The Politics of Depoliticisation in Post Reform India

Written by  //  September 27, 2010  //  National Politics  //  4 Comments

Like every system, the economic base of neoliberalism needs a superstructure to keep it in place. What are the cultural mores that consolidate such an order, despite its many economic contradictions? These norms and mores are all within us, in our assumptions, in our outlook, in the way that we see the world. Neoliberalism is accompanied by liberal individualism – the understanding that participation in public life is not important – it is a matter of personal choice. While this concept seems all well and good and adheres to the notions of ‘freedom’ that neoliberalism claims to champion, on looking into it, it is really not all that simple.

Neoliberalism means economic freedom. The freedom of capital to move freely, across national boundaries, without hindrances. Neoliberalism means freedom – freedom to invest any and every where. Neoliberalism means freedom of choice of whether to participate in political activity or to develop a political understanding…But is this freedom? Neoliberalism does not mean the freedom not to be exploited, the freedom not to be displaced, the freedom to eat a square meal, to drink clean water, to safe living spaces and working conditions. (Think Bhopal.)

Sounds polemic? Yet, it is the need to attract foreign capital and the fear of capital flight that has caused neoliberal governments to put a cap on fiscal deficits which has led to a serious decline of public expenditure on education and healthcare across states in India. For the freedom of the rich to invest where they like, the poor must suffer from lack of schooling, poor health facilities and calorie intake. And why is that? Finance capital fears inflation because it undermines dividends earned on domestic bonds and leads to a dwindling of asset values. This is why finance capital fears government intervention and in fact politics altogether. The ideology of neoliberalism rests on the notion that governments are ineffective and ‘inefficient’ and that private players must have more economic freedom. (The fragility of this myth is apparent simply in the corruption and inefficiency of the Indian bourgeoisie. Contact your friendly, neighbourhood builder for details. When CWG footbridges et al collapse, be sure that the cement has been siphoned off by a private contractor. Still not convinced? Stand on a Delhi road. Nine out of ten times, the bus that runs you over will be a Blueline and not a DTC.)

While liberal individualism may be disguised as a freedom, it is also a cultural more that distrusts politics, that asks students to ‘concentrate on studies’ and refrain from speaking out for our own, very basic rights.

In fact this view is particularly dangerous for women who, as it is, are already confined to private spaces by the numerous insecurities imposed upon them by patriarchy and are often shy of taking to the streets for issues that concern them.

This view also restricts the role of education to producing individuals who can be productive assets to the neoliberal system – who concentrate on their careers and refrain from thinking about wider social issues. It ignores the fact that the purpose of education in society is actually to build up sensitive people who can speak out for their own people, especially those who are poor and oppressed – in fact to develop as Antonio Gramsci puts it, the ‘organic intellectuals’ of the masses.

If politics decides your future, decide what your politics should be.

4 Comments on "The Politics of Depoliticisation in Post Reform India"

  1. SantaBanta September 29, 2010 at 6:53 am ·

    Dear Ruchira,

    Unlike most other posts on this blog, which demonstrate a creative style of writing in tackling issues, your posts are coming off as an uncontrolled rant with little or no originality. The contents of your present post appear to have been lifted from some JNU pamhplets published by SFI with almost no contribution from your mind. Your presence on this blog is important, since you will bring a unique much-needed leftist view, in a sea of middle class rightist opinion. However if you continue with these copy paste ‘neoliberalism’ rants you will lose credibility very fast. Hope you take this in the right spirit. Looking forward to more of your writings.

    Warm Regards,
    Santa Singh & Banta Singh

  2. Ruchira September 29, 2010 at 11:23 am ·

    I’ll take this in the right spirit if and only if you post under your real name.

  3. Vipul October 10, 2010 at 2:42 am ·

    Ruchira, thanks for yet another stimulating post. I have a minor quibble. It seems that you assume that the main alterntaives are between sharing your political ideology and bein an apathetic apolitical supporter of the status quo. But many people are passionate about political matters without sharing your ideology or your methods of seeking change. I am one of those people.

  4. Ruchira October 11, 2010 at 7:24 am ·

    Sorry Vipul, I apologise and I accept that you can be deeply political without being Leftist.

    This post was originally written for students of Economics in JNU- people who are exposed to the Left critique of neoliberalism day in and day out. Most of the people this was originally written for, write critiques of neoliberalism in their answer scripts but insist that they are apolitical.

    The reason why I posted this was to show that being apolitical is also a very political stance and it supports a stance that I personally, am opposed to. This is not to say that people who support the stance that I am opposed to, cannot be political.

    It’s one of those annoying little If-then logic puzzles.

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