07 December 2011

Shibumi: Age of the Warrior Vs Age of the Merchant

The contrast between the Age of the Warrior and the Age of the Merchant is one of the themes in Trevanian's 1979 thriller "Shibumi". Some quotes:

General Kishikawa: "All wars are lost ultimately. By both sides, Nikko. The day of battles between professional warriors is gone. Now we have wars between opposing industrial capacities, opposing populations. The Russians, with their sea of faceless people, will defeat the Germans. The Americans, with their anonymous factories, will defeat us (Japanese). Ultimately."

General Kishikawa: "They (Americans) are very skilfull merchants, and they have a great respect for fiscal achievement. These may seem thin and tawdry virtues to you, but they are consonant with the patterns of the industrial world. At best, they are a mannered technology. In place of ethics, they have rules. Size functions for them as quality functions for us. What for us is honour and dishonour, for them is winning and losing. In the world of the future, a world of merchants and mechanics, the base impulses of the mongrel are those that will dominate. The Westerner is the future, Nikko. A grim and impersonal future of technology and automation, it is true – but the future nevertheless."

He (Nicholai) came to recognise that all Americans were merchants, that the core of the American Genius, of the Yankee Spirit, was buying and selling. They vended their democratic ideology like hucksters, supported by the great protection racket of armaments deals and economic pressures. Their wars were monumental exercises in production and supply. Their government was a series of social contracts. Their education was sold as so much per unit hour. Their marriages were emotional deals, the contracts easily broken if one party failed in his debt servicing. Honour for them consisted in fair trading. And they were not, as they thought, a classless society; they were a one-class society – the mercantile. Their elite were the rich; their workers and farmers were best viewed as flawed and failed scramblers up the middle-class monetary ladder. The peasants and proletariat of America had values identical to those of the insurance salesmen and business executives, the only difference being that these values were expressed in more modest fiscal terms: the motor boat rather than the yacht; the bowling league rather than the country club; Atlantic City rather than Monaco.

But it was not their irritating assumption of equality that annoyed Nicholai so much as their cultural confusions. The Americans seemed to confuse standard of living with quality of life, institutionalised mediocrity with equal opportunity, bravery with courage, machismo with manhood, liberty with freedom, wordiness with articulation, fun with pleasure – in short, they had all the misconceptions common to those who assume that justice implies equality for all, rather than equality for equals.

Major: "You deny that he (Kishikawa) was a part of the Japanese military-industrial machine?"
Nicholai: "He was a soldier." The more accurate response would have been that he was a warrior, but that distinction would have meant nothing to these Americans with their mercantile mentalities.

Nicholai recognised the haggling tone of the market place. Like all Americans, this Major was a merchant at heart; everything had a price; and the good man was he who bargained well.

Nicholai: "It's not Americans I find annoying; it's Americanism: a social disease of the post-industrial world that must inevitably infect each of the mercantile nations in turn, and is called 'American' only because your nation is the most advanced case of the malady, much as one speaks of Spanish flu or Japanese encephalitis. Its symptoms are a loss of work ethic, a shrinking of inner resources, and a constant need for external simulation, followed by spiritual decay and moral narcosis. You can recognise the victim by his constant efforts to get in touch with himself, to believe his spiritual feebleness in an interesting psychological warp, to construe his fleeing from responsibility as evidence that he and his life are uniquely open to new experience. In the latter stages, the sufferer is reduced to seeking that most trivial of human activities: fun."

No prizes for guessing which side Trevanian is on!

06 December 2011

Agricultural Vs Industrial Society: Martial Vs Commercial Society

In the Agricultural Age, the primary production system was agriculture. The main input for agriculture is land. So whoever controlled land had power. The king controlled land, and hence had power.

Now the king belonged to the warrior class (Kshatriyas). Each class has its own values. The values of the warriors were strength, courage, duty and loyalty. These constituted the warrior ethic.

Since warriors were the dominant class in agricultural society, their ethic – the warrior ethic – was the dominant ethic in society.

Thus, agricultural society was a martial society*. And the Agricultural Age was the Age of the Warrior.

*The French social thinker Auguste Comte (1798–1857) used the term "military society" to describe agricultural society.

After the Industrial Revolution everything changed.

In the Industrial Age, the primary production system is industry. The main input for industry is capital. So whoever controls capital has power. The capitalists control capital, and hence have power.

Now capitalists belong to the merchant class (Vaishyas). Merchants have only one value: wealth/money. This constitutes the merchant ethic.

Since industrialists/businessmen are the dominant class in industrial society, their ethic – the merchant ethic – is the dominant ethic in society.

