Readings in Indian Sociology: Volume X: Pioneers of Sociology in India [1 ed.] 9788132113911

It is through the contributions of the pioneering scholars that not only a particular discipline derives its name but al

343 114 17MB

English Pages [365] Year 2013

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Readings in Indian Sociology: Volume X: Pioneers of Sociology in India [1 ed.]
 9788132113911

Table of contents :
Cover
Contents
Series Note
Foreword
Acknowledgements
Introduction
1 - Historical Evolutionary Approach in the Sociology of G.S. Ghurye
2 - G.S. Ghurye on Culture and Nation-Building
3 - The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye
4 - Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation: Situating G.S. Ghurye
5 - Radha Kamal Mukerjee —A Note
6 - Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries: Founding Fathers of Sociology in India
7 - Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology
8 - Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology and Its Relevance To-Day: Some Reflections
9 - Dialectic of Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji
10 - D.P. Mukerji 1894–1961: A Centenary Tribute
11 - D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India
12 - On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’
13 - The Sociology of Hinduism: Reading ‘Backwards’ from Srinivas to Weber
14 - M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber, and Functionalism
15 - Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept: An Appraisal of M.N. Srinivas
16 - On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology: The Challeng eof Understanding Indian Society—Critique, Generosity and Transformations
Index
About the Editor and Contributors
Appendix of Sources

Citation preview

Pioneers of Sociology in India

Prelims Vol X.indd 1

2013-11-27 3:52:48 PM

Readings in Indian Sociology Series Editor: Ishwar Modi Titles and Editors of the Volumes Volume 1 Towards Sociology of Dalits Editor: Paramjit S. Judge Volume 2 Sociological Probings in Rural Society Editor: K.L. Sharma Volume 3 Sociology of Childhood and Youth Editor: Bula Bhadra Volume 4 Sociology of Health Editor: Madhu Nagla Volume 5 Contributions to Sociological Theory Editor: Vinay Kumar Srivastava Volume 6 Sociology of Science and Technology in India Editor: Binay Kumar Pattnaik Volume 7 Sociology of Environment Editor: Sukant K. Chaudhury Volume 8 Political Sociology of India Editor: Anand Kumar Volume 9 Culture and Society Editor: Susan Visvanathan Volume 10 Pioneers of Sociology in India Editor: Ishwar Modi

Prelims Vol X.indd 2

2013-11-27 3:52:48 PM

READINGS IN INDIAN SOCIOLOGY VOLUME 10

Pioneers of Sociology in India

Edited by Ishwar Modi

Prelims Vol X.indd 3

2013-11-27 3:52:48 PM

Copyright © Indian Sociological Society, 2013 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. First published in 2013 by Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd B 1/I 1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area Mathura Road, New Delhi 110 044, India www.sagepub.in Sage Publications Inc 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320, USA

Indian Sociological Society Institute of Social Sciences 8 Nelson Mandela Road Vasant Kunj New Delhi 110 070

Sage Publications Ltd 1 Oliver’s Yard 55 City Road London EC1Y 1SP United Kingdom Sage Publications Asia-Pacific Pte Ltd 3 Church Street #10-04 Samsung Hub Singapore 049483 Published by Vivek Mehra for SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, typeset in 10.5/12.5 Adobe Garamond Pro by Boson ITech Pvt. Ltd., Kolkata and printed at Saurabh Printers Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Available

ISBN: 978-81-321-1391-1 (PB) The SAGE Team: Shambhu Sahu, Sushant Nailwal, Thomas Mathew, Asish Sahu, Vijaya Ramachandran and Dally Verghese Disclaimer: This volume largely comprises pre-published material which has been presented in its original form. The publisher shall not be responsible for any discrepancies in language or content in this volume.

Prelims Vol X.indd 4

2013-11-28 5:06:34 PM

Dedicated to the memory of Professors G.S. Ghurye, Radhakamal Mukerjee, D.P. Mukerji and M.N. Srinivas, the pioneers of Sociology in India.

Prelims Vol X.indd 5

2013-11-27 3:52:48 PM

Thank you for choosing a SAGE product! If you have any comment, observation or feedback, I would like to personally hear from you. Please write to me at [email protected] —Vivek Mehra, Managing Director and CEO, SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, New Delhi

Bulk Sales SAGE India offers special discounts for purchase of books in bulk. We also make available special imprints and excerpts from our books on demand. For orders and enquiries, write to us at Marketing Department SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd B1/I-1, Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area Mathura Road, Post Bag 7 New Delhi 110044, India E-mail us at [email protected] Get to know more about SAGE, be invited to SAGE events, get on our mailing list. Write today to [email protected]

Prelims Vol X.indd 6

2013-11-27 3:52:48 PM

Contents

Series Note ix Foreword by Yogendra Singh xiii Acknowledgements xvii Introduction by Ishwar Modi xix 1. Historical Evolutionary Approach in the Sociology of G.S. Ghurye Swapan Kumar Pramanick 2. G.S. Ghurye on Culture and Nation-Building C.N. Venugopal 3. The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye Carol Upadhya 4. Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation: Situating G.S. Ghurye T.K. Oommen 5. Radha Kamal Mukerjee—A Note Ramkrishna Mukherjee 6. Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries: Founding Fathers of Sociology in India T.N. Madan 7. Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology Manish K. Thakur 8. Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology and Its Relevance To-Day: Some Reflections P.C. Joshi 9. Dialectic of Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji T.N. Madan

Prelims Vol X.indd 7

1 16 31 60 79 84 113 134 159

2013-11-27 3:52:48 PM

viii

10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

Pioneers of Sociology in India

D.P. Mukerji 1894–1961: A Centenary Tribute T.N. Madan D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India Dalia Chakrabarti On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’ Sujata Patel The Sociology of Hinduism: Reading ‘Backwards’ from Srinivas to Weber T.N. Madan M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber, and Functionalism A.M. Shah Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept: An Appraisal of M.N. Srinivas T.K. Oommen On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology: The Challenge of Understanding Indian Society—Critique, Generosity and Transformations Ananta Kumar Giri

Index About the Editor and Contributors Appendix of Sources

Prelims Vol X.indd 8

182 193 216 228 252 262

286 310 321 323

2013-11-27 3:52:48 PM

Series Note

The Indian Sociological Society (ISS), established in December 1951, under the leadership of Professor G.S. Ghurye at the University of Bombay celebrated its Diamond Jubilee in 2011. Soon after its foundation, the ISS launched its bi-annual journal Sociological Bulletin in March 1952. It has been published regularly since then. Taking cognizance of the growing aspirations of the community of sociologists both in India and abroad to publish their contributions in Sociological Bulletin its frequency was raised to three issues a year in 2004. Its print order now exceeds 3000 copies. It speaks volumes about the popularity both of the ISS and the Sociological Bulletin. The various issues of Sociological Bulletin are a treasure trove of the most profound and authentic sociological writings and research in India and elsewhere. As such it is no surprise that it has acquired the status of an internationally acclaimed reputed journal of Sociology. The very fact that several of its previous issues are no more available being out of print is indicative not only of its popularity both among sociologists and other social scientists but also of its high scholarly reputation, acceptance and relevance. Although two series of volumes have already been published by the ISS during 2001–2005 and in 2011 having seven volumes each on a large number of themes and yet a very large number of themes remain untouched. Such a situation necessitated that a new series of thematic volumes be brought out. Realizing this necessity and in order to continue to celebrate the Diamond Decade of the Indian Sociological Society, the Managing Committee of the ISS and a sub-committee constituted for this purpose decided to bring out a series of ten more thematic volumes in such areas of importance and relevance both for the sociological and the academic community at large as Sociological Theory, Untouchability and Dalits, Rural Society, Science & Technology, Childhood and Youth, Health, Environment, Culture, Politics, and the Pioneers of Sociology in India. Well-known scholars and experts in the areas of chosen themes were identified and requested to edit these thematic volumes under the series title Readings in Indian Sociology. Each one of them has put in a lot of effort in

Prelims Vol X.indd 9

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

x

Pioneers of Sociology in India

the shortest possible time not only in selecting and identifying the papers to be included in their respective volumes but also in arranging these in a relevant and meaningful manner. More than this, it was no easy task for them to write comprehensive ‘introductions’ of the respective volumes in the face of time constraints so that the volumes could be brought out in time on the occasion of the 39th All India Sociological Conference scheduled to take place in Mysore under the auspices of the Karnataka State Open University during December 27–29, 2013. The editors enjoyed freedom not only to choose the papers of their choice from Sociological Bulletin published during 1952 to 2012 but were also free to request scholars of their choice to write Forewords for their particular volumes. The volumes covered under this series include: Towards Sociology of Dalits (Editor: Paramjit S. Judge); Sociological Probings in Rural Society (Editor: K.L. Sharma); Sociology of Childhood and Youth (Editor: Bula Bhadra); Sociology of Health (Editor: Madhu Nagla); Contributions to Sociological Theory (Editor: Vinay Kumar Srivastava); Sociology of Science & Technology in India (Editor: Binay Kumar Pattnaik); Sociology of Environment (Editor: Sukant K Chudhury); Culture and Society (Editor: Susan Visvanathan); Political Sociology of India (Editor: Anand Kumar); and Pioneers of Sociology in India (Editor: Ishwar Modi). Pioneers of Sociology in India is the tenth volume of the series titled Readings in Indian Sociology. It is through the contributions of the pioneering scholars that a particular discipline not only derives its name but also the foundations on which a particular discipline is built and grows. As in case of the founding fathers of a particular discipline at the international level, it is the founding fathers and pioneers of that discipline at the national level who create and nurture a distinct identity of the discipline at the national level. While Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx are acknowledged as the founding fathers of sociology internationally, G. S. Ghurye (1893–1983), Radhakamal Mukerjee (1889–1968), D. P. Mukerji (1894–1961), and M. N. Srinivas (1916–1999) are in the same vein acknowledged as the pioneers of sociology in India. A few other stalwarts of sociology in India also deserve this honour but it is mainly the above mentioned scholars on whom and on whose contributions the contemporary sociologists in India have extensively published in the issues of Sociological Bulletin. As such this volume contains a selection of papers that have been published since 1977on these pioneers of sociology in India. It can hardly be overemphasized and can be said with certain modesty that this volume as well as all the other volumes of the series Readings in Indian Sociology, as they pertain to the most important aspects of society and sociology in India, will be of immense importance and relevance

Prelims Vol X.indd 10

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Series Note

xi

to students, teachers and researchers both of sociology and other social sciences. It is also hoped that these volumes will be received well by the overseas scholars interested in the study of Indian Society. Besides this, policy-makers, administrators, activists, NGOs, etc. may also find these volumes of immense value. Having gone through these volumes, the students and researchers of sociology would probably be able to feel and say that now: “We will be able to look much farther away as we are standing on the shoulders of the giants” (in the spirit of paraphrasing the famous quote of Isaac Newton). I am grateful to Shambhu Sahu, Sutapa Ghosh and R. Chandra Sekhar of SAGE Publications for all their efforts, support and patience to complete this huge project well in time against all the time constraints. I also express my gratefulness to the Managing Committee Members of the ISS and also the members of the sub-committee constituted for this purpose. I would also like to thank Uday Singh, my assistant at the India International Institute of Social Sciences, Jaipur for all his secretarial assistance and hard work put in by him towards the completion of this and all the other volumes of the series. Ishwar Modi Series Editor Readings in Indian Sociology

Prelims Vol X.indd 11

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Prelims Vol X.indd 12

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Foreword

I

welcome the publication of Pioneers of Sociology in India edited by Professor Ishwar Modi. I am sure it would be widely appreciated and received by sociologists and social scientists in India and abroad. The works of ‘Pioneers’, G. S. Ghurye, Radhakamal Mukerjee, D. P. Mukerji and M. N. Srinivas have been briefly summarised. There is much that one can write or has been written on their contributions. Their orientations and approaches to the study of sociology differed from one another due to their specific forms of intellectual background and their varying preferences about the substantive domains of sociology they selected for research. Both Ghurye and Radhakamal Mukerjee were prolific in the choice of their studies. Ghurye, an accomplished Indologist beyond his study of caste, occupation and race (later class), wrote on themes like rural social change and social tensions in India. In a departure in reaction to Kinsey Report, he also wrote on patterns of sexuality in India. He was not conservative in selection of problems for his sociological analysis. However, ideologically he is considered to be a conservative among sociologist in India. This may be because of his Indological intellectual moorings or because he had an open mind on social issues and judged them on his own standards of normative evaluation. Like very few Indian sociologists, he has written a book on his views in an autobiographical style about his academic experiences and his views about ‘others’ including some of his students. In addition to his own researches, Ghurye’s contribution would also be known by the distinguished array of sociologists who were his students and were trained by him. K. M. Kapadia, M. N. Srinivas, Y. B. Damle, I. P. Desai and Dhirendra Narain, among many other sociologists of distinction, were his students. He may be considered conservative in his own ideological preferences, but he was a thorough liberal as far as researches of his students were concerned. He had no fixated views on the use of research methodologies as well. We notice it in his own various researches and those of his former students. Many among them have distinguished themselves by their own sociological researches and publications. It may be mentioned, however, that on research methodology, the Indian sociology was still deeply

Prelims Vol X.indd 13

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

xiv

Pioneers of Sociology in India

influenced by the British and European traditions where it was left to the individual preferences of sociologists to choose methods for their researches, hence unlike in USA, no separate teaching courses on research methods existed in most European universities. It may also be noted that sociology as an independent teaching discipline had not yet emerged in India; at Lucknow University it was taught as a course in the M.A. Economics and at Bombay, as part of degree course in political science. It slowly emerged as an independent discipline primarily under the American influence. Radhakamal Mukerjee held the chair of professor of economics at Lucknow University, but he also taught sociology which was taught as a part of courses in economics. His publications and interests in sociological researches are on a much wider and larger scale than that of Ghurye, D. P. Mukerji or Srinivas. He did meticulous researches on poverty in India, working classes and farming communities. Theoretically, his contributions demonstrate the impact of the American school of the institutional economics; this is particularly evident in his early works. Similarly, he wrote on social ecology, its theory and substantive applications in the Indian situation. Much later, he wrote on social tension and social structure. Mukerjee shows a much broader and universal formulation of the scope of sociological analysis; very much like P. Sorokin, he explores the dynamics of civilisations on a global scale. All this bring out the multidimensionality of Radhakamal’s sociological researches and writings. His contributions overarch the domains of sociology, social work and social philosophy in addition to his contributions to institutional economics. His interest in social ecology led him also to conduct researches in regional economics. He particularly encouraged his students to conduct researches on problems embedded into regional matrices. D. P. Mukerji, on the other hand, had an entirely different theoretical and methodological orientation. Not a prolific writer like Radhakamal Mukerjee, he was a teacher par excellence. I could vouchsafe for it being a student of both scholars. His research works relate to the Indian middle classes and, as a departure, he also wrote on the social background of personality where the perspective is more sociological than psychological. He was influenced by Calcutta Marxist circle of scholars and activists. He, however, does not see the relevance of the doctrinaire Marxism (theory of economic determinism) for studies of social realities of India where one may witness a deeper impact of culture and tradition. He accepted the dialectical logic of Marxism, however, and characterised himself as a Marxologist rather than a Marxist in his theoretical orientation. Mukerji was deeply entrenched into a critical, dialectical and cultural discourse on sociological

Prelims Vol X.indd 14

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Foreword

xv

methods and formulation of sociological categories. He preferred to locate it in a dialogical matrix. He encouraged many of his students to research the folk culture and folk traditions of India and its regional variations. Compared to the above three pioneers, M. N. Srinivas’s research interests have been focused primarily to village ethnography of India. He has made an outstanding contribution to the theory of social change through his ethnographical researches. His study of the Coorgs as a community and their religion and society led him to observe how the process of change is triggered. The key to this process is the relative hierarchy of cultural practices and their stratification in terms of degrees of domination both normatively and structurally. The Coorgs felt the Brahmanic cultural traditions or practices as hierarchically superior and made effort to adopt them in their own cultural discourses. This process was termed as Brahmanisation by Srinivas. Later, when he conducted village studies in other parts of Karnataka and came across studies of villages in other regions, he observed that the process of adoption of cultural ways and practices of hierarchically higher and more dominant groups was not confined to Brahmans alone, but included many other castes based on a superior or dominant position they had in their own region. He enlarged the scope of change as the process of Sanskritisation, a process by which castes placed lower in hierarchy or scale of domination attempt to adopt the cultural ways and practices of higher dominant caste group to enhance their social status. He also observed the impact that Western culture was making on the dominant middle classes in India and was being adopted on similar lines as Sanskritisation, and he termed it as process of Westernisation. His contributions to the study of social change in India include observation of the wider impact of the processes of Sanskritisation and Westernisation in India. The critical analysis of the contributions of the four pioneers among the Indian sociologists brings upon us to bear the dynamics of the growth of the Indian sociology. It offers us also a perspective on the social conditioning of Indian sociology, particularly its growth under the shadow of the Western sociology. Somehow the discourses on sociology by the pioneers, which are indeed formidable, only implicitly touch upon this issue. G. S. Ghurye and D. P. Mukerji come out relatively more explicitly and prefer both theoretical and conceptual autonomy for the Indian sociology rather than making mimic uses of the Western sociological categories. Yogendra Singh Professor Emeritus ( JNU ) New Delhi

Prelims Vol X.indd 15

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Prelims Vol X.indd 16

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Acknowledgements

I

would like to place on record my sincere words of gratitude to my teacher and Guru Professor Yogendra Singh, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi for writing the Foreword for this volume on a very short notice. I would also like to express my gratefulness to all the scholars whose papers have been included in this volume. My special thanks to Professor N. Jayaram, Editor, Sociological Bulletin for his invaluable effort to digitize the volumes of Sociological Bulletin, which came handy in executing the project of the new series.

Prelims Vol X.indd 17

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Prelims Vol X.indd 18

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Introduction Ishwar Modi

S

ociology as a discipline suffers in general if it does not represent and reflect the nature, character and dynamics of human society. Since human society is highly differentiated, based on economic, social, cultural and some other considerations, and it is also ever-changing in terms of social relations, sociology needs to provide a holistic view of human society, at a given point of time and also over a period of time. Yogendra Singh (1986) considers ‘social conditioning of Indian sociology’ as a challenge. Indian society is not a conglomeration of social groups or of castes and other such segments. A complex of collectivities, their differentiations and specificities characterise Indian society as a social reality. It is a unique panorama, having plurality, unity and diversities, give and take, synthesis of cultures, languages, regions and religions. Alongwith the persisting normative orientation, Indian society has witnessed tremendous social change since its independence in 1947. Independent India as a republic is bestowed with a comprehensive written Constitution, Central Administration, Civil Services, Fundamental Rights and so on, and there are articulate upper and upper middle classes, weaker sections, minorities, women and poor people, who constitute the politicosocial fabric of the Indian society.

I Indian sociology has attained a considerable maturity for its evaluation based on its ‘ethos’ and ‘organisation’. ‘Ethos’ refers to the contents of the programmes, orientations, concerns, structure/culture, debates and discourses, approaches and field studies. ‘Organisation’ implies departments,

Prelims Vol X.indd 19

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

xx

Ishwar Modi

research centres and institutes, characterised by their hierarchical character in terms of ranks and offices, and also based on the ‘impact’ or ‘influence’. André Béteille’s reference to ‘pontifs’ and ‘journeymen’ in Indian sociology (2005) aptly explains its structure and functioning. Indian sociology can’t afford to remain unconcerned with the challenge of today’s ‘knowledge society’ and away from a new world order. But then the question is: Whose sociology? Is it of the rich and middle classes of urban India? In our view, sociology needs to focus on the complex of collectivities, institutions and individuals as well. Sociology as a discipline can provide clues for reshaping of society, by being on a holistic plane. Maitrayee Chaudhuri (2010) makes two important points regarding the challenges to sociology in India: (i) To strike at a balance between priorities of the State and the priorities of sociology; and (ii) To put itself on a higher plane qualitatively. Chaudhuri makes this observation particularly in the context of teaching, research, funding, relevance and utility, to ascertain identity of the discipline, and to know its comparative status in social sciences. Now we raise the following questions: 1. 2. 3.

How has sociology grown in India? What is knowledge input in its evolution? Can we relate Indian sociology to Indian society?

II We may like to look at these questions while presenting the main contributions of G. S. Ghurye, Radhakamal Mukerjee, D. P. Mukerji and M. N. Srinivas. The four ‘giants’ have shaped Indian sociology from 1920s onwards up to early 1980s. M. N. Srinivas was placed in this category somewhat late. He was a student of G. S. Ghurye at the University of Bombay (now Mumbai). Srinivas was the founder of the Department of Sociology at Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, and prior to this, he was at the M.S. University, Baroda, from 1951–59. Radhakamal Mukerjee and D. P. Mukerji were at the Lucknow University. Caste, family, religion, values, village, working class, social tensions, culture and social change are the main themes in the writings of Radhakamal Mukerjee, G. S. Ghurye, D. P. Mukerji and M. N. Srinivas. However, during the last four decades, studies and analyses of state and society, green revolution, professions, social movements, civil society, modernisation, globalisation, market, middle classes, weaker sections, gender, and so on, have become more pronounced. The list of themes is quite

Prelims Vol X.indd 20

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Introduction

xxi

comprehensive. Undoubtedly, the contribution of Radhakamal Mukerjee is immense in laying the foundation of Indian sociology by advocacy of the philosophical–sociological orientation. Ghurye is known for a wide range of studies by using comparative historical approach. Considerably different from Mukerjee and Ghurye was D. P. Mukerji’s approach to tradition and community, who practised Marxist approach with the dialectical and adaptive nature of Indian tradition. M. N. Srinivas was generally seen as a champion of British functionalism to the study of village, religion and caste in India. No doubt, for a long time, Radhakamal Mukerjee, G. S. Ghurye and D. P. Mukerji have been seen as founding fathers of Indian sociology, and now M. N. Srinivas has also been clubbed with the trio as it is evident from several articles published in Sociological Bulletin on Srinivasian Sociology. It would be unfair to limit Indian sociology to this group of Four (3+1), as contributions of several students of Mukerjee, Ghurye, Mukerji and Srinivas, who have been eminent scholars as well, cannot be undermined in reshaping of Indian sociology. These include Iravati Karve, K. M. Kapadia, I. P. Desai, A. R. Desai, V. S. D’Souza, M. S. A. Rao, and so on, who were students of Ghurye. Besides Radhakamal Mukerjee and D. P. Mukerji, D. N. Majumdar, A. K. Saran, T. N. Madan, P. C. Joshi, Yogendra Singh, Indra Deva and some others, who were associated with the Lucknow University, have significantly contributed to the development of sociology in India. Two students of M. N. Srinivas, namely, A. M. Shah and André Béteille have carried forward Srinivasian legacy and have also added new dimensions to Indian sociology in terms of theoretical and methodological orientations. Let us mention here that contribution of Louis Dumont has been immense in reshaping of Indian sociology by publishing the journal Contributions to Indian Sociology (old series), from 1957 to 1966 (for 10 years). The pages of this journal (both old and new series) are clearly a shadow of Dumont’s view on caste in particular, and on Indian society in general. Caste as an ideational system, in terms of the pure and the impure (structuralism) occupies a centre stage in Contributions to Indian Sociology. The debate on Indian sociology has also been outside the portals of the universities of Mumbai, Lucknow and Delhi. Ramkrishna Mukherjee (1977: 1–193; 1979), R. N. Saxena (1961; 1967: 125–39), Yogendra Singh (1967; 1973; 1979a; 1979b), André Béteille (2003; 2006), Veena Das (1993: 1159–61) and many others have placed great emphasis on analytic rigour, reconceptualisation and theoretical interpretation. For example, Yogendra Singh has periodised Indian sociology into five phases from 1952 to 1977. Similarly, later on, based on the available empirical, analytical and historical studies, four approaches have been worked out by Singh (1986), such as

Prelims Vol X.indd 21

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

xxii

Ishwar Modi

(i) Structural–functionalist, (ii) Structuralist, (iii) Structural–historical and (iv) Historical–materialist or Marxist. Besides, the Universities of Lucknow, Mumbai and Delhi, contributions, in shaping and reshaping of Indian sociology, have been made at Poona University, Punjab University, Chandigarh, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and at some other universities. Studies and researches by S. L. Sharma, T. K. Oommen, Partha Nath Mukherjee, K. L. Sharma, Dipankar Gupta, D. N. Dhanagare and several others on specific sociologies, movements, civil society, inequality, ethnicity, modernisation and globalisation, and so on, have expanded the horizon of sociology by incorporation of such areas of changing social reality (Singh 1986). Can we say that relevant questions have been asked in the writings of Mukerjee, Ghurye, Mukerji and Srinivas? Have the questions that have not been raised in their works been asked in the later writings? Obviously, these perennial questions are related to the nature of theoretical frameworks, conceptualisations, methodological devices and use of data (both primary and secondary). ‘Questions regarding the philosophical and ontological foundations of theory and method of study have remained quite vague’ (Surendra Sharma 1985: 9). Radhakamal Mukerjee maintained that both the Western social science model and the Marxist framework were inadequate for understanding of Indian social reality. Mukerjee advocated for a general theory of relativity combining the particularistic as well as the universalistic criteria. G. S. Ghurye combined diffusionist perspective with indological orientation. D. P. Mukerji preferred adaptation of Marxist perspective to the understanding of dialectics of Indian tradition. Quite different was the perspective of M. N. Srinivas as he practised largely the British anthropological tradition of functionalism (ibid.). Louis Dumont and D. F. Pocock created a stir debunking the studies of village, kinship, nationalism and orientalism, undertaken by M. N. Srinivas, Iravati Karve, A. R. Desai and A. K. Saran, respectively (1957; 1958). Besides Louis Dumont’s perspective on caste and marriage, studies of local history, folk culture, social mobility, agrarian relations, peasant movements, rural–urban relations, caste–class nexus, using the idealist, the positivist and the Marxist traditions signify the early years after India’s independence. The canvas of sociology has been quite vast even during the heydays of the four pillars of Indian sociology. As Dumont strongly underrated the writings of the big four, so was done by F. G. Bailey (1959: 88–101), rejecting Dumont’s structuralist perspective on India’s caste system, characterised by the ideology of ‘pure’ and ‘impure’.

Prelims Vol X.indd 22

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Introduction

xxiii

Surendra Sharma (1985: 34–38) observes, ‘The early phase of Indian sociology was clearly led by G.S. Ghurye on the one hand, and Radhakamal Mukerjee on the other.’ Ghurye had no clear theoretical perspective and methodological orientation, but he was influenced by the British diffusionism due to his association with W. H. R. Rivers. Ghurye’s interest in indology speaks of his ‘ontological orientation’ and ‘philosophical anthropology’. Radhakamal Mukerjee was on a different plane. He talked of universal categories and concepts. He believed that sociology could be a universal social science, having relations with natural and other social sciences. For him, social science was at a meta-scientific and meta-anthropological level. As mentioned earlier, D. P. Mukerji preferred historical– dialectical mode of sociological analysis rather than empirical–positivistic method and orientation. He was not for atomism and modern methods of research. Mukerji was for an Indianised version of the Marxian approach. M. N. Srinivas was for studies on caste, kinship, family and village community, and he clearly was influenced by social anthropological tradition represented by A. R. Radcliffe-Brown (ibid.: 43–45).

III Besides a couple of books and articles on sociology in India, the main works are (i) Sociology for India (Unnithan et al. 1967), (ii) Sociology in India (Gupta 1972), (iii) Sociology of Indian Sociology (Mukherjee 1979), (iv) Sociology in India (Sharma 1985) and (v) Indian Sociology (Singh 1986). There are a couple of articles on sociology as found at the Universities of Lucknow and Mumbai, and at JNU, Delhi University and some other universities and institutions. Of all these, Ramkrishna Mukherjee (1977; 1979) and Yogendra Singh (1967; 1986) have provided theoretical frameworks with a view to work out a ‘fit’ between conceptual analyses and empirical studies. Both Mukherjee and Singh have thrown light on the contributions of Radhakamal Mukerjee, G. S. Ghurye, D. P. Mukerji and M. N. Srinivas. Yogendra Singh (1967: 21) observes, ‘if we look at the contemporary sociological literature in India from the point of theoretical orientation it may be classified into five major types: (i) the comparative historical approach, (ii) philosophico-sociological approach, (iii) logico-philosophical approach, (iv) structural–functional approach and (v) statistical–positivistic approach. This paradigm, which Singh evolved in the 1960s, he slightly reformulated in the 1980s, keeping in view the studies and analyses conducted in the 1970s and 1980s (Singh 1986). The changed five-fold typology comprises

Prelims Vol X.indd 23

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

xxiv

Ishwar Modi

(i) structuralism, (ii) ethnosociology, (iii) structural-historicism, (iv) Marxism and (v) dimensional (ibid.: xii). Obviously, Singh realised that social conditions had changed in the 1970s and 1980s, hence the change of the earlier theoretical constructs. Yogendra Singh (1986: xiv) writes about his analysis of Indian sociology as follows: ‘The present work endeavours to analyse these developments in Indian sociology in the context of changing historical and social conditions which have influenced the epistemic orientations and substantive concerns of Indian sociology.’ Yogendra Singh (ibid.: 7), while analysing the Indian sociology of the heydays of the ‘pioneers’ of Indian sociology, writes: The social conditioning of Indian sociology at this stage is reflected in the cross-mirroring of images of nationalist ideology on the one hand and on the other are the demands for methodology, logic and systematic pedagogy in sociology as a distinct cognitive concern. It is reflected in the social background of most sociologists of this period who came from renaissant middle class urban gentry; most were educated in European, particularly British Universities, and had inherited in their consciousness both a substantial package of Western philosophy of science, liberalism and humanism (both Marxist and non-Marxist) and the deeper concern with issues of national identity, freedom from colonial rule and establishment of a culturally, economically and politically independent Indian society.

The question of ‘relevance’ was also raised in terms of the pedagogic content of sociology and methods of research. Ramkrishna Mukherjee (1979) calls this phase as that of the ‘modernisers’ of Indian sociology. It was a period in Indian sociology characterised by a ‘mix’ of the Indian social reality and of the world of sociology in the West. However, in the 1980s, Indian sociology looked for ‘relevance’ and ‘indigenisation’ of paradigms, and therefore, one could see a dwindling of the Western influence on Indian sociology. In the 1990s and in the first decade of the 21st century, Indian sociology has revolved around the Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation paradigm (LPG), Public–Private Partnership (PPP), and to some specific concerns, related to women, Dalits, new middle class, diaspora, consumerism, social mobility and state.

IV In all, 16 papers have been included in this volume, four on G. S. Ghurye, four on Radhakamal Mukerjee, three on D. P. Mukerji and five on M. N. Srinivas. As mentioned earlier, till now only G. S. Ghurye,

Prelims Vol X.indd 24

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Introduction

xxv

Radhakamal Mukerjee and D. P. Mukerji were considered as ‘pioneers’ of Indian sociology. I have added M. N. Srinivas with this trinity. During the lifetimes of the four, some of their contemporaries like Iravati Karve, I. P. Desai, M. S. Gore, A. R. Desai, Ramkrishna Mukherjee, V. S. D’Souza, M.  S. A. Rao and many others contributed considerably to the development of sociology in India. Notable contributions have also been made by Yogendra Singh, A. M. Shah, André Béteille, D. N. Dhanagare, S. L. Sharma, T. K. Oommen, Dipankar Gupta, Veena Das, K. L. Sharma and many others by their studies on social stratification, caste, social mobility, professions, social movements and so on. Contributions of several scholars of the generations after the above have been considerable in making and remaking of Indian sociology in present times. On G. S. Ghurye, we have included papers by Swapan Kumar Pramanick, C. N. Venugopal, Carol Upadhya and T. K. Oommen. Swapan Kumar Pramanick (1982: 24–40) highlights on the place of history and indology, diffusionism, and civilisational approach as basic features of Ghurye’s sociology. The range of Ghurye’s writings is so vast that it encompasses art, literature, language, history, religion, caste, race, tribe, marriage—in fact, the whole of civilisation and culture (Pramanick 1994). Ghurye was not for drawing a distinction between sociology and social anthropology. M. N. Srinivas (2002: 623–40) and André Béteille (1974: 2–17) too have expressed the view that such a distinction between the two disciplines is superfluous and redundant. W. H. R. Rivers was a role model for Ghurye, particularly with regard to his diffusionist approach (Pramanick 1994, op. cit.). Ghurye’s impact could be seen on most of his students, who also became distinguished scholars, despite his obstinacy in interpersonal relations on the one hand, and catholicity in supervision of research on the other. Pramanick writes, ‘Ghurye was not a functionalist. Marxism did not have any influence on him either. The Parsonian theory of social action appeared to him to be a pure obstruction. And perhaps Max Weber did not figure on his cognitive canvas’ (1982, op. cit.: 30). Ghurye looked at Rivers with reverence and for others he had even disregard and contempt. Evolutionism and not functionalism was the broad framework for Ghurye. Hinduism and Brahmanical ideas and values contributed to the unification process in India as believed by Ghurye. Some critics have called Ghurye a staunch Chitpawan Brahman, pleading for Brahmanic orthodoxy. Ghurye has failed, according to some critics, to take note of ground reality in India. His reliance on Brahmanic/indological Sanskritic sources has led him to advocate a narrow view of Indian society and culture as he has ignored the non-Brahmanic orientations and actions.

Prelims Vol X.indd 25

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

xxvi

Ishwar Modi

Ghurye was interested in the study of culture and nation-building, particularly from the viewpoint of sociology of knowledge. C. N. Venugopal in his paper (1993: 1–13), included in this volume, states that Ghurye had interest in the systems of knowledge developed by Aristotle, Bacon and Comte. Ghurye discussed the Indian systems of knowledge descriptively without going into epistemological or analytical quest. Venugopal opines that Ghurye’s writings can be placed within the sociology of knowledge for two reasons: (i) he viewed the growth of knowledge in India in relation to contingent (historical and cultural) factors, and (ii) he used the plural sources of knowledge (sacred texts, historical documents, folk beliefs and practices, etc.). Ghurye’s writings also reveal his nationalistic sentiments. As we know, he has vastly written on caste and ethnicity, Indian unity, values and systems of knowledge. Venugopal has picked up these three themes in particular. Ghurye was convinced of the usefulness of caste in previous times, but he was upset over the proliferation of caste-sponsored associations. He believed in pluralism, but was against the process of cultural disintegration which had set in after independence. Ghurye did not treat caste and tribe as separate categories as he regarded the tribals as ‘backward Hindus’. Supremacy of Hindus over other social groups is evident in Ghurye’s writings on caste and ethnicity. His view on social tensions in the postindependent India also holds Muslims responsible more than Hindus. Ghurye was a great champion of Sanskrit language, and he himself was well versed in Sanskrit and used immensely the Sanskritic sources in his studies and analyses. Non-Hindu people and sources were left out in his writings. Basing all his writings on Hindu classical–indological sources, Ghurye clearly shows his tilt towards a ‘Hindu sociology’. Glorification of Indian Vidyas, Gurukulas, learning, and so on, were close to his heart and mind. Venugopal observes Ghurye’s view as nostalgia for the classical Hindu polity. The paper ‘Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye’ by Carol Upadhya (2002: 27–56) takes forward Ghurye’s view on Indian sociology rather critically as compared to the one formulated by C. N. Venugopal. Carol Upadhya argues that Ghurye has used the Orientalist rendering of Indian history and society on the one hand, and the cultural nationalism on the other. Thus, Ghurye accepts and rejects colonial interpretations at the same time, but leans heavily towards a particular understanding of Indian civilisation and culture. This leads to a narrow Hindu/Brahmanical nationalist ideology. Upadhya observes that as such, Ghurye’s view does not imply political and economic emancipation, because of his narrow understanding of cultural unity and nation-building.

Prelims Vol X.indd 26

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Introduction

xxvii

Keeping this in view, Carol Upadhya centres her discussion on Ghurye around (i) British Orientalism, (ii) nationalism and (iii) diffusionism. By constructing a vivid academic biography of Ghurye, Carol emphasises that Ghurye appropriated colonial constructions of Indian society and history and reworked them to create a nationalist sociology. He praised the antiquity and authenticity of Indian civilisation and the Indian ‘nation’. In this process, he reinterpreted the ancient texts to throw light upon contemporary society. Ghurye was against reservations, regional autonomy and so on. He saw danger to national unity in these measures. Upadhya observes that Ghurye’s thinking revolved around the idea of Hindu civilisation. He believed in rediscovering of India’s past for seeking solutions of the problems arising out of colonialism, religion, caste, language, region and so on. Carol Upadhya feels that since Ghurye was a product of his milieu, orientalistic ideas were prominent in his writings. While concluding the article, Carol Upadhya writes: Indian sociology is the product of complex interactions among diverse discourses, agents and institutions from the colonial period onwards, and of numerous processes of production, appropriation, and redeployment of knowledge for various ends. A valid critique of this history must take into account this complexity and avoid reproducing the same discourse that it purports to deconstruct (ibid.: 51).

Ghurye’s sociology needs to be seen as a part of this process of evolution of Indian sociology. Certainly Ghurye was for a particular notion of ‘Indian civilisation’ and ‘Indian culture’, which he thought had lost its vitality and had to be resurrected for restoring semblance in Indian/Hindu society. Ghurye’s sociology also implied that Indian culture was homogenising and it was hegemonic as he denied its historicity and fluidity. Hindu nationalism received a boost, at least at the cognitive level from Ghurye’s sociology. Critics of Ghurye feel that he indulged in beating dead horses, and his idea of cultural assimilation, in fact, meant submerging of the marginal groups with the bigger and dominant ones. T. K. Oommen (2011: 228–44) also endorses the views held by the earlier three scholars on Ghurye’s sociology as an incarnation of Hindu nationalism. However, Ghurye was against ‘untouchability’, and he advocated assimilation of untouchables into Hindu society, but not at the denigration of the Brahmanic hegemony. According to Oommen, Ghurye did not draw a line between ‘caste’ and tribes; and it was perhaps

Prelims Vol X.indd 27

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

xxviii

Ishwar Modi

due to Ghurye’s eagerness to assimilate tribes into Hindu-fold. Such a view implied Hinduisation of tribes, and losing their identity, autonomy and freedom. Ghurye’s ideology of supremacy of Hinduism was evident in this context. The notion of ‘nation’ as explained by Ghurye is evident in his plea for assimilation of tribes into caste system. In Oommen’s understanding, Ghurye treated state, nation and society as one entity and, as such, it is not a tenable proposition. It is generally accepted that ‘Ghurye is the only Indian sociologist, others are sociologists in India’, as remarked by D. P. Mukerji (quoted from A. R. Momin 1996: vi). Momin (ibid.: vii) observes that Ghurye came under the influence of ultra-nationalism and revivalism prevailing in early 20th century, and this has been corroborated in the four papers on Ghurye included in this volume. Momin writes, ‘The ideology of a narrow and exclusivist nationalism advocated by the Brahman elite, represented by Vishnushastri Chiplunkar, had a formative influence on Ghurye’ (ibid.: vii). His early background in the classics and his engagement with textual and scriptural sources also motivated him to follow Brahmanical model of Indian society, which was removed from the empirical reality (ibid.: vii). Endorsing the above criticism, D. N. Dhanagare (2011: 127–57) also criticises ‘personification’ of departments in India, including the department headed by Ghurye for 35 years at the University of Bombay. Ghurye advocated for understanding of social reality through the use of the Sanskritic texts. Though Ghurye was not an ‘orthodox’ or ‘obscurantist’, but he was under the influence of Rivers’s diffusionism. Not many students followed Ghurye’s sociological approach. Dhanagare finds an absence of ‘rigour’ in Ghurye’s writings. However, Ghurye ardently pursued his studies and analysed through Sanskritic texts, ignoring empirical studies and structural–functional approach, which had taken its strong roots in social sciences during the heydays of Ghurye at Bombay University.

V In a short paper, Ramkrishna Mukherjee (1989: 261–65) applauds Radhakamal Mukerjee for pioneering three approaches to social science, namely, (i) economics as a specialisation, in the realm of social science; (ii) institutional approach under the rubric of social science; and (iii) transdisciplinary perspective in social sciences. Further, Ramkrishna Mukherjee observes, ‘Mukerjee was not a Marxist, but he clearly conceived economics as dealing with the relationship among humans with respect to the

Prelims Vol X.indd 28

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Introduction

xxix

exploitation of natural resources and the consequent production and appropriation of material goods and services’ (ibid.: 261). Mukerjee examined the nexus of human relationships in the totality of life and living. Such a view held by Mukerjee was neither acceptable to the then mandarins in economics nor to that of sociology. Hence, Mukerjee became a marginal man in the realm of social science. However, empirical studies done by Mukerjee on land problem, working class, the town and village life, ecology, values, food planning, and so on, were considerably appreciated. Mukerjee’s advocacy of ‘institutional planning’ remained largely unacceptable in social science. His idea of a ‘unified’ social science did not bear the desired result. Radhakamal Mukerjee’s journey began from economics, reached to social science, and from social science to metaphysics. The last of his writings were on values, civilisation, humanism and spiritualism, and so on. This journey shows a vast canvas of Mukerjee’s scholarship. T. N. Madan, a student of Radhakamal Mukerjee, depicts vividly Mukerjee’s academic journey and his understanding of social science. According to Madan, Mukerjee advocated interdisciplinary approach in teaching of economics. Madan writes, ‘The topics treated included economic behaviorism; the anthropological and institutional perspectives on economic activity; the ‘anti-intellectualism’ of economics and the need for its humanism; the relevance of economics of biology, geography, ecology, sociology, psychoanalysis, ethics, and even physics’ (2011: 24). Thus, Mukerjee was for both institutional economics and interdisciplinary approach to social science. Mukerjee believed that anything in economics, inconsistent with human norms and values, was inappropriate or irrational. He talked of alliance of economics with other social sciences. He called upon sociology ‘to combat the tyranny of economics’ (ibid.: 26). Madan has discussed ‘social ecology’ and the ‘sociology of values’ as two distinct themes in Mukerjee’s writings. Mukerjee stressed the interplay of naturally given environment and culture, in other words, on ‘balance’ or ‘equilibrium’ in social science. As such, sociology for Mukerjee was an empirical and positive science. Two books by Mukerjee on ‘values’ and ‘morals’ (1949; 1951) convey that social values are the core of social theory. Sociology must have a central theory of norms and values as basic units in the description and explanation of social relationships and behaviour. The values, which arise from patterns of social interaction, and are also guided by value judgements, are, in fact, ‘social values’. Madan considers Mukerjee’s understanding of ‘social values’ as unparallel contribution to social science. Madan discusses about G. S. Ghurye and D. P. Mukerji as the two contemporaries of Radhakamal

Prelims Vol X.indd 29

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

xxx

Ishwar Modi

Mukerjee. We have already portrayed Ghurye’s contribution to sociology. Papers on D. P. Mukerji would be taken after presenting all the papers on Radhakamal Mukerjee. Manish K. Thakur (2012: 89–108) intends to appraise Mukerjee’s critique of Western social science approaches to the study of Indian society and culture. Thakur writes, ‘We are interested in discerning the elements of an alternative indigenous (Indian?) vision through a critical reading of his oeuvre’ (ibid.: 90). Search for ‘indigenous’ in Mukerjee’s writings is the main aim of Thakur. At Lucknow University, Mukerjee stressed for research on the nature of Indian society and culture with a view to show his concern for the national identity and cultural rootedness. Thus, Mukerjee was for an Indian alternative to the Western models of economic growth and industrialisation. His concern for the study of Indian village, land and property relations, common resources, community relations and advocacy of a holistic framework speaks of the negation of the Western concepts and approaches to the study of Indian society. Mukerjee looked at society, culture and individual as interconnected entities in Indian context. But at the same time, he also pleaded for a transnational understanding of human society. The way Mukerjee synthesised ‘institutional’ and ‘interdisciplinary’ dimensions in his understanding of Indian society and culture remains as an everlasting contribution to sociology in India. Mukerjee was against the application of positivistic–utilitarian tradition of the Western social science as it was based on certain nominalistic philosophical assumptions. P. C. Joshi (1986a: 1–27) proudly refers to the department of Economics and Sociology at the Lucknow University as ‘Lucknow School’. Both Radhakamal Mukerjee and D. P. Mukerji voiced their views on the neglect of sociology, political science, psychology, and so on, by the planners in India. Radhakamal Mukerjee felt that planners and economists cannot build up a new social and economic order by mere economic techniques, organisations, laws and ordinance. D. P. Mukerji toed a different line of thinking than that of Radhakamal Mukerjee, but he endorsed such a view on planning, as propounded by Radhakamal Mukerjee. He referred modern economists as ‘indifferent’ and ‘dehumanised’ scholars. Radhakamal Mukerjee and other founders of the Lucknow School were creative both in the field of literature and social science, and expressed social vision and a sense of social reality (Joshi op. cit.: 7). Joshi also presents a canvas of Radhakamal’s academic journey, beginning from 1910 when he started as a college lecturer at Behrampur in Bengal. Like T. N. Madan, Joshi also describes the academic and co-academic achievements of Radhakamal Mukerjee. Joshi was a student at the Lucknow School during the same time.

Prelims Vol X.indd 30

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Introduction

xxxi

Joshi (op. cit.: 26–27) concludes that ‘the Lucknow School represents a highly creative phase in the evolution of modern social and economic thought in India (or in modern India)’. Quoting A. K. Saran (1958: 1013–34), Joshi writes: This School (Lucknow) represented an intellectual response to the major issues thrown up by the Western impact on India which assured the form of India’s colonial subjection including her mental and spiritual subjection. This impact raised the life and death question of India’s national identity and her cultural personality. (Joshi, op. cit.: 26)

Radhakamal Mukerjee was not simply a professional social scientist; he was immensely concerned with the quality of social consciousness of the people under colonial rule. T. N. Madan (2013) and P. C. Joshi (op. cit.: 1–27), who are also alumni of the Department of Economics and Sociology of Lucknow University, have generally written on the Lucknow School. Earlier, Radhakamal Mukerjee and D. P. Mukerji were considered as founding fathers along with G. S. Ghurye. Madan (op. cit.: 2013) has added D. N. Majumdar and A. K. Saran to the ‘Lucknow School’. It is surprising that in a recent volume, Sujata Patel (2011) has included only one article on the Lucknow Sociology (Hegde 2013: 47–71).

VI D. P. Mukerji was a towering scholar, creative writer in Bengali, and ideologue, who distinguished himself also as an enchanting teacher and discussant. D. P. Mukerji (1958) pleaded for indigenisation of Marxian concepts, method and basic assumptions for the study of the dialectics of Indian tradition. Yogendra Singh (1986: 12) considers such an attempt as ‘particularistic’. However, D. P. Mukerji claimed that he had accepted the ‘synthesis’ of the social sciences (1958: viii). T. N. Madan (2013: 145–224) discusses five themes from D. P. Mukerji’s writings, namely, (i) caste and class, (ii) equality and personality, (iii) independent India: The immediate problem, (iv) The intellectuals in India and (v) Indian Tradition and social change. T. N. Madan (1994: 133–42), paying a centenary tribute to D. P. Mukerji, portrays his personal and academic trajectory. Madan states that D. P. Mukerji ‘took a broadly Marxist view of religion as an epiphenomenon, but castigated Indian textbook Marxists for their failure to examine closely the reasons why religion was the social force that it apparently was

Prelims Vol X.indd 31

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

xxxii

Ishwar Modi

in India’ (ibid.: 145). According to Madan, D. P. Mukerji had triple loyalty: (i) Brahmanical intellectualism, (ii) Liberal humanism and (iii) Marxist praxis. Mukerji could not adjust the three easily. He wrote to A. K. Saran once: ‘My life has been a series of reluctances’ (quoted from Madan 1994: 135). Madan notes two things most important for D. P. Mukerji. These are (i) discovering the sources and potentialities of social reality in the dialectic tradition and modernity, and (ii) developing an integrated personality through the pursuit of knowledge. He felt that Indian sociologists suffered from a lack of interest in history and philosophy and in the dynamism and meaningfulness of social life (ibid.: 135). The next paper on D. P. Mukerji is also by T. N. Madan (1977: 155–77), though written much before the first one. Madan, while endorsing D. P. Mukerji’s view on tradition and modernity, observes that polarity between the two is becoming quite outdated. However, the quest for modernisation would always be there. D. P. Mukerji was for a genuine modernisation. ‘He took up the position that the abstract individual should not be the focus of social science theories, and pleaded for a holistic, psycho-sociological approach’ (ibid.: 157). Mukerji was interested to know a view of knowledge and of the knower. Knowledge was not mere ‘matter-of-factness’; it was philosophic. There was no economics, without being rooted in concrete social reality, and cultural specificity. Both history and rationalism were basic to Mukerji’s understanding of social reality. The other point was the element of ‘purpose’ in the life of human beings as stressed by Mukerji. Development was not growth but it was the broader process of the unfolding of potentialities. Progress was a problem of balancing of values. In fact, D. P. Mukerji always thought philosophically for whole human society, in terms of peace, welfare and unity. Like Radhakamal Mukerjee, D. P. Mukerji was also an advocate of ‘synthesis’ for understanding of human society. He was against narrow empiricism and shallow scientific method. He was interested in the study of Indian culture and India’s middle class. He was a Marxist, but differed from Marx on his views about India and Indian history and culture. The third paper included in this volume on D. P. Mukerji is by Dalia Chakrabarti (2010: 235–55). Chakrabarti discusses Mukerji’s understanding of ‘middle class’ in India. P. C. Joshi (1986b: 1467) also identified the role of middle class in the understanding of the modern Indian culture by Mukerji. The dichotomy of ‘personal’ and ‘public’ was seen by Mukerji in terms of the distinction, that he drew between Vyaktis (individuals) and Purushas (persons). He was looking for persons or citizens for modern India. It was needed to have a synthesis of the twin process of individualisation and

Prelims Vol X.indd 32

2013-11-27 3:52:49 PM

Introduction

xxxiii

socialisation of uniqueness of individual life as mentioned by Chakrabarti about Mukerji’s view on modern Indian culture. Dalia Chakrabarti observes, ‘He (D.P. Mukerji) perceived sociology in India as a comprehensive, truthful, life-centered, and integrated knowledge capable of playing a critical and reconstructive role under the leadership of traditionally anchored and adequately modernized middle-class intelligentsia (op. cit.: 236)’. Understanding of Indian tradition, which D. P. Mukerji considered a social and historical process, was a core of his contribution to Indian sociology. He considered Indian tradition ever-changing and resilient, and it was not devoid of the material conditions of life. D. P. Mukerji looked for the very basis of the Indian social economy. Colonialism created two classes: (i) the landlords, and (ii) the literati (the new middle class). The two were alienated from the language and culture of the people. Mukerji considered these two classes as ‘spurious’, being rootless. Such a middle class would not do good to Indian society and state. English education, culture, politics and economy produced spurious middle class in India. Such a middle class could not modernise India, retaining its resilient tradition and culture. While commenting on ‘nationalist movement’, D. P. Mukerji observed that the nationalists belonged to the middle class, and their family structure remained feudal, patriarchal and caste-oriented. The pace of social change was slow. Role of tradition and middle class was also there in the social movement in the beginning of the 20th century. Mukerji had drawn concepts and practices from Indian culture and tradition to show its relevance for understanding of modern India. Dalia Chakrabarti has brought all these points with precision and wisdom in her paper. T. N. Madan writes, ‘D.P. was an agnostic, and dialectical materialism and the historically situated human agent were the source of the dynamics of human history. He resisted being labeled as a Marxist, conceding no more than being “Marxologist”’ (2011: 31). A. K. Saran (1962: 162) did not approve of Mukerji’s ‘socialist stance’ as he considered it antithetical to the development of personality. Dalia Chakrabarti has also reflected on some recent writings of India’s middle class in her paper.

