Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Anirban Banerjee

Manasi Banerjee
PRICE; Rs.250
Exploring Student Politics consists of four critical essays on student politics. These were
originally published in various academic journals. They were later revised and published
in book form. In the first article,” Students & Politics: A Comparative perspective”, the
author, after a comparative study of student movements in various countries, has tried to
point out 1) the major characteristics of student movements and 2) the factors leading to
student power movements.1) The major features of student movements are idealism,
elitism, internationalism and political mindedness.2) Seven key factors lead to student
movements. These are national liberation movements, government policy, the education
system, generation gap, social background, unemployment, and alienation.

The second essay, “The Psychology of Student Protest: A Motivational Analysis” is a
study of the key factors in student activism, which were distilled after a comparative
analysis of student movements in various nations. The main motivating factors, which the
author identified, were the desire for power, anti-establishment feelings and radical
The third paper, “The Class character of the Student Movement: A Critique of Two
Theories” is a study of two major theories of student movements. The New Left theory
contends that college and university students are a part of the working class and ripe for
leading the revolution against capitalism. The theoreticians positing the generation gap
theory argue that students conceptualize class consciousness in terms of the generation
gap. Rejecting both these approaches, I have argued that students cannot be regarded as
a class, either in the Marxian or the Weberian sense. For both Marx and Weber, the term
“class” has an economic connotation. For Marx, class is based on relation of a person to
the means of production, i.e., whether he owns the means of production or not. For
Weber, class position means market position. Students are not a class, though they belong
to the middle class. Their consciousness is not based on class position. Rather it is based
on knowledge.
The fourth and final article, entitled, “Student Politics in India: a Historical
Profile” is a case study of the student movement in India employing the historical
method. In this essay, I have attempted a chronological exposition of the main currents in
Indian student movement from the days of the Young Bengal movement in the mid-19
th century till mid-August, 1998-when the manuscript was sent to the press. I have divided
the history of the student movement into three phases. In the proto-historical phase,
which coincided with the introduction of western education in India by the British
colonial regime, the student movement was in an incipient stage. This formative period of
the student movement lasted till 1905. It is in the stage of the freedom struggle (1905-
1947) that the student movement was institutionalized. It played an important role in
India’s freedom struggle. Many student martyrs, like Khudiram Bose, who are household
names now, came from lower middle class families; their dominant ideology was
patriotism. From 1947 onwards, the student movement entered a new phase which is
continuing till this day. In independent India, there has been a phenomenal growth of the
education system. Thanks to the policy of subsidized education, wards of small peasants,
workers, etc. can also reap the benefits of education. The student movement has focussed
on many issues ranging from opposing imperialism and combating authoritarian and
corrupt rulers to issues that directly concern the student community, i.e, examinations and
unemployment. The students took part in many progressive movements like the
Naxalbari movement and the movement against Ms. Indira Gandhi’s authoritarian
policies in the seventies. But, from the eighties, reactionary movements like the Assam
movement, the anti-Mandal Commission movement, etc. took place. To conclude, while
the student movement has had an overall progressive essence, casteism, communal and
secessionist tendencies, which may be described as “a counter current in the youth
movement”, are also present.
This book has been graced with a ‘Foreword ‘by noted educationist and
researcher on student activism, Prof. Anil Baran Ray.

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