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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 29, July 6, 2013

Nature and Process of History in Indian Democracy

Conflict Trajectories and Reconciliation

Sunday 7 July 2013, by Indrajeet Singh


We do not drive history according to our own desires and wishes; rather history leads us with its force taking all kinds of species through the different stations and temporary destinations. There are a few historical moments when mankind is able to witness what it desires. History is perhaps not a straight line process but it consists of crooked lines which push humans into the vortex of pain, uncertainties and happy times. Only a handful of people take advantage of the happy moments of history in material terms. Though their happiness is not free from the clutches of the relative process of pleasure and may lack the real definition of this process in the true sense of the term.

I would like to make it clear at the outset that I have not used the term history in the narrow sense confined to textbooks describing some facts of a specific nation or a particular group and a particular event, though such history cannot be ignored altogether. By history I mean the whole development of actions of human beings which consists of the whole process of progress including all kinds of activities of the universe and laws of nature. It is also important to note that this short essay does not aim at scandalising the Western civilisation which has provided the world with many wonderful things, whether in the spiritual or material sense. Nor is it aimed at criticising the White people. Though the concept of colonialism and capitalism has travelled from the West to other parts, many people in the Western countries are against the concept and they are sensitive to human values like love, sentiments, affection and empathy for other people.

The important intellectual achievement of Hegel lies in the fact that he for the first time gave philosophical coherence to the study of historical ideas and facts. In his work he tried to identify universal meanings of historical events in specific national histories. According to Hegel, history opens up the highest truths of human experiences. History also manifests the accomplishments and developments of mankind. History, according to him, is an endless process of change. Hegel further maintains that every historical event, no matter how chaotic it is, has a meaning for unfolding the future. So, with the passage of time, history witnesses the growth of reason and freedom. The spirit, which plays a very important role in the philosophy of Hegel, evolves and reaches higher and higher for the realisation of itself in societies of mankind.

The scale of pleasure and happiness is unfortunately absolutely restricted to money-making in contemporary India. So, we don’t really know today where history is taking us. Francis Fukuyama conveniently declared the end of history and the victory of liberalism over the communist world, hereditary societies and fascism. Now, the question arises: is the liberal democratic philosophy the answer to all problems of all types of individuals, cultures, traditions and customs? History has made quite a long journey, but we still do not know to which place we belong and come from where? And science with very limited knowledge has failed to solve this difficult riddle.

History appears to have penetrated into us years and years, centuries and centuries with good times and bad times. We have witnessed its bad consequences in the Uttarakhand in recent times sweeping away all claims of development in the name of democracy by industrial and capitalist societies. At times, history gives so bad a time that its footprints remain for years to come. And future generations are not able to erase these footprints. These leave a deep and painful stamp upon the meek potentialities of mankind. People keep on reminding each other for a long time about the black marks left by the historical process. There are various lobbies which have been giving red signals for a long time about the destruction of nature happening at the national as well as international levels by the land mafia and mine mafia whom we euphemistically call the real estate and mine investors respectively. The industrialists have their own justifications to pollute water, air and they also promote soil erosion.

The natural resources, generally speaking, remain in sleeping conditions under the feet of the poor but when a few try to plunder these resources they become monsters and the world has to face the fury of nature. The poor feel the anger of nature immediately and the rest of the world faces it with the passage of time. As a result nature, which is a blessing for the people, becomes a curse for all people. Nature, generally speaking, turns hostile because of the greed of some handful of people to accumulate more and more money. Greed is a psychological disease which can only be cured with the help of psychologists. It is an addiction and the people who are obsessed with it are giving a bad time to the world.

We know that Karl Marx held capitalists responsible for the alienation of people. Max Weber also criticised the process of modernity and he was not much optimistic about the modern world. He regarded the bureaucratic system of rationalisation as the iron cage of humanity. He took to the religious interpretation of such a system. According to him, Protestantism taught people the importance of economic discipline. The religious leaders gave lessons for hard work and reward. The people who work hard get wealth as a reward from the divine power. So, making money becames a virtue and the person who has a lot of money is the most virtuous person. Hence, wealth replaces poverty as sign of gift from the divine will. During the rise of the capitalistic era the poor came to be regarded as lazy which is still the main argument of the rich for the bad fate of the poor people. The modern tendencies, according to Max Weber, remodelled the world. Material goods have gained increasing and inexorable power over the lives of people. In contemporary times, the Indian society is also going through the same process.