VII Now, we add M. N. Srinivas to the trinity of founding fathers of Indian sociology. In the post-trinity period, M. N. Srinivas influenced Indian sociology immensely, particularly from 1959 onwards till his death in 1999. Srinivas

Prelims Vol X.indd 33

2013-11-27 3:52:50 PM

xxxiv

Ishwar Modi

did one Ph.D. under the supervision of G. S. Ghurye, and the other under the guidance of Radcliffe-Brown and Evans-Pritchard in England. We have included five articles in this section, of which one is a ‘Review Article’ and other is a ‘Discussion’ on Srinivas’s contribution to Indian sociology, by Sujata Patel and A. M. Shah, respectively. The other three papers are by T. N. Madan, T. K. Oommen and Ananta Kumar Giri. Sujata Patel’s Review Article (2005: 101–11) is based on M. N. Srinivas’s Collected Essays, published posthumously (2002). Patel writes: It is no wonder that his (Srinivas’s) ideas, concepts and theories on Indian society have found concurrence among his contemporaries and also came to have popular acceptance. Generations of students have understood and still continue to understand and assess the nature of Indian society through his perceptions (Patel 2005: 101).

Patel mentions that for Srinivas, sociology in India is and should be social anthropology. Patel says, ‘This is not so as we know’ (ibid: 102). In Srinivas, there is no theory of ‘modernity’; there is a little concern for reflexivity in Srinivas; and link between the ‘pre-modern’ and the ‘modern’ is also missing in Srinivas. Patel observes: In Srinivas, we do not have a two-stage model of structural transformation from pre-modern to modern. Rather, Srinivas discusses only one structure, that of the caste system which seems to encompass both stages. Secondly, in his work we do not have a theory of modernity. Instead, we have a theory of social change based on mobility of groups in society, perceived in terms of the two processes of sanskritization and westernisation (ibid.: 103).

Patel says that Srinivas collapses sociology into social anthropology, and thus shows his preference for the latter. Srinivas’s student André Béteille (1974) is immensely inclined to toe the line set by his teacher. However, Srinivas discusses the caste system and many other aspects of Indian society vis-à-vis the process of modernisation, including the contemporary political process. What is caste? What is village? What is there pre-modern and modern in regard to caste and village? It seems that there is no much conceptual clarity in Srinivas on these questions. Srinivas describes ‘caste’ and ‘intercaste relations’ in the context of ‘his village’ with the gestalt of British functionalism. Sujata Patel briefly hints at these questions and has left out certain key issues and points in Srinivasian sociology/social anthropology of caste, village, religion and social mobility (Sanskritisation and Westernisation). Srinivas

Prelims Vol X.indd 34

2013-11-27 3:52:50 PM

Introduction

xxxv

has presented a simple model of social change, without clearly defining the role of economy, polity (state), ideology and social movements. T. N. Madan (2006: 215–36) makes some important observations on M. N. Srinivas’s understanding of Hinduism on the occasion of the first memorial lecture delivered in January 2001, at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bangalore. The notion of ‘Sanskritisation’, in terms of social mobility within the framework of ‘caste’ and ‘Hinduism’, as formulated by Srinivas, has created a huge impact on Indian sociology. Srinivas practised ‘field view’ as his tool of study. His understanding of caste and religion is based on the observations made in Rampura, a Mysore village. Impact of British functionalism is evident in the field materials reported by him in many of his writings (Srinivas 1952; 1976). In this memorial lecture, T. N. Madan compares and contrasts M. N. Srinivas and Max Weber. The conclusions drawn by Weber and Srinivas regarding caste and Hinduism are somewhat similar. The main difference is that Weber has a ‘book view’ of Hinduism, whereas Srinivas has followed a ‘field view’ to understand caste and religion. Weber was alien to Indian society, whereas Srinivas studied his own society. Madan writes, ‘The similarity between Weber’s and Srinivas’s views is so striking that it is puzzling that not much attention has been paid to it. Srinivas himself never mentions it in his published work’ (op. cit.: 227). Further, Madan writes, ‘The only reference to Weber in Srinivas’s writings that I know of is to the argument about the lack of appropriate ideological resources in Hinduism for the endogenous development of capitalism’ (ibid.: 227). According to Madan, it is a very short comment on Weber, criticizing him for a partial view of Hinduism. Srinivas did not criticise Weber for identifying a few elements of ‘rational ethic’ in Hinduism. Madan (ibid.: 229), while offering concluding remarks, observers: Reading ‘backwards’ from Srinivas to Weber is not a retreat from fieldwork and personally observed microcosm to the textually described macrocosm, from the concreteness of rituals to the obstructions of beliefs. It is rather the establishment of balance between the two perspectives, a fusion of horizons.

Such a reconciliation of the two views does not satisfy A. M. Shah (2007: 126–35). Shah has always made sharp reactions on the criticisms of M. N. Srinivas’s writings. Shah has cited a couple of examples when Srinivas made references about Max Weber (1958; 1973a; 1973b). Shah says that Srinivas was also not merely a structural-functionist as alleged by Dipankar Gupta (2005: 1–19). Srinivas was for a broad vision of comparative sociology

Prelims Vol X.indd 35

2013-11-27 3:52:50 PM

xxxvi

Ishwar Modi

(Shah, op. cit.: 130), which included sociology, social anthropology, structural-functionalism and Weberian approach, and so on. The next paper is also a Srinivas Memorial Lecture, by T. K. Oommen (2008: 60–81). The theme is: Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept: An Appraisal of M.N. Srinivas. Oommen describes academic journey of Srinivas in the first few pages like most other writers on Srinivas. Oommen is, however, not kind to Srinivas. He questions Srinivas’s selection of Rampura village in Mysore for pragmatic reasons. Srinivas, as seen by Oommen, is ambivalent about the idea of ‘typical villages’ and that of selection of a village on pragmatic considerations. Oommen writes: ‘I want to underline here a serious disjunction which exists between “field” and “method”. Rampura was a part of his (Srinivas’s) society which he studied with participant ‘observation’ as a method of study. On the other hand, his book Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India (1952) is not the product of participant observation (Oommen op. cit.: 64). Oommen (op. cit.: 65) also observes: ‘In fact, the advocacy of “field-view” as against the “book-view” helped considerably to de-indologise Indian sociology, and we are indeed indebted to Srinivas for this. But field-fundamentalism is as problematic as textextremism’. Oommen feels that participant observation has no rationale to study one’s own society by the researcher. The context for its application has changed in India. Oommen is also critical of Srinivas in regard to the formation of the concept of ‘Sanskritisation’. It is a part-concept or an ad hoc concept as it cannot enlist SCs, STs, OBCs, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and even Tamils as agents of Sanskritisation. It refers to Aryan Hinduism, and it is not an Indian version of reference group behaviour as commented by Oommen. Hence, it does not promote cohesion in Indian society. It is an instrument perpetuating upper-caste hegemony; it cannot be a tool of creating consensual equilibrium. Oommen (op. cit.: 77–78) writes: Let me conclude by affirming that Srinivas did bring in a breath of fresh air into Indian Social Science and we should celebrate his life and works. At the same time, we should not hesitate to stand on his shoulders to see far ahead to recall Issac Newton’s aphorism.

For this, one needs to have clarity about the line between sociology and social anthropology, relevance of participant observation, utility of both micro and macro studies, and both qualitative and quantitative studies and analyses. The last paper is by Ananta Kumar Giri (2010: 256–77), which is ‘Discussion’ on M. N. Srinivas and Indian sociology. The title of the paper

Prelims Vol X.indd 36

2013-11-27 3:52:50 PM

Introduction

xxxvii

is ‘The Challenge of Understanding Indian Society: Critique, Generosity and Transformations’. Giri comments on T. K. Oommen (op. cit.) and on the comments of A. M. Shah (2008) and on M. V. Nadkarni’s comments (2008) on T. K. Oommen’s paper. The main points in Giri are on Oommen’s reflections on ‘methodological pluralism’, ‘methodological Hinduism’ and on the concept of ‘Sanskritisation’. Since Oommen has deliberated upon the three points, we will briefly mention here the comments of Giri on Oommen and other two commentators. After exposing Oommen’s point of view vis-à-vis the position of Srinivas on the three main points, Giri (op. cit.: 210) observes, ‘In his critique of sanskritisation, Oommen does not address the foundational problem of conflating language, religion, and society in it, rather he himself continues this conflation by offering phrases such as “Tamilisation”’. Giri says such terms hold us in ‘awe and amazement’. Oommen also fails to raise the congruence of orientalism and colonialism in shaping fields and methods of study and research. Giri refers to M. S. S. Pandian’s viewpoint (2007) that Orientalism produced Hinduism as Brahmanical, and the non-Brahman movements in Tamil Nadu accepted such a construction of Hinduism. Celebration of Dravadian Hindusim by Oommen against Sanskritic Hinduism creates a politics and language of closure of a different kind. Nadkarni (2008), as quoted by Giri, does not find legitimacy of caste hierarchy in the texts like Purusasukta. Guna and Karma are kernel features of Hindu social organisation. Giri appreciates contributions of A. M. Shah to the discipline of sociology, but says that his criticism of Oommen’s view on Srinivas is devoid of generosity.

VIII Of all the four pioneers, G. S. Ghurye and M. N. Srinivas have evoked more response and criticism due to the indological (Ghurye) and the fieldwork (Srinivas) orientations, leanings towards Hindu/Brahmanical dispositions, and for emphasis on intra-systemic changes. Radhakamal Mukerjee and D. P. Mukerji, though followed different views and approaches, showed broader concerns and spectrum of studies and research. Mukerjee pleaded for a ‘synthesis’ of ideas and viewpoints, and Mukerji was more for the application of Marxist ethos to the study of Indian society and culture. The four pioneers, placed together, created holistic perspective(s) on Indian society, culture, civilisation, economy and polity. Indian sociology

Prelims Vol X.indd 37

2013-11-27 3:52:50 PM

xxxviii

Ishwar Modi

stands today on the shoulders of these strong four pillars. Most of their students, and the students of their pupils and, in fact, all the succeeding generations owe to them and their legacies in Indian sociology.

References Bailey, F. G. 1959. ‘For a Sociology of India?’, Contributions to Indian sociology, III: 80–101. Béteille, André. 1974. Six essays in comparative sociology. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2003. ‘Newness in sociological enquiry’, in Maitrayee Chaudhary (ed.): The practice of sociology. New Delhi: Orient Longman. ———. 2005. ‘Sociology and anthropology: Their relationship in one person’s career’, in Dipankar Gupta (ed.): Anti-utopia: Essential writings of André Béteille (23–38). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2006. ‘Sociology and current affairs’, Sociological bulletin, 5 (2): 201–14. Chakrabarti, Dalia. 2010. ‘D.P. Mukerji and middle in India’, Sociological bulletin, 59 (2): 235–55. Chaudhuri, Maitrayee (ed.). 2010. Sociology in India. Jaipur: Rawat Publications. Das, Veena. 1993. ‘Sociological research in India: The state of crisis’, Economic and political weekly, 27 (23): 1159–61. Dhanagare, D. N. 2011. ‘Legacy and rigour: The Bombay School of Sociology and its impact in universities in Maharashtra’, in Sujata Patel (ed.): Doing sociology in India: Genealogies, locations and practices (127–57). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Dumont, Louis and D. F. Pocock. 1957. Contributions to Indian sociology, I. ———. 1958. Contributions to Indian sociology, II. Giri, Ananta Kumar. 2010. ‘On Srinivas and Indian sociology: The challenge of understanding Indian society: Critique, generosity, and transformations’, Sociological bulletin, 59 (2): 256–77. Gupta, Bela Dutt. 1972. Sociology in India. Calcutta: Centre For Sociological Research. Gupta, Dipankar. 2005. ‘The anti-utopian liberal: An introduction to the works of André Béteille’, in Dipankar Gupta (ed.): Anti-utopia: Essential writings of André Béteille (1–19). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Hegde, Sasheej. 2013. ‘Searching for bedrock: Contending with the Lucknow School and its legacy’, in Sujata Patel (ed.): Doing sociology in India (47–71). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Joshi, P. C. 1986a. Lucknow School of Economics and sociology and its relevance today: Some reflections, Sociological bulletin, 35 (2): 1–28. ———. 1986b. ‘Founders of the Lucknow School and their Legacy: Radhakamal Mukerjee and D.P. Mukerji: Some reflections’, Economic and political weekly, 21 (33): 1455–69. Madan, T. N. 1977. ‘Dialectic of tradition and modernity in the sociology of D.P. Mukerji’, Sociological bulletin, 26 (2): 155–78. ———. 1994. ‘D.P. Mukerji 1894–1961: A centenary tribute’, Sociological bulletin, 43 (2): 133–42. ———. 2006. ‘The sociology of Hinduism: Reading ‘backwards’ from Srinivas to Weber’, Sociological bulletin, 55 (2): 215–36.

Prelims Vol X.indd 38

2013-11-27 3:52:50 PM

Introduction

xxxix

Madan, T. N. 2011. ‘Radhakamal Mukerjee and his contemporaries: Founding fathers of sociology in India’, Sociological bulletin, 60 (1): 18–44. ——— (ed.). 2013. Sociology at the University of Lucknow: The first half century (1921–1975). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Momin, A. R (ed.). 1996. The legacy of G.S. Ghurye: A centennial Festschrift. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Mukerji, D. P. 1958. Diversities. New Delhi: Peoples Publishing House. Mukerjee, Radhakamal. 1949. The social structure of values. London: Macmillan. ———. 1951. The dynamics of morals. London: Macmillan. Mukherjee, Ramkrishna. 1977. ‘Trends in Indian sociology’, Current sociology, 35 (3). ———. 1979. Sociology of Indian sociology. Bombay: Allied Publishers. ———. 1989. ‘Radhakamal Mukerjee—A note’, Sociological bulletin, 38 (2): 261–65. Nadkarni, M. V. 2008. ‘Hinduism and Caste’, Sociological Bulletin, 57 (3): 402–04. Oommen, T. K. 2008. ‘Disjunctions between field, method and concept: An appraisal of M.N. Srinivas’, Sociological bulletin, 57 (1): 60–81. ———. 2011. ‘Scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and the nation: Situating G.S. Ghurye’, Sociological bulletin, 60 (2): 228–44. Patel, Sujata. 2005. ‘On Srinivas’s sociology’, Sociological bulletin, 54 (1): 101–11. ——— (ed.). 2011. Doing sociology in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Pramanick, S. K. 1982. ‘Historical evolutionary approach in the sociology of G.S. Ghurye’, Sociological Bulletin, 31 (1): 24–40. ———. 1994. Sociology of G.S. Ghurye. Jaipur: Rawat Publications. Saran, A. K. 1958. ‘India’, in J. S. Roucek (ed.): Contemporary sociology (122–35). New York: Philosophical Library. ———. 1962. ‘D.P. Mukerji (1894–1961)’, An Obituary, The eastern anthropologist, 15 (2):167–69. Singh, Yogendra. 1967. ‘The scope and method of sociology in India and sociology for India: The emerging perspective’, in T. K. N. Unnithan, et al. (eds.), Sociology for India. Delhi: Prentice-Hall. ———. 1973. ‘The role of social science in India: A sociology of knowledge’, Sociological bulletin, 27 (1): 14–28. ———. 1979a. ‘Constraints, contradictions and interdisciplinary orientations: The Indian context’, International social science journal, 31 (1). ———. 1979b. ‘Ideology, theory, and methods in Indian sociology’, in Stein Rokkan (ed.): Quarter century of international social science: Papers and reports on development, 1952– 1977. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Co. ———. 1986. Indian sociology: Social conditioning and emerging concerns. New Delhi: Vistar Publications. Saxena, R. N (ed.). 1961. Sociology social research and social problems in India. London: Asia Publishing House. ———. 1967. ‘Sociology in India’, in T. K. N. Unnithan et al. (eds.), Sociology for India. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall. Sharma, Surendra. 1985. Sociology in India: A perspective from sociology of knowledge. Jaipur: Rawat Publications. Shah, A. M. 2007. ‘M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber, and functionalison’, Sociological bulletin, 56 (1): 126–33.

Prelims Vol X.indd 39

2013-11-27 3:52:50 PM

xl

Ishwar Modi

Shah, A. M. 2008. ‘Violations of the norms of academic discourse’, Sociological bulletin, 57 (3): 388–404. Srinivas, M. N. 1952. Religion and society among the Coorgs of South India. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 1958. ‘A note on Mr. Goheen’s note’, in India’s Cultural Values and Economic Development, Economic development and cultural change, 7 (1): 3–6. ———. 1973a. ‘Comments on Hanna Papane’s ‘Parkistan’s new industrialists and businessmen’, and Richard Fox’s ‘Pariah capitalism and traditional Indian merchants, past and present’’, in Milton Singer (ed.): Entrepreneurship and modernization of occupational cultures in South Asia (276–86). Durham, North Carolina: Duke University. ———. 1973b. ‘Some comments on Milton Singer’s ‘Industrial leadership, the Hindu ethic and the spirit of socialism’’, in Milton Singer (ed.), Entrepreneurship and modernization of occupational cultures in South Asia (279–86). Durham, North Carolina: Duke University. ———. 1975. ‘Village studies, participant observation and social science research in India’, Economic and political weekly, 10 (33, 34 and 35): 1387–94. ———. 2002. Collected essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Thakur, Manish K. 2012. ‘Radhakamal Mukerjee and the quest for an Indian sociology’, Sociological bulletin, 61 (1): 89–108. Unnithan, T. K. N. et al. (eds.). 1967. Sociology for India. New Delhi: Prentice- Hall. Upadhya, Carol. 2012. ‘The Hindu nationalist sociology of G.S. Ghurye’, Sociological bulletin, 51 (1): 28–57. Venugopal, C. N. 1993. ‘G.S. Ghurye on culture and nation-building’, Sociological bulletin, 42 (1&2): 1–14.

Prelims Vol X.indd 40

2013-11-27 3:52:50 PM

1 Historical Evolutionary Approach in the Sociology of G.S. Ghurye Swapan Kumar Pramanick

In this paper it is proposed to discuss the following issues: (a) The place of history and Indology in G. S. Ghurye’s methodology; (b) The core of his historical-evolutionary approach as reflected in the broad acceptance of diffusionism and a tacit rejection of functionalism; and (c) Ghurye’s application of the historical evolutionary approach to the study of Indian civilization and a wide variety of social institutions.

The precise contributions Ghurye made in these areas are critically evaluated in the last section of the paper. The exercise is based partly on careful scrutiny of Ghurye’s own works as also of commentaries on him by others and partly on extensive interviews the author had with Professor Ghurye in 1979. On the occasion of the 60th birthday of Prof. Ghurye, the Economic Weekly (19th Dec. 1953) wrote, “Few are competent in this country or abroad to assess the contribution of Prof. G. S. Ghurye in the wide field which he has traversed with such conspicuous success in the 60 years of his life. . . .” The range of Ghurye’s interest is encyclopaedic. From Shakespeare to Sadhus, from art and architecture to folk-gods and goddesses, from sex and marriage to race relations—Ghurye had made his peregrination, took interest in and left his mark on, the multiple

Chapter 01.indd 1

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

2

Swapan Kumar Pramanick

aspects of what may broadly be called ‘culture’. The time span and the area which he covers in the process is equally impressive. His abiding interest is in the course of world civilization in general and in the Hindu civilization in particular. While discussing the major civilizations which have originated and operated outside India, he has covered the Mesopotamian and the Egyptian civilizations, the major branches of Indo-European civilization and also the subsequent evolution of this civilization in Europe. But Ghurye’s special point of interest is in the evolution of the Indo-Aryan civilization in India. Starting from a detailed description of Indian society as it emerges from the vedic literature, he has covered the latest trends and developments in such a civilization. While unravelling the history of this one of the oldest and yet a living civilization in the last 4000 years, Ghurye has analysed various cultural and institutional aspects like—the origin and evolution of caste, the evolution of Indo-Aryan family structure and its connections with the Indo-European family structure, the evolution of religious consciousness, of ideas of gods and goddesses, of specific institutions like asceticism, gotra, and marriage, and of the role of cities and individuals in the cultural integration process. Analyses of these diverse aspects of the evolution of Indian society and culture thus constitute the major preoccupations of Ghurye. Ghurye has been concerned not merely with the past evolution of Indian society and culture but also with the present-day social tensions and problems of Indian society. He is very much disturbed over the fact that the ‘oldest civilization of the world’ is showing signs of fissures and cracks. As early as in 1932, while analysing the operation of castes in India, Ghurye discussed the changes brought about in the institution of caste by the British rule. That was a sharp departure from the then current ethnological orientation in social and cultural anthropology. That type of discussion was not received well by the academic community. Many of his subsequent treatises may be seen as responses of a sociologist to the current ‘disturbing trends’. His second major work, The Aborigines—so-called—and their Future—was largely devoted to the problem of the integration of the tribes into the mainstream of the Hindu society. It was related to the problem of nation-building in future India (Ghurye, 1973: 109–10). In three other books, viz, Social Tensions in India. Whither India? and India Recreates Democracy, his ‘trilogy on Indian political society’, (Ghurye, 1978: VII), he has analysed with dismay the ‘fissiparous tendencies’ in modern India and the role of political

Chapter 01.indd 2

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

HISTORICAL EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH

3

leaders in grappling with the problem of national integration in this vast and complex society. The most recent of his published works, The Burning Caldron of the North-East, is yet another evidence of his interest in contemporary developments. This vast scope and depth of Ghurye’s writings have baffled many a sociologist of today. As a sociologist his path has been very unconventional indeed. The task of a sociologist, according to him, is to explore social history of the past. Very significantly, he observed to the present author, “history and sociology are almost the same. History puts its emphasis on political history and wars, while a sociologist has his focus on social history. The greatest historian of the English society, G. M. Travelyan, was a sociologist because he gave us a picture of the British society”.1 In order to know India’s social history, he relies heavily on the classical religious texts and scriptures. Ghurye was initiated in sociology through the reading of Westermarck’s History of Marriage (Ghurye, 1973: 37). His contact with Rivers, Haddon, G. E. Smith and others quite convinced him that India had much to educate the world about early social institutions and their development. So, for Ghurye, there was no question of doing sociology without the help of history and Indology. Considering this background of Ghurye, D. P. Mukerji paid him a rich tribute saying that Ghurye is the ‘only Indian sociologist today’ whilst others are ‘sociologists in India’. (Mukerji, D. P. 1954: 237). But the question is, what should be the point of departure of a sociologist in analysing Indological materials? To use the Indological materials properly and to put them in a proper perspective, a sociologist should be very precise from the methodological point of view. Otherwise, the line of distinction between sociology and Indology may get blurred as happened many times is Ghurye’s writings also. Profound knowledge of Sanskrit literature provided Ghurye’s forte. One finds an unmistakable evidence of this phenomenon in all of Ghurye’s writings. Ghurye said to the present author, “Throughout my life as a sociologist, I have always tried to use my knowledge in Sanskrit literature in all its branches to enlighten the past social history . . . I am a firm believer that whoever wants to do sociology of India in particular, must have a thorough grounding in Sanskrit literature”.2 Ghurye also firmly believed that, in the Indian setting at least there is no scope for making any distinction between sociology and social anthropology. He said to the present author, “Sociology and social anthropology should not be different. When I first read, in 1920,

Chapter 01.indd 3

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

4

Swapan Kumar Pramanick

Westermarck’s History of Human Marriage, I had come to the conclusion that sociology or the study of social institutions was dependent on what generally was social anthropology. I went to Rivers because of this conviction and it further convinced me that social anthropology is not much different from sociology and that the former’s methods and subject-matter were necessary for sociology . . . In the Indian situation one cannot make any valid distinction unless one goes into gymnastics with some concepts”.3 Ghurye is thus of the opinion that for the study of Indian society, one must combine sociological and anthropological approaches. In India, with its huge number of groups in all stages of culture there is no room for distinguishing and clearly separating social anthropology and sociology. K. P. Chattopadhyay and Ghurye, both students of Rivers and associated with the two most important universities in the formative periods of the development of sociology, did not observe any such distinction. Ghurye writes on the point, “It augurs well for India that if, in Bombay, sociology includes social anthropology, in Calcutta, social anthropology is extended to include sociology to some extent as perhaps the source of inspiration came from the same teacher”. (Ghurye, 1956: 154; Vidyarthi et al., 1980: 2). This opinion of Ghurye regarding the advisability of not making any distinction between sociology and social anthropology, has been widely accepted. With social anthropology today taking up the study of peasant communities and of complex societies and civilizations, the traditional frontier between the two disciplines has collapsed (Saksena, 1961: 33–34; Thomas, 1956: 203–25, 329–30). M. N. Srinivas is a strong supporter of this view and discusses how the two approaches were combined in the writings of Durkheim. He says, “I hope we in India will come to look upon training in social anthropology as an essential preliminary to undertaking sociological studies-to some extent this is the practice in the School of Economics and Sociology in Bombay” (Srinivas, 1952: 28–29). It may be contended that there are some broad lines of distinction between sociology and social anthropology and that in the west the two disciplines have retained their separate identities notwithstanding what we have said above. But in India, from the very beginning, the two disciplines grew in close symbiotic relationship with each other. The objective situation in India was such that there was no scope for making any such a distinction. Beteille rightly says, ‘The division of labour between sociology and social anthropology emerged in Britain or the United States

Chapter 01.indd 4

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

HISTORICAL EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH

5

under specific historical conditions, and was then transferred to other countries where conditions were different. There is no ground to believe that what appeared reasonable and appropriate under certain conditions will always appear to be so’ (Beteille, 1974: 2). He further says, ‘the distinction between Sociology and social anthropology thrives on a dichotomous view of the world . . . In India, unlike in America or Australia, the distinction between tribal and non-tribal society is vague, unclear and, in the end, arbitrary’ (Beteille, 1974: 17, also Desai, I. P., 1981: 248). It may be said that among the founders, Ghurye provided the lead in breaking the barriers between the two disciplines in India. Thus sanskritic and Indological background and anthropological orientation of sociology represent the three prominent intellectual strands in Ghurye’s writings. And all these approaches have been admirably fitted into his evolutionary framework. D. Pillai says, “One wonders what would have been the course of sociology in India if Ghurye had not been trained in anthropology and Sanskrit at the same time. He put a bold hyphen between Indology and Sociology, and stood against any segregation between social anthropology and sociology” (Pillai, 1976: 28–29). It may be contended that diffusionism constitute the broad theoretical framework of Ghurye. The key words in this respect are diffusion, acculturation and integration. The diffusionists believe that most of the culture-traits are borrowed from outside and that there is little indigenous growth. R. Linton says, “the service of diffusion in enriching the content of individual cultures has been of the utmost importance. There is probably no culture extant today which owes more than 10 per cent of its total elements to inventions made by members of its own society (Linton, 1956: 325). It is considered that the task of the social or cultural anthropologist is to delineate those traits which were thus diffused. Among the chief proponents of this theory we can mention the names of Rivers, Perry, D. E. Smith and so on. Of them, Perry went to the extreme of tracing all the cultural traits back to the Egyptian civilization. Ghurye could not support Perry’s extreme position. He said to the present author,” I do not wholeheartedly support Perry’s theory . . . but there must have been some influence of Egypt. Otherwise, how can there be exactly similar practices throughout the world? 4 Rivers was more moderate and effective. In the History of Melanesian Society, he had attempted to reconstruct history and social organization to show the lines of culture-contact and diffusion. He showed how

Chapter 01.indd 5

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

6

Swapan Kumar Pramanick

“all the chief institutions of Melanesia, its dual organization, its secret societies, totemism, its cult of the dead . . . have been the direct outcome of the interaction between different and sometimes conflicting cultures” (Rivers, 1914: 595). A number of Anthropologists, for example Boas, Wissler, Lowie, Kroeber etc. were influenced by Rivers’ method and worked it out in the case of aboriginal cultural history of America (See, Karve, 1948: 206). Some diffusionists, again, have tried to apply the theory to explain the Australian aboriginal culture. Their point is that many of the culture traits of the Australian aboriginals can be explained with reference to the Tibetan-Hindu culture of the Indian region (Koppers, 1956: 172). Similarly, Margaret Hodgen has attempted to analyse the role of diffusion in the history of English civilization from 2500 B.C. to the present century. (Hodgen, 1952: 76). Diffusionism played a very important role in the early years of social anthropology in India. Ghurye carried on his early investigation to substantiate this viewpoint. Others, like K. P. Chattopadhyay, Benoy K. Sarkar, Radha Kamal Mukerjee, D. P. Mukerji, were all influenced by this approach. (Mukherjee, Ramkrishna, 1979: 20–37). K.  P. Chattopadhyav applied Rivers’ method of historical reconstruction in some of his essays. He also subscribed to evolutionism and held that the course of evolution is from simple to complex structure, (see Vidyarthi, 1978: 320–27). Irawati Karve, who was also influenced by this approach, tried to apply it in the sphere of Hindu social organization. (Karve, 1948: 206–14). Again, a few diffusionists of the Austrian school such as Koppers, Fuchs and Ferriera attempted to understand the cultural evolution of certain tribes in India in terms of diffusion of traits, (see Vidyarthi, 1969: 89–93). One may say that social anthropology in India upto the 1940s was completely dominated by evolutionism and diffusionism with the only exception of A. Aiyappan, who was a student of Malinowski (Aiyappan, 1948: 37–49). Ghurye’s commitment to Rivers was more than verbal. It prevented him from locking beyond J Rivers even when the attack against diffusionism became more and more widespread, (see, Malinowski, 1933: 621–45). Ghurye was not a functionalist. Marxism did not have any influence on him either. The Parsonian theory of social action appeared to him to be a pure abstraction. And perhaps Max Weber did not figure on his cognitive canvas.5 Rivers’ influence on Ghurye was so overwhelming that he looked to other sociological writings of the period only with a sense of disregard and even contempt. Srinivas says, “Ghurye seemed to

Chapter 01.indd 6

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

HISTORICAL EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH

7

be completely under Rivers’ intellectual influence even during the period I knew him, 1936–44. He even defended Rivers’ espousal, along with Elliot-Smith and Perry, of the theory of the origin of important cultural phenomena such as mummification in widely separated parts of the world. His attachment to his master made him harsh towards Malinowski who had criticised Rivers’ kinship algebra” (Srinivas, 1973: 135).6 It would be wrong to say that Ghurye was not aware of the theoretical formulations of the functionalist school. But functionalism, according to Ghurye, is based on unsound premises. One cannot understand the present without reference to the past. Functionalism gave too much importance to the present and ignored the relevance of historical evolution of the present day social realities. Ghurye says, functionalism gives a wrong approach. Being an anti-diffusionist approach it fails to provide you a proper historical background. Function cannot be explained without reference to history”. Further, he says, “I have not very much cared to follow Radcliffe-Brown because he was a functionist . . . Rivers’ method combined both functional and historical perspectives. He studied institutions both in time and in space. That method also subsumes the study of institutions in an historical outline. Rivers’ theory being the safest and best I have tried to follow it. Moulded as I am in Sanskrit literature and Indian history . . . I naturally prescribed the historical-cumcomparative method as the proper method and followed it in all social studies of mine”.7 Thus Ghurye believed that Rivers was the greatest anthropologist of all time, (see, C. Levi-Strauss, 1963: 163 Fn.) But the significance of the ‘functionist revolution’ in sociology cannot be denied. A sociologist’s primary task is to understand the present day social organization and also the past only to the extent it serves this goal. Functionalism provides a theoretical formulation which corrected the exaggerated conception of history propounded by the diffusionists. In spite of its many limitations, it has certainly helped us to understand social organization and functioning in a better way. Srinivas has recorded that when he was collecting data on the Coorgs (under the guidance of Ghurye), he was acting like “a conjectural historian and a collector of discrete ethnological facts without being able to integrate them into a meaningful framework” (Srinivas, 1973: 138). Ghurye’s failure was that he refused to take serious cognizance of later theoretical developments in the field of sociology and social anthropology. Before we indict Ghurye on this count, we have to take into consideration the prevailing niche of sociology in the early twentieth

Chapter 01.indd 7

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

8

Swapan Kumar Pramanick

century. When Ghurye took up sociology, Comte, Spencer, Hobhouse, Durkheim were the accepted masters of sociology. Surely, there was a lot of distinction among them Comtean and Durkheimian lines of social analysis were poles apart. But the common feature of all of them was that they accepted a broad evolutionary framework of sociological analysis. And then the interests of sociologists were also universalistic in nature. Ghurye accepted this dominant trend of analysis. It would be wrong to say that Ghurye was not amenable to western influence. Only this much can be said that he had a different set of masters than those who came later Sociology has Subsequently grown into a more and more specialized discipline. (Desai, I. P., 1981: 197–98). Ghurye failed to keep pace with the changing time but that in his own way he contributed something definite can not be denied. In A. R. Desai’s assessment “Ghurye accepted evolutionary approach and supported it as only a broad theoretical formulation as it was a dominant orientation in Great Britain. Comte, Durkheim, Hobhouse and others were the main classical figures in the field of sociology. . . . Sociologists were concerned not only with the origin and evolution of separate institutions, but also with such macroaspects as culture, civilization, laws of history, and progress. Ghurye inherited this macro-analytical tradition and developed an evolutionary type of sociology which did not fit into any particular school. In fact, school in the contemporary sense, had not then developed. . . . Because his horizon was so vast, Ghurye did not bother about any particular theory. In fact, theory-building as a tool of explanation of social reality came into prominence at a time when Ghurye had already fixed up his mind and that is the reason why Ghurye did not tread the field of serious theoretical discussion and debates.”8 The type of sociology that was in vogue in those days was totally different from what we now have. According to I. P. Desai “single societies were studied as the part of the whole humanity via the concepts of culture and civilization. Ethnology, archaeology, linguistics and such other disciplines contributed to the identification of each society as a whole in terms of its culture and civilization and helped place it on a scale of development” (Desai, I. P. 1981: 246). The first generation sociologists were all versatiles in the different fields of human activity. Today, this very notion of sociology as a generalized discipline has been challenged. Evolutionism thus provided the broad framework for Ghurye’s sociology. The next question is, is there any central theme in Ghurye’s

Chapter 01.indd 8

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

HISTORICAL EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH

9

writings? Is there any thread which binds all the diverse writings of Ghurye and gives them a common focus? In our opinion it is possible to trace out such a common focus in Ghurye’s writings. He thinks that a grand historical process of acculturation has been going on in Indian society since the time the vedic Aryans entered the north-western regions of India. This process of acculturation has provided unity to this vast country and has helped to keep together peoples of heterogeneous racial and cultural backgrounds. Hinduism has remained at the centre of this unification process. Brahmanical ideas and values have formed its core element and in course of time, these spread to peoples who were originally vastly different from each other. In Ghurye’s opinion this ‘cultural unity’ has been maintained and consolidated with the passage of time. He calls this as the process of acculturation. It is fascinating for a sociologist to note how this process has operated Ghurye’s endeavour has been to analyse this process. As he says, “being convinced that there was an over-arching cultural unity in the Hindu population, I wanted to study what it was like. Finding that a process had been going on from the north to the south, from the east to the west, I went on thinking on it further which led me to the study of Indian society.”9 It was Herskovits who systematically applied the concept of acculturation in the realm of sociology (Herskovits, 1938). Broadly, acculturation refers to those phenomena which occur when people of different cultures come into continuous contact, resulting in subsequent changes in the original cultural patterns of either one or all of them. Acculturation, in this sense, has been in continuous operation in the Indian history. Ghurye thinks that the central values and norms of Hinduism, as cherished and upheld by the Brahmins, have provided the broad framework within which the acculturation process has occurred in India. The process has not been a smooth one. Internal Schisms have appeared, and the tremors of challenges posed by ether religions, like Buddhism, Jainism and Islam have been felt; there have been long periods of decadence in Hinduism However, through the ages, Hindu religious ideas and norms have bound together people who originally hailed from heterogeneous socio-cultural backgrounds. If one wants to understand the basis of cultural unity in India, one must keep in mind this historical process of her social and cultural evolution. Consistent with this theme, there are three aspects of Ghurye’s writings on Indian society. First, a detailed analysis of the diverse facets of Hindu culture and of the ideas of religious and Social thinkers. Second,

Chapter 01.indd 9

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

10

Swapan Kumar Pramanick

sustained analysis of the different social and religious institutions and their role in maintaining social and cultural unity. And third, the operation of this process in recent and contemporary period. The broad evolutionary theme which pervades all of Ghurye’s writings on the three aspects may be discussed here. The Indo-Aryans who entered India around 2500 B. C. linguistically and culturally had formed a part of a wider racial group known as the Indo-Europeans. The celts, the Anglo-Saxons, the Teutons, the Romans and the Iranians also originated from the same common stock. Because of their common ancestry these separate groups retained sufficient common structure and content to enable the 19th and 20th century philologists to group them together’ (Ghurye, 1969: 163). To sustain this argument Ghurye makes a bold attempt to analyse the structural and cultural affinities of the Indo-Aryans with other branches of Indo-Europeans, particularly, with the Anglo-Saxons. He shows that, in respect of caste, the division of labour into caste-like groups is a fairly common attribute of all the branches of the IndoEuropean peoples, though the peculiar condition of India gave birth to caste in its present form (Ghurye, 1969: 141–61). Even the class organization among the British people, the Anglo-Saxons, resemble caste-form, endogamy being their shared trait. (Ghurye, 1957: 269–70). Similarly, the extended family also is not something unique in India. By making a wide cross-cultural comparison Ghurye shows that “the family organization in primitive Indo-European culture was of an extended type in structure and bi-lineal in kin-affiliation. . . . The Indo-European family was, in all probability, a unit comprising four generations” (Ghurye, 1955: 39). However, the cultural affinity is most noticeable in the case of language and religion, the two important aspects of social organization. Regarding linguistic affinity, Ghurye notes, “The languages which are quite positively regarded as members of the Indo-European family of language. . . . are spread from Lithuania on the Baltic in the north to the river Godavari in the south, from Scotland in the North-West to the mouths of the river Mahanadi in the South-east and from Ireland in the west to Chinese Turkestan on the one hand and Assam on the other in the east” (Ghurye, 1979: 2). In respect of religion also, there are numerous traits which are shared in common by the Indo-Aryans and the people belonging to other groups of the Indo-European civilization (Ghurye, 1965: 1–128; 1979: 23–45). Thus, the reconstruction and analysis of the common cultural foundations of these various

Chapter 01.indd 10

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

HISTORICAL EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH

11

branches of Indo-European civilization always formed an important part of Ghurye’s intellectual concerns. Coming to the analysis of Indian cultural history, Ghurye discusses the role which the Indo-Aryans and particularly the Brahmins, the most dynamic and enterprising among them, played in maintaining the cultural unity in India. He shows that caste system as it emerged in India was a ‘Brahmanic child’ originating from the Brahmanic practice of endogamy, an institution which was intended to maintain the ‘racial purity’ of the Brahmins (Ghurye 1969: 173). He shows that gotra organization is essentially Brahmanic in origin as some of the Brahmanic institutions gave birth to it. The earlier system of family-exogamy prevalent among the Vedic Brahmins, the ‘Sapinda’ rules, the cult of the manes etc. Ghurye, 1972: 293–310) developed into the gotra-exogamy. Again, the three supreme gods in Hindu religion, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, are the creations of Brahmanic mythology. The ultimate emergence of the Pentad or the complex of five deities, viz. the sun, Shiva, Vishnu, Devi and Ganesa is the result of the ‘syncretic endeavours’ of the Brahmins (Ghurye, 1962: 1977). Finally, the leadership which the Brahmins have given in rejuvenating Hinduism in crisis periods, their role in spreading Hinduism among others—all these lead us to the conclusion that cultural unity in Hinduism, nay, in India is essentially the result of the Brahmanic endeavour. The question is, how could the Brahmins, who constitute so small a portion of population, could spread their influence and their cultural organization among others? The process is a fascinating one and Ghurye calls this as the process of acculturation. We can discuss the operation of this process with reference to the spread of caste ideals and values in India. When the Indo-Aryans came to India, there were no castes among them—there were only three well-defined status groups. Gradually the Brahmins set themselves apart from others and made a virtual monopoly of priestcraft. They included the indigenous people as Dasas or Shudras and gave them a very low status. They projected a very high image of them in society. Ultimately, the Brahmins were crystallized into castes when they prescribed endogamy for them. All these occurred when the Indo-aryans were confined to child, cradled in the land of Ganga and Yamuna and thence transferred to other parts of the country (Ghurye, 1969: 172).

Chapter 01.indd 11

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

12

Swapan Kumar Pramanick

This Brahmanic practice of endogamy was, in course of time, adopted by other social groups. It gave birth to a full-fledged caste system. And the process through which these Brahmanic ideas were accepted by others is termed as the process of accul-Hration by Ghurye. The immense prestige and social superiority of the Brahmins led other groups to imitate the Brahmanical practice of endogamy (Ghurye, 1969: 178). The same influence ex-plains the spread, of the Brahmanic gotra system and the Brahmanic gods (Ghurye, 1969: 247–48; 1962: 3; 1965: 265). It is important to note here that Ghurye claims that Srinivas’s concept of sanskritisation is nothing new and that it is subsumed within the process of acculturation noted by the former.10 In spreading these Brahmanical ideals, particularly in the South, the role of the various dynasties was very helpful (Ghurye, 1969: 244–47). In this way Ghurye shows that the Brahmanic influence acted as the nucleus of caste organization. It is not Ghurye’s contention that the indigenous groups and people did not influence the process of acculturation at all but, says he, the essential direction of this process was provided by the Brahmins. Whatever synthesis had occurred, it was controlled by the Brahmins. Thus, Ghurye is of the opinion that the Brahmins have played a central role in the framing and evolution of the various social institutions in India. Indian cultural unity has been built around the religious ideas of Hinduism. Other groups of non-Hindu population have, in course of time, accepted the dominant ideas of the Hindus and that explains why Indian society has persisted through the ages. But the question is, did the Brahmins ever enjoy such an unassailable position as assumed by Ghurye? A detailed examination of the evolution of various social institutions of the Hindus may, on the other hand, show that the beliefs and practices prevalent at the folk level, were as much important, if not more, in shaping the pluralistic character of the Hindu society, as were the ideas of the Brahmins propounded in religious scriptures. The institutions and customs of the various indigenous groups formed equally important components of the ‘cultural heritage of India.’ In fact, one can raise a basic question regarding the advisability of using the term ‘acculturation’ to denote the process indicated by Ghurye since acculturation is basically a two-way process. But, the process discussed by Ghurye implies that there has only been a percolation of Brahmanical ideas and values to the rest. Thus, cultural supremacy of

Chapter 01.indd 12

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

HISTORICAL EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH

13

the Indo-Aryans in general and the Brahmins in particular, is a matter of unassailable faith for Ghurye, and it is this which renders his evolutionism vulnerable. It is with this view of the nature of cultural unity in India that Ghurye enters into the discussion of modern Indian society to him, religion has provided the basis of social unity in India. Though Ghurye has identified the major problems or tensions in modern India in a correct manner his diagnosis and suggestion are not quite convincing and lack sociological depth. Religion provides only a fragile basis for national integration (Desai, A. R., 1963: 57). Indian unity cannot be based on cultural homogeneity. It is a problem of managing the complexities of a multi-lingual, multi-caste, multi-religious and multi-layered civilization. (Singer, 1972: 251). As Srinivas says, it is true that a person may identify himself with a particular caste, village, region, state and religion. But these loyalties may represent a hierarchy of values and may not necessarily threaten Indian unity (Srinivas, 1962: 110). Ghurye fails to recognize that a qualitative change in the dynamics of Indian unity has occurred in modern India. His knowledge of India’s past, instead of helping him, has stood in the way of this realization on his part. Admitting that the past is important for the present, the question is, how much of the past is useful for this purpose? (Shah, 1974: 443). And what should be the sociologist’s method of looking at history? Failure to appreciate Ghurye properly is at least partly due to the fact that Ghurye could not solve these questions in a satisfactory manner. Nevertheless, with his deep knowledge of Hinduism, Ghurye has contributed significantly in some spheres of sociology. His writings on caste, kinship terminologies, on the social factors behind the creation of God and on the Sadhus, come immediately to our mind. In other spheres, he has unearthed huge data and this has certainly enriched the world of sociology. The present writer asked Ghurye to comment on the statement that his books are a jungle of facts. Ghurye replied calmly, “Look, the statement ‘jungle of facts’ is much preferable to a nicely planned garden of fancies . . . and any discriminate reader can turn these facts into fruit-bearing garden if he is willing to do so”.11 However, the moot question is: now far Ghurye’s commitment to evolutionary historical approach helped him, as a sociologist, to understand and explain the complexities of the present day social reality in India. The question is still open to debate.

Chapter 01.indd 13

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

14

Swapan Kumar Pramanick

Notes 1. This observation was made by Professor Ghurye in an interview with the author on 16 January 1979. 2. In another but earlier, interview on 10 January 1979 Professor Ghurye expressed these views. This is also confirmed by Saksena 1961: 23; and Narain 1957: 33. 3. Interview with Prof. Ghurye on 11 January 1979. 4. Professor Ghurye clarified his position on Perry’s extreme views in the former’s interview with the author on 10 January 1979. 5. In an interview on 12 January 1979, in fact, Ghurye confessed this to the author. 6. In this context, also see Pillai, 1976: 27. 7. Interview with Prof. Ghurye on 13 January 1979. 8. Prof. A. R. Desai expressed these views when interviewed by the author on 9 January 1979. 9. Interview with Professor Ghurye on 11 January 1979. 10. Interview with Professor Ghurye on 16 January 1979. 11. Interview with Professor Ghurye on 13 January 1979.

References Aiyappan, A. 1948 ‘Theories of Cultural Change and Culture-contact’ in Mills, J.  P.— Essays in Anthropology Maxwell & Co. Lucknow. Beteille, A. 1974 Six Essays in Comparative Sociology Oxford University Press, Delhi. Desai. A. R. 1963 ‘National Integration and Religion’ in Sociological Bulletin, 12 (1). Desai, I. P. 1981 ‘Craft of Sociology in India’ in Economic and Political Weekly, XVI (7). Ghurye, G. S. 1955 Family and Kin in Indo-European Culture, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. ——— 1956 Teaching of the Social Sciences in India unesco, Delhi. ——— 1957 Caste and Class in India, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. ——— 1962 Gods and Men, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. ——— 1965 Religious Consciousness, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. ——— 1969 Caste and Race in India, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. ——— 1972 Two Brahmanical Institutions: Gotra and Charana, Popular Prakashan. Bombay. ——— 1973 I and other Explorations, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. ——— 1977 Indian Acculturation: Agastya and Skanda, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. ——— 1978 India Recreates Democracy, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. ——— 1979 Vedic India, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. Herskovits, M. J. 1933 Acculturation: the Study of Culture—Contact, New York. Hodgen, M. T. 1952 Change and History, New York. Karve, I. 1948 ‘Some Studies in the Making of a Cultural Pattern’ in Mills, J. P. et al. (1948)—Essays in Anthropology, Maxwell & Co. Koppers, W. 1956 ‘Diffusion: Transmission and Acceptance’ in W. L. Thomas—Current Anthropology University of Chicago Press Illinois. Levi-Strauss, C. 1963 Structural Anthropology, Penguin. Linton, R. 1956 The Study of Man: An Introduction.