Thus, industrial society is a commercial society. And the Industrial Age is the Age of the Merchant.

Today there is no victory and defeat; only success and failure. Today there is no honour and dishonour; only profit and loss.

1. Gurcharan Das approves of this change.
2. Watch The Last Samurai (2003) for a beautiful argument in favour of the Age of the Warrior and the warrior ethic.

03 November 2011

The West/Europe Vs India, China and the World

Q: How did Britain conquer India? Britain is as big as Karnataka (6 crore people). How did such a small country conquer such a large country as ours?
A: Technology. Britain had superior military technology. It had cannons and muskets, with which it defeated Indian armies – who fought with swords and bows-arrows.

Q: How did Britain get ahead of India in technology? After all, in the ancient age, India was the most advanced civilisation in science.

Britain conquered India in 1757, leading to the Industrial Revolution (1775–1850). The point is: Europe was technologically ahead of other civilisations (like India and China) even before the Industrial Revolution. This helped it to conquer other countries (most importantly, Britain conquered India) which in turn led to the Industrial Revolution. So the real question is –

Q: How did Europe (the West) get ahead of other civilisations – mainly India and China – in technology?
A: Division and competition.

Look at the map of Europe. There is an island: Britain. There are two peninsulas cut off from the mainland by mountain ranges: Spain (by the Pyrenees) and Italy (by the Alps). And the mainland is cut by a river (the Rhine) into two halves: France and Germany. So Europe is geographically divided into several units by rigid barriers.

Now look at the map of India. The land itself is cut off from the rest of the world by major barriers: the Indus, the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean. But look at the internal geography. There are some hill ranges (the Vindhyas, the Ghats). But these are not very tall. There are many rivers (Narmada, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri). But these are monsoon-fed, so they are shallow during the summer. Thus India does not have any rigid internal barriers, like Europe does.

Finally, look at the map of China. The real China is only east China. It is just one vast river plain (of the Hwang Ho and the Yangtze). There are no internal barriers at all.

Geography decided history – and therefore everything else (economy, society, politics and culture).

In the ancient age, Europe was ruled by the Roman Empire. This was a temporary aberration. After the Roman Empire collapsed (c500 AD), Europe was divided into its several geographical units. These units then developed as separate – and permanent – kingdoms.

India was also divided into many kingdoms. But there were no rigid barriers that would act as permanent boundaries between these kingdoms – as in Europe. Therefore these kingdoms were not permanent. It was not merely dynasties that rose and fell after one another. The kingdoms themselves (ie, geographical units) appeared and disappeared continuously.

China was the opposite of Europe. Its lack of internal barriers meant it could be unified and ruled as one unit (ie, an empire) for most of its history.

Thus Europe was divided into several permanent kingdoms (which finally became countries). These kingdoms constantly fought wars against one another. To gain military advantage over its enemies, each kingdom encouraged developments in military technology. A technology developed by one kingdom would give it an advantage over the others. But only for some time. The other kingdoms would quickly adopt that technology. And the search would begin for the next technology.

Thus Europe (unintentionally) entered an upward spiral of technological development after 1000 AD. By competing with one another – for the "wrong" reasons, one could say – Europe's kingdoms as a group started pulling ahead of other more advanced civilisations (ie, India and China).

The Europeans mainly advanced in two key areas: weapons and transport. Around 1200 they learned how to make gunpowder (which was invented by the Chinese). Around 1350, the English and the French invented the cannon. Around 1500, the Italians invented the musket. And in ship making, around 1300 the Europeans invented the rudder. Around 1450 they developed the full-rigged ship, with which they could sail long distances.

We see another geographical factor at work here. Europe has a "rough" shape, and hence has a long coastline. India and China have "smooth" shapes, and hence have short coastlines. So Europe relied more on sea transport, while India and China relied more on land transport. Thus Europe focussed on sea transport technology. And the fastest sea vehicle of the Europeans – the sailing ship – turned out to be faster and more efficient that the fastest land vehicle of the Indians and Chinese – the horse.

On the other hand, India (with its temporary kingdoms) and China (with its single empire) did not have this sustained competition and technological development.

Thus by 1500, the West (Europe) had the sailing ship, the cannon and musket. With the sailing ship they could reach other civilisations, and with the cannon and musket they could defeat and conquer them. Thus Britain conquered India. This led to the Industrial Revolution – which took the West still further ahead of India, China and the rest of the world.

"The rise of the West" was the greatest puzzle of history. Eric Jones (The European Miracle, 1981) was the first historian to answer this question. I have not read this book. If you have it, please contact me :-)

16 April 2011

Democracy in India: Corrupt, Violent, Casteist

1. India is an agricultural country.

2. Democracy is an industrial political system.

3. In 1947, our leaders made the disastrous mistake of imposing an industrial political system on an agricultural society.

