Post-Colonial Feminist Theory and film

In this path-breaking paper, DR. ARUP RATAN GHOSH analyses film in the axis of post-colonial feminist theory. He presents the complex theory of the subject, which requires the knowledge of Marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis, and post-colonialism. Based on the post-colonial feminist theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Anne Macclint, and Sara Mills he intellectually represents the Indian film scenario with western perspectives.

Post-colonial feminist theory today is based upon the theories of psychoanalysis, Marxist-feminism, and post-colonialism. In this paper, I am tracing some concepts of Sara Mills’ paper Post-colonial feminist theory in the perspective of cinema. Mills based her paper on the post-colonial feminist theories of Gayatri Spivak and Anne McClintock ‘Can the subaltern talk?’ – a famous book of Spivak in which post-colonial feminism is ventriloquised to a great extent. To many feminists ‘colonial period has been characterised by critics as a male domain.’1

In Indian film context, we find some post-colonial feminist utterances also, ‘Can the subaltern speak?’ – we can put this question in the context of Aparna Sen’s film Sati (1995). In the film Sati (The Virgin) developed after Kamal Kumar Majumdar’s story, where we find a virgin mute girl is married to a tree following the religio-social regulations. As she is married she can not marry any one else. So being in her full blossomed youth she spent a strange married life with a tree in the remote village. The rigorous social rules make the subaltern teenage girl figuratively mute. She never tasted her life. The rural society in the British colonial period doesn’t allow her to get the flavour of her youth or in other words the normal life which men can enjoy freely by the allowances of the same colonial society. This subaltern girl can not speak herself both figuratively and in reality. She is exactly the typical girl made for the thesis of postcolonial feminist theory who can not really speak in the heavy pressure of male domination. Her strange husband the big tree in the middle of the village also can not speak. She embraces the tree disseminating their mute language. These things are happening in the British colonial period. In that period the Brahmins rule over the society for their own interest in the guise of religious dogma and superstitious beliefs. They place themselves in the society as the colonial British do. ‘Giving the example of the changes which took place in Hindu law after British colonies, she shows that ‘a version of history was gradually established in which the (elite) Brahmins were shown to have the same inventions as (thus providing legitimisation for), the codifying British (p.77). 2

In another novel of Kamal Kumar Majumdar, Antarjali Jatra with which Goutam Ghose made his film in two versions Bengali and Hindi (Yatra) we find a young girl is married to a dying old man. The man is taken to the riverside, as there was a Hindu belief that dying by the riverside is virtuous. This dying-by-the-river-process is called Antarjali Jatra. The girl-bride is with him, as a wife should always follow her husband. She is seemed to attend her husband sincerely. Seeing the condition of the girl and the way of life, she is observing by the society ruling Brahmins in the British colonial period in Indian we pose ourselves the question, ‘Can the subaltern speak?’


Throughout the years in the past as well as occasionally in the present almost all over the world the women are called and/ or treated as a different race. Narijati (narIjait) – is a oft-quoted Bengali word used by the great men of Bengal like Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Swami Vivekananda et al giving due respect to the female race or class. The women are categorised as female class also. This classification with ‘race’ or ‘class’ helps to marry feminism with Marxism emerging as Marxism-feminism. Though to some critics this marriage is an unhappy one still post-colonial feminist theory bears some foundations of Marxist-feminism. It is evident that the conceptual practice of woman as a race does not always receive its due respect, honour, and proper position in society all over the world. Time and again male domination disrobes the honour of woman as a race and looking with the Marxist-feminist point of view the women are engaged with something like class struggle.

In Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari a fine slice of a study of colonisation of India is reflected. The women chiefly shown there are not belonging to subaltern class. They are the wives of two lazy chess players. They belong to an affluent society. But the wives live in their own world. One tries to pass her time by listening tales from the old lady assistant and another one engages herself with hidden lovemaking in the so-called harem. They can do so because their husbands stay away from them for hours for playing chess. Though these women are affluent still their loneliness, and a feeling of confinement, echoes the agony of the subaltern women, or the women engaged with the class struggle in the colonial or post-colonial period.

Let us discuss with the two terms colonial and post-colonial and how are taking them for our analysis of the paper. As Ashcroft et al put in their book The Empire Writes Back ‘Generally speaking ... the term ‘colonial’ has been used for the period before independence and a term indicating a national writing, such as ‘modern Canadian writing’ or ‘recent West Indian literature’ has been employed to distinguish the period after independence.

We use the term ‘post-colonial’, however to cover all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonizations to the present day. This is because there is a continuity of preoccupations throughout the historical process initiated by European imperial aggression... So the literatures of African countries, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Caribbean countries, India, Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, South Pacific Island countries, and Sri Lanka are all post-colonial literatures. The literature of the USA should also be placed in this category... What each of these literatures have in common beyond their special and distinctive regional characteristics is that they emerged in their present form out the experience of colonization and asserted themselves by foregrounding the tension with the imperial power, and by emphasizing their differences from the assumptions of the imperial centre. It is this which makes them distinctively post-colonial.’ 3

Instead of literature, I am applying this post-colonial critical approach to cinema – especially in Indian cinema. Sara Mills also puts her notes on these two terms as: ‘Although within post-colonial theory there is great debate about the meaning of these two terms, we will take colonial to mean those texts which were written during the period of high British imperialism, roughly from the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. Colonial discourse is used as a term which both describes all of these texts, literary and non-literary, and it is also used to describe the critical approach to these texts. See Edward Said, Orientalism (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), for one of the founding texts in the study of this field. Post-colonial theory is the critical study of colonial texts and texts which have been written in the wake of colonialism. See Anne McClintock, ‘The angel of progress: pitfalls of the term "post-colonialism"’, pp. 291-305 in Williams and Chrisman (Patrik Williams and Laura Chisman (eds.), Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory, Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hempstead, 1993) for an overview of some of the difficulties in classifying disparate cultures as post-colonial. In contrast to Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin (eds.) in The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures (Routledge, London, 1989) who argue for the term post-colonial to be used to cover all cultures involved in colonial/imperial relations, both colonizing and colonized, McClintock questions the overgeneralized use of the term, arguing for greater specificity of reference.’ 4

So it is now clear how we are approaching and what is our subject matter or compass of study. In post-colonial feminist theory, psychoanalysis merges with post-colonialism, Marxism, and feminism. To make this concept clear what and how the colonisers face and react during their period of colonisation. Colonisers find different races. White Europeans find black Africans, Red Indians, as well as Indians of quasi-dark complexions, Australian-aborigines etc. To these different races they find their fantasy or dream fulfilled. Many colonisers engaged themselves with sexual activities with their new-found women from the darker races. All over the world plenty of such happenings of ‘desire fulfilment’ took place in the fade out pages of history. One such good and moral activity is what we all know, Job Charnock, the founder of Calcutta rescued a sati from the grasp of Brahmins who was dragged for burning at the pyre of her dead husband, and married her. So to the colonisers’ sexual gratification, desire fulfilment, relishing the fantasy among the ignorant native races play deeply in their psychic level as well as through physical encounters. Many times only at psychic level as all the colonisers did not have sex with the native races, in their virgin fields.

‘Feminist post-colonial critics have also concerned themselves with the way that the colonial sphere has been characterized as a sexualized zone; colonial landscapes were described in sexual terms (‘virgin territories’ which were eager for penetration) and as Anne McClintock has shown, by Victorian era ‘Africa and the Americas had become what can be called a porno-tropics for the European imagination – a fantastic magic lantern of the mind onto which Europe projected its forbidden sexual desires and fears’. 5

Analysing the colonisers’ interaction with the native races through sex and which is originated at the psychic level lead one to Freudian concept of collective psychopathology and other concepts of psychoanalysis. To follow through the sequels of colonisation race sex desire fulfilment psychic foundation we may refer to John Rhys’ novel Wide Sargasso Sea and its film version as well as its critique at a special point of view. This novel can be seen through post-colonial feminist point of view.

As Robert Young has shown, fears about racial mixing are, within the colonial context, often projections of desire. When Rochester describes his sexual feelings towards Antoinette on their honeymoon, it is in racial terms: ‘one afternoon the sight of a dress which she’d left lying on her bedroom floor made me breathless and savage with desire’ (p. 78). This relocation of the term ‘savage’ within this carefully described racial territory cannot be seen as accidental when viewed from the perspective of a post-colonial analysis. Similarly, when Rochester first meets Amelie, the servant, he states that she is a girl of mixed race; however, once he has had sex with her he suddenly sees her as Black: ‘In the morning, of course I felt differently... And her skin was darker, her lips thicker than I had thought’ (p. 115). Once Amelie is seen as sexually impure by Rochester, he also sees her as ‘racially’ impure. It is this confusion around racial and sexual purity which the text displays, and as Robert Yong states: ‘we encounter the sexual economy of desire in fantasies of race, and of race in fantasies of desire’ (p. 90). For Rochester, sex is already racialized, and race sexualized.’ 6

Now I like to refer some similar psychic and social process giving examples from a Bengali novel as well as its film versions. It is Aranyer Din Ratri – a novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay and the film made after it by Satyajit Ray whose English title is Days and Nights in the Forest. There is no question of colonisation but the attitude is somehow similar. Rabi, a young man goes with three of his friends at Dhalbhumgarh to spend a few days’ leave in the jungle area. There they met with two other young ladies who also come for a change. Being in close contact with nature the young men release their urban societal pressures. They drink and dance in the open street in the evening and do whatever they like as the jungle and the native races (as they heave thought) of that area do not protest them.

Rabi, the main character goes extreme. He becomes intimate with a Santhali tribal woman and has sex with her. The tribal girl (acted by Simi Garewal) is a black beauty with simple nature. She represents a race unlike the urban women or men. Her race is the same kind of race with which the colonial people feel lucrative and treat as resource of desire fulfilment. Though Rabi, the character both in the novel and the film is not a colonial invader or settler. He is a young employed bachelor with a grieved mind for unrequited love and other urban complexities. But his attitude towards the forest area and to the tribal girl is post-colonial. As we know the colonial tensions remain in the post-colonial zones of time and place.

