Saturday, July 21, 2007

Kosambi on Marxist approach to Indian History

DD Kosambi on Marxist approach to Indian history.
When serious scholars like D.D. Kosambi tried to apply Marxian approach to Indian history, they found themselves in great difficulty. In 1951, Kosambi tried to examine Marxist approach to Indian chronology (Annals of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 31 pp. 258-66) as presented by a Russian scholar D.A. Suleiken in 1949 and found it ‘dangerously misleading’ (Kosambi’s Omnibus, OUP 2005, p. 49). In his seminal work, An Introduction to the Study of Indian History (first published in 1956, sixth reprint 1993) Kosambi rejected many of Marx’s statements about India. Kosambi wrote: “India had never a classical slave economy in the same sense as Greece or Rome” (p. 11). Kosambi was at a loss what to make of Marx’s famous theory of the “Asiatic Mode of Production”. He says, “What Marx himself said about India cannot be taken as it stands.” Kosambi, who is considered to be the father of Marxist historiography on India, emphatically rejects Marx’s view of Indian history. He writes: “We cannot let pass without challenge Marx’s statement, “Indian society has no history at all… unchanging (village) society.” Kosambi says, “In fact, the greatest periods of Indian history, the Mauryans, the Satavahanas, the Guptas owed nothing to intruders, they mark precisely the formation and spread of the basic village society, or the development of new trade centers” (ibid, pp 11-12). Kosambi was of firm view, that: “The adoption of Marx’s thesis does not mean blind repetition of all his conclusions (and even less, those of the official party line Marxists at all times)” (p. 10).

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