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Dead capital is the capital that cannot (easily) be converted into investment. Hernando de Soto’s term dead capital could have been about India as well.

The country has a huge stock of informal assets held by the poor that is not recognised by the law, but worth in billions. De Soto’s story however captures only one side of the Indian reality. Unlike other countries, our rich and powerful have a greater stock of dead capital, even when it is formal and recognized by property law.

The caste system is about the systematic transfer of the surplus produced by the Bahujans into the hands of the Upper Castes, which they converted into dead capital, taking it out of the economy by sacralising it as God’s property. God’s property is obviously the common property of the Upper Castes but the important point is it becomes uninvestable by sacralisation. The ‘temple treasure’ of Thiruvananthapuram is an illustrative case in point.

Caste cannot be called a mode of production proper because, at least in many regions, the surplus extractors were not part of the production process at all. And appropriation happened post production, not though production.

Caste is not a division of labour either. Because it is about who has to work and who does not have to. It forced all work on the Bahujans and all fruits of labour over to the savarnas.

Caste system actually liberated the Upper Castes from division of labour, production process and from economy itself. Because not accumulation, but appropriation of Bahujan lives- not just surplus or wealth, is the logic of caste. Caste prohibited Bahujans from owning anything at all, including their own bodies, they were not even entitled to their own children.

The Upper Castes collectively converted much of the appropriated Bahujan wealth into dead capital, frozen as temple property or gold in most cases. Even when the wealth was in the custody of individual Brahmins, they did not make use of it as investment since they were prohibited from engaging with economy. Since much of the savarna lands before British were tax free, they had no compulsions either to do so. (Tax was on the produce, not on the land).

The increased creation of NPAs as unearthed by Abir Dasgupta and others point to the return of the caste mode of appropriation of Bahujan wealth and its conversion into dead capital by fake businessmen. The fascist regime has taken so much money out of the economy by different ways and handed it over to uninvesting capitalist pretenders, who are neither crony nor capitalists. They are savarna appropriators.

Indian fascism is an ideology emanates from the bloodsucking dead capital, it colonises life itself, not just labour. Dead capital is the negation of material life. Fascism is the rule of dead capital.

Kuriakose Mathew is a PhD Candidate at IIT Bombay, Mumbai


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  1. Farooque Chowdhury says:

    The article is an encouraging effort to look deeper into related issues. This effort should be appreciated. However, there are a few issues that the article discusses are confusing. For example, the article says: “Fascism is the rule of dead capital.”

    Is it possible for the dead capital, the definition Hernando de Soto uses, to rule a society? To rule, what is required? What is the economic basis of fascism, and how it operates? What happens to other capitals? What functions do other capitals play? If capitals other than the so-much discussed dead capital play any role, which should be identified, how the two — the dead capital, the definition Hernando de Soto uses, and other capitals — interact?

    In India, what is the proportion of dead,the definition Hernando de Soto uses, and other capitals? With that proportion who, dead capital or other capitals, dominates/rules?

    Other questions the article discusses are not raised here. These include: “The country has a huge stock of informal assets held by the poor that is not recognised by the law, but worth in billions”, “The caste system is about the systematic transfer of the surplus produced by the Bahujans into the hands of the Upper Castes,which they converted into dead capital,…”, “the common property of the Upper Castes but the important point is it becomes uninvestable”.
    So, it turns out that the poor, as a whole, are billionaires. Is it? What happens to that billions? Sit idle? Is it possible? Doesn’t this turn restless to reproduce? And, doesn’t this compete? What happens to that part of capital which is in the hands of the Upper Caste, which was not from the Bahujans? How these two — the surplus produced by the Bahujans and transferred systematically, as the article claims, and the surplus appropriated from the non-Bahujans, if the article’s claim is based — capitals interact? Do they sit in air-tight chambers? Don’t these two, or that part from the Bahujans enters into any circuit?

    There are other questions, complex than the questions raised here. These questions will follow after a response to the questions raised in the paragraphs above.

    Looking forward to response.

  2. nagesh chaudhari says:

    I liked the new approach of the author. That the brahmans are not engaged in production but amass wealth is obvious. This has been said by ex rss chief M. S. Golwalkar in Bunch of thoughts. He said we are not for economic policy but for social setup. For them chaturvarnya – fourfold social setup is hindu nation.
    One more point, dr. Ambedkar said caste system is division of labourers but as brahmans are non labours this doesn’t apply to them.
    Point of dead capital with brahmans is also correct.
    I think brahmanism is not just fascism it is more than that as caste system is only indian phenomenon.

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      The comment is good. It is an effort to look at issues surrounding people.

      The claim — “Point of dead capital with Brahmans is also correct” — is good. I have raised a few points regarding that “dead capital”. A response to those questions will make the claim better. But without response, the claim regarding that “dead capital” and other aspects do not stand.

      Making a claim is one job; but making the claim stand on a scientific base is another job. Otherwise, many claims without scientific basis would be made. For example, someone will claim in future: “the ‘capital’ with the poor is a living capital as it moves, from the poor to the Brahmans, and as it gives power to the Brahmans.” So, simply making claim — “is also correct” — does not make the claim correct. A claim has to be coherent, should stand on scientific basis, should help understand following questions. A wrong claim helps the opposite party as the wrong claim does not help analyze the situation. So, making claim is not enough.