Emerging from a middle-peasant family background in Nepal, Baburam Bhattarai excelled at school and then, with a Colombo Plan scholarship in hand, studied architecture and planning in India. By the early to middle s, the theoretical structure of spatial and regional planning studies had changed—in a Marxist direction. While he was a student, Bhattarai was president of the All India Nepalese Students Association on its founding in He joined the illegal Communist Party of Nepal Masal in the early s.
Monthly Review | Nepal’s Geography of Underdevelopment
As of the date of writing preparatory negotiations for Constituent Assembly elections are still taking place, with the fate of the monarchy and the future direction of Nepalese society to be decided in the continuing struggle. Marxist social science at the time this book was written in the early s was in the late stages of a flourishing era of radical scholarship and political activism that had begun in the s.
The poststructural and postmodern philosophical movements were criticizing Marxism as totalistic totalitarianism, but few on the left bothered to read all that vague, carelessly argued text, and cared less when they had.
Neoliberalism was taking over the world, yet we Marxists were lulled into complacency by our successes of the s. India had not yet gone through its New Economic Policy , and Indian critical political-economic thought was still firmly based in Marxism, especially at JNU.
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This book emerges from the late stages of this global, leftist intellectual culture. This is Marxist objective analysis, capable of differentiating correct from incorrect ideas. This is science carefully thought, and beautifully written, on behalf of the oppressed. Most basically the book argues that Nepal is underdeveloped because its forces of production have been retarded by a retrograde form of society.
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This argument rests on a critique of two related traditions in Marxist thought—theories of underdevelopment and theories of space—within an overall political philosophy drawn from Marxism- Leninism-Maoism. Bhattarai rigorously dissects underdevelopment and space theory with the analytical mind of a completely committed, thoroughly convinced, utterly confident Marxist dialectician.
The theory of the articulation of modes of production is better, yet still too exogenist. Out of this entanglement Bhattarai manages to emerge with a relatively coherent concept of socio-spatial process that avoids the mechanistic determinism of the one side on the other. In the case of Nepal, the codetermining specifics include a unique history in that the country was never formally colonized, although neocolonial relations with Britain and India have long played a determining role—for example, , Nepalese soldiers served in the British Indian Army during the First World War.
Additionally, Nepal has a spectacular array of physiographic regions, within a landlocked position between contending India and China. And then there is the persistence into the present of a medieval socio-political formation under the hegemony of a centralized, despotic state. Nepal, Bhattarai says, should be considered as a society at a transitional, pre-capitalist stage, whose motion is engineered by the interplay of contradictory forces of both endogenous and exogenous kinds, within a specific geographical context.
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The vertical distinction, according to the production and circulation of surplus value, is drawn between surplus-producing sectors agriculture and industry and non-surplus-producing sectors trade and finance. At the time the dissertation was written, 91 percent of the working people labored in primary production activities agriculture, forestry, and mining ; 0. By the relevant percentages were 66 percent in primary activities, 13 percent in secondary, and 21 percent in trade and all others. When Nepal was unified by the Hindu Shah family into the Gorkha kingdom in the late eighteenth century, the king was recognized as sole repository of land proprietorship and, with the exception of tribal territories in some fringe hill areas, a system of landlordism known as raikar was imposed that involved direct payments to the state in return for inheritable occupancy of land.
However, the extensive and difficult territory of Nepal could not be controlled effectively, and in the middle nineteenth century, the Shah state collapsed. Under the Rana autocracy in which a small group of noble families ruled the state began allocating land to private individuals, religious institutions, royal vassals, local tax collectors, and others in a system that matured into a kind of feudal capitalism as the Indian railroads reached the Terai in the late nineteenth century. A series of land reforms following restoration of the Shah dynasty in proved cosmetic rather than fundamental.
Overwork and underconsumption by the peasants forms the underdeveloped base of the economy and constitutes a fundamental source of the rural discontent that founds the revolution in rural Nepal. Add to Wishlist Add to Wishlist.
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This work looks at how contemporary global economic policies are made: by which institutions, under what ideologies, and how they are enforced. The author reveals the central roles played by organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank in supervising the livelihoods of over 2. He shows that neoliberal economic policy is enforced by a few thousand unelected and unaccountable experts in the North and has failed to deliver tolerable living conditions for the poor. The book argues for a new geographic theory of power, exercised through dominant institutions, concentrated in hegemonic power centers.
It seeks to transform the existing geography of policy-making power by exposing its structures, centers and mechanisms, critiquing its intellectual foundations, uncovering its un-democratic justifications, and passionately supporting its opponents.
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The conclusion makes a further positive contribution by exploring policy alternatives that point the way forward. More Business. StandOut 2.
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