27 November 2009

Technology, Economy, Politics, Culture

Some points about the T-E-P-C concept mentioned in the previous post:

1. The four basic aspects of society are technology, economy, politics and culture. There are other aspects of society, but these are the most important.

2. These four aspects are not independent. They are inter-dependent. That is, each of the four aspects influences the other three.

3. The four aspects are not equal in the degree to which they influence the other aspects. Some aspects are "stronger" than others.
Example: Both X and Y influence each other. But X influences Y more than Y influences X. Then X is said to be stronger than Y.

4. The four aspects can be arranged in the ascending order of their strength (or importance/influence):
a) Technology
b) Economy
c) Politics
d) Culture
(Thus we have the T-E-P-C abbreviation)

5. The higher order aspects (culture and politics) influence or determine the lower order aspects (economy and technology) – normally.

6. But sometimes there can be a major change in a lower order aspect. Then the direction of influence is reversed. That is, it becomes possible for the lower order aspects to influence or determine the higher order aspects .
(The "fundamental change" discussed in the previous post)

7. Such a major change in the lower order aspects has happened only twice in human history:
a) The invention of agriculture (c10,000 BC)
b) The Industrial Revolution (c1800 AD)

8. On both these occasions, the initial changes were in technology and the economy. But they led to changes in politics and culture as well.

9. T-E-P-C is different for:
a) Different civilisations (ex: India vs China vs America)
b) Different Ages (ex: Agricultural Age vs Industrial Age)

10. Between two civilisations (belonging to the same Age), the differences between each of the four aspects are not of the same magnitude. The four aspects can be arranged in the ascending order of the magnitude of their difference between two civilisations (belonging to the same Age):
a) Technology
b) Economy
c) Politics
d) Culture
(Again we have the T-E-P-C abbreviation)

11. That is, between two civilisations (belonging to the same Age), differences in technology are nil to slight, in economy and politics are slight to significant, and in culture are significant to maximum.

1. Technology = how man makes and does things.
2. Economy = how man produces goods (and services), and distributes them.
3. Politics = how man makes collective decisions.
4. Culture = how man lives, i.e., his way of life – his customs, habits, beliefs, practices, values, norms, systems and institutions.

26 November 2009

Modernity: The Modern or Industrial Age

To understand modernity correctly, we must understand the implications of the Industrial Revolution (1775-1850):

1. The Industrial Revolution, which took place in 18th century England, gave birth to machines and factories (modern industry).

2. The Industrial Revolution was not merely a technological, or economic, change. It brought about political, and cultural, changes as well. Indeed, it changed society itself.

3. The Industrial Revolution was a fundamental change in how man produces goods, or satisfies his wants. The last time such a fundamental change occurred was when agriculture was invented – around 10,000 BC (12,000 years ago).

4. Whenever there is such a fundamental change in how man produces goods, it is not just technology or economy that changes, but also politics and culture. Indeed, society itself changes.

5. The Industrial Revolution was such a change. (That's why it's called "Revolution")

6. The Industrial Revolution marked the end of the Agricultural Age, which lasted for 12,000 years, and the beginning of a new Age in the history of mankind: the Industrial Age.

7. Each Age is defined by its own technology, economy, politics and culture (T-E-P-C) – in the broadest sense. Just as the Agricultural Age had a certain T-E-P-C, similarly the Industrial Age also has its own T-E-P-C.

8. The Industrial Revolution may have occurred first in the West, but it was not a Western development. It was a human development. That is, it concerns the whole of mankind, not just Europe.

9. Just as agriculture began first in Sumeria (around 10,000 BC) and then spread to other ancient civilisations (Egypt, India, China), similarly, modern industry began first in Europe and then spread/is spreading to other civilisations (first to America and Japan, now to China and India).

10. In modern industry, production is more. That is, wealth created is more. So an industrial society has more wealth than a non-industrialised society. Wealth means economic strength. Thus an industrialised society is stronger than a non-industrialised society. Therefore we have to industrialise.


1. The term 'modern industry' is used to distinguish it from the earlier 'cottage industry' where manufacturing was done by artisans and craftsmen in their homes and workshops, using simple tools.

6. The terms 'Agricultural' and 'Industrial' are used in a relative sense – to denote which sector dominates the economy (in value of total output) and society (in population employed).

8. Due to certain geographical and historical factors, the Industrial Revolution happened to take place first in Europe, that's all.

25 November 2009

Turgot: The Idea of Economic Stages of History

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727-1781) was a French administrator and economist. He served as comptroller general of France from 1774 to 1776. In his work Plan of Two Discourses on Universal History (1750), he divided the history of the world into three (economic) stages:
1. Hunting
2. Pastoralism
3. Agriculture
(Remember - this was before the Industrial Revolution)

Later, Adam Smith made the idea famous in his Wealth of Nations (1776). He divided human history into four stages:
1. Age of hunters
2. Age of shepherds
3. Age of agriculture
4. Age of commerce
(This was also just before the Industrial Revolution)

In our own time, we divide history into these three stages:
1. Hunting-gathering (primitive)
2. Agricultural (traditional)
3. Industrial (modern)

Today this view of history is commonplace. The credit for originating the idea belongs to A R J Turgot.

Some thinkers like Alain Touraine, Daniel Bell and Alvin Toffler divide history (implicitly or explicitly) into these stages:
1. Agricultural
2. Industrial
3. Post-Industrial
Even they are children walking in Turgot's footsteps.

