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Book Review: Politics of Common Sense" by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

The Politics of Common Sense: State, Society and Culture in Pakistan. Book Review

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar is a teacher, left wing politician and columnist based in Pakistan. Asim is an associate professor of political economy at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. He served as the president of the Awami Workers Party‘s Punjab executive committee from March 16, 2014 to January 17, 2020. Akhtar did his Bachelor of Arts in Economics with Honors in 1997 from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA.He got his master’s degree in economics in 1999 from Yale University, and New Haven, CT, USA.Akhtar completed his PhD in political sociology in 2008 from SOAS, University of London at the South Asia Institute, where his thesis was titled The Overdeveloping state. Akhtar is serving as associate professor of political economy at Quaid-i-Azam University’s National Institute of Pakistan Studies, and has previously taught at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. His research focuses on colonial theory and history, state theory, sociology, imperialism, comparative politics, political economy, rise of the middle classes, South Asian politics, identity formation, informal economy and social movements in Pakistan. Akhtar is Honorary Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), a research institute at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The Politics of Common Sense” is a book that critically examines the relationship between power and resistance in modern society. The author argues that dominant ideologies often shape our understanding of the world, and that these ideologies are maintained through the use of power by those in positions of authority.The book emphasizes the importance of challenging these dominant ideologies and promoting alternative forms of common sense that are more conducive to social justice. This can involve questioning the assumptions and values that underpin dominant ideologies and highlighting alternative perspectives and experiences.The author also stresses the importance of resistance as a means of challenging power and promoting social change. Resistance can take many forms, including protests, social movements, and alternative media, and can help to promote a more diverse and inclusive understanding of the world.

First part fills in as an outline of the book’s principal topics, contentions, and exploration questions. The author might talk about the topic’s background briefly, introduce important ideas and terms, and say why it’s important. The book’s structure and the topics covered in each chapter may also be outlined in the introduction.

The author looks at how power works in society and how it is concentrated in certain groups in this chapter. The part might take a gander at how political, monetary, and social influence is practiced by those at the highest point of the social order, like the public authority, the well off first class, and the media. The author might also look into the ways in which this power is preserved and reproduced over time. Chapter 2 of “The Politics of Common Sense” is titled “The Structure of Power ‘From Above’” and it focuses on the analysis of the structure and mechanisms of power in modern societies. The author argues that power is not only exercised through direct coercion, but it is also embedded in the very structures of society, including the economy, politics, and culture. The chapter begins by discussing the concept of hegemony, which refers to the ways in which dominant groups in society maintain their power by promoting their own worldview as natural and commonsensical. This is achieved through the dissemination of ideologies and through the control of cultural and educational institutions. The author then analyzes the ways in which power is structured and exercised in contemporary society, including through the state, the market, and the media. The state is seen as a key site of power, with the ability to shape policies and laws that reinforce the interests of dominant groups. The market is also analyzed as a site of power, with the ability to shape consumer behavior and determine the distribution of resources in society

The processes of wealth creation and accumulation, with an emphasis on capitalism, are the subject of this Chapter. The author may examine how capital is produced through labor exploitation and resource extraction, as well as how this accumulation of wealth contributes to inequality and the destruction of the environment. Alternatives to capitalism and various models of wealth distribution may also be examined in the chapter.

The various manifestations and interpretations of Islam are examined in this Chapter, which examines its place in society. The author might investigate how Islam has been adapted to various historical contexts and used to justify political, social, and cultural practices. Other social forces, like nationalism, globalization, and gender, may be examined in the chapter as well. “The Many Faces of Islam” is the title of Aasim Sajjad Akhtar’s fourth chapter in “The Politics of Common Sense.” In this section, the creator investigates the intricacies and variety of Islamic conviction and practice in Pakistan, and how it has been involved by different entertainers in the political and social fields. The author argues that various groups in Pakistan’s history have used Islam as a tool of power, including the colonial British rulers who relied on Muslim religious leaders to keep order, the Pakistani state after independence, which tried to define a national identity through Islam, and the more recent rise of Islamist political parties and movements, which have tried to assert their vision of Islamic governance. From more traditional Sufi practices to more conservative Wahhabi and Salafi interpretations, Akhtar highlights Pakistan’s diversity of Islamic beliefs and practices. He likewise brings up how different social classes and locales in Pakistan have their own particular translations and practices of Islam, making it a mind boggling and diverse peculiarity.

The concept of nationalism and how it has manifested itself in a particular setting are the subject of this Chapter. The author might look at how nationalism has been used to bring people together around a common identity and to exclude and marginalize particular groups. The chapter might also examine how nationalism interacts with other social forces like race, class, and colonialism. “The Nation that Never Became” is the title of the book’s fifth chapter. In this section, the creator examines the disappointment of Pakistan to frame a strong public personality and the explanations for it. The creator contends that Pakistan’s creation as a different Muslim-greater part state was not in light of a common public character, yet rather based on religion. Consequently, the nation was unable to establish a unified national identity that transcended ethnic, linguistic, and geographic divisions. Akhtar investigates the structural and historical factors that have contributed to Pakistani society’s fragmentation, such as the military’s dominance, the legacy of colonialism, and the significance of religious identity in politics. He likewise looks at the ascent of ethnic and provincial developments, like the Baloch and Sindhi patriot developments, and the difficulties they posture to the possibility of a bound together Pakistani country.
Chapter 6th discusses challenges common misconceptions about class by examining social class and how it functions in society. Class structure and reproduction, as well as its relationship to other social forces like race, gender, and sexual orientation, may be examined by the author. The section may likewise check out at the encounters and battles of the working people and other underestimated gatherings. Chapter 6 of the book is titled “The Subordinate Classes: Beyond Common Sense?” In this chapter, the author focuses on the experiences of the working-class and marginalized communities in Pakistan, and their relationship with the dominant political and economic structures of the country. Akhtar argues that the working-class and marginalized communities in Pakistan have historically been excluded from the political and economic decision-making processes, and have been subjected to various forms of exploitation and oppression.

The epilog gives an end to the book of some sort, perhaps recommending ways of testing or oppose prevailing power structures. The author may discuss specific social movements and political strategies that have been successful in challenging hegemonic power or alternative models of political and social organization. The chapter might also consider the main points and ideas of the book and offer readers a call to action.

Overall, the book’s focus on Pakistan may limit its appeal to readers who are not familiar with the country or its politics. Some readers may find the author’s political stance to be overly critical of the ruling elite and their policies, which could be seen as a bias by some. The book’s theoretical framework may be complex for readers without a background in political sociology or related fields, which could limit its accessibility to some readers. The book may be limited in its applicability to other countries or contexts, as the concept of “common sense” may not translate easily to other cultural or political contexts.

Engage with alternative perspective while the book offers a powerful critique of the dominant common sense in Pakistan, it could be strengthened by engaging with alternative perspectives and arguments. This could help to provide a more nuanced understanding of the complex political and social issues facing the country. While the book focuses primarily on Pakistan, it could be expanded to include a comparative analysis of other countries and contexts. This could help to broaden the book’s appeal and applicability to readers who are interested in political sociology more broadly. Provide more context while the book does offer some historical and cultural context for its arguments, it could benefit from more in-depth analysis of the social and political factors that have contributed to the creation and perpetuation of the dominant common sense in Pakistan.

Rana M. Umer
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Student of Political Science at School of Politics and IR, Quaid e Azam University Islamabad, and can be reached at umerphilosopher@gmail.com