Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thatcher’s children, Macaulay’s children in India

Deepak Lal has a good piece on emerging new India. Some excerpts:

  • “…..the 2005 Pew Global Attitudes Survey in urban India, which found that 71 per cent of Indians have a favourable view of the US, which in the 17 countries polled is only matched by Americans with a more favourable view of their country. Moreover, the popularity of the US has increased in India (as compared with other countries) with Indians being “significantly more positive about the United States now than they were in the summer of 2002, when 54 per cent gave the US favourable marks”. Indians also have a strongly positive impression of the American people — 71 per cent in 2005 as compared with 58 per cent in 2002 (2005 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, www.pewglobal.org).
  • The first one, led by Nehru (for whom English became their first language), sought the reconciliation through the purportedly middle way provided by Fabian socialism. The other (Gandhian wing for whom English was an instrumental second language) saw Westernisation as a grave threat to Indian traditions, and wanted no truck with it. They adopted the attitude of the clam. They eschewed modernisation to preserve the ancient Hindu equilibrium.
  • One of the major outcomes of the 1991 economic liberalisation was that, these children of the Westernised castes now increasingly find it easier to make a living in India. But they, by and large, still retain the attitudes to the US of their parents.
  • It is the changing attitudes of the Gandhian wing of Macaulay’s children which is crucial in charting the changing course of the Indian view of America. Till recently they were against globalisation and the modernisation it implied, seeing it as a threat to their Hindu culture as embodied in the BJP’s slogan of Hindutva. But as many of their progeny came to prosper in the new liberalised economy (particularly in the new IT and outsourcing industries), without any changes in their mores, this Gandhian wing of Macaulay’s children came to realise that there was a third way out of the old dilemma posed by the Western onslaught on their civilisation. A route pioneered by the Japanese in the late 19th century: to modernise but not Westernise. The same BJP which was burning former GATT Director General Arthur Dunkel’s effigy in Parliament Square in the late 1980s, by 2004 was fighting an election on a platform of the benefits to “India Shining” from globalisation.
  • Thus the cosmological beliefs of the fully fledged English-speaking Nehruvian wing of Macaulay’s children mirror those of their Western cousins. For the Gandhian wing English has remained purely instrumental. So their cosmological beliefs continue to be based on ancient Hindu mores. With economic liberalisation, both wings of Macaulay’s children have embraced the material beliefs associated with the processes of globalisation. This makes their former atavistic attitudes to America, decrying its materialism, redundant. As in the UK, with Thatcher’s children, Macaulay’s children in India no longer disdain American materialism and its pursuit of money. The growing embourgeoisement, with its accompanying erosion of aristocratic manners, has led to a more positive attitude towards America in both countries.
  • ….the anti-American and anti-globalisation rhetoric of the parties of the Left is going to become electorally unsustainable. Thebhadralok are going to find themselves overthrown by the sons of the soil from the mofussil towns whose material values are at odds with the various forms of socialism espoused by the Left, and whose social mores are still traditional. This means that the young, self-confident refurbished Gandhian wing of Macaulay’s children should be able to see India through to modernisation without Westernisation”.

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