State Class, Corporate Class, and Cattle Class:
Where are the links?

Bhaskar Majumder

Idle brain is a devil’s workshop – post-lockdown some have been exhibiting it including me. The devil in the man has come out well after 50+ days of being home-locked – some kind of offshoot of psychological disorder. It is not to be read as violating law or the legal system – it is in the mind of some people, and mind cannot be punished by state order. Some express it – those who are extroverts, some keep silence those who are introverts.

A new experiment, what in standard Economics is called trial and error, has been set in motion since March 25 – Janta Curfew, then lockdown by change of nomenclature, then Advisory of different variety, then unlocking partially. State class understands it. Corporate class enjoys it. Cattle class pays for it.

These redefined classes are academically distanced from Marx and his followers – this is not even Asiatic – it is pure and Indian. This is not like production of surplus value by the cattle class that is appropriated by the corporate class, a part of which goes to the state class as tributes. In the new trial that is an offshoot of Corona 2019/2020, the cattle class was scattered more than it ever was – for the class was miserably visible on roads, not in animal grazing in the forests or not in cultivation. This class did not break their shackles – they were abandoned. For it was a period of no work-no wage. The state class asked the corporate class not to deduct wages of these workers during the ‘no work’ period. The corporate class reached the Apex Court. The Apex Court delivered judgement against the cattle class. The state class took U-turn.

There are, however, historical-theoretical problems in understanding the state class in the main for the writings of the authorities like Pranab Bardhan (Political Economy of Development in India) where he looked at “The State as an Autonomous Actor’’ (Chapter 5). In view of Bardhan, “the civil society was already dominated by a relatively overdeveloped state at the time of independence (overdeveloped in relation to the economic structure’’ (p. 37). Corona 2019/2020 crises exposed the state as very much a non-autonomous actor – it was very much corporate-influenced and elite (linked with corporate or not)-influenced and decidedly against the migrant workers or the cattle class – though the migrant workers constitute only a tiny segment of the cattle class.

Where did the activists-NGOs-public intellectuals-armchair intellectuals stand in this trio classes – state-corporate-cattle? The diagnosis will be mongrel. If Bardhan is to be accepted de facto, then the intellectuals – public or armchair – were/are dominated by the state for these intellectuals constitute the civil society though not the whole of it but guiding it. If so, then who really constitute the state outside the text bookish answer, I mean outside the legislative-executive-Judiciary network?

My understanding is the state is an abstraction – an agreement of people post-1648 in European tradition to resolve strife. In India’s scenario, the strife is more concealed or unexpressed for the cattle class learnt to remain silent whatever the reason or Philosophy is. The state class is active – more so post-British through Acts mostly unknown to the cattle class. The corporate being in alliance with the state class hardly bothers about the Acts, or, is capacitated to make the Act work in its favour. Both the state class interest and the corporate class interest come to be known as public interest – for whatever is done like land acquisition or forest reservation is in public purpose.

It is not surprising that the state is active relative to the society, or that the activity of the society is so silent that it remains invisible. The state class is engaged in “taam-jhaam’’ (hue and cry) like vehicles in motion on road with moving red light, police patrolling car, siren of different power cars that work as curse for the peace-loving society. But society is like Vidur – a moral authority at best – who is going to listen to such a toothless (Budget less) society? State has power, or the state thinks so because over centuries it learnt that national resources are state resources – it forgot Kautilya also.

In its aggressive exercise of power, the “overdeveloped state’’ (probably relative to the society), following Bardhan, sets its agenda or priorities a tiny component of which covers the cattle class or mass society. This too in the form of benevolence and in truncation like providing Chulha or gas-fuel to women in need or Jan Dhan Yojana account with zero balance or IAY and so on. The cattle class remains at the receiving end – as dependent on the state class.

The corporate class dispossesses the cattle class a part of which comes back to the state class as tributes. While the processes remain invisible, some of the consequences are observed – not necessarily by the cattle class but a section that stands between the state class and the cattle class – that is the middle section or the civil society.

Large number is both strength and a weakness depending on the quality of the number. Quantity converts into quality – that did not happen so far in India or that it was not allowed to happen. Alternatively, many experts talk about demographic dividend – I failed to find any such dividend. I found the millions of migrant workers felt forced to walk barefoot foodless hundreds of km. to reach home from the destination post-40+ days of lockdown announced since March 25, 2020. Many died on roads, on railways tracks, on railway platforms, inside Shramik special train compartments and the society tolerated it for the society was not overdeveloped. For state class the death of the cattle class was a number. The corporate class was/is delinked from all these dirty deaths.

The cattle class cannot be the image of the country – it may be evident from the day the most powerful person of the world visited the state of Gujarat 2020 when the slums were walled or kept outside the scope of observation. The slum will produce and serve the state class as paid labour, unpaid labour, muscleman, liftman and all that that will remain untouchable. But now the same power elite is in fear post-Corona for the labour-dependency also implies physical proximity whatever be the utility of soap or sanitizer. Death does not keep anybody on wait when Hahakaal knocks the door. This very state fear or elite fear has been shifted on the face of the cattle class. What the latter can do? It cannot do anything for it is time-scattered – today at the root village and tomorrow at the destination; even at the root they live in cluster of houses isolated by castes seen as Hamlets in most of the villages in the Heartland as may be elsewhere. Natural cultural disintegration – or better said “never integration’’ – kept them at the mercy of the landlords in the root villages and at the mercy of the thekedar/employer at the destination.

The above is not to imply that the state class is one and the unique – it has multiple hydras. But to the extent that the bottom is to be suppressed – what is simplified as Dalit – the state class is a single one. The corporate stands distanced from the cattle class and close to the power corridor. The infrequent differences between the state class and the corporate class are symbolic for both need both for uninterrupted growth – or, call it accumulation, as the readers like it.

It will be too simplistic to see classes-in-formation in India as Bourgeois and the Proletariat or as Haves and Have-nots. Though the state seems overdeveloped, the links between the state class and the corporate class is not so transparent as to claim that it has a fixed relation like one determining the other. Some relations are temporary also – specific to the processes of political election. The cattle class is not on this seesaw relation. It is yet to come out from its cocoon of faith or fait accompli.                                     


Bhaskar Majumder, Professor of Economics, G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad - 211019

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Jun 4, 2020

Prof. Bhaskar Majumder

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