Chapter 01.indd 14

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

HISTORICAL EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH

15

Mukerji, D. P. 1954 ‘Social Research’ in K. M. Kapadia (ed.)—Ghurye Felicitation Volume, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. Mukherjee, Ramkrishna 1979 Sociology of Indian Sociology, Allied Publishers, Delhi. Narain, D. 1957 Hindu Character, Bombay University, Bombay. Pillai, D. 1976 Aspects of Changing India: Studies in Honour of Prof. G. S. Ghurye, Popular Prakashan, Bombay. Rivers, W. H. R. 1914 History of Melanesian Society, MacMillan, London. Saksena, R. N. 1961 Sociology, Social Research and Social Problems, Asia Publishing House. Bombay. Shah, A. M. 1974 ‘Historical Sociology’ in M.S.A. Rao (ed.)—A Surrey of Research in Sociology and Social Anthropology, ICSSR, New Delhi. Singer, M. 1972 When a Great Tradition Modernizes, Praeger Publishers, New York. Srinivas, M. N. 1952 Social Anthropology and Sociology’ in Sociological Bulletin Vol. 1, No. 1. ——— 1962 Caste in Modern India and other Essays, Allied Publishers, Bombay. ——— 1973 Itineraries of an Indian Social Anthropologist’ in International Social Science Journal, Vol. 25, Nos. 1–2, pp. 129–48. Thomas, W. L. 1956 Current Anthropology, University of Chicago Press. Vidyarthi, L. P. 1969 Conflict, Tension and Cultural Trend in India, Punthi-Pustak, Calcutta. ——— 1978 Rise of Anthropology in India, Concept Publishers, Delhi. Vidyarthi, L. P. et al. 1980 Aspects of Social Anthropology in India, Classical Publications, New Delhi.

Chapter 01.indd 15

10/19/2013 3:06:01 PM

2 G.S. Ghurye on Culture and Nation-Building C.N. Venugopal

Introduction

T

he purpose of this paper is to discuss in some detail G. S. Ghurye’s perspective on the theme of nation-building. He started his academic career as an ethnographer. He had been trained in ethnography at Cambridge University where he studied for his Ph.D. (1919–1922). After he settled down as a teacher in the Department of Sociology, School of Economics, Bombay University (in the 1920s), he wrote a number of books and papers on such diverse themes as family and kinship, urban centres and Indian tribes. He also wrote a number of descriptive works on religion and culture and on political and social tensions in post-Independent India. As a historical-Indologist Ghurye wrote on vedic India, Indian costumes, dance and architecture. His early training in Sanskrit made him predisposed to view the classical literary and religious works as an important source of values and ideals. Although Ghurye was not a political scientist, he averred that culture and polity could not be separated. Today, often the two terms ‘nation’ and ‘state’ are used interchangeably. But these terms stand for different sets of meanings. The state is an entity with formal properties; it has explicit characteristics such as a constitution and territorial sovereignty, and judicial, administrative and coercive authority. In contrast, the nation is a constellation of mainly implicit meanings and

Chapter 02.indd 16

10/19/2013 3:21:51 PM

G.S. GHURYE ON CULTURE AND NATION-BUILDING

17

subjectivist constructions. The abstruse theorist, Talcott Parsons, spoke of four core elements in the social system designated by the acronym AGIL (Adaptation, Goal Attainment, Integration and Latent Pattern Maintenance). The last named denotes an unmanifest state which is a repository of values, ideals and symbols (Mennell 1974: 152). The term ‘latent’ implies that the nation has the capacity not only to sustain itself but also achieve self-renewal in the event of crises. Ghurye’s use of cultural attainments as indicators of Indian nationalism was rooted in his perceptions which he shared with many other educated Hindus. For him, cultural output was the foundation on which the nation-state could be built in free India. Ghurye’s methodology may be broadly described as an exercise in the sociology of knowledge. In the West, the sociology of knowledge developed around the theories of Max Scheler, Karl Mannheim, George Lukacs and, in more recent times, Peter Berger, Michael Mulkay and H. Collins (Dant 1991; Mannheim 1952). In general, the sociology of knowledge rests on a critique of the positivistic epistemology which held sway over the English-speaking countries in the West. Deriving from Cartesian theory the positivists validated knowledge in terms of dichotomies, viz., true and false, subjective and objective, etic and emic. The critics of positivism pointed out that human life—in contrast to the natural world—is infinitely variable. It is characterized by reflexivity (ego’s introspection of or reflection on a cultural object), contingency (partial or complete variation due to historical and cultural factors), and collective subjectivist perceptions which modified the validation of knowledge leading to a relativist rather than an absolute certification of knowledge. In recent years relativism has been applied to the field of science as well. For instance, science is influenced by political or economic expediency and scientists are susceptible to personal influences (ethnocentricism, hostility towards new ideas, reluctance to admit error, plain jealousy, etc.). The certainty in the realm of natural science has been questioned by a noted philosopher of science, P. K. Feyerabend, who takes a relativist position (1981). Karl Mannheim wrote extensively on the neglect of culture which he described as a-theoretical reality. The richness of human culture is glossed over as intangible or non-rational by positivistic epistemology. He proposed an alternative epistemology based on the recognition of a-theoretical reality. He became a controversial figure in academic circles over his new epistemology (Walter 1967: 342–48). Combining

Chapter 02.indd 17

10/19/2013 3:21:51 PM

18

C.N. Venugopal

the  insights of the sociology of knowledge and phenomenology, Peter Berger has referred to the process in which knowledge is produced through shared objectivity or inter-subjectivity (1967: 1–87). According  to him, knowledge is able to transcend its particularistic properties through cultural objectification. He cited language as an objectified cultural product. I would like to make a few observations on the growth of knowledge in the Indian context. Unlike China where practical knowledge was emphasized, India showed a bent towards theoretical or speculative knowledge. The philosophical systems in India were diversified on account of their different approaches to the problem of validity of knowledge. Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism followed an idealistic epistemology which held empirical knowledge as false or misleading; according to it true knowledge was mystical or spiritual. Lokayata, Samkhya, Vaisesika and Mimamsa followed an empirical epistemology in varying terms which affirmed knowledge gained through nature. The Jainas followed a relativist epistemology which led to the doctrine of partial truths. Chattopadhyaya (1964: 1–27) has remarked that many Indian philosophical systems have retained magico-religious ideas which were derived from primitive sources. He has also noted that ‘ethnological ferment’ or clash of ideas led to the emergence of new systems of thought such as Buddhism. Some of the philosophical works outlining these different approaches were incorporated into the vidyas (Indian systems of knowledge); these were Vedanta (which included a number of upanishads), Mimamsa, Vaisesika and Samkhya. The members of the ruling class were given instruction in the philosophies mentioned above; in turn, royal patronage was extended to the philosophers. Some of the rulers also held debates in their court in which the relative merits of different philosophies were assessed. Competition and rivalry marked the relations among different philosophies. These developments testify to the vibrancy of Indian philosophy which existed in conjunction with the vidyas. It is perhaps relevant to mention that in India a number of rulers or members of wealthy households chose to become monks, thereby giving up their worldly comforts. Idealist philosophy imparted through the vidyas probably contributed to this kind of voluntary asceticism. Ghurye wrote a number of essays on the sociology of knowledge, some of which are included in Anthropo-Sociological Papers (1963a). He had shown interest in the systems of knowledge developed by Aristotle,

Chapter 02.indd 18

10/19/2013 3:21:51 PM

G.S. GHURYE ON CULTURE AND NATION-BUILDING

19

Bacon and Comte. He discussed the Indian systems of knowledge descriptively without going into epistemological or analytical quest. However, in my understanding, Ghurye’s writings in general—i.e., his paper on the vidyas, his works on caste, ethnicity, religion, culture and the like—can be placed within the sociology of knowledge. There are two reasons for this: (i) he viewed the growth of knowledge in India in relation to contingent (historical and cultural) factors; and (ii) he used the plural sources of knowledge (sacred texts, historical documents, folk beliefs and practices, etc.) as valid grounds for his sociological descriptions. In the rest of this paper, I have drawn heavily on some of his ideas expressed in his collection of essays (ibid.). It is my view that these essays reveal his nationalistic sentiments and that he perceived culture—which is the domain of feeling, emotions and spirit—through a subjectivistic angle. Two of his noted contemporaries, Benoy Kumar Sarkar and Nirmal Kumar Bose, seemed to share with him the nationalistic approach to the study of society in India.

Caste and Ethnicity Although Ghurye did not theorize on caste, he was interested in the description of caste in its various aspects. He meticulously presented data on the evolution of Indian castes and the processes of fission and fusion which characterized castes through the centuries. One of his main assumptions was that in the diachronic sense the caste system provided an integrative framework for the numerous ethnic groups which inhabited India. Derived from the caste system were two institutional units: gotra and charana which were more specific aggregates of people. Of these two, gotra was not confined to one caste, as people of many castes could claim descent from the same eponymous rishi. While Ghurye was convinced of the usefulness of caste in previous times he was upset over the proliferation of caste-sponsored associations. In his book, Caste and Race in India, he referred to the anti-Brahmin ferment which made a far-reaching impact on the Backward Class Movement in India (1969: 355–403). Further, Ghurye stated that India in the post-Independent phase was heading towards a kind of pluralism1 reminiscent of J.S. Furnivalls analysis of Burma and Indonesia (ibid.: 404–60). This pluralism had set in motion an aggressive competition among the castes for securing a larger share of the national pie.2

Chapter 02.indd 19

10/19/2013 3:21:51 PM

20

C.N. Venugopal

Fragmentation of interests was giving a fillip to the process of cultural disintegration of India. The inter-caste rivalries and the rise of numerous caste blocks were undermining national unity. Ghurye’s ethnography of caste included both detailed and specific works. Writing on the Scheduled Tribes (1963b) in general, Ghurye referred to the process of Hinduization which was occurring in south-central India. The tribes of this region, such as the Bhils, Gonds, Mundas, Oraons and Santals, were in close interaction with Hindu society. He wrote: While sections of these tribes are properly integrated in the Hindu society, very large sections, in fact the bulk of them, are rather loosely integrated . . . only very small sections, living in the recesses of Hills and the depths of forests, have not been more than touched by Hinduism. Under the circumstances, the only proper description of these peoples is that they are the imperfectly integrated classes of Hindu society (1963b: 19).

In this region, it was not possible to treat caste and tribe as belonging to separate categories. He regarded the tribals as backward Hindus who had somehow missed assimilation into the mainstream Hindu society. He advocated a policy of assimilation of tribes into mainstream not only in economic terms but also in moral and cultural terms (Venugopal 1986: 305–14). Ghurye regretted the prevalence of certain vices such as drinking and loose sexual morals among the tribals. While he advocated a Hindu model for tribal integration, he omitted to mention the role of Christian missions in the ethical reform of tribals in this region. So far as the tribes inhabiting the north-east are concerned, Ghurye proposed a programme for their political assimilation into the national mainstream. He was not against political autonomy but desired a strong federal government at the centre which could be effective in containing tribal dissidence. He was alarmed by the intransigence of rebel groups among the tribes of the north-east. He was apprehensive that if separatism in the north-east was not curbed the political future of India would be in peril. In regard to other frontier regions like Punjab, Ghurye thought along similar lines (1977a). It may be observed here that his perspective on nationalism was wanting in two respects. First, he did not adequately appreciate the contribution of Buddhism and Jainism to cultural nationalism in India. Second, he did not document the contributions of Muslims and Christians to India’s nation-building.3 Ghurye collected vast data on social tensions in free India (1968a). In his references to communal tensions, he seemed to single out the role

Chapter 02.indd 20

10/19/2013 3:21:51 PM

G.S. GHURYE ON CULTURE AND NATION-BUILDING

21

of Muslims. It is in order to note a few relevant facts on the Muslims. Pre-conquest Islam entered India in two distant places: the northwest (Sind and Punjab) and the south-west (Kerala). This Islam was mainly of the Arabic variety and its followers lived in amity and goodwill with the local populace. In the north-west, Sufism paved the way for Hindu-Muslim interaction in religious and cultural spheres. In the south-west the Muslims built up effective trade networks linking India to the Middle East, West Asia and Africa. The frenzied or arbitrary acts of some north Indian Muslim rulers who were of Central Asian origin could be traced to their deviance from the basic tenets of Islam (Hussain 1978: 74–77). The communal tensions in the southern parts of India were less morbid than in north India in the pre-colonial era. Even in the north, prior to British rule, communalism did not take on the form of a holocaust. In sum, Indian Muslims are a heterogeneous lot, divided on ethnic, sectarian and regional lines but united only by their monotheistic faith. Ghurye resorted to a reductive approach in his assessment of social tensions. This assumes poignance in view of the fact that he was erudite and few Indians could match his intellectual acumen.

Indian Unity Ghurye showed his deep concern for the unity of India (1963a: 141–255). The two outstanding features which unified India were Brahmi script and Sanskrit language. The scripts of most Indian languages were derived from the Brahmi. Sanskrit became not only the language of sacred texts but also a medium for inter-regional contact. In this respect it provided an unbroken unity for India till the decline of Hindu polity. With the evolution of regional languages Sanskrit receded somewhat. Ghurye mentioned marriage as another unifying factor in India. Apart from its institutional role in relation to caste and kinship, it was a political instrument of much significance. He wrote: From a hoary past . . . royal families of the people of Northern India, have married into similar families from all parts of India. In their marital behaviour the royal families have demonstrated their unity from Gandhara (the NorthWest Frontier Province) and Sauvira (Northern Sindh) to Kamarupa (Assam) on the one hand and Vidharba (Berar) and Dravidadesa (Madura) on the other (1963a: 242).

Chapter 02.indd 21

10/19/2013 3:21:51 PM

22

C.N. Venugopal

He noted that these marital alliances were adversely affected following the decline of Hindu rule owing to Islamic conquest and British colonialism. Along with the marital relationship, there was the ritualistic unity provided by the asvamedha sacrifice in which a horse—as the symbol of monarchic power—wandered all over the country. These dynastic and ritualistic unities were influential in the emergence of cultural nationalism. A few inferences can be drawn on the basis of the foregoing statements made by Ghurye. In India there was no monolithic political hegemony in the proto-historical period. Marital alliances among the ruling families brought together not only bigger and smaller rulers but also cut across varna and jati lines through the practice of hypergamy.4 These alliances were mostly adapted by the rulers to contain seething political and social tensions. Besides, the sacrifice confirmed mainly the symbolic authortiy of the overlord. The monarch neither enslaved nor subordinated the ‘conquered’ rulers. According to Ghurye the evolution of India’s unity stemmed considerably from the acculturative process. The interactions between Aryans and non-Aryans, Aryans and Dravidians, and castes and tribes promoted religious and cultural efflorescence. The major deities of India—Shiva, Vishnu and Shakti—were symbols of ethnic groups which were incorporated into a single religious complex (1968b). The Aryanization of the south by Skanda (god) and Agastya (rishi)—gave a fillip to Tamil language which became an important literary vehicle (1977b). The acculturative process lost its favour after the decline of Hindu polity. Concluding his essay on Indian unity Ghurye noted that free India was facing many uncertainties. The linguistic division of states had become inevitable, but he hoped that unity could still be preserved in cultural and political terms. He wrote: To guard against the legitimate and healthy realization of linguistic separateness, miltating against the overall homogeneity of political India, there must be comparable central organization for intellectual and cultural life. . . . On the political and administrative side we can trust to our political leadership to devise appropriate techniques to see that the various groups above referred to feel at home as one political unit, leaving enough scope to manage their own affairs without interference and yet subject to such wise supervision and even guidance as may keep the centre strong and respected (1963a: 249).

A brief comment may be made here on Ghurye’s thinking on India’s unity. His scholarship notwithstanding, his view of Indian society was

Chapter 02.indd 22

10/19/2013 3:21:52 PM

G.S. GHURYE ON CULTURE AND NATION-BUILDING

23

slanted in favour of Hinduism. The nationalist Muslims who participated in India’s struggle for freedom and the many Christians who devoted their time and energy for the expansion of medical welfare and education in India were also contributing to the process of nationbuilding. Existentially, just as Hindus are internally stratified, Muslims and Christians are also divided along sectarian, linguistic and regional lines. Nevertheless, all these three groups are mentally rooted in religiocultural integrative systems of their own. Thus, Indian unity represents a unique case wherein integration has been carried on simultaneously by different groups. Ghurye fell short of his life-long ambition to arrive at a model of national integration because of his cognitive dissociation with non-Hindu cultural motifs. In free India, some pro-Hindu militant groups have upheld a model of nationalism which equates Hinduism with nationalism. This attempt made by them has ignored the truly outstanding characteristic of the Indian nation: its compositeness!

Indian Values In his treatment of values Ghurye (1963a: 256–78) mainly relied on the Hindu tradition which enjoined upon people to follow a given scheme. For instance, it was an obligation on the part of Hindus to pay debts to gods, ancestors and teachers. Emphasis was placed upon the pursuit of four ends called pumsarthas—dhanna, artha, kama and moksha5 the Hindu’s life was divided into four stages: student, householder, anchorite and renunciate. In the Indian domain of values there was an emphasis on the triads. Of the four ends the first three were regarded as more important, while among the four stages the last two, anchorite and renunciate, were practically merged into each other. He stated that the psychological, ethical and theological aspects of Indian values were expressed through triads.6 He wrote: On the mental side, the sacred lore is declared to be Trayi Vidya, that is, threefold knowledge comprised in the Rigyeda, Yajurveda and Samaveda. Then we have the three categories of mana, buddhi, ahamkara and the three qualities of sattva, rajas, tamas. On the ethical side we have self-control (dama), charity (dana) and compassion (daya). The creation of these last three values is presented in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as being the work of Prajapati, the creator, himself in relation to his pupils: gods, men and demons. Alternatively, as in the passage already quoted from the Chhandogya Upanishad, religious duty

Chapter 02.indd 23

10/19/2013 3:21:52 PM

24

C.N. Venugopal has three components or factors, namely sacrifice (yajna), study (adhyayana) and charity (dana). On the theological side, in the Vedic age we have three steps of Vishnu and, in the post-Vedic, the three mighty gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesa (1963a: 261).

Ghurye noted two interludes in the evolution of Indian values: the upanishadic quest for inner perfection and the Ashokan policy of compassion and goodwill towards all sentient beings. Besides, there was a continuous interaction between folk and elite groups in India which gave rise to a syncretic culture. It is not only the elites who influenced the folk, but also vice versa. However, this interaction brought about a moral elevation among the folk. For instance, many of the Bhakti sects in India had a discernable folk origin but they invariably elevated folk beliefs and practices to a higher ethical plane. Hence, the Bhakti sects stood on an intermediate ground between Sanskritic culture on the one hand and folk culture on the other. To illustrate the moral aspect, he compared two Indo-European cultures: India and Greece. Just as Aryans interacted with the non-Aryans who were followers of the phallic cult, the Greeks too came in contact with the people of Crete who followed the same cult. The Greeks retained this cult with much of its coarseness, while in India the linga became a symbol of sanctity and faith. Ghurye concluded his discussion of Indian values by referring to jatras, gambling and drinking, which were popular among both folk and elite. Although there was a recreational element in these diversions, gambling and drinking claimed many victims among gentry and commoners alike. While the vices were denounced by the early lawgivers such as Manu, Kautilya advised the rulers to regulate them in order to derive revenue from them. Thus, Ghurye viewed the elite-folk distinctions as fluid.

Indian Systems of Knowledge In the following preamble I have attempted to introduce the reader to the Indian systems of knowledge as I understand them. In common with the pre-modern West, Indian systems of knowledge called vidyas were designed to cater to the elite groups—most of whom belonged to the three upper varnas; the vidyas excluded from their purview artisans, peasants and the like. In India, knowledge was mostly imparted from

Chapter 02.indd 24

10/19/2013 3:21:52 PM

G.S. GHURYE ON CULTURE AND NATION-BUILDING

25

guru to shishya. Even if the guru had several shishyas, the relationship between teacher and student was dyadic. The learning was acquired by students in hermitages which were scattered across the country in austere surroundings. In contrast to China, where imperial examinations were conducted on an impersonal basis, the Indian way of instruction was personalized. As previously noted, an individual’s life was focused on the clearance of debts to gods, ancestors and teachers. Hence, after learning the student remained indebted to the teacher in a personal as well as in a scholastic sense. The impetus to vidyas stemmed from the desire of members of the ruling class to acquire education. Besides, one significant reason was the absence of the divine right of the king in India. The ruler as a person was human and fallible; yet the rulership was divine. India and ancient Greece were among the few countries which encouraged the political aspirants to learn. Even when rulership was acquired, it did not confer on the Hindu ruler the authority to legislate. The consent of his councillors was taken by the ruler for decisions pertaining to the governance of his realm. By contrast, in the Western Divine Right theory, the ruler was infallible and he could legislate at will. Another factor which limited the ruler’s authority in India was the political autonomy of villages. There is no doubt that the Hindu ruler acquired de jure status through learning. Hence, royal patronage was extended to gurukulas all over India. A Marxist theory of recent years states that the dominant group has used education as an instrument of control over the people: the educational system reproduces the dominant values among the subordinate groups. This theory seems to have limited applicability to India (past or present), although it has been useful in the analysis of some colonies (Bacchus 1990: 93–114) ruled over by external powers. In a heterogeneous society like India there are different dominant groups and multiple hierarchies depending on contingent factors such as regional and cultural variations, etc. The gurukulas were not centralized under a common educational authority. Besides Hindu gurukulas, the Buddhist and Jaina centres of learning imparted education to pupils on their own terms. In pre-Independent India, in spite of British rule, missionary and nationalist schools and colleges offered different patterns of education. During India’s struggle for freedom, colleges and universities were founded by Indian nationalists often in defiance of the foreign rulers. Even in free India there are different orientations in education.

Chapter 02.indd 25

10/19/2013 3:21:52 PM

26

C.N. Venugopal

The Indian vidyas appear to have arisen from pluralistic sources: economic, religious and literary. Sarkar, who wrote extensively on Hindu positivism (1937: 6), felt that much harm had been done in the Western assessment of India’s culture. Only certain aspects such as otherworldliness of Indians were emphasized. This was due to the application of ‘monistic’ methodology which measured everything in terms of Western standards. Sarkar’s ‘positivism’ opted for a synthetic approach in which the material and the spiritual could be balanced. His pluralistic methodology differed from any monistic interpretation of culture be it economic, political or mystico-religious (ibid.: 40). In vedic culture, the sacrifices and ceremonies were regarded as instrumental in helping a mortal acquire divine status. For instance, Indra was a divine functionary who acquired his position through ritualistic effort. Sarkar wrote: ‘The texts as a rule tell us in so many words that a person becomes divine through certain actions, ceremonial or otherwise, and that divinity is but [a] consequence and not the cause or antecedent’ (ibid.: 152). In Indian polity the acquisition of vidyas enabled the ruler to achieve divinity. The dominant theme of Indian culture is that the ruler sustains the earth and protects it because of his divine qualities. The acquisition of vidyas was similar to the performance of sacrifice as it conferred divinity on the ruler. But the educational process was profoundly linked to the guru’s role. Vidyas acquired without the gum were not valid. Also, the guru’s displeasure or curse was feared by all seekers of learning. The subjectivistic nature of Indian education is revealed through such beliefs. In the formulations of vidyas the personality of the system-builder left a discernable imprint on the selection of subjects. Besides, as there was a dyadic relationship between teacher and student, some part of the instruction remained esoteric or secretive. It is a well-known fact that till recently the vedas were taught mostly through verbal communication. It was regarded as infra dig for a member of the elite group to read veda from a written text. Ghurye was keenly interested in the development of knowledge. Writing on Aristotle and Bacon (1963a: 289–302) he noted that these Occidental philosophers of the pre-Comtean era strove for establishing a hierarchy of knowledge system in which theology occupied a superordinate status. The present-day distinction between sacred and secular pursuits was not marked in this era. These early writers used the term ‘arts’ and ‘science’ more or less synonymously. The quest for knowledge was the common factor in these two spheres. Ghurye too used the two

Chapter 02.indd 26

10/19/2013 3:21:52 PM

G.S. GHURYE ON CULTURE AND NATION-BUILDING

27

terms interchangeably. I will now refer briefly to his discussion of vidyas (ibid.: 303–51) which was an attempt to explore the speculative and the practical dimensions of knowledge. He wrote: The first enumeration of branches of knowledge or Vidyas occurs at about the end of the vedic period; the second much more incidental than the first, about the 2nd century B.C., the third, very purposeful, illustrating all viewpoints except perhaps the last, can be placed in the period, second to the fourth century A.D., the fourth, ascribed to the 9th century A.D. is almost unique in many ways; the fifth, of doubtful dating though a simple enumeration and an uninspiring one, is entirely unique. The sixth is from an acute philosopher and appears to have been entirely an analytical and intellectual activity. Its added interest, though a mere coincidence, is that the author, an ascetic living on the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) was a junior contemporary of Francis Bacon and lived only about a quarter of a century after him (1963a: 304).

In the formulation of vidyas such names as Yajnavalkya, Patanjali, Kautilya, Sukra, Rajasekara and Madhusudana Saraswati were associated. The last named author was the ‘acute philosopher’ mentioned above. The revision of vidyas six times implies that there were contingent factors in Hindu society which made it necessary. This also reveals that the cultural heritage was subjected to a kind of ‘self-criticism’. The vidyas, which totalled 32, were a compendium of different topics which included speculative, ritualistic, martial and practical sciences. To mention a few vedas and allied sacred literature, systems of philosophy such as Mimamsa, Samkhya and Vaisesika, eighteen puranas, ayurveda, Arthasastra, dharmasastra, itihasa, political knowledge, archery and related martial arts. The accretion of knowledge-components from 16 to 32 indicated that the vidyas were responsive to changing needs. A common element in the vidyas was the inclusion of introspective or spiritual knowledge. The sacred and the secular, mundane and supernatural subjects were prescribed in different combinations under each revised scheme of learning. Ghurye credited Kautilya with devising a system of knowledge based on a dual purpose; (i) to instruct the ruler in arts and science; and (ii) to inculcate in the ruler a balance or equipoise which would help him in ruling over his subjects. In his vidyas Kautilya placed emphasis on nonidealistic philosophy such as Samkhya, Mimamsa and Tarka. He gave relatively less importance to dharmasastra which emphasized libational

Chapter 02.indd 27

10/19/2013 3:21:52 PM

28

C.N. Venugopal

and sacrificial aspects. He placed a premium on varta (commerce) and dandaniti (policy of coercion) for these were required to make the ruler practical in his outlook and effective in his rule. It was clear that Kautilya desired that the ruler would wield coercive power rather than piously uphold dharma. The threat of foreign influx into India seemed to make him reorient the values. The patronage of rulers to learning stimulated cultural output in India in a variety of subjects. For instance, mathematics, logic, works in grammar and poetics, ayurveda and Silpasastra (architecture) attained a high level. Ghurye felt that the decline of Hindu polity in the Gupta Age (6th century AD) led to the eclipse of vidyas. But he noted that for a long time thereafter, i.e., up to the 10th or 11th century, the quest for knowledge continued at non-macro levels, especially regional centres. It is in these centres that subjects such as mathematics, logic and ayurveda developed. Sarkar (1937: 91) took a different position in regard to the effectiveness of Hindu polity. According to him, even after Islamic rule was founded in north India, Hindu polity thrived for nearly six to seven centuries in Rajputana, south India and other regions. Even if the political system declined in a formal sense, there were some cultural alternatives. In a recent paper (Venugopal 1990: 305–14) I have attempted to show that some of the reformist sects in India provided a political alternative in the regional settings. Ethnic turbulence and normative breakdown were brought under control by these sects. As such Ghurye’s view may be regarded as nostalgia for the classical Hindu polity.

Conclusion In today’s march toward globalization and apocalyptic developments in science and technology, when the nation has declined in importance, Ghurye’s perspective on nation-building may indeed seem out of place. But still the nation remains a powerful symbol of people all over the world. Toynbee remarked that nationalism is akin to a religious force. It can produce a collective impulse strong enough to mobilize people on a large scale. There is no doubt that Ghurye was disillusioned by the turn of events after the decline of Hindu polity. Of course, it is not possible to renew the Hindu nation as Ghurye desired it. Nevertheless, if a pluralistic nation is accepted as a programme for the future, it will be necessary to arrive at a new synthesis of Indian values: Hindu, Buddhist,

Chapter 02.indd 28

10/19/2013 3:21:52 PM

G.S. GHURYE ON CULTURE AND NATION-BUILDING

29

Jaina, Christian, Muslim, Parsi, etc. The fact that the Indian nation has survived numerous economic and political crises has shown that the composite culture of India has a great tenacity. Not merely political will but cultural revitalization is the need of the nation.

Notes 1. There are at least three ways in which pluralism can be defined. First, there is the popular usage of the term which denotes heterogeneity of groups in a given country. Second, the Americans define it as indicating the presence of groups which are ‘equidistant’ from the centre of power and authority. Third, Furnivall uses the term to characterize the coexistence of ethnic groups in a market economy without cultural integration. 2. SL Sharma writes ‘Reduced to its essentials, casteism represents a curious compound of ethnic identity and modern interests, with ethnic collectivity using the ideology and technology of modernization to the furtherance of its economic and political interests’ (1990: 42). 3. TK Oommen writes ‘Although pie-conquest Islam and pre-colonial Christianity existed in India, hardly anybody seems to acknowledge it, not even the intellectuals. This is not to deny that the bulk of Muslim and Christian conversions took place after conquest and colonization But to spotlight attention only on this is to castigate and stigmatise these religious collectivities and to thwart the authentic nature of Indian religious pluralism More importantly, an overwhelming majority are converts from local castes and tribes and hence natives of this country, only their religion is foreign’ (1986: 59). 4. SC Dube wines ‘According to legend Rukmini whom Krishna married, belonged to Arunachal Pradesh, Hidimba, whom Bhima married, was a Naga, and Arjuna was married to Chitrangada from Manipur and to Ulupi from Nagaland’ (1990: 15). 5. Mokslia assumed importance mostly in the post-vedic period, the upanishads reacted against the prevailing ritualism and advocated the discovery of self Mokslia refers to the release of a person from the cycle of births and deaths. 6. Structuralist methodology attempts to analyze society in terms of binary oppositions Perhaps Ghurye’s insistence on triads indicates a different dimension of Indian reality.

References Bacchus, MK 1990 ‘A Critical Review and Analysis of Early Developments in Education in the British West Indian Colonies’, Sociological Bulletin, 39 (1 & 2) 93–114. Berger, Peter L 1967 Social Reality of Religion Harmondsworth Penguin. Chattopadhyaya, D 1964 Indian Philosophy New Delhi People’s Publishing House. Dant, Tim 1991 Knowledge, Ideology and Discourse London Routledge. Dube, SC 1990 Indian Society New Delhi National Book Trust.

Chapter 02.indd 29

10/19/2013 3:21:52 PM

30

C.N. Venugopal

Feyerabend, P K 1981 Problems of Empiricism Cambridge Cambridge University Press. Ghurye, GS 1963a Anthropo-Sociological Papers Bombay Popular. ———. 1963b Scheduled Tribes Bombay Popular. ———. 1968a Social Tensions in India Bombay Popular. ———. 1968b Gods and Men Bombay Popular. ———. 1969 Caste and Race in India, 5th Edition Bombay Popular. ———. 1977a “Whither India” Bombay Popular. ———. 1977b Agastya and Skanda A Study in Indian Acculturation Bombay. Popular. Hussain, Abid S 1978 The National Culture of India Delhi National Book Trust. Mannheim, Kail 1952 Essays in the Sociology of Knowledge, New York Oxford University Press. Mennell, Stephen 1974 Sociological Theory Uses and Unities New York Praeger Publishers. Oommen, TK 1986 ‘Insiders and Outsiders in India Primordial Collectivism and Cultural Pluralism in Nation-building, International Sociology, 1 (1) 53–74. Sarkar, B K. 1937 The Positive Background of Hindu Sociology Allahabad Sacred Book of the Hindu Series. Sharma, S L 1990 ‘The Salience of Ethnicity in Modernization, Sociological Bulletin, 39 (1 & 2) 33–44. Venugopal, C N 1986 ‘G S Ghurye’s Ideology of Normative Hinduism An Appraisal, Contributions to Indian Sociology (n s), 20 (2) 305–14. ———. 1990 ‘Reformist Sects and the Sociology of Religion in India, Sociological Analysis, 51(5) 77–88. Walter, Benjamin 1967 ‘The Sociology of Knowledge and the Problem of Objectivity’, in L Gross (ed), Sociological Theory Inquiries and Paradigms, pp 335–57 New York Harper International.

Chapter 02.indd 30

10/19/2013 3:21:52 PM

3 The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye1 Carol Upadhya

R

ecent work on colonialism in India has focused on the colonial production of knowledge about Indian society and its reproduction within post-colonial ideologies and practices. The  18thcentury Orientalism and the 19th-century empiricist surveys clearly influenced the development of the social science disciplines in India, and there are specific continuities between the colonial and post-colonial sociology and anthropology, such as the basic categories of ‘caste’ and ‘tribe’. However, to understand the trajectory of post-colonial social thought it is not sufficient just to point to the reproduction of colonial discourses. Rather, what is required is a comprehensive mapping of the reconstitution of the modern social science disciplines as they emerged in the context of wider social, political, and economic processes, such as the nationalist movement and the Nehruvian paradigm of economic development. In this paper, I attempt to place the sociology of G.S. Ghurye, often considered the ‘father’ of Indian sociology, within its historical, intellectual, and political contexts in order to reflect on the framing of a sociological discourse about Indian society by the first nonBritish and post-colonial generation of academic sociologists. Ghurye’s work provides an ideal case through which to examine the issue of post-colonialism in sociology, for at first glance he appears to have incorporated wholesale the Orientalist gaze as well as the empiricism of the early British ethnologists. Yet, it can be argued that Ghurye

Chapter 03.indd 31

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

32

Carol Upadhya

turned this colonial discourse around to develop a nationalist sociology that rejects many of the premises of colonial knowledge. However, this nationalism emerges as a narrow Hindu nationalism that takes little account of the various strands of the freedom movement, nor of the diverse struggles against indigenous forms of oppression before and after independence. Ghurye’s failure to recognise domination, exploitation, and conflict as fundamental features of Indian society may be attributed to his immersion in Orientalist discourses about Indian civilisation as they were reworked by the mainstream nationalist ideology with its stress on unity and nation-building. His analyses of caste, tribe, regionalism, communalism, and many other social phenomena are all framed by a specific understanding of Indian civilisation and nation that is remarkable for its persistence over many years of research and writings.2 In the following section, I outline three of the intellectual trends that contributed to the formation of Ghurye’s sociological imagination— British Orientalism, nationalism, and diffusionism. The subsequent section traces the connections between these trends and major themes in his writing. In the final section, I consider the question of Ghurye’s legacy within Indian sociology.

Intellectual and Political Context of Ghurye’s Sociology Govind Sadashiv Ghurye (1893–1983) remains an enigmatic figure in both his persona and his writings. In spite of his prolific output (31 books and 47 papers, and other publications written over a span of fifty years), his thirty-five years as Head of the Sociology Department at the University of Bombay, and the large number of his Ph.D. students who became noted members of the profession, the evolution of his thought and his influence on the discipline have not been assessed in a comprehensive manner. While several books and articles have been written on Ghurye and his work, most are short on analysis.3 Perhaps his turgid style of writing, his apparently archaic subject matter, and his Indological approach have relegated him to the status of a curiosity in the history of the discipline. Yet, Ghurye’s impact on Indian sociology is perhaps even greater than what is usually acknowledged even by his admirers, who usually point to the number of students trained by him and his efforts at institution building, such as the founding of the Indian Sociological Society and the

Chapter 03.indd 32

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

33

Sociological Bulletin. Ghurye developed a comprehensive understanding of Indian society that has probably structured the development of sociological discourse in subtle ways, but this influence is difficult to gauge and therefore less often noticed. Ghurye’s initial training was in Sanskrit, and it was only after attending Geddes’ lectures at the University of Bombay and being selected for a scholarship that he went to England, where he studied anthropology at Cambridge under Rivers and Haddon, from 1920 to 1923. Because of this academic background, Indology and diffusionism are usually identified as the two major influences on his work. However, the genesis of Ghurye’s thought is somewhat more complex than this account suggests, for what are now referred to as ‘Indology’ and ‘diffusionism’ had complex histories that are in fact closely interlinked. And, although Ghurye has been accused of absorbing colonial Orientalism into his analysis of Indian society (Bose 1996), on closer reading we find that his use of available anthropological data and theories was critical and selective. If we are to understand Ghurye as more than a passive sponge who uncritically reproduced colonial knowledge, we also need to look at these intellectual currents within the political and social context of the empire and the anti-colonial struggle.

British Orientalism Much of Ghurye’s writing can be located within the tradition of British Orientalism that developed in the 18th century, especially its theory of Indian history and its emphasis on the antiquity and unity of Indian civilisation. Orientalism emerged out of the 18th-century European social thought that was obsessed with the nature and origin of ‘civilisation’, and especially with what were thought to be the earliest civilisations, namely, the Greek and the Egyptian. After the ‘discovery’ of India and its long past, the study of India was absorbed into an extant discourse about antique civilisations. The early British Orientalists sought to reconstruct ancient Indian civilisation through the study of Sanskrit texts, and with this knowledge to place India within various universal schemes of human history (Trautmann 1997: 3). This reconstruction was oriented to an overarching concern with the origins of civilisation, then identified with the cultivation of the higher arts and sciences. India’s civilisation was regarded as one of the oldest and most highly

Chapter 03.indd 33

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

34

Carol Upadhya

developed, as demonstrated by the complexity of ancient Indian knowledge and culture and the perfection of the Sanskrit language. To locate India within the history of world civilisations, these scholars searched for cultural and linguistic links. Some believed that the culture of ancient Greece had been transferred to India, while others regarded Sanskrit as the ‘pure unchanged language of ancient Egypt’ (Ibid.: 82). Ancient Sanskrit texts were considered to be repositories of the primitive religion of the human race, hence the ‘enthusiasm for those Sanskrit writings as the key to the universal ethnological narrative’ (Ibid.: 97). Because ancient Indian civilisation was identified with Hinduism as embodied in the Sanskrit texts, Brahmanical Hinduism became the defining feature of Indian society. In this discourse, Muslims were seen as foreign conquerors and despotic rulers who were responsible for all current social evils, while the virtues of traditional Hindu government, laws and customs were applauded: ‘The enthusiasm for India . . . was above all an enthusiasm for Hinduism’ (Ibid.: 64). As several scholars have pointed out, this image of Indian society was not simply invented by British scholars, but was ‘dialogically produced’ through interaction with Brahmin pandits who served as informants. Hence, it is not surprising that Orientalism placed Brahmins at the centre of the social order (see Cohn 1987; Irschick 1994; Rocher 1994). Similarly, the idea that contemporary society had degenerated from a pristine and glorious Vedic past was derived from both the Brahminical notion of the kalyug and the Enlightenment conviction that the highest civilisations lay in the ancient past. Through this scholarship, Brahminical knowledge received new legitimacy, and religion came to be regarded as the guiding principle of society. Because Indian society was seen as static and monolithic, the ancient texts could be taken as authentic blueprints for the study of Indian civilisation and even for the organisation of contemporary society, as was done with the codification of ‘Hindu law’: ‘Indian society was seen as a set of rules which every Hindu followed’ (Cohn 1987: 143). By reconstructing Hinduism and Hindu law, positing the distant past as normative, and drawing an unbroken connection between past and present, Orientalist scholarship had a lasting effect on the modern understanding of Indian society and history (Rocher 1994: 242), an understanding that is reflected in the work of Ghurye, among many others. The Orientalist vision of Indian civilisation was substantially altered in the early 19th century by the development of comparative philology,

Chapter 03.indd 34

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

35

which led to the construction of the Indo-European or ‘Aryan’ language family, encompassing the classical languages of Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin. With the discovery of these linguistic connections, Indians came into the ‘ethnological big picture as kin of Europeans and founders of civilisation’ (Trautmann 1997: 133). In the hands of Orientalists, such as Max Müller, the term ‘Arya’ was broadened to apply to all speakers of Indo-European languages. Max Müller promoted the notion of ‘Aryan brotherhood’ (Ibid.: 172), and he emphasised the achievements of Hindu civilisation in order to convince the British rulers that Indians and Europeans were close kin. Max Müller played a major role in the popularisation of knowledge about India and in the glorification of ancient Indian religion, especially of the Vedic period, collecting and publishing the full text of the Vedas for the first time. Like the earlier Orientalists, he wanted to reveal to Indians the knowledge contained in their ancient tradition, and he believed that the Vedas were the root of Hindu religion, law and philosophy (Chakravarti 1993: 39).4 The emergence of race theory in ethnology at the end of the 19th century reshaped the linguistic category of ‘Aryan’ into a racial one, producing what Trautmann (1997: 191) terms the ‘racial theory of Indian civilisation’ (see also Bayly 1995). Thus, the Vedic texts were reinterpreted through the lens of race, and the ‘Aryan’ identity was constructed by absorbing language classifications into the newly substantialised notion of race (Trautmann Ibid.: 206). This powerful theory is reproduced in the writings of Ghurye and many other intellectuals of the early to mid-20th century, and indeed persists till today in various forms: . . . the constitutive event for Indian civilisation, the Big Bang through which it came into being, was the clash between invading, fair-skinned, civilised Sanskrit-speaking Aryans and dark-skinned, barbarous aborigines. It was a local application of the double binary that guided all 19th-century European ethnologies, the double binary of the fair and the dark, the civilised and the savage (Ibid.: 194).

The Aryan invasion theory was popularised by Max Müller, who converted the originally linguistic categories of ‘Indo-Aryan’ and ‘Dravidian’ into racial categories (Ibid.: 196–97) and propagated a ‘racist Aryan version of the Orientalist Hindu golden age’ (Chakravarti 1993: 42). Max Müller argued that the ‘Aryan nations have become the rulers of history and it seems to be their mission to link all parts of the world

Chapter 03.indd 35

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

36

Carol Upadhya

together by the chains of civilisation and religion’ (Max Müller, quoted in Chakravarti 1993: 40). India was invaded by civilised Aryan tribes who conquered and then either destroyed or assimilated the indigenous non-Aryan dark races. The ‘noble stamp of the Caucasian race’ is seen in the Brahmins, while the lower classes of Hindus consist of . . . aboriginal inhabitants’ (Max Müller, quoted in Trautmann 1997: 175). Max Müller also interpreted Vedic references to varna in terms of European racial theory, which centred on skin colour, identifying the aboriginal population of India with the ‘Dasas’, the ‘dark-skinned’ and ‘savage’ enemies of the Aryans (Trautmann 1997: 206). Here we find the beginnings of the idea that Indian civilisation was consolidated through the slow assimilation of non-Aryan groups to Aryan or Vedic culture. As Trautmann tells the story, with the consolidation of the British rule, the ‘Indomania’ of the Orientalists gave way to ‘Indophobia’, in which British writers, influenced by Utilitarianism and Evangelicalism, constructed a negative image of Indian civilisation in order to provide a moral basis for the empire. James Mill was the most prominent representative of this trend: in his History of India, he attempted to downgrade the place allotted to India by the early Orientalists on the scale of civilisation by deprecating all that the latter had glorified. Where the Orientalists looked backwards to the ancient wisdom of India, Mill and the English Utilitarians looked to the future, drawing upon the idea of progress: ‘Exactly in proportion as Utility is the object of every pursuit, may we regard a nation as civilised’ (Mill, quoted in Trautmann 1997: 123). The British had a civilising mission to modernise India, to ‘liberate Indians from their own past’ (Trautmann 1997: 129). Thus, the ancient wisdom of India, earlier seen as a fount of western civilisation through its connections to ancient Greece and Egypt, now was opposed to western civilisation, which stood for progress in contrast to the stagnation and backwardness of the East.

Nationalist Renderings of Indian Civilisation The Orientalist theory of Indian history was absorbed in diverse ways into the emerging nationalist discourse of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This complex structure of ideas centred on the notion of a glorious past, drawing upon the Orientalists’ positive construction of the Indian past as well as reacting to the Evangelical and Utilitarian attacks on Indian

Chapter 03.indd 36

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

37

culture (Chakravarti 1993: 27–30). Nationalist intellectuals, such as Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, redeployed Orientalist knowledge against the ‘Indophobes’ to assert India’s true place in human history. They attempted to counter European racism by valorising the past and positing the superiority of Hindu Aryans over European Aryans, claiming that everything in Europe had already been invented in the Indian past, that the discoveries of western science had been anticipated by ancient Aryans, and so on (Raychaudhuri 1988). These supporters of the Aryan theory also accepted the view that the Vedas were the source of all knowledge (Thapar 1997). Hindu reformers, such as Rammohun Roy, adopted the Orientalist appreciation for ‘Hindu’ scriptures and promoted ancient texts, such as the Gita, as symbols of Indian civilisation. The translation and popularisation of these texts had an enormous influence on the development of a sense of culture and history among the emerging Indian elite (Rocher 1994: 227–29). These efforts fed into the growth of cultural nationalism in the 1830s, when a number of indigenous popular works of history glorifying the past achievements of Indian civilisation were published (Chakravarti 1993: 36–37). For nationalist-reformers, the idea of the golden Vedic Age suggested that Indians had a culture that had been ‘organically disrupted by historical circumstance but was capable of revitalisation’ (Rammohun Roy, quoted in Chakravarti 1993: 32). In response to the negative perception of modern Hinduism by missionaries and others, some reformers criticised Hinduism as degenerate and ritualistic and looked to the Vedic past to locate the ‘true’ religion of the Hindus: ‘History . . . came to occupy a key position in the cultural conflict between the ruling power and the colonised subjects. This was the context for the obsessive concern with cultural questions in the reconstruction of the past’ (Chakravarti 1993: 34). The development of nationalist consciousness was given great impetus in the 1860s by the activities of Max Müller, whose popularisation of the term ‘Aryan’ left a ‘permanent impress upon the collective consciousness of the upper strata of Indian society’ (Chakravarti 1993: 39). Indian-Aryan identity became an important component of 19th-century historical consciousness; it was especially appealing to the emerging newly educated middle classes, as well as to the upper-castes who consolidated their domination under British rule, and who could identify with Aryans as the bearers of an advanced civilisation in India. Thus, while the Aryan theory emerged out of Orientalism, its wide circulation and success in colonising the consciousness of the educated

Chapter 03.indd 37

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

38

Carol Upadhya

middle classes can be attributed to its appropriation by the nationalist ideology. But, this brand of nationalism was caught within the same civilisational discourse that gave rise to Orientalism in the first place, in which national identity is premised on a unitary history, language and culture. In this discourse, Indian culture was equated with Vedic culture, Indian philosophy with Vedanta, and Indian religion with Hinduism. While one trajectory of this obsession with culture and history led to Savarkar’s notion of ‘Hindutva’, another fed into the Indological school of sociology. The colonial discourse on Hinduism fuelled a growing cultural nationalism, and reform and revivalist movements focused on the need for Hindu unity. The construction of Indian society and history as Hindu hinged critically upon the demonisation of the Hindu’s ‘Other’, the Muslim, and the later history of India came to be written as a contest between two monolithic and antagonistic communities (Hasan 1996; Ludden 1996; Pandey 1994). Nineteenth-century nationalist intellectuals largely accepted the British version of history in which the Muslim intrusion was portrayed as a break in the continuity of Brahminical traditions. Because these histories ignored all evidence of syncretism and refused to acknowledge the specificity of Islam in the subcontinent, the culture of Muslims was regarded as entirely separate from that of Hindus. Indian Muslims were seen as part of a foreign, monolithic religion and therefore as inherently communal and separatist. The image of Indian Muslims as outsiders and aggressive invaders in the past, and as communal separatists in the present, became a central theme of Hindu nationalist thought. The creation of Hindu nationalism based on a new aggressive Hindu identity depended upon the exclusion of impure ‘foreigners’, as in the writings of Tilak and Bankim (Chakravarti 1993: 50; Hasan 1996: 198–99). The theme of medieval Muslim tyranny was common in 18th- and 19th-century tracts and novels, and was linked in middle-class consciousness to the idea of the burgeoning Muslim population and the ‘dying Hindu’ race (Sarkar 1996: 290). In short, the Aryan invasion theory of Indian history took on a major political role in the building of nationalism. In this ideological framing of history as a continual contest between Aryans and Dasas, and later between Hindus and Muslims, language, culture and race were closely equated. Because race and language are commonly understood as ingredients of national identity, the idea of the Aryan race easily fed into the idea of the Indian nation (Thapar 1997). Indian nationalist

Chapter 03.indd 38

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

39

discourse of the 19th century completed the development of the Aryan idea by equating the Aryan with the Hindu, and the Hindu with the Indian. In other strands of this discourse, the Aryan was equated only with the higher castes, especially Brahmins, or with Hindi-speaking north Indians. As we shall see, Ghurye never questioned this construction of history nor was he very critical of his sources. On the contrary, the idea that India is Hindu is reinforced by his sociology.

Diffusionism Diffusionism enjoyed a brief but intense period of popularity in England during the period 1910–1930. It emerged as a critique of late 19th-century evolutionism, which was based on the theory of the ‘psychic unity of mankind’. Evolutionism held that every society will eventually advance towards civilisation, passing through definite stages, which means that every human group is capable of the ‘independent invention’ of higher civilisation (Kuklick 1983: 65). Darwinism and the discoveries of palaeontology pushed back the frontiers of human history and revealed the relative stability of physical types, thus privileging race over language as the main explicans of human variation. This, in turn, led anthropologists to argue that biological make-up and culture were intrinsically linked and that culture was carried by race (Ibid.: 67). These assumptions also underpinned the basic propositions of diffusionism: . . . geographical dispersal would not modify the behaviour of members of a single race; cultural diversity within an area was prima facie evidence that its inhabitants were a racially diverse collection of migrant settlers; the global distribution of races reflected the inherent migratory propensities of members of different stocks, not the effect of the environment (Ibid.: 67).

