Written by a journalist-cum-professor of sociology, this book is a compilation of articles and essays which in the words of the author is an attempt at ?academic journalism?, a term his late anthropologist-friend advised him to use. Academic journalism involves writing articles of cogent theoretical value for non-academic journals. The articles in this book have been earlier published in Frontier and Economic and Political Weekly and reflect the characteristics of academic journalism.
Articles grouped under ?General Issues? present the dichotomy between various meanings of political ideologies and their practice in a historical context. The articles titled ?Human Rights and the American Right? and ?Marx, the Journalist? present this dichotomy as seen in concrete historical contents. Marx was forced to leave England after the failure of the 1848 revolution. A well-known intellectual in Europe, an unknown proletariat in England, he was a regular writer for a decade in The New York Tribune, which later became a citadel of anti-Marxist movements.
Published in 1994, the article titled ?Terrorism in Past, Present and Future? presents a broad historical account of terrorism in different countries, including America and its different definitions by different sources. The author points out that terms ?coercion? and ?intimidation?, if taken as primary indices of terrorism, are used in every country in the world with different forms of justification. Here he divides the history of terror under Establishment, anti-Establishment and criminal professional categories. Establishment consists of rituals of violence in support of Establishment, like the burning of Joan of Arc and of ?suttees? in parts of India; the beheading or amputation of body parts practices under Islam or public hanging or lynching falling under the aegis of secular governments. The best example of anti-Establishment terrorism includes the Jacobian reaction to the French army during the French revolution or the actions of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Two examples of criminal-professional terrorism are the Italian mafia of today and the ?thugs? of India in the past.
Under ?Special Pieces of Specific Interest?, the author deals with the concept of charisma as developed by Max Weber when the term ?dynastic? is used to focus attention on a new source of charisma in the article ?Asia'sWomen Leaders and Dynastic Charisma?. The author says that while Sonia Gandhi'semergence as a political leader is characterised as an illustration of the media-manipulated use of dynastic charisma compared to other female leaders in Asia, ?her performance and achievements until now have been insignificant.?
An interesting piece refers to the review of a book alleging CIA involvement in the overthrow and assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman of Bangladesh. The author refers here to Jimmy Carter'sspeech containing a critique of CIA involvement and illustrating allegations related to Chile and Bangladesh. He says that Mujibur Rehman was a victim of his own failures, and ?whether his successors were in unholy alliance with the USA or not, they certainly pushed the country to the right – away from the grassroots struggle for socialism which Abu Taher envisioned and died for.?
The articles not only analyse the complexities of politics but also argue that ?a political problem is not solved; it may only be settled.?
(Seagull Books Private Limited, 26 Circus Avenue, Kolkata-700017.)