by different scholars.
True, there is no single definition of capitalism which is acceptable to all scholars. The primary reason for such divergence of views lies in its multi-dimensional character, which is why different scholars define it differently by underlining one or other of its dimensions. Besides, there is another reason for its not being defined in a precise and unanimous form. In the course of its historical developments, it has been assuming different colours and complexions. For instance, today's capitalism is entirely different from one that prevailed during the eighteenth century. Not only that, the kind of socialist capitalism prevailing in the ex-communist countries like China, hardly has any resemblance to the kind of capitalism prevailing in the Western countries. For all these reasons, it is difficult to arrive at a widely acceptable definition of capitalism. Many scholars attempt to define it by emphasing it as a system of production. Some other scholars prefer to look at it as a system in which the bulk of the means of the production is in the private hands. Still other scholars know it as a system which is primarily organised for optimising the profit-making. Another group of scholars underline its chief characteristics in terms of division of labour as its life-force which keeps it going; overcoming its numerous crises. At times, a mixed economy marked by the absence of all pervasive State ownership of the means of production is also taken as a capitalist system of production. Interestingly, even the Soviet system, with its all pervasive system of State ownership, was also characterized by some scholars as being nothing other than State capitalism. In a word, different scholars have attempted to define capitalism by stressing one or the other of its aspectual characteristics. It also goes without saying that its one or the other characteristics have been predominately associated with different stages of its historical developments.
Taking a synoptic view of all these, one could safely conclude that the capitalist system is marked by the following characteristics: profit making is the primary motive-force of production; market forces play the most crucial role in the entire system; the means of production primarily remain in the private hands and it is primarily marked by the system of division of labour and free labour.
However, it is interesting to note that even the above mentioned diverse characteristics are not exhaustive. In fact, a number of crucial questions still remain to be tackled and answered. Some of these questions are:
What is the political system most suited to the capitalist system of production? What should be the relative role of the State, the civil society and market forces in the entire process? What kind of division of powers among the different organs of the government would be the most suitable for its smooth and effective working? What kind of party system would smoothen its working? What kind of institutional and ideological set up would enable it to meet the challenges of social justice on the one hand and the liberty of its citizens on the other? These and a number of other questions still remain in a realm of speculation, as it is difficult to find the exact and precise answers to all these questions. It is precisely for the above reasons that in the following pages an attempt would be made to understand and delineate the capitalist system by describing its major characteristics, instead of offering its exact definition in a few words.
Chief Characteristics of Capitalism
1. Capital: The concept of capital is the soul and quintessence of the capitalist system of production. It may be noted that there is a radical difference between the concept of capital and that of wealth. Wealth is a much wider concept. It could be used to meet the needs of accumulation, acquisition, consumption, self-indulgence and even for charity and other social purposes. On the other hand, capital is that part of wealth which gets invested to drive and promote the system of production. Capital could be owned by the private individuals or even by a State. But capitalism underlines the fact of the capital remaining primarily in the private hands though it does not completely rule our State ownership as a part of the entire system.
It needs to be stressed that the concept of capital is very complex. It is not that simple as it appears at the first instance. A number of questions get irretrievably associated with it. Some of these questions are: How does the primitive accumulation of capital take place? What kind of social system is congenial for its promotion? Is exploitation inherent in the very womb of capital? These and similar other questions have been subject of fierce debate among scholars. We do not have to deal with all these questions as they are beyond the purview of the present study. But it is clear from the above discussion that capital is that portion of wealth which remains surplus after meeting the needs of consumption. How that surplus is generated is again a controversial question. For surplus could be genuinely generated or could be forcibly taken by the powers-that-be. And again that surplus could be used for self-indulgence by the powers-that-be or it could be used to fire and promote the production system. For instance, the State could take away the surplus by using its enormous force at its disposal. Zamindars did extract surplus from tenants by keeping them at subsistence level. Broadly speaking, one could conclude that under the capitalist system, surplus wealth/capital mostly remains in the private hands and is used for making profit, though apparently working under a system of free labours.
2. Profiteering: It is taken to be the primary motive force of capitalist system of production. It needs to be mentioned that some kind of production as a means of livelihood has been in vogue since time immemorial, i.e., even during the days of primitive communism and feudalism. However, the capitalist system of production makes a departure, as it is not done purely for personal consumption. Rather, it is primarily done for the market with a basic motive for profit-making. In the process, a part of profit is turned into capital and gets invested in trade and industry. Market plays a crucial role in the entire process, as goods and services are circulated through it even to the far-flung areas. Not only that, even prices of goods and services are fixed through market based on the sovereign law of demand and supply.
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