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By Markus Daechsel

The Nineteen Thirties to Fifties witnessed the increase and dominance of a political tradition throughout a lot of North India which mixed unparalleled degrees of mobilization and association with a good de-politicization of politics. at the one hand passionate about international occasions, humans additionally got here to appreciate politics as a question of non-public morality and success. In different phrases, politics used to be approximately expressing the self in new methods and approximately discovering and securing an imaginary domestic in a fast-moving and infrequently terrifying universe. The scope and arguments of this ebook make an cutting edge contribution to the historiography of contemporary South Asia, by means of targeting the middle-class milieu which was once the epicentre of this new political tradition.

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There was a Hobbsian twist to this vision, however. The collective personae that made up Indian life were not naturally disposed towards rational cooperation in the same way as the self-contained gentlemen of the liberal imagination; rather, their natural state was one of perpetual warfare. This was perhaps the most powerful argument that the British Raj used to legitimize itself: India was not a ‘nation’ or even a ‘society’, but a communal battleground brought under temporary control by the 22 POLITICS AGAINST SOCIETY forcible but benign intervention of outside arbiters.

The most significant indicator for our purpose is the rate of female literacy for the age group of 10–15 years. Female literacy rates are generally much lower than male ones, and the fact that a family was wealthy enough and bothered to educate their daughters definitely places them in a constituency whose culture gave importance to reading. In 1931, when the most extensive and accurate census was taken, the figures for the largest cities of UP and Punjab were 11 and 18 per cent respectively. 50 An additional consideration is literacy in English, as bilingualism was common in the upper most echelons of the Urdu middle-class milieu.

The most trustworthy and ‘authentic’ of Indian politicians therefore did not even make much effort to pretend they had strong ideological beliefs. Such men of ‘influence and substance’ 20 POLITICS AGAINST SOCIETY were easily turned into stakeholders of the colonial enterprise because they had substantial material possessions to defend. They were landlords, professionals and industrialists who knew what side their bread was buttered and whom the Raj was usually quite willing to oblige. More troublesome were the supporters of nationalism who decried self-interest in the name of a collective common good that was not open to bargaining in the District Commissioner’s drawing room.

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