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The Post-September 11 Crisis in International Relations and the State of Multicultural Societies

The "scourge" of cultural wars are but the progeny of the vicissitudes of the capitalist system. If Islamic fundamentalism is the aggrieved prey and a reaction to a brazen capitalist system represented by neoliberalism, Hindu fundamentalism, represented by Hindutva, is an effervescent by-product of the same order. The weaknesses of alternate movements against capitalism and their inability to achieve a more equitable and fair order have seen the continuation of a system that has only furthered decadence and strife. That is notwithstanding the message of triumphalism and trumpeting of the western conception of multiculturalism by those who defend the order.


The Post-September 11 Crisis in International Relations and the State of Multicultural Societies

Sanjeev Kumar H M

The “scourge” of cultural wars are but the progeny of the vicissitudes of the capitalist system. If Islamic fundamentalism is the aggrieved prey and a reaction to a brazen capitalist system represented by neoliberalism, Hindu fundamentalism, represented by Hindutva, is an effervescent by-product of the same order. The weaknesses of alternate movements against capitalism and their inability to achieve a more equitable and fair order have seen the continuation of a system that has only furthered decadence and strife. That is notwithstanding the message of triumphalism and trumpeting of the western conception of multiculturalism by those who defend the order.

Sanjeev Kumar H M ( is with the University of Allahabad.

uch has been written about multiculturalism over the last decade and since the 11 September 2001, interest in this subject has further risen in an exponential manner” (Brighton 2007). This heightened attention has been sustained due to a trail of events that began on 11 September 2001, and its archetypical manifestations have intermittently resurfaced over the last seven years. “Cultural factors invariably have had their impact in evolving the trajectories of international relations” (Mazzar 1996), but never before they have appeared so pronounced and ghastly, as it has manifested in the post-11 September scenario. The US military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and its contemplated pre-emptive action against Iran, Syria, and Sudan, all epitomise this pernicious and unprecedented phenomenon. Due to this, the entire fabric of international relations stands transformed and the spectre of a fierce intercultural conflict looms large, prognosticating enduring global ramifications.

This has also brought to the fore the critical question regarding the state of multiculturalism in the contemporary epoch. Such a political morass has largely been the result of western articulations led by the US, that commenced after the end of cold war and acquired the character of a pandemonium in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001. This articulation has been nothing more than like what Comte calls “the intellectual confusion”; a kind of complex intersection of two diametrically opposite pro positions that were coiled together for achieving a common agenda. The first one has been regarding the consternation of a conflict between diverse cultures, constructed into the paradigm of clash of civilisations by Samuel Huntington and which has been masked by a cliché that the sources of apocalyptical terrorism are to be found only outside the west.

The other being the liberal bragging of the superiority of western conception of multiculturalism, which has acquired a thematic veneer in Francis Fukuyama’s conception of “the end of history”; a notion which has been veiled by a blind obsession with the fictitious American global triumphalism. The constant interplay of these two divergent notions injected within the western societies an internal contradiction; a contradiction between two diametric notions, adherence to multicultural values at home and on the contrary also maintains a vociferous support for the canard of civilisational conflict that was being widely advertised outside. This phenomenon, which I wish to call as the dilemma of two myths “has been the product of an ‘America first strategy’ that combined the idea of promoting forward thinking Americanisation abroad, while simultaneously attempting to restore

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the values of a mythical America at home” (Lieven 2004). This emerged as one of the most perplexed conundrums the people of the west had ever confronted with, and their entanglement in this enigmatic situation made them to remain oblivious of the internal maladies present within their own societies.

Thus while the west led by the US rigorously attempted at selling the dexterously constructed myths, the replications of terror nightmares persisted. More astonishingly, Britain, a vibrant multicultural society also became the target of Islamic radicalism induced not by external forces but by men who were born, brought up and educated in Britain itself. This denoted that the disease was embedded within and not communicated from outside and the cultural architecture of western capitalist economies was inherently flawed. This sent the alarm bells ringing for those who advocated a liberal society driven by a market, devoid of any admi ration for human sensibilities. At this juncture, the fundamental epistemic question that arises is regarding the compatibility between western capitalist life style and a multicultural social architecture.

The Post-11 September Turbulence in the West

The phase of history that ensued in the aftermath of the 11 September catastrophe marked the beginning of a chronicle of episodes that have had a tectonic impact, not only on the course of international relations but also has brought in an overbearing impact upon the sphere of human life in almost the entire globe. This abrupt concatenation of developments into somewhat a loose ecumenical phenomenon, marks a watershed in the history of world politics. For the first time, non-state actors succeeded in transgressing the security apparatus of the most developed countries of the contemporary world and inflict a consequential damage upon their socio-political and commercial architectures. Most intriguingly, the events in New York in 2001, Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005, all have been symptomatic of a grievous malady, engendered not by sources emanating from the external sphere, but kindled mainly by agents that are deeply ensconced within.

Interestingly, this social disease gets masked beneath the great symbols of modernity such as swanky emporiums and the buzzling world of corporate capitalism of the west. The key questions here then are, whether capitalist economic transformation is coalesced with an opprobrious societal decadence? Are the great epitomes of a buzzing capitalist economy, merely an ornamental palliation to the grievous putridity of ultra modern capitalist societies? Wedded to this, is the crucial question regarding the state of multiculturalism in heavily industrialised and rapidly paced capitalist economies.