4. Whatever problems we see in Indian democracy today – corruption, violence, casteism – are the result of this anomaly.

5. Our leaders opted for universal adult franchise in 1947. Instead they should have put two restrictions:
a) You can vote if you have completed primary education.
b) You can contest elections if you have completed a degree.

6. With these two modifications, Indian democracy would have been a success.

7. India is the world's largest democracy, yes. It is also the world's most corrupt, violent and casteist democracy.

15 April 2011

Democracy: A Modern/Industrial Political System

Q: What is democracy?
A: Democracy is a political system in which the people choose their rulers.
A person can choose who his/her ruler should be only if he/she has a certain minimum level of knowledge/awareness. That is, if he/she has a certain minimum level of education.

In the Agricultural Age, education was only for the elite. The masses were uneducated (because they were farm labourers).

The Industrial Revolution changed all that. Factories needed literate workers. So the Industrial Age saw the birth of mass education (or universal education).

With an educated population, the condition for democracy was satisfied. Thus democracy was born.

Thus, a literate/educated population is a pre-requisite for democracy. In fact, it is an educated population that is the fundamental feature of democracy – not elections.

Universal education and democracy go together. They are two sides of the same coin.

12 March 2011

Modernisation, Westernisation and India

Ref: Modernity – The Modern/Industrial Age

Q: What is Westernisation?
A: Westernisation is the adoption of Western culture by a society. (1)

There are different civilisations* in the world. Each civilisation has its own culture. Westernisation happens when a society adopts the culture of the Western civilisation (=Europe+America).

Q: What is modernisation?

Early man was a hunter-gatherer. He lived a primitive/tribal way of life. 12,000 years ago (10,000 BC) he invented agriculture. This invention led to the birth of villages, cities, writing and trade. This is what we call civilisation. The earliest civilisations were Sumeria, Egypt, India and China. Later other civilisations developed.

About 200 years ago, another revolution happened. Man invented engines, machines, factories, railway and telegraph. This was the Industrial Revolution. It took place first in the Western civilisation (1775–1850). Later it started spreading to other civilisations.

So, what is modernisation?

A: Modernisation refers to the changes in technology, economy, society, politics and culture that take place due to industrialisation.
That is, modernisation refers to the technological, economic, social, political and cultural changes that occur as a consequence of industrialisation. (2)

Look at definitions (1) and (2). They are different. Modernisation and Westernisation are two different things.

*The major civilisations of the world are:
1. India
2. China
3. The West
4. Islam
5. Africa

07 March 2011

Modern India: Society and Social Change

I had once written a post about the "India vs Bharat" divide. In it I had talked about the "Agricultural Age mindset/worldview" and the "Industrial Age mindset/worldview". But what are these exactly?

In the series of posts on the 19th century Western social thinkers, I have tried to answer this question. After the Industrial Revolution (1775–1800) the West industrialised/modernised in the 19th century. India was then under British rule; so we could not industrialise. In 1947 we became free, but we adopted the wrong industrial system – socialism – and hence industrialised very slowly. In 1991 we switched to a a more efficient industrial system – capitalism – and started industrialising faster. Thus India started industrialising properly only from 1991.

As India industrialises/modernises now, in the 21st century, our society is going through vast and rapid changes. Are these changes unique? Are they unprecedented? No, they are not. If we read about the works of 19th century European social thinkers, we realise that they describe the same changes that we see in India today. That is, 21st century India is going through the same changes that 19th century Europe went through. Thus, by reading the ideas/theories of 19th century Europe's social thinkers, we can understand the social change taking place in modern India. (That was the point of the posts on Marx, Tönnies, Durkheim and Weber.)

Among these thinkers, the most interesting is Tönnies. His concept of "community" (Gemeinschaft) and "association" (Gesellschaft) accurately describes the changes taking place in India today: from "Bharat" to "India". "Bharat" is "community", and "India" is "association".

As India industrialises/modernises, "Bharat" will decrease in size and "India" will increase Some say this change is good; others say it is bad. What do you think? Please let me know your views :-)

27 February 2011

Max Weber: Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism

Ref: Sociology, Modern Society and Social Thinkers

Max Weber (1864–1920) was German social thinker.

In "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" (1905) Weber tried to answer the question: Why did the Industrial Revolution take place in Europe? Why did it not take place in other civilisations like India and China – which were scientifically more advanced? According to Weber, the answer was religion. India's religion was Hinduism, China's was Confucianism, and Europe's was Christianity. Weber said the Industrial Revolution took place in Europe due to Christianity.

