Beyond Capital

Polemics, Critique and Analysis

Development Discourse – income vs class

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A fundamental problem of development discourse in India, even among the so-called Marxists, is its income approach to development, rather than a class-struggle approach. Even when class is recognised, it is the level of income or poverty etc that is used as the criterion. So the basic attention goes to whether capitalist development will be ‘beneficial’ or not. Obviously in the name of objectively defining these benefits, the ‘Marxists’ trained in economics would like to use some ways of quantifying them. Whatever this be, it is not a class-struggle approach to development – it does not seek to grasp class contradictions in every moment of development. Thus what they tend to find out additionally is whether technological change, growth (in figures) etc have occurred or not, along with obviously as leftists they have to talk about whether these benefits are ‘equitably’ distributed or not. But the question that is obscured in this process is the class cleavage which does not depend on income/poverty etc at least at the level of its constitution – income levels etc can of course further structure the labour market increasing the level of competition among proletarians, which might dampen class unity and consciousness.

On the other hand, the class-struggle approach starts off with the process of class formation, i.e., the process of formation of the working class and the capitalist class. Under this process the trajectory of proletarianisation is important – not whether this or that individual is proletariat. This makes the poor peasant, landless struggles, factory workers’ strikes, the various issues of self-determination etc as different levels (not vertical) of manifestation of class struggle against the hegemony of the capitalist class over human capacity and activity. This is what is sometimes called the needs of capital vs. the needs of human beings. This approach allows us to see ‘class within and beyond identities and their struggles’.

The income approach is politically non-class, too, as for it it is sufficient if poverty is decreasing, people have income, nutrition etc; the issue of control over production process and other channels of human fulfillment is secondary and peripheral. For this approach solution for every problem is always statist and vanguardist, i.e., at the level of policy-making, whether we have right people at right places deciding over and overseeing the ‘trickling down’ and redistribution channels. This way the issue of “popular protagonism” is reduced to populist protagonism of the leadership.

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Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 14, 2007 at 9:53 am

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