Archive for January 19th, 2008

Origin of the phrase vote bank

January 19, 2008

Whoever in India hadn’t heard about vote bank politics? However, I never thought about the origins of the phrase. Ram Guha traces the first coining and exposition of the term to M N Srinivas and his Ramapura work:

Srinivas first reported his Rampura research in a long essay he wrote for a seminar organised by the University of Chicago. “The Social System of a Mysore Village” dealt principally with the relations between the different caste groups. A section on “patrons and clients” spoke of the relationship of dependence and obligation between master and servant, landlord and tenant, creditor and debtor; the first term in these relationships always denoting a person of a higher caste than the second. The last paragraph of this section ran as follows:

The word “party” has become a Kannada word. Every administrator and politician speaks of “party politics” in villages, and even villagers are often heard saying, “There is too much ‘party’ in such and such a village”. The coming of elections gives fresh opportunities for the crystallization of parties around patrons. Each patron may be said to have a “vote bank” which he can place at the disposal of a provincial or national party for a consideration which is not mentioned but implied. The secret ballot helps to preserve the marginal affiliation of the marginal clients.

A very interesting piece — also for the fact that MNS, RKN, AK Ramanujan, RK Laxman, and TS Satyan all make an appearance in the piece! What more can you ask for?

By the way, though the term was not explicitly used, during a discussion of the on-going US presidential election caucuses and primaries with an US friend of mine, I have heard about some of strategies employed by some of the successful presidential candidates, which would certainly fall under ‘vote bank’ political strategies!

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Ram Guha’s first Chak de India moment!

January 19, 2008

In Telegraph, he recounts:

It was, I suppose, my first Chak de India moment. The famous cricket victories in West Indies and England lay five years in the future; the World Cup win a further decade on; Vishy Anand’s world chess championships in the next century altogether. This was the first time this particular Indian came to see that sometimes, in some places, and in certain conditions, some of his countrymen could take on the best in the world. The cynic would lay stress on the caveats; in fact, it was precisely because these victories happened so rarely that they were (and are) cherished so much and by so many. India generally get walloped by Australia in Test and one-day matches alike; but they did beat them in the Twenty20 World Cup—and we went nuts about it. Likewise, when no one expected the Indians to get so much as a set off the Australians in the Challenge Round of 1966, that Krish and Jaideep actually won a whole match made them one little boy’s first sporting heroes.

Take a look!

Marx’s Das Kapital: a biography

January 19, 2008

I finished reading the delightful little volume of Francis Wheen: Marx’s Das Kapital: a biography. It is a short book running into 120 pages or so (of a size, I think, called octavo); and, hence takes a couple of hours at the most to finish.

The quotes as well as some of Wheen’s sentences in the book are sharp, pungently funny, and, most of the times even politically incorrect; what is more, both Marx and his wife seem to have used a very colourful language. Here are a few samples:

  1. That last sentence, taken alone, could be adduced as another prediction of absolute financial impoverishment for the workers, but only a halfwit — or an economics lecturer — could hold to this interpretation after reading the thunderous philippic which proceeds it.
  2. ‘The secret hopes we had long nourished in regard to Karl’s book were all set at naught by the German’ conspiracy of silence,’ Jenny Marx complained. ‘The second installment may startle the slugabeds out of their lethargy.’
  3. ‘I am expanding this volume,’ he explained, ‘since those German scoundrels estimate the value of a book in terms of its cubic capacity.’
  4. Engel’s experienced eye immediately spotted certain passages in the text where the carbuncles had left their mark, and Marx agreed that they might have given the prose a rather livid hue. ‘At all events, I hope the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day,’ he cursed. ‘What swine they are!’
  5. As Marx knew, however, these dialectical dalliances had an extra use-value. After writing an article on the Indian mutiny in 1857, …, he had confessed to Engels: “It’s possible that I shall make an ass of myself. But in that case one can always get out of it with a little dialectic. I have, of course, so worded my proposition as to be right either way.’
  6. Engels tried to stir up publicity by submitting hostile pseudonymous reviews to German newspapers and urged Marx’s other friends to do likewise. ‘The main thing is that the book should be discussed over and over again, in any way whatsoever,’ he told Kugelmann. ‘In the words of our old friend Jesus Christ, we must be as innocent as doves and wise as serpents.’
  7. Marx believed that ‘the peculiar gift of stolid blockheadedness was every Briton’s birthright, …

In the last few pages of the book Keynes and Shumpeter also make an appearance among others. The book ends with a suggestion that Marx could become the most influential thinker of this century. On the whole, an enjoyable and informative read.

PS: Here is an earlier post of mine with links to an excerpt from the book and a couple of blogposts as to why Marx was an effective blogger.