Month: March 2014

Weekly Mail – Street Committees and Peoples Courts (1980s South Africa)

Weekly Mail – Street Committees and Peoples Courts


Tripta Wahi – Orientalism: A Critique [Marxist]

Revolutionary Democracy

Vol. II, No. 1, April 1996

Orientalism: A Critique

Tripta Wahi

A major concern of bourgeois thought has been the attempt of blur the distinctions between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, between Marxism and bourgeois thought and between capitalism and socialist society. Edward Said is a brave warrior of the bourgeoisie who entered the fray with his book ‘Orientalism’ which was published for the first time in 1978. Palestinian in national origin, trained in literary theory in the U.S., untouched by Marxist theories of literature, blissfully nescient of Soviet orientalist scholarship under Lenin and Stalin and deeply enmeshed in the idealist and subjective theories of the French scholar Michel Foucault, Edward Said argues that the works of western orientalism, including the writings of Marx, inferiorise the East in relation to the West. At the root of the Saidean system is the failure to recognise the notion of socio-economic formations in the thought of Marx which embraced Asiatic, ancient, feudal and capitalist social formations. Said is oblivious of the fact that for Marx the Asiatic Mode of production spanned continents including pre-Columbian America, parts of Europe and Asia itself. For Said the notions of Asiatic mode of production and Oriental Despotism represent merely a common endeavour with the Romantic orientalists of eternally inferiorising the East to the West. In the thought of Karl Marx the brutal introduction of capitalism in India had a two-fold destructive and regenerative mission which was laying the basis for a social revolution. In the fantastic thinking of Edward Said this represents an attempt, together with other orientalism, to ‘reconstitute’ and ‘redeem’ the East. For Said there are no laws of motion in society, there is only an eternal undifferentiated Orientalism which eternally subordinates the East. Any attempts to revolutionise the East in accordance with the Marxist notions of social change are, for Said, an integral part of the orientalist subordination of eastern societies. (more…)