The answers to these questions must be traced by envisioning the delirious expansion of the dehumanising tendencies, which manifests clearly in various attributes of modern capitalist societies. The presence of the market as a neutral mechanism and the resultant existential crisis, the frenetic degeneration in human values catalysed by crass commodification of almost all facets of human life and the subsequent alienation of the individual from the society and the human from the human being, all symbolise a macabre situation. These attributes, hence provide a paradigmatic framework to indicate the gravity of societal decadence that contemporary capitalist societies are experiencing.

Karl Marx’s famous and multifaceted concept of alienation, conjures our attention at this juncture. Through the concept of alienation, Marx has made a brilliant interpretation of the dehumanising tendency of a capitalist society in his scholarly work Economic and Political Manuscripts (1844). According to Marx:

In all spheres of life human beings have forfeited what is essential to their nature – to be in control of their activities – to external forces of their own making: vengeful gods, pitiless economic laws, repressive and fraudulent States, the subjugation of the collectivity to its own products also entails the mutual isolation of individuals. Man having alienated himself from creative essence, loses all senses of what it means to be human. Spiritual values disappear as social relations are transformed into purely instrumental or contractual relations. Legal fictions provide a veneer of civility to what is more than a law of the capitalist jungle (Marx in Bertell 1971).

The intensity of discontent that has marked the modern capitalist societies may be portrayed in this Marxian frame of thought.

Contextualising the post-11 September turmoil in this regard, it may be argued that chasms in the multicultural edifice of western societies, has not been sickled by any outside force, but none other than by such virulence intrinsic to every capitalist society. This kind of a vicious tenor has featured as structural social conditions of capitalist economies, which have factored deeply in accentuating the intercultural dichotomies rampant in the western capitalist world of the contemporary epoch. The growth of an imperious capitalist society meant that there was a rapid reduction of societal space for the weaker minority groups and an increase in the hegemonising tendency of the economically powerful class. The problem gets compounded, as control over material forces bolsters the economically dominant class to even gain prerogative to command the intellectual capital of the society. Marx and Engels have cogently enunciated this pattern of domination in their book German Ideology. They argue thus:

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i e, the class which is the material force in the society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it (Marx and Engels 1974: 64).

This, then, further invigorates the domineering propensity of the economically powerful class. It also facilitates them to not only materially but ideologically coerce weaker cultural minorities. This ultimately engenders reactionary impulse from the minority groups. In addition to all this, the capability to govern the forces of mental production, enables them to prevaricate, that is, they are in a position to divert the attention of the critics from the inherent maladies within capitalist societies. Globalisation of national economies, frenetic corporatisation and the emergence of a neoliberal state with a minimalist agenda, have had a blackball effect in this regard.

Hence, economic globalisation not only ensures a complete reorganisation of culture, but it also depoliticises people in the process so that they fail to resist. Thus the rich become unconcerned and the desperate poor incline towards sectarian ideology,

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which promises to liberate them from their deplorable situation (Mahaprashasta 2008).

Who Demonised Islam and Why?

The material and intellectual domination of the bourgeoisie that manifested in the control over both industry and governance, has enabled the ruling class in the capitalist west to deflect the heedful vigil of the domestic public opinion and the international community from the plight of the cultural minorities. The weaker minorities have also emerged as soft targets for the west, for building up pretexts to shove global attention from the internal maladies of their societies and hence shift the entire blame for any tumoult involving intercultural unrest, on the cultural minorities themselves. The increasing penchant of the west for turning the pendulum of suspicion towards all Muslims in general and perceiving them to be extremists, in the wake of 11 September cataclysm has thus merely been a façade for camouflaging those vicious ills which have engendered large-scale discontent within the capitalist societies.

These idiosyncratic features of a degenerating capitalist society are not catapulted from outside, but are deeply embedded under the skin of a liberal capitalist society itself. Forces such as rapid and unrestrained industrialisation, ruthless urbanisation, atomisation of the individual, grave socio-economic inequalities and crass comodification, all have been inextricably linked up to the capitalist societies. “Moreover, by becoming parasitic upon colonial and neocolonial exploitation, capitalism had universalised its own contradictions generating conflict between foreign capital and native labour” (Lenin 1970). Worse, weakening of kinship ties and the growing incoherence of the community, further aggravated those contradictions by dismantling the individual from the social architecture.

This phenomenon may be visualised from the perspective of Bhudev Mukhopadhyay’s critique of western capitalist conception of modernity. According to him:

Capitalist modernity depleted the emotional bonds inside the family by making them illegitimately contractual and also capitalist economies destroyed all sense of community by turning human relations competitive and aggressive (Mukhopadhyay 1981).

Thus ultimately, the individual was pushed into a state of oblivion which drove him further away from the social mainstream and made him more inclined towards a reactionary sectarian impulse.

More adversely, neoliberal globalisation has brought the disintegration of the social fabric and of social safety nets. People are more and more experiencing a state of disarray and social anxiety and this leads to forms of violent assertions of identity (Chomsky and Achcar 2008).

