Sidharth Vardhan

A review of Das Capital

(A review of ‘Das Capital’ by Karl Marx Review first written on July 12, 2019) To judge a book by the way it affected the world is a mistake, though a tempting mistake. If we are to do so, almost all religious books will get a one-star rating because of the violent actions of followers of the respective religion. I don’t wish to be so cruel as to judge Marx, his ‘Das Kapital’ or socialism, on the basis of human rights violations in communist Russia and China. ….. But even if we are to give in to this temptation, we will find that Marx has a mostly positive impact. Before him, the world was driven by a blind capitalist force which burns down everything to profits – mostly based on the exploitation of workers who (often mere children) worked more than 16 hours at times. Some laws for the benefit of workers were already being made by the time Marx wrote the book, but I think it is mostly thanks to Marx that overexploitation of workers is no longer taken for granted in the west. Socialism can’t be any more blamed for the suffering of people in communist countries (blame

Of Africa’s Hopes and Impediments

(A review of ‘Hopes and Impediments’a collection of essays by Chinua AchebeFirst written on August 12, 2015) This is an excellent collection of essays and journalism – most of them manage to look into African cultures in particular, while at time analyzing a theme fr humanity in general. North and South Achebe uses words ‘North’ and ‘South’ in same sense as we use ‘West’ and ‘East’. His North means Europe and also includes USA. He argues that Africa has so not been allowed to speak for itself – it has been assumed by west that it is incapable of doing so as if Africans were children or worse still animals; that even if Europeans (in Africa, Americans too are called Europeans) want to know about Africa, they will send their own expert to study it rather than listen to what Africans might have to say for themselves. To take a contemporary example, look at all those Discovery-Wildlife channels describing local cultures where all the hosts are Americans. Wouldn’t it be better if someone closer to those cultures was to describe them? There could be enough Africans who could explain their culture to world, even in European languages. But Achebe tells

Man and His Symbols – an introduction to Jung’s ideas

(A review of ‘Man and His Symbols’a book by Carl JungFirst written on March 29, 2019) Hands down, it is one of the best books I have read and I wish I had read it earlier. This book is a perfect gateway into Jung’s ideas written expressly for the layman (like yours truly) to understand them. I think even if you don’t know the details, you know that his ideas provided a new dimension to psychology, taking it beyond nightmares and childhood traumas. Freud took away the extraordinary – the possessing demons as well as fantasies etc from psychology, Jung provides us with a hope that not all our time spent with those things is wasted. There are though two more ways of gaining from the book for a curious mind. For one, you gain an additional perspective, another angle of looking at things – at art, literature, philosophy, political and social conflicts, even natural sciences. Again, it seems to show the very limitations of rationalism which seems to be the basis of all our social sciences – economics (with its capitalist logic), politics and diplomacy (the ‘carry a stick and talk politely’ approach), culture (consumerism). “There is, however, a

Respectablity of Rich – Theory of Leisure Class

(Review of by Thorstein Veblen’s’The Theory of Leisure Class’First written on July 8, 2015) “For the last half of my life, I’ve learned to say ‘sir’. Its word you use when you’ve come down in the world.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Brother Karamazov) There were times in my early teens when I was confounded when upon being called by such titles like ‘sir’ by some manual-laborer, some tourist guide or like, a person much older than me – I’m a very absent-minded and in some way abnormal person and often end up in being ignorant of things which most people have already got used to – even now I feel uncomfortable being waited upon, which is at times embarrass my friends. Anyway, this observation shocked me because I didn’t fit any grounds for such respect known to me- the person in the question was obviously older and unlike me was earning and self-dependent. I, I was just a kid. Why such respect? With time I learned it was simply because I was richer. This book has a term for this phenomenon – Pecuniary respect. To date and even in the best of minds; other things being equal, a wealthy person, even one

On Violence – A review of Arendt’s essay

(A review of ‘On Violence’,an essay by Hannah Arendtfirst written on February 18, 2019) “Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience. What never can grow out of it is power.” Hannah Arendt (On Violence) Arendt refuses to define power as mere ability to do violence as some of the old authors she quotes has defined it to be. The book is written in times of cold war and during fears of mutually assured destruction. Arendt refuses to see violence as something that goes along with political power. She seems to think that the very fact of the presence of nuclear weapons makes the world a more violent place. There is no weapon humanity ever created that it didn’t use and all that. The best part is where she tries to define like sounding words – power, strength, authority etc. Violence Naturally, words themselves are mere symbols and you can use them to mean whatever you like but it enhances the ability to communicate better if each word described a unique abstract concept and every abstract concept has an exclusive word to signify

On Nationalism and ‘Imperialism: Part Two of The Origins of Totalitarianism’

