Not Hindutva, but reimagined social science can decolonize the mind


A CRITICAL component of the imperialist system is the colonization of Third World minds that help maintain it. This colonization is omnipresent, but we will only address here academic colonization and that relating to the social sciences.

The social sciences are of crucial importance because the problems of the third world are above all social problems. Since the colonization of Third World minds has the effect of instilling in them the conviction that imperialism in the colonial era had nothing to do with these problems (on the contrary, it had rather a beneficial effect), and that the Imperialism did not even exist in the current era, it prevents thinking in the third world how to solve these social problems, that is to say how to go beyond the given situation.

The first stage of this colonization is the elaboration of a narrative about social development, both in the colonized countries and, therefore necessarily by implication, in the metropolis which sees absolutely no role for colonialism or imperialism in this development. An illustration from economics will illuminate this point. The most influential theory of growth under capitalism in the “traditional” economy, developed by Robert Solow of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), is that which views growth as being constrained by (and therefore equal in the long run) at a given rate regardless of the growth of the national labor force; despite new approaches to growth (which still avoid any reference to imperialism), this theory continues to remain dominant, as evidenced by the acceptance of Thomas Piketty in his recent widely acclaimed book Capital in the 21st Century.

However, this growth theory suddenly renders incomprehensible the massive movement of slaves, numbering at least twenty million, from Africa to the “New World” in the first half of the 19th century. It makes incomprehensible the massive movement of coolies and enlisted men from China and India respectively, totaling some fifty million, in the second half of the “long 19th century” (between 1850 and 1914). This makes incomprehensible the massive movement of workers in the post-WWII period from India, Pakistan and the West Indies to Britain; from Algeria and other former French colonies to France; from Turkey to Germany, etc. Capital, in short, has historically moved millions of people around the world to satisfy its need for labor power; it does not just sit quietly at home adjusting its accumulation downwards in the event of a labor shortage it faces within its own borders. However, this is precisely what the theory of “mainstream” growth tells us.

Even if we leave aside the reserve army of labor that capitalism has always had, it has access to the supply of labor from around the world whenever the need arises. . The idea that it’s limited by labor shortages because the domestic workforce isn’t growing fast enough is just ridiculous. And yet, this is what mainstream economics suggests.

Thus, the most influential “mainstream” growth theory in economics is patently, brazenly and impudently at odds with the facts, with the real history of the capitalist mode of production. How is it possible? Obviously, this theory is “acceptable” because it paints an embellished picture of capitalism – a picture in which there is no room for imperialism, conquest, seizure or violence. This is true of all the theories on the functioning of capitalism that make up mainstream economics; their topicality is due to their “acceptability” rather than their explanatory power.

All of this, of course, should not blind us to the extraordinary ingenuity that goes into these theories, the great brilliance that underlies them. But behind all this brilliance, this dazzling technical virtuosity, there is a complete vacuum of explanatory power.

But then, how do such theories gain popularity? Not necessarily because the authors of these theories consciously act in bad faith or are even aware of the apologetic role of the narratives they weave. The term “colonized minds” does not only apply to Third World minds; they also apply to the minds of the metropolis: if the threat of exclusion from academic appointments, promotions, publications, prizes and fame is made before metropolitan scholars in case they dare to explore the truth, in case where they would exceed the limits of the “acceptable”, then they simply fall into the “line”; soon the neophytes, terrorized by the consequences of a transgression of the “line”, take the habit of defending the “line” themselves themselves, and coercing others. There isn’t necessarily ill will in all of this; it just becomes the “done thing”.

But then how to explain that Third World academics also follow the “line”? After all, during the anti-colonial struggle there had been a certain jolt, however lukewarm and hesitant, of the “colonization of the mind”; otherwise, there would have been no anti-colonial struggle. So how to account for a recolonization of the mind in the Third World?

An important reason is the large-scale integration of Third World scholars into the faculties of metropolitan universities, which was extremely rare in the pre-war days. Such an induction, or the very possibility of it, compels many Third World scholars to toe the ‘line’. And this is in addition to the fact that with the massive production of academics in ex-colonial countries after decolonization, their very natural desire for recognition within the “profession” which continues to remain dominated by metropolitan academics places them automatically under the influence of metropolitan theories.

In other words, political decolonization did not mean a change in the balance of power within the profession, which continued to be dominated by metropolitan academics. Advancement within this power structure meant accepting willy-nilly the theories prevalent in the metropolis. The hesitant decolonization of the mind that had taken place during the anti-colonial struggle was thus reversed.

Now, even the very problem of the colonization of the mind is completely lost sight of under neoliberalism. In fact, on the contrary, academic work is seen as a completely homogeneous activity: the idea that a Third World nation should have an understanding of, say, the economy which may be different from what prevails in the metropolis seems far-fetched even at the world’s own third-party educational institution. For example, Dadabhai Naoroji or Romesh Chunder Dutt, who had meticulously examined the mechanism of colonial exploitation, are understandably not taken seriously in the metropolitan universities and are not even heard there. If we view discipline as homogeneous, it will follow that we too will not take it seriously and therefore fall back into a colonized state of mind. And now, with the National Education Commission calling for the synchronization of courses and curricula between Indian and foreign universities, this colonization of the mind is fully institutionalized.

It follows that the decolonization of the mind does not mean, and is at the antipodes, the adoption of a Hindu chauvinist attitude. This, on the contrary, reinforces the colonization of the mind. This is not the obfuscation of truth that characterizes metropolitan social science; its only concern is to obtain a certificate, preferably from the metropolis itself, that the theories which constitute these social sciences originated in ancient India! In fact, his jealousy manifests in his willful destruction of all the worthwhile institutions of higher learning that had been built under the previous governments of the country. Thus, while stupefying any creativity that does not respect Hindutva, it actually favors the import, without any criticism, of ideas from the metropolis, and therefore their hegemony.

Therefore, the decolonization of the mind does not pass through a rejection of the social sciences as a discipline but, on the contrary, through an unfailing pursuit of the social sciences as a discipline as opposed to what passes for “social sciences” in the metropolis. , tainted with obscuration. of imperialism.

Karl Marx had believed that the bourgeoisie, after an initial period, did not need economic science but ideology in the field of economic science, and henceforth scientific activity can only be carried out from the class view of the proletariat. The same can be said of the attitude of the metropolis towards the social sciences. It is only from the point of view of the colonized that real social sciences can develop which are not simple apologetics.

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