Following this logic, diffusionists, such as W.J. Perry, G. Elliot Smith, A.M. Hocart and W.H.R. Rivers, surmised that civilisation had been invented only once, in ancient Egypt, from where it had been carried by migrants who, by conquering inferior races, civilised them in turn (Ibid.: 68). All innovations associated with advanced civilisation derived from this culture complex, known as ‘Archaic Civilisation’, which was spread by the migration of the ‘Armenoid Race’ who became rulers wherever they went (Kuklick 1991: 125–27). The basic

Chapter 03.indd 39

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

40

Carol Upadhya

diffusionist idea that superior people or races would dominate inferior ones, thereby transmitting civilisation, clearly resonates with the Aryan invasion theory of Indian history: apparently this idea did not originate with 20th-century diffusionism. The notion that caste originated from a ‘collision between the races’ is also echoed in the diffusionists’ argument that class divisions in society resulted from interracial competition within the social hierarchy formed by conquest (Kuklick 1983: 68). Ghurye was greatly influenced by Rivers during his stay at Cambridge and was deeply affected by his death in 1922, which he regarded as the ‘biggest tragedy’ of his life (Srinivas 1996: 3). Because of his connection with Rivers, diffusionism is usually identified as Ghurye’s major theoretical orientation.5 However, his pre-Cambridge education in Sanskrit and Orientalist thought was at least equally influential. According to Pramanick (1994: 4), Ghurye’s intellect was shaped by his education at Elphinstone College, Bombay (now Mumbai), where the European classical past was taught, but where nationalism also took roots as students were encouraged to examine their own past, especially through Sanskrit religious texts. Below I point to connections as well as disjunctures between the intellectual currents described above and Ghurye’s sociology: His textual, Indological perspective, his historical/civilisational approach to sociology, and his cultural nationalism show clear continuities with the Aryan theory of Indian history as reworked by nationalist discourse, as well as with diffusionism.

Ghurye’s Sociology of Indian Civilisation Much of Ghurye’s writing revolves around the theme of the antiquity and integrity of Indian civilisation and the reverberations of this history in the present. His extensive referencing of ancient texts is often attributed to his academic training in Sanskrit, but it can also be seen as a product of his general theoretical perspective. Judging from the references in his books and his list of ‘favourite books’, it appears that Ghurye’s intellectual interests developed under the influence of the broader post-Enlightenment European discourse about ‘civilisation’ as such—its origins and characteristics, the links among various ancient civilisations, and so on.6 The affinities between Orientalism and diffusionism, noted above, suggest that Ghurye’s approach was not moulded

Chapter 03.indd 40

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

41

entirely by Rivers, and that a perspective already partially formed by his exposure to Orientalist and nationalist discourses was reinforced by his Cambridge experience, where he found in diffusionism a compatible theoretical framework. Given his inclinations, it is probably not fortuitous that he developed a deep devotion for Rivers after rejecting the guidance of the New Liberal L.T. Hobhouse at London (Ghurye 1973a: 45; Kuklick 1983: 70).7 Ghurye’s civilisational perspective partakes of the diffusionist principle that every culture has a history that can be discovered, and that most individual cultures or culture traits have an external rather than autochthonous origin. According to Srinivas (1996: 3), Ghurye wanted him to study the Coorgs because he had read that they had ancestral tombs, which he thought might be due to the influence of ancient Egypt. In fact, Ghurye’s first published paper (1923, one of the papers for his Cambridge Ph.D.) was entitled ‘Egyptian affinities of Indian funerary practices’ (Pillai 1997: 77). Srinivas writes that Ghurye was ‘in the grip of diffusionist ideas even as late as the 1940s’ (1996: 3); he defended Rivers’ support of Elliot-Smith and Perry on the Egyptian origin of certain widely dispersed cultural phenomena (Srinivas 1973: 135, cited in Shah 1974: 439). The diffusionist influence can be seen in works such as Family and kin in Indo-European culture (1955), in which Ghurye analyses the ‘history of the human family’ through kinship terms and ‘behavioural data’ drawn from three ‘ancient cultures’, the Indo-Aryan, the Greek, and the Latin. Ghurye’s interest in the history of civilisation appears in several works. One of his first books, Culture and society (1947), looks at Britain during the period 1800–1930 as an attempt by a nation-state to build a civilisation, a ‘quest for culture’. Here Ghurye considers culture and civilisation as two facets of the same phenomenon: ‘Culture is civilisation assimilated and made operative in individual minds and practices’ (1947: 191). Culture is defined more in the Arnoldian sense of ‘high culture’ rather than the anthropological sense: it implies a ‘large knowledge-content and constitutes essentially an intellectual attitude’ (Ibid.: 80).8 Reviewing the theories of civilisation and culture in the writings of Clive Bell, Whitehead, Laski and others, Ghurye concludes that civilisation is a ‘collective endeavour’.9 The theme of civilisation as ‘collective endeavour’ appears also in Occidental civilisation (1948), an analysis of western civilisation from 1300 to 1925.10 In this work Ghurye gives an account of various

Chapter 03.indd 41

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

42

Carol Upadhya

intellectual and artistic achievements of this period, arguing that a coherent cultural pattern can be discerned which is the product of a ‘collective civilisational endeavour’ originating in Graeco-Roman society (Pillai 1997: 233–34). Ghurye later returns to the question of civilisation in Cities and civilisation (1962), in which he criticises Toynbee’s thesis on the relationship between capital cities and civilisation by comparing the growth and decline of cities historically in China, Egypt, and India.

Racial Theory of Indian History While Ghurye was interested in the comparative study of world civilisations, his primary focus was on the Indian case. The first expression of Ghurye’s civilisational perspective is found in his best-known work Caste and race in India (1932), in which he reproduces almost in toto the Orientalist theory of the Indo-Aryan invasion and the racial theory of caste of the 19th-century ethnologists. From his review of the existing textual and other evidence, Ghurye concludes that the IndoAryans belonged to the larger Indo-European stock that dispersed from its homeland after 5000 BC. The branch that entered India around 2500 BC carried with it the early Vedic religion, and the ‘Brahmanic variety’ of the Indo-Aryan civilisation developed later in the Gangetic plain, along with the caste system.11 Ghurye (1969: 165) reiterates the racial interpretation of varna as colour and the idea that the ‘Dasas’ described by the Aryans were the ‘dark’ and ‘snub-nosed’ natives they encountered when they entered India. According to him, caste derives from the varna classification of the early Vedic age, which referred to skin colour and differentiated the ‘Arya’ and the ‘Dasa’. The caste system originated as an endogamous institution as the Indo-Aryan Brahmins attempted to maintain their purity by keeping themselves apart from the local population (Ibid.: 125): It may be taken to be an historical fact that people calling themselves ‘Arya’ poured into India through the north-west somewhere about 2000 BC. It is equally clear . . . that an institution closely akin to caste has been very often described in Sanskrit books, which are the works of either the Aryans or the Aryan-inspired aborigines . . . We have seen that the Brahmins, who were the moral guides and legislators of the immigrant Aryans, tried to keep their blood free from any intermixture with the lower classes . . . (Ibid.: 117–18).

Chapter 03.indd 42

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

43

The Aryan invaders entered India with three exclusive classes and absorbed the indigenous inhabitants, who ‘accepted the overlordship of the Indo-Aryans’ at the lowest level as Sudras (Ibid.: 172). They practised some amount of ritual exclusivity but also displayed ‘tolerance’ by assimilating diverse peoples. The mechanism for this assimilation was the caste system: The Indian Aryans as later Hindus not only tolerated both beliefs and practices not harmonising with their central doctrines but also assimilated a number in their own complex. Partially at least, on the social organisational side caste system was the modus operandi accommodating diversity of faiths and practices (Ibid.: 65–66).

Because caste was maintained by endogamy and hypergamy, there is a correspondence between caste and physical type, or race (Ibid.: 173). While the question of race appears prominently in the first edition of Caste and race, it was not a major theme of Ghurye’s work in general.12 In this book, Ghurye considers Risley’s racial theory of caste, which reflected the great influence of racial thought on the fledgling discipline of anthropology in the early 20th century and on Indian ethnology.13 With the growing influence of racial thought, linguistic classification of Indian peoples gave way to racial classification, which included manners, customs and religion as well as physical appearance (Trautmann 1997: 162). In fact, India became a crucial testing ground for theories of race, partly because the caste system was thought to have prevented intermixing, and ethnologists in India carried out extensive anthropometrical measurements. In the emerging ethnology of India, various groups were seen as representative of ‘high’ and low’ races—the high castes, with their Aryan origins, being the civilised ones, and the low castes and ‘tribals’ representing the lower races. The racial theory of Indian society was promoted most notably by Risley, the first Director of Ethnography for India, who took the nasal index as an indicator of the proportion of Aryan blood which he hypothesised would vary along the caste gradient (Ibid.: 183). Risley’s racial theory of caste simply elaborated the earlier two-race theory of Indian history, in which the dark, ‘snub-nosed’ and primitive Dravidians were conquered by, and partially mixed with, the ‘tall, fair, lepto-rhine’ invading Aryans (Risley, quoted in Ibid.: 202), producing the caste system. This theory was encapsulated in Risley’s famous formula: ‘The social position of a caste varies inversely as its nasal index’ (quoted in Ibid.: 203).

Chapter 03.indd 43

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

44

Carol Upadhya

In Caste and race, Ghurye examines Risley’s theory in great detail through a re-analysis of the anthropometrical data. He finds that outside the core area of Aryan settlement (‘Hindustan’), physical type does not conform to caste rank, and that there is greater similarity between Brahmins and other castes within a region than among Brahmins across regions. His conclusion is that the ‘Brahmanic practice of endogamy must have been developed in Hindustan and thence conveyed as a cultural trait to the other areas without a large influx of the physical type of the Hindustan Brahmins’ (Ghurye 1969: 125). While Ghurye criticises specific features of Risley’s theory and methodology, he accepts the overall framework of racial categorisation, and, in fact, proposes new racial categories for the Indian population based on the nasal and cephalic indices (Ibid.: 125 ff.). He bases his argument on the same assumptions employed by the Aryan race theory: that the ‘Aryan type’ is long-headed and fine-nosed, represented by the people of Punjab and Rajputana, while the ‘aboriginal type’, represented by the ‘jungle-tribes’, is broad-nosed (Ibid.: 118).14 Ghurye does not distinguish clearly among race, language, and culture, although he does add a diffusionist element to his argument by suggesting that Brahminism and caste spread throughout India as cultural traits rather than through large-scale physical migration of Aryan Brahmins. The diffusionist influence is evident also in Ghurye’s attempt to find ‘elements of caste’ outside of India. Cultural similarities among various offshoots of the Indo-European stock, such as the ancient Greeks and Romans, are taken as proof of the Aryan origin of Indian culture. He argues that status distinctions, restrictions on intermarriage, and fixed occupational specialisation are a ‘common characteristic of the mental background and social picture of the Indo-European cultures’ (Ibid.: 159). He also suggests that the relation between the Greeks and the Egyptians was similar to that between the ‘Aryas’ and the ‘Dasas’, except that the Vedic people had more reason to show their ‘pride and exclusivity’ because the Dasas were non-Aryan and of dark colour. ‘Exclusivity’ and a tendency to social stratification are Indo-European cultural traits that were more highly developed in India, in the form of caste: ‘. . . the Indo-European people, of whom Vedic Aryans were but a branch, had early developed the exclusive spirit in social behaviour and had cultivated a partiality for ideas of ceremonial purity’ (Ibid.: 171). Ghurye concludes that ‘caste in India is a Brahmanic child of the IndoAryan culture, cradled in the land of the Ganges and the Jamna and thence transferred to other parts of the country’ (Ibid.: 176).

Chapter 03.indd 44

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

45

Indian Cultural History Ghurye’s search for the roots of Indian culture in the Vedic age is reflected in several of his later books, including Family and kin in Indo-European culture (1955), Two Brahmanical institutions: Gotra and charana (1972), and Vedic India (1979). Much of his work centres around traditional Hindu or Brahminical knowledge systems, religious practices, social organisation, and law, as reflected in classical Sanskrit texts. Ghurye also made extensive use of these texts in his studies of phenomena as divergent as caste, costume, religion, and sexuality. In many of his books, references to ancient texts are brought in side by side with discussions of present-day practices, suggesting continuities between the present and the distant past. In Gotra and charana (1972), Ghurye investigates the origin, history and spread of these ‘Brahmanical institutions’ of exogamy through an exhaustive study of Sanskrit literature and inscriptions from different periods, ending with contemporary information on exogamous practices in several communities.15 By comparing similar cultural traits among ancient Greeks and Indo-Iranians, he develops the theory that gotras originated in the ‘cosmographical and astronomical view and knowledge gained by Aryans in their new home in India’.16 Here we see the influence of the Aryan invasion thesis, in which cultural elements have their ultimate origin in the original Aryan race, combined with the diffusionist tracking of culture traits across time and space. But, at the end of the book, Ghurye puts on his anthropologist’s hat again to test Durkheim’s theory that exogamy arose from a religious complex of beliefs about menstrual blood.17 He also explores the phenomenon of menstrual taboos in India by drawing on recent ethnographic accounts of beliefs and practices surrounding menstruation and menarche ceremonies, as well as textual sources. In several other works Ghurye attempts to trace the origin of contemporary social practices to their Indo-Aryan roots. Although he rarely draws explicit connections, the trend of the argument is clear. For example, through a close analysis of the Vedas, Brahmanas and other texts in Family and kin in Indo-European culture (1955), Ghurye tries to reconstruct ancient Vedic-Aryan family and kinship structures. He concludes that the family in ancient times was joint in form, with four generations living under one roof and sharing food and property (Ibid.: 47)! In other words, the ideal Hindu family, as constructed

Chapter 03.indd 45

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

46

Carol Upadhya

by British ‘Hindu law’ and later reinforced by Indian sociology, has its origin in ancient India. He finds evidence in the ancient texts for certain contemporary kinship practices, such as the father-in-law— daughter-in-law avoidance (Ibid.: 48). Ghurye also outlines the history of particular kinship rites, such as different forms of ancestor worship, from the time of the Smritis to the present, arguing that the shraddha ‘has remained the standard type of Hindu (Indian) ancestor-worship throughout the ages till today’ (Ibid.: 62). In the conclusion of this chapter, he clearly states that present practices must be understood through their connections with the ancient past: We may conclude that the ancestor-worship of the Indo-European age that developed in India during about two thousand years and that has continued to be the pattern for about thirteen hundred years is very different from all other ancestor-worship in its content, extent and time-spread. The close connection which has subsisted between it and the family organisation has sustained the Indian family unit (Ibid.: 68).

In Family and kin Ghurye offers a rare general statement of his perspective, arguing that Indo-Aryan culture is . . . known for formulation of its ends and for prescription of means for the guidance of society and its components in a clear and definite manner. The Indian theory and practice of life, its social philosophy, its laws and its customs have centred on the four social categories of varna, caste, asrama, stage of life, purusartha, purpose of life, and rina, debt (Ibid.: 54).

As in the Orientalist construct, religion is the guiding principle of Indian society, and specifically Brahminical religion as prescribed in the sacred texts provides the moral principles for the organisation of society. In Vedic India (1979) Ghurye tackles directly the question of the origins and socio-cultural characteristics of the Indo-Aryan people of the Vedic period. He begins with a description of several cultural elements of the Indo-Europeans, such as the horse-complex, and then traces their evolution within Vedic culture. He also investigates cultural similarities and differences among different branches of the Indo-Aryan family, such as the ancient Greeks, the Avestan Iranians, and the Hittites, in order to map their ethnic affiliation. Here Ghurye refers to the IndoAryan immigrants as ‘ethnic units’ rather than as a racial group; but, while eschewing a purely racial conception of the Indo-Aryans, he does tend to equate language with culture. Cultural similarities together with

Chapter 03.indd 46

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

47

linguistic affinity are sufficient evidence for Ghurye that different groups descended from the same ‘ethnic stock’: We thus see that some ethnic unit or units among the Vedic Indo-Aryans must have been of the same ethnic stock as that of the ancient Greeks, when the ancestors of the Vedic Indo-Aryans and those of the Greeks were living in their original domicile; and must have fenced one or more of the ethnic units among the Indo-Aryans that entered India and created the Vedic-Indian culture (Ibid.: 366).

He concludes that there were several waves of migration: some IndoAryan ethnic units (the ‘eastern peoples’) arrived earlier than the ‘Rigvedic’ units, and the Brahminic culture of the ‘post-Vedic age’ was produced by the interaction of these two sections (Ibid.: 368–69). Ghurye’s view that Indian civilisation was formed by the progressive spread of Vedic Aryan or Brahminical culture is also illustrated in his Indian acculturation: Agastya and Skanda (1977), in which he argues that the sage Agastya and the god Skanda were carriers of Vedic Aryanism to south India. A significant feature of Ghurye’s cultural history is the almost complete neglect of economic/material content (Desai 1984). In his vast body of work we find few references to agriculture, crafts, or trade, except in discussions of caste-based occupational specialisation. This is in stark contrast to the work of some of his contemporaries such as D.D. Kosambi, who similarly reproduced the Aryan invasion theory but reworked it through a materialist perspective. Ghurye understands culture and civilisation as a complex of ideas, beliefs, values and social practices—‘culture’ in the narrow sense—and rarely addresses questions of livelihood, control over resources, or ecological adaptation, which are so central to the modern anthropological understanding of human history and civilisation. In Family and kin, Ghurye explicitly lays out his theoretical perspective when he states that his studies prove the ‘primacy of beliefs and ideas’ (rather than material conditions) in bringing about social change (1955: 224). Similarly, he takes the survival of gotra exogamy over 2,500 years as an example of the ‘tyranny’ of an idea, demonstrating the ‘role and power . . . of certain ideas and beliefs in human behaviour and the social process’ (Pillai 1997: 128). Within the ideological level, Ghurye (1965) emphasises religion and religious consciousness as the foundation of culture.

Chapter 03.indd 47

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

48

Carol Upadhya

Civilisational Unity Like the Orientalism on which he drew, Ghurye’s perspective on Indian society was intensely Brahminical. For him, Hinduism is at the centre of India’s civilisational unity, and at the core of Hinduism are Brahminical ideas and values, which are essential for the integration of society (Pramanick 1994). Venugopal (1986: 305) describes the underlying theme of Ghurye’s work as ‘normative Hinduism’, defined as an ‘idealised version of Hinduism serving as a means to judge or analyse diverse social phenomena in Indian society’. Brahmins are seen historically as the leaders of Indo-Aryan society and as the ‘standard bearers of Hindu civilisation’ (Ibid.: 307); they were the ‘moral guides and legislators of the immigrant Aryans’ (Ghurye 1969: 118). As in the Orientalist understanding, society is understood as a set of rules to be followed, and to be a Hindu is to obey Brahminical prescriptions. Brahmin-centred Hinduism served as an ‘acculturative model’ for other groups because it provided an integrative value system. For Ghurye, ‘acculturation’ means vertical integration into the ‘social structure dominated by Indo-Aryanism in general and Brahminical Hinduism in particular’ (Venugopal 1986: 306), i.e., the caste system. The same vision of the absorptive power of Hinduism explains his argument that tribals are ‘backward Hindus’ (Ghurye 1959). For Ghurye, as for the early Orientalist writers, Indian social history is essentially the history of Hinduisation or the assimilation of non-Hindu groups into Hindu society. If Hinduism and Brahminism are the norms for Indian society, other religious groups ipso facto are regarded as deviations from the norm. As in Hindu nationalist thought, Ghurye believed that the continuity of Hindu civilisation was broken by the Islamic ‘invasion’, and he adopted uncritically the colonial construction of Indian history as a struggle between Hindus and Muslims. He also echoed the assumption that Muslims have a culture that is entirely separate from that of Hindus. Evidence of religious syncretism at the level of everyday practices was ignored by Ghurye, and he argued against the secularist theory of Indian culture as a ‘fusion’ of Hindu, Muslim and other elements (Pillai 1997: 144). Instead, he regarded Indian culture as the product of acculturation between Vedic-Aryan and pre-Aryan cultural elements and argued that Muslims in India had always practised separatism, except for short periods of attempted integration. In his terminology, although Hindu-Muslim ‘syncretism’ occurred in some contexts, this should not

Chapter 03.indd 48

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

49

be construed as ‘synthesis’ or ‘fusion’ (Ibid.: 144). In Social tensions in India, Ghurye states that the ‘presence of Islamic cultural elements in the basic ancient Indian culture-fabric shows the process of syncretisation, not fusion’ (Ibid.: 144). Hindus and Muslims have remained distinct communities ‘. . . though there have been some meeting points across religious boundaries at certain stages of history’ (Ibid.: 313). Though there appeared to be some commingling across religious boundaries for military purposes, the main currents kept the two communities separate and distinct, the native Hindu endeavouring to keep himself alive with honour and even to regain his lost dominion, and the incoming Muslim, albeit with a large influx of native converts, strenuously countering the moves, drawing upon his native storehouse in foreign lands. There was hardly any rapprochement between the two cultures, the Hindu and Muslim, in spite of coexistence (Ghurye l968b: viii, quoted in Ibid.: 164).

Similarly in Caste and race (1969: 110) he writes: The impact of Islam was too strong to work as a leaven in the Hindu community. The culture and religious practices of its followers were so different that . . . the Hindus and the Muslims looked upon each other as contraries and natural enemies . . . The two cultures were too separate to settle down to a great rapprochement in times, when a death-struggle was being fought by the valiant sons of India for self-preservation of a cultural entity.

This denial is echoed in his writings on architectural styles (in Rajput architecture [1968a] and Social tensions [1968b]), where he argues that Hindu and Muslim styles remained firmly separate, and that wherever there were influences, they should be seen not as ‘fusion’ but as syncretism: ‘. . . whenever the Hindus attempted to follow the Muslim style they either floundered or created structures which demonstrated its blasting effect on the Hindu ideas of religious atmosphere and of aesthetic values’ (Ghurye 1968b: 240–41, quoted in Pillai 1997: 145). In sum, Ghurye believed, like some of the British Orientalists, that Hinduism and Islam are fundamentally incompatible religious systems. Ghurye’s understanding of Indian society as essentially Hindu society, and his negative view of Muslims in particular, is reflected in the almost complete neglect of non-Hindu communities within the extensive body of sociological writings produced by him and his students.

Chapter 03.indd 49

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

50

Carol Upadhya

In the exhaustive Dictionary of Ghurye’s work compiled by Pillai (1997), there is no entry on Muslims, Christians, or Sikhs. There is one entry on ‘Jain studies’ and one on ‘Jainism’, which refer to two doctoral dissertations guided by Ghurye, but he considered Jainism as an offshoot of Hinduism rather than a deviant religion. Among the 80 M.A. and Ph.D. theses produced under him, there is one on a Christian community, one on Muslims of Uttar Pradesh, and one on Hindu-Muslim relations, and several on various tribal and ‘untouchable’ groups (Ibid.). This neglect of non-Hindu religious communities is surprising in view of the fact that Ghurye encouraged his students to take up fieldwork on diverse regions, communities and topics, and that one of his main interests was the sociology of religion. References to Islam in the Dictionary are found only in a few entries such as ‘Islamic View of Bhakti Cult’, ‘Islamic View of Indian History’, and ‘Islamic “Influence”(?): On Guru Worship’ (Ibid.: 174–77). Wherever Islam is mentioned, it is usually discussed in relation to some feature of Hindu society rather than as a religious system in its own right, and the major thrust of the discussion is to deny Islamic influence in the development of various facets of Indian culture. Thus, it appears that Ghurye adopted almost wholesale the Orientalist vision of Indian society as the product of Vedic civilisation and ultimately of the ‘Aryan invasion’, and of Indian civilisation as Hindu, Brahminical civilisation, although he was somewhat more selective in his arguments about the connections between present India and the Vedic past than were Orientalists such as Max Müller. However, we cannot attribute Ghurye’s civilisational perspective purely to the hegemony of colonial discourse (Bose 1996). More important may be the influence of cultural nationalism, an orientation that is never explicitly stated, but which becomes apparent in Ghurye’s writings on contemporary affairs.

Ghurye the Nationalist Ghurye’s brand of sociology, especially as reflected in Caste and race in India with its distinctive blend of racial, linguistic, cultural and historical data, is not simply a derivative of 19th-century ethnology and Orientalist scholarship. Rather, his narrative of Indian civilisation, history and society fits neatly into the strand of late 19th—early 20thcentury nationalist discourse that drew heavily upon the Aryan invasion

Chapter 03.indd 50

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

51

theory of history and the idea of an ancient civilisation. The construction of national identity in opposition to an ‘Other’, the ‘foreign’ Muslim, is also reflected strongly in Ghurye’s work. His nationalism can be discerned indirectly in his historical/anthropological writings and more directly in the three books that he wrote on post-independence political problems (1968b, 1974, and 1980). As a strong nationalist, Ghurye wanted India to become a true nation-state. For him, the failure of the secularists’ idea of integration was demonstrated in continuing communal riots, demands for separate states, and other such divisive tendencies. Ghurye had no faith in the official ideology of secularism promoted by Nehru, nor in the idea that a composite, plural nation could be politically created. He hoped, instead, for the emergence of an ‘integrated’ nation, which he saw as the solution to ‘social tensions’ (Ghurye 1968b). Ghurye defines social integration as ‘. . . a state in which individuals and groups have common values. This calls for, or is preceded by, psychological integration, which can take place only through communication . . . Social integration when combined with its political aspect becomes national integration’ (Ghurye 1968b: 40, quoted in Pillai 1997: 310). While he believed that some degree of tolerance is necessary for social integration, his study of the European experience convinced him that granting cultural autonomy to minority groups does not solve the problem of inter-group tensions. Hence, he was opposed to the ‘appeasement’ of minorities in the name of secularism (Pillai 1997: 313–14). For Ghurye a major source of division in the nation is the presence of Muslims. Because Islam failed to be absorbed into Hindu culture, Hindu-Muslim relations are fraught with tension, as is evident from the frequent recurrence of Hindu-Muslim riots (Pillai 1997: 145): ‘The mutual incompatibility of some religious practices of the two communities generally has been the proximate cause of these clashes’ (Ghurye 1968b: ix, quoted in Ibid.: 145). Ghurye also explains communal tension by reference to the history of razing of Hindu temples by Muslim rulers (Ibid.: 146).18 According to him, other groups recognised the tolerance of Hinduism and adapted themselves to it, but Muslims never managed to integrate themselves into Indian society and hence have remained a threat to national unity. Ghurye believed that national integration should be achieved by the absorption of diverse religious and ‘backward’ groups into mainstream Hindu society. This view is reflected in a paper entitled ‘Untouchable

Chapter 03.indd 51

10/19/2013 3:34:14 PM

52

Carol Upadhya

classes and their assimilation in Hindu society’ (1973b), first published in The Aryan path in 1933, in which he argues that the remedy for untouchability is the ‘assimilation’ of ‘untouchables’ into Hindu society. For complete assimilation to occur, the ‘exclusivist spirit of caste’ must be eradicated (Ibid.: 323). Although Ghurye understood the caste system historically as the means by which diverse groups were integrated into Hindu society, he was critical of caste in its modern avatar. He was probably the first to point to the politicisation of caste by colonial policies and practices, an insight that he complained was ignored by reviewers of the first edition of Caste and race (Ghurye 1969: 337–38). Ghurye (1932: 157) condemned Risley’s work as Census Commissioner for promoting the consolidation of caste groupings and the emergence of caste associations. The result of the increasingly elaborate enumeration by caste and ranking of castes in the census, he wrote, was a livening up of the caste-spirit’ (Ibid.: 158), leading to competition and conflict among caste groups. Ghurye’s opposition to enumeration by caste in the census, like his call for ‘assimilation’ of ‘untouchables’ and tribals,19 stemmed from his conviction that national unity could be achieved only through cultural homogeneity. Caste was becoming a divisive force in society due to certain government policies, which had to be opposed in the interest of national integration. Caste associations, reservation of posts and seats by caste, and even caste-based movements for equality were criticised by Ghurye on the same grounds. Like several contemporary sociologists, he argued that reserved representation is . . . harmful in so far as it tends to perpetuate the distinction based on birth. Cooperation in the satisfaction of the needs of common social life through the machinery of Government is one of the potent factors that have dissolved tribal bonds and created nation-communities . . . Special representation for some castes . . . means the negation of such cooperation (Ghurye 1932: 169).

Reservation of seats will induce more and more castes to ‘clamour’ for individual representation, reducing national life to an ‘absurdity’ (Ibid.: 170). Similarly, Ghurye argues that the burgeoning of caste associations had increased ‘caste-consciousness’ and strengthened the ‘communityaspect’ of caste, creating a vicious circle (Ibid.: 79): ‘The feeling of castesolidarity is now so strong that it is truly described as caste-patriotism’.

Chapter 03.indd 52

10/19/2013 3:34:15 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

53

Ghurye ends this work with a remarkable passage in which he employs the story of the Indo-Aryan conquest to exhort Indians to take up the tasks of social reform and nation-building: The phenomenon of the conquering Indo-Aryans, who were passionate eaters of flesh and drinkers of intoxicating beverages, settling down as the uppercastes of Hindu society and abjuring their coveted food and drink for centuries, is a moral triumph of the people of India, for which there is hardly any parallel in human history. The same people, now called upon to throw off caste, would rise to the occasion and achieve a still greater triumph (Ibid.: 188).

Conclusion The central argument of this paper is that Ghurye appropriated colonial constructions of Indian history and society and reworked them to create a nationalist sociology. In this endeavour he was influenced by a strand of cultural nationalism that itself drew upon the Orientalist story of a glorious Aryan past to assert the antiquity and authenticity of Indian civilisation, and therefore of the Indian ‘nation’. It appears that Ghurye was caught up in the nationalist quest to recuperate Indian civilisation and its past by reinterpreting the ancient texts, which were also invoked to throw light upon contemporary society. His sociology revolves around the idea of Hindu civilisation, stretching back into the hoary past. By taking the longest view, Ghurye could regard colonialism as just another in a series of invasions that would not prove fatal to resilient Indian culture. At the same time, free India, in danger of disintegration due to divisions of religion, caste, language, and region, would have to seek its unity by rediscovering its true (Hindu) past. Hindu civilisation, with some modest reforms, would be the foundation of the nation, and any movement that works against national integration (e.g., reservations, regional autonomy, etc.) must be opposed. Thus, Ghurye’s brand of sociology, by building itself around a particular understanding of Indian civilisation, emerges as an elaboration on a narrow Hindu/Brahminical nationalist ideology that advocates cultural unity and nation-building rather than political and economic emancipation or equality. By drawing this conclusion, I do not mean to suggest that we should be content with the conventional view that Ghurye was the father of an ‘authentic’ or indigenous Indian sociology. Clearly he, like everyone

Chapter 03.indd 53

10/19/2013 3:34:15 PM

54

Carol Upadhya

else, was a product of his milieu, and he utilised Orientalist ideas about Indian civilisation and history to produce what appeared to be an Indian and nationalist sociology. Neither do we need to go to the other extreme and interpret his work as a straightforward regurgitation of colonial knowledge. Rather, a close study of Ghurye suggests that we need to rethink the entire issue of the colonial production of knowledge (and of society) itself. As several scholars have pointed out, the construction of colonial knowledge, like the construction of the empire, was a complex collaborative project. Indian sociology is the product of complex interactions among diverse discourses, agents and institutions from the colonial period onwards, and of numerous processes of production, appropriation, and redeployment of knowledge for various ends. A valid critique of this history must take into account this complexity and avoid reproducing the same discourse that it purports to deconstruct. What is perhaps more important to understand than the origins of Ghurye’s ideas are their consequences: First, it is arguable that his work contributed to the entrenchment of the notion of ‘Indian civilisation’ and ‘Indian culture’, understood as an ancient, unchanging and seamless tradition, as central organising concepts of several disciplines. Without laying everything at Ghurye’s door, it is significant that in the discourse of mainstream sociology that developed after him, Indian ‘tradition’ was equated primarily with Hindu norms, rituals and social organisation. In this discourse, tradition, which was opposed to modernity, could change only in two ways: through ‘sanskritisation’ or the consolidation of ancient Indian tradition,20 or ‘modernisation’, imposed by colonialism and the west. Second, although Ghurye’s sociology is apparently historical in orientation, the idea of Indian culture deployed by him (and many others) is homogenising and hegemonic, denying the historicity and fluidity of Indian ‘traditions’. Ghurye’s influence may be identified in several common themes of early Indian sociology, the continual reference to ‘tradition’ as embodied in classical texts; a linear reading of history as cultural heritage; a stress on social structure and cultural continuity and the consequent failure to recognise conflict, oppression and hegemony; a focus on the level of culture, understood as a system of ideas and values, and the relative neglect of the material ‘base’ of society; and the trope of ‘unity in diversity’ in which the documented variety of norms, rituals, and customs does not undermine the unity of ‘Indian (Hindu) culture’.

Chapter 03.indd 54

10/19/2013 3:34:15 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

55

Moving beyond the issue of Ghurye and the development of Indian sociology, an even more significant question to be considered is the influence of this sociological tradition on public and political discourses and ideologies. By asserting the civilisational unity of India and centring it on the culture of the Aryans and their purported descendants, and by extension, on Hinduism and Brahminism, Ghurye’s brand of sociology tends to reinforce the claims of Hindu nationalism.21 As issues of academic freedom and control over knowledge are becoming ever more critical, this appears to be an appropriate moment for sociologists to think seriously about such questions. It is not only the knowledge produced by our intellectual ancestors that should be scrutinised, but also our own contributions to contemporary ideological formations.

Notes 1. This is a revised version of a paper presented at the National Workshop on ‘Knowledge, Institutions, Practices: The Formation of Indian Anthropology and Sociology’, held at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, 19–21 April 2000. I am very grateful to the participants at the Workshop and to Mahesh Gavaskar and Sujata Patel for their comments. 2. Ghurye told Pramanick (1994: 14) that he had worked out his plan of research and writing in the first few years of his career, and did not deviate from it. 3. Good sources on Ghurye include Momin (1996), Pillai (1997), and Pramanick (1994). 4. ‘So great an influence has the Vedic age . . . exercised upon all succeeding periods of Indian history, so deeply have the religious and moral ideas of that primitive era taken root in the mind of the Indian nation, so minutely has almost every private and public act of Indian life been regulated by old traditionary precepts that it is impossible to find the right point of view for judging of Indian religion, morals, and literature without a knowledge of the literary remains of the Vedic age’ (Max Müller, quoted in Chakravarti 1993: 39–40). 5. Although Rivers is often remembered as a diffusionist, he was converted to the faith late in his career, by Elliot Smith, in 1896 (Kuklick 1991: 127). His more lasting work was in comparative psychology and kinship, subjects that Ghurye also pursued. Ghurye wrote that with the publication of Family and kin he had discharged a longstanding debt to his teacher Rivers, whose work had inspired him to write the book (1973a: 156). 6. Srinivas (1996: 6) mentions that one of Ghurye’s favourite books was Clive Bell’s Civilisation. When sociology was offered as a full subject for the first time in Bombay University in 1943, among the new papers introduced by Ghurye were ‘Civilisation and Culture’ and ‘Comparative Social Institutions’. It is noteworthy that he also introduced a paper entitled ‘Social Biology’ (Ghurye 1973a: 109).

Chapter 03.indd 55

10/19/2013 3:34:15 PM

56

Carol Upadhya

7. Although he apparently had little regard for Hobhouse, Ghurye requested Srinivas as a student to read his Morals in evolution (Srinivas 1996: 3). 8. Interestingly, in an earlier paper (1925) Ghurye defines civilisation in the broader sense to include food production as well as development of knowledge, urban centres, and so on. 9. In a note at the end of this book, Ghurye discusses the role of universities as creators of culture, and the mass media as disseminators of culture. In some ways, Ghurye was indeed ahead of his times. 10. Although this book was published in 1948, one year after Culture and society, it was written earlier (Pillai 1997: 64–5). 11. In this historical reconstruction, Ghurye draws mainly upon Orientalist sources—the works of Max Müller, the Vedic index, and so on. 12. The chapter on race was dropped in the second and third editions, which were entitled Caste and class in India, the fourth edition became Caste, class and occupation, and in the fifth edition the chapter on race was restored along with the original title (Pillai 1997: 41). For this paper I have not attempted to review the substantive changes that were made by Ghurye between the various editions, although this might be a revealing exercise. 13. By the end of the 19th century, race had come to be defined in terms of physical and genetic constitution and was considered to be relatively immutable. Race doctrine posited a fixed association between intelligence and physical form (especially facial features and brain size), and a hierarchy of races was constructed by ranking various strands of humanity on a civilisational scale. Only certain races—those with highly evolved brains—were considered to be capable of achieving civilisation (Bayly 1995: 171; Stepan 1982). Thus, races became substantialised entities that could be physically measured, and the early 20th century witnessed the emergence of the ‘science’ of anthropometry. 14. Elsewhere, Ghurye (1969: 173) states that the Brahmin of Uttar Pradesh is the ‘typical representative of the ancient Aryans’. 15. Incidentally, this subject was first treated analytically by Max Müller (Pillai 1997: 342). 16. He also argues, against other Indologists, that this complex of knowledge, including gotra exogamy, fully developed only in the 8th century B.C., not in the Vedic period. Thus, Ghurye was careful in marshalling his evidence and did not attribute everything Hindu to the invading Aryans. Similarly, he maintains that charana was a ‘pure product of Indo-Aryan culture of the Brahmans’ which died out when the ‘ancient basis of it, the cultivation of Vedic studies’, disappeared, ‘almost before the full shock of the foreign Muslim invaders was felt’ (Ghurye 1972: 17–18). 17. It is remarkable that in a book published in 1972, Ghurye should be beating such dead horses as Durkheim’s 1898 thesis. Ghurye refers to the (by then discredited) theories of Frazer, Westermarck, and Briffault, but to none of the emerging literature in symbolic anthropology (or even to earlier functionalist theories) that would have been relevant to the question of menstrual taboos. On exogamy he refers with excitement to Robin Fox’s sociobiological theory, but there is no mention of Lévi-Strauss, whose Elementary structures of kinship would surely have been the major reference points for any discussion of incest and exogamy in the 1970s.

Chapter 03.indd 56

10/19/2013 3:34:15 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

57

18. This history also accounts for the relative dominance of ‘Islamic architecture’ and relative absence of Hindu forms in north India, where invading Muslims made their impact visible (Pillai 1997: 146). 19. Ghurye’s argument about the need for assimilation of diverse groups into Hindu society is also illustrated by his well-known debate with Verrier Elwin on tribal policy. In 1943, Ghurye published The aboriginals, so-called and their future (republished as The scheduled tribes [1959]), in which he attacked Elwin for his advocacy of the preservation of the ‘tribal way of life’ through state-enforced isolation from Hindu society. He contested the view that tribes are culturally separate from Hindu society, preferring to designate them as ‘imperfectly integrated classes of Hindu society’ or ‘Backward Hindus’ (Ghurye 1959: 19), rather than aborigines. For him, the cause of tribals’ immiseration was not contact with civilisation, but the economic and legal changes ushered in by British colonial rule, and the solution lay not in protectionism but in ‘. . . strengthening the ties of the tribals with the other backward classes through their integration’ (Ibid.: 207). 20. It is not a coincidence that the term ‘sanskritisation’ was coined by Ghurye’s student, Srinivas. The concept appears to be based on Ghurye’s view of Indian history as an ongoing process of Hinduisation. Sanskritisation has become a rather dangerous hegemonic idea not only within Indian sociology but also in public discourse, for it implies that absorption into Brahminical culture and social order is a natural outcome of upward socioeconomic mobility. 21. While most of Ghurye’s work may no longer be read seriously except by students required to know the history of Indian sociology. Caste and race (which has gone through five editions and at least six reprints of the last edition) is apparently still prescribed as a sociology text in many universities, and also seems to have wide circulation among aspirants for the civil service examinations. To what extent does Ghurye’s presentation of Indian history and society in this book lend authenticity and legitimacy to already prevalent ideas and prejudices?

References Bayly, Susan. 1995. ‘Caste and “race” in the colonial ethnography of India’, in Peter Robb (ed.): The concept of race in South Asia (163–218). Delhi: Oxford University Press. Bose, Pradip Kumar. 1996. ‘A narrative of caste: Ghurye on caste and race in India’, in Momin (1996: 61–73). Chakravarti, Uma. 1993. ‘Whatever happened to the Vedic dasi? Orientalism, nationalism and a script for the past’, in K. Sangari and S. Vaid (ed.): Recasting women: Essays in Indian Colonial History (27–87). New Delhi: Kali for Women. Cohn, Bernard S. 1987 (1968). ‘Notes on the history of the study of Indian society’, in Bernard S. Cohn: An anthropologist among the historians and other essays (136–71). Delhi: Oxford University Press. Desai, A.R. 1984. ‘G.S. Ghurye’, Economic and political weekly, 19 (1): 11–12. Ghurye, G.S. 1923. ‘Egyptian affinities of Indian funerary practices’, Anthropos, 4: 420–30. ——— 1925. ‘Civilisation and fecundity’, Man in India, 5 (l & 2): 1–21.

Chapter 03.indd 57

10/19/2013 3:34:15 PM

58

Carol Upadhya

Ghurye, G.S. 1932. Caste and race in India. London: Kegan Paul. ——— 1947. Culture and society. Bombay: Oxford University Press. ——— 1948. Occidental civilisation. Bombay: International Book House. ——— 1955. Family and kin in Indo-European culture. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1959. The scheduled tribes. Bombay: Popular Book Depot (first published as The aborigines so-called and their future [1943]). ——— 1962. Cities and civilisation. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1965. Religious consciousness. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1968a. Rajput architecture. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1968b. Social tensions in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1969. Caste and race in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan (fifth edition). ——— 1972. Two Brahmanical institutions: Gotra and charana. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1973a. I and other explorations. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1973b. ‘Untouchable classes and their assimilation in Hindu society’ in Ghurye (1973a: 316–25). ——— 1974. Whither India? Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1977. Indian acculturation: Agastya and Skanda. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1979. Vedic India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1980. Burning cauldron of north-east India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Hasan, Mushirul. 1996. ‘The myth of unity: Colonial and national narratives’ in Ludden (1996a: 185–220). Irschick, Eugene F. 1994. Dialogue and history: Constructing south India, 1795–1895. Berkeley: University of California Press. Kuklick, Henrika. 1983. ‘Tribal exemplars: Images of political authority in British anthropology, 1885–1945’, in G. Stocking (ed.): Observers observed: Essays on ethnographic fieldwork (59–82). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ——— 1991. The savage within: The social history of British Anthropology, 1885–1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ludden, David. 1996. ‘Introduction’, in Ludden (1996a: 1–23). ——— (ed.) 1996a. Making India Hindu. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Momin, A.R. (ed.). 1996. The legacy of G.S. Ghurye: A centennial festschrift. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Pandey, Gyanendra. 1994. The construction of communalism in colonial north India. Delhi: Oxford University. Pillai, S. Devadas. 1997. Indian sociology through Ghurye: A dictionary. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. Pramanick, S. K. 1994. Sociology of G.S. Ghurye. Jaipur: Rawat Publications. Raychaudhuri, Tapan. 1988. Europe reconsidered: Perceptions of the west in nineteenth-century Bengal. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Rocher, Rosanne. 1994. ‘British Orientalism in the eighteenth century: The dialectics of knowledge and government’, in C. Breckenridge and P. van der Veer (eds.): Orientalism and the postcolonial predicament (215–49). Delhi: Oxford University Press. Sarkar, Sumit. 1996. ‘Indian nationalism and the politics of Hindutva’, in Ludden (1996a: 270–94). Shah, A.M. 1974. ‘Historical sociology: A trend report’, in ICSSR: A survey of research in sociology and social anthropology (Vol. I: 432–59). New Delhi.

Chapter 03.indd 58

10/19/2013 3:34:15 PM

The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye

59

Srinivas, M.N. 1973. ‘Itineraries of an Indian social anthropologist’, International social science journal, 25 (1 & 2): 129–48. ——— 1996. ‘Professor G.S. Ghurye and I: A troubled relationship’, in Momin (1996a: 1–12). Stepan, Nancy. 1982. The idea of race in science: Great Britain 1800–1960. London: Macmillan. Thapar, Romila. 1997. ‘Foreword’ to Trautmann (1997). Trautmann, Thomas R. 1997. Aryans and British India. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications. Venugopal, C.N. 1986. ‘G.S. Ghurye’s ideology of normative Hinduism: An appraisal’, Contributions to Indian sociology, 20 (2): 305–14.

Chapter 03.indd 59

10/19/2013 3:34:15 PM

4 Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation: Situating G.S. Ghurye* T.K. Oommen

G

ovind Sadashiv Ghurye (1893–1983) is arguably the most prolific Indian anthropo-sociologist1 and also probably the most written about scholar in this field. There are at least two known PhD theses on Ghurye’s work, one of which resulted in the publication of a book (Pramanick 2001) and the other leading to the publication of a few research papers (Venugopal 1986, 1993, 1996). Further, there are three well-known felicitation volumes published to honour Ghurye: a volume was brought out on his sixtieth birthday (Kapadia 1954), another volume was presented to him on his eightieth birthday (Pillai 1976), and a centennial festschrift was also published (Momin 1996) after his death. Ghurye’s scholarship is encyclopaedic straddling caste and race, family and kinship, religion and nation, civilisations and communities, Rajput architecture and human sexuality; indeed, he was an academic amphibian who was at ease in many worlds of scholarship. Most of his colleagues and contemporaries, students, and admirers have articulated their views and commentaries on Ghurye’s analysis of castes and tribes, two seminal themes which were his lifelong passion. However, I suggest that the Scheduled Castes were subjected to cognitive blackout and the Scheduled Tribes were victims of cognitive dissonance in Ghurye’s writings. And, none of his commentators had taken note of this, which

Chapter 04.indd 60

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation

61

provides the justification for the theme of my lecture. Further, in relentlessly advocating their assimilation/integration into the Indian ‘nation’, Ghurye held a notion of nation that is utterly West European. This contradicts the famous pronouncement of D.P. Mukerji (1954), that Ghurye was the only ‘Indian Sociologist’ of his time, while others were merely ‘sociologists of India’.

I Ghurye’s first book, published in 1932, titled Caste and Race in India,2 is also his most celebrated book, which has been revised and updated several times. Its fifth edition was published in 1969 and re-printed in 1979, the edition to which I am referring to in this lecture. The book has one chapter titled ‘The Scheduled Castes’ that has exactly 30 pages (pp. 306–36) out of the total text of 476 pages. While Indian caste system is the most widely commented upon social phenomenon, the practice of untouchability to which Scheduled Castes were subjected to was and continues to be the most abominable in human history, shaming even slavery and racism partly because it was sanctioned and legitimised by a set of religious doctrines. The moment such a statement is made, efforts to dissociate caste system and by implication untouchability from Hinduism, invoking the distinction between Smritis and Shrutis, claiming that the latter opposed the caste system, are in vogue. It is also argued that in the event of a contradiction between the two, Shruti shall prevail over Smriti (see, for example, Nadkarni 2003). The point at issue here is not one of correctness of doctrines, whether they exist in Smriti or Shruti, but one of practices in the life-world. The lived reality in Indian society is that untouchability is practised even today, particularly in rural areas, and people who practise it and who are its victims believe that Hinduism and untouchability are inextricably intertwined. The term Scheduled Caste is an administrative coinage and terms such as Chandala, exterior caste, Harijan, dalit, etc. have been in currency, each of which had a different origin.3 The Scheduled Castes form, ‘. . . the fifth order in the four-fold society of Hindu theory of caste’, according to Ghurye (1979: 307). He admits that ‘Ideas of purity, whether occupational or ceremonial, which are found to have been a factor in the genesis of caste, are at the very soul of the idea and practice of untouchability’ (ibid.: 307).4 And, ‘. . . the breed of the Chandala is a degraded one and is

Chapter 04.indd 61

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

62T.K. Oommen

ranked with that of dog and the pig’ (ibid.: 309). The concern here is that the Hindu doctrine of creation refers only to four Varnas and, if so, how does one account for the Panchamas, those of the fifth order? According to ancient Hindu texts, the Chandalas are the progeny of the most hated of the reverse order of the mixed unions, that of the Brahmin female and a Shudra male (ibid.). But, according to Ghurye, ‘. . . the more plausible explanation would be that the Chandalas were a de-graded group of aborigines’ (ibid.: 52). Be that as it may, there were other groups such as Svapachas and Mritapas like Chandalas ‘. . . who had to live outside the limits of Arya villages and towns’ (ibid.: 312). A number of questions need to be asked and answered if one were to endorse this textual explanation of the origin of untouchables. One, how did the differentiation between the different types of untouchables—Chandalas, Mritapas, Svapachas, etc.—came about? Is it based on the differences in the status of their Shudra/aboriginal fathers? Two, is it that the Brahmin women had so much freedom those days to have illegitimate sexual relations with Shudra men? Three, if they did, was it that it was so well known to the community so as to sift out the progeny based on paternity assuming that the Brahmin female had their legitimate Brahmin husbands? Four, if the answer to the above question is in the affirmative, what was the mechanism through which the children of Brahmin females through legitimate and illegitimate unions were separated and grouped together so as to form different castes? Five, why was that the deviant Shudra males in question were not done away with given the then prevailing hegemony of Brahmins? Six, was it not the practice to ostracise the deviant Brahmin females from the family and community? Unfortunately, Ghurye did not pose any of these questions, let alone answering them. These and several other questions can be answered only if one gets a field-view of the phenomenon under investigation. There is no evidence of Ghurye having done fieldwork to understand the phenomenon of untouchability. This is not to argue that the text-view is irrelevant, the religious texts sanctioned and legitimised the practice of untouchability ensuring its persistence till this day. The texts prescribe norms and values, but only the field study unfolds human behaviour: the former prescribes ‘the ought’ and the latter unfolds ‘the is’. And the rupture between ‘the ought’ and ‘the is’ needs to be understood. That is why, the dictum give unto the text that which is the text’s and to the field that which is the field’s becomes crucial, as I have argued quarter of a century ago (Oommen 1983).