In contemporary India, the capitalist classes are not at all different from the feudal classes. The only difference is that the feudal system was working under dictatorial tendencies and the capitalist classes are plundering in the name of democracy and free market which is not at all free in the true sense of the term. The capitalist world is also different in the sense that its mode of production is entirely different from the mode of production of feudalism. The plunder of landed elites was limited to land on the surface and it was limited to local people. The modern capitalist plunder is global in nature and now it has reached deep down into the earth and resources can be shifted from the poor areas to the rich areas with the help of machines and technology. The rich are taking away all the natural resources from the poor to the pocketbooks of the rich leaving the poor hungry, unhealthy and helpless. This process is not only affecting the so-called developing countries, it has also affected the West in a big way.

Though all the citizens, including the governments, know the bad effects of junk food and other bad items for sale in the markets, the governments and then leaders, who have the power to stop the sale of harmful products, do not make genuine efforts to stop the sale; rather they give full freedom to the media for advertisements to promote the sale of such products. There are instructions from the governments that the companies should mention all the harmful effects on the products. Such instructions amount to nothing and people running our governments pretend to be nice by giving empty sermons. It is high time that the governments, whether in the West or developing countries, stopped providing lip-service to the people of the whole world. They should not remain tight-lipped about the truth and genuine good before the people who constitute the foundation-stone of any true democracy. It is time for good deeds for the citizens of the world. If the nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and profit-making mafias continues, it will sweep away all the good things with it, and nature will play a very important role in it. The poverty and sorrows of the poor will be there forever in the future. One must realise that these painful stories are not the curse of gods but such conditions have been imposed by the animal instincts of a handful greedy people who have no conscience.

Now, what can soothe the poor? The race of history crosses incalculable stations unknown to us.

In my opinion, it is not possible that we would ever see the end of history as suggested by Francis Fukuyama. Liberalism is only one of the stations of historical development and mankind will find another station welcoming the whole world for a new system which may be an important alternative to capitalism that is the child of the liberal democratic philosophy. This liberal philosophy promised equality and liberty for all but unfortunately it has failed to do that. Another important element of liberal philosophy is conflict resolution and cooperation among citizens. But it is important to note that the principles of liberalism have not reduced conflicts and the people in most of the developing world do not see much cooperation. The concepts of equality and liberty for all, and conflict resolution and cooperation have become only pious hopes for citizens especially of a country like India. Perhaps, there is not much that is wrong with the philosophy but the principles of liberalism are facing the greatest threat from the friends of the philosophy itself.

Politicians in nexus with greedy capitalist forces have been killing the basic spirit and structure of a liberal society. There is equality and liberty for a few people who plunder natural resources and conflict resolution and cooperation are also limited to this club of people. They do this in the name of democracy and they use liberalism as a good camouflage to deceive the people and restricting their role only to elections. So, capitalism is a package that consists of benefits for a few and difficulties and diseases for a large number of people. The diseases cannot be separated from the process of capitalism because the main disease, which is linked to it, is rapacious profit-making. This profit-making process has established the culture of materialism in India. Though the importance of the material world cannot be rejected out of hand, but if materialism has taken over full control of the destiny and actions of human beings, and it sets a trap of avaricious desires which people can never rid themselves of despite many efforts made by persons like M.K. Gandhi. His philosophy can be enlightening in this regard but people are oblivious to the principles suggested by him.

It is a hard fact that presently capitalism is a reality and an unstoppable process. Now, the question arises: will capitalism ever die? Or is there somebody who will kill this monster eating all the resources? The answers to these questions are very difficult. The process of capitalism or liberal Marxism, adopted by Chinese or Indian Leftist parties, which Karl Marx would have never liked, has absolutely failed to sound the death-knell for capitalism. It is highly likely that the crude implementation and the improper way of bringing about development will kill all the natural resources and, in turn, nature will not only kill capitalism, but only god knows how many people it will do away with.

