Response to an invitation for a symposium organised by CACIM in Delhi, November 2008.
As you write in your note, India is going through a phase of sea changes. The forces of economic expansion and liberalisation of the economy have generated social changes of a proportion that could only produce the social resistance that you list. The pretences of openness of unfettered capitalism generate the ideological and moral tools to articulate the same struggles against it. If in the face of the market each individual is equal in the competition over finite resources and in the attempt to get the price right for the goods they sell or buy, then gender, class, caste, religious etc. differences/inequalities “seem” out of place to consider. In the unfullfilled promise of capitalism and in the partially (only for the higher strata of society) fulfilled promise of growth are the core springs of rebellion in India (but not only in India of course). The Indian case needs further specific investigations that analyse the social structure vis a vis the colonial period and back beyond that to find the historic or constructed pasts of purity and oppression, the culture the civilisation and the mere instrumentalisation of those used today for (less than pure) political reasons. And of course this is not the whole story…. but defintiely one that needs to be written and some authors have tried (even in the not too academic press: Guha for instance and Khilnani… but there are more).The WSF has been a momentous experience in India and has helped “global civil society” to come to terms with the “idea of india” although in manners that were still fully entrenched in old preconception built by the Orientalist press, once more for the instrumental reason of control (and i witnessed so much of this trite Orientalist behaviour, this time proudly and at time arrogantly, matched by equal and opposite energy, in the WSF Mumbai and in Brazil as well).But mostly the WSF has had a fundamental internal function (whereas externally only few key characters are playing a central role in the IC). It was clear to anyone that, having a shared goal (even perceived, as it was in Mumbai 2004) does work in favour of building oceanic events that resonate wildly with the imagination of at least one fragment of the Indian population. And directly connected to that (the building of an instrumental coalition) is the crucial issue: HOW? how can different people, personalities, social groups, political ideologies, negotiate their contiguous presence in the same environment/space? The history of conflicts and their negotiation (firefight mostly) etc. is the one that deserves, surely among others, greater attention as far as the Indian civil/political/whatever society history is concerned.The proposed simposyum in November can be the first and most important meeting where the politics of WSF and its analysis (of its meanings and constituents) can meet. Such meeting will generate a huge event (if i imagine it correctly what your intention is) whose resonance and effect can be long-lasting.I’m sure that CACIM with your drive and leadership will pull this together. I hope i will be there to learn about a most exciting movement (that in my opinion could soon take the leadership of social transformation and social change processes the world over in exilarating dialectic with the booming of the capitalist economy that india is going through).