Somehow, similarity but with a very faint trace of such post-colonial attitude a few other Bengali films like Abhijan (1962) by Satyajit Ray and Bhuban Some (1969) by Mrinal Sen etc. can be named. In Ray’s film the tracing come out especially while the car driver who is the ancestor of King (Rana) Pratap Singh enjoys the light dance by an unknown woman very privately. In Sen’s film the new revelation of Bhuban Some. The films are indeed to be considered totally and in much more detail. However the postcolonial indication is present in these films as well as in many other films.

We can analyse Ray’s Mahanagar with post-colonial feminist theory. We observe the post-colonial tensions remain in the post-independence India. Women are treated here as a race. We observe changes in this race. Arati, the housewife represents for a changing attitude in her race. Women are going to work outside their houses like men. A feminist utterance along with post-feminism indicating the future emergence of superfemme or superwoman is strongly felt in this film. Edith, another sales girl in this film is continuing post-colonial residuals in herself, as she is an Anglo-Indian belonging to a mixed race of the British and Indian.

Coming back in the psychic point of view we can name The Mission (1985) by Ronald Joffé. A missionary finds psychic resonance with another race, uncivilised living in a remote hilly island. Of course there is no desire fulfilment through sex with the new race. There are many other films in this vein. Shyam Benegal’s film Making of Mahatma (1997) is a post-colonial study on the ups and downs of the British colonial domain in South Africa with an emphasis on the formative development of M. K. Gandhi and his contribution there at that colonial period. Colonialism is obviously different in nature in different countries like Africa, Canada or India. Its impact is also different.

Gayatri Spivak writes, ‘Can the subaltern speak?’ as she finds western feminism gets its prominence centring Europe. She even mentions Foucault and for doing so. Her ‘subaltern’ is the woman from the Third World. The voices from the Third World woman utter the ‘subaltern speaking’ – as she holds. Now we find many Indian women writers’ writings are studied in the Western Universities – as post-colonial literatures or perhaps as post-colonial feminist literature. Shobha Dé has a place in that corpus of the syllabus. Exploitation of woman is a frequently- treated subject in Indian cinema, especially in the parallel or serious films. Its flavour of feminism draws attention of the West to an extent. We have heard that retrospectives on Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil were held in the West. These two actresses represented mostly the ‘exploited Indian subaltern women’ type characters (as Sati, Mirch Masala, Paar, Chakra, Akrosh etc.). They have made subaltern woman’s speaking very much penetrating. However, recently another subaltern voice has stirred us. It is Shima Biswas acted as Phulan Devi in the Bandit Queen (1996) – a film by Shekhar Kapoor. After a biography of Phulan Devi an existing M.P. in India the film was made. Hurling various controversies the film voiced a strong utterance by a subaltern woman. Who being raped severely by many and being harassed wretchedly becomes a notorious dacoit and afterwards became a member of the Parliament coming back in a normal life. Indeed her voice represents the voices of the repressed subaltern Third World women including India. This film surely shapes itself with the ‘speaking’ aspects of the post-colonial feminist theory. However, the voice of the Third World women are echoed earlier in many other significant Indian films as well. The voice from Satyajit Ray’s Charulata is to be remembered in this context with reverence.


1. Sara Mills and Lynne Pearce, Feminist Readings, 2nd edn., Prentice Hall/ Harvester Wheatsheaf, London, 1996

2. ibid. p. 259

3. Ashcroft et al in Views Reviews Interviews, no. , Postmodernism issue, Dictionary of Postmodernism and Beyond Postmodernism supplement, p. 16-17

4. Mills and Pearce, op cit. p. 276

5. ibid, p. 258

6. ibid, p. 271-272


Film Flow and Globalisation

In this paper, DR. ARUP RATAN GHOSH puts cinema into the orbit of Globalisation. The context and texts of ‘identity’, MTV, beauty contest, cocacolaisation, localism, regionalism and nationalism, Amartya Sen’s notion on globalisation, block-buster films and cinema in general come with a serious approach to state the global matter of fact of the moving images.

Be it the playfulness of zapping the satellite television or surfing the Internet or jiving with the music of foreign tune the experience of Globalisation rotates. Seeing Titanic all over the world has recently become a global phenomenon after its cultural -economic moving predecessors like Jurassic Park, E.T. etc. This world seems to us as a village. Like a village community sometimes we share the same thing all over the world. For example drinking Coca-Cola. People drink Coca-Cola whether they are in Chile, Ghana, India or in the U.S.A. Staying far away from each other people share the same thing as if they live in a small village. It is the Global Village. So millions of people see Titanic at the same time residing at different corners of the world. So do we browse the websites and take printouts from the far. Effacing the distance we chat. Even we place order for material goods from the virtual shops. To the modern generation national boundaries are becoming relicts. Now the ubiquity of Globalisation is strongly felt with the skulduggery of the electronic media or with the marvels of technological advancement.

In this discourse of Globalisation and Cinema we put some categories.

Film culture specially Indian Film Culture is international recognition including awards and applauds and screenings in the foreign festivals or transmission through Channel four or the other TVs and also the reflections of foreign critics on Indian cinema are embedded in the pulsating global compass of the film makers, film journalists, and almost everyone associated with film. Consider the sequels of Indian Art films down from Satyajit Ray to our contemporaries. Even today a De Sica award to Goutam Ghose gives a global dimension to serious Indian film making. Or when seeing Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Charachar some German spectators sprang upto their feet reading the film as a momentum to their Green movement. But Dasgupta has reflected 1 that he doesn’t think the film as a camcorder of ecological movement. Though Internationalism and Globalisation are different but for the Indian cinema sometimes they coalesce to some extent sometimes quasi or half globally. Considering the popular entertainment film in the same context we should not forget the zeal of the Russians over Raj Kapoor and his Hindi movies or the present feast of eyes with the Hindi movies through the satellite channels or in the auditoria in the Middle East. The Indian subcontinental countries are also to be included in this rhapsodic periphery.

Cinema from its birth is global. After the grand success of Lumière brothers’ screenings in France they travelled in many countries to receive honour and felicitation. As a consequence cinema became a global phenomenon effacing the boundaries of nations. Indian celluloid chapter started with the successful endeavours of Dada Saheb Phalke. The essence of folk entertainment had been cinematographed and exhibited regularly. Keeping this in the mainstream Indian cinema continued at least upto the forties. Absorbing the form and techniques of cinema ceaselessly Indian cinema has been in the process of Globalisation but was not in the currency of market economy or culture. We may sum up that Indian cinema records crossover global cultures in different times.

As the billion dollar big budget blockbuster films from Hollywood draining up money from all over the world spreading American culture in a way in the name of Globalisation. Some producers try to reach Indian films in the middle East or South Asian countries to fetch more money and subsequently flashing contemporary Indian culture in perverse versions. Both the Bollywood (India) and Hollywood producers, can be said, are following in their own way almost like Ohmae’s prescriptions ‘The customers you care about are the people who love your products everywhere in the world. Your mission is to provide them with exceptional value. When you think of people who share that mission. Country of origin does not matter. Location of headquarters does not matter. The products for which you are responsible and the company you serve has been denationalized. [...]

You really have to believe, deep down, that people may work ‘in’ different national environments but are not of them. What they are ‘of’ is the global corporation.’ 2

To them the whole world is a market. In this market-economy controlled world Globalisation is in amoebic ramification. Cinema has become its easy and saucy prey. A large number of Indian films have been succumbed to it. Obviously there are many Indian films made for local or regional or for some niche audience which are not moving under the bulldozer of Globalisation.

It is an age when our life is always interpelleted? with images. The burgeoning electronic impulses from television, VCRs, VCDs, computers, virtual reality projections bemused our daily realities. To the Americans Disneyland is hyper-real. But to many who live in the rest of world America appears as if it is constituted of the hyper-real. ‘Its an MTV world’ says Marc Levinson writing the phrase as a title of an article on MTV. To many MTV appears’ as the deliberately obnoxious voice of the next generation, the channel that features heavy metal and the juvenile dialogue of those animated anti-heroes, Beavis and Butt - head. But MTV rocks around the clock all over the world with a bit of different presentations according to the regional tastes and needs (artificial?). ‘MTV combines a global presence and a single global brand with a product designed for separate regional markets. "The container’s the same", says chair Tom Ereston’ "The contents are different". 3 In Globalisation we find regional or national. MTV is an example of that type. Most of MTV programmes are in English. But ‘MTV Europe draws its staff from a generation of worldly youths for whom English is a second language and national borders are outdated relics. 4

This kind of Global marketing of entertainment in the process of Globalisation can be seen in the successful distribution of blockbuster films dubbed in Hindi like Jurassic Park, Speed, Titanic even the children’s film Aladdin.

Globalisation in the media, performing arts and film presents a sort of cross cultural presentation. Peter Brook’s Mahabharata is a fine example of that. Where Yudisthira is acted by a Russian, Bhima is a black and Draupadi is an Indian - Ms. Mallika Sarabhai. With such an international cast Peter Brook represents Mahabharata as a global phenomenon or modern re- presentation of a glorious mythical global event. Mythical and theatrical values and practices are amalgamated in this drama. The concept of Greek nemesis and application of environmental theatre techniques with the very Indian values of Mahabharata are mixed in tune with Universalism. Which is in a way in the terminology of cultural production Globalisation. Peter Brook’s Mahabharata is basically a theatre but its widely distributed video-cassette is quite popular to sense spectators it as a film.

A lot of examples can be given in this way. Contemporary Indian examples are Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, Shyam Benegal’s The Making of Mahatma etc. In this process of globalization we get blended cross-cultural elements. As it is true in the context of MTV. ‘Its no only brings culture to your country: it also takes music and culture from your country and exposes it to others.’ 5 Its suitable example is MTV India/ Asia. In Hindi with Indian Jockeys with Hindi lyrics and the mobile amalgamation of glancing Indian visuals it does so beaming its telecast from the Indian subcontinent to middle east.