Such a societal decay has also been catalysed due to the mute patronage rendered by the capitalist state which consistently legitimised these anomalies leading to the abandonment of the society into a state of grave chaos. According to Meszaros:

The regime of capital is an organic system; in the sense that all of its components are reciprocal and reinforcing, tending to reproduce the dominant social relations as a whole. Capitalism thus operates on a kind of unconscious consiousness working behind the backs of

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individuals – Adam Smith’s invisible hand. It is reinforced by a hierarchal division of labour. Under these circumstances equality, democracy and self-critique are at best mockeries of what they might be. As a particular social metabolic order, the organic system of capitalism creates all sorts of vicious circles by which it reproduces its exploitative relations (Meszros 2008).

These social iniquities had been simmering since a long time and now it has blasted out into a worldwide discontent, which gets mirrored through incidents like those that have been occurring in the west since September 2001. Hence, the capitalist state unmindful of the perils of patronising a society with marked discrepancies, forced itself into a chronic engagement in socioeconomic and political persecution of the weaker sections of its own society. Contextualising this from Meszros’s views, it may be stated that

The State had progressively become an integral part of capital system’s determinations, under the primacy of the material reproduction process. In this way, everything had been subsumed and consolidated under the rule of capital as the most powerful self-expansionary organic system, notwithstanding its inherent but unacknowledged antagonisms (ibid).

Thus, the post-11 September entanglement of the west presents itself as a classic examples of as to how a liberal capitalist state is now reeling under intense stress to reconcile the deep gorges which the capitalist system had persistently engineered. Such a syndrome could be visualised from the prism of the memorable phrase of Marx and Engels, who stated thus: the bourgeoisie “creates its own gravediggers. Capitalism thus succumbs to its ‘own internal laws of motion’” (Marx and Engels 1968). However the western elite tend to demonstrate a grotesque indolence, when it comes to the question of accepting the phenomenon that internal sickness present within the framework of their societies, also has contributed significantly to the current disquiet. Contrastingly, they have engineered an orchestrated campaign against Islam, heavily premised on fabricated justifications and incongruous arguments.

All this has engendered a widespread discontent among the Islamic minorities in the west and a sense of social exclusion is growing rapidly. The problem is getting even more compounded, as some of the leading powers in the west, have attempted to manipulate the present rumpus for advancing their own hegemonic designs. For this, the rhetoric of the war on terror has been dexterously used for masquerading their actual intensions. “For achieving its neo-imperial grand objectives, the US has demonised Islam worldwide and propogated the idea of clash of civilisations” (Chenoy and Chenoy 2007). Thus the west led by the US, has successfully advertised the cliché of clash of civilisations and in the name of preservation and promotion of democracy, their endeavour has acquired a wider canvas.

This has also aptly fitted in the post-cold war scheme of things of the US, for establishing its own global hegemony. By the euphemistic use of the façade of the war on terror to justify its intrusive hegemonic policies, the US has forcefully sought to gain validity to its nefarious designs, reflecting it as a messianic endeavour. But the actual motives behind this adeptly crafted fiction of intercivilisational discontent must be understood from the prism of United States’ own strategic motif that is constantly shaped by the Pentagon in connivance with the defence industry executives and currently the neoconservatives who are the most influential ideologues in this regard. Additionally, the strategic motives of the US are always propped up by its staunch NATO ally, the UK. What then is the quintessential feature of US’ strategic motif? In a most simplest sense, the post-second world war Anglo-American grand strategy of global domination always required the aid of a fictitious threat; the threat of a potential enemy to global peace; as a warrant for their geo-strategic and political moves around the globe. During the cold war, it was the Soviet Union projected as an “evil empire” and communist expansion, dubiously dubbed as a threat for world peace that provided a rationale for Anglo-American cold war iniquities. The abrupt collapse of the communist system and the end of cold war, however, created a vacuum and filling this vacuity was an urgent requirement for sustaining the Anglo-American grand strategy of global domination.

So, “with the end of cold war, the defence industry executives in the US and the Pentagon were in search of a new enemy to pursue their vocation and the countries that used political Islam to attack US imperialism, became natural candidates in this search” (Said 2003: 71). Hence, Islamic extremism became a new façade for the Anglo-Americans to pursue their global hegemony strategy in the post-cold war era. “In this way, thinkers and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic attempted to model the new conflict along the lines of anti-communism of the 1950s and they began to draw explicit parallels with the cold war” (Herman 2003). Thereby, through the use of the clash of cultures rhetoric, the US, and the Bush administration in particular, has endeavoured to subvert any intellectual or ideological alternatives that may be in opposition to the US hegemonic goals. With the use of its soft power, the US has sought to fan out to the entire world its spuriously constructed whopper of “Islamic axis of evil” demonology. In quest of its hegemonic goals, the US has also sought to exercise its hard power; evident in the military interventions of Afghanistan, Iraq and in Pakistan. “A retrospective analysis of the US State behaviour hence, indicates that it has never shied away from using military force, to achieve its goals in international politics” (Cox 2004).

