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The Social Quest (TSQ) is a ‘thinking space’ which is an outcome of extensive deliberations that had taken place among its founders in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) during their doctoral research period. As part of their research journey Shankar, Suraj and Devanjan encountered various texts, popular debates, engaged scholars, rich formulations of several social theorists and participated in numerous academic discussions, resulting in broadening their understanding of the discipline. However, the founders knew about the spatial and temporal constraints once they have finished their PhD research and moved out to different places to further their professional endeavours. To minimize the effect of these constraints on their regular critical discussions and deliberations, a virtual thinking space – The Social Quest was born.

The Social Quest has been formed by these independent scholars, who aim to bring together scholarships and researching people engaged in exploring, understanding and explaining the contemporary social, cultural, anthropological, historical, political and economic conditions of human practices, institutional endeavours, beliefs, imaginations, collective anxieties and aspirations. This platform seeks to explore these heterodox issues being settled and unsettled by a range of new analytical and empirical contributions. It aims to navigate through theorization, provocation and contestation of theories, debates and legacies in social sciences. The blog is an attempt to bring together diverse scholars, activists, and philosophers to engage in critical discussions and analyses of concrete issues of contemporary times. It seeks to examine the gaps in the practice of sociology, and its research, teaching and policy concerns.



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Suraj Beri

Devanjan Khuntia

Shankar Bagh

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Our existential relations are an outcome of social and moral institutional arrangements. As modernity became the key frame to make sense of social realities, the discourse of self, individual has transformed profoundly. It shaped crucial aspects of self: will, recognition and desire.

The most important shift that this social transformation has brought is the individualization of discourses and narratives about social realities. Despite the social and collective character of the experiences, opinions, value systems, ideological positions, the contemporary culture insists that they are the result of (faulty) psyches and individual capacity (failures).

Accordingly the boundless self help and happiness industry professes that we need to be aware of self and need to curb and regulate one's worldviews, and try to 'be positive'. Freudian idea that family designs the pattern of an individuals career has deeply shaped the theorisations of psychological constitution of self. Clinical psychology has played a central role in suggesting that experiential realities must be explained by psychic history of the individual, and accordingly individuals bear the responsibility for their emotional lives (seems modern enough). While sociology is consistently arguing that individual aspirations and experiences have much social and collective content to them. Even the concept of 'suffering' is based on social and cultural definitions of 'selfhood' and 'personality'.

Disregarding this fundamental sociological fact, every time any incident of suicide, depression or relationship failure comes up, this popular culture insists that individuals cope with this crisis with the (individual) psychic resources they have amassed and leaving them in vulnerable situations. What is troublesome is not individual psyches, dysfunctional childhoods or insufficiently self or psyches but the set of social, economic and cultural tensions and contradictions that structure contemporary selves and identities.

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Louis Althusser 'Marxism & Humanism' 1964

So ideology is not an aberration or a contingent excrescence of History: it is a structure essential to the historical life of societies. Further, only the existence and the recognition of its necessity enable us to act on ideology and transform ideology into an instrument of deliberate action on history.

It is customary to suggest that ideology belongs to the region of ‘consciousness’. We must not be misled by this appellation which is still contaminated by the idealist problematic that preceded Marx. In truth, ideology has very little to do with ‘consciousness’, even supposing this term to have an unambiguous meaning. It is profoundly unconscious, even when it presents itself in a reflected form (as in pre-Marxist ‘philosophy’). Ideology is indeed a system of representations, but in the majority of cases these representations have nothing to do with ‘consciousness’: they are usually images and occasionally concepts, but it is above all as structures that they impose on the vast majority of men, not via their ‘consciousness’. They are perceived-accepted-suffered cultural objects and they act functionally on men via a process that escapes them. Men ‘live’ their ideologies as the Cartesian ‘saw’ or did not see – if he was not looking at it – the moon two hundred paces away: not at all as a form of consciousness, but as an object of their ‘world’ – as their ‘world’ itself. But what do we mean, then, when we say that ideology is a matter of men’s ‘consciousness’? First, that ideology is distinct from other social instances, but also that men live their actions, usually referred to freedom and ‘consciousness’ by the classical tradition, in ideology, by and through ideology; in short, that the ‘lived’ relation between men and the world, including History (in political action or inaction), passes through ideology, or better, is ideology itself. This is the sense in which Marx said that it is in ideology (as the locus of political struggle) that men become conscious of their place in the world and in history, it is within this ideological unconsciousness that men succeed in altering the ‘lived’ relation between them and the world and acquiring that new form of specific unconsciousness called ‘consciousness’.

So ideology is a matter of the lived relation between men and their world. This relation, that only appears as ‘conscious’ on condition that it is unconscious, in the same way only seems to be simple on condition that it is complex, that it is not a simple relation but a relation between relations, a second degree relation. In ideology men do indeed express, not the relation between them their conditions of existence, but the way they live the relation between them and their conditions of existence: this presupposes both a real relation and an ‘imaginary’, ‘lived’ relation. Ideology, then, is the expression of the relation between men and their ‘world’, that is, the (overdetermined) unity of the real relation and the imaginary relation between them and their real conditions of existence. In ideology the real relation is inevitably invested in the imaginary relation, a relation that expresses a will (conservative, conformist, reformist or revolutionary), a hope or a nostalgia, rather than describing a reality.

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B. R. Ambedkar

Freedom of mind is the real freedom.
A person whose mind is not free though he may not be in chains, is a slave, not a free man.
One whose mind is not free, though he may not be in prison, is a prisoner and not a free man.
One whose mind is not free though alive, is no better than dead.
Freedom of mind is the proof of one's existence.

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Rabindra Nath Tagore, Where the Mind is Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom,

my Father, let my country awake.

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