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Political Economy and Computing

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Composed by dd/ts, 2010.

Hegemony, Resistance and Computing

A Study in Postcolonial Political Economy

Dipankar Das



To the two precious young friends of mine

Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay

Sayamindu Dasgupta

Who, from even before I knew I was going to write this book some day, endured and shared with me, through innumerable drafts and mails and plans and all, the motherhood of this book.


New possibility horizons of community is a focus of this book, and it must acknowledge a community itself a small circle of close friends, Pranab Basu, Pradip Bandyopadhyay, Saibal Basu, Rajesh Bhattacharya, and some others. As I have grown old, the friendship with them have matured both in age and dependence. They are very valuable friends of mine, not just in terms of theoretical interactions. When one of my novels in Bangla, Tapan Biswaser Khider Batrish Ghanta, in 1993, came to a lot of abuse from a part of the state leadership of the the ruling party in West Bengal for the last thirty four years, Basu was one of those very few people that dared to stand beside me. Bandyopadhyay and I, we share so much of our memories of an activist youth, and frustrations too from the horrible experience called left front rule we were both CPIM activists once. Outside this realm of personal emotions, for the last two decades we all have grown into a community. As a community we have interacted intensely on every area of political economy. It is hardly possible any more to mark with any reasonable authenticity, which element of thought primarily belonged to whom (maybe that way I am trying to manufacture some conduit of escape when I lift their ideas). With so many common components in our ways of thought, it could be said, not any single person, but we think that way. Maybe, without this community around me, to judge and comment on everything I am thinking, I would not be able to conceive or write this book at all.

Subha Chakrabarty Dasgupta, a very learned friend of mine, from outside this community of political economy, gave a lot of labor in the editing, but I do not thank her. Thanking is a way of repaying loans. This is past repay.

My cousin Mausumi, Bobby for me, who lives in California for the last twenty years or so, sent me so many books, whenever I needed. It was something more than those books. I have hardly met her more than five times in all these years. But, often I recalled those feelings-driven moments of childhood when we grew up together. All of a sudden, the writing of this book came up and gave me the opportunity to know it once again: yes those moments were real, moments that we live and die for.

Let me end this with a mention of my colleagues in S A Jaipuria College in Kolkata, for the last two decades. Not that many of them are seriously interested towards my works, in most of the cases considering me a paagol, literally meaning ‘insane’, but hardly ever without its affectionate undertone in Bangla language and society. This affection matters.


One. Some Elements of ‘Theory’

1. Two Books at a Distance of a Decade

2. Postmodern Postcolonial

3. Political Economy

4. Postmodern Postcolonial Political Economy

5. Concepts from CDC 2000

6. Some Categories and their Notation

7. Plan of the Book

Two. Text-Context-Supplement

1. Taking up an Old Thread over Again

2. Defining the Context-Text Politics

3. Deep Implications of the Local-Global Dialog

4. Our Version of Derrida

5. Derrida’s Concept of Supplement

6. From Deconstruction to Decolonization

7. Elaborating this Methodology with GPL

Three. Some Elements of Computing

1. Functional Components of a Computer

2. ‘Bit’ and Representation of Data

3. Text and ASCII

4. Representation of Multimedia Data

5. A Stored C Program

6. Low Level and High Level Languages

7. Compiling Source Code

8. Source Code, Object Code and Portability

9. Layers of Hardware and Software

10. GUI and CLI

11. Software: FLOSS or Other

Four. Politics of Source Code

1. Prehistory of Computers

2. First Generation 1945-55

3. Second Generation 1955-65, FMS, Bus

4. Third Generation 1965-80, Portability, Multitasking

5. Later Generations of Computers

6. PDP Minicomputers, Unix and C

7. Unix, Minix, Linux

8. The Unix FLOSS Tradition

9. FLOSS Tradition and Counter-Culture

Five. History of GPL

1. Grafting an Origin into a stream of events

2. Stallman’s Text and Evolution of Resistance

3. History of GPL

4. GPL and Linux Kernel

5. Technicalities of Licenses

Six. GPL and Hegel’s Logic

1. A Hegel of Our Own

2. Doctrine of Being

3. Doctrine of Essence

4. Philosophy of Right

5. Phenomenology of Spirit

6. GPL and Hegel’s Philosophy

Seven. FLOSS beyond Hegemony

1. Counter-Hegemony, Marx and GPL

2. GPL and Some More of Marx

3. Marxist Categories and the Age of Information

4. Counter-culture and GPL

5. SaVAge in a Synthetic Space

6. FLOSS Experience and a Book

7. FLOSS Experience and a Lecture

8. Some Unresolved Questions

9. FLOSS as a Survival Strategy of the Postcolonized SaVAge