Hence, unmindful of impulsive counter-reactions, the Bush administration has sought to vilify Islam. In the 2003 address of George W Bush to the National Endowment for Democracy, his nugatory paradigm of the ubiquity of Islamic extremism was articulated. He stated thus: “the Muslim world is today populated by powerful Islamist organisations that in more extreme forms may or may not be democratic, but are definitely not liberal” (Fukuyama 2007 citing Bush’s speech). This skittish and naive generalisation of a delusional phenomenon was bound to prove counterproductive and hence has resulted in engendering internal dissonance within the multicultural western societies. Thus as Karl Marx had viewed, capitalism inherently possesses the seeds of its own destruction, in the same way the incongruities within capitalist America, represented by Bush administration’s misreckoning, false choices and a capricious inclination for accepting a misnomer as an actual pattern (dubbing terror as merely Islamic); seems to have shown the west ‘the proverbial door to hell’. In view of this, it has been argued:

Since the end of the cold war, and particularly since 11 September 2001, the US government has launched policies based on a compound error. This error is based on a thinking that the US had more usable power after the cold war, misreading the sources of apocalyptical terrorism and failing to correct its misreading because of a bias set deep in its own political culture (Garfinkle 2008).

So the choice of ideas utterly directed towards the achievement of a paranoid fantasia of global hegemony, not only exemplified the vacuousness of the western envisionment of this world but also apparently established the cavernous nature of the western notions of multiculturalism. The misperceptions and whimsical fancies of US war hawks have thrust the entire west into a labyrinth, where it has to confront the conundrum of interpreting its own belief system regarding multiculturalism.

The 11 September 2001 may or may not have ushered in a new era in modern history, but it certainly changed the agenda of contemporary international politics towards a focus on terrorism and an apparent war between radical Islamic terrorists and the west. It was not immediately obvious that this would call into question the nature of multiculturalism as a variant of pluralist democracy. Yet as events unfolded, with the restrictions of the Patriot act in the US sharpening tensions with the Muslim community, and the invasions of Afghanistan and then Iraq producing increasingly strenuous opposition from worldwide, concerns rose in all quarters about the religious-based conflicts arising in western societies. The terror strikes in Madrid on the 11 March 2004 and in London on the 7 July 2005 brought all this into the open in Europe (Hill 2007).

Fallacies of Western Conception of Multiculturalism

The tempest of terror unleashed in the west since 2001, seem to have shaken the foundations of the western belief system regarding a diverse and a pluralist society. It also seems to have ridiculed the notion that mere techno-economic progress and the legitimisation of authority of a few in the name of democracy, itself is enough for affecting the process of interweaving of diverse cultures into a common web. The prime targets of the terror fury have been those countries, which commended a distinct recognition of being patrons of the most capacious multicultural societies. Visualising this from the prism of British experience, it may be argued that 7 July 2005 is as important a day as any other, that British collective memory could easily be oblivious of. The bombings in London on that day, not only pulverised the steel frame of the security and intelligence system of one of the most developed nations of the contemporary times, but also the liberal contention that the developed capitalistic western societies dispassionately adhere to the doctrine of multiculturalism, began to appear as schizophrenic. “It also produced in the UK, political exchanges over the existence of enemies within” (ibid).

The civil society of Britain which was considered to be impregnable to any attempts at inducing cultural polarisation was brought down on its knees by intercultural frictions. With this, the euphoria of the triumph of western liberalism, as passionately drum-beaten as end of history by western liberal scholars also disappeared like a hallucination. “Thus, it became increasingly clear that the world has not yet been made entirely safe for

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liberalism. New radical forces continue to emerge: populist movements in Indo-America, waves of migrations throwing up immigrants’ movements in the “First World, and a whole gamut of political manifestations of Islam, from Islamist democracies to sectarian terrorism” (Therborn 2007).

These vicissitudes in the capitalist world, has brought the need for re-examining the relationship between western lifestyle, which is heavily saddled with an extreme individualistic predilection and, multiculturalism, a value orientation that affirms belief in the cognation of diverse groups into an organic entity. It has been argued here that multiculturalism seeks to contrast the liberal conception of an unencumbered individual and create an ensemble, that is, it situates the individual in a concentric sphere from where the society acquires the advantage to be eclectic in bolstering the overall organic potential of the entire community. Antonymous to this, the lifestyle in western capitalist societies reflects an ontological propensity towards accepting modes of individuation or atomisation, primarily to fashion the societal dynamics in a manner that could suit the existential strains engendered by the deluge of a free and neutral market. Hence, to talk of constriction of the societal space for the individual and dilate the public sphere for creating concentric circles in order to foster a multicultural society in a liberal capitalist system is just like being agog to be branded as a heretic.

Throughout its history, the capitalist system consistently contested any intervention of either the society or the State in the private sphere of the individual. This created heavily guarded barricades between individuals with deep-seated antagonistic relations, administered by the whimsical dictates of a remorseless market. The emphasis on an unrestrained private sphere, “manifested in the conception of the Possessive Individual, who is the sole proprietor of his own person or capacities, owing nothing to the society” (Macpherson 1962), bridled the prospects of molding the society into an organic ensemble. Coupled with this, obsessions towards the excellence of a minimalist rightbased State “where the individual liberty implicated freedom from intentionally imposed external restraints” (Berlin 1969), amounted to parochial envisionment of an individual as merely a consumer laden with commodity fetishism.

