Raju J. Das
Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change
York University

Email: rajudas@yorku.ca
Faculty Profile: https://euc.yorku.ca/faculty-profile/das-raju-j/
Twitter: @Raju_DasYorkU

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Affiliated with the following York University graduate programmes:
  • Geography
  • Social and Political Thought
  • Development Studies
  • Environmental Studies

PhD (Geography), The Ohio State University, the USA
MA (Urban Studies), University of Akron, the USA
MA (Geography), University of Delhi, India
BA (Honors) (Geography), Utkal University, India

Intellectual stance and aspirations

I believe that the most basic division in society is the one between a small minority that control society’s productive resources as well as state power, and the vast majority that do not and are therefore exploited by the minority. This basic division permeates all spheres of society -- economic, political, cultural and ecological.

My intellectual aspiration is to describe and explain the world, in terms of these four spheres of society (with a focus on the economic and the political), on the basis of the deployment of the philosophy of materialist dialectics. This philosophy informs my mobilization of reasoned argument and evidence, the two essential ingredients of a scientific understanding of the world. And my aspiration is to critically understand the world from the standpoint of the objective and political need to radically transcend the existing world with the passionate intent of contributing to the creation of a fundamentally new world in the interest of the exploited and oppressed majority. This would be a world where there is democracy in every sphere of life, a world beyond the rule of money and capital and private property in the means of production. This would be a world that can only be created by the majority—those who are now forced to work for a wage, allied with small-scale producers. This would be a world without the oppression of women, and of racialized and other minorities, and without imperialism, avoidable ecological damage, and geographically uneven development, including rural-urban economic and social-cultural disparity.

I am convinced that capitalism cannot meet the needs of the people and that the state basically works in the interest of the capitalist class. I am convinced that common men and women must create their own transitional state that is democratic for them, in place of the existing capitalist state and that they must create an alternative economy that directly serves their needs, without the mediation of the capitalist market or undemocratic state officials/politicians (and indeed trade union bureaucrats). I also believe that a new world cannot be created primarily on the basis of violence. Organized political power of the people is much more powerful than secretive violence.

To produce a good society, good ideas are necessary, if not sufficient. I am, however, critical of the ability of the academia qua academia (the professoriate) to produce these ideas, as its primary role is to create the ideological conditions for the reproduction of the current society (in slightly modified forms). To be an intellectual, one does not need to be an academic. However, an academic can be an intellectual under certain conditions, and York University provides some of the conditions for that. Millions of young men and women -- society’s future workers (many of them are already working for a wage) -- spend a large part of their adult lives in the university. The latter therefore provides opportunities for interesting conversations with them about the contradictions of the current society and the possibilities of a much more humane society.

Creating new society needs subjective forces, including not only an intellectually fertile mind but also an emotionally sound mind. Those who wish to contribute to radical change must be as calm and compassionate as possible. So, I regularly practice loving-kindness meditation, the effectivity of which has been tested by neuroscientists such as Professor Richard Davidson (University of Wisconsin) of whom I am a big fan, even if I know that the power of loving-kindness or other forms of self-improvement to create a new society is more limited than Richardson and others believe.

Since my PhD days in Columbus, Ohio, I have been conscious that my views are not fashionable, so I have written this poem to express my unmitigated anguish and modest aspiration.

A street vendor of antiques am I
A seller of things people adored in ‘olden’ times
I like what I offer for ‘sale’
Which I want others to just try
If people passing by do not want my things,
they go their way, and I go mine,
to set up my shop in places new,
always wishing a day will come when
someone will say ‘I like what you like’
and whisper in my ears ‘I am with you’. 

*This website was set up by AZ Felipe at the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), York University.