Weber asked a further question: Why did the Industrial Revolution spread rapidly in north Europe (Britain, Germany), but not in south Europe (Spain, Italy)? Again, his answer was religion. North Europe was Protestant, while South Europe was Catholic. Weber tried to show how Protestantism (and not merely Christianity) was responsible for the Industrial Revolution.

See Max Weber: The Iron Cage of Capitalism

20 February 2011

Emile Durkheim: Organic Solidarity and Mechanical Solidarity

Ref: Sociology, Modern Society and Social Thinkers

Emile Durkheim (1858–1917) was a French social thinker.

In "Division of Labour in Society" (1892), Durkheim – like Tönnies – tried to analyse the differences between agricultural/rural/traditional society and industrial/urban/modern society. Durkheim said that agricultural society is characterised by "organic solidarity", and industrial society is characterised by "mechanical solidarity"*.

Turgot had given the theory of economic stages of history. Each (economic) stage is more complex than the previous stage. That is, the number of tasks/roles in a society increases as it moves from one stage to the next. Efficiency requires division of labour and specialisation. Thus, greater complexity results in greater division of labour and specialisation. Therefore industrial society is more complex than agricultural society, and has a higher degree of division of labour and specialisation.

Durkheim went further. Industrial society is not only more complex than agricultural society, its nature – how its different parts fit together and their relationship with one another – is also different. These "parts" may be:
a) Parts of the social "super-system" (technology, economy, society, politics, culture)
b) Sub-systems of society (family, education, etc)
c) Units of the social system (castes, classes, etc)
d) Or simply, individuals

Agricultural society is like an organism. It is simpler, but its different parts fit together and interact with one another naturally, or "organically". Example: a family. Industrial society is like a machine. It is more complex, but its different parts fit together and interact with one another artificially, or "mechanically". Example: a corporation.

Thus Durkheim's "organic solidarity" and "mechanical solidarity" correspond to Tönnies' "community" and "society". His work can be seen as a continuation of Tönnies' analysis.

*Durkheim used the terms the other way around. I am using them here in their correct sense.

13 February 2011

Ferdinand Tönnies: Community and Association (Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft)

Ref: Sociology, Modern Society and Social Thinkers

Ferdinand Tönnies* (1855–1936) was German social thinker.

In "Community and Association" (1887) Tönnies tried to analyse the differences between agricultural/rural/traditional society and industrial/urban/modern society. The first he called "community" (Gemeinschaft), and the second he called "association" (Gesellschaft).

In agricultural society ("community"), an individual interacts with a small number of people – the people in his village. He has close relationships with them. The relationships are personal and informal, based on familiarity and friendship. But in an industrial society ("association"), an individual interacts with a large number of people. However these interactions are functional in nature. Thus the relationships are impersonal and formal; they are commercial and business-like.

Thus "community" is characterised by a small number of primary (private) relationships. "Association" is characterised by a large number of secondary (public) relationships.

*The English spelling is not "Tonnies", but "Toennies".

06 February 2011

Karl Marx: The Industrial Revolution and "The Capital"

Ref: Sociology, Modern Society and Social Thinkers

Karl Marx (1818–1885) was a German social thinker.

A R J Turgot, an 18th century French economist, had seen history as a series of economic stages (hunting-gathering, pastoral and agricultural). Marx extended this theory – he added one more stage to it: the industrial (ie, modern) stage.He realised that mankind had entered a new Age in its history: the Industrial Age (Modern Age).He also said that when technology (production system) changes, everything also changes: the economy, politics, culture, and indeed society itself. Thus the Industrial Revolution, which was a change in production system from agriculture to industry, was leading to fundamental economic, political, cultural and social changes as well. He tried to analyse the new industrial/modern economy and society in "The Capital" (1867).

1. Marx: The Modern/Industrial Age and Modernity
2. Technology, Economy, Politics, Culture - 2

01 February 2011

Sociology, Modern Society and Social Thinkers

Sociology is the study of society. It is a modern (ie, industrial) subject. It was born in the West after the Industrial Revolution (1775–1850). As Europe industrialised (ie, modernised) in the 19th century, its society started changing. Social thinkers started observing these changes and tried to analyse them. Their attempts to understand these changes – and the new society that was emerging – gave birth to sociology.

The most important social thinkers of 19th century Europe were:
1. Karl Marx
2. Ferdinand Tönnies
3. Emile Durkheim
4. Max Weber

In the next few days, I will be putting up a post on each of these thinkers.

26 January 2011

Waves of Modernisation/Industrialisation

Different parts of the world have modernised/industrialised at different times. These are the three major "waves" of industrialisation/modernisation:

1. 19th century1800–1900the WestEurope, America, Japan
2. Post-World War 21950–1990East AsiaJapan*, Korea, Taiwan
3. 21st centuryc1980–AsiaChina (1979–), India (1991–)

*Japan had to industrialise a second time as it was bombed back to the stone age in World War 2.

25 January 2011

Society in India and Indian Social System

Here are a couple of good books on Indian society:

A. Society in India – Prof Ram Ahuja (1999)
1. History of Indian society
2. Caste system
3. Family and women
4. Economic system
5. Political system
6. Education
7. Religion
8. Tribal society
9. Rural society
10. Urban society
11. Population growth
12. Social change

B. Indian Social System – Prof Ram Ahuja (1993)
1. Caste system
2. History of caste system
3. Caste relations and conflicts
4. Caste politics
5. Sanskritisation
6. Scheduled castes

17 January 2011

The Most Important Battles in India's History

Which were the most important battles in India's history?

Muhammad bin Qasim
Result: Arabs won Sindh
Mahmud of Ghazni
Result: Turks won Punjab
Muhammad of Ghor
Prithviraj Chauhan
Result: Turks won north India
Rana Sanga
Result: Mughals won north India
Result: Mughals retook north India
Bahmani sultanates
Vijayanagara Empire
Result: Last great Hindu kingdom was destroyed
Anwar-ud-din (Carnatic)
Result: Showed Europe's military superiority over India
East India Company
Siraj-ud-daula (Bengal)
Result: British won east India
Ahmed Shah Abdali
Result: Maratha power was shattered
East India Company
Mir Qasim (Bengal)
Shuja-ud-daula (Awadh)
Shah Alam (Delhi)
Result: British became the most powerful force in India

16 January 2011

The Best Books on India's History

Which are the best books on India's history?

1. India: A History – John Keay

2. Ancient India – Ram Sharan Sharma

3. Medieval India – Satish Chandra

4. Modern India – Bipan Chandra

5. Advanced History of India – Raychaudhuri, Datta & Majumdar

Please let me know about other good books on Indian history.

04 January 2011

The Greatest Men/Leaders of the 20th Century

Who were the greatest men/leaders of the 20th century? For better or worse, these were the men who shaped the world of the 20th century:

1. Vladimir Lenin
2. Adolf Hitler
3. Winston Churchill
4. Franklin Roosevelt
5. Joseph Stalin
6. Mohandas Gandhi
7. Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru
8. Mao Zedong
9. Deng Xiaoping
10. Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan

1. Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924)
- For creating a new political and economic system, and imposing it over a sixth of the world's area.
- For creating a system that eventually covered a third of mankind, and lasted for seventy years.

2. Adolf Hitler (1889–1945)
- For starting the most destructive war in human history.
- For taking hatred, cruelty and barbarism to depths never seen before.

3. Winston Churchill (1874–1965)
- For standing alone in the war against Fascism.
- For his inspiring leadership of his country in the fight against Fascism.

4. Franklin Roosevelt (1882–1945)
- For his courageous leadership of the fight against Fascism.
- For saving capitalism and economic freedom from the Great Depression.

5. Joseph Stalin (1878–1953)
- For defeating Fascism with his brave and patriotic people.
- For turning his country into an industrial giant and the world's second superpower.

6. Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948)
- For defeating the world's largest empire, and freeing the world's second largest country.
- For his saintly leadership of history's only non-violent freedom struggle.

7. Vallabhbhai Patel (1875–1950) and Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964)
- For uniting the world's second largest country from 565 pieces.
- For helping it survive as a united, stable and peaceful democracy.

8. Mao Zedong (1893–1976)
- For bringing the world's largest country under Communism.
- For being the supreme leader of a fifth of mankind for thirty years.

9. Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997)
- For bringing a fifth of humanity into the Modern Age.
- For building the second most powerful nation in the world.

10. Mikhail Gorbachev (1931– ) and Ronald Reagan (1911–2004)
- For ending the Cold War with their vision and statesmanship.
- For bringing an end to Communism with his glasnost and perestroika.

Here is TIME magazine's list of the 20th century's "greatest leaders and revolutionaries".

03 January 2011

Eric Hobsbawm: History of the Modern World

British historian Eric Hobsbawm has written a two-part (four-volume) history of the modern world:

A. 19th century

1. Age of Revolution: 1789–1848

2. Age of Capital: 1848–1875

3. Age of Empire: 1875–1914

B. 20th century

4. Age of Extremes: 1914–1991

Special thanks to Pub (Deepak B) for lending me these books.