(A review of’Imperialism: Part Two of the Origins of Totalitarianism’by Hannah Arendtfirst written on September 15, 2018) My one and the only objection is that it should have been named ‘Nationalism’ instead of ‘Totalitarianism’ because this book discusses various consequences (mostly negative) of Nationalism and imperialism was one just such consequence. Moreover even while studying imperialism, she is only interested in white men aspect of it – its effect on Europe. Moreover Arendt’s larger concern is studying origins of Totalitarianism which seems to me more connected with Nationalism than imperialism. Among consequences of Imperialism, she included are Imperialism, totalitarianism, refugee problems and wars (including two world wars). Imperialism Nationalism somehow continues to be thought of good when it is just a beautified name of narrow mindedness. Much like religion or racist ideologies, it is basically an act of limiting responsibility by creating a limited ‘we’ group based often on language, race or religion. It gives a false superiority complex- you are supposed to feel proud just because you belong to particular group (often people who are good for nothing else, chose these causes to take pride in). And a pride in belonging in such groups always comes along with a

On ‘Antisemitism: Part One of the Origins of Totalitarianism’

(A review ofAntisemitism: Part One of the Origins of Totalitarianism’by Hannah Arendtfirst written on September 15, 2018) antisemitism sidharth vardhan review analysis hannah arendt Arendt brings out a brief history of anti-Semitism with a special focus on the way it came to be used as a propaganda device by Nazis. There is much in this – like the argument that a wealthy section of society is tolerated by the rest only as long as they serve a function. And to be able to serve a function, power is needed. Some of the richer Jews (mostly bankers) were themselves first to accept the differentiation given to them by state. This differentiation attracted prejudice, first, when the customers of the bankers become middle class rather than upper class (middle class people take loan out of needs and won’t ever like bankers) and the stereotypes created because of a single family – Rothschilds. You can add to this, the conspiracy theories. Thus Nazis found a ready prejudice to take advantage of when they came into power. Hannah Arendt It is all very interesting but it isn’t as much hard hitting as other Arendt works I have read. May be because it is much

Nietzsche’s Anti-Christ – looking too much into the abyss of Christianity

(A review of ‘Anti-Christ’ a book by Friedrich Nietzsche) I had a liberal access to Internet only when I was already in college. And I developed a very quick obsession for Wikipedia and Wikiquote surfing. When I tumbled about Nietzsche’s Wikiquote fan, I became a fan. But reading ‘beyond good and evil’ was a disappointment. All the good parts of it I had already read on his Wikiquote experience. It is as if his best always comes in aphorisms – you read Wikiquote, you can say you have read Nietzsche, well the good parts. (I felt same thing with Oscar Wilde’s plays but Wilde had non-aphorism beauty in his in non-dramtic writing). There are lots of great quotes in it, but I had already read them. They might be more of a revelation to other readers. Much of his criticism of Christianity makes sense but he seems to want to correct it by forcing opposite values on society which is where he fails. It is a popular adage that philosophers are better at asking questions than answering them. Goes for Nietzsche too. Friedrich Nietzsche Moreover he can often be inconsistent. At one point he says Christianity has taken away virility

Wole Soyinka’s ‘Of Africa’

(Review by Sidharth Vardhan’Of Africa’ by Wole Soyinka First written on October 14, 2015) The title itself was fascinating to me. Not ‘Of Nigeria’ but ‘Of Africa’. Anybody who talks of thinking beyond political boundaries quickly gets my respect. Africa’s Political map – notice political boundaries are straight lines. “The rise of extreme nationalism, often developing into outright xenophobia, barely disguised under legislative formalisms that never name their real goal – exclusion – is a symptom of the increase, not decrease, of the we-or-they mentality that appears to be sweeping across the globe.” Wole Soyinka (Of Africa) He thinks that national boundaries in Africa are all fiction. Of course, all national boundaries are fictional; but in Africa the situation is made obvious by the fact that it is a fiction created by outsiders: “Boundaries imply exclusion, and it is undeniable that this tainted seed of guaranteed future conflicts on the continent was sown at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884.” The thing is made clearer if you were to look at political map of Africa. You would notice many national boundaries to be straight lines, as if drawn by a ruler. That is exactly what Colonial powers did in Berlin

Good, Bad and beyond

(A review of ‘Beyond Good and Evil’,a book by Friedrich Nietzsche First written on December 25, 2014) “I obviously do everything to be “hard to understand” myself” Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil) This kind of admission doesn’t excite confidence in humble readers; does it Nietzsche? The best of the book is mostly in that chapter of aphorisms which take about an hour to read. In the rest of the book; it is mostly author blabbering -at first condemning philosophers and church (which I can still bear for the occasional beautiful observation he offers every now and then); and then detail his prejudices about nations and about ideal women (which made me take that star away). In between though there is a little bit of beauty which can’t be thrown away – the notion of herd morality; slave morality the idea of laughing philosophers etc. More Quotes “Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.” Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil) “The text has disappeared under the interpretation.” Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil) “One loves ultimately one’s desires, not the thing desired.” Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil) “Objection,

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