24 November 2009

The Three Stages in the History of the World

Based on how man satisfies his needs, that is, based on how man produces goods, the history of the world can be divided into the following three stages:

1. Hunting-gathering (began 2,00,000 years ago)
2. Agricultural (began 12,000 years ago)
3. Industrial (began 200 years ago)

These stages can also be called, respectively:
1. Primitive
2. Traditional
3. Modern

The primitive stage of hunting-gathering corresponds to pre-history, while the traditional/agricultural and modern/industrial stages together correspond to history.

History is usually classified into three periods: ancient, medieval and modern. The periodisation, in the case of Europe and India, is like this:

AncientClassical age of Greece and Rome (–500 AD)The Hindu period (–712 AD)
MedievalChristian age of the Catholic Church (500–1500 AD)The Islamic period (712–1707 AD)
ModernSecular/humanistic age after the Renaissance (1500 AD– )The European period (1707 AD– )

So the 'Modern' period is different for different civilisations*. However, when speaking of the history of mankind as a whole, the Modern Age is the Industrial Age (and 'modernity' refers to industrial society). When did this Modern Age begin?

The Industrial Age began with the Industrial Revolution, which occurred from 1775 to 1850. However, most of the major developments happened between 1775 and 1800. Therefore, 1800 can be taken as a convenient year for the birth of the modern world.

Btw, the Ancient and Medieval periods together come under the Agricultural/ Traditional stage.

*The word 'modern' means 'present' or 'contemporary' (from Latin 'modo' = 'just now').

23 November 2009

The Best Books about the Modern World

The best books to understand today's world:

Society, Technology, Economy
1. The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 – Eric Hobsbawm (1962)*
2. The Third Wave – Alvin Toffler (1980)

Culture, Religion
1. The Clash of Civilisations – Samuel Huntington (1996)
2. The Lexus and the Olive Tree – Thomas Friedman (1999)

1. The End of History – Francis Fukuyama (1992)
2. The Future of Freedom – Fareed Zakaria (2003)

Based on my limited reading, these are the definitive books about the modern world.

*I have not yet read this book.

14 November 2009

M Vishweshwarayya: Life and Achievements

M Vishweshwarayya (1860-1962) is the architect of modern Karnataka. A look at his life and achievements:

Early Life and Education (1860-1883)
  • 15 September 1860 - Born in Muddenahalli village near Chikkaballapur, Karnataka.
  • The initial 'M' stands for Mokshagundam - his family's native village in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Second son of Srinivas Shastri, a Sanskrit scholar, and Venkatalakshmamma.
  • Attended primary school at Muddenahalli, middle school at Chikkaballapur and high school at Bangalore.
  • In Bangalore, supported himself by giving tuitions to children. Studied at night under streetlights. (No, this is not a cliche)
  • Lost his father at the age of 15. First rank in the matriculation exam in Mysore state.
  • Did his BA at Central College, Bangalore. First rank in Madras University.
  • Studied Civil Engineering at Science College, Poona. (Today's College of Engineering Pune - COEP)
Engineer (1884-1912)
  • 1884 - Joined the PWD of Bombay Presidency as Assistant Engineer.
  • Built automatic floodgates for Khadakvasla reservoir, near Poona.
  • Built a system to supply drinking water at Aden, Egypt.
  • 1906 - Awarded the "Kaiser-i-Hind" by the British government.
  • 1908 - Resigned from the PWD. In spite of his many achievements he was not made Chief Engineer. The post was reserved for whites/Englishmen.
  • At the request of the Nizam of Hyderabad, built dams for Moosi and Iyasi rivers near Hyderabad, to protect the city from floods.
  • 1909 - Became Chief Engineer of Mysore state, then ruled by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV (1902-40).
Diwan of Mysore (1912-1918)
  • 1913 - Founded the Mysore Bank (today's State Bank of Mysore). The British did not want India to industrialise. Indian entrepreneurs could not get capital to set up industries. So MV founded the Mysore Bank.
  • 1916 - Founded the Mysore University. Mysore's higher education broke free of the British-run Madras University.
  • 1916 - Founded the Government Soap Factory at Mysore. Today the Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Ltd (KSDL) - maker of the world-famous Mysore Sandal Soap.
  • 1917 - Founded the Government Engineering College at Bangalore. Today the University Vishweshwarayya College of Engineering (UVCE).
  • Gave great importance to women's education. 1917 - Upgraded the Maharani's College at Mysore to a degree college.
  • Revived the Mysore Iron and Steel Works (MISW) at Bhadravati. Today the Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Plant (VISL).
  • Built the Krishnaraja Sagar dam (1911-31) on the Kaveri river near Mysore.
  • Started the Sharavati Hydro-Electric Project at Jog Falls near Shimoga.
  • Built the Bangalore-Mysore railroad.
  • Built the Bhatkal harbour.
  • Started the civil service exams in Mysore state.
  • 1915 - Awarded the Knight Commander of the Indian Empire (KCIE) by the British government.
Retirement (1918-1962)
  • 1940 - Persuaded industrialist Walchand Hirachand to found the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) at Bangalore.
  • 1943 - Founded the Sri Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic Institute with his earnings from MISW.
  • Consulting engineer for Karachi, Bombay, Nashik, Poona, Belgaum, Dharwad, Indore and Gwalior - mainly for water supply projects.
  • 1955 - Awarded the Bharat Ratna by the Indian government.
  • 14 April 1962 - Died at the age of 101.
Source: "Sir M Vishweshwarayya" by Ananthram (Student Book House, Mangalore).