All this robbed the individual of his ethical subjectivity and closeted him in a paranoid world of materialism and artifacts. The capitalist conditioning hence made even the oppressed individual myopic, insofar as recognising the spheres of interest of his fellow beings is concerned. This ensued in the individual becoming reticent towards the vagaries of the capitalist system, rendering him in a state of inertia. Thus by virtue of its control over material forces, the dominant class in a capitalist system, induces an intellectual passivity among the materially feeble classes. As Herbert Marcuse noted in his celebrated work One Dimensional Man, “in a totalitarian west, the powers of social conditioning and the growth of welfare had all but removed dissent” (Marcuse 1964).

Hence the capitalist culture had a domineering impact, in coercing the weaker sections in the society to accede to the conceptions of the atomised self or the individualistic connotations of social being. It also compelled the individuals to render

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mute acceptance to the market-generated value system and consider it to be the beacon of social life. So in this way,

the dominant cultures generate stereotypes of the dominated which they get their victims to accept and that result in the loss of c onfidence and pervasive self-images of inferiority. The people then lose respect for their own cultures and hasten the progress of homo genisation, induced by dominant cultures (Bhargava 1999).

The result is modern individuals are faced with a task of living against themselves and experiencing their lives in certain important ways as being impossible. From the mid-19th century on, moderns have become accustomed to the claim that our experience of the world leaves us divided- whether we characterise this division as one of misrecognition (Hegel), alienation (Marx), resentment (Nietzsche), neurosis (Freud), or bad faith (Sartre), the division is present and is variously constitutive of individuals (Luxon 2008).

In accordance to this, rejecting the existence of obdurate inequalities in a capitalist society seems to be very much abstruse. The colossal question thus is: what actually then multiculturalism implies for a western capitalist society? The most ingenuous response to this gargantuan question is that notions of multi culturalism emerged as merely as an orchestrated apologia, for camouflaging the deep-seated divisions within a wretched union of social atoms, dubbed as the liberal society. Multiculturalism thus provided a paradigmatic tapestry to what was nothing more than a travesty of social structure, synthetically tailored for acclimating to the tsunami of a free market. In this way, multiculturalism in advanced capitalist societies, presented itself as a grotesque simulation of an organic ensemble of diverse cultural groups. Putting things in this perspective, it has been argued thus: “Multiculturalism for the big or middle bourgeoisie, merely meant constructing fortresses of tradition or invented tradition, rather than breaking down barriers to embrace people of all creeds” (Bagchi 1999).

Thus even orchestrated notions of multiculturalism in a capitalist society has not led to the assimilation of diverse cultures into an organic structure, simply because of the inherent modes of individuation and atomisation intrinsic to every capitalist system. So the bourgeoisie for whom self-centered individualistic behaviour is congenital to their social action, breaking down of barriers constructed around them to create concentric spaces for diverse cultures, is similar to be expecting a polar bear to survive in a desert. Establishment of concentric circles meant that the bounds of private sphere stood transgressed, which amounted to fissuring of the ultimate foundations of a capitalist cosmos. Therefore the bourgeoisie is more inclined towards building walls around cultural communities, so as to perpetuate the atomistic character of the society.

A capitalist society hence mistakenly equates artificially constructed cultural plurality, with a multicultural society. No clairvoyance is required to understand the phenomenon that a capitalist system which breeds inordinate modes of preserving and promoting individualistic ways of human behaviour, is innately fashioned in such a way that it is congenitally torpid to harbour a balanced multicultural society. In a liberal democracy which is the political formation of a capitalist economy, law and not human relations acts as a mechanism for inter-weaving of people into a common whole. This is because in a capitalist economy, social life is based on the conception of a contract made by the individuals among themselves, which is an utter rejection of the notion that community life is founded upon the principle of natural evolution. Thereby, the rhetoric of “rational choice” makes the individual free to choose his way of life and he is thus insulated to any external force that could restrain his choice of action. It meant that the social life for an individual is not at all a matter of natural inheritance, but merely a choice, that too governed merely by personal bias and perceptions. This itself fosters self-centred individualism and atomised behaviour, which is detrimental for a multicultural society.

Hence in this regard, multiculturalism in a capitalist society merely appears to be a farce. Accordingly, it is needless to state here that the asymmetrical inter-personal relationships that form the bedrock of a capitalist cosmos, not only inhibits the organic evolution of a multicultural society, but also fosters innate but dormant sources of intra-societal conflict that may exhume at any time to induce violence and destruction. The post-11 September scenario in the west is an embodiment of this phenomenon. Thus the west instead of playing blame games must indulge in rigorous introspection to discover the actual sources of apocalyptical terrorism which primarily seems to be endogenous to any capitalist society.

Are Capitalism’s Maladies Contagious?

“The collapse of the Soviet block appeared to signal the onset of western liberal capitalist global hegemony in transitional States” (Sakwa 2002: 7). This abruptly created crevice in the communist system was like the opening of the flood gates for neoliberal globalisation, paving the way for its rapid permeation into larger spaces and intrude into hitherto non-capitalist economies. This was facilitated by the relative digression of alternative paradigms to neoliberal globalisation. “While the inequalities of capitalism were increasing in most countries, while the global gap between the rich and poor was widening, and while the brutality of the rulers of the main capitalist States was reaffirmed again and again, the dialectic of capitalism was imploding” (Therborn 2007). The erosion of a formidable alternative to capitalism, hence, has ushered in with capitalist ideas and methods acquiring a wider currency.