Globalisation with one of its form gets root in Indian soil through the introduction of Ex-finance minister Manmohan Singh’s free economy for boosting Indian economy. With his call for Indian people to bear the hardship we see in astonishment various foreign cars or cars made in collaboration with foreign technology come through the media to the streets. The designer dress materials following the flux of fashion and modelling have made Indian ethnicity global and cross-cultural. From the everyday life or from our popular culture we can cite many examples of global culture or at the least the deep impact of globalisation in our country as well as in other countries too. To take a very serious note on Globalisation we should rethink the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s personal comment on the subject in his first press conference on 15th October 1998 in New York that ‘I am not against Globalisation but the weaker countries suffer for it’.6 His utterance comes out of a great depth of realisation and feelings, which even touches the context of the film and globalisation in its own way. When the repentance comes from Bollywood that what can be done if the billion dollar blockbuster films from the 20th Century Fox or Warner Brothers or Dreamworks release world-wide and drain out money and arrest attention of the Indian mass movie-goers. How Bollywood be able to compete with them?

To make the movies entertaining, interesting and attractive Bollywood film producers and makers think a lot. A certain style of filmmaking fit in with our subject. It is better to cite the example proper. In the film Genes, we find different shooting spots throughout the world covering the Seven Wonders of the World from the Taj Mahal to the Pyramids of Egypt. In a song picturisation, they move the spectators around the world sensually in tune with globalisation.

In the context of the impact of globalisation and cinema in the everyday life of a third world country, we can go through the quotation given below. This apparently funny story has penetrating suggestion towards market economy, late Capitalism, and Globalisation. To discuss ‘deductivism’ Néstor Garcia Canclini narrates ‘We find these concerns in various theatrical works disseminated in Brazil at the outset of the 1970s by the Popular Culture Centres. One of these, Jose de Silva and the Guardian Angel portrayed an average day in the life of a Brazilian in order to reveal the minute effects of imperialism in everyday life. From the moment he wakes up and switches on the light Jose pays his dues to foreign companies (Light and Power). And so it goes on when he cleans his teeth (Colgate-Palmolive), drinks coffee (American Coffee Company), when he goes to work whether in a Mercedes Benz bus or walking on his Goodyear soles, or when he goes to the cinema to see a western (Hollywood produces more than half the films shown in Brazil). Even inside the cinema, when he simply breathes the air, this is conditioned by Wasting house. Made desperate by so many royalty payments, he decides to kill himself. But then the Guardina Angel appears, with an English accent, in order to collect Smith and Wersson’s royalties from Jose (Boal, 1982:23)

This conceptual approach, in which all aspects of popular life derive from macro-social powers, has characterised the majority of sociological communications and educational studies during the past two decades. 7

Don’t we do the same thing when we go to see Titanic in Globe (Calcutta) and many other foreign films in this way in the name of Globalisation.

The nature of Globalisation today

Globalisation is not an amalgamated process or presentation in which everything ethnic, communal, local, regional or national feature, element or spirit mingles with each other. In the recent time, we find Muslim fundamentalism effects prominently in the orbit of globalisation. The burning example is the bout over Salman Rushdie. It was suddenly suspended after ten years and hovered over him again. Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin is also a victim of Muslim fundamentalism. Another reaction to protest against cultural globalisation Muslim fundamentalists block the satellite beams telecasting MTV and other European or American TV channels. ‘The attempt by some Islamic countries to ban satellite television have seemed to symbolise resistance to global information and communication flows (those for which Steven Rose was such a powerful advocate) 8. Erasing the traditional culture is not to be erased and we observe in globalisation an interplay of the local, regional, national and international elements. In our discussion and in the examples given above the matter is clearly seen in the political economy of beauty from Miss Belize to Miss World’ exemplifies this beautifully.

"Pageants also make ethnicity safe by subordinating cultural identity to gender and sexuality. The contestants first appear clothed in ethnic garb, as representatives of their ‘people’. But in the next step the contestants appear in bathing suits, as bodies stripped of their external cultural costume. Since skin color and features are so heterogeneous among Belizeans, in bathing suits ethnicity is gone; the woman remains. Gender transcends the ethnic, but what transcends gender? The final transformation of the image of woman in the pageant occurs when symbolically naked essentialized sexual objects are reclothed, but this time as creatures of modernity and fashion. The evening-gown competition brings the contestants back on stage transformed into cosmopolitans, wearing the latest expensive imported dresses, showing their sophistication and knowledge of the world outside Belize.

The flow of imagery in the pageant makes representational order by linking together different feminine images. We start with woman submerged in the localized, ethnic and ‘primordial’ community, strip away that identity to reveal woman-as-body as something supposedly more basic and essential, and end with woman transformed by modernity into a transcending figure ready to move outwards to the global stage. (There is a clear structural parallel to the classic stages of a rite of passage)." 9

To look at the world of film and globalisation in a certain way, we get the beauty pageant like behaviour and its reception to some extent. I mean, as Rashoman by Kurosawa with its strong Japanised flavour, essence and culture becomes a global phenomenon in the modern world of film culture. The Seven Samurai and many other films of Kurosawa with strong vigour of Japanism out of the local, regional and national culture of Japan went global. On the contrary, with the European theme, subject, and drama of Macbeth, Kurosawa’s The Thrown of Blood becomes Japanised or Oriental. It is again a part of the process of globalisation. Richard Schechner, a performing arts expert and a theatre personality enacts his theatre in this way to shape his theatre up as a cross cultural environmental theatre. In an interview with me 10 he comments that he does so to find out the root of human civilisation. A few years back he produced Mother Courage (a play by Bertolt Brecht) in the form of a Peaking Opera in Sanghai. From his production any stamp of Westernisation is hardly evident. In the interview, he revealed later that from all over the world he took elements for his theatre. As African rhythm, Raga and Rasa concepts from Indian Natyashastra, from various drama and dance forms of China, Korea and from the performances of South East Asia he took elements to shape up his theatre or Performative circumstances. Globalisation follows this sort of blend of cross-culture and intercultural aspects in the formative perspectives of cultural globalisation at present, Akbar Ahmed, observes a consequence ‘both communication flows and human flows: The mixing of images, interlocking of cultures, juxtaposition of different peoples, availability of information are partly explained because populations are mobile as never before. The mobility continues inspite of increasingly rigid immigration control. Filipino maids in Dubai, Pakistani workers in Bradford, the Japanese buying Hollywood studios, Hong Kong Chinese entrepreneurs acquiring prime property in Vancouver testify to this the swirling and eddying of humanity mingles ideas, cultures and values as never before in history. (Ahmed, 1992, p. 26)

Cultures are transformed by the incorporations they make from other cultures in the world. Salman Rushdie (1991, p.394) has famously written of ‘the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures, ideas, politics, movies, songs: ‘Mélange, hotchpotch,’ he declares, ‘a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world’. This process of hybridization is particularly apparent now in developments within popular culture. The sociologist Les Back (1994, p. 14) describes the bhangramuffin music of the singer/ songwriter Apache Indian as ‘a meeting place where the languages and rhythms of the Caribbean, North America and India mingle producing a new and vibrant culture’. ‘Artists like Apache Indian are expressing and defining cultural modes that are simultaneously local and global.’ Back observes. ‘The music manifests itself in a connective supplementarity – raga plus bangra plus England plus India plus Kingston plus Birmingham’. (ibid., p. 15)

To conclude the context of film and globalisation I would like to back again on the context of film - especially on Indian films, which are accepted globally or help shape the global cinematographic culture. As Kurosawa becomes famous internationally making his films global phenomenon similarly we should place Satyajit Ray with his films bearing the expressive images of the local, regional and national India including microscopic details of the culture of West Bengal villages and towns, into the progressive flux of Globalisation and cinema.

Notes and References

1. In an interview with the author of this paper, Buddhadeb Dasgupta reflected that

2. Ohmae, 1990, pp. 94, 96 as quoted in The Production of Culture: Cultures of Production (Ed.) Paul de Gay, Sage Publications, London, 1997, p. 49.

3. Marc Levinson, Its an MTV world, ibid, p-56

4. ibid, p. 57

5. ibid, p. 57

6. The Telegraph, Calcutta, 15 October 1998

7. Paddy Scannell, Philip Schlesinger and Colin Sparks Néstor Garcia Canclini (eds.) Culture and Power: the state of research: Culture and Power – a Media, Culture and Society reader, Sage Publications, London, 1992.

8. Gay (1990)

9. Mark Levinson in Gay (1990) pp. 63-64

10. In an interview with Richard Schchner with the author of this paper

Gay (1990), p. 40


Cinema, Popular Culture and the Sadharon Loks of Calcutta

The common men suffer from a subconscious insecurity from the threat of an alienation from their original cultural forms of entertainment. The elite dominated film-media has appropriated rural entertainments with a tinge of commercialism for the market. Caught between this ambivalence the spectator has no choice except viewing Swami Keno Asami. DR. MAHUA SARKAR’S paper reveals how.

In the present day world situation, films should be perceived more in the context of the spectator’s decoding of the text than from an emphasis on the film text or the machinery of the cinema itself. Film critics are constantly demanding an autonomy for cinema from the clutches of literature. The question of cinematic specificity is always being attached with the artistic status of the medium in a context, where the art/ and commercial division in Indian film culture is being formulated with a perception of the high and the low.

The spectator is determined by a range of factors, and, any deterministic theory can never be rigidly accommodated with the spectator’s mind. The postmodern era, for instance, exposes a series of simulations, governed by models, codes, and cinematic images, often close to hyper-reality.