Chapter 04.indd 62

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation

63

Ghurye refers to Namashudras of West Bengal, an untouchable caste who counted 320,000 according to the 1951 Census. They have experienced occupational change and a considerable number of them now follow the various learned professions. Yet their social position as a caste continues to be very low (Ghurye 1979: 317). This indicates the bi-dimensional status system in Indian society: ritual and secular. Thus, an ‘untouchable’ may achieve high status in the secular status system, but would retain his low status in the ritual status system. The incongruence between these two status systems is of crucial importance to understand the limited possibility of upward social mobility the Scheduled Castes can achieve in the caste hierarchy. And, Ghurye’s silence in this context is, indeed, disappointing. Ghurye divided untouchables into two: ‘pure’ and ‘impure’. The untouchables become pure through abjuring ‘beef and such other anathematic diet’ (ibid.: 322). This is precisely what M.N. Srinivas christened as Sanskritisation (1956). However, Sanskritisation was scarcely functional for achieving higher ritual status for the untouchables (see Oommen 2008: 70–75). Further, Ghurye admitted ‘. . . that the legislative measures against untouchability can at best produce a few dents in the solid wall, whose demolition requires the operation of an active sentiment of the people at large’ (1979: 330), and he provides several examples of resistance against the changes attempted to eradicate untouchability. Ghurye concluded: ‘While these gruesome events reveal the persistence of the occasional but darkest feature of the situation of the Scheduled Castes, daily and routine life of the village registers fair amount of segregation and contemptuous treatment offered by the people at large’ (ibid.: 335). Given this conclusion, Ghurye’s advocacy of assimilation of untouchables into Hindu society seems to be a wild goose chase. Apart from the chapter titled the ‘Scheduled Castes’ in Caste and Race in India, there is an article titled ‘Untouchable Classes and their Assimilation in Hindu Society’ published in the journal The Aryan Path in 1933 (see Ghurye 1973: 316–23). The reproduction of this article in the 1973 book probably points to Ghurye’s firm conviction that assimilation of untouchables into Hindu society is a feasible proposition. Ghurye wrote: According to the orthodox theory of Hindu social organization these classes form the fifth and the outcaste section. They are given the appellation of untouchables because they are believed to impart pollution to members of

Chapter 04.indd 63

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

64T.K. Oommen higher sections if they touch them. But in the orthodox theory on the subject this characteristic of imparting pollution by touch belongs really to the fourth section of Hindu society. The fifth section that is now called untouchable is supposed, both in theory and practice to pollute members of the other sections even if they stand at a certain distance. Thus, it will be realized that the so called untouchables are, in practice, really unapproachables. It is this unapproachability that creates the main difficulties in the path of their assimilation in the Hindu society (ibid.: 316–17).

It is clear that by ‘assimilation’ Ghurye meant transformation of the status of ‘unapproachables’ who belongs to the fifth order to the status of ‘untouchables’ drawn from the fourth Varna! Ghurye endorsed the ‘inherent connection between the spirit of castes and untouchability’ and admitted that ‘Removal of untouchability, therefore, intimately depends on the disappearance of the spirit of caste’ (ibid.: 317). To achieve this, Ghurye advocated four steps: one, removing individual’s disability that hampers a better and cleaner living; two, enabling these classes to cultivate cleaner and moral mode of life; three, to encourage those of other sections to have freer social intercourse with these people; and four, ‘undermine and eradicate the exclusive spirit of castes’ (ibid.: 319). To achieve this truly revolutionary task, Ghurye advocates an administrative approach by setting up a central organisation with its provincial and local committees to adjudicate disputes that arise between ritually pure and impure castes. Additionally, providing modern technology and adequate training to the untouchable classes is also an important step prescribed by him. Finally, ensuring employment to these classes, particularly in offices situated in towns and villages will facilitate the process of eradicating the practice of untouchability, according to him. In sum, Ghurye advocated change of status in the secular dimension of untouchables to assimilate them into the Hindu society. On the other hand, he wanted to leave undisturbed the ritual dimension.5 Thus, he suggested: We must try to see the various items in the campaign against untouchability in their proper perspective and not exaggerate the importance of temple entry so as to divert our attention from the other items. Free access to Hindu temples is only one of the rights and it is not the most important means for assimilation of these classes in the Hindu society (ibid.: 320).

Chapter 04.indd 64

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation

65

Ghurye wanted ‘to prepare the minds of populace at large to look upon untouchability as both undesirable and impractical’ (ibid.: 321). And to achieve this objective it is necessary to start an extensive propaganda preaching against untouchability. But in the process ‘. . . we must not be drawn into a controversy over the existence or non-existence of the doctrine of untouchability in the Hindu Dharma Shashtras’ (ibid.). It is clear that Ghurye wanted to ‘assimilate’ the untouchables into Hindu society without disturbing the ritual status system seminal to it and without interrogating the Hindu Dharma Shashtras, which provide legitimacy to caste hierarchy. I have referred above to the bi-dimensional nature of  the status system in Hindu society and there is enough evidence to show that, while the status of ex-untouchables has gone up in the secular context, it does not lead to concomitant change in their ritual status. This calls for the need to locate the core institutional order in a society and the kernel of that institution.6 The dominant view when Ghurye wrote this article in 1933 was that the caste system constituted the core institutional order of Hindu society and ritual status was the kernel of caste hierarchy. Therefore, the advocacy of assimilation of untouchables into Hindu society leaving the ritual dimension of the caste system intact was untenable. I propose to conclude the discussion on Scheduled Castes by calling attention to a possible strategy for social change. Given the bidimensional nature of status system in Hindu society and because ritual status is its kernel, two possible strategies can be invoked. One, start with the soft-spot in the system: the soft-spot in the case of Hindu society is constituted by the secular dimension consisting of education, employment, political representation, access to economic resources, and the like. In contrast, measures such as temple entry, inter-caste marriages, etc. are more change-resistant as they erode the ritual superiority of the higher castes. And, therefore, a strategy for social change to eliminate untouchability may start with the soft spots, namely, the secular dimension, but ultimately the sanctity of ritual dimension should be questioned (Oommen 1968). Alternatively, one may attack the Hindu Dharma Shashtras so as to de-legitimise the caste system and the practice of untouchability that it entails.7 Ghurye, however, was not advocating either of these approaches and, therefore, it is difficult to comprehend the process of assimilation of untouchables into Hindu Society he had visualised. He even held: ‘Reserved representation is not necessary; it is harmful in so far as it

Chapter 04.indd 65

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

66T.K. Oommen

tends to perpetuate the distinction based on birth (1979: 290). This observation is not simply curious but also amusing because the caste system is all about perpetuating distinctions based on birth. And, reservation is conceived as an instrument to unsettle it at least partially. His main concern was that the policy of reservation will tear asunder Indian society through inter-caste strife and it will unleash caste patriotism. It seems that Ghurye preferred the coercive equilibrium institutionalised through upper-caste hegemony rather than a consensual equilibrium that will gradually evolve based on social justice and equality. Inevitably, inter-caste conflict is a small price to be paid for the structural change of the caste system. Ghurye reposed great faith in the ‘noble’ constitution of India that promised equality to all including the ex-untouchables. However, he refused to recognise that, in order to put into practice this ontological equality, the state had to provide for equality of opportunity, as it is a shell without substance unless equality of conditions is created. The instrument of reservation or protective discrimination is nothing but an attempt to create this condition so that those who are placed in grossly iniquitous conditions are enabled to compete with the traditionally privileged. However, this is not to deny the possibility of inequality in outcomes when the policy of reservation is implemented. To cope with this problem it is necessary to take out the emerging creamy layer among the traditionally underprivileged, so that the benefits can vertically flow to the less fortunate among them. However, Ghurye’s hope that ‘certain exigencies of modern life will force high caste Hindus to change their attitude and practice to some extent’ (1979: 295) has not come true. And he asserted that ‘. . . social and religious privileges and disabilities of caste are no longer recognised in law and only partly in custom. Only the depressed classes are labouring under certain customary and semi-legal disabilities’ (ibid.: 302). This sounds rather unrealistic viewed in the context of the latest available empirical evidence regarding the practice of untouchability (Shah et al. 2006). I have suggested that Ghurye’s analysis of Scheduled Castes is characterised by cognitive black out and this for the following reasons. First, the limited space (barely 40 pages taking into account the chapter on Scheduled Castes (Ghurye 1979) and the article in The Aryan Path, together) devoted to the analysis of Scheduled Castes. Second, his considerable reliance on ancient Hindu texts and not having done any

Chapter 04.indd 66

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation

67

fieldwork among the untouchables to unfold their life-world. Third, the excessive optimism he reposed in the forces of modernisation to weaken the caste system and the practice of untouchability. Finally, his underestimating the strength of the ritual dimension and religious doctrines in perpetuating the practice of untouchability.

II The second category with which this lecture is concerned, namely, the Scheduled Tribes, was the subject matter of Ghurye’s second book, published in 1943, titled The Aborigines-so-Called and Their Future. The book was enlarged and published in 1959 with the title The Scheduled Tribes, and its third edition was published in 1963. Unlike caste, which is widely acknowledged as a unique Indian social category, tribe is a universal socio-cultural collectivity found in Africa, Australia, Asia, the Americas, and Europe. Two basic features distinguish tribes from castes: they have their definite territories (home lands) and languages. In contrast, several castes jointly share a common territory and a common language. In India, linguistic regions have specific castes. Both castes and tribes may share a common religion; the Scheduled Castes could be Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, or Christians. Similarly, the Scheduled Tribes may abandon their original primal vision, usually designated as animism/naturism, and embrace one of the ‘world religions’. Just as Ghurye wanted the Scheduled Castes to be assimilated in Hindu society, he wanted to integrate the Scheduled Tribes into the Indian society and polity. In this context, he differentiated the encysted tribes of Central India from the tribes of North-east India that belonged those days to Assam; the first category was to be integrated through Hinduisation, and the second to be politically incorporated through strong administrative measures of the Indian state. The Aborigines-soCalled deals with the encysted tribes, and the issues relating to the tribes of North-east are discussed in the book The Burning Caldron of NorthEast India, published in 1980. The Aborigines was written as a response to Verrier Elwin’s Loss of Nerve published earlier in 1941. Elwin advocated insulation of tribes from the Hindus surrounding them which eventually most anthropologists supported, although some had argued for gradual and mutual acculturation of the Hindus and the tribes, as Majumdar already did (1939). Elwin

Chapter 04.indd 67

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

68T.K. Oommen

wanted to create National Parks for the tribes so that they are protected from the depredations of Hindus.8 Contrarily, Ghurye thought that the contact of tribes with Hindus will gradually enhance the former’s status and earn respectability for them. Ghurye provides the rationale which informs his position in the Preface to the second edition of the book, titled The Scheduled Tribes, published in 1959: Most of the contemporary nations are composite wholes formed of many ethnic stocks which had their own separate cultures before the nation-making epoch . . . The process of assimilation of smaller groups of different cultures into larger ones or less homogenous cultures has been steadily going on . . . This process of assimilation was upset with the appearance of the British on the scene. It is the problem of these peoples (that is, tribes) which is the subject of this essay (xiii–xiv).

Ghurye is, by and large, correct in the above observation in that most countries in the world followed this track. But there are two issues, that of size and the social milieu of the ‘nations’ that he ignored. Of the 220 member states of the United Nations, 54 per cent have a population of five million or less. In contrast, at the time Ghurye wrote the above lines, India’s population was around 500 million. More importantly, the cultural complexity of India’s population was much greater than any country in the world, including the USA. While Indians lived mainly in their original homelands, the US population was drawn from all over the world. Above all, some of the tribes—Bhils, Gonds, Santals— counted three to five million each. In social anthropology, peasant society is conceived as a partsociety, part of a civilisation; tribes are autonomous and ‘independent’ entities. Ignoring this, the Indian Constitution envisaged Scheduled Castes, which is part of the Hindu society, and Scheduled Tribes, who are independent of it, as belonging to one category under the rubric of ‘Backward Classes’. Unfortunately, Ghurye endorsed this in his eagerness to create a composite ‘nation’ (see 1959: x–xi). As a sociologist who respected empirical details, Ghurye should have recognised the difference between castes and tribes. The idea of core institutional order would have come handy in this context also. As noted above, the core of Hindu society is caste hierarchy, the kernel of which is ritual purity. This is not applicable to tribal society; a common ancestral homeland and a shared language are the specific features of tribal societies all over the world.9 Thus viewed, the conventional rural-urban dichotomy is

Chapter 04.indd 68

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation

69

inapplicable to India; rather a trichotomy of urban, rural, and tribal segments becomes pertinent (Oommen 1967). I suggest that the fatal flaw of Ghurye in this context should be located in his endorsing the view held by British Indian Census Commissioners (although he severely criticised them on many counts), who held that animism and Hinduism are not very different (see Xaxa 2008: 76–77). Although this perspective favoured Ghurye’s enthusiasm to integrate tribes into the Hindu-fold, given the colonisers’ proclivity to stigmatise everything Indian, it could also be seen as an attempt to demean Hindus and Hinduism. At any rate, the similarity between Hinduism and animism was usually located in the context of religious practices of lower-caste Hindus and tribal groups. Thus, this could be seen as a triple-barrel gun: (i) keep the lower castes where they are within Hinduism by clubbing them with tribes, (ii) attempt incorporation of groups such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes into the Hindufold, and (iii) maintain the superiority of upper castes as upholders of sophisticated Hinduism, conceding the hegemony of Brahmins as norm-setters and value-givers. What I am suggesting is that, by deflecting attention from the core features of tribal society—territorial concentration and linguistic specificity—and latching on to religion as its core dimension, Ghurye’s analysis of the tribal question in Central India suffered from cognitive dissonance. For example, he noted that the Ranchi district had 80 per cent tribal population, but only 53 per cent spoke non-Aryan languages, and 280,000 were Christians (1963: 127). The assumptions are (a) tribes cannot have Aryan languages as their mother tongues, and (b) if they embrace Christianity, they cease to be tribes. Both these are incorrect. An important implication of invoking Hinduisation of tribes leading to the eclipse of their tribal identity needs to be noted here. If one applies the same process to other territorially anchored linguistic communities, the absurdity of the argument will become self-evident. Will Maharashtrian Hindus cease to be Maharashtrians if they embrace Buddhism? Will Malayali Hindus cease to be Malayalis if they convert to Christianity? Is it that Kashmiri Hindus ceased to be Kashmiris because they adopted Islam as their religion? These questions can be extrapolated and applied to tribes too. The Nagas of India are predominantly Christians, but they still remain Nagas irrespective of the religious faith they follow. Ignoring multiple identities shared by collectivities and privileging a single identity, Ghurye and most Indian sociologists and

Chapter 04.indd 69

10/19/2013 6:24:46 PM

70T.K. Oommen

social anthropologists believed that Hinduisation of tribes would result in a total transformation of their identity from tribes to Hindus! This issue is now being raised by some scholars (see, for example, Xaxa 2008). The other cognitive dissonance found in Ghurye’s analysis of Scheduled Tribes relates to the antiquity of settlers in India. He asserted ‘. . . science and history do not countenance the practice of calling these tribes aborigines’ (1963: 13). But a few lines above he hypothesised: ‘If the Rigveda Aryans came later than others, they made up for the lost time by energizing the local people, creating a high culture and making India their permanent home’ (ibid.: 13). That is, Aryans came to India,10 that they did not come to an empty space, and that there were some pre-Aryan inhabitants in India were conceded by Ghurye. But the belief that Aryans created a high culture cannot erase the facts that the Aryans were immigrants who intruded into India and the Dasas and the tribes were the original inhabitants of India. Ghurye argued: ‘To adjust the claims of the different strata of Indian society on the ground of the antiquity or comparative modernity of their settlement in India is a frightfully difficult task which if undertaken, will only let loose the forces of disunity’ (ibid.: 13). This is not a tenable academic or scientific position, but rather an explicitly political or activist one. I am not suggesting that an academic should not take a political or an activist position, but arguing that the activism of an academic should be buttressed by scientific analysis. The role of an analyst is indeed to undertake frightfully difficult tasks and, based on that analysis anchored to history and reason, persuade all concerned to recognise the merit of his/her argument and strive for unity among and welfare of people which is a political task. Instead, Ghurye took the shortcut and left the task unattended because it was ‘frightful’. Although this can bring temporary and superficial truce, as and when the wounded history unfolds itself, the emerging middle class from among the victimised collectivities will rise in protest. This is precisely what is happening in the tribal world of Central India through the agency of Naxalbari movement. And Ghurye did recognise the fact that ‘In all these areas the respective tribes were no doubt the earlier settlers reclaiming the land from the jungles. . . . There can be no room for doubt that a number of the so-called aboriginal tribes had lost their land to the Hindus’ (1963: 24, 25). And yet, he advocated Hinduisation of these tribes that could have only transformed them into pauperised Hindus, and it is precisely what happened.11

Chapter 04.indd 70

10/19/2013 6:24:47 PM

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation

71

Why is it that most Indian sociologists, including Ghurye, did not apprehend the tribal issue in its proper perspective? I suggest that this is so because they did not take cognisance of the distinction between different varieties of colonialism. In his attempt to understand the dominant relationship of England vis-à-vis Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, Michael Hetcher (1975) characterises the latter three as ‘internal colonies’ within United Kingdom. Homelands of tribes too could be conceptualised as internal colonies within India.12 Instead, the prevailing mood was (and this persists obstinately to this day) to conceptualise tribes, particularly of Central India, as ‘Backward Hindus’ who should be absorbed into Hindu society. There is yet another, and perhaps more relevant, distinction in the context of external colonialism; replicative and retreatist, which I have made in another context (see Oommen 1991). In social science writings retreatist colonialism is widely recognised. Thus, European colonisers retreated from Asia and Africa after having ruled for a couple of centuries or so. But in the case of the New World—Americas and Australia—the Europeans settled down and replicated their societies and marginalised the natives (aborigines) through genocide and culturocide.13 When the Aryans arrived in India, the Dravidians and aborigines were the occupants of the then Indian territory. The Dravidians were forced to go to South India and they carved out a separate space, but the aborigines receded to the hilly tracts, and through their ‘superior cultures’, to which Ghurye alluded, Aryans have subjected the tribes to culturocide. Since the phenomenon occurred in the hoary past and as the notion of colonialism was absent in human cognition those days, nobody referred to the Aryan advent as colonialism. However, viewed in the context of what had happened in the Americas and Australia, one can legitimately refer to what the Aryans did as replicative colonialism. Thus, the Indian tribes were subjected to replicative colonialism in Ancient India and to retreatist colonialism by the British, along with other Indians in modern India. After the British retreated, tribal settlements became internal colonies in independent India, a repetition of what happened in several parts of the world. Such a perspective will help us understood the structure of deprivations of Indian tribes. Ghurye wanted the tribes of Central India to be culturally assimilated through Hinduisation. In contrast, the tribes of North-east India had to be politically integrated. The British policy of scheduling tribal communities and areas introduced through the Government of India

Chapter 04.indd 71

10/19/2013 6:24:47 PM

72T.K. Oommen

Act, 1935, was an obstacle to achieve the task of integration. According to Ghurye, the purpose of the Act was to prevent the emergence of independent India as a unified ‘sovereign state’ and as a ‘well-knit nation in the making’ (1973: 110). A year later he wrote: ‘The North-east India (Bharat) appears to be on the peak of a volcano which may erupt at anytime and break the integrity of the country as we find it in the Constitution of India 1950 and its subsequent amendments’ (1974: 160). Fortunately, this pessimistic prognosis did not stand the test of time. Ghurye did not advocate Hinduisation of North-east tribes probably because of the substantial presence of Christianity among the Nagas, Mizos, and Khasis, and also because some of the tribes or their sections were already Hinduised or had become Buddhists. But he was opposed to the tribes being referred to as adivasis, be they of North-east, who became part of India only 100 years ago, or those of Central India, who were part of India for thousands of years. To Ghurye, ‘The usage of this word (Adivasi) has done incalculable harm and doing so, to the cause of bringing about some kind of harmony among the many races and peoples, some of whom have been inhabiting this country for more than four thousand years’ (Ghurye 1980: 29). Admittedly, Ghurye’s principal anxiety was political unity of India as he visualised rather than to facts of history. If one cannot ignore the claims of those inhabiting the country for 4,000 years, is it not reasonable to respect the claims of those who inhabited the country for 20,000 years? The point at issue here is not longevity of habitation but equity and justice, both of which were/are denied to the adivasis in India.

III To understand Ghurye’s advocacy of assimilation of Scheduled Castes into Hindu society, Hinduisation of the Scheduled Tribes of Central India, and political integration of the Scheduled Tribes of North-east India, one has to comprehend the notion of nation implicit in his writings. Ghurye had not only conflated state and nation, but also society and nation-state that was/is widespread in social science.14 Ghurye fits neatly into Zygmunt Bauman’s conceptualisation: The term society as used by well-high all sociologists regardless of their school loyalties is for all practical purposes, a name for an entity identical in size and

Chapter 04.indd 72

10/19/2013 6:24:47 PM

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation

73

composition with the nation-state. [Further] with hardly any exception all the concepts and analytical tools currently employed by social scientists are geared to a view of the human world in which the most voluminous totality is a society, a notion equivalent for all practical purposes to the concept of the nation-state (Bauman 1973: 43, 78).

The idea of nation-state, as it was conceived and translated into practice in West Europe after the Treaty of Westphalia concluded in 1648, wanted to create culturally homogeneous societies; for each nation its own state was the dictum. Homogenisation of the nationstate witnessed enormous violence (see Oommen 1997: 135–59), and yet the project did not achieve its target. And, as Charles Tilly observed, ‘Only a tiny proportion of the world’s distinctive religious, linguistic and cultural groupings have formed their own states, while precious few of the world’s existing states have approximated the homogeneity and commitment conjured up by the label “nation-state”’ (1994: 137). Therefore, to treat state, nation, and society as one entity was and continues to be an untenable proposition, particularly in the case of India which encapsulate one-sixth of humanity and has incredible cultural diversity. The Indian Constitution, to which Ghurye referred to frequently and with ample admiration, did not visualise the creation of a homogenous society. Its first sentence reads: ‘India is a union of states.’ The constitution did not privilege Hinduism as the national or official religion, in spite of the fact that 82 per cent of Indians are Hindus, according to the Census of India. Several languages are recognised (now the number is 22) as official languages, a provision unheard of anywhere in the world. The motto of the Constitution is ‘unity in diversity’, and the advocacy of assimilation and integration championed by Ghurye is patently antithetical to India’s Constitution. Ghurye (1968) is absolutely right in holding that society is not a mere aggregation of individuals, but an organic unity built through interpersonal and individual group relations. Thus viewed, India encapsulates several ‘societies’ within it and its organic unity can be established only through non-primordial, that is, civil ties.15 There are four broad visions which are in currency, but not clearly articulated, about Indian Republic which may be designated as cultural monism, cultural pluralism, cultural federalism and cultural subalternism (see Oommen 2004b). According to cultural monists, the critical marker of Indian society is religion. Religious nationalism is central in

Chapter 04.indd 73

10/19/2013 6:24:47 PM

74T.K. Oommen

this vision of India. As a part of Hindu consolidation, the traditionally underprivileged cultural subalternists—Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes—are being incorporated into the Hindu mainstream. But to the critical thinkers among cultural subalternists, the values embedded in caste hierarchy, which legitimised and even sanctified by the Hindu scriptures, is the major obstacle to the socio-cultural consolidation of India (see, for example, Ilaiah 1996). While cultural monism is flaunted by the traditionally privileged caste Hindus as the hope of India, cultural pluralists advocate secularism, that is, the dignified co-existence of all groups and communities to be controlled by a strong Centre as the panacea by modernists. While cultural federalists too attest secularism, they insist on political decentralisation given India’s vast size and mind-boggling cultural diversity. The cultural subalternists, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, believe that, in spite of the constitutional promises of equality, justice, and fraternity, the specificity of their needs, aspirations, and contributions are ignored. The value orientations implied in Ghurye’s advocacy of assimilation of Scheduled Castes into Hindu society, Hinduisation of Scheduled Tribes of Central India, and the political integration of Scheduled Tribes of North-east India for the consolidation of the ‘Indian Nation’ is clearly that of cultural monism. It falls in line with the European model of nation-state that coerced the weaker and smaller collectivities to abandon their identity to avail of equality, a model utterly unsuited for India.

Notes * This constitutes the text of the second G.S. Ghurye Memorial Lecture delivered at the University of Mumbai on 23 December 2010. 1. Ghurye authored thirty-one books and over forty research papers. Except his first book Caste and Race in India published by Routledge in 1932 and the second book Aborigines-so-Called published by the Gokhale Institute of Economics and Politics, Pune in 1943, all his books were published by Popular Prakashan, Mumbai. Subsequent editions of the above two books were also published by Popular Prakashan. 2. Caste and Race in India had several incarnations, namely, Caste and Class in India as well as Caste, Class and Occupation. However, the reasons for the changes in its titles are not important for the present analysis. 3. The term Chandala was of Hindu textual origin, exterior caste had been introduced by the British officials, and the term Harijan was coined by Narsinh Mehta and propagated by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. However, the term dalit was coined by activists of Scheduled Caste background and has gained wide acceptance.

Chapter 04.indd 74

10/19/2013 6:24:47 PM

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation

75

4. It was unlikely that a Sanskritist like Ghurye, who drew constantly and substantially on Indology, would have been unaware of the distinction between Smritis and Shrutis and their differing positions on caste and untouchability. Therefore, Nadkarni’s contention seems to be problematic. 5. Ghurye seems to be assuming that hygienic purity can mitigate the deficits of ritual purity. But the fact that Dr Baba Sahib Ambedkar could not hire tonga in Baroda and Babu Jagjivan Ram was not allowed to enter the Puri temple contradict that assumption. 6. The idea of core institutional order of a society was initially suggested by Lockwood (1964). The core institutional order should not be mistaken for any kind of determinism, because it varies from society to society and in the same society over a period of time. But transformation from one type to another type of society can occur only if the core institutional orders changes. 7. This is precisely what Dr Baba Sahib Ambedkar did (see Ambedkar 1979). 8. I am not aware if Elwin was inspired by the ‘reservations’ that were established in the United States of America. The American aborigines counted three million, that is, around one per cent of the national population in early 20th century, half of whom were located in 260 reservations and the remaining being spatially dispersed. The Indian situation is quite different; with 8 per cent of the national population, they counted 40 million and lived mainly in their ancestral homelands. Elwin shifted his position and took a more moderate one later (see Elvin 1943). It is important to note here that: ‘Reservations and reserves perpetuated racial segregation, administrative paternalism and lower-class status for Indian people’ (Jarvenpa 1985: 29). For a comparison of the Indian and US situation, see Oommen (1989). 9. The implications of this position are substantial as it conceives tribes as ‘nations’. But it disavows the ill-conceived West European idea that each nation should have its own sovereign state. It is a fact that most nations in South Asia have renounced sovereign states and settled for provincial states within a sovereign state (see Oommen 2004a). It is interesting to recall here that King Mutesa II of Baganda wondered: I have never been able to pin down precisely the difference between a tribe and a nation and see why one is thought so despicable and the other is so admired. . . . the Baganda have a common language, tradition, history and cast of mind. . . . We were accepted as the most civilised and powerful of the kingdoms (1967: 78–79). But he laments that colonialism changed all these! 10. The argument that India was the original homeland of the Aryans, but they migrated to Europe and a section of them returned to India has been in currency for some years. In a seminar held in the 4th week of November 2010 in New Delhi several historians and archaeologists argued that there is no evidence to prove the Aryan invasion of India. These arguments need not detain us here, because Ghurye had endorsed the Aryan immigration into India. He wrote: ‘It may be taken to be historical fact that people calling themselves ‘Aryan’ poured into India through the North-West, somewhere about 2000 BC’ (1979: 117). 11. Incidentally, this seems to be true of all ‘world religions’. There is a widely circulated remark attributed to an African tribal chieftain. On being asked to comment on the basic difference between the pre-colonial and colonial times, he remarked: ‘When

Chapter 04.indd 75

10/19/2013 6:24:47 PM

76T.K. Oommen

12.

13.

14.

15.

colonisation started they had the Bible and we had the land, but now we have the Bible and they have the land!’ Several tribes are vivisected and apportioned between bigger and stronger ‘nations’ of India. Thus, the Bhils are apportioned between Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan; and the Santals, between Bihar, West Bengal, and Orissa. These and several other tribes, if kept together, can be formed into viable provincial states on the same basis as other states (see Oommen 2005). I have introduced the notion of culturocide to refer to the destruction and/or stigmatisation of the cultures of weaker and smaller collectivities by the state and/or the dominant collectivities (see Oommen 1986). Ghurye writes: ‘The constitution of India in its very preamble refers the country as the nation’ (1974: 1). The first two chapters of the book Whither India have the same title: ‘The Nation Implements its Constitution’ (ibid.: 1–122). It is obvious that Ghurye is conflating state and nation, an inadmissible proposition in social science scholarship. Since I have discussed the issue at length elsewhere, I will not repeat them here. Interested readers may consult Oommen (1997), particularly Ch. 3. Several commentators refer to Ghurye as a nationalist, and a Hindu nationalist at that (see, for example, Upadhya 2002). But, above all, he is a rigid statist, and his value orientation does not even accommodate the flexibilities evident in the Indian Constitution, a document he often praised in his writings.

References Ambedkar, B.R. 1979. Castes in India: Their mechanisms, genesis and development. Bombay: Department of Education, Government of Maharashtra. Bauman, Zygmunt. 1973. Culture as praxis. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Elwin, Verrier. 1941. The Loss of nerve. Bombay: Wagle Press. ———. 1943. The aboriginals (Oxford Pamphlets on Indian Affairs [No. 140]. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ghurye, G.S. 1932/1979. Caste and race in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1943/1963. The scheduled tribes. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1968. Social tensions in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1973. I and other explorations. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1974. Whither India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1980. The burning caldron of North-East India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Hetcher, Michael. 1975. Internal colonialism: The Celtic fringe in British national development, 1536–1966. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Ilaiah, K. 1996. Why I am not a Hindu. Calcutta: Saumya. Jarvenpa, Robert. 1985. ‘The political economy and political ethnicity of American Indian adaptations and identities’, in Richard D. Alba (ed.): Ethnicity and race in the USA: Toward the twenty-first century (29–48). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Kapadia, K.M. (ed.). 1954. Professor Ghurye felicitation volume. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Lockwood, David. 1964. ‘Social integration and system integration’, in G.K. Zollshan and W. Hirsch (eds.): Explorations in social change (244–57). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Chapter 04.indd 76

10/19/2013 6:24:47 PM

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation

77

Majumdar, D.N. 1939. ‘Tribal culture and acculturation’, Man in India, 19: 99–172. Momin, A.R. (ed.). 1996. The legacy of G.S. Ghurye: A centennial festschrift. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Mukerji, D.P. 1954. ‘Social research’, in K.M. Kapadia (ed.): Professor Ghurye felicitation volume (234–37). Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Mutesa II, Kabaka, Edward Sir. 1967. The desecration of my kingdom. London: Constable. Nadkarni, M.V. 2003. ‘Is caste system intrinsic to Hinduism? Demolishing a myth’, Economic and political weekly, 38 (45): 4783–93. Oommen, T.K. 1967. ‘The rural-urban continuum re-examined in the Indian context’, Sociologia ruralis, 7 (1): 30–48. [Reproduced in T.K. Oommen: Alien concepts and South Asian reality: Responses and reformulations. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1995, pp. 21–37.] ———. 1968. ‘Strategy for social change: A study of untouchability’, Economic and political weekly, 3 (25): 933–36. ———. 1983. ‘Sociology in India: A plea for contextualisation’, Sociological bulletin, 32 (2): 111–36. [Reproduced in T.K. Oommen: Knowledge and society. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007: pp. 21–44.] ———. 1986. ‘Insiders and outsiders in India: Primordial collectivism and cultural pluralism in nation-building’, International sociology, 1 (1): 53–74. [Reproduced in T.K. Oommen: State and society in India. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1990, pp. 43–66.] ———. 1989. ‘Ethnicity, immigration and cultural pluralism: India and the United States of America’, in Melvin L. Kohn (ed.): Cross-national research in sociology (279–305). New York: Sage Publications. ———. 1991. ‘Internationalisation of sociology: A view from developing countries’, Current sociology, 39 (1): 67–84. [Reproduced in T.K. Oommen: Knowledge and society. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007: pp. 111–27.] ———. 1997. Citizenship, nationality and ethnicity. Cambridge: Polity Press. ———. 2004a. ‘New nationalism and collective rights: The case of South Asia’, in Stephen May, Tariq Modood and Judith Squires (eds.): Ethnicity, nationalism and minority rights (121–43). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2004b. ‘Futures India: Society, nation-state, civilisation’, Futures, 35 (61): 745–55. ———. 2005. ‘Re-organisation of Indian states: The incomplete agenda’, in T.K. Oommen: Crisis and contention in Indian society (142–52). New Delhi: Sage Publications. ———. 2008. ‘Disjunctions between field, method and concept: An appraisal of M.N. Srinivas’, Sociological bulletin, 57 (1): 60–81. Pillai, S.D. (ed.). 1976. Aspects of changing India: Studies in honour of Prof. G.S. Ghurye. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Pramanick, S.K. 2001. Sociology of G.S. Ghurye. Jaipur and New Delhi: Rawat Publications. Shah, G.; S. Mander, S. Thorat, S. Deshpande and A. Baviskar. 2006. Untouchability in rural India. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Srinivas, M.N. 1956. ‘A note on sanskritisation and westernisation’, Far Eastern quarterly, 15 (4): 481–96. Tilly, Charles. 1994. ‘State and nationalism in Europe, 1492–1992’, Theory and society, 23 (1): 131–46. Upadhya, Carol. 2002. ‘The Hindu nationalist sociology of G.S. Ghurye’, Sociological bulletin, 51 (1): 28–57.

Chapter 04.indd 77

10/19/2013 6:24:47 PM

78T.K. Oommen Venugopal, C.N. 1986. ‘G.S. Ghurye’s ideology of normative Hinduism’, Contributions to Indian sociology, 20 (2): 305–14. ———. 1993 ‘G.S. Ghurye on culture and nation-building’, Sociological bulletin, 42 (1 & 2): 1–13. ———. 1996. ‘G.S. Ghurye’s sociology of religion: An inquiry into selected aspects’, in A.R. Momin (ed.): The legacy of G.S. Ghurye: A centennial festschrift (47–60). Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Xaxa, Virginius. 2008. State, society and tribes: Issues in post-colonial India. New Delhi: Pearson Education.

Chapter 04.indd 78

10/19/2013 6:24:47 PM

5 Radha Kamal Mukerjee — A Note Ramkrishna Mukherjee

Radha Kamal Mukerjee has pioneered three approaches to social science for which he should always be remembered: 1. Conceiving economics as a specialization, and not as a discipline, in the realm of social science. 2. Introducing the “institutional approach” to planning which should not be regarded as the exclusive prerogative of the economists but should be treated under the rubric of social science. 3. Raising the sight of appraisal of social reality from the unidisciplinary or interdisciplinary outlook of the social scientists to a transdisciplinary perspective, bearing in mind the common acceptance of the term ‘social sciences’ comprising various ‘disciplines’ like economics, political science, psychology, sociology and so on.

Mukerjee started his career as an economist who, in those days, defined the frame of reference to the ‘discipline’ as the relation between man and his exploitation of the natural resources in successively compounded forms. At that time, the controversy between L. Robbins (1932: 4–6) and P.M. Sweezy (1946: 3–8) had not germinated in the academea. The Marxists had raised the issue, but they were not seriously considered by the Establishment of economics. Mukerjee was not a Marxist, but he clearly conceived economics as dealing with the relationships among humans with respect to the exploitation of natural

Chapter 05.indd 79

10/19/2013 4:19:54 PM

80

Ramkrishna Mukherjee

resources and the consequent production and appropriation of material goods and services. In his voluminous writing in this context, Mukerjee examined the nexus of human relationships in the totality of life and living. But that was transcending the boundary of economics as a discipline which, as noted, he regarded as a specialization within the unitary discipline of social science. This view point was not acceptable to the contemporaneous mandarins in the ‘economic’ science; nor was Mukerjee acceptable to the contemporaneous mandarins of sociology or any other social science ‘discipline’. Therefore, Mukerjee became a bratya, a marginal man in the realm of social science. However, Mukerjee’s empirical studies on various aspects of life conditions (e.g., the land problem, the working class, the town and the village life, ecology, food planning, etc.) were more and more appreciated on their own merit; that is, irrespective of the theoretical underpinning to these efforts and achievements of Radha Kamal. But his advocacy of “institutional planning” was not so readily accepted. As we live in a lunar world, where light is reflected from the sun rising in the West, the social scientists became vocal about institutional planning after G. Myrdal posed it (1971) in terms of transplantation of the “modernizing ideals” from the First (and the Second) to the Third World. Mukerjee had earlier cautioned the Indian social scientists (and especially the economists), as did D. P. Mukerji, that development planning does not depend solely on the elite-experts’ valuation of social reality, which may turn planning into a ‘mathematical formula’ as Pandit Nehru (Karanjia, 1960: 50–51) described it. Perhaps more specifically than D.P., Radha Kamal pointed out that the planners must take due note of the efforts and achievements of the masses which, with reference to the place, the time, and the people dimensions of variation, are crystallized into a multitude of consensual and contradictory institutions. The point was grudgingly noted by the Indian elite (Thapar, 1968) after Myrdal wrote his Asian Drama (1968) and castigated India’s planning. Proceeding from economics to social science and proposing the need for institutional planning in that context, Mukerjee was not only aware of the fallacy of appraising reality from an unidisciplinary approach but also realized the inadequacy of the interdisciplinary approach which was widely publicized by the behavioralists in the West. He endorsed the behaviouralists’ viewpoint that the reflective minds of the specialists have erected walls between the ‘disciplines’ and have thus constrained an

Chapter 05.indd 80

10/19/2013 4:19:54 PM

RADHA KAMAL MUKERJEE

81

unambiguous appraisal of social reality. However, he went further than the behaviouralists. Radha Kamal found it necessary to emphasize the unitary base of all these ‘disciplines’: a fact which was more or less lost to the unidisciplinary or the multidisciplinary approach to understanding reality. He found it equally necessary to underscore the fact that the ceiling of appraisal of reality is kept covered by the compartmentally built walls of the ‘disciplines’ on which the fragmented ceiling rested by being built separately for respective ‘disciplines’. In order to remove these restrictions, therefore, Mukerjee posited (1961) the transdisciplinary approach for an unequivocal and comprehensive appraisal of social reality. Pursuant to this approach, the ‘discipline’-wise boundaries are lost, the base of social science as the discipline is firmly established for all specializations in its realm to contribute equally importantly, and the ceiling for the appraisal of social reality remains unfragmented and open to the sky. Throughout these peregrinations of Mukerjee as an academic ran an unifying thread of the quest for realizing the cardinal valuation of humankind; namely, survival of the species, security in the life span of its constituents, material prosperity for ensuring survival and security and attaining a wholesome life of individuals, and mental progress for unfolding the potentialities of all individuals belonging to the species. These cardinal values are sometimes said to be the product of Enlightenment in Europe, but they are found in all philosophies labelled Oriental, Occidental, and so on. Each of these philosophies and their associated ethics translate the cardinal into an ordinal valuation of instrumentality to attain the cardinal valuation. Inheriting the procedure from the philosophers, the social scientists do the same, either expressly or in a sublimated manner. Mukerjee was professedly influenced by the idealist variety of Hindu philosophy; so that, his ordinal valuation of social reality became more and more synoptic (and not analytic) of a particular brand. This tendency in Mukerjee as an academic can be traced from his earlier years, but became more and more pronounced with his maturity, and in his old age. For example, despite his remarkable empirical studies in earlier years, Radha Kamal ascribed the causality of producing many children in the Third World to an innate “parental impulse” (1938: SA5). Intensive researches have proved this ordinal valuation to be fallacious. The general run of the Third World people want 2 sons for

Chapter 05.indd 81

10/19/2013 4:19:54 PM

82

Ramkrishna Mukherjee

security in old age and, in the process, produce 3–4 or more children, while to the affluent and enlightened segment of the society (as with the whites in the West) the production of children is a matter of personal choice and not a social necessity. Similarly, Radha Kamal stressed the point of ‘moral imperatives’ in respect of institutional planning (1970: 15), in consonance with “new egalitarian values and virtues” which, in his view, shape the “dynamic, socialistic forces of the new age” (1970: 4–5). He did not, even synoptically, evaluate India’s planning as stimulating the capitalist or the socialist forces. Nor did he analytically identify the overgrown and the undergrown culture products which the social processes have thrown up and which have attained institutional longevity. Doubtless, Mukerjee was aware of institutions which “are favourable to the growth and development of the socialist pattern and which are blocking change, innovation and investment” (1970). But just as he treated egalitarianism as an ‘ideal construct’ and socialism in vacuo, so he overrode the point that planning, as an institution by itself, is meant to induce particular kinds of exogenous processes in society for the restructuration of the overgrown and the undergrown culture products in order that by means of such development measures the society can resume the normative growth process. From this perspective of the role of institutional planning from pragmatic considerations, D. P. Mukerji was more to the point (1958: 241): “the thing changing is more real and objective than change perse”. It is no surprise, therefore, that Radha Kamal journeyed from economics to social science, and eventually to metaphysics. What was incidental as cited above and occasionally explicit in earlier years (e.g., 1929, 1931, 1937) became Mukherjee’s predominant concern in old age, as attested by his writings on value, civilization, humanism and spiritualism (e.g., 1964, 1965, 1968, 1971). However, all these manifestations of the restless spirit of Mukerjee until his death only substantiate his role in society as a great scholar of contemporary relevance and importance.

References Karanjia, R.K. 1960. The Mind of Mr. Nehru. London: Allen and Unwin. Mukerjee, R.K. 1929. “The Three Ways: The Way of the Transcendalist—Religion as a social norm”. Sociological Review. 21 (3): 197–207.

Chapter 05.indd 82

10/19/2013 4:19:54 PM

RADHA KAMAL MUKERJEE

83

Mukerjee, R.K. 1931. “Sociology and Mysticism”. Sociology and Social Research. 15 (4): 303–310. ———. 1937. The Theory and Art of Mysticism. London: Longmans, Green & Co. ———. 1938. “The Sociological Analysis and Forecast of Population Increase”. Presidential Address: Second All-India Population and First Family Hygiene Conference. Bombay: Karnatak Publishing House. ———. 1961. “A Philosophy of Social Science”. (Presidential Address to the Third AllIndia Sociological Conference, 1958). in R. N. Saksena (ed.). Sociology, Social Research and Social Problems in India. Bombay: Asia Publishing House: 46–52. ———. 1964. The Dimensions of Value: A Unified Theory. London: George Allen and Unwin. ———. 1964. The Sickness of Civilization. Bombay. Allied Publishers. ———. 1964. The Destiny of Civilization. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co. ———. 1965. The Oneness of Mankind. London: Macmillan. ———. 1968. The Way of Humanism: East and West. Bombay: Academic Press. ———. 1970. Social Sciences and Planning in India. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. ———. 1971. The Song of Self Supreme (Astayakragita). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Mukerji, D.P. 1958. Diversities: Essays in Economics, Sociology and Other Social Problems. New Delhi: People’s Publishing House. (The extract is from the Presidential Address to the First All-India Sociological Conference, 1955, entitled “Indian Tradition and Social Change”.) Myrdal, G. 1968. Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations. New York: The Twentieth Century Fund (3 volumes). ———. 1971. Tlie Challenge of World Poverty. London: Penguin International. Robbins, L. 1932. Tlie Nature and Significance of Economic Science. London: Macmillan. Sweezy, P.M. 1946. Tlie Theory of Capitalist Development. London: Dennis Dobson. Thapar, R. 1968. “Poverty of Nations or Notions” A Review of G. Myrdal’s Asian Drama, Yojana. 12 (9): 2–6.

Chapter 05.indd 83

10/19/2013 4:19:54 PM

6 Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries: Founding Fathers of Sociology in India* T.N. Madan

Each individual, by virtue of his inclinations, has a right to principles which do not destroy his individuality. —Goethe Conversation with J.D. Falk [T]he task of sociology [is] to combat the tyranny of economics. —Radhakamal Mukerjee The Institutional Theory of Economics A true general theory of society is the corpus of theories, laws, and explanations of social sciences; it is a body of integrated and coordinated knowledge relating to society as a whole. For society is not divisible. Only the social sciences for the sake of analysis and specialization are fractionalized. —Radhakamal Mukerjee ‘Faiths and Influences’

Salutation

F

irst of all, let me applaud the decision of the Indian Sociological Society to institute an annual Radhakamal Mukerjee Lecture, and express my deep gratitude to you, Mr President, for asking me to

Chapter 06.indd 84

10/19/2013 6:39:49 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

85

deliver the inaugural lecture of the series. I consider myself privileged twice over. First, it was my privilege to have been a student of Radhakamal Mukerjee, Dhurjati Prasad Mukerji, and Dhirendra Nath Majumdar in the Economics and Sociology Department of the University of Lucknow in the early 1950s. Second, while I have already had the additional privilege of delivering lectures, under various auspices, honouring the memory of D.P. Mukerji and D.N. Majumdar (Madan 1977, 1983, 2007a), I am now honoured to be able to pay my tribute to the memory of Radhakamal Mukerjee also at your gracious invitation. Thank you.

Toward an Interdisciplinary Approach Let me continue in the personal vein a little while longer. When I graduated from a degree college in my home town of Srinagar in Kashmir, and decided to study for an MA in economics at the University of Lucknow, my principal economics teacher heartily approved of my choice of the subject, but sternly disapproved of my choice of the university. I would perhaps learn many things at Lucknow University, he told me, but I  would not learn much ‘real economics’. Despite the warning, I enrolled at Lucknow, more for personal reasons than out of any academic considerations. As it turned out, I had to study three compulsory courses in the first year, two in economics and one in sociology. Cultural anthropology was my choice of the fourth, optional course. Radhakamal Mukerjee (1889–1968) lectured to our class on both economics and sociology on the basis of, as was his wont, his own work. The former lectures were on the political economy of population (Mukerjee 1943) and institutional economics (Mukerjee 1940); the latter, on social ecology (Mukerjee 1945). Three mainstream economists were responsible for most of the economics syllabus; D.P. Mukerji (1894–1961) and A.K. Saran (1922– 2003) taught us an introductory course in sociology. D.N. Majumdar (1903–1960) was the only teacher of anthropology in the Department. In the second year, I opted for the sociology and anthropology group of courses; pure economics was the other group. This time Radhakamal Mukerjee lectured on the sociology and social psychology of values and morals (Mukerjee 1949 and 1951); D.P. Mukerji guided us through the history of sociological theories and historical sociology; and Majumdar lectured on ‘general’ anthropology.

