B. R. Ambedkar, Karl Marx, and the Neo-Buddhist Revival

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University of Colorado at Boulder, 2008 - 60 pages
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Although B.R. Ambedkar has been widely recognized for his social, religious, and political reforms in India, he has not yet been recognized as the innovative, Neo-Marxist theorist that I will here demonstrate him to be. By re-structuring Marxist theory so as to replace the traditional economic base and social superstructure with a model that places religion as the base and economics and politics as the superstructure, Ambedkar imparted a flexibility to Marxist theory that allows for it to be culturally situated and, therefore, more appropriately utilized in various contexts. In order to fully appreciate the breath of Ambedkar's work, it is necessary to keep a keen eye on the sociopolitical, economic, and religious context in which Ambedkar was situated. Doing so will provide insight not only into his justifications for modifying Marxist theory in the manner in which he did, but will likewise shed light into our understandings of Indian culture. As evidence of this, I suggest that the contemporary Buddhist revival in India, which is still going strong over 50 years after Ambedkar's death, is so successful precisely because of Ambedkar's advancements in Marxist theory. As such, I here argue that the contemporary Buddhist revival in India, known as Neo-Buddhism, Ambedkarite Buddhism, Dalit Buddhism, and Navayana Buddhism, would be better understood simply as "Marxist Buddhism."

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