The present crisis in Bengali cinema, which has had commercial success, but has majorly failed to draw the attention of the intellect should be traced long back, in the different popular diasporas, related with Bengal’s common audio-visual culture. Theoretically, the Bengali/ Indian cinema cannot be equated with the so–called ‘Hollywood mode of production’ – which represents a particular economy of narration, that has worldwide applicability. On the other had, in its own situation, a Bengali film like Beder Meye Jyotsna is watched and discussed, with a degree of attachment and animatedness, that indicates larger paradigms of popular culture. Spectators’ demands, as they see a film, for self–actualisation and their interaction with the categories of ‘who the film is meant for’, and ‘how to see’ manual, i.e., in all films inscribed into the category of the narrator or narrative agency, is related to the commoner’s cultural phenomenon. Cinema functions as a sort of supplementary, shadow structure of representation in cultures, where the sadharon lok’s identity is produced in the 19th century and is continued even today.

To the sadharon loks of Calcutta therefore, cinematic expressions are mostly close the hyper–reality. Hyper–reality blurs the distinction between the real and the unreal and retains the spectator in his own world of myths, and realities. His own ideal of mythical heroism, value judgements of an ideal joint family with few villain retractors, the ideal mother and boisterous female agencies, and also the concept of jati and desh are self-actualised in the popular films. In his sense perception, the prefix ‘hyper’ comes as more real than real. At the same time, the real is according to a typical model with explosions of melodrama of a popular level. The supernatural, the pervert, the sexual, the violent – are inextricably linked to the popular, narrative structures of these films.

The postmodern cinematic world has failed to cross the gap between high and popular culture. The technicality, essence, and expressionism of postmodernity have not been accommodated within the emotional shocks and fabrication of sequence in a commoner’s mind. As part of the peculiar nostalgia for the popular thinking of the 19th century, the people constantly are opting for literary and musical productions for the preceding century. This culture of nostalgia is mobilised differently among the middle class and the so–clalled chotoloks. To the latter, films with mythological heroes like Krishna, social stories with a female personification of Ghor Koli (black age) like Chotobou and gorgeous semi-feudal sets bring greater satisfaction, greater security and better wish-fulfilment. The film directors making films like Baba Keno Chakar also deploy the situation to construct a cultural platform with hegemony of their own. The global cultural economy and the consumerist market values of the contemporary period are also intelligently diluted with these films

The common people recapitulates in these cinematic expressions, the nostalgic charisma of the Jatra of the 19th century. It appears that the folk culture of Bengal could never be marginalised by the Victorian set-patterns of a colonised world. The sadharon loks were neither willing nor able to adopt the language or culture of the bhadraloks. In spite of a constant denigration of the popular forms of entertainment, the common people created a world of their own, and retained their own genre of cultural productions even in the 20th century. The romantic stories of the 19th century, the satire, caricature, parody, tragedy are all popular and accepted in cinematic forms. The audience at such performances looked for diversion rather than deviation from the uniform taste. Both in their understanding and appreciating of religious, and social subjects, the Calcutta commoners try to defy the gloomy seriousness that surrounded their economic existence. The folk culture of the 19th century provided a popular base from which innovations began in the modern cinema. The same formula is predominant in the mass entertainments of the commercial media. The cinema artists also utilise the same stereotypes and formulae to simplify and popularise the experience. The folk forms are also appropriated in a bastard way in a consumerist world.

The entire problematic therefore highlights the failure of the so–called film movements or efforts of the progressive film societies to create an illustrious audience. The sadharan loks also suffer from a subconscious insecurity from the threat of an alienation from their original cultural forms of entertainment. The elite dominated film-media has appropriated rural entertainments with a tinge of commercialism for the market. Caught between this ambivalence the spectator has no choice except viewing Swami Keno Asami. They are far from the crowd of intellectual film textuality, neither are they close to their original village identity. The solutions for a broader field of film narration, where spectators are capable to appreciate both the mechanics of the cinema’s construction of them as audiences, as well as each judge the plot and the cinema’s mode of address are yet to come.


1. Sumantra Banerjee, The Parlour and The Streets, Calcutta, 1989

2. Paulo Friere, Cultural Action for Freedom, London, 1974

3. Robert Redfield and Milton B. Singer, The Cultural Role of Cities, in Economic Development and Cultural Change, Illinois, 1994

4. Frantz Fanon, On National Culture in The Wretched of the Earth, USA, 1965

5. Report On Condition Of The Lower Classes Of The Population In Bengal, Calcutta, 1918.

6. Sudhir Chakravarty, Gabhir Nirjan Pathe, Calcutta, 1986

7. Harihar Seth, Pracheen Kolkata, Calcutta, 1934

8. Bipinbihari Gupta, Puratan Prasanga, Calcutta, 1966

9. Dinesh Chandra Sen, Brihat Banga, Calcutta, 1935

10. Chitrabikshan, October-November, 1984

11. Ritwik Ghatak, Filmmaking, Chitracikshan, Ritwik volume, January-April, 1976

12. Darshan Chowdhury, Gananatya, Anustup, Calcutta, 1994

13. Someswar Bhowmik, Cinemar Bhalomando, Anustup, Calcutta, 1996

14. Ram Haldar, Kathakata Kamalalay O Prasanga Film Society, Calcutta, 1996

15. Koushik Sanyal, Nabin Bosur Theatre, Anustup, Calcutta, 1996

16. Sumantra Banerjee, Kolkatar Loskanskriti Adiparba, ibid


Utilitarianism and Film

In this paper, DR. ARUP RATAN GHOSH traces Utilitarianism as a basic cultural theory, which fits itself well in the Film Theory of the day. He considers Gudia and Astha – the two recent films in this context from various social, economic and aesthetic point of views.

Utilitarianism is an important concept in cultural theory specially if we look back upon its course of development. Utilitarianism re-echoes Hedonism, Liberalism to an extent and it emphasises more on the values of ‘selling’ or saleability of products or anything material or immaterial under the sun. Think of cultural products as for example popular entertainment films etc. to feel close with the concept.

The desire for doing things freely and solely for happiness and pleasure without ever having any kind of pain is reflected in such kind of films. In both ways of communications, the entertainment cinema practices such hedonistic activities. To be precise think of Hindi entertainment films. In generally there the heroes and the heroines fly freely for hedonistic pleasures with the mass spectators. Subsequently the posters and the gossip film magazines including the entertainment pages of the newspapers containing various kinds of saucy presentations of gossips and scandals related to the personal affairs of the film stars and models help the voyeurs of the hedonistic film-pleasures to consume the commercial fruits of pleasure or hedonism or utilitarianism in another way. Popular entertainment cinema packages itself as a consumable or saleable product and the process of selling and buying and the concept of ‘saleability’ is pivotally settled in utilitarianism. Utilitarianism encompasses the world with the belief that everything is saleable in this world. Not only in cinema but also in our day-to-day life of the world of our time we experience such a globally spread attitude to life be it categorically under the name of utilitarianism or not.

Now in the present time, of late Capitalism the economics of film industry intricately merges with the other kinds of entertainment businesses. Just take a glance on some of the past and present events. Aisharya Rai and Sushmita Sen appeared in some entertainment films like Jeans, Gupt, Dastak etc. or think of the last supper served in the ship Titanic in 1934 is now being served in a hotel in Delhi. The advertising boosted by the film stars or the introduction of new fashions indirectly by them as they wear the dresses while acting in the films. Music industry gets a great support from the film industry especially in our country as well as in the other countries too, by releasing music cassettes and CDs of film songs. Sometimes we find music cassettes and film songs help each other for gaining popularity and cash. Think of dam maro dam...and other songs in Hare Ram Hare Krishna or the film Qyamat Se Qyamat Tak and its melodious lyrics. Many other examples may be given in this context.

Believe in saleability. Consider anything as sellable –be it a material thing or human values. Consumerism of the present day promotes these beliefs, values, and cultures. Utilitarianism makes its foundation profound.

To trace the thematic presentation of Utilitarianism/Consumerism we find the two recent films like Astha (1996) by Basu Bhattacharya and Gudia (1997) by Goutam Ghose

In Astha it is shown that everything from a pair of fancy shoes to a housewife of a professor are consumable and available for sale. Actually there is an invisible trap laid all over the world which engulfs with the assistance of market economy, all the human values into consumerism perverting chastity, honesty, sincerity etc.

In Gudia last of all Utilitarianism/Consumerism yields perversion out of sexual repression en mass in our present day society. Public taste changes from appreciating Fine Arts (Actually a traditional form of folk entertainment-that is performing ventriloquism with a talking doll) to vulgar art, from High Art to Pornography. The film Gudia states implicitly all about these under the invisible veneer of Consumerism/Utilitarianism which sales and buys and sales again and again and go on in this way upto the infinity of our postmodern time and space.

Against Utilitarianism is Culturalism — a profound concept in Cultural Theory, which places human values, cultural values, and aesthetic expressions in the front rank and also lifts them above all other things. In our special context of Film Studies right now we can think of the Art Films or the serious and good films, which communicate us with their inherent and original flavour of Culturalism. Culturalism primarily starts in England and in Germany. It gets institutionalised support with the rise of English Studies in the late 19th century and in the 20th but that is a different context.


Feminism and Indian Cinema

ASIM RATAN GHOSH discusses various aspects of feminist criticism and studies the position of women in Indian cinema.

Feminist Texts

Cheri Register (1975), ‘American Feminist Literary Criticism: A Bibliographical Introduction’ (1975) pp. 18-19 in Josephine Donovan (ed.) Feminist Literary Criticism: Explorations in Theory. suggests,

To earn feminist approval, it must perform one or more of the following functions:

serve as a forum for women;

help to achieve cultural androgyny;

provided role-models;

promote sisterhood;

augment consciousness-raising

Both the texts are either ‘free from or critical of phallocentric masculinist, patriarchal, sexist ideologies and themes and are informed by a critical analysis of woman’s position in society as a woman’ (Spedding, 1994, quoted in Joan Scanlon and Julia Swindells, ‘Bad Apple’ 1994, p.45). These texts ‘reveal a critical awareness of women’s subordinate position and of gender as a problematic category, however this is expressed’ (Rita Felski, 1989, Beyond Feminist Aesthetics: Feminist Literature and Social Change (1989) p. 14).