It is important to note that instead of money, men should take care of men. Money cannot take care of men in their totality. One man for the other man is the best medicine.

We should also remember that the principles of liberalism and capitalism are not the final principles in the progress of history as suggested by Fukuyama. These are only one of the stations of history we are going through.

I hold the opinion that though science has done some wonderful work, it cannot reach far enough to completely, unfold nature which is shrouded in mystery. Scientists can make a key-board which is able to control a few aspects of life but they must remember that they cannot make any key-board which controls the whole universe and unfolds all the mysteries of the universe.

Capitalism can be justified only on one condition: that it should benefit all men and women in the world without doing any harm to nature, thereby making the world a safe and a better place for all kinds of people, the rich or poor. The problem of the Indian society is that it has been pushed into an endless pursuit of wealth. Indian capitalists used rational means for gaining irrational economic goals. Rational means are: modern economic system, rapacious growth of industry and enterprises. The irrational end is that people continue to accumulate capital far beyond what they need for their basic and comfortable life.

Now we have reached the point from where we should make way for a destination which is free from the greed for natural resources and the poor at least get the minimum to run their lives smoothly. Such a process will reduce the chances of the fury and anger of nature which we have seen in Uttarakhand recently.

There is one important thing for us to do. We have to search for the next step after the process of capitalism of which the sole motive is profit-making. Of course, the philosophy of liberalism, if implemented in the true sense benefiting all, can be a good remedy. If liberal philosophers have to keep liberalism alive, they will have to make certain important modifications in the philosophy. The biggest problem of liberalism is that it has failed to stop the monopoly of a few people over all natural resources in the name of meritocracy and survival of the fittest, the ideas basically promoted by the English philosopher and sociologist Herbert Spencer. I would like to make one important observation. Poverty is not at all a natural or divine curse but it is generally a man-made disaster, like the one that has happened in Uttarakhand which is also the handiwork of some morally misguided people. Now we must make efforts to throw the idea of capitalism into the dustbin of history and we should take the next step and embrace a new process of history which may be free from the main evil of modern society. This evil is basically laced with the difficulties of greed and excess profit generated by a few people.

So, will this society be without industries and enterprises or good clothes and less beautiful houses? Or will such a society consist of absolute equalities? The answer is certainly no. This society will have good clothes to wear; no undue exploitation of natural resources which all the people possess equally and the local people have more rights over their resources; people in this society will have absolute aesthetic sense which is not at all linked to capitalist companies that claim they alone can produce beautiful products under some kind of brand name and over-charging people for too much profit. This post-capitalist society which I envision will exist not without money, not without science and technology, though all these will have a limited and need-based role, and not allow over-profit-making for the citizens of the world.

In the end, I would like to name this society a universal world. We must remember that the people are parts of the universal world. As a result, we are all citizens of the whole world and bound by certain obligations to each other. In this kind of world, which consists of universal values, no one has absolute or exclusive rights over other people. Every person in this universal society has the right to a respectable life which is without hunger, with shelter and other basic needs of life, whether educational, medical or economic needs.

I hope that the progress of history will soon unfold such an organic and universal society which will be free from caste, class and economic inequalities. And the citizens of India will make a genuine effort to beef up what we call the idea of India with some universal values leaving aside narrow interests and commercial tragedies. Conflict resolution and reconciliation will be the main slogan of the Indian citizens in such a society. Poverty in India is not the result of any laziness of the poor but it is the result of lack of opportunities for the development of their inner power and capabilities. So, the rich and poor should put their heads together to break the cycle of poverty, sorrows and pain. This cannot be achieved through violent means but if politicians, bureaucrats, civil society and most importantly the citizens themselves do not make efforts to change the whole social structure which consists of so many hierarchies, the constant journey of history can witness violent resistance from people in India in the days ahead to shatter the fictional illusions created by the capitalist and commercial classes.

Indrajeet Singh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College, Delhi University. He can be contacted at e-mail:

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