Chapter 06.indd 85

10/19/2013 6:39:49 PM

86T.N. Madan

It was this interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the study of economy and society at Lucknow University that gave it a distinctive character, but earned it the opprobrium of the purists among the economists of the country. As for sociology, there was not much of it taught in Indian universities during the second quarter of the 20th century, only stray courses in Calcutta and Mysore Universities, and one fully fledged Master’s level course at Bombay University after 1945. Now, where did the roots of Mukerjee’s interdisciplinary approach lie? Fortunately, we can answer this question fairly accurately, for he wrote a short autobiographical essay when he was sixty-six (Mukerjee 1956), and an autobiography towards the end of his life, which was published posthumously (Mukerjee 1997). He read English literature, history and philosophy as an undergraduate at the prestigious Presidency College in Calcutta in the years immediately after the upsurge of nationalist fervour in Bengal, following the partition of the province in 1905. The idea that he should study ‘for the country and the nation’ took possession of him, and he opted for an MA in economics, which subject, he believed, ‘could provide the scientific and adequate answers to the grave national issues of Indian misery, exploitation and subjection’ (ibid.: 66). As it turned out, he was one among the first group of students to obtain the Master’s degree in economics and sociology at Calcutta University in 1910; the combined course had been introduced there two years earlier at the initiative of its famous and visionary Vice-Chancellor, Asutosh Mukerjee. Mukerjee recalls: ‘Somehow an integrated study of the social sciences, of Economics, Political Science, Social Philosophy and Sociology stimulated in me the desire and striving to envisage man, society and civilization as wholes that defeat any compartmentalization and its aims’ (ibid.: 68). He read voraciously the works of the intellectuals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Bengal, who were the makers or flowers of the Bengal Renaissance (see Kopf 1969 and Dasgupta 2010), such as Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Romesh Chandra Dutt, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghose, and Rabindranath Tagore. Also, he heard Ananda Coomaraswamy, the Sri Lankan art historian, lecture in Calcutta: ‘Indian humanity, he stressed eloquently, was as much impoverished by aesthetic and spiritual subjection as by economic and political slavery’ (Mukerjee 1997: 86). He read western social thinkers, such as Adam Smith, Comte, Marx, Mill, Hobhouse, Giddings, and Ross—the Europeans in English translation—and imbibed their ‘broad humanism’. Nationalism provided the framework

Chapter 06.indd 86

10/19/2013 6:39:49 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

87

within which holism and humanism were established as the bedrock of Mukerjee’s intellectual quest. Among the senior academics of his own time who influenced Mukerjee most, two names stand out most luminously, Brajendranath Seal (1864–1938) and Patrick Geddes (1854–1932): the former taught philosophy at Calcutta University, and the latter, sociology and civics at Bombay. Seal would have inherited his interest in sociology from his father, who was a follower of Auguste Comte. He lectured on what he called ‘comparative sociology’ at Calcutta in 1917. Three years later (in 1921), he became the Vice-Chancellor of Mysore University, where he introduced the subject at the undergraduate level with the help of A.R. Wadia, who, we have been told, ‘regarded sociology as “applied philosophy”’ (Mukherjee 1977: 32–33). Seal’s interest in sociology, and also in statistics, as tools of social analysis did not, it has been said, find many takers, but he obviously influenced such enthusiastic young minds as Radhakamal Mukerjee and P.C. Mahalanobis: the latter, originally a physicist, won even greater international recognition as a statistician than Mukerjee did as an economist or sociologist. Mukerjee describes Seal as a ‘legend in intellectual Bengal’, venerated widely for his ‘encyclopaedic knowledge’. He acknowledges that it was from Seal that he learned to appreciate the ‘comparative method in the study of civilization’, and in the ‘study of economic and political institutions’, bringing out ‘the multilinear character of human social evolution in different regions and cultures’ (Mukerjee 1997: 87–88). Besides Seal, Mukerjee acknowledges deep indebtedness to Patrick Geddes whom he met in Calcutta in 1914 and 1915, at the very beginning of the latter’s sojourn in India. Geddes was a senior Scottish academic, who had been invited to give four public lectures in Bombay (Indra Munshi 2007: 172); he travelled to other cities too, including Lucknow and Calcutta, where he lectured at academic institutions. Mukerjee had just begun his teaching career as an economist at Krishnath College in his hometown of Berhampore in north Bengal. It seems that a close and enduring relationship between the two men took shape. In his autobiography, Mukerjee remembers Geddes as ‘one of the greatest minds’ he encountered in his life (Mukerjee 1997: 96), a judgement shared by some other leading scholars, such as Lewis Mumford (see Indra Munshi 2007: 175). Geddes, who had taught botany and zoology in the UK, and had researched the mutual relationship of spatial and social dimensions of life, was made Professor of Sociology at Bombay University in 1919,

Chapter 06.indd 87

10/19/2013 6:39:49 PM

88T.N. Madan

and retired from there in 1924, but he had already helped two of his brightest students, G.S. Ghurye and N.A. Thooti, to get scholarships for postgraduate studies in sociology in England. More about Ghurye below. Altogether, it has been said, ‘Geddes’ influence on sociologists in India remains negligible’ (Indra Munshi 2007: 174–75). Mukerjee was obviously an exception, for he acknowledges Geddes as ‘a major influence’: it was from him that, Mukerjee says, he learned the significance of ‘social mapping and charting’, ‘regional planning’, and the interplay of ‘Place-Work-Folk’, or ‘Environment-Function-Organism’, and the importance also of the notion of ‘energy’ to sociology, from which the concepts of ‘manpower and manday’ were derived. Geddes, on his part, wrote the introduction to Mukerjee’s first book, The Foundations of Indian Economics, which was published in 1916 when he was just 27 years old, commending Mukerjee’s plea for the revitalisation of the village community. From Berhampore Mukerjee went to Lahore in 1917 to give a set of special lectures on ‘Indian Economics’ at the Punjab University, a subdiscipline that was largely his creation and rejected by orthodox economists. Under this arrangement, he lectured in many places, including Delhi, where Mahatma Gandhi chaired his presentation on ‘Agriculture and Industrialism’ at St Stephen’s College (Mukerjee 1997: 122–23). The same year, Mukerjee returned to Calcutta as a regular lecturer in economics at the University, and taught, besides economics, sociology and political philosophy (Mukerjee 1956: 9). In his inaugural address, he ‘emphasized the essential need of Regional Economics without which . . . General Economics . . . [could not] be formulated’ (Mukerjee 1997: 124). Sociology entered into his enunciation of the scope of Indian Economics through his emphasis on the ‘region’ as the appropriate unit of study, conceived as a geographical, biological, economic, social, and cultural complex. This led to his emphasis on the study of the ground reality from interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives.

Mukerjee at Lucknow University In 1921, Mukerjee was appointed as one of the first two professors at the newly established University of Lucknow (the other was Birbal Sahni, who was to become a world renowned paleobotanist). He had an offer from the University of Bombay also (Geddes must have recommended him),

Chapter 06.indd 88

10/19/2013 6:39:49 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

89

but preferred Lucknow, presumably because it afforded him the opportunity of not only building a new department in conformity with his own idea of a regionally located and sociologically informed discipline of economics, but also influencing the structure of the teaching of social sciences generally. Thus, he suggested the inclusion of political science in the curriculum (ibid.: 181–82). Mukerjee succeeded in having his department called the Department of Economics and Sociology from ‘the very day the university started to work’ (Mukerjee 1956: 10). It survived as such until 1955 when a separate Department of Sociology was created (ironically under his watch as Vice-Chancellor: he felt powerless in the face of the unstoppable push towards specialisation, but tried to make a virtue of it [see Mukerjee 1997: 185]). In his inaugural address at Lucknow, delivered on 8 August 1921, Mukerjee called for ‘a new school of economic thought and research’, which would be free from ‘barren abstractions’ through a concentration on the ‘local problems of peasants in the fields, the labourers of the factories, and the artisans of the cottages’ (ibid.: 151). A year later, in an address to the University Sociological Society, which he helped establish, Mukerjee pointed out the importance of ‘historical and comparative methods’ in the study of regional and cultural differences; in tune with the understandings of those times, he called for ‘a greater knowledge of race psychology and of diverse social schemes and standards of peoples’. He further observed that, ‘climate and regional factors . . . [lay] behind two standards of utilization of land in the world—the South East Asiatic standard of rice cultivation, hand labour, and largely non-flesh diet, and the Western standard based upon wheat cultivation, work animals, and agricultural machinery’, resulting in ‘contrasted social types and social relations, viz. the communal-conservative and [the] individualisticliberal’ (ibid.: 152). I may clarify that the word ‘communal’ had not then the negative connotation it acquired later; it was a synonym for ‘communitarian’. What we have in these very brief observations is an outline of the scope and methodology of institutional economics or economic sociology: the scope, social morphology and social dynamics; the methodology, empiricism and comparison.1 Even as he was giving shape to it, Mukerjee attempted to communicate his integrated approach to economics through his lectures. In the early years of my own teaching I deeply felt the necessity of relating economic theories and doctrines not only to economic history [history of economic

Chapter 06.indd 89

10/19/2013 6:39:49 PM

90T.N. Madan thought] but also to the concrete social and economic environment and to the crying issue of economic disintegration and economic recovery. I, therefore, began a thorough empirical study of economic conditions in the Indian villages and towns in order to correct the distortion of Western deductive-abstract theorizing and formulation in the class room (ibid.: 119–20).2

In his first book, The Foundations of Indian Economics (1916), Mukerjee had already called for the rehabilitation of the traditional organic village (cooperative socio-economic system, a balancing of agriculture and industry, small-scale and large-scale industrial production, production and distribution, and so on). Almost immediately it attracted adverse criticism from his contemporaries. For instance, Brij Narain, an economist based in Lahore, where Mukerjee had given lectures on Indian Economics, characterised his description of the Indian village and industrialism, and of the Hindu ideal of limitations of wants, ‘idealistic’, and even factually inaccurate. He warned: ‘The lesson that history teaches us is that, so long as a country has remained a predominantly agricultural country, it has remained poor and in a lower stage of civilization as compared with manufacturing countries’ (2009/1919: 62). Sixty years later, Bhabatosh Datta of Presidency College, Calcutta, considered it Mukerjee’s ‘most significant work’, notwithstanding ‘a romantic picture of the Indian rural economic life’ in its pages. It was ‘more detailed than anything comparable’, and distinguished by the manner in which the role of caste and religious beliefs in the rural economy was brought out, much beyond ‘what a mere economist could have given’, and comparable with ‘the best work on sociology in his time’ (Datta 1978: 28–31). The shaping of an adequate, socially specific, economic science is what Mukerjee talked about in his lectures at Lucknow University. We get a fair idea of his interdisciplinary approach from Borderlands of Economics (1925), which comprised the substances of these lectures over about five years. The topics treated included economic behaviourism; the anthropological and institutional perspectives on economic activity; the ‘anti-intellectualism’ of economics and the need for its humanisation; the relevance to economics of biology, geography, ecology, sociology, psychoanalysis, ethics, and even physics. In the forward-looking, optimistic, concluding paragraph of the book, Mukerjee wrote: The acquisive and possessive impulses which have been so much exaggerated in the last few decades will be duly limited in vital modes of association, and

Chapter 06.indd 90

10/19/2013 6:39:49 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

91

the separation between the intrinsic or final and instrumental or economic ends, which has threatened to corrode social life, will warp no longer the feeling and judgement of peoples (ibid.: 270).3

Institutional Economics The first major statement of Mukerjee’s evolving theoretical position was presented by him in the first volume of his Principles of Comparative Economics published in 1922. A core principle of his thinking was that the psychological basis of the economic science—namely, a ‘hedonistic calculus on the balance of pleasure and pain, of which the single aim is to secure the greatest happiness at the least cost of painful effort’ (ibid.: 59)—was outmoded. He drew attention to other psychological factors, which are socially determined and include, notably, family values and social sympathies. What factors are valorised in a particular place and time is historically contingent. An example he gave was the contrast between the attempt to realise ‘social instincts . . . through the superimposition of the State’ on ‘individualistic justice and individual self-expression’, as in the West, and their given character in the East, where ‘the community or group is already an integral part of the individual personality, and the economic unit is not the individual as individual, but the individual as community or, if you please, the community in the individual’ (ibid.: 74–75). Cultural values and social arrangements are held forth as significant in the evolution of economic stages and types (ibid.: Ch. XI). From such perspectives, it was but to be expected that the prevalent economic theories would be found flawed, because they ‘depended solely on physical and psychological conditions of a certain type, or “stereotype”, and hence [were] endowed with an absolute and inviolable character’ (ibid.: 207). It was this absolutism that Mukerjee questioned in Principles of Comparative Economics. The book was read widely and has long been recognised as a classic. It was this book that made Melville Herskovits, who shaped the discipline of economic anthropology, acknowledge Mukerjee as a pioneer in the field (Herskovits 1952: 23). The economist turned anthropologist, Raymond Firth, noted Mukerjee’s plea for a comparative approach involving western and ‘non-Western economic forms’, but doubted that economists would be convinced (Firth 1951: 126–27).

Chapter 06.indd 91

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

92T.N. Madan

To sum up: the comparative method Mukerjee advocated was based on a critique of the seemingly logical and rational assumptions of classical and neo-classical economics, which marginalised cultural and social institutions, and also, in the case of India, its recent colonial past. He emphasised specification against generalisation, and valorised the community, with its values of sharing and solidarity, above the self oriented, profit maximising individual. His methodological position attracted criticism from Indian economists, who believed that economic behaviour everywhere had to be analyzed in universalist terms, for the motivations that drive it are rooted in human nature and cut across cultural differences. Sociology at this point of Mukerjee’s thinking was, it seems to me, a perspective, a contextualising methodology, for economic analysis, and not, perhaps, yet a subject that claimed his exclusive attention. During the 1930s, Mukerjee brought his thinking and writing on the scope and significance of ‘the economic science’ to a conclusion with the publication of The Institutional Theory of Economics (1940). The book went beyond the work of orthodox institutionalists and even John Commons’ (1934) pioneering work on the subject. Writing about the social sciences generally, Mukerjee observed that the core problem was that of providing an adequate understanding of ‘the relations between the individual and society, and their reciprocal relations to the environment’ (1940: 5). As for economics as such, he wrote that only a multidimensional, interdisciplinary approach, at once empirical and normative, would help ‘bridge the gap between economic theory and economic policy’ (ibid.: 10). He further argued against the tendency to reduce key economic processes, such as ‘the exchange process’, to ‘some ultimate determinants like marginal desiredness’; instead, he called for their consideration ‘as expressions of man’s manifold instincts, habits and interests, derived not from rationality but largely from his social and institutional influences’ (ibid.: 33). Regrettably, however, economics had proceeded from the time of its founders (notably Adam Smith) along a narrowing path in the hands of neo-classical economists like Lionel Robbins (1932) as being concerned with ‘an abstract aspect of social behaviour’ regarding ‘the disposal of scarce means’ (Mukerjee 1940: 2). Behind ‘the positivistic approach’ of Robbins and others of that ilk, Mukerjee wrote, ‘lurks the social atomism of British liberals and utilitarians’ (ibid.: 59). Again and over again, Mukerjee enunciated what he considered the basic principle of sound economic analysis. Thus: ‘No choice in

Chapter 06.indd 92

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

93

the economic field can be appropriate or “rational” which is inconsistent with human norms and values in political, familial and other fields of man’s institutional life’ (ibid.: 65). And again: ‘Without a theory of institutions, economists are prone to assume a single framework of laws and customs within which individuals and groups “rationally” carry on their economic activity’ (ibid.: 193). In this manner, economics would have to achieve ‘a new realism’ by aligning with ‘the other social sciences dealing with different phases of social life, and by its integration into the master science, sociology’ (ibid.: 66). In fact, Mukerjee called upon sociology ‘to combat the tyranny of economics’ (ibid.: 318, emphasis added). This obviously was a plea for the restoration of the community in the social sciences which had been fabricated around the notion of the individual. The fight, Mukerjee wrote, was ‘against the “economic imperative”, which the autonomy of modern economics decrees’, and added: ‘we have now to stress the categorical imperative of the realm of moral values and the “cultural imperative” of the entire realm of ethical and social values’ (ibid.). The scope, or (should one say?) responsibility, of sociology as the study of social values as much as of economic interests was thus clearly laid out.4

Social Ecology During the 1920s and 1930s, one line of argument that Mukerjee developed—and which I have just briefly outlined—proceeded from economic regionalism to comparative economics and institutionalism, and, eventually, sociology. Another, developed simultaneously, of which the first intimations are present in Borderlands of Economics (Mukerjee 1925), led from economic regionalism to the notion of regional balance, which he developed in several pioneering studies (Mukerjee 1926, 1938). Conceptualising the region as a dynamic ‘field’ or ‘configuration’, he stressed the interplay of naturally given environment and culture, which tends towards ‘balance’, or ‘equilibrium’, ‘shifting the life-balance now in favour of man, now against him’. Further, he wrote: ‘Perhaps the most important contribution of ecology is the idea of the region as an intricate network of interrelations. The region exhibits a complex pattern of adaptation between the environmental factors and the plant and animal communities including human societies’ (Mukerjee 1938: 1–2).

Chapter 06.indd 93

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

94T.N. Madan

These studies culminated in the first ever systematic theoretical study on social ecology (Mukerjee 1943; see also Quinn 1956). Clarifying that social ecology, as he conceived it, had to go beyond ‘human individual adjustments to the environment’ (the field of human ecology), and embrace ‘the adjustments of man’s social structures and functions, of the processes of interaction between region, occupation and society—the sociological equivalent of environment, function and organism [Geddes’ framework, see above]—out of which arise all social phenomena’ (Mukerjee 1945: vii). Unlike American pioneers in the field of ecological studies, such as Robert Park, Mukerjee emphatically includes the role of culture in the making of ecological relations. ‘Culture is the guardian’, Mukerjee wrote (ibid.: 339), ‘that assumes not merely a true balance between different parts of institutional life, but also between man’s material and non-material social equipment and his region’. Just as culture is inconceivable independent of the environment, the latter too is shaped (or distorted) by the former. Treating social status and social mobility as the key constitutive ideas of sociology, ‘the moving threads weaving the texture of social relationships and behaviours and institutional patterns in the fly-shuttle or ecological space and time’ (ibid.: 78), Mukerjee argued that, ‘what is position in ecological space, status is in social space’ (ibid.: 159). Further, he observed: It is the task of sociology to determine the nature of the status system, investigate the nature of various groupings and institutions where individuals interact in the various dominant, subordinate and co-ordinate relations, and ascertain the value and symbol systems by which rank or any social position (status) is assigned by the community (ibid.: 159–60).

Social status and social mobility thus are, respectively, the morphological (or structural) and dynamic (or organisational) dimensions of society. Here we receive from Mukerjee a broad definition of the scope of sociology as an empirical, positive science, going beyond the watchdog conception, as it were, proposed in The Institutional Theory of Economics. The focus now is on social integration, very much in the manner of the French sociological tradition, according to which social space is a constructed, symbolic, moral space. While mindful (like Robert Park) of the usefulness of the exact (quantifiable) approach of social ecology,

Chapter 06.indd 94

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

95

Mukerjee never abandons his social ameliorative and ethical concerns, which finally lead him to the sociology of values, his final sociological testament. Regionalism, for Mukerjee, was more than a descriptive device; it was a practical strategy as well. ‘Regional planning’, he insisted, ‘would not accept only the pecuniary valuation of technology and economy but [also] recognize human values as the ultimate product of the human adjustment’ (Mukerjee 1940: 317). As the philosopher Samuel Hart puts it, ‘Mukerjee does not write as a cool spectator of human values and disvalues. He shares with all great men the noble, creative vision of a better and more dignified humanity’ (1956: 175).

The Sociology of Values Mukerjee’s last two major sociological works, The Social Structure of Values (1949) and The Dynamics of Morals (1951), are products of vast scholarship, an idealistic empiricism that rejects the fact-value dichotomy, and a humanism which is grounded in the biopsychic unity of humankind but respects cultural differences. The point of departure is the explicit declaration that, ‘The problem of social values is the core of social theory’, and the call to sociology to ‘develop a central theory of norms and values as basic units in the description and explanation of social relationships and behaviour’ (Mukerjee 1949: 6). It is important to note that Mukerjee writes of ‘social values’, that is, not values which may be deemed to have descended from high above, but values that arise from patterns of social interaction, which themselves are guided by value judgements. Such a perspective immediately faces the problem of cultural relativism, which Mukerjee sought to overcome by invoking a continuum of extensions and ascensions, as it were. Put otherwise, the local extends into the global and the unity of civilisations is the destiny of humankind. In this search, as in much else, Mukerjee remained under the abiding influence of Brajendranath Seal, who had defined ‘the meaning of progress in history’ as ‘a confluence of many streams, bringing together conflicting cultures, conflicting national values and ideals’ (1924: 2). Such a quest may well seem more of an imperative today, when we read and hear so much about ‘the clash of civilizations’ (Huntington 1996), but is not just for that reason easily realisable. Mukerjee never worked out vigorously the notion of unity, leaving one with the apprehension that it

Chapter 06.indd 95

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

96T.N. Madan

was no more than a rather arbitrary process of selection and collection, not a dialectical or, if you wish, transcendental, perspective. Similarly, while the social surely is in some sense moral, but when the moral is raised to the level that is called ‘cosmic’, as Mukerjee does—‘Social relations obtain their true meaning, zest and direction from the sense of the worth of humanity and of the cosmos’ (Mukerjee 1956: 20)—one comes close to adopting a mystical perspective. His attraction to mysticism as the highest form of religious experience is something Mukerjee acknowledges explicitly in many of his writings, beginning with The Theory and Art of Mysticism (1960/1953), and ending with his autobiography, India: the Dawn of a New Era (1997). Mukerjee formulates the notion of continua of levels in the following words: ‘Neither human goals and interests conceived biologically or economically grovel on the earth; nor ideals or norms live in paradise. All cooperate and interpenetrate in real life, in concrete human relations achieving the eternal, the rational and the universal on the earth here and now’ (1949: 107). He fails to make it clear how exactly the ‘inter-penetration’ takes place. In other words, and as A.K. Saran (1958: 1017–21) rightly points out, he introduces the notion of levels, but evades the problem of inter-level communication and integration that this generates. Limitations of space and my competence preclude further discussion of this major methodological issue, which actually is a metaphysical issue. Let me, then, illustrate Mukerjee’s handling of the problem by briefly outlining his typology of social groupings—a subject of central concern to sociology—and their value dimensions. Four types of groups—namely, (i) crowd; (ii) interest-association; (iii) society; and (iv) commonalty—are identified. The corresponding natures of social interactions (group participation) are: (i) instinctive-motor, nonmoral; (ii) emotional-rational, a-moral; (iii) emotional-rational, moral; and (iv)  ideological-mystical, trans-moral. And the corresponding ethical norms are: (i) for the crowd, none; (ii) for interest-association, reciprocity; (iii) for society, equity and justice; and (iv) for commonalty, love, equality and solidarity. Needless to add, this typology, which is far more elaborate than what I have outlined here (see ibid.: Ch. IV), combines the sociological and psychological perspectives in a manner characteristic of all of Mukerjee’s work. And it also leads him away from sociology (as this subject is generally understood and practised) towards a mystical view of human sociality. In his own words, ‘values, then, reach

Chapter 06.indd 96

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

97

their highest power and most comprehensive sharing as these come under the protection and direction of religion and art’ (ibid.: 398). To the best of my knowledge, no sociologist in India or anywhere else has developed the sociology of values in the manner indicated by Mukerjee, though many, including Karl Mannheim (in a prepublication comment printed on the jacket of the book), have recognised both the importance of the task and appreciated his efforts to engage with it. As an institutional economist and a sociologist, Mukerjee remains a solitary figure. If some economists today have reservations about the direction their subject has taken, such as the Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Stephen Marglin (see endnote 4), they do so without any awareness of Mukerjee’s pioneering efforts. It is his work as a social ecologist that has perhaps survived the best, and that is so because of the grave prospect of environmental degradation with which the whole of humankind is faced today, rather than any general recognition of his intellectual innovativeness (see Guha 1994: 11–12).5

Mukerjee’s Contemporaries What I have said so far places Radhakamal Mukerjee in the centre of the scene in the making of sociology in India in the second quarter of the 20th century, from the year of his appointment as Professor of Economics and Sociology at the University of Lucknow in 1921 until his retirement in 1951. He was, of course, a towering figure during this critical, formulative period, recognised as such in India and in the West. But he was not the only ‘pioneer’ (to borrow the term from Ramkrishna Mukherjee 1977), there were others too, not many, but not insignificant, most notably Benoy Kumar Sarkar (1887–1949) at Calcutta University, G.S. Ghurye (1893–1983) at Bombay University, and D.P. Mukerji (1894–1961) at Lucknow University. Limitations of space preclude detailed discussion. Let me, then, begin with D.P. Mukerji. (To avoid confusion, I will refer to Mukerjee by his first name, Radhakamal, and to Mukerji by his initials, DP, in this part of the Lecture.) He was Radhakamal’s choice as his principal colleague in the building of the Department at Lucknow, and was brought in as a lecturer in 1922. They had many significant things in common, including their socio-cultural background in Calcutta, training in history and economics (DP had taken MA degrees

Chapter 06.indd 97

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

98T.N. Madan

in both subjects, and one presumes he too attended the sociology classes that Mukerjee had), and the interdisciplinary approach to the study of social sciences. They both argued that the scope of the social sciences in India should be rooted in the specificities of Indian culture, which, for Radhakamal, meant upper-caste Hindu culture, and for DP, a ‘synthetic’ Hind-Muslim culture that began to be shaped in the medieval period, but whose evolution was distorted by the colonial intrusions. Within this composite culture the Hindu elements remained salient (Mukerji 1948).6 The convergences of viewpoint were more than matched by differences. For Radhakamal, the social was embedded in the cosmic; consequently, his robust empiricism was in the ultimate analysis tempered by intuitive understandings. As already noted, he was a deeply religious person. Contrastively, DP was an agnostic, and dialectical materialism and the historically situated human agent were the source of the dynamics of human history. He resisted being labelled as a Marxist, conceding no more than being a ‘Marxologist’. Empirical research uninformed by a sense of history and deductive reason, he maintained, could only by superficial. Unlike Radhakamal, he never engaged in fieldwork or survey research, but concentrated on exercises in conceptual clarification and historical interpretations. It is not hard to imagine that the two men, so different temperamentally and in their methodological orientation, gradually drifted apart, and DP created his own space. His influence extended well beyond the academe and extended to ‘progressive’ (so called) circles; its mainstay was talk. He was a great teacher and much admired conversationist. To quote Ramkrishna Mukherjee, ‘he wrote less, talked more, and left an indelible impression on his students, colleagues and contemporary Indian intellectuals’ (1977: 35). It is not surprising that Radhakamal makes no mention of DP, or Majumdar either, in his autobiography. DP did, however, occasionally refer bibliographically to Radhakamal’s work in his earlier studies (see, for example, Mukerji 1924: Bibliography, iv; 1948: 217, 225). DP actually wrote five books in English, and a considerable number of essays, some of which were collected in three volumes, of which the last, Diversities (1958) is the most important.7 His first two books, Personality and the Social Sciences (1924) and Basic Concepts in Sociology (1932), are exercises in conceptual clarification, more a conversation with himself than with others, about the nature of sociology. There is no

Chapter 06.indd 98

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

99

engagement here with Indian social reality. His third, and, I think, most important book, Modern Indian Culture (1948/1942), is all about the dynamics of Indian culture during the medieval and colonial periods. It is an exercise in historical sociology, marked by observations such as this: ‘It was through the assimilation and conflict of such forces [“Buddhism, Islam, Western commerce and culture”] that Indian culture became what it is today, neither Hindu, nor Islamic, neither a replica of the Western modes of thought nor a purely Asiatic product’ (1948: 1). It discusses religion (‘the mystical outlook’ of the people rather than scriptural religiosity), economic processes and the emergence of a mimetic middle class in the 19th century, social mobility as a result of ‘modern’ (that is, western) education, the impact of an emerging, post-feudal class structure on literature, and the sociology of Indian music and the fine arts. Modern Indian culture is called an ‘artifice of an unreal class structure’, not an organic growth (like the middle classes in Europe). ‘How this artifice has worked is the story of this book’ (ibid.: viii). Modern Indian Culture is a unique work, a product of thinking about modern Indian society from a Marxian, or (shall we say?) Marxological, perspective, without yielding to the idea that the nonmaterial aspects of society are merely superstructure, determined by the system of economic relations (the mode of production conceived of as the base), without any substance of their own. It is a book that retains its relevance in terms of the issues it addresses (for example, the HinduMuslim divide and the formation of the middle classes) and the manner in which it does so.8 I may briefly add here that Radhakamal also was interested in the formation of classes under the auspices colonialism, and had himself been involved in the trade union movement, but his perspective was liberal humanist. His Indian Working Class (1945) was the first book of its kind.9 Of all of DP’s last writings, none has, perhaps, attracted more attention, both appreciative and critical, than his presidential address to the First All-India Sociological Conference at Dehradun in 1955. Acclaiming the synthetic perspective of sociology, and arguing for an engagement with real life problems, he observed: Sociology has a floor and a ceiling, like any other science; but its speciality consists in its floor being the ground-floor of all types of social disciplines, and in its ceiling remaining open to the sky. Neglect of the social base often leads to arid abstractions, as in recent economics (1958: 229).

Chapter 06.indd 99

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

100T.N. Madan

He was, however, quick to warn against ‘the jungle of the so-called empirical social research monographs’, and clarified that the ‘social base’, or ‘ground’, lies in ‘social traditions’, which are not static: ‘Traditions do change’ (ibid.: 237). His was not, therefore, a call for traditionalism, which he explicitly rejected (ibid.: 241), contrary to what some critics have alleged. DP, in fact, asserted that ‘the knowledge of social traditions shows the way to break them with the least social cost, if that is necessary or inevitable’ (ibid.: 231). More emphatically, he said: ‘sociology should ultimately show the way out of the social system by analyzing the process of transformation’, keeping in mind all the while that ‘the thing changing is more real and objective than change per se’ (ibid.: 240, 241). It is clear that in DP’s conception, the sociology of India would have to identify its own subject matter, and accordingly devise its own methodology. Is that something that you assembled here at the 36th All-India Sociological Conference, 55 years after DP spoke, would find difficult to accept? I recognise, however, that there is a disconcerting aspect of DP’s argument the way he constructs it: namely, his explicit privileging of the Brahmanical Hinduism of Sanskrit texts in his discussion of tradition: for instance, in his notion of sampradāya paramparā (ibid.: 236), and most notably in his insistence on the knowledge of Sanskrit as a requirement for Indian sociologists (Mukerji 1954: 237). This concern (or discomfort) persists, notwithstanding the strong disclaimer that his emphasis on the ‘normative orientation’ of the group as against ‘“voluntaristic” individual action’ is equally true of all the religio-cultural traditions of India’ (ibid.: 234), or his later modification regarding his position on Sanskrit by making room for, besides Sanskrit, ‘any such language in which the traditions have been embodied as symbols’ (1958: 233). Everything considered, Radhakamal and DP were two very different kinds of sociologists, temperamentally, intellectually, and ideologically. I know that it is a commonplace to speak of ‘the Lucknow School of Sociology’ (see, for example, Joshi 1986); but there is no solid evidence for it. The former was basically an economist by education and even temperamentally (interested in addressing practical problems such as poverty and exploitation), who turned full time to sociology via social ecology, and finally to epistemological and metaphysical questions. By contrast, DP, a historian first and then an economist and sociologist, began with general, conceptual clarifications in his adopted field of sociology to concrete problems of making sense of contemporary history and the making of a modern India, that was distinctively Indian but

Chapter 06.indd 100

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

101

not insular. In this regard, he considered Tagore the greatest exemplar, perhaps more than Gandhi himself. In a tribute to G.S. Ghurye on his sixtieth birthday, DP hailed him as ‘the only Indian sociologist’ among ‘sociologists in India’ (1954: 237). This was, of course, a comment as much on Radhakamal’s recent, theoretical, sociological writings (for example, his general theory of values) as on Ghurye’s corpus, which was, in terms of its substantive content, concrete though broad in scope, and had its roots in the study of the Brahmanical textual traditions. Did DP not see the danger of such a preoccupation? Let me then turn to Ghurye, who was four years younger than Mukerjee. Sanskrit was in the family (they were Brahmans), and he studied it at college. A perusal of Manusmriti, he writes in his autobiography (Ghurye 1973: 37), aroused his interest in the study of social institutions like marriage, and led him to sociology and cultural anthropology. He applied for the sociology scholarship which the Government announced (there was another in economics), and was selected on the recommendation of Patrick Geddes who interviewed him. Unlike Mukerjee, Ghurye was far from enthusiastic about Geddes: ‘I could get nothing more out of [his lectures] than that place created or dictated work and both in the process modified the place’ (ibid.: 38). You will recall that, this same idea had seized Mukerjee, as it were, and led him to develop the discipline of social ecology. Ghurye chose to go to the London School of Economics to work with L.T. Hobhouse, a social evolutionist, but moved on to Cambridge, where he came under the deep influence of the psychologist turned anthropologist, W.H.R. Rivers, known in his time as a leading exponent of ‘cultural diffusionism’, because he had ‘come to the conclusion that the anthropological approach to Sociology was the most appropriate one’ (ibid.: 45). This included, of course, fieldwork. After earning his doctorate, he returned to Bombay in 1924, where he was appointed as Reader in Sociology at the University. He became a professor ten years later. Gradually, he built there the first fully fledged, independent, department of sociology in India. One of the research papers Ghurye prepared in fulfilment of the requirements of a doctoral degree in anthropology at Cambridge was on ‘the ethnic theory of caste’. He expanded this to produce his most famous work, Caste and Race in India (1969/1932), a classic in its own right, and a worthy successor to S.V. Ketkar’s (1979/1909) book on caste, which was the first study of the subject by an Indian scholar. No major work on caste published after Ghurye’s book, including

Chapter 06.indd 101

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

102T.N. Madan

Louis  Dumont’s  (1970) and Nicholas Dirks’ (2002), but, strangely, excluding Susan Bayly’s (1999), fails to draw upon Ghurye’s conclusions. Although he did not wholly accept the earlier theses of the racial origin of caste, he did consider the institution an evolving product of the interplay of caste and Brahmanical, ritualistic ideology. His focus on changes during British rule (he maintained that occupational castes were their creation), and on the internal structure of caste (caste, subcaste) were seminal contributions. After three later editions, with a changed title (class and occupation in place of race), the original title was finally restored in the fifth edition (1969). Apart from its substantive conclusions, the book was notable for its deft interweaving of Sanskrit textual materials and the different kinds of information generated during the colonial period. In subsequent work, for instance, the ethnography of the Mahadev Kolis (1963b/1957), he also drew upon fieldwork. Arguably, he was the doyen of Indian sociologists from the 1930s onwards over the next three decades. Mukerjee’s identity as a scholar suffered from his interdisciplinary studies: economists had no use for his sociology, and sociologists were not even qualified to judge his economics which, needless to emphasise, is very ironical. Ghurye wrote an autobiography (1973), S.K. Pramanick (1994), a book on his work, and Carol Upadhya, an excellent essay (2007). I do not, therefore, have to go further into his published work, which was as voluminous and as varied in range as Mukerjee’s. Like Mukerjee, he remained deeply imbued with traditional Brahmanical perspectives; often, as in his work on the status of Indian tribal communities (1963a/1943), or on social tensions (1968), he vehemently asserted what could only be called a strident Hindu point of view. Upadhya succinctly captures this aspect of Ghurye’s sociology: ‘He believed that Hinduism is at the centre of India’s civilizational unity and that at the core of Hinduism are Brahmanical ideas and values that are essential for the integration of society’ (2007: 215). One does not find a similar political concern in Mukerjee’s work, which, as I noted above, is characterised by a quest, largely unsuccessful, for inter-civilisational synthesis. I may also note here that Ghurye and Mukerjee did not discuss each other’s work, of which they could not possibly have been unaware. There is a reference to Mukerjee in Ghurye’s autobiography; it is about their relative standing at the International Sociological Association, and intended to show Mukerjee in a bad light (Ghurye 1973: 131).

Chapter 06.indd 102

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

103

Mukerjee  was far more well read in western scholarly traditions (economic, sociological and philosophical) than Ghurye, whose main strength lay in, as already stated above, his command over Sanskrit and his scholarship in classical texts in that language.10 Unlike Mukerjee who cited from the work of American, British, and European (particularly French and German) social scientists, Ghurye showed little familiarity with them. Referring to the rich body of western scholarship in the sociology of religion, Pramanick comments: ‘where does Ghurye fit in this theoretical world? Perhaps nowhere’ (1994: 144)! Ghurye’s historical approach, coloured by the narrow diffusionist theory of the early 20th century11 (in contrast to Mukerjee’s generalising, theoretical perspectives and his quest for a universalistic society theory) did occasionally lead him to inquire into the cultural linkages between Europe and India (see Ghurye 1955, and also 1948), but the core of his scholarly work was centred in India.12 This was his second strength: take out his magnum opus on caste and his contribution will be largely shorn of its continued interest. Some of his empirical work, notably the study of sadhus (Ghurye 1964/1953) had an all-India focus, but some of it was confined to western India and the city of Bombay (Mumbai). In the development of sociological studies of Indian society and culture, and in the institutionalisation of the sociological profession, Ghurye’s contributions, including the work of his students inspired or, at least, encouraged by him, have been more significant than Mukerjee’s. None of the latter’s sociology students achieved the eminence of scholars like Iravati Karve, A.R. Desai, and M.N. Srinivas. Besides, Ghurye achieved much more in the establishment of a professional association (Indian Sociological Society) and its journal (Sociological Bulletin) than Mukerjee ever attempted or did (a journal he founded did not survive long). To sum up, Radhakamal Mukerjee, D.P. Mukerji, and G.S. Ghurye contributed significantly in diverse but complementary ways to the establishment of sociology as an academic discipline in India. At the beginning of this section (on Mukerjee’s contemporaries), the first person I named was Benoy Kumar Sarkar, and his contribution, which was idiosyncratic in several respects, also must be recognised. Mukerjee and Sarkar were very close friends during their college and university years; in fact, Mukerjee in his autobiography describes Sarkar as one of the ‘influences’ on his thinking, and also emotionally (see Mukerjee 1956: 6, 1997: 61, 92), but as the years rolled by, distances grew between them.

Chapter 06.indd 103

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

104T.N. Madan

There is hardly any evidence of mutual influence in their published work, notwithstanding many areas of common interest. Sarkar was consumed by nationalistic fervour; besides, wanderlust drove him to Europe, the USA, and the Far East, where he spent over ten years (1914–25). He had a hungry mind too and learnt French, German, and Italian. He read sociologists such as Comte, Durkheim, Tönnies, Weber, and Pareto in the languages in which they wrote, and he wrote about them. Sarkar’s informed engagement with the work of western sociologists, irrespective of the merit of his evaluations, is a unique chapter in the history of sociology in India. Only a few other sociologists have attempted to do the same, such as A.K. Saran (1963, 1971), and J.P.S. Uberoi (1978, 1984), but it may be noted that neither of them have the command over European languages that Sarkar did, nor the experience of extended living abroad. Sarkar’s overriding passion was to bring out the intense, this-worldly concerns of India’s intellectual traditions, because it was their alleged absence that had been regarded by western scholars as the main reason for India’s ‘backwardness’. As he put it: ‘The transcendental and otherworldly aspects of Hindu life and thought have been made too much of ’ (Sarkar 1985/1937: 6). In this respect, he was dismissive of Weber’s work on Indian religions. Arguing against Weber, he wrote that ‘religion was a social force in Hindu culture only in the sense in which it is used by Durkheim’: to wit, ‘society is in every region and age essentially religious’ (ibid.: 22). He insisted on the similarity between the ‘rationalism’ of the Protestant ethic, as analyzed by Weber, and what he identified as the unbroken tradition of materialism in the Hindu tradition. He borrowed the term ‘positive’ from Comte’s ‘positivism’, and reshaped it to describe the Hindu tradition in what is, perhaps, his best known book, The Positive Background of Hindu Sociology (1985). The book was a detailed (irritatingly prolix), introductory discussion of the classical Brahmanical text, Shukranīti, which, he asserted, was a sociological work; hence the use of the term ‘Hindu Sociology’. What interested him most was that the ancient Dharmashāstra, Arthashāstra and Nītishāstra texts were, in his opinion, ‘non-transcendental and nonmystical’; in other words, they contained ‘secular, worldly, materialistic, and “positive” elements of [the] Hindu social economy’ (ibid.: 5, 15–17, 56 and elsewhere). He assiduously sought for earlier parallels in the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Jaina traditions of western ideologies of power (economic and political), to conclude: ‘materialism first,

Chapter 06.indd 104

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

105

materialism second, and materialism always has been the foundation and the background of Hindu civilization for six thousand years [sic] from Mohenjo Daro to the age of Rāmkrishna-Vivekānanda’ (ibid.:  635). Swapan Kumar Bhattacharya in his comprehensive study of Sarkar’s work observes: The entire gamut of Sarkar’s indological and sociological studies has been pervaded by a quest for the sources of a possible rejuvenation of the Indian (Hindu) culture in its past so that it could draw its sustenance from its tradition for facing up to the challenge of the industrially and scientifically advanced nations of the west (1990: 419).

For Sarkar, as for Ghurye, Vedic knowledge was a living source of philosophical wisdom and practical knowledge. In fact, there is more in common between Sarkar and Ghurye than between Sarkar and Mukerjee. All three had wide and varied interests, and wrote voluminously on, besides sociological themes as such, art, eroticism and literature, etc. But even less than Mukerjee, Sarkar is no longer a live influence. Roma Chatterji thinks that Sarkar’s contributions are at best ‘a footnote in the history of Indian sociology’ (2007: 106), and Bhattacharya (1990) laments that he has been neglected even by the Bengalis. Both, however, survive, as Chatterji and Bhattacharya attest in the case of Sarkar, for their historical interest: they throw light on the critical interplay between the shaping of the social sciences and the making of national consciousness in India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is, of course, also true, although not exactly in the same manner, of the work of Radhakamal, D.P., and Ghurye. All four were not only the founders of sociology in India, but also contributed significantly to the making of a modern social consciousness, without losing a sense of roots, however. Mukerjee recalls in his autobiography that he and other like-minded young intellectuals (notably, Sarkar) realised early that ‘Indian recovery and reconstruction must proceed as much on educational and social planes as on political lines’ (1997: 92).

A Final Comment Times change. Every age, it has been well said, is defined by the way it copes with the challenges it faces. Today, we the sociologists of India, are still, or should be, the rooted bearers of a modern consciousness,

Chapter 06.indd 105

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

106T.N. Madan

but the content of this consciousness, and our sense of rootedness—the two are mutually entailed: the one makes no sense without the other— is inevitably different. In this Lecture, honouring the contributions of Radhakamal Mukerjee, I have concentrated on bringing out the range of interests and the flow, as it were, of his thought, for these are so little remembered today. Limitations of space have precluded detailed evaluation. First things, surely, must come first. Let me then confine myself to recalling what Mukerjee’s ablest pupil and sternest critic, Saran said: ‘In his intellectual career Dr. Mukerjee has tried to meet the challenge of the West almost in all forms in which it has come’, but without noteworthy success because he ‘is not a deep thinker’ (1958: 1018, 1020). I have quoted rather heavily from his writings in the hope that doing so will give the readers of this essay some idea of Mukerjee’s vast erudition and a flavour of his style, which does not actually invite emulation, but was characteristic of him—rather hurried, repetitive, verbose, and replete with cross-disciplinary citations. Let me assure you that it is not my intention to suggest that, today, we live off the fruits of the work of Radhakamal Mukerjee and his contemporaries. But it is important to know what interested and moved our founding parents. Beyond that, our strivings have to be our own, of the 21st century. While deprivation, disease, and illiteracy and other Millennium Development Goals are still with us, we face new problems too, which we share with the rest of the world. Double-edged technological innovations, environmental degradation, globalisation, identity concerns in the setting of unprecedented movement of peoples across countries (as refugees fleeing political persecution or as migrants in search of a better life), and religious resurgence (as personal piety or politically motivated religiosity) are some of these new challenges. What do we as sociologists have to say about them? That is the constitutive question of sociology today, everywhere.

Notes * The First Radhakamal Mukerjee Memorial Lecture delivered under the auspices of the Indian Sociological Society at the XXXVI All-India Sociological Conference at Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, Orissa on 28 December 2010. 1. Needless to say, in these perspectives, we find echoes of the views of the founding fathers of sociology in the West. Thus, Auguste Comte (1798–1857) also found the key to diversities of social morphology in differences of race, climate, and political

Chapter 06.indd 106

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

107

action, and outlined the scope of sociology in terms of ‘statics’ (social structure or order) and ‘dynamics’ (social change or progress). Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) looked upon social life as the continuous striving for adjustment between the social or internal environment and the external or natural environment. In his view, human society was characterised by a stable internal arrangement of social units, which was not, however, unchanging but subject to a differentiating evolutionary process. I do not have the space here to explore in reasonable detail the roots of Mukerjee’s ideas in classical sociology. Similarly, one could explore the roots of Mukerjee’s economic ideas and moral sentiments in classical economics—in the writings of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, for instance—but that is a major undertaking for disciplinary historians. 2. Already, in 1919, he had (in a lecture on ‘The Foundations of Indian Sociology’ at Madurai) lamented the consequences of western industrialism in India in the form of ‘the disintegrated village and the sordid, overcrowded city’. To attend to them, ‘the future economic superstructure’ would have to be built ‘on the bedrock of our characteristic economic habits and institutions, our village system and agrarian economy, and the means and methods of our traditional city-planning and organisation’ (Mukerjee 1956: 9–10). 3. It may be recalled that Max Weber (1864–1920) had already written in a similar vein at the beginning of the century in his seminal studies of capitalism, but his writings in German were not available to Mukerjee, for they had not yet been translated into English (Weber 1930). I mention the convergence of views between the two scholars only to draw attention, first, to the radicalism of Mukerjee’s approach to the task of doing economics and his ethical concerns, and, second, to his optimism about the future of humanity, in contrast to Weber’s resignation to a kind of historical inevitability in a modernising (rationalising) world. Mukerjee never let go of this optimism, but to sustain it he turned increasingly to religious faith, a path that Weber did not take. 4. Somewhere in the book, Mukerjee uses the expression ‘dismal determinism’ to castigate the work of the economists of his time, presumably echoing Thomas Carlyle’s characterisation of economics as the ‘dismal science’. A recent, radical critique of the fundamental assumptions of economics (bearing on individualism, ‘rational’ selfinterest, the normative character of the market, and the ideal of the nation state) by the Harvard economist Stephen Marglin (2008), carries the title of The Dismal Science; the subtitle is: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines the Community. Mukerjee devoted considerable attention to what he called the contrasting ideal types (in Weberian sense of the term) of market-based ‘modern capitalism’ and ‘communalism’, the latter being a community-based economy, such as that of pre-colonial India (Mukerjee 1940: 213–32, 1997: 128f.). Marglin did not know of Mukerjee’s work until I drew his attention to it early in 2009. In a somewhat different vein, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has pointed out that, the West has created ‘a society in which we do not act together as a community to address our common needs, partly because rugged individualism and market fundamentalism have eroded any sense of community and have led to rampant exploitation of unwary and unprotected individuals and to an increasing social divide’ (2010: 275). And, of course, Louis Dumont (1977) has persuasively argued that ‘the genesis and triumph of economic ideology’ (his use of

Chapter 06.indd 107

10/19/2013 6:39:50 PM

108T.N. Madan ‘ideology’ rather than ‘science’ is no small matter) represents the late entry, in the late 18th century, of the category, ‘the economy’, and of individualism and egalitarianism into western thought in a manner that valorises relations between people and things at the cost of relations between themselves: the individual with his possessions as opposed to the ensemble of social relations. 5. A recent, very short, but positive assessment comes from a development economist, J. Krishnamurty, who writes, among other things: ‘Today, Mukerjee is widely regarded as a pioneer of environmental economics, as indeed of several other topics. In his work he developed interdisciplinary approaches, focused on institutional factors, and extended the boundaries of whatever subject he took up’ (2009: 155).

A similar appreciation of Mukerjee’s work by a sociologist has not come to my notice. M.N. Srinivas and M.N. Panini (1973) devoted just about 300 words to him in their long essay on the development of sociology and social anthropology in India: they obviously did not know his work well, or D.P. Mukerji’s for that matter. I wrote to Srinivas about the inadequacies and factual errors of the article when it came out; he wrote back saying he would look into the matter, but nothing happened thereafter by way of correction and elaboration. Most significantly, a recent comprehensive volume on the founders of sociology and social anthropology in India (Patricia Uberoi et al. 2007), which has chapters on Geddes, Ghurye, Sarkar, and D.P. Mukerji, lacks any discussion of Mukerjee’s contributions except some stray references in two chapters. Uberoi informs me that, having already asked me to do an essay on D.P. Mukerji, she and her colleagues did not know of anyone to ask to write on Mukerjee. In any case, she adds, Mukerjee seemed to have receded from the horizon of today’s generation of sociologists. I may recall that Ramachandra Guha (1994), who describes himself as a historian, acknowledges Mukerjee’s pioneering contributions to social ecology. 6. More interesting, and even daring, was Mukerjee’s decision to bring in D.N. Majumdar in 1928. One of the first MAs in anthropology from Calcutta University, he was considered a promising researcher. To justify his appointment, Mukerjee convinced the Vice-Chancellor that, in a country like India, the study of non-monetised economic transactions was imperative. Accordingly, Majumdar was appointed as lecturer in ‘primitive economics’, which embraced hunting and food gathering tribes, shifting cultivators, village artisans, craftsmen, and the like. To fulfil his full share of teaching responsibilities, Majumdar once told me, he had also been assigned a course of lectures on monetary economics. This made good sense within the recommended comparative perspective. By the 1940s, the number of MA courses in sociology had been increased to three and of anthropology to two, and a number of MA and PhD dissertations in these subjects written. 7. He also wrote in Bengali, but as he himself ruefully noted, those who read him in English generally could not read Bengali, and those who read him in Bengali did not read him in English (1958: vii; see also Mukerji 2009)! Let me, then, turn to his books in English to merely indicate the scope of his work. I will be very brief: somewhat more detailed discussions are available elsewhere (see Madan 1977, 1994, 2007b, 2009). 8. Two specialised monographs also may be mentioned, his study on Tagore, whom he knew personally (Mukerji 1972/1943), and the ‘small booklet’ on Indian music

Chapter 06.indd 108

10/19/2013 6:39:51 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

9.

10.

11.

12.

109

(Mukerji 1942). He explicitly called his approach sociological. His discussions of Indian Music (in Modern Indian Culture and the two books just mentioned) were, as far as I know, the first ever sociological studies of the subject ever attempted. With the arrival of ethnomusicology, the situation has, of course, changed since then. DP also authored two books on music in Bengali; one of them, Sur O Sangati, comprises correspondence between him and Tagore, no one less, and is, perhaps, the only book the poet co-authored with anybody (Srobona Munshi 2009: 22). On a personal note, I may mention that when I passed my M.A. examination, qualifying for a university research scholarship, Radhakamal Mukerjee suggested I do a PhD on the basis of fieldwork among factory workers in Kanpur. It should be noted however, that Ghurye wrote an appreciative essay on Comte, citing the authority of those like Alfred Weber and A.N. Whitehead who held him in high regard, and castigating those, like F.A. Hayek, who criticised him and also those, like Bertrand Russell, who just ignored him. Ghurye himself considered ‘the law of three stages of knowledge’, and the ‘hierarchy of sciences’, of fundamental importance. He concludes: ‘Comte’s positive philosophy was intended precisely to be the History and Philosophy of Sciences’ (Ghurye 1957: 28). What I find of greater interest is that Ghurye used the occasion to pay ‘homage’ to Comte on the centenary of his death to write about the ‘Indian contribution to sociology of knowledge’, namely, the many Vedic and post-Vedic ‘vidya¯ s’, all the way down to the Pura¯ nas and itiha¯ sa (historical) texts (ibid.: 29–70). On Ghurye’s almost unthinking and exclusive commitment to Rivers and diffusionism, Pramanick writes: ‘Ghurye was not a functionalist. Marxism did not have any influence on him. The Parsonian theory of social action appeared to him to be a false abstraction. And Ghurye did not have any knowledge of Max Weber either’ (1994: 225). He admitted as much to Pramanick. It is noteworthy that it was Ghurye’s interest in the ‘Egyptian affinities of Indian funerary practices’ that made him advise M.N. Srinivas to do fieldwork among the Coorgis to study their burial practices’ (Ghurye 1973).