Anterior to these kaleidoscopic developments, India followed a left liberal democratic socialist model of development initiated by Pandit Nehru. But it did not remain cloistered to these transformations and the state began to initiate reforms, in order to comport to these changes. The metastatic impact of neoliberal globalisation has been evident in India since the 1990s, when marked symptoms of the reduction in the role of the state began to appear. This metabolism signified the creation of larger spaces for indigenous and foreign capital which sought to globalise the national economy and enhance the scope of the private sphere at the detriment of the dominion of the public sphere.

The neoliberal reforms initiated off late, is directed not only towards reworking the relationship between State, market and civil society, but is also aimed at restructuring the State in order to incorporate the market rationality in the organisation and functioning of the State (Joseph 2007).

In this connection, it has been argued: The liberalisation of foreign trade is a way of introducing the standards and institutions of the world market into the transitional economy.

Trade liberalisation is a means to the introduction of competition and

capitalist efficiency – into the domestic market (Wing et al 1997).

The detrimental impact of the spread of neoliberal globalisation was compounded by the systematic capitulation to the new currents by all alternative paradigms. “Hence, capitalism’s new push was not accompanied by any strengthening of the working class and anti-capitalist movements, nor by opening up of systemic exit into another mode of production at least not in perspective visible to the naked eye. On the contrary: labour was weakened and embryonic systemic alternatives fell apart, or were completely marginalised” (Therborne 2007). Consequently, the public sphere was rapidly getting eroded and the dominion of the private sphere was beginning to magnify at an alarming pace. One of the vicious ramifications of this metamorphosis has been a structural alteration in the anatomy of the society. The Indian society that reflected organic values characterised by strong kinship ties, was now being radically individualised by the state which resorted to the enactment of such laws that exhibited a penchant towards modes of sociological individuation. The current Indian government’s bid for large scale privatisation and its proffer of greater latitude for foreign direct investments in the banking and insurance sectors, substantiates our argument in this regard.

In other words, the Indian state radically transformed itself from having a community-centric character to an atomised selfcentric and self-managing entity. The result was ruinous, the organic spirit intrinsic to the archaic Indian civilisational values, was now dubbed as satanic and was attempted to be exorcised by some paranoid cultural nationalists aided by a few neoliberal tantriks. As a shocking effect of this, the Indian notion of multiculturalism that dates back to the antequity, seems to have been ruptured. The harmonious coexistence of distinct cultures is being subversively substituted by a capricious tendency for violent assertions of cultural identities by injecting the germs of cultural nationalism. This epoch of transition may be described by invoking the telling phrase of Partha Chatterjee that “this was thus a point of departure and a point of arrival” (Chatterjee 1989).

In this sense I wish to argue here that the archaic notions of intercultural dialogue and amicable intermingling of distinct cultural groups began to depart, with the obtrusive arrival of fanatic assertions of cultural identities. The emergence of such a tendencious complexion in Indian society must be envisioned from the perspective of the sociocultural effects of neoliberal globalisation which has been evident in the obnoxious trashing of societal values and traditions. An exemplification of this phenomenon is embodied in the erosion of fundamental values such as tolerance and eclecticism manifested in the confluence of diverse cultures adored as the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, that marked several facets of sociocultural life in India since centuries: be it the Sufist poetry of sant Kabir who was born to a Brahmin widow but brought up by a Muslim couple, or a Muslim Mughal prince Dara Shikho translating Hindu scriptures like the Geeta, Ramayana and Upanishads into Persian language; all have been an apotheosis of

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the grandeur of this shared heritage. More amazingly, what enamours our imagination in this regard is the fact that roughly since the 12th century almost the entire realm of north India came under the political subjugation of Islamic dynasties. But these powerful Islamic empires never attempted at systematic conversion of Hindus, in spite of their unchallenged political sway over the Hindu society. “This fact has been conformed by recent emendation in historical research regarding this exceptional behaviour of Islamic empires” (Alam 2004).

However, the insidious advent of neoliberal globalisation, replaced all this with paranoia of some right wing fascist forces, for obstreperous assertions of cultural identity. “With the secular parties liberalising the economy in India, additional spaces are being created for the growth of Hindu fundamentalism in the country” (Mahaprashasta 2008). The result is apparent: the centuries old Ganga-Jamuna Tehzeeb has now been vitiated and replaced by a fractious cultural nationalist agenda by the right wing radicals in pursuance of their own political motif. This phenomenon manifests in the vandalisation of M F Husain’s paintings by Hindu fanatics which clearly indicates towards their cultural intolerance and their disregard towards the principle of eclecticism. They have demonstrated an esthetic ignorance and dearth of ability to differentiate between what Plato called “the beauty and the beautiful” by ostracising one of the greatest painters India has ever produced.

Thus the profuse cultural space created by neoliberal globalisation, has emboldened the Hindu fundamentalist organisations to impose such doctrinal discourses and means of political praxis through which they could bolster their own hegemonic propensities. In this way, a lunatic band of right wing Hindu fanatics who are out to perforate the secular fabric of the Indian society, have emerged as the new face of violence and terror in the country.