Feminist Criticism

Feminist criticism has no single definition – it is a collective term, which has various critical perspectives and historical background. Feminism has established links with other established critical theories like psychoanalysis (psychoanalytic feminist theory), Marxism (Marxist-feminist theory) or postcolonialism (postcolonial feminist theory) etc. Even within feminism of today there is a dominance – marginalization pattern, but the basic attitude is common in all forms of feminist criticism. They recognise the under-representation of woman in artistic activities, which they want to confront. Thus feminist criticism, like other feminist activities struggle around artistic expression and representation.

Since there exists plurality of feminist criticisms, any text can be read from different points of view – which are very different from each other and some times even contradictory. Considering various aspects Maggie Humm, A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Feminist Criticism, 1994, pp. v – vii, has categorised feminist criticisms in the following way:

Second wave: de Beauvoir, Millet, Friedan, Greer

Myth criticism

Marxist/ socialist-feminist criticism

French feminist criticism

Psychoanalytic criticism

Poststructuralism/ deconstruction/ postmodernism

Black feminism: the African diaspora

Lesbian feminist criticism

Third World feminist criticism: third wave and fifth gear

Deconstruction/ Patriarchal Binary Thought

In the contemporary critical theories recognise the importance of binary thinking in construction/ interpretation of the world in our cultures. Hélène Cixous (1975;1986’Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/ Ways Out/ Forays’ in Hélène Cixous and Catherine Clément, The Newly Born Woman) writes, "Thought has always worked through opposition". Sometimes author intentionally shows binary oppositions within his/her text, and sometimes that comes unconsciously. In both the cases, a critic has to find the structure, ideology, meaning (unveiled or clandestine) created out of these binary oppositions.

The feminists believe that the binary thinking is a powerful tool of the dominance of the patriarchy. As a result the feminists studies the binary mode of thinking thoroughly to oppose it. Cixous, using Derridean concept, Western philosophy and literary thought has shown that binary system of thinking has a strong bias towards patriarchy – hierarchically almost in every binary oppositions female corresponds to the weaker, powerless, negative ones. For example: Activity/ Passivity, Sun/ Moon, Culture/ Nature, Day/ Night, Father/ Mother, Head/ Emotions, Intelligible/ Sensitive, Logos/ Pathos. Cixous argues that both the components can not thrive at a time – one has to die or become passive. Invariably female plays that role. ‘Either woman is passive or she doesn’t exist’. Her whole theoretical project can in one sense be summed up as the effort to undo this logocentric ideology: to proclaim woman as the source of life, power and energy and to hail the advent of a new, feminine language that ceaselessly subverts these patriarchal binary schemes where logocentrism colludes with phallocentrism in an effort to oppress and silence women (Toril Moi, 1985, Sexual/ Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory, pp. 104-5).

A deconstructive reading recognises the hierarchy, dismantles them and hierarchised them in either direction with violence. It tries to expose the meaning created out of text’s language as opposed to the author’s intention. Identification of contradictions within the text makes the text plural, open to re-reading, no object of passive consumption than keeping it restricted to a single, harmonious and authoritative reading. The identification of contradictions, intentional or unintentional offers the reader avenues to the reader to enter into the process of meaning-making. In deconstruction, the binary pattern may be dismantled and thus text transgresses destroying the structure of the text.

Finding the subject

The feminists suggest that when a woman writes a text, she can construct a sense of self – the question of representation is a political question. The humanist group of feminists argues that ‘the image of woman’ as represented in literature, cinema and popular perception is incomplete, false and misogynistic. Feminist movement aims at improvement of visibility of woman, ability to express woman’s own inner self, her authentic representation, development of true image of woman in male dominated patriarchal society.

On the other hand, the anti-humanist group of feminists are influenced by the psychoanalytical theories (Lacan), theories of ideology (Althusser), post-structuralist thought, and the discourse theory (Foucault). Subjectivity is not single, complete, not fully realized. Subject is the product of effect of language and culture. The concept of unified subject ‘utopian desire for a pre-social state or as a relic of bourgeois humanism. To pursue the former could lead to psychosis; to pursue the latter will confine women to the existing order’ (Eagleton, 1996).

For quite obvious reasons, anti-humanist idea of feminism is less popular since people hardly wishes to feel fragmented, unresolved, psychological wrecks...

Position of Women in Indian Cinema

This essay will explore the large domain of Indian Cinema in order to unearth the hidden secrets of our socialisation with the help of psychological, sociological tools. These methods involve psychoanalysis (Freudian and post-Freudian) especially Oedipal complex (the behaviour of boys and girls with their father and mother during pre-Oedipal phase, phallic phase, positive Oedipal phase etc.), Fetishism, Voyeurism, exhibitionism, scopophilia and certain other psychological methods, distance, point of view of camera, style of editing, discourse etc. semiological concepts and other sociological tools. The images of woman in Indian cinema indicate the position of women in the patriarchal society, which has defined their roles, limits, and functions. Due to male Oedipal complex men are always afraid of the threat of castration. To remove that threat women are relegated to marginality through (a) male gaze (which is more powerful than the female gaze due to sociological reasons) and (b) fetishism [a kind of perversion of male in which they imagine certain object (for example high-heel shoe, low-cut top etc.) in woman body as male sex organ.]. This way dominance-submission pattern is established. In Indian film erotification and objectification of women is done in order to reduce the threat of castration. Fetishism also helps to eliminate that threat. Indian films use the Ego and Id and acts in the subconscious mind of male and female audience in different ways. The process of repressing women is present in almost every film. Patriarchy always tries to control woman so that they can not violate the norms set by it. Indian cinema is continuously engaged in reinforcing that. Still why Indian women love to watch them? Psychoanalysis can provide the answer. Psychoanalyses of different women have shown that they are basically passive recipients of male desire. Nancy Friday’s study on sexual fantasies indicates that apart from lesbians, dominance submission pattern exists in the sexual fantasies of men and women. The objectification, surrender and assault provide the female audience masochistic pleasure while the same things offer the male audience sadistic pleasure. (Man gets sadistic pleasure because the sense of control and domination gives him satisfaction of punishing women for being castrated). From erotificaiton of women - representation of women as a sexual object men get voyeuristic satisfaction and women exhibitionistic pleasure. Apart from the major genre ‘family drama’, other two important genres of Indian cinema are ‘romantic cinema’ and ‘action cinema’. In most of the action films, the roles of the heroines are ornamental. In some of them, they play the role of principal protagonists where it is generally shown that a close person of the heroines is murdered brutally or she herself gets sexually assaulted. She takes revenge. She wears male dresses; she uses gun, which act a phallus. But actually, she loses her feminine character - she becomes masculinised. The world of Indian Cinema shows the war between male and non-male where inevitably male win. The dominance-submission patter remains intact only the gender identification alters. It also gives lessons to the Indian woman about their position in the society. The ‘romantic films’ take the hero, heroine and the audience away from the dominant patriarchy to an hallucinatory pre-symbolic realm (Lacanian film theory which utilises both psychoanalysis and semiology) where dominance of patriarchy, repression of women are not present. Picturesque background helps to create his hallucination. The image of woman as mother is shown in Indian cinema as asexual object and who is not a threat to the patriarchy because her passive acceptance to patriarchy or ambivalent attitude towards it. Technical perfection Indian cinema is increasing. Distance, camera angle (point of view), editing, camera movement etc. are changing the connotative meanings to what she signifies to man. Her different postures and activities are treated as icons, symbols, or codes. The audience identify themselves with the heroes or heroines. The montage of their fetish bodies through close-ups, eliminating other characters from the screen interacts with the audience directly and gives them voyeuristic, exhibitionistic and scopophilic pleasures. In many Indian films sympathy towards the problems of women are shown. They portray their problems. However, the pattern of dominance-submission model remains intact. Not a single Indian film could suggest or attempt to suggest any other alternative social structure or mode of existence possible.


Postmodernism – An Enemy of Marxism?

DR. PRADIP BASU meticulously investigates the position taken towards Marxism by leading postmodern thinkers like Foucault and Derrida – whether the postmodern and post-structuralist thinkers are enemies of Marxism – intellectual agents of imperialism or not. He concludes that Marxism should be able to make a dialectical critique of postmodernism, and thus itself become more democratic, more pluralistic, more open, less authoritarian, less orthodox and less deterministic.

In response to the current Marxist criticism against postmodernism that it is an enemy of Marxism, the present study seeks to undertake a closer observation of the matter in order to arrive at a less orthodox appraisal. The paper briefly probes into the positions taken towards Marxism by leading postmodern thinkers like Foucault and Derrida. This is for our investigation whether the postmodern and post-structuralist thinkers have truly set out to destroy Marxism, have chosen to act as the intellectual agents of imperialism and have engaged themselves in the pursuit of the subversion of socialism, or not.

Alex Callinicos, the distinguished Marxist scholar has already written a book, Against Postmodernism, in order to show that postmodernism is basically anti-Marxist. He is no doubt a powerful writer and his work has left an unmistakable impact on the Marxists throughout the world. Western philosophers like Habermas and Jameson have also presented, though with a milder overtone, philosophical criticisms of postmodernism. It has been further subjected to severe theoretical onslaught by the Marxist thinker Aizaz Ahmad in his book In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures. It has often been argued that postmodernism and post-structuralism constitute simply an intellectual weapon of imperialism that decisively seeks to uproot socialism and weaken class-struggle. It is nothing but a highly sophisticated theoretical tool for legitimising the capitalist order and for creating confusion among the ranks of the international communist movement. Postmodernism has been described as ‘the logic of late capitalism’, ‘the disguised enemy of Marxism’, ‘intellectually marked nihilism’, ‘a bourgeois ideology in its finest sophistication’, etc. In India, the Marxist parties like the CPI and the CPI(M) have lashed out at postmodernism with equal vigour. In the Bengali theatre organ, Gananatya, conducted by the CPI(M), Sudip Sarkar has written an article on postmodernism in which he said that the principal feature of postmodernism is to refute especially the Marxist viewpoint. Ratan Khasnobis, a noted Naxalite intellectual, says in his essay on postmodernism and Marxism published in Aneek that postmodernism is a nihilist ideology which is entirely opposed to socialism and which is a master discourse of modern capitalism. The real fight of postmodernism, he believes, is against Marxism.

