17 March 2010

Max Weber: The Iron Cage of Capitalism

Max Weber on the iron cage of capitalism in "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" (1905):

The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilised coal is burnt. In Baxter's view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the "saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment". But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage.

Since asceticism undertook to remodel the world and to work out its ideals in the world, material goods have gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men as at no previous period in history. Today the spirit of religious asceticism – whether finally, who knows? – has escaped from the cage. But victorious capitalism, since it rests on mechanical foundations, needs its support no longer. The rosy blush of its laughing heir, the Enlightenment, seems also to be irretrievably fading, and the idea of duty in one's calling prowls about in our lives like the ghost of dead religious beliefs. Where the fulfillment of the calling cannot directly be related to the highest spiritual and cultural values, or when, on the other hand, it need not be felt simply as economic compulsion, the individual generally abandons the attempt to justify it at all. In the field of its highest development, in the United States, the pursuit of wealth, stripped of its religious and ethical meaning, tends to become associated with purely mundane passions, which often actually give it the character of sport.

No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanised petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: "Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilisation never before achieved."

16 March 2010

Ugadi: The Indian/Hindu New Year

Today is Chaitra Shuddha Pratipada – the first day of the year in the Indian/Hindu calendar. The festival is celebrated as Ugadi (yugAdi) in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and as Gudi Padwa (guDhI pADvA) in Maharashtra. This is
Happy new year! :-)

08 March 2010

The Three Periods in India's History

Based on the economic stages of history, we can divide India's history into the following three periods:

1. 3000 BC – 1947 ADAgricultural Age
2. 1947 – 1991Semi-Industrial Age
3. 1991 –Industrial Age

Industrial Age = Modern Age

02 March 2010

India 1991: Economic Reforms, Liberalisation, Capitalism

When the Industrial Revolution (1775–1850) happened, India was under British rule (1757–1947). The British did not bother to industrialise India. Nor did they allow Indians to industrialise on their own. As a result, India could not industrialise, and was stuck in the Agricultural Age. In 1947, India finally overthrew the British and became independent. Now she was free to industrialise/modernise and enter the Industrial Age.

There were two industrial systems: capitalism and socialism. In capitalism, industries are owned by individuals and enterprises. In socialism, industries are owned by the government. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister (1947–1964), chose socialism. With socialism, India's economy grew at about 3% per year. In other words, India industrialised/modernised at the rate of 3% per year. This went on for 40 years. Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi (1966–1984) and grandson Rajiv Gandhi (1984–1991) continued with socialism.

Then, in 1991, India became bankrupt. Things could not go on as before. Something had to change. P V Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister, did the unthinkable. He changed India's industrial system from socialism to capitalism. He dumped socialism and adopted capitalism. As a result, India's economy started growing at 6% per year – double the earlier rate. Later it started growing at 9% per year – triple the earlier rate. That is, after adopting capitalism in 1991, India's rate of industrialisation/modernisation has now tripled. India is now industrialising/modernising thrice as fast as she was doing during the period 1947–1991.

That is what is happening today. And that is the significance of 1991. People call it "economic reforms" or "liberalisation". In fact, the switch from socialism to capitalism was nothing short of a revolution*. As a milestone in modern India's history, 1991 is second in importance only to 1947.

*China had carried out its own revolution in 1978, in a much more decisive manner, with much more spectacular results.