The militant Hindu right wing forces have been their in Indian politics for a very long time in one form or another. But it is only recently, beginning with the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy in 1986, together with the anti-reservation (a movement against affirmative action in favour of OBCs) campaign in 1990 accompanied with the worst kind of sustained vandalism Indian public life has ever seen, that it has made rapid strides and has become a force to reckon with. It is in this period that its fascist face has also come to the fore (Alam 1999: 333).

The horrendous physiognomy of Hindutva vehemence has been illustrated in the trail of incidents beginning from the ignominious demolition of Babri Masjid, the communal pogrom in Gujarat, the massacre of Christians in Orissa and the vandalisation of prayer halls in Karnataka. Worse, the ideological countenance of Hindutva is even more nefarious.

Hindutva restrictively seeks to mobilise people’s imagination on the need to define the Hindu, to sharpen the boundaries from others-Muslims especially but Christians and (sometimes confusingly) Sikhs too, to demarcate who belongs to India. According to Hindutva philosophy and political practice, a Hindu is one who minimally accepts two things. At one level a Hindu is one who is ready to fight Muslims militantly, particularly in the cultural sphere, as an alien, bestial presence in India, another, who poses a threat to the self of the Hindus. At the other level a Hindu is one who equates immemorial nation India with Hindu culture and religion. Hence it is a hegemonic trend that seeks to impose monolithic conceptions of nation and culture (Alam 1996).

Economic & Political Weekly

january 17, 2009

The meteoric rise of Hindu communal activism since the 1990s and the expansion in its sweep and influence has engendered an alarming upturn in the communal consciousness among the Hindus. The recent revelation regarding the growing indisposition among the Hindu landlords in Mumbai towards renting out their houses to Muslims or the resistance of people in Hindu dominated localities against allowing Muslims to buy houses, conforms the extent of communal colonisation of the Hindu society. Hence, as neoliberal globalisation with all its anomalies has barged into wider spaces in India, the society is getting more and more enslaved to communal sensitisations. This can be regarded as the fallout of the worldwide demonisation of Islam, fostered by the west led by the US. Since 11 September 2001, the attitude of Hindus towards Muslims appears to have adversely changed from one of accommodation to that of a preposterous sense of veto. Epitomising this, is the attitudinal change from a popular veneration of Pakistani artists such as Gulam Ali, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Atif Aslam, to a bizarre repugnance towards Muslims in toto. The reluctance of the residents of a Hindu-dominated colony in Mumbai to allow the renowned actor Shabana Aazmi to purchase a house, only because Shabana and her family belonged to the Muslim community, provides credence to this phenomenon.

All this has been the result of the hate campaign carried out by the Hindu communal forces, solely to demonise the minorities “as part of a larger political scheme of imparting a Hindu identity to the nation” (Panikkar 2008). In doing this, they seem to have acted as a franchisee of the US in India and performed the task which the US is seeking to accomplish around the globe – to project Islam as the sole source of apocalyptical terrorism. The socio-cultural and political behaviour of the Hindutva organisations has reflected a tendency which has been nothing more then like capitulating to neo-imperial hegemonic designs of the US, which has sought to build a post-cold war empire by engaging the entire world to comply with its one point hegemonic agenda; hate Muslims and believe in the rhetoric’s such as end of history and clash of civilisations.

The Hindutva forces in partnering with the common agenda of the US, have not only succumbed to the bewitching cliché of the US (that only Muslims are responsible for the current terror theatrics), “but also have corrupted the notions of democracy and majority in the country” (Bhargava 1994). Their indulgence in such woeful activities has also reflected their anti-state impulse. The way in which secularism is talked about by the Hindutva forces, must attest this argument. “Enlightened opponents of secularism have rejected it on the ground that it is an alien concept for India” (Nandy 1992). This amount to utter defiance of the underlying principles of the Indian Constitution, which itself is enough to establish the anti-state agenda of the saffron brigade. Hence, the complimentary interaction between economic liberalisation and the intensification in the virulence of the cultural nationalists is clearly visible in India. This has been mirrored in the manifold increase in militant Hindu activism since the 1990s, when the germs of economic liberalisation began to insidiously wax into the country’s political economy. It has now reached the acme, with “the horrors in Orissa where Hindu communalism has succeeded in establishing its second laboratory after Gujarat” (Panikkar 2008).

Martha C Nussbaum in her book The Clash within Democracy, has constructed a linkage between communalisation and economic prosperity by examining the premeditated communal pogrom effectuated by Hindu fanatics in the highly developed Indian state of Gujarat. Nussbaum (2007) argues:

The fast paced industrialisation and urbanisation, the absence of a strong labour movement, the neglect of quality of life issues, the rise of conservative Patels and the emphasis on technical rote learning over critical thinking as some of the reasons for an upsurge of Hindu fundamentalism in the State.

It is hence needless to elaborate again here that capitalism’s maladies have proved to be contagious and the internal sicknesses that characterised a western capitalist society, have penetrated deep into the sociocultural dynamics of India. Neoliberal globalisation has plagued India with those abominable attributes, which have wreathed havoc in western societies in the form of apocalyptical terrorism since September 2001.

