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Searching for a New Paradigm

Harish Khare

Edited by Jai Sen and Mayuri Saini
Zubaan, Delhi, 2005, pp. 231, Rs. 195.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 1-2 January-February 2006

For seven days in January 2004 Mumbai staged a kind of khumbh mela for the concerned and the sensitive souls. From across the world came scholars, activists, intellectuals, grassroot workers, and all others who wanted to associate themselves with an occasion that celebrated dissent. Mumbai, otherwise serenaded as India’s happening place where capitalistic enterprise finds a natural expression, became host for the World Social Forum, a self-designed rival and alternative to the annual gathering of corporate tycoons and finance ministers at the World Economic Forum at Davos (Switzerland). All those who gather at the WSF mela are inspired by the faith that a world other than the one scripted by the Wall Street Mob is possible.   Rather becomingly the Indian contingent prepared itself adequately for the Mumbai mela. Talking New Politics documents how diligently a section of the Indian alternative-crowd motivated itself for the Mumbai show. This is a very useful account of the series of seminars held at Delhi University in the run up to the Mumbai gathering. Scholars, trade unionists, activists and researchers conducted workshops to talk about issues likely to figure at Mumbai.   In the event the Mumbai gathering produced its own sound-bytes and inspirations, and then life was back to its routine pace of compromises and concerns. Yet Talking New Politics turns out to be a durable collection, bringing together voices and perspectives that remain relevant because, as the editor, Jai Sen points out, the struggle goes on “for freeing people all over the world of the shackles of the colonization of the mind.” These musings and meditations provide a healthy antidote to the prevailing orthodoxy of the inevitability of the globalizaton. And this orthodoxy invariably works itself out at the expense of the poor and the marginalized in every society.   Perhaps the single most consistent theme that emerges in all the concerns is the need to recognize and respect diversity. The state order stresses uniformity, compliance, homogeneity — even though it keeps chanting the “unity in diversity” mantra — and is patently uncomfortable with voices and ideas that question the establishment’s preferences. The crux of the argument is adequately captured by Nivedita Menon: “The fact that diversity will generate uncontrollable, unpredictable energies is something that is frightening for any order that seeks to impose one model on the university. What has therefore happened is that the ideas of progress and development have given states their raison ...

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