From above, it is evident that the traditional, established, conventional, official and institutionalised Marxism considers postmodernism as an enemy root and branch. It fails to see any common area of resistance and protest against injustice and oppression which can be shared with postmodernism. And this view is exactly what the present study holds to be orthodox, dogmatic and biased. The present study contends that a dialectical approach which is becoming of a Marxist should get rid of this orthodoxy and seek to make a more balanced, critical and open-minded assessment. Thus, in his ‘Correspondence’ in Monthly Review of March 1996, the radical writer Roger Burbach has maintained that "it is important to discuss some issues that Marxists should take seriously before engaging in an all out assault on postmodernism. In particular, the postmodernist critique of the Enlightenment merits careful consideration." According to Burbach the thinking of Marx, Engels and most subsequent Marxist theorists and strategists is strongly imbued with the idea of progress, and an idealist conception of the perfectibility of humanity. The fountainhead of the Marxist project, the Communist Manifesto, with its argument for clear, concise stages of history culminating in a communist society in the not-too-distant future is, he held, strongly influenced by the mechanistic world view of eighteenth century philosophers. Much of what has gone wrong with Marxism in the twentieth century harks back to its flawed philosophic roots in the Enlightenment. According to many, historical materialism is based on the premise of the virtues of limitless progress in human domination of nature and the inexhaustibility of productive resources. Burbach believes that when Stalin decreed the great turn towards full state ownership of the means of production and central planning in the USSR in 1929, he actually abandoned the democratic agenda of Marxism and rushed the USSR headlong on the road to industrialisation, progress and modernisation, regardless of the human or the environmental costs. But at the same time, Burbach has rightly pointed out, "Of course this vulgar application of Marxism does not render the Marxist tradition of analysis invalid". As Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff held in their editorial notes introducing the special issue of Monthly Review on Marxism and postmodernity, historical materialism is "the firm foundation on which all that is best in social sciences has been and continues to be based." Burbach opines that many of the articles in the above-mentioned issue point out that Marxism as a tool of analysis remains as useful today as in decades past. He further opines that "The crisis of contemporary Marxism is not to be found in its analytical capabilities precisely because it is a dialectical, open system of analysis that even allows us to dispute and discard many of the positions taken by Marx and Engels". Violence and suffering have become widespread and "It is this violence and growing suffering that drives me and others to search for a new world view, one that derives some insights from postmodernist thought", says Burbach. But at the same time he makes it clear that he is not arguing that we should accept the relativist school of postmodernism which holds that there are no historical truths, nor as some postmodernists assert, that any broad movements for social and revolutionary change inevitably lead to new forms of repression. Neither does he believe that postmodernism will have anything like the intellectual staying power of Marxism. But today it is raising questions that we need to consider and incorporate into any analysis of what is wrong with the world. What he finds particularly useful in postmodernism at this ideological juncture is its view that there are no absolute laws of history as well as its contention that modernism and the faith in progress that began in the age of Enlightenment are at the root of the disasters that have wracked humanity throughout this century. It is, according to Burbach, also important to recognize that modernism is the antagonist of postmodernism, and the fact that modernity is inextricably linked to capitalism and globalisation provides an opening that Marxists should be able to breach. When modernity is challenged, one is in effect "deconstructing" the world that capitalism has created over the past five centuries. Burbach cites a quotation from Daniel Singer that "history, far from coming to a stop is quickening pace. But the left is bewildered. Its project has to be reinvented." Burbach then maintains that at present the left does not even have a new, compelling label or concept to describe the project it is trying to reinvent. Whatever the label, it will have to be developed through practice rather than by proclaiming it as our banner from the start. "Until then we will need to be postmodernists in the sense that we discuss the particularities of the new project, using specific, activating concepts such as participatory democracy, human rights, environmentalism, feminism, economic democracy, sexual liberation, social justice, ethnic rights, local power, and worker’s power." Burbach uses the term "postmodern socialisms" to conceptualize what we may be about –- "socialisms" because of the tremendous political, cultural, and economic diversity of the societies that we have to work with. There may be no singular model or path that emerges. A great deal of flexibility and experimentation will be needed as we search for new options in the wake of the collapse of communism. Unless we find a way to create a new historic project that includes the masses of humanity, we, and not the capitalists, will be relegated to the dustbin of history, Burbach believes.

Burbach’s belief is not at all crazy. Some Marxists have already put forward the idea of taking help from postmodernism to enrich and rejuvenate Marxism. After the events of May 1968, a large number of French intellectuals and thinkers maintained that there has taken place a ‘crisis of Marxism.’ The crisis seemed to be much more a crisis of Marxism than a crisis in Marxism. It appeared that it could hardly be solved simply by restoring or revising traditional Marxist concepts. Attempts were also made to rescue Marxism by incorporating ideas from existentialism, structuralism, psychoanalysis and theories of language. Poulantzas was one among those intellectuals who undertook studies on Foucault’s works for that purpose. Bob Jessop, in his book State Theory commented that Poulantzas distinguished between Foucault as an epistemologist and general theorist and Foucault as someone who investigated specific techniques of power and aspects of the state. It is the latter Foucault whom Poulantzas found useful. Not only that. Mark Poster, in his book Foucault, Marxism and History mentioned similar ventures. According to him, since the appearance of Discipline and Punish Marxist historians of the prison have wrestled with the challenge Foucault’s book presents to their theoretical assumptions. At least in two important cases, Michael Ignatieff’s A Just Measure of Pain (1978) and Patricia O’Brien’s The Promise of Punishment (1982), the test has been met in most satisfactory ways. Both Ignatieff and O’ Brien acknowledge the value of Discipline and Punish and manage to integrate its advances into more traditionally Marxist approaches. A detotalized Marxist historiography may thus be compatible with Foucault’s interpretative strategy. In India some of the distinguished Marxist thinkers who happily borrowed ideas from postmodernism are Partha Chatterjee, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Ranajit Guha, Goutam Bhadra, Ajit Chaudhury et al. The Subaltern Studies volumes are a meaningful product of this endeavour. Ajit Chaudhury and others have sought to make a blend of Derridean deconstruction and Marxism. Their Marxist Study Group included Pranab Basu, Anjan Chakrabarty, Arup Mallik, Ishita Mukherjee, Kalyan Sanyal and Ajit Chaudhury. In Re(an)nouncing Marxism : Marx After Derrida, they write : "We announce here the project of a third world(-ly) reading of capital : a (re)search that liberates a discursive space outside the gaze of capital in a postmodern discursive field.... On the terrain of philosophy our allies are Hegel, Althusser and Derrida. Which, of course, presupposes/entails that (i) Althusser is not much of a break from Hegel and (ii) a dialogue between Althusser and Derrida is desirable and possible. We might note in passing that these apparently contentious propositions now have their spokespersons in the current postmodern discourse (Zizek S., The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989); Zizek S., Tarrying With The Negative (1993); Wolff R., ‘Althusser and Hegel : Making Marxist Explanations Antiessentialist and Althusserian Tradition’ in Callari A. and Ruccio D. (ed.), Postmodern Materialism and the Future of Marxist Theory : Essays in the Althusserian Tradition (1996) and our unique project of re-reading and re-writing capital would reaffirm this.

In this itinerary, our principal (strongest) alliance is with Derrida, particularly his ideas of deconstruction and spectrality.... Our project then is a deconstruction of political economy. On the plane of political economy, our solidarity is with a group of Marxist intellectuals associated with the journal Rethinking Marxism." Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak, the noted expert in literature and aesthetics, also endeavours to bring about a philosophical reconciliation between Marxism on the one hand and Derridean thought and Feminism on the other.

This is interesting to note that even Terry Eagleton, the noted Marxist literary critic, who made relentless attack on postmodernism, at the same time acknowledged certain positive aspects of it. Eagleton in his well-known essay, ‘Where Do Postmodernists Come From?’ published in Monthly Review (July-August, 1995) says: "Postmodernist culture has produced a rich, bold, exhilarating body of work across the whole span of the arts,... It has pulled the rug out from beneath a number of complacent certainties, prised open some paranoid totalities, tainted some jealously guarded purities, bent some oppressive norms, and shaken some rather solid-looking foundations..... It has released the power of the local, the vernacular, the regional,... All of this, however, belongs to a dialectical assessment of postmodernism."

In fact, the events of May, 1968 signified that an oppositional position towards the existing order was possible beyond the boundaries of traditional Marxism. In this period new groups and forces took part in the protest movement, which were not traditionally associated with the proletariat. They chalked out a set of demands in their wall posters that constituted a post-Marxist critique of society. For most leftist intellectuals and thinkers, May 1968 constituted a break in the traditions of revolution. The women’s movement, the struggle for prison reforms, the ecology and antinuclear agitations, the gay liberation movements, various regionalist movements and the anti-psychiatry movement all emerged in the early 1970s as responses to the events of May 1968. Traditional or Official Marxism was rather inadequate in accounting for the new aspirations. Foucault and others like Deleuze, Guattari, Lefort, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Lefebvre now sought to revise their thought. In the words of Foucault, "The first thing that happened after ‘68 was that Marxism as a dogmatic framework declined and new political, new cultural interests concerning personal life appeared." The events of May 1968 created, according to Foucault, "a consciousness of Marxism’s" powerlessness... to confront a whole series of questions that were not traditionally a part of its statutory domain (questions about women, about relations between sexes, about medicine, about mental illness, about the environment, about minorities, about delinquency)." With the student demonstrations and general strike that failed to coalesce into a revolutionary force, a criticism of Marxism began to crop up. It questioned the pertinence of historical materialism. The failure of the proletariat, the revolutionary vanguard, to stand by the ride of the student uprisings of 1968 and the series of expedient political compromises by the French Communist Party with de Gaulle raised questions about Marxism. The Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the increased Stalinization of the French Communist Party which pursued a more nationalistic line on the Algerian question etc. worsened the situation. Foucault, Deleuze, Morin, Glucksmann et al saw the Gulag, the system of Soviet prisons and places of exiles, and the repression of the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland, as excesses of Marxism. Yet Foucault never denied the unquestionable influence of Marxism on the elaboration of his thought.

