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Idea of a Continuum in Social Analyses

Susan Visvanathan

This is a tightly packed book which provides both objective insights and much information. For scholars living abroad, there will the pleasure of reading a finished and hammered out collection of essays on India. For Indian students and teachers there will be a packaging which uses the recent past as a tool, by which our present is viewed. It is difficult to fault this book because it uses the idea of a continuum in understanding social movements, and yet each author explores the tensions within each continuum, so that the snarls and contradictions are located sharply and well. The introduction by the editors has a light and deft theoretical touch, displaying without revealing all, so that when each writer takes the stage he or she is in some sense centre-stage. All the prize-fighters of the ’80s are now in the footnotes, or being analysed by a new stable set of interpreters who are for the most part trained or anchored in the West. The only problem with this is omission of names one would associate with Social Movements in the ’80s like T.K.Oommen and M.S.A Rao, but then the nature of studying movements is such,  that what was present at one moment becomes past at another, irrefutable logic! but surely it is not antediluvian? Oommen’s work on mobilization and institutionalization in newly independent India is certainly a classic. I suppose I raise this problem, because so many of the writers refer to Kerala in some tacit manner, as being the only real general success story. I find this odd, given the crises of the countryside, the real sense of doom most Malyalis feel inspite of the statistics for a flourishing society. Suppose all the Malyalis came home, all at the same time to Kerala? In their absence, their lands lie fallow, small farmers are dependent on the global economy, since all of them seem to be growing rubber or vanilla, and alcoholism and emotional squalor seem to be rampant. But the good stories are recorded in this book and that seems significant, since models serve only one function, which is to highlight one aspect, usually not the use-value of things.   Theoretically the authors capture Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope, (1992, 2005) where he argues that academics and activists must come together, and that this new marriage is a sign of the conscientization of communities to globalization. ...

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