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Reviews195 In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures, by Aljaz Ahmad; 358 pp. New York: Verso, 1992, $29.95. Aljaz Ahmad, an Indian Marxist poet and literary critic, defends the relationships between literature and literary theory and what he describes as the materialist historical context since the 1960s. Thus he focuses on the history of anticolonial revolutionary movements and global interdependence, ranging from the old nationalism of the 1960s to the teaching of Third World literature by migrant intellectuals in the Anglo-American universities. Ahmad ambitiously outlines, reviews, and challenges the writings of such luminaries as FredricJameson, Edward Said, Salman Rushdie, and Homi Bahbha. Ahmad's central argument against the literature on colonial and postcolonial discourses and postmodernism is similar to Perry Anderson's critique of western Marxism ( Consideration on Western Marxism, London: NLR, 1976) . Like Anderson, Ahmad criticizes Third World cultural nationalism and postmodernism for its eclecticism, ahistoricalism, and neglect of the struggle between capitalism and Marxism, which are crucial elements of colonial history (pp. 2, 5, 57) . He even accuses Said, Rushdie, Bahbha, and other postmodernist Third World migrant intellectuals, of reducing the Marxist critique of capitalism to mere "conversations" in die metropolitan academy in England and North America. Besides criticizing postmodernist and postcolonial discourses, Ahmad attempts to explain the politics behind such literary theories. The political context, in Ahmad's view, is the defeat of the left mass, anti-imperialist movements in the 1960s and the rise of the right in the period of Reagan and Thatcher. In such a reactionary period when the left is defeated, cynicism about working class politics becomes a major aspect of poststructuralism and postmodernism. In his view, these literary and philosophical theories are hostile to historicism, human agency, and the possibility for major change. Ahmad tries to link the politics of postmodernism with the rise of the right wing governments in the United States and England. No wonder Marxism is reduced to mere questions ofepistemology and cultural studies in the academy (p. 4). Ahmad faults Jameson, Said, Rushdie, and Bahbha for their neglect of history, agency, and social contradictions between classes in a world scale. Hence he rejects the idea of a Third World literature or an Indian literature, and even the claims for Third World solidarity, as declared in 1955, under the so-called nonaligned movement. These nationalist claims cover the contradictions of class structure and variation of Third World nation-states (pp. 243, 307-8). He objects to the relegation of countries to first, second, and third worlds because they cover class solidarities and internationalism. Ahmad reminds the reader that Salman Rushdie is not in exile, but was in self-exile before the publication ofhis novel, The Satanic Verses, and the fatwa by 196Philosophy and Literature Khomenie sentencing him to death as an aposde from Islam. More importandy , Ahmad points out diat Rushdie's huge prestige in England was due to the British official policy of forcing assimilation on the immigrant Muslim minority in England (p. 214). According to Ahmad, the British State used Rushdie's novel to force such racist policy on Muslim immigrants. Ahmad also analyzes the works of Edward Said. Said and Jameson, in Ahmad's view, are the two best literary critics in the English language today (p. 152) . Fredric Jameson, while praised as an unrepentant American Marxist, is faulted for being a naive idealist in arguing for the notion of "Third World Literature," and ignoring the contradiction between capital and labor in the Third World (pp. 122, 125-26). Said is also praised for introducing die Palestinian case against Israeli colonialism despite the huge pro-Zionist consensus in American official and intellectual circles (p. 160). After such short personal praise, Ahmad begins his brilliant critique ofSaid, which, along with die earlier critique ofSadiqJalal El-Azm (Khamsin 1980-81), constitutes the most penetrating analysis in the book. Ahmad argues diat Said's work on the history of Western writings on the Orient is flawed because it fails to look at the various ways in which orientalist writings were accepted, modified, or challenged by intellectuals in the colonies. Furthermore, and in agreement with El-Azm, Said is guilty of essentializing die West or being an orientalist in reverse...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 195-196
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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