Communalism in Modern India: A Theoretical Examination (1986)
The oft-repeated statement that communalism, like nationalism, is a purely modern phenomenon becomes problematic upon reflection. Consider, for example, the anti-Semitic outlook, so crucial an ingredient of Nazism. A murderous hatred of Jews, based on horrifying stereotypes – ‘devil-worshippers’, ‘murderers of Christ’, etc – was part and parcel of orthodox Christianity for centuries, and remained as such despite all the schisms. Can one say, then, that Nazi anti-Semitism was a purely modern phenomenon which used atavistic prejudices for political purposes? (For that matter, can colonialism be comprehended as something totally disjunct from the imperial tradition dating back to Pax Romana?). Nazism was modern in that it fulfilled certain functions for the capitalist state. But it would be wrong to view it in purely functional terms, because Nazism also ended up destroying the capitalist state, besides much else. Simultaneously, it distorted the sense of historical time and created a fantasy world for both rulers and the ruled, peopled by monsters, in which the most horrible events could take on the flavour of banal commonplaces. Fascism is neither wholly modern nor simply archaic – it represents a schizophrenic experience of historical time by people living in any present. To attempt to understand fascism and communalism, we must discard the sharp divisions of history into slabs of ancient, medieval and modern time, and try to comprehend the present as a continuum within which older forms of culture and modes of power fuse with novelty – whether institutional or technological.
Communalism in Modern India: A Theoretical Examination
(click the title for a link to the essay)
A German, who would embolden himself to assert,’ two souls alas, dwell in my breast’, would make a bad guess at the truth, or, more correctly, he would come far short of the truth about the number of souls: Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil