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 :-)