Accepted paper:

Commoning the common man

Author:

Luisa Steur (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

The Aam Aadmi party in India is experiencing a spectacular success that however increasingly exposes the powerlessness of the party’s middle-class moralizing vis-à-vis capital. Could the urban politics of “commoning” (Harvey 2012) be the more realistic path of emancipating the common man?

Paper long abstract:

With the small formalized working class on a steady decline and marginal farming, petty commodity trading, and wage hunter-gathering the absolute norm again in neoliberal India, it should come as no surprise that the space of radical politics is no longer occupied by Communist parties. Instead, it has given way to, notably, a Maoist armed rebellion on the one hand and the rise of the Aam Aadmi (common man) Party on the other. Where the former unites dispossessed peripheral populations under red Naxalite dreams of "encircling the cities from the countryside" and overthrowing the comprador capitalist state, the latter organizes mass urban gatherings where followers symbolically brandish the jhadu (broom) to "clean the filth which has permeated our government and our legislature" and replace it by the incorruptible Common Man. While the Naxalites are realistic enough to identify their real enemy, the stakes of their impoverished armed collective making an urban break-through vis-à-vis the Indian army are less realistic. The AAP, meanwhile, is experiencing a spectacular success that however increasingly exposes the powerlessness of the party's middle-class moralizing vis-à-vis capital. Could the urban politics of "commoning" (Harvey 2012) be the more realistic path of emancipating the common man? What would it take for the AAP to face up to its contradictions and embrace commoning? Could the peripheral commoning happening in Naxal "liberated areas" break through into urban India?

panel P084
The worldwide urban mobilizations: conundrums of 'democracy', 'the middle class' and 'the people'. Supported by Focaal and the IUAES Commission on Global Transformation and Marxian Anthropology