Gerald Raulet conducted an interview with Foucault some time before his death and published it as ‘Structuralism and Post-Structuralism: An Interview with Michel Foucault’ in Telos (Spring, 1983). In this interview Foucault made certain important observations on Marxism which stand as a clear evidence that Foucault cannot be called an ‘enemy of Marxism’. Raulet asked him, "... is Marxism not finished then? In the sense you use in The Archaeology of Knowledge that a ‘non-falsified Marxism would help us to formulate a general theory of discontinuity, series, limits, unities, specific orders, autonomies and differentiated dependencies’." Foucault replied, "... It is clear, even if one admits that Marx will disappear for now, that he will reappear one day. What I desire –- and it is here that my formulation has changed in relation to the one you cited –- is not so much the defalsification and restitution of a true Marx, but the unburdening and liberation of Marx in relation to party dogma, which has constrained it, touted it and brandished it for so long." Raulet further asked, "But does this reference in The Archaeology of Knowledge mean that, in a certain way, Marx is at work in your own methodology?" Foucault replied, "Yes, absolutely. You see, given the period in which I wrote those books, it was good form (in order to be viewed favourably by the institutional left) to cite Marx in the footnotes. So I was careful to steer clear of that."

While discussing the views of Foucault and Althusser, Mark Poster in his book, Foucault, Marxism and History, held that Foucault, rejecting the category of totality in general and the Marxist version of it in particular, refuses to limit himself to an analysis of the working class. The category discourse/ practice is thus not inserted into a totalized theory but floats like a hawk over the social historical process, ready to swoop down upon any topic that seems appropriate. The theoretical choice offered by these two theorists is dramatic and urgent. Poster said, "In my view Foucault’s position in the present context is more valuable as an interpretative strategy and ultimately, although this may strike a discordant note, more Marxist." Poster further explained his contention thus: if by Marxism one means not the specific theory of the mode of production or the critique of political economy, and not even the supposed dialectical method, but instead a critical view of domination which as historical materialism takes all social practices as transitory and all intellectual formations as indissociably connected with power and social relations –– then Foucault’s position opens up critical theory more than Althusser’s both to the changing social formation and to the social locations where contestation actually occurs.

After going through all this, can one still really believe that Foucault set out to destroy Marxism root and branch? If one can, let us then look into what Foucault himself said in Power/ Knowledge to his interviewer J. J. Brochier :

" I often quote concepts, texts and phrases from Marx, but without feeling obliged to add the authenticating label of a footnote with a laudatory phrase to accompany the quotation. As long as one does that, one is regarded as someone who knows and reveres Marx, and will be suitably honoured in the so-called Marxist journals. But I quote Marx without saying so, without quotation marks, and because people are incapable of recognising Marx’s texts I am thought to be someone who doesn’t quote Marx. When a physicist writes a work of physics, does he feel it necessary to quote Newton and Einstein? He uses them, but he doesn’t need the quotation marks, the footnote and the eulogistic comment to prove how completely he is being faithful to the master’s thought. And because other physicists know what Einstein did, what he discovered and proved,they can recognise him in what the physicist writes. It is impossible at the present time to write history without using a whole range of concepts directly or indirectly linked to Marx’s thought and situating oneself within a horizon of thought which has been defined and described by Marx. One might even wonder what difference there could ultimately be between being a historian and being a Marxist."

Not only Foucault. Another distinguished postmodern thinker Derrida also made several significant remarks about Marxism which clearly demonstrate that he can by no means be considered as an ideological enemy of Marxism and an intellectual agent of imperialism or capitalism. In 1980 when he visited Edinburgh he was interviewed in English by James Kearns and Ken Newton who were then lecturers in French and English respectively at Dundee University. This interview was published in the Literary Review, no.14 (April /May 1980 ). Derrida was asked whether he would not consider himself an anti-historicist. Derrida replied, "Not at all. I think that one cannot read without trying to reconstruct the historical context but history is not the last word, the final key, of reading. Without being anti-historicist, I am suspicious of the traditional concepts of history, the hegelian and the marxist concepts." In his book Positions, published in 1972, Derrida expressed the view that a meeting between his own critique of Western metaphysics and the texts of Marxism was necessary and that his own reflection on this problem was still to come. So, now in this interview, he was asked whether since Positions the meeting had come closer in his view. Derrida’s reply was indeed quite interesting and insightful. I quote him here at length :

"I have not written anything on this subject. Marxism, of course, is not an entity. There is not one marxism, there is not one marxist practice, so to answer your question I should first have to differentiate many sorts of marxist theory and practice and that would be a very long process. But I would reaffirm that there is some possible articulation between an open marxism and what I am interested in. I insist upon the open marxism. As you probably know, the situation has changed completely in France since Positions. At that time, as marxism was the dominant ideology among French intellectuals I was anxious to mark the distance between marxism and what I was interested in so as to maintain the specificity of my own work. In the space of four or five years, however, marxism has ceased to be the dominant ideology. I don’t want to exaggerate but I would say that marxists are now almost ashamed to call themselves marxists. Though I am not and have never been an orthodox marxist, I am very disturbed by the anti-marxism dominant now in France so that, as a reaction, through political reflection and personal preference, I am inclined to consider myself more marxist than I would have done at a time when Marxism was a sort of fortress."

James Kearns asked him, "Could you define the term ‘open Marxism’?" Derrida replied :

"It is a tautology. Marxism presents itself, has presented itself from the beginning with Marx, as an open theory which was continually to transform itself and not become fixed in dogma, in stereotypes. It is also true that it is a theory which, for political reasons which require to be analysed, has had a greater tendency than other theories to scholasticism, to refuse transformations which were taking place in the sciences, in psychoanalysis at a particular period, in a certain type of linguistics. This seemed to me an anti-marxist gesture on the part of those who called themselves marxists. Opening up has been a very slow, uneven, irregular process and this seemed to me unfaithful to the premises of marxism. So an open marxism is one which, without giving way, obviously, to empiricism, pragmatism, relativism, nevertheless does not allow theoretical restrictions to be imposed upon it by a particular political situation, by a particular political power, as has sometimes been the case in the Soviet Union, and in France too. It is one which does not refuse a priori developments of problematics which it does not believe to have itself engendered, which appear to have come from outside. I believe that it is possible, on account of laws which marxism itself should be able to analyze, for problematics to develop outside marxist theory, outside societies dominated by this theory."

What should draw our special attention in this conference which was organised and managed by the Centre for the Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside and which began on April 22, 1993 with Derrida’s plenary address and ended on April 24, 1993. His plenary address was delivered in two parts, in the evenings of April 22 and 23. That lecture, ‘Specters of Marx : The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International’ became the basis of the book which bears the same name. The book is a longer version, augmented and clarified and was originally published in French in 1993 as Spectres de Marx. The English translation came out in 1994. The editors of this book, Bernd Magnus and Stephen Cullenberg, said in the ‘editors’ introduction’, that it would be inappropriate, indeed, impossible, to convey in summary the many specters that haunt the texts of Marx, and, through him, of Derrida. Here they would merely wish to note that in this text Derrida takes his position for a certain spirit of Marxism, that "deconstruction", if there is such a thing, always already moves within a certain spirit of Marx. It should also be noted that,for Derrida, in speaking of a certain spirit of Marx "it is not in the first place in order to propose a scholarly, philosophical discourse. It is first of all so as not to flee from a responsibility. More precisely, it is in order to submit for your discussion several hypotheses on the nature of such a responsibility. What is ours ? In what way is it historical ? And what does it have do with so many specters?" (Derrida).

Derrida dedicated his book, Specters of Marx to Chris Hani, the communist leader of South Africa who was killed a few days before Derrida delivered his lecture. In the part, ‘Dedication’ of this book, Derrida wrote, "... I recall that it is a communist as such, a communist as communist, whom a Polish emigrant and his accomplices, all the assassins of Chris Hani, put to death a few days ago, April 10th. The assassins themselves proclaimed that they were out to get a communist. They were trying to interrupt negotiations and sabotage an ongoing democratization. This popular hero of the resistance against Apartheid became dangerous and suddenly intolerable, it seems, at the moment in which, having decided to devote himself once again to a minority Communist Party riddled with contradictions, he gave up important responsibilities in the A N C and perhaps any official political or even governmental role he might one day have held in a country freed of Apartheid. Allow me to salute the memory of Chris Hani and to dedicate this lecture to him."

Derrida raises his voice against all sorts of injustice. He says: "No justice –- let us not say no law and once again we are not speaking here of laws –- seems possible or thinkable without the principle of some responsibility, beyond all living present, within that which disjoins the living present, before the ghosts of those who are not yet born or who are already dead, be they victims of wars, political or other kinds of violence, nationalist, racist, colonialist, sexist, or other kinds of exterminations, victims of the oppressions of capitalist imperialism or any of the forms of totalitarianism." Thus, Derrida has spared neither capitalist imperialism nor totalitarianism and repudiated both capitalist imperialism and the authoritarian kind of socialism. How can Derrida be called then an arch enemy of socialism and an agent of capitalism or imperialism?