References ** There is some uncertainty about the exact year of publication of some of Mukerjee’s books. I have tried to be as accurate as possible, but all the doubtful entries are marked with a carrot (^). Bayly, Susan. 1999. Caste, society and politics in India from the eighteenth century to the modern age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bhattacharya, Swapan Kumar. 1990. Indian sociology and the role of Benoy Kumar Sarkar. Burdwan: The University of Burdwan. Brij Narain. 2009/1919. ‘Indian versus western industrialism’, in J. Krishnamurty (ed.): Towards development economics (55–62). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. [Originally published in Brij Narain: Essays in Indian economic problems (26–40). Lahore: The Punjabee Electric Press, 1919.]

Chapter 06.indd 109

10/19/2013 6:39:51 PM

110T.N. Madan Chatterji, Roma. 2007. ‘The nationalist sociology of Benoy Kumar Sarkar’, in Patricia Uberoi, Nandini Sundar and Satish Deshpande (eds.): Anthropology in the east: Founders of Indian sociology and anthropology (106–31). Ranikhet: Permanent Black. Commons, John. 1934. Institutional economics. New York: Macmillan. Dasgupta, Subrata. 2010. Awakening: The story of the Bengal renaissance. New Delhi: Random House. Datta, Bhabatosh. 1978. Indian economic thought: Twentieth century perspectives, 1900–1950. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill. Dirks, Nicholas B. 2002. Castes of mind: Colonialism and the making of modern India. Ranikhet: Permanent Black. Dumont, Louis. 1970. Homo hierarchicus: The caste system and its implications. London: Widenfeld and Nicolson. ———. 1977. From Mandeville to Marx: The genesis and triumph of economic ideology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Firth, Raymond. 1951. Elements of social organization. London: Watts & Co. Ghurye, Govind Sadashiv. 1948. Occidental civilization. Bombay: International Book House. ———. 1955. Family and kin in Indo-European culture. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1957. ‘Vidyas: A homage to Comte and a contribution to the sociology of knowledge’, Sociological bulletin, 6 (2): 1–88. ———. 1963a/1943. The Aborigines—so-called—and their future (3rd ed. titled The scheduled tribes). Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1963b/1957. The Mahadev Kolis (2nd ed.). Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1964/1953. Indian sadhus (2nd ed.). Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1968. Social tensions in India. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1969/1932. Caste and race in India (5th ed.). Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1973. I and other explorations. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Guha, Ramachandra. 1994. ‘Introduction’, in Ramachandra Guha (ed.): Social ecology (1–18). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Hart, Samuel. 1956. ‘Bridging sociology and ethics’, in Baljit Singh (ed.): The frontiers of social science (156–60). London: Macmillan. Herskovits, Melville J. 1952. Economic anthropology. New York: Norton. Huntington, Samuel P. 1996. The clash of civilizations: Remaking of world order. New York: Touchstone. Joshi, P.C. 1986. ‘Founders of Lucknow School and their legacy’, Economic and political weekly, 21 (33): 1455–69. Ketkar, S.V. 1979/1909. History of caste in India. Jaipur: Rawat. Kopf, David. 1969. British orientalism and the Bengal renaissance. Berkeley: University of California Press. Krishnamurty, J. (ed.). 2009. Towards development economics. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Madan, T.N. 1983. Culture and development (The D.N. Majumdar Memorial Lectures, under the auspices of the Ethnographic and Folk Culture Society, Lucknow). Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1977. ‘The dialectic of tradition and modernity in the sociology of D.P. Mukerji’ (D.P. Mukerji Memorial Lecture at the University of Lucknow), Socio­logical bulletin, 26 (2): 155–76.

Chapter 06.indd 110

10/19/2013 6:39:51 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries

111

Madan, T.N. 1994. Pathways: Approaches to the study of society in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2007a. ‘Search for synthesis: The sociology of D.P. Mukerji’, in Patricia Uberoi, Nandini Sundar and Satish Deshpande (eds.): Anthropology in the east: Founders of Indian sociology and anthropology (256–89). Ranikhet: Permanent Black. ———. 2007b. ‘One from many: Explorations in the anthropology of Islam’ (D.N. Majumdar Memorial Lecture at the University of Lucknow), The eastern anthropologist, 60 (1): 1–25. ———. 2009. ‘Introduction’, in Srobona Munshi (ed.): Redefining humanism: Selected papers of D.P. Mukerji (7–11). New Delhi: Tulika. Marglin, Stephen A. 2008. The dismal science: How thinking like an economist undermines community. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Mukerjee, Radhakamal.** 1916. The foundations of Indian economics. London: Longman, Green & Co. Ltd. ———. 1922. Principles of comparative economics (Vol. I). London: P.S. King & Son Ltd. [Reprinted in 2009 by Kessinger Publishing, USA.] ———. 1925. Borderlands of economics. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. ———. 1926. Regional sociology. New York: The Century Company. ———. 1938. The regional balance of man: An ecological theory of population. Madras: University of Madras. ———. 1940. The institutional theory of economics. London: Macmillan. ———. 1942. Social ecology. London: Macmillan. ———. 1943. Political economy of population. London: Longman, Green & Co. Ltd. ———. 1945. The Indian working class. Bombay: Hind Kitabs. ———. 1949. The social structure of values. London: Macmillan. ———. 1951. The dynamics of morals. London: Macmillan. ———. 1956. ‘Faiths and influences’, in Baljit Singh (ed.): The frontiers of social science: In honour of Radhakamal Mukerjee (3–20). London: Macmillan. ———. 1960/1953. The theory and art of mysticism. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. ———. 1997. India: The dawn of a new era: An autobiography. New Delhi: Radha Publications. Mukerji, Dhurjati Prasad. 1924. Personality and the social sciences. Calcutta: The Book Company. ———. 1932. Basic concepts in sociology. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. ———. 1942. An introduction to Indian music. Bombay: Hind Kitabs. [Reprinted in 2002 as Indian music: An introduction (New Delhi: Rupa & Co.).] ———. 1948/1942. Modern Indian culture (2nd ed.). Bombay: Hind Kitabs. ———. 1954. ‘Social research’, in K.M. Kapadia (ed.): Professor Ghurye felicitation volume (234–37). Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ———. 1958. Diversities: Essays in economics, sociology and other social problems. New Delhi: People’s Publishing House. ———. 1972/1943. Tagore: A study. Calcutta: Manisha. Mukherjee, Ramkrishna. 1977. ‘Trends in Indian sociology’, Current sociology, 25 (3): 1–193 Munshi, Indra. 2007. ‘Patrick Geddes: Sociologist, environmentalist, and town planner’, in Patricia Uberoi, Nandini Sundar and Satish Deshpande (eds.): Anthropology in the east: Founders of Indian sociology and social anthropology (172–93). Ranikhet: Permanent Black.

Chapter 06.indd 111

10/19/2013 6:39:51 PM

112T.N. Madan Munshi, Srobona (ed.). 2009. Redefining humanism: Selected papers of D.P. Mukerji. New Delhi: Tulika. Pramanick, S.K. 1994. Sociology of G.S. Ghurye. Jaipur: Rawat Publications. Quinn, James A. 1956. ‘Mukerjee: A pioneer in social ecology’, in Baljit Singh (ed.): The frontiers of social science (267–73). London: Macmillan. Robbins, Lionel. 1932. An essay on the nature and significance of economics. London: Macmillan. Saran, A.K. 1958. ‘India’, in J.S. Roucek (ed.): Contemporary sociology (1013–34). New York: Philosophical Library. ———. 1963. ‘The Marxian theory of social change’, Inquiry (Oslo), 6: 70–128. ———. 1971. ‘Some reflections on sociology in crisis’, in Tom Bottomore (ed.): Crisis and contention in sociology (85–121). London: Sage. Sarkar, Benoy Kumar. 1985/1937. The positive background of Hindu sociology (Book I: Introduction to Hindu positivism). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Seal, Brajendranath. 1924. Rammohun Roy: The universal man. Calcutta: Saadharan Brahmo Samaj. Srinivas, M.N. and M.N. Panini. 1973. ‘Development of sociology and social anthropology in India’, Sociological bulletin, 22 (2): 179–215. Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2010. Freefall: Freemarkets and the sinking of the global economy. London: Allen Lane. Uberoi, J.P.S. 1978. Science and culture. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1984. The other mind of Europe. Delhi: Oxford University Press. Uberoi, Patricia, Nandini Sundar and Satish Deshpande (eds.). 2007. Anthropology in the east: Founders of sociology and social anthropology in India. Ranikhet: Permanent Black. Upadhya, Carol. 2007. ‘The idea of Indian society: G.S. Ghurye and the making of Indian sociology’, in Patricia Uberoi, Nandini Sundar and Satish Deshpande (eds.): Anthropology in the east: Founders of Indian sociology and anthropology (194–255). Ranikhet: Permanent Black.

Chapter 06.indd 112

10/19/2013 6:39:51 PM

7 Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology Manish K. Thakur

T

o the Indian students of social sciences, Radhakamal Mukerjee (1889–1968) evokes the past glory and seminal legacy of the Lucknow school. Along with two other eminent members of the much talked about Lucknow ‘triumvirate’—D.P. Mukerji and D.N. Majumdar—Radhakamal Mukerjee has rightly been credited with having played a foundational role in the shaping of social sciences in general and sociology in particular. Indeed, he spent the most productive years of his illustrious academic career at Lucknow. While discharging his duties, first as Professor of Economics, then as the Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University, and subsequently as the lifelong Director of the J.K. Institute of Sociology and Human Relations at the same university, he produced an enviable corpus of scholarly work on a wide range of themes and issues. Besides, Mukerjee served on a large number of committees and commissions including the National Planning Committee under the chairmanship of Jawaharlal Nehru. His valuable contributions to these policy-oriented bodies reveal his equal felicity with both philosophical and theoretical reflections and empirical problem-solving type of research. Some of his policy recommendations have not only stood the test of time, but were quite farsighted and robust. Mention may be made of the following: his idea of imposing ceiling on land holdings;

Chapter 07.indd 113

10/19/2013 4:45:20 PM

114

Manish K. Thakur

the conception of family planning and for linking action programmes to influence fertility behaviour with social development and welfare programme to improve food, nutrition, health, and literacy for mortality reduction and for improving quality of life; an integrated approach to land reform and land development, water resource conservation, and provision of production as well as consumption credit for working peasant-oriented development; integrated rural and urban planning as embodied in the concept of ‘rurbanisation’; and a forest policy oriented to mass consumption needs and to preserve the eco-environmental balance (see Baljit Singh 1955; Joshi 1986a and 1986b). Even a cursory glance at the titles of more than fifty works authored by him reveals his extraordinary scholarship and sharp intellect. Through his journey from ‘economics to social science, and eventually to metaphysics’ (Mukherjee 1989: 264), Mukerjee’s intellectual concerns found meticulous expression in his voluminous writings on issues and themes as divergent as the land problem, the working class, the town and the village life, ecology, food planning, institutional planning, population control, economic history, migration, social psychology, marriage, family and sex, democracy and civics, morals, culture and art, value, civilisation, humanism, mysticism, and spiritualism. Clearly, not only his works straddled many academic disciplines and frontiers, but are also distinguished by its methodological eclecticism and catholicity of approaches and orientations. This paper has a limited purpose. It does not purport to look at Mukerjee’s contributions in their entirety, which, even otherwise, is a daunting task to undertake within the space of a paper. Nor is it intended to assess his role as a ‘pioneer’ in the context of the history of the growth and development of sociology in India. Its aim is to selectively present his axial concerns and analytical thematics from his enormous body of writings with a view to examine his critique of western modernity. Of necessity, we intend to appraise Mukerjee’s critique of western social science approaches to the study of Indian society and culture. We are interested in discerning the elements of an alternative indigenous (Indian?) vision through a critical reading of his oeuvre. Our central interest lies in delineating the nature and premises of Mukerjee’s exposition of ‘Indianness’. To this end, we will briefly discuss Mukerjee’s conceptualisation of the relations between individual, society, and culture and try to figure out the degree and extent of his use of indigenous conceptual resources and categories of knowledge. This assumes added

Chapter 07.indd 114

10/19/2013 4:45:20 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

115

significance in Mukerjee’s case, as his writings encompass art, music, literature, economics, philosophy and sociology. Before proceeding further with the central problematic of the paper, it is only appropriate to offer Mukerjee’s brief biographical sketch to situate his works in the larger socio-historical context.1 The cultural-intellectual production in a colonised society is necessarily conditioned by the asymmetry of political relations between the coloniser and the colonised. It will be our endeavour to bring out the peculiarities of this context wherein Mukerjee’s work becomes meaningful. Conversely, we can also explore the ways in which the larger context weighed heavily on the contents and direction of Mukerjee’s work. For this purpose, rather than following Mukerjee’s growth and development as an intellectual giant/social scientist in a chronological fashion, we shall attempt to relate his work to the ‘faiths and influences’ (Mukerjee 1955b) emanating from the wider universe.

Life and Times Originally hailing from a small town—Behrampur (Murshidabad)—in Bengal, Mukerjee followed the well-established path of a middle-class Bengali youth by joining Presidency College, Calcutta (now Kolkata) for his higher education. After having secured a first-class-first in economics and sociology from Calcutta University, he returned to Behrampur to teach economics in the local Kashinath College (1910–15). In the aftermath of the ‘Bangha-Bhanga’ movement, he left his native place to take up the principalship of a college in Lahore. After a brief stint at Lahore, and thereafter almost four years (1917–21) of lectureship in economics at Calcutta University, he joined Lucknow University in 1921 as the founder-Head of the Department of Economics and Sociology.2 Like his many other compatriots, Mukerjee’s concerns and outlook were marked by a deep involvement in the social issues of his times. It was difficult for any educated Indian of that time to completely ignore the reverberations of the anti-colonial struggle. It is to be noted that, for Mukerjee’s generation, nationhood did not come as a finished product. It was more like a spiritual phenomenon whose presence depended on cultural reflection and active appropriation. It was something which had to be intellectually grasped before it could be politically possessed. No wonder, Mukerjee joined his contemporaries in their search for the

Chapter 07.indd 115

10/19/2013 4:45:20 PM

116

Manish K. Thakur

essence of their nationhood by delving deep into the rich heritage of India’s glorious past. The earliest and purest expressions of the yet-to-beborn nation’s spirit lay buried in the inner recesses of its history, which had to be reconstructed and made available to the people. Expectedly, the Indian national awakening expressed itself first in literary, artistic, intellectual, and cultural terms, and only subsequently in the political sphere. What has generally been called the Bengal Renaissance was the fountainhead of the cultural effervescence. By the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Bengal had already become the symbol of the intellectual stirring and political resurgence. The Bangha-Bhanga movement had released social and intellectual forces, which paved the way for swadeshi and swaraj. Mukerjee could not be left untouched by these forces. In his own words: 1905 saw a big intellectual and political ferment in every city in Bengal that was partitioned by Lord Curzon. Public meetings, street processions and singing parties, boycott of British goods, Swadeshi and prohibition first acquainted me, with a mass upheaval. The contact with the common man in the course of picketing in cloth and liquor shops was both new and invigorating. Next year found me with an academic scholarship in the leading educational institution in India, the Presidency College in Calcutta. But the influences outside the college were more significant, even over-powering. The country was passing through a political and cultural upheaval that completely changed the scale of values. The revaluation took the form of a literacy and artistic renaissance that gradually expanded into a mass movement. In the slums of Mechuabazar in Calcutta an adult school was started by me in 1906. Our programme for the country at that time was entirely educational, for we understood from the experience of political repression and persecution that were going on that only educational and social work among the masses could be silently and unostentatiously pursued without being nipped in the bud by political oppression. In fact, the surrounding atmosphere of suspicion and surveillance drove some of us to an extreme step (Mukerjee 1955a: 6–7).

Although politically aware and active in the wider social arena— cooperative organisation and adult education in particular—Mukerjee refrained from plunging into the then nationalist politics. This was also the time when the nationalist movement had not yet become a mass phenomenon. While Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghose were the acknowledged political leaders in Bengal, subsequently the movement attempted a pan-Indian presence under the joint leadership of ‘Lal, Bal and Pal’.3 Except his detention for a day in 1915 on

Chapter 07.indd 116

10/19/2013 4:45:20 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

117

the suspicion of his aiding and abetting revolutionary terrorists, he was fortunate not to bear the direct brunt of colonial repression. He narrates the incident: . . . but I was freed. Within a week I obtained the offer of Principalship of a Lahore college and went to the Punjab. It was just an accident that I did not find myself in politics after a detention or internment and found my life’s work in the academy (Mukerjee 1955a: 8).

Mukerjee was equally active in the literary field. Besides being the secretary of the District Sahitya Parishad, Murshidabad, he was also the Editor of a well-known Bengali monthly journal Upasana. He also authored a Bengali novel Sasvata Bhikhari (Eternal Beggar) and a short Bengali play Nidrita Narayan (God Asleep). Manimekhala (The Temple Girl of Kanya Kumari), a Bengali restoration of a South Indian legend about the goddess Parvati personating a temple girl and accepting her misery, agony, and disease, was Mukerjee’s another literary accomplishment. As a literary critic he participated in many literary debates of his time, joining issue with literary stalwarts such as Rabindranath Tagore, Dwijendralal Roy, and Pramatha Nath Chaudhury. Through these exchanges, Mukerjee pleaded for a new mass consciousness in Bengali literature. In the preface to his Bengali book Modern Bengali Literature, Mukerjee writes, literature will have to solve the social and ethical problems and conflicts of the age . . . the sturdy peasant who tills the field under scorching sun . . . , who toils and moils from morn till eve, day after day and year after year is he alone in his stupendous back-breaking labour on the earth? . . . Literature must reveal the joys and sorrows of the eternal man on the perennial earth (ibid.: 8).

Apart from these political and cultural influences, Mukerjee singles out two of his fellow social scientists who left an indelible imprint on his life and work—Benoy Kumar Sarkar and Brajendranath Seal—who were eminent in their own fields and were active in Calcutta and Mysore respectively. This brief biographical sketch is enough to convince us that Mukerjee was active and productive in both literature and social sciences, ‘imparting social vision and sense of social reality to literature and imparting literary sensibility and imagination to social science enquiry’ (Joshi 1986a: 7). It was this versatility and the range of intellectual interests

Chapter 07.indd 117

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

118

Manish K. Thakur

and concerns that put Mukerjee over and above his contemporaries and pupils alike. On this count, both G.S. Ghurye and D.P. Mukerji, the two other versatile sociologists would stand second to Mukerjee. Under Mukerjee’s visionary leadership, Lucknow school represented a highly creative phase in the evolution of social sciences in modern India. For many, this School constituted an intellectual response to India’s colonial subjection and cultural subjugation (see Saran 1958; Joshi 1986a, 1986b: Madan 1994). In course of its evolution, its sensitivity to the richness of Indian tradition, its flair for ‘philosophical theoretic orientation’, the rigour of analytical approach and methodological tools, its distinguished style of cultural critique, its understanding of the problems and processes of social transformation based on grassroots insights and empirical fieldwork, and its anchorage in the value-oriented and non-compartmentalised social science vision made the Lucknow school an intellectual force to reckon with (see Yogendra Singh 1984, 1986, 2004).4

Social Sciences at Lucknow and the Quest for an ‘Indian School of Economics, Sociology, and Culture’ A close scrutiny of the broad philosophy of the Lucknow school and the theoretical and pedagogic approaches pursued there bears testimony to Mukerjee’s entire life’s work, and his philosophy and commitments. The questions raised by this School and the perspectives and insights generated on the problems facing the country largely emanated from its founders’ value commitments. Very early in his life, as a student of economics, Mukerjee realised the danger of ‘blind adoption of Western industrial methods’ as a solution to India’s basic problems. Later, in his preface to Fields and Farmers of Oudh (1929), a collection edited by him compiling empirical studies by his students and colleagues on Indian villages, he brought to our notice the divorce between the academy and the real life, and underlined the importance of correcting this divorce by promoting an ‘Indian School of Economics and Sociology’. To quote Mukerjee: Nowhere has there been a greater neglect of the realities of the economic life than in the curriculum of economics in Indian Universities. The Indian

Chapter 07.indd 118

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

119

student can hardly find in the Textbook a description of the economic environment in which he lives. The systems which are built up for him are ‘castles in the air’. When he comes out of the University, his theories instead of helping him towards interpretation and concrete achievement are a handicap to him. I believe that this to a large extent is responsible for the fact that we have many social visions and utopias in India and few constructive programmes which the masses can understand and work out for immediate benefit.

We look upon an Indian School of Economics and Sociology to correct this divorce between the academy and the market place to relate the social sciences to the needs and ideals of Indian life and labour. We have also to train our students in the technique and method of economic and social investigation of problems which press us from day-to-day and the country expects the departments of economics at different Universities to give a lead in this matter (ibid.: v; emphasis added).

Earlier, in November 1917, while delivering a series of ten lectures at the University of Punjab as a special lecturer in ‘Indian Economics’, Mukerjee had brought home the point of incommensurability of the western economic models with the Indian reality. For him, ‘the postulates of Western economics were entirely different from those that could be deduced from a realistic study of the Indian economic pattern’ (1955a: 9). His lectures also pointed out ‘the misapplication of English ideas to the landed property and village community in India and its effect upon the rural unsettlement and decline of agriculture’ (ibid.). The same year Mukerjee shared the platform with Mahatma Gandhi at one of his lectures on ‘Agriculture and Industrialism’ delivered at the St Stephens College, Delhi. It is interesting to note that, in his presidential address, Mahatma Gandhi lauded Mukerjee’s contributions to economics. Gandhi observed, ‘the principles of Western economics could not be applied to Indian conditions in the same way as the rules of grammar and syntax of one language wou1d not be applicable to another 1anguage’ (see Mukerjee 1997: 61). Mukerjee’s views on the unsuitability of western economic approaches to Indian conditions have consistently found their expressions in his lectures and writings right from the beginning of his scholarly career. In 1919, at one of his lectures at Madurai (in present day Tamil Nadu), Mukerjee reiterates his approach to Indian problems: The twin products of Western industrialism in India are the disintegrated village and sordid and overcrowded city. The unsettlement of our villages, and the congestion, intemperance and squalor of many of our towns demand a

Chapter 07.indd 119

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

120

Manish K. Thakur line of economic reform which will build the future economic superstructure on the bedrock of our characteristic economic habits and institutions, our village system and our agrarian economy and the means and methods of our traditional city planning and organisation (1955a: 9).

The purpose of the foregoing discussion is to underline the fact that, by the time Mukerjee joined the Lucknow University, a new orientation for an Indian school of economics and sociology had already crystallised in his mind. It can be argued that, as the founder Head of the Department of Economics and Sociology, he merely put into practise what he had already believed in. In other words, Lucknow merely facilitated his journey on the path that was already set in. At Lucknow, he consolidated his conception of ‘bridge-building between natural science like biology and social sciences; between economics, sociology and other human sciences; between theory-building and fact-finding; between social thought and social work’ ( Joshi 1986a: 12). On account of its multi-disciplinary orientation, many illustrious alumni of the Lucknow school have claimed that it would be more appropriate to call it the Lucknow school of economics, sociology, and culture (see, for example, ibid. and Joshi 1986b). It has generally been  claimed that the Lucknow school was the pathfinder in orienting the concept of social science to the needs and requirements of the country struggling under colonial yoke. For its scholars, the school epitomised an intellectual quest for national emancipation as well as for the lasting solutions to the pervasive economic backwardness and mass poverty. Its efforts at a new understanding of the Indian economy, society, and culture and its analysis of the challenges of national reconstruction had a definite anti-colonial thrust. Its perceptions of the problems of economic growth and social transformation involved not only a critique of the colonial approaches to the Indian problem but also a ceaseless groping and strivings for retrieving and resurrecting the most durable elements of Indian tradition. Indeed, it is in the context of the overall character of the Lucknow school that we can appreciate the fuller and deeper implications of Mukerjee’s lifelong mission of constructing an integrated and unified social science. Evidently, in a colonial setting, when the very zeitgeist of a nation was at stake, Mukerjee could hardly conceive of the role of a social scientist as just a narrow professional. S/he had to organically connect with her/his people and partake of the latter’s agony and suffering. S/he had

Chapter 07.indd 120

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

121

to be involved herself/himself not only in ‘identifying and interpreting their problems and predicaments but also in formulating categories of understanding and in shaping the content and forms of their national consciousness in relation to their historical traditions and their subcontinental size and economic and cultural diversity’ (Joshi 1986a: 26). Seen thus, the Lucknow school could hardly turn its back on the existential angst of an entire nation. The academic research at the school on the nature of Indian society and culture bears testimony to its overarching concern for the national identity and cultural rootedness. In what follows we will try to find out the suggestive traces of Mukerjee’s critique of western modernity and his advocacy of a critically adaptive path of India’s development. We will see how the essentialised fault lines permeating an enlightened West and a yet-to-be-civilised East frame some of his most pertinent observations on a variety of topics. The structural cleavages between the coloniser and the colonised and the attendant conflicts within the colonial society and culture could not escape Mukerjee’s sharp intellect and keen sense of observation. Instead, they seem to overshadow most of his intellectual output to an extent where he ends up romanticising, idealising, and constructing a useable past at the service of an incipient nation.

An Asian Path of Development? By virtue of his professional training as an economist and his early exposure to the all-pervasive poverty, wretchedness, and misery through his  social service work in the villages of Murshidabad district and Calcutta slums, he possessed an abiding interest in the challenges of development and problems of mass poverty. In fact, the first articulations of Mukerjee’s vision of an Indian (Asian) alternative to the western models of economic growth and industrial progress are found in his economic writings. His main contribution lay in questioning the wholesale import of Western institutions and values in the name of progress. He asks if the path of modernisation necessarily entails substitution of the eastern value systems and institutions by the western ones. Cannot Asian countries like India can fruitfully preserve and tap the potential of their ‘communalistic’ institutions for evolving an indigenous path of progress and development more suited to Asian conditions? In this sense, Mukerjee was perhaps the first among the social scientists to question

Chapter 07.indd 121

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

122

Manish K. Thakur

the Eurocentric approach to development and to pose the question of an alternative to the European path that corresponds to Asian conditions as well as traditions. In his search for an Indian alternative, Mukerjee frequently refers to the institutional framework of the Indian villages relating to (a) property structure in land and other village commons such as the irrigation channels, pastures, and cremation grounds, and (b) a culture of mutual aid and reciprocity, and the attendant communitarian forms of labour organisation. These peculiarities of the Indian village community emphasising community maintenance of natural resources and assets and the incorporation of peasants, artisans, labourers, and servicing castes in a holistic framework, according to him, arose as a response to economic necessity under specific Asian geographical and ecological conditions. These contingent necessities were further strengthened by the moral and ethical climate of these societies. In his writings, Mukerjee displays a high degree of appreciation for the organic ethos of the Indian village community. He is emphatic in asserting that the pursuit of development goals should not be at the cost of disruption of the village community. He blames the tendency to understand Indian institutions through western concepts for the disruption of the comprehensive framework of rural communalism. He is unsparing in his condemnation of the thoughtless attempts to alter and replace Indian institutions in accordance with western notions of progress and development. He advocates the need to accord a fresh look on the entire institutional framework inherited from tradition in relation to both the needs of Asian societies as wel1 as the lessons of the West (Mukerjee 1921a). He favours the conscious control of the evolutionary processes in the society according to its exclusive deal (Mukerjee 1925a: 252). In his reading, the basic issue, therefore, is not only operational, that is, of formulating plans and programmes in tune with the existing model of progress and development, but also cognitive, philosophical, and conceptual. Conceptual categories should be so formulated that they are consistent with the distinctive reality of a society, on the one hand, and are in harmony with the prevailing values and ideals, on the other. According to Mukerjee, concepts have so far determined the selection of facts and not facts the re-formulation of concepts. In his words, ‘economic laws are to fit themselves to facts, not facts to fit the values to theories. We can no more alter economic institution of a country than language and thoughts (1921a: 271).

Chapter 07.indd 122

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

123

Mukerjee is convinced that the attempts to model Asian social reality and the problem of Asian development through Eurocentric concepts have produced disastrous results. Given the fact that his concerns included both an adequate conceptual framework and an appropriate operational strategy for culture-specific development, we can hear the echoes of his pioneering effort to evolve, or at least to show the theoretical possibility, of an Asian alternative to Eurocentrist approaches and models. True, he himself could not resolve the apparent contradiction between his pull towards a perspective of ‘Asian exceptionalism’ and the other that leads towards a perspective of socialist transformation oriented to Asian conditions (see Joshi 1986a and 1986b).

Western Democracy versus Eastern Rural Communalism Mukerjee’s most powerful critique of western modernity lay in his outright damning of the western notion of democracy. The latter, though based on an ethnocentric rationalism, has had universalist aspirations in terms of scope, reach, and applicability. Mukerjee takes pains to show the existence of democratic institutions and values, albeit of a different character, in the lived experience of India’s past. His stress on ‘the need for an unbiased study of the basic factors in Eastern rural communalism as greater now than ever’ (1925a: 88) remains his most important contribution to the critique of western modernity to date. As early as 1925 he observed as follows: In India the shibboleth that individualism is efficiency and communalism is stagnation is to be discarded forever. The new school of Indian economics seeks, from the historical standpoint, to point out the contribution of Indian civilisation and its characteristic organisation of voluntary cooperation of communal groups, as the lever of social groups to the history of universal culture. This work, if successfully done, will forever render impossible the narrow sectional view of human history which ignores the lives and life-values, the experience of more than half of the human race, the Asiatic peoples and their social constructions and organisations which are in essence not less real and significant than the Graeco-Roman-Gothic consciousness with its works and experiences. This new school will point out the genius for social constructions based on communal and synthetic instinct of the Indo-Sino-Japanese civilisations, and will thus make it possible to utilise in the coming era the

Chapter 07.indd 123

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

124

Manish K. Thakur rich and complex data for human and social experiments which these Eastern forms and creations have furnished, and will continue to furnish in the history of man and his making (1925b: 87–88).

He presented Asian communalism as a blending of ‘value’ and ‘fact’, as both normative and empirical phenomena. In his view, western economists and sociologists have been too much under the influence of Darwinian biology. That is why they have insisted too much ‘on the importance of the struggle for existence’ (1921: 39). He writes, ‘the classical hypothesis of individuals working out the progress of species by mutual struggle at the margin of subsistence yields place to the concept of mutual cooperation of large groups in the creation of bio-economic utilities (1925a: 231). This New Biology, he maintains, has been alien to Indian tradition and culture. It is in this background of rediscovery of the principle of co-operation and interdependence against the postulates of Darwinian biology that he affirmed that ‘the great task of social reconstruction in the East is to renew and adapt the old and essential impulses and habits to the complex and enlarged needs of today’ (1925a: 85).

Society, Culture, and Individual: Towards an Integrated Approach Much of Mukerjee’s writings reveal his refutation of westerners’ efforts to interpret the Indian reality in the evolutionary reductionist matrix. Mukerjee thought Indian social institutions to be unique. He found the sociological categories of the West inadequate for the interpretation for the Indian reality. In fact, he was one of the first few social scientists of eminence who attempted to build an independent general theory of society on par with western theorists of his time. In his presidential address to third All India Sociological Conference at Agra in 1958, and later in his The Philosophy of Social Science (1960), he proposes a general integrated social science model for explanation and understanding of social realities (see also Yogendra Singh 1967: 22–23). It is another story that the philosophical theoretic orientations championed by him did not find many takers among Indian social scientists. Also, the philosophical foundations and theoretical models that he constructed towards the end

Chapter 07.indd 124

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

125

of his active intellectual life did not adequately inform his empirical works. Also, there seems to be the lack of organic linkages between the philosophical-methodological postulates and the substantive problems as domains of sociological enquiry (Yogendra Singh 1984: 80–81). Mukerjee talks of universal series of concepts and general categories with a view to not only integrate sociology internationally, but also to include other disciplines both in the natural and social sciences. He postulates for each order of reality, from physical to metaphysical, a unified triadic principle of dialectical interaction which links one level of reality with other, and which also renders one level of concepts or categories significant and meaningful to other levels. From this principle emanates his plea for non-compartmentalisation of knowledge into narrowly circumscribed academic grooves of disciplines. In his conceptual apparatus, dialectics assumes the fundamental role linking one level with another and also endowing it with quality and power of self-transcendence. The power of self-transcendence, for Mukerjee, is the essential feature of man as Homo Symbolicus. It is not merely a process of conflict and encapsulation, but more prominently of harmony and freedom (ibid.). Thus, Mukerjee draws on Hegel, Vedanta, Buddhism, and Taoism to formulate his notion of dialectics. He finds both the western liberal democratic pattern and the Marxist models inadequate. His essential mission was to find a madhyam marga (the middle way). He was against the Marxist notion of dialectics because ‘the philosophy of dialectical materialism today promotes the universal notion of an inevitable pattern of social development through struggles and conflicts of global revolution and war and subsumes all human progress within the dialectic of the economic movement’ (Mukerjee 1960: 118). Mukerjee has consistently exposed the fallacy of appraising reality from a unidisciplinary approach. Nor was he much convinced about the adequacy of the interdisciplinary approach, which was widely publicised by the behaviouralists in the West. However, in many respects, he went further than the behaviouralists. While endorsing the latter’s critique of the disciplinary boundaries and their constraining effect on an unambiguous appraisal of social reality, he emphasises the unitary base of all ‘disciplines’: a fact which was more or less lost to the uni-disciplinary or the multidisciplinary approach to understanding reality. In order to remove the artificial walls erected between disciplines, Mukerjee (1961) posited the transdisciplinary approach for an unequivocal and comprehensive

Chapter 07.indd 125

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

126

Manish K. Thakur

appraisal of social reality. As per his integrated approach, disciplinespecific boundaries become redundant as a unitary base of social science is firmly established for all specialisations in its realm to contribute equally importantly. This facilitates an unfragmented appraisal of social reality. In this respect, Mukerjee was professedly influenced by the idealist variety of Hindu philosophy; so that, his ordinal valuation of social reality became more and more synoptic. This tendency in Mukerjee as an academic can be traced from his earlier years, but became more and more pronounced with his maturity, and in his old age (see Mukherjee 1989). Mukerjee firmly believed that duty, love, and goodness are higher spiritual values of a civilisation. These values guide and shape the personality in everyday business of life. Human personality is continually engaged in the search of these values at the level of society. Seen thus, an enduring world order calls for an appreciation of the continuity between personality and universe, between social order and cosmic order. This belief animated Mukerjee’s attempt to synthesise theories and concepts through a close collaboration of sciences of life, mind, and society so that a general theory of society can be developed. For him, society is not divisible; it is a total institution comprising habits, values, and symbols. No wonder, he envisages a master science of society that includes the human ecological theory, sociological theory, and the theory of values and symbols. In macroscopic terms, his master science unites various social sciences and fills the gap between the various islands of theoretical knowledge. In his studies of regions, he has tried to pursue an integrated social science approach where the walls that keep the different social sciences in watertight compartments crumble. Mukerjee asserts that values and symbols are synthetic products of the human mind that enhance, elevate, and refine social relations and processes and bind men together in ever-expanding, ever-deepening participation and communication. Society is nothing but an organisation and accumulation of values that define and govern the structure of personality. A society, in order to persist, must regularly fulfil the supreme values of personality. Viewed thus, a civilisation needs a social science theory of full and integrated personality and of free and universal society. Expectedly, Mukerjee integrates the study of social values within a general theory of society. His theory of society is no less informed by his interest in the bearing of religion on the health of human institutions. That is why, mysticism as a recurring theme permeates much of his writings. He finds reciprocity between mysticism and society that has an end.

Chapter 07.indd 126

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

127

Essentially, Mukerjee’s conceptualisation of a general theory of society integrating values of society, culture, and personality is broader than the science of sociology itself. Sociology, in this reckoning, is nothing but an aspect of the general theory of society. His ultimate goal is to accomplish a unity of social sciences based on an infinite, superhuman, and super-social frame of reference. Naturally, here is an approach which combines empirical and scientific viewpoints with philosophical and artistic ones. While admitting religion as faith in the permanence of values, Mukerjee endeavours to evolve a social philosophy that bridges the gap between the biological and the moral man, man and society, between the philosophy of science and the science of values. Thus, Mukerjee’s distinctive approach to the study of society, culture, and individual testifies to the breadth of his intellectual scope and vision.

Western Modernity and the Ambivalence of the Indian Mind Curiously enough, Mukerjee’s writings corresponded quite closely with the trends of sociological writings in the West, particularly in the United States of America, notwithstanding his brave attempts to establish a unified theory of society based on eastern values (Yogendra Singh 1984: 157). True, he was not dazed by the theoretical sophistication of the western conceptual baggage and has exhibited exemplary sensitivity to the ideological character of western social sciences. In one of his earlier works, The Foundations of Indian Economics, he is even categorical in asserting the cultural specificities of systems of knowledge: ‘The attempt to force systems and methods of industrial organisation, economic arrangement and institutions which have admirably suited a different geographical environment will always be futile’ (1916: 330). Also, like many of his generation steeped in colonial modernity, he took the realm of values alone offering an arena for self-search as also for mobility aspirations. This was a dominant intellectual response on the part of Indian intelligentsia as the only way to bear, and probably escape, the burden of alien colonial presence. The irreconcilable binary of a material West and a spiritual East was not only soothing but also helped construct a golden (and recoverable) past (see Chatterjee 1986). This binary also helped Indian intelligentsia to respond sceptically to the western ideological formulations on India. More often than not,

Chapter 07.indd 127

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

128

Manish K. Thakur

their response was imbued with an acute sense of history and an intense consciousness of tradition. In academia, the substantive and intellectual concerns were deeply influenced by the nationalist debates on the pros and cons of the western colonial presence. It was generally believed that the meta-concepts of social sciences derived from the West do not have relevance for the abstractions from a different culture and they cannot be applied to the Indian society. Mukerjee’s synthesis of Vedantic philosophy with Hegelian dialectics should be seen in this context. However, to expect of a social scientist like Mukerjee, howsoever eminent, to offer a full-blown indigenous alternative to western modernity is to go against the grain of intellectual and cultural history of modern India. It has been asserted that ‘the challenge to cultural identity that British colonialism posed to India was met not by professional social scientists but by litterateurs, social reformers and political agitators’ (Yogendra Singh 1984: 156). It will be no exaggeration to argue that the cultural and political elites, and not the social scientists, first responded to the challenge of colonialism and the threat to Indian identity. Social sciences in India not only lagged behind in responding to this challenge, but also evaded it for long. Social scientists, of course, could not be blamed for this, since social science as a profession itself was a byproduct of colonial impact rather than the anti-colonial struggle (ibid.). This historical conditioning of the role of social sciences in India has had a marked bearing on the degree and extent of indigenisation in relation to models of studying Indian society (see Yogendra Singh 1986). This fact has to borne in mind while assessing Mukerjee’s response to western modernity in general and social sciences in particular. A deep sense of ambivalence towards western social sciences is as true for Mukerjee as for his contemporaries and followers alike. Arguably, the great bulk of the 19th century social scientific studies in India originating from western sources (with the exception of the Orientalists) tended to deny, rather than affirm, the identity of India as a nation. Without negating this colonial legacy lock, stock and barrel, Mukerjee and his fellow social scientists continued to function within the broad parameters of social sciences laid down by the western metropolitan centres. Thus, we see the paradox of the national self-awareness, on the one hand, and the dependence upon the western tradition of social science, on the other, as a central feature of Indian social scientist’s contributions, including Mukerjee’s (ibid.).

Chapter 07.indd 128

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

129

As colonialism progressed, a dual tension with regard to the West and to indigenous culture came about. With the intensification of political conflict against the alien rule, the emotional need for cultural belonging deepened. At the same time, and paradoxically, familiarity with indigenous culture diminished progressively. The state of being organically and unselfconsciously linked to one’s culture was passé. The nature and direction of social change unleashed during the colonial rule necessitated conscious efforts on the part of Indians to belong to their ‘national’ culture. Interestingly, as the political confrontation with the colonial regime gained momentum, the intellectual proximity with the West—the centre of modernity—became greater and far-reaching. In other words, colonial period also witnessed the increasing impact of the West upon indigenous social consciousness along with politicoeconomic and cultural critique of the West. For the majority of the ‘enlightened’ Indians, neither an unquestioning rejection of modernity nor a blind advocacy of the indigenous seemed to provide the way out of the cultural impasse that they lived and experienced as a colonially subjugated lot. True, cultural closure was not their ideal. It would be labouring the obvious to argue that they were neither mesmerised by the West and nor by indigenous cultural moorings in toto, though they acutely felt a strong alienation from their own tradition and culture. The point is that the tradition they wished to belong to was not a pristine and pure tradition, but a newly created tradition—a tradition that they consciously created under the weight of the given historical conjunctures. We should not forget that it was colonial mediation that helped create in Indian minds the idea of a traditional India. Therefore, to read the Indian mind of the colonial times calls for an acknowledgement of the historically generated cultural ambivalences. The colonised Indian mind was neither resigned to uncritical acquiescence to western modernity nor to its disproportionate valorisation at the expense of tradition. Moreover, the very framework of (indigenous) tradition and (western) modernity has an inherent danger of charactering the lived experiences in terms of invented categories, which the people themselves might not be familiar with. It amounts to explaining past events, happenings, beliefs, and attitudes in terms of invented categories. Indian responses to western modernity, as also to indigenous and traditional culture, need not to be seen as exclusive options. The acceptance of the one did not mean automatic rejection of the other. Most of the educated Indians exhibited a certain mixture of the two. This pragmatic approach

Chapter 07.indd 129

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

130

Manish K. Thakur

towards their existential dilemma does not obliterate the momentous epistemological changes unleashed by western modernity. These changes while overshadowing the pre-colonial ways of living and thinking also imparted to the Indian mind new sense of history and time. As a consequence, Indian intelligentsia, through a process of selective appropriation and reorganisation, could project an indigenous account of Indian tradition and culture for the resumption of the lost self-pride and for challenging the colonial cultural onslaught (see Chandra 1992: 6). Thus, the contributions of an Indian social scientist are intimately linked by his/her approach and orientation to western modernity. No one can deny that most of the conceptual categories used by Indian social scientists are precipitates of the western social, intellectual, and academic history that rarely fit Indian definitions of reality. They treat Indian cultural realities in western framework and very often impose an alien epistemology on Indian reality (Marriott 1990: 1). In this context, it is only appropriate to ask if Mukerjee’s conceptual and theoretical innovations should be treated as rejection of western modernity lock, stock and barrel or only as refutations of western ethno-social sciences.

Some Concluding Observations Undoubtedly, Mukerjee questioned the western social sciences’ claims to analytic universality. He proposed new interpretative approaches and categories for the analysis of Indian society and culture. Also, his vast corpus of work displays his interests in indigenous cultural concepts. He has been foremost among Indian social scientists to work out the deeper implications of the use (and abuse) of western models for the construction of Indian reality. Not only has he been critical of the application of concepts and methods of western origin for the study of historically distinct entity such as India, but also underlined the ethnocentrism of the western social theory that placed India in a relationship of cultural inferiority and dependence vis-à-vis the West. Coming down heavily on the ideological interpretation of India in imported theories, he rejected their insipid thesis. Moreover, he was against the extension of positivistic-utilitarian tradition of the western social science as it has been based on certain nominalistic philosophical assumptions. These assumptions accorded a place of pride to the concept of individual that, for Mukerjee, did not gel well with Indian values and traditions.

Chapter 07.indd 130

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

131

But then, as Yogendra Singh (1984) avers, at the meta-theoretic level, the effort to incorporate western concepts with Indian modifications has been the most common practice among Indian social scientists. Mukerjee is no exception to this trend. One finds in him attempts to indigenise western concepts, an ideological self-consciousness about the legacy of western modernity, and a tentative outline of indigenous responses to the category and structures of ideas inherited from the West. This has obviously given rise to many cognitive and paradigmatic tensions in his writings. Although, like his fellow sociologists, Mukerjee too treated sociology as a style of cultural critique or reformative ratiocination, his contribution to social science was more substantial and enduring. Besides, as a creative writer and literary critic, his contributions reveal responsive yet critical note on western interpretations of the Indian society, institutions, and cultural patterns. So far as sociology as a discipline is concerned, Mukerjee (as most of its patrons) had come from outside this discipline and was not initiated into its logic or methodology (see Yogendra Singh1984: 15–16). Despite this obvious handicap, Mukerjee’s voluminous writings display the blending of contemplation with fact-finding. He is regarded as an original and creative thinker by many of his students (Joshi 1986a, 1986b). Gifted with powerful intuition and imagination, he was also extraordinarily productive. His powers of synthesis were equally great. As part of his attempted critique of western modernity, Mukerjee laid emphasis on the uniqueness of Indian value system, the centrifugal communalistic non-hedonistic character of Indian culture and polity. Towards this end, he worked tirelessly to make Indian sociology absorb social philosophy. He comes out with a clear-cut rejection of the western conception of man and social order, including the Marxist idea of class conflict and communism, for which he offers alternative concepts of the sangh or the collectivity. According to Mukerjee, sangh is characterised by non-hedonism and sustained by a spiritual tradition rather than being based on a materialistic conception of man and society (see Yogendra Singh 1967: 166–67). This perpetual quest for indigenous modes of thought and methodological orientation has subsisted throughout Mukerjee’s sociological works. While rejecting the utility of imperialistic positivistic method for sociology and brining in the indigenous notions of dharma, sangha, and transcendental values, Mukerjee has rendered a yeoman service to the continuing Indian challenge to western ideological hegemony and cultural dominance.

Chapter 07.indd 131

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

132

Manish K. Thakur

Notes I express my sincere gratitude to Professor N. Jayaram not only for his valuable editorial inputs but also for having introduced me to Radhakamal Mukerjee’s work almost a decade back. The usual disclaimer applies. 1. For a detailed autobiographical account, readers are advised to consult Mukerjee 1955a, 1997. Detailed biographical accounts are also available in Joshi 1986a, 1986b; Madan and Gupta 2000. 2. In the same year he had been offered a professorship in economics at the Bombay University. Clearly, Mukerjee chose Lucknow over Bombay. It is anybody’s guess that the history of sociology in India would have been markedly different had he joined Bombay University instead of Lucknow University. 3. The reference is to the three nationalist leaders respectively Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal. 4. While focusing on the differences of the exemplars of the Lucknow School, Madan disputes the idea that there was anything like a ‘Lucknow school’. However, he regards Radhakamal Mukerjee, D.P. Mukerji, and D.N. Majumdar as ‘exemplars’, with A. K. Saran as the critic within. According to Madan, all traditions grow around exemplars. However, this does not mean that the contributions of the exemplars unproblematically constitute a tradition or a school. The question of how one defines and locates a school or a tradition remains an important though unresolved issue (see Sundar et al. 2000: 1998).

References Chandra, Sudhir. 1992. The oppressive present: Literature and social consciousness in colonial India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Chatterjee, Partha. 1986. Nationalist thought and the colonial world: A derivative discourse? London: Zed Books. Joshi, P.C. 1986a. “Lucknow school of economics and sociology and its relevance today: Some reflections”, Sociological bulletin, 35 (1): 1–28. ———. 1986b. “Founders of the Lucknow school and their legacy—Radhakamal Mukerjee and D.P. Mukerji: Some reflections”, Economic and political weekly, 21 (33): 1455–69. Madan, G.R. and V.P. Gupta (eds.). 2000. Integral sociology: An anthology of the writings of Prof. Radhakamal Mukerjee (4 volumes). New Delhi: Radha Publications. Madan, T.N. 1994. Pathways: Approaches to the study of society in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2011. ‘Radhakamal Mukerjee and his contemporaries: Founding fathers of sociology in India’, Sociological bulletin, 60 (1): 18–44. Marriott, McKim. 1990. ‘Constructing an Indian ethnosociology’, in McKim Marriott (ed.): India through Hindu categories (1–39). New Delhi: Sage Publications. Mukerjee, Radhakamal. 1916. The foundations of Indian economics. London: Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd.

Chapter 07.indd 132

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology

133

Mukerjee, Radhakamal. 1921a. Principles of comparative economics (with a preface by M. Raphael Georges-Levis) (Vol. 1). London: P.S. King and Son. ———. 1921b. Principles of comparative economics (Vol. 2). London: P.S. King and Son. ———. 1925a. Groundwork of economics. London and New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. ———. 1925b. Borderland of economics. London: George Allen and Unwin. ———. (ed.). 1929. Fields and farmers of Oudh. London: Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd. ———. 1955a. ‘Faiths and influences’, in Baljit Singh (ed.): The frontiers of social science: In honour of Radhakamal Mukerjee (6–20). London: Macmillan. ———. 1955b. ‘A general theory of society’, in Baljit Singh (ed.): The frontiers of social science: In honour of Radhakamal Mukerjee (21–74). London: Macmillan. ———. 1960. The philosophy of social science. London: Macmillan. ———. 1961. ‘A philosophy of social science’ (Presidential address to the third All India Sociological Conference, Agra, 1958), in R.N. Saksena (ed.): Sociology, social research and social problems in India (46–52). Bombay: Asia Publishing House. ———. 1997. India, the dawn of an era: An autobiography. New Delhi: Radha Publications. Mukherjee, Ramkrishna. 1989. ‘Radhakamal Mukerjee: A note’, Sociological bulletin, 38 (2): 261–65. Saran, A.K. 1958. ‘India’, in Joseph Roucek (ed.): Contemporary sociology (1013–34). New York: Philosophical Library. Singh, Baljit. 1955. ‘Mukerjee as a pioneer in Indian economics’, in Baljit Singh (ed.): The frontiers of social science: In honour of Radhakamal Mukerjee (1–5). London: Macmillan. Singh, Yogendra. 1967. ‘Sociology for India: The emerging perspective’, in T.K.N. Unnithan, Yogendra Singh, Narendra Singhi and Indra Deva (eds.): Sociology for India (165–83). New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India. ———. 1984. Image of man: Ideology and theory in Indian sociology. Delhi: Chankya Publications. ———. 1986. Indian sociology: Social conditioning and emerging concerns. Delhi: Vistaar Publications. ———. 2004. Ideology and theory in Indian sociology. Jaipur: Rawat Publications. Sundar, Nandini; Satish Deshpande and Patricia Oberoi. 2000. ‘Indian anthropology and sociology: Towards a history’, Economic and political weekly, 35 (24): 1998–2002.