In India, the syndrome of this contagion appears both in domestic sphere and in the ambit of foreign policy. It is reflected at the domestic level by a transition from a tradition where even most powerful Muslim emperors barely intended to hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus, to a situation where in the Hindu fundamentalist organisations are oppressively striving to impart a Hindu identity to the nation. In the realm of foreign policy, the contagion is apparent in India’s penchant towards appeasing the US, even at the cost of damaging the country’s old friendships. Evidently, India’s bid to consort with the US in tarnishing the image of Iran bespeaks for this trend. Hence the dilemma of two myths has now begun to haunt the Indian society also and there is now a dilemma between preserving the archaic multicultural edifice of the society and also fight a fictitious Muslim enemy. The engagement with America at the international level and the creation of greater spaces for the radical Hindutva organisations at home, illustrates the larger degree of acceptability in India for the two myths which have formed the pillars of American hegemony.

Thus, “as Adam Miller had stated: capitalism is a selfcontradictory system, which, if allowed to its logical conclusion, to the formation of a world market, would undermine its own foundations and bring about its own destruction” (Miller in White 1996). This prognosis seems to have materialised in the form of the growing discontent within western liberal societies against the capitalist system. But it has not incarnated in the form of any proletarian revolution because of the enfeeblement of the dialectic of capitalism after the collapse of the communist block. Hence putting this in Foucaultian terms, the discontented have chosen a “different way”, to challenge the capitalist system. As they are not able to find a way to get out of their deplorable situation created by an assertive capitalist system, they have fallen prey to the enticements of reactionary forces. “Hence Islamist fundamentalism is only a reaction to the political and economic insecurity and the failure of secular

Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (VAK) established in 1981, is a not for profit organization engaged in research and study on contemporary social issues such as democracy, dignity secularism, globalization, etc. VAK is also engaged in direct community work with marginalized sections of the society. VAK as an active member of various South Asian, Asian, and International networks is also engaged in activities at the sub-regional, regional and international levels. Refer to website:

VAK is planning to recruit senior personnel in the following capacities.

1) Deputy Director (Program) – 1 post

The person is expected to head the program team. She/he will be expected to have conceptual ability and execute program, to work out the strategies and to guide the research team. S/he will work in consultation with the Director. She/he will report on a regular basis to the Director.


She/he should have at least 5-7 years experience of having worked either with voluntary agencies, People’s Movements or academic institution and within the age group of 35-45 years.

2) Deputy Director (Research) – 1 post

The person will be responsible for the research and publication activities of VAK. She/he should be able to conceptualize critical issues for research in keeping with the social concerns of VAK. She/he is required to have an adequate experience and expertise in research methodology, field research and writing of research reports.

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The applicant can contact at the following address: VIKAS ADHYAYAN KENDRA D-1, Shivdham, 62 Link Road Malad (W), Mumbai 400 064 Tel: 022 2882 2850/2889 8662 Fax: 022 2889 8941 Email:

january 17, 2009

nationalism in the world and it is in such situations that people seek refuge in identity makers” (Chomsky and Achcar 2008). But unlike Islamic fundamentalism, which breeds in conditions of extreme economic indigence, militant Hindu fundamentalism has been a venomous by-product of a prejudicial abundance created by an emerging capitalist system. It was an output of a dexterous political fabrication of some communal political groups, which was supposed to act as an instrument for gaining political mileage and win electoral battles. So, unrestrained capitalism and the subsequent generation of excess wealth and the resultant political emboldenment of certain groups, has factored deeply in the blooming of religious radicalism in India.

Above all, Islamic fundamentalism has been both the product and victim of the hegemonic interventionist policies of the west led by the US.

The present strength of Islamic fundamentalism is a direct product of very direct US policies. The US has always backed Islamic fundamentalism and used it for its political ends to oppose secular nationalism as well as to counter any intervention by communist forces. This support of fundamentalist forces was obvious in the fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, or in the backing of Zia-ul Haq’s brand of fundamentalism in Pakistan. It is therefore clear that the impetus given to Islamist fundamentalism by a selfish west is responsible for the rise of terrorism (ibid).

In the same way, Hindu fundamentalism has also been the product of the political manoeuverings of some fascist political forces, who have been both benefactors and also the political


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According to Graham Fuller: “civilisational clash is not so much over Jesus Christ, Confucius or the Prophet Muhammed as it is over the unequal distribution of world power, wealth and influence. Culture is only the vehicle for expression of conflict, not its cause” (Fuller 1995). Hence be it the cabal consisting of the neoconservatives, the defence industry executives and the Pentagon in the US, or the militant Hindu cultural organisations aided by their fascist political patrons in India, exhibit one common similarity as far as their political agenda is concerned. Both have used culture as an agent to spawn social conflicts, in pursuance of their political motives. For the US, the agenda is the establishment of its own global hegemony and for the Hindutva forces, the aim is to promote the idea of one state one nation or the rhetoric of Hindu nationhood and strive to impose a fascist political order in the country. But a crucial difference which has to be taken into cognisance is that if Islamic fundamentalism has been the aggrieved prey of a presumptuous capitalist system, Hindu fundamentalism has been its effervescent progeny. In either case culture has merely been a means to achieve a political end and the actions of both, the US war hawks and the Hindu nationalists have been motored by an assertive capitalist system. Hence, the conception of “clash of civilisations” is a profane myth, emerging out as a grubby fume emitted by the industry of capitalism.

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