Shane Avery's Reviews > Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India

Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India by Ranajit Guha
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Sep 06, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction

Guha, a structuralist, situates himself into a continuum that includes Gramsci, Hobsbawm (the classical Marxist from whom he is departing significantly), and E.P. Thompson. Surprisingly well written ... really polished and persuasive.

Guha attempts to understand the political consciousness of subaltern groups within the context of general insurgency. He rejects Hobsbawm's understanding of rebels as somehow "pre-political" and rather extends to them "varieties of political action" :

"The peasant obviously knew what he was doing when he rose in revolt. The fact that this was designed primarily to destroy the authority of the superordinate elite and carried no elaborate blueprint for its replacement does not put it outside the realm of politics. On the contrary, insurgency affirmed its political character precisely by its negative and inversive procedure. By trying to force a mutual substitution of the dominate and the dominated in the power structure it left nothing to doubt about its own identity as a project of power."

Perhaps most refreshing about this work is its attitude -- subaltern studies seems driven to enfranchise the marginalised. Its scope isn't limited to India, as Guha draws examples from rebellions across time and space. All and all, a very reasonable blend of Marx and Tocqueville. Guha restores to the peasants their essential political orientation, while retaining a sufficient Marxist orientation with respect to class struggle.

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