Derrida writes, "Upon rereading the Manifesto and a few other great works of Marx, I said to myself that I know of few texts in the philosophical tradition, perhaps none, whose lesson seemed more urgent today, provided that one takes into account what Marx and Engels themselves say (for example, in Engels’ "Preface" to the 1888 re-edition) about their own possible "ageing" and their intrinsically irreducible historicity. What other thinker has ever issued a similar warning in such an explicit fashion ? Who has ever called for the transformation to come of his own theses? Not only in view if some progressive enrichment of knowledge, which would change nothing in the order of a system, but so as to take into account there, another account, the effects of rupture and restructuration? And so as to incorporate in advance, beyond any possible programming, the unpredictability of new knowledge, new techniques, and new political givens? No text in the tradition seems as lucid concerning the way in which the political is becoming worldwide, concerning the irreducibility of the technical and the media in the current of the most thinking thought – and this goes beyond the railroad and the newspapers of the time whose powers were analysed in such an incomparable way in the Manifesto. And few texts have shed so much light on law, international law, and nationalism.

"It will always be a fault not to read and re-read and discuss Marx – which is to say also a few others – and to go beyond scholarly "reading" or "discussion". It will be more and more a fault, a failing of theoretical, philosophical, political responsibility. When the dogma machine and the "Marxist" ideological apparatuses (states, parties, cells, unions, and other places of doctrinal production) are in the process of disappearing, we no longer have any excuse, only alibis, for turning away from this responsibility. There will be no future without this. Not without Marx, no future without Marx, without the memory and the inheritance of Marx : in any case of a certain Marx, of his genius, of at least one of his spirits. For this will be our hypothesis or rather our bias : there is more than one of them, there must be more than one of them.

"Nevertheless, among all the temptations I will have to resist today, there would be the temptation of memory : to recount what was for me, and for those of my generation who shared it during a whole lifetime, the experience of Marxism, the quasi-paternal figure of Marx, the way it fought in us with other filiations, the reading of texts and the interpretation of a world in which the Marxist inheritance was – and still remains, and so it will remain – absolutely and thoroughly determinate. One need not be a Marxist or a communist in order to accept this obvious fact. We all live in a world, some would say a culture, that still bears, at an incalculable depth, the mark of this inheritance, whether in a directly visible fashion or not."

Derrida also condemned the current academic efforts to study Marx merely as another philosopher by dissociating his work from its revolutionary aspects. Derrida said,

"What risks happening is that one will try to play Marx off against Marxism so as to neutralize, or at any rate muffle the political imperative in the untroubled exegesis of a classified work. One can sense a coming fashion or stylishness in this regard in the culture and more precisely in the university. And what is there to worry about here? Why fear what may also become a cushioning operation? This recent stereotype would be destined, whether one wishes it or not, to depoliticise profoundly the Marxist reference, to do its best, by putting on a tolerant face, to neutralize a potential force, first of all by enervating a corpus, by silencing in it the revolt [the return is acceptable provided that the revolt, which initially inspired uprising, indignation, insurrection, revolutionary momentum, does not come back]. People would be ready to accept the return of Marx or the return to Marx, on the condition that a silence is maintained about Marx’s injunction not just to decipher but to act and to make the deciphering [the interpretation] into a transformation that "changes the world." In the name of an old concept of reading, such an ongoing neutralization would attempt to conjure away a danger: now that Marx is dead, and especially now that Marxism seems to be in rapid decomposition, some people seem to say, we are going to be able to concern ourselves with Marx without being bothered – by the Marxists and, why not by Marx himself, that is, by a ghost that goes on speaking. We’ll treat him calmly, objectively, without bias: according to the academic rules, in the University, in the library, in colloquia! We’ll do it systematically, by respecting the norms of hermeneutical, philological, philosophical exegesis. If one listens closely, one already hears whispered: "Marx, you see, was despite everything a philosopher like any other; what is more [and one can say this now that so many Marxists have fallen silent], he was a great-philosopher who deserves to figure on the list of those works we assign for study and from which he has been banned for too long. He doesn’t belong to the communists, to the Marxists, to the parties, he ought to figure within our great canon of Western political philosophy. Return to Marx, let’s finally read him as a great philosopher". We have heard this and we will hear it again."

But Derrida chooses to give priority to the political gesture and takes position: "It is something altogether other that I wish to attempt here as I turn or return to Marx. It is "something other" to the point that I will have occasion instead, and this will not be only for lack of time and space, to insist even more on what commands us today, without delay, to do everything we can so as to avoid the neutralizing anesthesia of a new theoreticism, and to prevent a philosophico-philological return to Marx from prevailing. Let us spell things out, let us insist: to do everything we can so that it does not prevail, but not to avoid its taking place, because it remains just as necessary. This will cause me, for the moment, to give priority to the political gesture I am making here, at the opening of a colloquium, and to leave more or less, in the state of a program, and of schematic indications the work of philosophical exegesis, and all the "scholarship" that this "position-taking", today, still requires)."

When Derrida proposes "the New International" in his book, Specters of Marx, he says, "But without necessarily subscribing to the whole Marxist discourse (which, moreover, is complex, evolving, heterogeneous) on the State and its appropriation by a dominant class, on the distinction between State power and State apparatus, on the end of the political, on "the end of politics", or on the withering away of the State, and, on the other hand, without suspecting the juridical idea in itself, one may still find inspiration in the Marxist "spirit" to criticize the presumed autonomy of the juridical and to denounce endlessly the de facto take-over of international authorities by powerful Nation-States, by concentrations of techno-scientific capital, symbolic capital, and financial capital, of State capital and private capital. .....the recourse to a certain spirit of the Marxist critique remains urgent and will have to remain indefinitely necessary in order to denounce and reduce the gap as much as possible, in order to adjust "reality" to the "ideal" in the course of a necessarily infinite process. This Marxist critique can still be fruitful if one knows how to adapt it to new conditions, whether it is a matter of new modes of production, of the appropriation of economic and techno-scientific powers and knowledge, of juridical formality in the discourse and the practices of national or international law, of new problems of citizenship and nationality, and so forth...... fidelity to the inheritance of a certain Marxist spirit would remain a duty...... To continue to take inspiration from a certain spirit of Marxism would be to keep faith with what has always made of Marxism in principle and fist of all a radical critique, namely a procedure ready to undertake its self-critique. This critique wants itself to be in principle and explicitly open to its own transformation, re-evaluation, self-reinterpretation..... Now, if there is a spirit of Marxism which I will never be ready to renounce, it is not only the critical idea or the questioning stance ( a consistent deconstruction must insist on them even as it also learns that this is not the last or first word). It is even more a certain emancipatory and messianic affirmation, a certain experience of the promise that one can try to liberate from any dogmatics and even from any metaphysico-religious determination, from any messianism..... Now, this gesture of fidelity to a certain spirit of Marxism is a responsibility incumbent in principle, to be sure, on anyone.... The responsibility, once again, would here be that of an heir. Whether they wish it or know it or not, all men and women, all over the earth, are today to a certain extent heirs of Marx and Marxism...... deconstruction would have been impossible and unthinkable in a pre-Marxist space. Deconstruction has never had any sense or interest, in my view at least, except as a radicalization, which is to say also in the tradition of a certain Marxism, in a certain spirit of Marxism."

This is evident from above that Derrida launched a critique of Marxism from his deconstructionist standpoint and critique is by no means a total rejection. This will be sheer oversimplification to equate being a critic with being an enemy. Postmodern and post-structuralist thinkers, at least the most distinguished among them such as Foucault and Derrida, have certainly set out to make serious critique of Marxism and there is no doubt in the fact that they are not Marxists in the traditional sense of the term. They strongly condemn authoritarian tendencies of Marxism, the repressive roles played by the various ruling Communist Parties, the homogenizing domination prevalent in many really existing socialist systems, the economic determinism of an established kind of Marxism, the undue emphasis attached with the criterion of class and the dogmatic glorification of the historic, emancipatory role of the proletariat, the inhuman regimentation under party bureaucracy, the audacious claim to be the only proprietor of truth, etc. But this will be too much to brand them as arch enemies of Marxism and the clever agents of capitalism and imperialism. Marxism would do better if it does not get dogmatic and orthodox, and rather keeps open and critical instead, for the latter constitutes the most revolutionary aspect of Marxism. It is quite likely that Marxism should be able to make a dialectical critique of postmodernism, reject its reactionary elements, preserve and develop its progressive aspects, and thus itself become more democratic, more pluralistic, more open, less authoritarian, less orthodox and less deterministic.


1. Ratan Khasnobis, ‘Marxvad O Uttar Adhunikatabad’, in Aneek, 33, 8 (February, 1997). Bengali.

2. Terry Eagleton, ‘Where Do Postmodernists Come From?, in Monthly Review, 47, 3 (July - August, 1995).

3. Roger Burbach, ‘ Correspondence, For A Zapatista Style Postmodernist Perspective’ in Monthly Review, 47,10 (March 1996)

4. Michel Foucault, Power / Knowledge, ed. by Colin Gordon, Pantheon Books, New York, 1980.

5. Mark Poster, Foucault, Marxism and History, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1985.

6. ‘Appendix iii : An Interview with Jacques Derrida,’ in Antony Easthope, British Post-structuralism Since 1968, Routledge, London.

7. Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx, Routledge, New York and London, 1994.

8. Ajit Chaudhury, Re(an)nouncing Marxism: Marx after Derrida, A monograph in honour of Professor Jacques Derrida, Publishers and Booksellers Guild, Calcutta, 1997.

9. Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘Aizaz Ahmad, Darbari Chinta O Ekti Sampratic Bitarka’ in Viswabharati Patrika, Nava Paryaya 2 (Kartik- Poush, 1401).

10. Michel Foucault, Politics Philosophy Culture. Routledge, New York and London, 1988.

11. Sudip Sarkar, ‘Prasanga: Uttar-Adhunikata’ in Gananatya (September - October, 1997), Bengali.