Chapter 07.indd 133

10/19/2013 4:45:21 PM

8 Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology and Its Relevance To-Day: Some Reflections* P.C. Joshi

I

am very grateful to Dr. A. R. Sayid, Head, Department of Sociology, Jamia Millia Islamia, for inviting me to deliver this year’s Junaid Ansari Memorial Lecture. I am happy to be associated with this lecture series in memory of Junaid Ansari who, apart from being an earnest scholar and a teacher, was also a very fine person. He combined old-world manners and charm with a modern outlook. Though younger by a few years, Junaid Ansari was my contemporary in the Lucknow University. We shared many common interests and concerns—deep interest in Marxism, and involvement in the student’s movement. Common to both of us was also an immense pride in being the students of the Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology and in having personally known its great founders, Professor Radhakamal Mukerjee and Professor Dhurjati Prasad Mukerji who were our teachers. Much later when we had ourselves joined the academic profession we often discussed what values we had imbibed from the Lucknow School, and what we had learnt from our teachers not only in terms of narrow professional competence, but in terms of critical consciousness and breadth of social outlook and vision.

Chapter 08.indd 134

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

Lucknow School

135

Junaid invited me to visit his Department and to deliver some lectures to his students on the Lucknow School and its contributions to the understanding of Indian society and its transition processes. I regret very deeply that I was not able to fulfil Junaid Ansari’s wish during his lifetime. You can now perhaps appreciate how much I value this opportunity offered to me by this Department to speak on the theme “Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology And Its Relevance Today: Some Reflections”. At the very outset I would like to draw your attention to a contradictory trend which has puzzled me a great deal. I find a sharp contrast between the social science trends in the post-Second World War period in the West on the one hand and in India on the other. In the Western world eminent social scientists studying both industrially underdeveloped and industrially developed societies began questioning seriously the conventional approach to development; they started exploring a broader perspective on development. For this purpose the economists started bridge-building with the other academic disciplines including sociology. In other words, economists and sociologists began expressing not only concerns and interests but also a methodological orientation very much closer to those of the founders of the Lucknow School. This can be seen in the work, for instance, of Gunnar Myrdal beginning with his Cairo Lectures, Economic Theory and underdeveloped Regions (1956) and culminating in his three volume magnum opus, Asian Drama (1968), affirming an interdisciplinary orientation and an institutional approach to development problems. This can also be seen in the approach of Jan Tinbergen, Arthur Lewis, Albert O. Hirschman and many others who broadened the scope of development studies by adopting a broader sociological rather than a narrow techno-economic approach to development problems. This can also be seen in the approach of many distinguished sociologists who were the pioneers of new fields like Sociology of Development and Sociology of Industrialisation. Contributors to these fields involving bridge-building between Economics and Sociology, included: Bert F. Hoselitz, C. Wright Mills. Wilbert Moore, I. L. Horowitz, T. W. Bottomore, Raymond Aron, R. Dahrendorf, F. Cardoso, A. L. Stavenhagen, A. G. Frank, Manning Nash, T. W. Marshall and many others. These pioneers of bridgebuilding between development economics and sociology go beyond the conventional boundaries of these disciplines. They have jointly explored the much-neglected issues relating to qualitative dimensions including

Chapter 08.indd 135

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

136

P.C. Joshi

ecology and environment; population, health and family welfare; food and nutrition; land, water, credit and cooperation; town and country planning; education and culture: scientific temper and spiritual values; social equality, democratic decentralisation, and participatory development. The interface of culture, society and development, sociology of planning, technological change and science have also emerged as new areas of interest. It is important to note that these were the very problem areas identified as relevant by the founders of the Lucknow School about four to five decades back; they were also the pioneers in promoting both macro-level and micro-level studies on these problems. It is, therefore, a paradox that precisely during the fifties and sixties at one end Western social scientists were rediscovering the interdisciplinary and institutional approach and articulating fundamental concerns of reorienting the development concept and approach; at another end in India the issues pioneered by the Lucknow School suffered an eclipse in social science institutions. The craze for narrow specialisation and technical sophistication by and large replaced the concern for bridge-building between disciplines. Even when attempts were made to bring the social science disciplines together at some centres (e.g. the Indian Statistical Institute and the Delhi School of Economics) these could not be sustained and the practitioners of each discipline soon retreated within their narrow shells. This technocratic trend turned into a cultural fashion wave and even economists of the older generation lost their claim to be called economists; their work was labelled as “poetry” or as “literature” and not as economics proper. Even sociology which was regarded by the founders of the Lucknow School as an (N+I)th science taking not a fragmented but a synthetic view of societal developments and processes as a whole (D. P. Mukerji 1948: viii) was turned into a narrower discipline, studying the social system in the limited meaning of the term, including, for instance, family and kinship, caste and social stratification and religion and magic. The new wave of delimiting the boundaries of economics, sociology and political science relegated into oblivion the rich legacy of the pioneers of the many Schools of Indian Economics, Sociology and Politics including the Lucknow School which had grown in the preindependence period. Thus so far as the post-independence generation of economists and political scientists in the Universities and research centres from mid fifties onwards were concerned, they had perhaps not

Chapter 08.indd 136

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

Lucknow School

137

much familiarity, understanding or sympathy with the work of the preindependence pioneers of social science in India. The narrowing of the boundaries of economics also resulted in narrowing the boundaries of the planning processes. During the last phase of their life both Professor Radhakamal Mukherjee and Professor D. P. Mukerji articulated their protest against the emerging trends both in Indian economics and in Indian planning. In a seminar on “Social Sciences and Planning in India” sponsored by him in 1965 at Lucknow, Professor Radhakamal Mukerjee drew pointed attention to “the grave crisis in Indian planning” and related it to the neglect of sociology, political science, psychology etc. by the planners. To quote: The essential problem in all planning societies is to so devise the institutional structure and particularly choice mechanisms as to bring the instrumental or operational values into coincidence with the intrinsic or essential values i.e. to bring the technical and the programatic imperatives into coincidence with the moral imperatives (1970: 15).

From this basic premise Professor Mukerjee argued that “it is the various other social sciences such as sociology, psychology, pedagogy, social anthropology and political science which can focus the all— important view-point that planners and economists cannot build up a new social and economic order by mere economic techniques, and organisations, laws and ordinance”. Further: The greatest drawback of the present system of planning is that we have not given serious attention to institutional planning. We need to-day an institutional theory of Indian socialist planning which should explore what type of institutions are favourable to the growth and development of the socialist pattern and which are blocking change, innovation and investment and preventing the more dynamic, socialistic forces of the new age from asserting themselves. This means that we must move into the realm of social traditions, beliefs, valuations and ideals . . . Only the proper type of institution in particular sectors of the economy can condition people to new egalitarian values and virtues and not a pious appeal to generosity and nobility of character (1970: 4–5).

Similarly, Professor D. P. Mukerji expressed his views very sharply in an article entitled “Lament For Economics: Old And New” published in The Economic Weekly on November 14, 1959.

Chapter 08.indd 137

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

138

P.C. Joshi

To quote: Our brilliant economists of the present generation are mostly busy spinning cocoons of model-building with formulating static or comparative static models of a national system that is neither here nor there, or with description of things as they were a few years ago . . . By and large our brilliant Indian economists are becoming indifferent economists. I for one would want to make a choice. That choice is that Economics is just a human science. It is not economic science distinct from politics, sociology psychology and history. It is one social science distinguishable from natural science (1959: 154–42).

Professor D. P. Mukerji further explains what kind of economics is relevant for India. His conception of economies requires bridgebuilding with other social sciences. To quote: So the best thing to do is to take Economics as an interim object of study with two sets of workmanship, one for that of human affairs as Economists and another as economic engineers or backroom-boys. Economists as such will thus be political economists to begin with. That means Economics turns towards Marxism because Marxism does not separate economics from politics, sociology, history etc. Otherwise our brilliant men will become dehumanized scholars. Marxism is a whole human science. In that sense Nehru is wrong when he condemns Marxism as backdatish. To recollect the umpteen human or social disciplines into a human science is a worthy human effort (1959: 1541–42).

We can appreciate the fuller and deeper implications of the observations relating to bridge-building between economics and sociology by R. K. and D. P. reproduced above in the light of their entire life’s work, their philosophy and their commitments. It is, I think, very appropriate, therefore, that I provide some basic information about the Lucknow School, about its broad philosophy and approach and the questions raised by this School and the perspectives and insights by it in response to these questions. Let me first introduce the founders and the builders of this School, their common concerns and outlook and their individual life and personality as persons, social scientists and intellectuals Who had versatile interests and deep involvement in the social issues of their times. It is not perhaps unfair to suggest that generations of social science students in the post-independence period are by and large unaware of this grand tradition. The first point to note is that the roots of the Lucknow

Chapter 08.indd 138

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

Lucknow School

139

School lie deep in the anti-colonial national awakening which expressed itself not only in the political sphere but also in the intellectual and cultural spheres: they lie specifically in the Bengal renaissance. Bengal had already become the leading centre of the intellectual awakening and political resurgence during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. We get an insight into the social and intellectual forces which moulded his character and outlook from R. K., the principal founder and builder of the Lucknow School. To quote: 1905 saw a big intellectual and political ferment in every city in Bengal that was partitioned by Lord Curzon. Public meetings, street processions and singing parties, boycott of British goods, Swadeshi and prohibition first acquainted me, with a mass upheaval. The contact with the common man in the course of picketing in cloth and liquor shops was both new and invigorating. Next year found me with an academic scholarship in the leading educational institution in India, the Presidency College in Calcutta . . . But the influences outside the college were more significant, even overpowering. The country was passing through a political and cultural upheaval that completely changed the scale of values, The revaluation took the form of a literacy and artistic renaissance that gradually expanded into a mass movement. In the slums of Mechuabazar in Calcutta an adult school was started by me in 1906 . . . Our programme for the country at that time was entirely educational, for we understood from the experience of political repression and persecution that were going on that only educational and social work among the masses could be silently and unostentatiously pursued without being nipped in the bud by political oppression. In fact, the surrounding atmosphere of suspicion and surveillance drove some of us to an extreme step. We called ourselves “Ministers of the Poor” and dressed poorly, giving up shirts, coats and shoes (R. K. Mukerjee 1955: 4–5).

Later as the Editor of the renowned Bengali monthly, Upasana, R. K., “pleaded for a new mass consciousness in Bengali literature that might abandon the sophistication and drawing room atmosphere of the artificial urban product but extend its broad understanding and sympathy to the proletarian mass”. He wrote a Bengali novel at this time “Eternal Beggar” (Sasvata Bhikhari) which echoed Tolstoy’s advice to Russia: “Back To The People Go and Live as Peasants with Peasants”. Again, “God Asleep” (Nidrita Narayan) was a short Bengali play written by R. K. in which the theme of the children of the slums was first introduced into Bengali literature. “The Temple Girl of Kanya Kumari” (Manimekhala) was the Bengali restoration of a South Indian

Chapter 08.indd 139

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

140

P.C. Joshi

legend about the goddess Parvati personating a temple girl and accepting her misery, agony and disease. In R. K.’s own words “the seriousness of purpose, that was sought to be introduced into provincial literature through its assimilation of the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of the common man was underlined in an interesting controversy in which Rabindranath Tagore, Dwijendralal Roy, Pramatha Nath Ghaudhury and others joined with me for a reexamination of artforms and ideals” (R. K. Mukerjee 1955: 7–8). In the preface to his Bengali book “Modern Bengali Literature”, R. K. expressed the view that “literature will have to solve the social and ethical problems and conflicts of the age”. Further, “the sturdy peasant who tills the field under scorching sun . . . , who toils and moils from morn till eve, day after day and year after year is he alone in his stupendous back-breaking labour on the earth? . . . Literature must reveal the joys and sorrows of the eternal man on the perennial earth” (1955: 8). This was perhaps written much before Gandhi appeared on the Indian scene and shifted the arena of the national movement from the drawing rooms of the upper middle classes to the mud-huts and hovels of the toiling peasants and labourers. The founders of the Lucknow School were thus creative both in the field of literature and social science, imparting as we shall see later, social vision and sense of social reality to literature and imparting literary sensibility and imagination to social science enquiry. It would be more appropriate to call it the Lucknow School of Economics, Sociology And Culture! Let us also try to follow in R. K.’s own words how he was led towards orienting the concept of social science to the needs and requirements of a country struggling for national emancipation and against pervasive economic backwardness and mass poverty. The vision of an Indian School of Economics and Sociology had its first beginnings in the form not only of a critique of colonial approaches to the Indian problem; it crystallised into a concrete project through ceaseless gropings and strivings for a new understanding of the Indian economy and society and new perceptions of its problems of growth and transformation. To quote R. K.: Although I paid attention to social sciences as a student my main interest was in History at this time . . . History was prized by me at the beginning of my educational career as a systematic study, for the recovery of “the glory that was Ind”, but the face to face contact with misery, squalor and degradation in the

Chapter 08.indd 140

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

Lucknow School

141

slums of Calcutta decided my future interest in Economics and Sociology. There was no vacillation about the choice of my subject at all. Ricardo, Mill, Marshall, Walker, Carver and Flux were not concerned with the problems of poverty at all, but did not these current text books of economics formulate certain basic problems that required understanding and interpretation in order to analyse and alleviate Indian poverty? The broad march of social evolution that I came across in the writing of Giddings, Lester Ward, Hobhouse and Ross was invaluable in understanding the development of Indian institutions. But these were at that time mere glimpses and intimations. There was a definite call in the country for the tasks and responsibilities of education of the masses and that call could be answered by an Indian student best through the knowledge of the social sciences then taught together at the M.A. stage in the Calcutta University viz. Economics, Politics and Sociology. For a thorough equipment for the task of mass education and propaganda, I began to read books not only in social sciences but also in Physics, Chemistry Geology, Botany and Zoology and write articles in Bengali in such sciences (1955: 5–6).

In 1910 R. K. joined as teacher of Economics in the same college where he had his early education namely Kashinath College, Behrampur and worked there for five years. This was, in his own words, one of the busiest and the most fruitful periods of his life. The studying and teaching of economics were from the very beginning enlivened and stimulated by field researches into the standard of living and creditworthiness of a large number of farmers, members of Cooperative Credit Societies in the district whose supervision I undertook. I had to scrutinise regularly the conditions of the harvests, the causes of accumulation of arrears, the economic and social incidence of indebtedness, the position of small tenants and agricultural workers who could not be given any loans or the decline of village and cottage industries. Such was the routine of investigations which provided the materials for my first book, The Foundations of Indian Economics. But I also kept myself busy in different kinds of activity, mostly social, educational and humanitarian, for the small town and the many villages where cooperative societies multiplied. I established a network of Adult Evening Schools for mass education and spent considerable time and money for this work . . . I became the Honorary Organiser of Cooperative Societies for the District and started a network of village Banks with an agricultural demonstrations plot and evening school at the headquarters of the Cooperative Union. I made certain experiments with cooperatives for village rehabilitation starting agricultural supply and Cattle Improvement Societies for which new byelaws were drafted for approval and sanction by government (1955: 6; 7).

Chapter 08.indd 141

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

142

P.C. Joshi

It is in this background of close contact with India’s social realities in the rural and urban setting and its basic problems that R. K. realised “the danger of blind adoption of Western industrial methods”. Further “the  reaction against the doctrinnaire economic teaching then current in the colleges also came from constant contact with the realities of poverty and low morale associated with the breakdown of the existing economic system”. Later in his preface to Fields And Farmers of Oudh. (1929), a collection edited by R. K. bringing together empirical studies by his students and colleagues on Indian villages, he comments on “the divorce between the academy and the market place and the importance of correcting this divorce by promoting an Indian School of Economics and Sociology”. To quote: Nowhere has there been a greater neglect of the realities of the economic life than in the curriculum of economics in Indian Universities. The Indian student can hardly find in the text book a description of the economic environment in which he lives. The systems which are built up for him are ‘castles in the air’. When he comes out of the University, his theories instead of helping him towards interpretation and concrete achievement are a handicap to him. I believe that this to a large extent is responsible for the fact that we have many social visions and Utopias in India and few constructive programmes which the masses can understand and work out for immediate benefit. We look upon an Indian School of Economics and Sociology to correct this divorce between the academy and the marketplace to relate the social sciences to the needs and ideals of Indian life and labour . . . We have also to train our students in the technique and method of economic and social investigation of problems which press us from day-to-day and the country expects the departments of economies at different Universities to give a lead in this matter (1929: V).

R. K., however, was not allowed to continue this work in his own college. Political circumstances resulted in his uprooting from Bengal. To quote: The smooth tenor of teaching and silent social work in the fields of cooperation and adult education were disturbed by political tension and turmoil. 1915 saw a marked increase of which even social work was suppressed in as much as it bridged the gulf between the classes and the masses and could be utilised for strengthening the widespread resistance movement. All my adult schools were liquidated, a few of my pupils and workers were interned or sent to jail. I was myself detained for a day in the house of the District

Chapter 08.indd 142

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

Lucknow School

143

Superintendent of Police on the ground that I was a “terrorist” or had sympathy with “terrorism” and that the adult education movement in the District then covered with a network of schools was a mere cloak of dangerous activity. . . . But I was freed. Within a week I obtained the offer of Principalship of a Lahore college and went to the Punjab. It was just an accident that I did not find myself in politics after a detention or internment and found my life’s work in the academy (1955: 8).

R. K. utilised his assignment at Lahore for fact-finding in Punjab countryside and for investigation of village communities and customs in that state. In November 1917 he delivered a course of ten lectures at the University of Punjab in which he stressed that “the postulates of Western economics were entirely different from those that could be deduced from  a realistic study of the Indian economic pattern”. He characterised this Indian pattern as Rural Communalism. His lectures also dealt with “the misapplication of English ideas to the landed property and village community in India and its effect upon the rural unsettlement and decline of agriculture” (1955: 9). At one of his lectures on “Agriculture And Industrialism” delivered at the St. Stephens College, Delhi on November 27, 1917, Mahatma Gandhi presided. In his concluding remarks on R. K.’s address, Mahatma Gandhi upheld Mukherjee’s institutional approach and observed that “the principles of Western economics could not be applied to Indian conditions in the same way as the rules of grammar and syntax of one language would not be applicable to another language. Gandhi eloquently appealed to students to read Economics out of doors, in the fields, cottages and workshops in relation to actual facts and conditions instead of cramming Western economics heedless and forgetful of the phenomena around them” (Baljit Singh 1955: 436–7). R. K. returned to Calcutta and from 1917 to 1921 he again worked at Calcutta University. In 1918 he went out for three months on a tour of South Indian cities and villages. He visited Tanjore, Trichinapoly, Madura, Ramnand, Cochin and Travancore. In the course of these lectures, as he put it, “the conceptions of regionalism in sociology and the distinctive pattern of Rural Communalism in Economics were clearly defined in my mind” (1955: 9). At Madura speaking on the “Foundations of Indian Sociology” in 1919, R. K. summed up the nature of the Indian problems under

Chapter 08.indd 143

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

144

P.C. Joshi

colonial rule and indicated the broad approach to Indian development as follows: The twin products of Western industrialism in India are the disintegrated village and sordid overcrowded city. The unsettlement of our villages, and the congestion, intemperance and vice of many of our towns demand a line of economic reform which will build the future economic superstructure on the bedrock of our characteristic economic habits and institutions, our village system and our agrarian economy and the means and methods of our traditional city planning and organisation (1955: 9).

In a lecture on “First Principles In Economies” presided over by Ashutosh Mukherjee in 1918. R. K. called for connecting the three-fold disparity and divorce: between theory and practice, between one region and type of culture and another and between biology and the humanistic and sociological sciences (1955: 10). In April 1918 under R. K.’s leadership a Social Service Exhibition was organised in Calcutta focussing public attention on aspects of far-reaching economic and social disintegration. The Exhibition was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu (1955: 10). Thus in 1921 when R. K. joined the Lucknow University as the founder-Head of the Department of Economics and Sociology, he was already set on the path of evolving a new orientation for an Indian School of economics and sociology on the basis of a conception of bridgebuilding between natural science like biology and social sciences; between economics, sociology and other human sciences; between theory— building and fact—finding; between social thought and social work. At Lucknow under R. K.’s leadership the contact of teachers and students with the common people was maintained through adult education, famine relief and social welfare as well as through systemic rural and urban surveys. R. K. has often wondered “Whether the social scientistor the social worker is more effective in bringing about the rapport between the intellect and the dynamic social material that is the basis of understanding and interpretation. Perhaps the interiorisation of the social-scientist-cumworker in every teacher and student is indispensable” (1955: 11). R. K.’s major contributions to the sociological approach to economics include Principle of Comparative Economics Vol. I & II (1921), The Borderland of Economics (1925), Groundwork Economics and The Institutional Theory of Economics (1941). Mukherjee also initiated

Chapter 08.indd 144

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

Lucknow School

145

field-work based empirical enquiries on India’s socio-economic problems and some of these outstanding studies include “The Rural Economy of India (1926), Fields And farmers of Oudh (1929), Land Problems of India (1933). He opened up new problem areas of enquiry—which resulted in path—breaking works including The Regional Balance of Man (1983). Man and His Habitation (1940), Food Planning For Four Hundred Millions (1939), The Political Economy of Population (1943) and The Indian Working Class (1951). In 1937 R. K. went out on a six months tour of European and American Universities which he utilised for delivering lectures and for studying economic experiments of divergent types in countries like England. Germany. Italy, U. S. A. and Soviet Russia. R. K. was closely connected with a large number of Committees and Commissions in the pre-independence and the post-independence periods including The National Planning Committee under the Chairmanship of Jawaharlal Nehru. Of lasting interest are the Note of Dissent And The Memorandum On Land Policy submitted by R. K. to the SubCommittee on Land Policy. (1948: 52: 100–131). R. K. showed an amazing capacity to make a transition from the plane of philosophical and theoretical contemplation to that of operationalising his philosophical approach in relation to concrete economic and social problems. Important among his operational ideas and proposals were the following:  (I) the idea of imposing ceiling on land holdings;  (II) the conception of family planning and for linking action programmes to influence fertility behaviour with social development and welfare programme to improve food, nutrition, health and literacy for mortality reduction and for improving quality of life; (III) an integrated approach to land reform and land development, water resource conservation and provision of production as well as consumption credit for working peasant-oriented development: (IV) integrated rural and urban planning as embodied in the concept of “rurbanisation” and (V) a forest policy oriented to mass consumption needs and to preserve the eco-environmental balance.

These concepts and specific recommendations form part of R. K.’s vision of an Indian (Asian) alternative to the Western model of progress.

Chapter 08.indd 145

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

146

P.C. Joshi

If one has to highlight the most important contribution of R. K. in the field of social science as a whole, it lay in stressing “the need for an unbiased study of the basic factors in Eastern rural communalism as greater now than ever” (1925: 88). R. K.’s contribution lay in posing the question whether modern progress can be pursued only along the path of Westernisation or “substitution” of Eastern by Western institutions. R. K. asks whether Asian countries like India can fruitfully preserve and tap the potential of their “communalistic” or community-oriented institutions for evolving a path of “progress” more suited to Asian conditions? R. K. was perhaps the first among the social scientists to question the Eurocentric approach to development and to pose the question of an alternative to the European path which corresponds to Asian conditions as well as traditions. As early as in 1925 R. K. observed as follows: In India the shibboleth that individualism is efficiency and communalism is stagnation is to be discarded for ever. The new school of Indian economics seeks, from the historical standpoint, to point out the contribution of Indian civilisation and its characteristic organisation of voluntary cooperation of communal groups, as the lever of social groups to the history of universal culture. This work, if successfully done, will forever render impossible the narrow sectional view of human history which ignores the lives and life-values, the experience of more than half of the human race, the Asiatic peoples and their social constructions and organisations which are in essence not less real and significant than the Graeco—Romano—Gothic consciousness with its works and experiences. This new school will point out the genius for social constructions based on communal and synthetic instinct of the Indo-SinoJapanese civilisations, and will thus make it possible to utilise in the coming era the rich and complex data for human and social experiments which these Eastern forms and creations have furnished, and will continue to furnish in the history of man and his making (1922: 87–88).

Asian communalism was presented by R. K. as a blending of “value” and “fact”, as both normative and empirical phenomena. In R. K.’s view Western economists and sociologists under the influence of Darwinian biology “have insisted too much on the importance of the struggle for existence” (1921: 39). In his view under the influence of a New Biology, “the classical hypothesis of individuals working out the progress of species by mutual struggle at the margin of subsistence yields place to the concept of mutual cooperation of large groups in the creation of bio-economic utilities” (1925: 231). It is in this background of rediscovery of the principle of cooperation and interdependence by new biology that R. K. affirmed that “the

Chapter 08.indd 146

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

Lucknow School

147

great task of social reconstruction in the East is to renew and adapt the old and essential impulses and habits to the complex and enlarged needs of today” (1925: 85). R. K. drew attention to the institutional framework of the Indian villages relating to property structure in land and other assets, to the water system, grazing grounds, to mutual aid and communitarian forms of labour organisation and community maintenance or artisans, labourers and servicing castes. These, according to R. K., arose in response to economic necessity under specific Asian geographical and ecological conditions and were also reinforced by moral and ethical compulsions. The disruption of this comprehensive framework or rural communalism is no’ an inevitable price to be paid for development. Such disruption has also occurred as a result of the tendency to understand Indian institutions through Western concepts and as a sequel to thought-less attempts to alter and replace them. A fresh look on the entire institutional framework inherited from tradition had become indispensable, keeping in view the needs of Asian Societies as well as the lessons from the West (1921 and 1922). In R. K.’s view, “it is the prerogative of man to understand and then consciously control his evolution according to ideal” (1925: 252). The basic issue, therefore, is not only operational viz. that of formulating a new model of progress and development. It is also cognitive, philosophical and conceptual relating to formulating concepts which at one end are consistent with reality and at the other are in harmony with the values and ideals. In R. K.’s view, concepts have so far determined the selection of facts and not facts the re-formulation of concepts. In his own words, “economic laws are to fit themselves to facts, not facts to fit the values to theories. We can no more alter economic institution of a country than language and thoughts” (1921: 271). One must concede that the attempt to view Asian social reality and the problem of Asian development through Euro—centric concepts has produced disastrous results. Here lies the contemporary relevance of the questions posed by R. K. regarding both an adequate conceptual framework and an appropriate operational strategy. From where R. K. left the treatment of this question of an Asian alternative to Eurocentrist approaches and models, two divergent interpretations of alternatives are possible: one that leans towards a perspective of “Asian Exceptionalism” and the other which leads towards a perspective of socialist transformation oriented to Asian conditions.

Chapter 08.indd 147

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

148

P.C. Joshi

R. K. himself could not resolve this contradiction. It is D. P. who explicitly linked the conception of rootedness in Indian tradition with the socialist perspective of development. R. K. lived, mentally alert and physically active to the last moment of his life. He passed away while chairing a meeting of the U. P. Lalit Kate Academy. He was then 79 years.

III Let me now tell you something about D. P., R. K.’s senior-most colleague and co-builder of the Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology. If R. K.’s contribution to social science was more substantial and enduring through his teaching, D. P. is also remembered as a promoter of discussion and dialogue among his students and colleagues and as a contributor to public debate on important social issues. This is not to suggest that D. P.’s writing output was negligible. In fact, it was quite substantial. In D. P.’s own words, nineteen books by him had been published, ten in Bengali and nine in English. And yet it is generally agreed that D. P. was outstanding not so much as a researcher but as a teacher. In Bengal, however, he was well-known as a creative writer and literary critic. D. P. himself wrote that “he paid the penalty of double allegiance. In Bengali he is treated as one interested in literature and music. In other parts of India, he is treated as a teacher of sociology and economics” (1958: VII–VIII). The contrast between the personalities of R. K. and D. P. was obvious. But not so obvious was the fundamental affinity and complementarity between the social and intellectual concerns of R. K. and D. P. Let us first draw attention to the contrast in the intellectual personality of these two great social scientists. If the blending of contemplation with fact-finding and of social thought with social work was a distinguishing feature of the life and work of R. K., D. P.’s sources of strength lay elsewhere. He lived immersed in books, reflection and discussion as an intellectual. In sharp contrast to R. K.’s simple and austere way of life. D. P. lived the highly cultured and refined life of an intellectual aristocrat. He loved good food, dressed very elegantly, smoked the most expensive cigarettes, spent a large part of his income in purchase of books and acquired over a life time perhaps the best personal collection of books among intellectuals of his generation. He visited the Lucknow coffee house for an intellectual adda (rendezvous) in the Bengali style

Chapter 08.indd 148

10/19/2013 6:57:04 PM

Lucknow School

149

almost every evening as against R. K. who lived the life of a hermit. R. K. commanded respect and veneration from his students while D. P. received from students deep love along with respect. From the vantage point of to-day one can say that R. K. Was more original and creative as a thinker. Gifted with powerful ‘intuition and imagination, he was also extraordinarily productive. His powers of synthesis were great, though not always sustained by high quality of analysis. D. P. had sharp analytical faculty, though he excelled as a systemiser of relevant ideas from all Purees than as an originator of new ideas. He was also a scintillating teacher and an excellent communicator in the classroom through his lectures. His lectures held his students completely spell-bound. Inside the classroom and the lecture hall, his ral and intellectual authority was unsurpassed. He also influenced generations of students whom he regarded as gifted and promising through intimate personal contact. He gave them opportunities of interacting with him by inviting them for discusssions at his residence. Unlike R. K. who based his lectures largely on his own works and contributions. D. P. introduced students to the best works on the subject and specially to classics of economics and sociology. In his view a student’s education was incomplete without deep interest in and study of classics. While R. K. gave primacy to field work and fact-finding as the most essential part of research apprenticeship. D. P. gave primacy to reading of classics (1958: 26). D. P. was also distinguished by his unique interpretation of the role of a teacher in a University. In his view the most important function of a University teacher was to stimulate his students to think for themselves and to promote critical consciousness. Preparing the student to be a good professional or a specialist in a specific field was important. But equally important was to create an intellectual atmosphere conducive to thinking and to cultivating a critical attitude to one’s social environment. Perhaps no other Indian intellectual of that generation performed so excellently this function of promoting a questioning attitude among his students. D. P. paid a heavy price for this in narrow professional terms, as some of D. P.’s best students turned into social rebels and political activists instead of becoming good, ivory-tower scholars and professionals. When Professor Amarnath Jha, the then Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad University told D. P. that students of Lucknow University were indifferent to studies. D. P. retorted: “Yes, Professor Jha, your University produces the ICS and PCS and we produce their victims.” ’ D. P.’s intellectual influence was not confined only the classroom and the academic campus. His conception of the functions of a social

Chapter 08.indd 149

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

150

P.C. Joshi

scientist involved the obligation to strengthen the ‘intellectual basis of social and political activism. In his view anti-intellectualism of Indian politics and social movements posed a great danger to society and it was the duty of social scientists to promote awareness of this danger. If left uncorrected, it may ultimately result in Fascism. One of his favourite observations was: “Our politics does not have adequate, intellectual support. While our intellectuals are a political, our politicians are antiintellectual with few exceptions. As a result the intellectual problems of the national movement are taken care of by Gandhi’s “inner voice” and of the Left movement by the Party line. This holiday from reason is bound to have disastrous results in the era of mass politics”. In, D. P.’s view the existence of an intellectual elite was essential for civilization; it was much more crucial and urgent for a country faced with the challenge of self-government and problems of economic and social transition. This view is best summed up in D. P.’s own words as follows: History tells us that self-government is a challenge before which many peoples have succumbed, either because the strength of their response was inadequate or their wealth was insufficient. The latter possibility may be excluded. Our material resources are enormous. The problem is also not of human material. We have an initial advantage in numbers. There is a wealth of intelligence in the country. What is more, there is a reserve of disinterested contemplative attitude which is likely to help us through the contemplative attitude which is likely to help us through the period of preparation . . . What is, therefore, primarily needed for a collective vigilant response to the challenge of selfgovernment is consciousness. And consciousness, in the psychological sense, is born of predicament and roused by crisis. I submit that it is the primary function of the intelligentsia to see that the general awareness is not dissipated in any manner, and positively that it spreads and enhances its quality, in intensity, form and content (1958: 182–183).

It is in this context that D. P. stressed the role of a class of Mandarins or Brahmins constituting “a body of men devoted to the enrichment of popular consciousness through the prestige of their own disinterested, detached, scientific analysis who would be very useful in saving our culture from the degradation of Partisanship” and also from widely pervading “sense of bitterness or defeatism” (1958: 190). D. P. thus viewed self—government as a creative challenge for intellectuals in general and social scientists in particular. In “is view, an underdeveloped country thrown into the vortex of world events often a long course of arrested growth and hibernation is an interesting field of intellectual adventure”. (1958: 236).

Chapter 08.indd 150

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

Lucknow School

151

And finally he defined the nature of the challenge for the Indian intellectual in historical terms as follows: The French dared in 1789, the English in 1688, the Germans in 1848 and the Russians in 1917. For the first time in several centuries India has a chance to dare! (1958: 177).

And for D. P. daring on the political plane was always prepared and precipitated by daring on the intellectual plane. And this conception of intellectual daring in the context of political daring, or a conscious social push to the historical process, or a creative social response to the historical crisis situation, provides the key to D. P.’s intellectual sweep. Even though not a social and political activist himself, D. P. was all the time grappling with the intellectual theoretical problems of social practice or of political action of a colonial country, struggling for national identity and freedom and later an independent country facing the challenge of self-government. U. P.’s attempt to blend Marxism (or the theory of social transformation) with Indian tradition (i.e. with specificities of the Indian society) has to be understood in this light. We also find meaning in his treatment of economics as a cultural subject and of culture as both a means and an end of socio-economic transformation. And his trying to think of “a new type of sociology which is an (n+I)th science drawing upon the findings and insigsts of ‘n’ sciences’ ” (1948: VIII) assumes meaning also in the context of his mental and spiritual involvement in India in the making—an India which has a chance to shape a new future after shaking off’ its sense of “Great Denial”’ for two centuries (1948: 206). D. P.’s sociology of tradition is not a sociology of rivivalism. With its deep connection with Marxism, it is a sociology of conscious and planned transformation. That any other interpretation of D. P.’s sociological interest in tradition has no basis is clear from his observations quoted below: Need I to point out to you again that the remedy for frustration I have suggested is essentially anticipatory, forward looking and end-seeking? The type of historical analysis I have in view is not digging into the past, however. valuable that may be . . . The sole purpose of historical analysis is to know the fundamental nature of historical processes. The nature is change, the change that is involved in invasion of the past into the living, throbbling and contemporary present. This too is not enough, because history is not exhausted in our activities. It moves on into the future . . . In short, no manner of revivalism is a cure for frustration. It is an offence against the laws of change. The withdrawal

Chapter 08.indd 151

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

152

P.C. Joshi into inner resources is permissible only when it is a preparation for a rally for the step ahead . . . The general direction must always be forward. Our heritage, if one understands it properly, does not allow us to bury the talents but to invest them in risks and uncertainties. As the Upanishad says: “Charaibeti” (1958: 196–197).

D. P. viewed this forward movement not as a spontaneous process but as a process pushed forward by conscious human agents. Such a propelling forward of social processes was not possible without the movement building up as much its intellectual resources as its moral resources. He found Gandhism inadequate in so far as it was not an intellectual movement and not sufficiently responsive to the intellectual challenge. D. P. criticised the Indian National Congress for not pursuing the logic of its commitment to social change in a socialistic direction on the intellectual plane. D. P. was convinced that a serious pursuit of this commitment was incompatible with indifference to Marxism. In the last years of his life D. P. even criticised Jawaharlal Nehru for his view that “Marxism was backdatish” (1959). At the same time he was critical of Indian Marxists—socialists and communists—for their indifference to Indian Tradition. “I have seen”, D. P. asserted, “how our progressive groups have failed in the field of intellect and hence also in economic and political action, chiefly on account of their ignorance of and unrootedness in India’s social reality” (1958: 240). last his support for the study of traditions was misunderstood as a pica for traditionalism, D. P. quoted Marxism in his support: The deeper down you go to the roots, the more radical you become” (1958: 241). D. P. further clarified that “the ultimate goal of socialism is the association of persons, that is of free individuals functioning collectively in society and coming Out of it as persons. My emphasis on traditions has to be taken in that context” (1958: VII–VIII). In his path-breaking paper “Man And Plan In India” D. P. further stressed the dialectic between forward movement and rootedness in tradition. To reproduce the very perceptive words of the concluding part of this paper: Thus it is that two systems of data are to be worked out. One is the plan with its basic Western values in experimentation, rationalism, social accounting and in further Western values centering in or emerging out, of bureaucratisation, industrialization, technology and increasing urbanisation. The other is not so much the Indian traditions as India’s forces of conservation and powers

Chapter 08.indd 152

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

Lucknow School

153

of assimilation. At present they are not sharply posed. If anything the first datum is gradually becoming ascendant. This is a bare historical fact. To transmute the fact into a value the first requisite ‘is to have faith in the historicity of that fact. The second requisite is social action to push on with the plan and to push it. consciously, deliberately, collectively into the next historical phase. The value of Indian traditions lies in the ability of their conserving forces to put a brake on hasty passage. Adjustment is the end of product of the dialectical connection between the two. Meanwhile there is tension. If it leads up to a higher stage it is also desirable. That higher stage is where personality is integrated through a planned, a socially directed, and collective endeavour for historically understood ends, which means, as the author understands it, a socialist order (1958: 76).

D. P. was perhaps the only social scientist who was alive to the dangers of planning by technocrats and bureaucrats alone. In his own words, “planning is too serious a business to be left to planners  .  . . having warped, disrupted or fragmented personalities” (1958: 67). D. P. saw the inadequacy in social terms even in the earlier Plans prepared under Nehru which he criticised as “being distant both psychologically and sociologically from the mightly rush of reality that is India’s history to-day” (1958: 53). He thought that those who composed the Plan “do not seem to be of their Indian earth and earthy; nor do they create the impression of being the agents of mighty social forces” (1958: 53–54). As a sociologist he viewed a Plan in the following terms: Bigger things than knowledge are involved in the Plan viz. the life and death of a whole people who have plunged or been dragged into the maelstrom of World forces. For that a bolder analysis is necessary which does not mean reckless generalization. It signifies an umbilical contact with the life of the people, the resultant appreciation of the forces that move them, and the analysis of these forces both endogenous and exogenous, in the light of local actualities, including traditions, institutions, myths, beliefs, ideas and symbols. Only the people can offer the springs of courage, and only the rational understanding of social forces can furnish the impulse and the certainty of the analysis. People’s will, desires, hopes and aspirations do not seem to well up through these pages; no analysis merges its cautions subtleties in the depths of historical understanding; no ideas soars up with facts in its talons (1958: 53).

On the contrary he found a new “character-type taking over the planning process—the warped personality—types of this age of EuroAmerica—which the next national technological, urbanized, bureaucratized social order is going to throw up in large numbers” (1958: 68: 71).

Chapter 08.indd 153

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

154

P.C. Joshi

The acceleration of the pace of technological change and India’s entry into the modern communication and information age make D. P.’s insights presented in his “Man and Plan In India” far more and not less relevant to-day. In his own life-time D. P. noted “the spiritual nervousness before the possibilities of dehumanisation” (1958: 41). He noted “the vague fear of being caught in one mighty embrace of Hercules’. He thought ‘this fear was deeper than the fear of the unknown and more uncomfortable than the loss of the habitual’”. The new technological system has vastly expanded than ever before and “the fear of being caught in the embrace of Hercules” is enveloping much larger proportions of society including specially common people who so far were more ‘“socially integrated, less fragmentised and could live as persons in face-to-face communication within the framework of community living”. Earlier the internal class divisions within the community did not destroy community bounds, group interdependence and cooperation. The break-up of community life had been vastly accelerated now ‘via penetration of modern technology resulting in structural dualism, marginalisation of basic masses and the consequent dehumanisation and alienation. In this background rebuilding the social framework of collective living cannot be a spontaneous process: it has to be planned. A lag between technocratic planning and planning of the social order serves only to accentuate alienation, dehumanisation and uprooting on a vast scale. And here lies the relevance of planning interpreted by D. P. as rebuilding of the social and cultural order. The task is far more challenging to-day than it was in D. P.’s lifetime. Moreover, modern technology including communication technology has made India far more culturally responsive, and indeed vulnerable, to the Western impact than it was during the days of colonialism As D. P. put it, India’s cultural identity was saved by the very fact of her techno-economic backwardness. But the much greater opening up of India as a sequel to technological change has made very relevant what D. P. wrote more than three decades back. To quote: Another aspect of the problem is that of squaring the principles of change by which India has lived and moved so far with those by which India is going to keep step with the world. At long last, the windows of a closed, rusty room seem to have been thrown open to all the winds of heaven. No more does the atmosphere generate claustrophobia. At the same time it appears that the airing is to blow away the furniture. Proper attention is not being paid to those of India’s traditions that have enabled her to survive the political vicissitudes

Chapter 08.indd 154

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

Lucknow School

155

and the stealthy corrosions of her history. Every culture has its own principles and mechanisms of effecting change in its traditions. These mechanisms or traditions are going by default and those that are adopted are supposed to belong to history without specificity. And this despite the belief that no assimilation of modern culture is possible without being rooted (1958: 256).

The above is the concluding part of D. P.�s essay on “The Intellectuals in India” which embodies his view of the intellectual not only as an interpreter of the processes of social transition. The intellectual’s function in shaping the positive response of his people to the demands of social transition is also implied in this statement. In this era when the ideology of a conscious push to India’s modernisation and her entry into the twenty-first century is on the ascendancy, D. P.’s concept of planning including economic and cultural planning provides both tools of analysis as well as a value-frame for moulding critical consciousness. This concept which integrates economics, sociology and culture aims at synthesising of interpretations of cultural processes in political economic terms and an understanding of Indian political-economy in broad cultural terms. It is an attempt to synthesise the cultural vision of Tagore and Gandhi with the concepts and insights of radical liberal and Marxian thought. In short, if one takes a synoptic view of D. P.’s entire life and work, he occupies an enduring place as a conscious interpreter of Indian nationalism in much richer and broader terms than was available from the work of his intellectual predecessors and contemporaries and also of his successors. One can discern the richness and sweep of D. P.’s view of Indian nationalism by juxtaposition of his work with that of, say Shelvankar’s Problem of India, R. P. Dutt’s India To-day, A. R. Desai’s Social Background of India’s Nationalism and B. B. Misra’s India’s Middle-Class. D. P.’s Modern Indian Culture and his essays in Diversities still remain sources of inspiration for Indian historians, social scientists and political and cultural workers for further thinking, analysis and social action. Having served the University of Lucknow for thirty five years D. P. joined the Aligarh Muslim University as the Chairman of the Department of Economics for a period of five years. Two notable events of his life also deserve to be mentioned. In 1938 when a Congress Ministry was formed in United Provinces, D. P. was persuaded by Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant and Shri Raji Ahmad Kidwai to join the Government as Director of Information, an office which D. P. filled with rare ability and distinction. It is to D. P. that we owe the founding

Chapter 08.indd 155

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

156

P.C. Joshi

of the Bureau of Economics and Statistics, which is to-day rendering excellent service to the State. He also served as a member of the U. P. Labour Enquiry Committee (19–17) and his impact was not only felt in introducing rigour in thinking on labour problems but also imparting to labour economics a developmental and a welfare orientation. In 1956 D. P. was struck by throat cancer which left him shattered and weak in body; but his will to live enabled him to carry on till December 5, 1961 when he breathed his last. D. P.’s passing away was noted as the loss of an intellectual colossus, the like of which we may never see again.

V Let me conclude with certain broad comments and observations on the legacy of the Lucknow School and its relevance today. In my view the Lucknow School represents a highly creative phase in the evolution of modern social and economic thought in India or, more appropriately, in the evolution of social sciences in modern India period. This School represented an intellectual response to the major issues thrown up by the Western impact on India which assumed the form of India’s colonial subjection including her mental and spiritual subjection. This impact raised the life and death question of India’s national identity and her cultural personality (A. K. Saran 1958: 1013–1034). Such fundamental concerns relating to the very conditions of social existence of a whole people and to the quality of their social consciousness under colonial rule threw up the conception of a social scientist who was not just a narrow professional but was organically connected with his people in sharing their agony and suffering. He was invoked not only in identifying and interpreting their problems and predicaments but also in formulating categories of understanding and in shaping the content and form1: of their national consciousness in relation to their historical traditions and their sub-continental size and economic and cultural diversity. The intellectual enquiry by the Lucknow School into the nature of the Indian problem which resolves itself into an enquiry into the nature of Indian society and culture, its retrospect and prospect, is coloured by this overwhelming concern for national root”, and identity in a changing world.

Chapter 08.indd 156

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

Lucknow School

157

The basic perceptions of the dichotomy between the West and the East, between the coloniser and the colonised, seem to overshadow all probings into inner structural cleavages and conflicts within the colonial society and culture. This primary concern results even in some romanticising and idealising of the past which is more pronounced in R. K. than in D. P. In D. P.’s case his Marxist leanings did not permit unrestrained romanticsing and idealising. It must be noted, however, that both in D. P. and R. K., there is all along a distinction between the progressive and the retrogressive elements of the social heritage, between traditions and institutions which affirm the values of equality and justice, community good and national solidarity and those which negate them. Has the legacy of the Lucknow School no relevance to Indian society which is now invaded by contradictory drives for coping with inner cleavages on the one hand and for technological modernization on the other? Has it no relevance to Indian social science which has also entered the new era of value-neutrality on the one hand and compartmentalisation of knowledge on the other? I conclude by making an earnest plea to the younger generation of social scientists to address themselves to these questions and to find their own answers. But in my judgement the understanding of the new problems and processes of social transformation in the contemporary phase of Indian nationalism will be enormously facilitated by rootedness in the value-oriented and non-compartmentalised social science vision of the Lucknow School and the analytical approach and tools and the intuitive and grassroots insights contributed by it.

Note * This is the text of the Sixth Junaid Ansari Memorial Lecture delivered at the Jamia Millia Islamia on February 28, 1986.

References Mukerjee, Radhakamal (ed.) 1929 Fields and Farmers of Oudh. Longmans Green and Co. Ltd. 1970 Social Sciences and Planning in India, New Delhi, Asia Publishing House. Mukerjee, Radhakamal 1921 Principles of Comparative Economics, Vol. 1, London, P. S. King and Son Ltd. ——— 1922 Principles of Comparative Economics, Vol. 2, London, P. S. King and Son Ltd.

Chapter 08.indd 157

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

158

P.C. Joshi

Mukerjee, Radhakamal 1925 Borderland of Economics, London, George Allen and Unwin Ltd. ——— 1948 “Note of Dissent and Memorandum on Land Policy”, Report of Sub-Committee on Land Policy, Agricultural Labour and Insurance, National Planning Committee, Bombay, Vora and Co. Mukerjee, Radhakamal 1955 “Faiths and Influence”, in Baljit Singh (Ed.), The Frontiers of Social Science in Honour of Radhakamal Mukerjee, London, Macmillan and Co. Ltd. Mukerji, D. P. 1948 Modern Indian Culture, Bombay, Hind Kitab Ltd. ——— 1958 Diversities, New Delhi, People’s Publishing House. ——— 1959 “Lament for Economics; Old and New”, The Economic Weekly, Vol. 2, No. 46. Saran, A. K. 1953 “India”, in Joseph S. Roucek, Contemporary Sociology, New York, Philosophical Library. Singh, Baljit 1955 “Mukerjee as a Pioneer in Indian Economics” in Baljit Singh (ed.), The Frontiers of Social Science, London, Macmillan and Co. Ltd. Singh, Baljit and V. B. Singh 1967 Social and Economic Change, New Delhi, Allied Publishers.

Chapter 08.indd 158

10/19/2013 6:57:05 PM

9 Dialectic of Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji* T.N. Madan

For the important and immediate task of reconstructing Indian culture through intelligent adaptation to and assimilation of the new forces in the light of a reinterpreted past, Sociology is the most useful study. D. P. Mukerji (1952: 13)

I

n this essay I make an attempt to briefly examine some central ideas in the work of the late Professor Dhurjati Prasad Mukerji (1894–1961).1 He was one of the founding fathers of sociology in India and taught during the second quarter of the century at the Lucknow University, where it was my privilege to have been his student. I do believe that if an intellectual is worth commemorating through the means of a memorial lecture, then his work is worthy of serious consideration. It is an obligation, an expression of the sincerity of the gesture of commemoration and, in fact, the best homage we may pay such a scholar and thinker. This should not, however, mean uncritical acceptance of the ideas under examination. DP (to refer to Professor Mukerji by the ‘name’ by which he was best known among his friends, colleagues and students alike) would have never approved of that. I should like to mention here that I have another reason for wanting to turn to DP’s own work. It so happens that considerable

Chapter 09.indd 159

11/23/2013 3:40:54 AM

160

T.N. Madan

misrepresentation of this work has occurred in recent years; one would ignore what is said informally, but some grievous distortions have appeared in print.2 In fact, two tendencies are noticeable. The more general of these has been to simply ignore DP’s work. His books are out of print and not readily available in libraries, but where they are to be found they are not read. They rarely find a place in courses of studies. A reason for this may well be the contemporary concern with immediate goals and with a narrow empiricism. Be that as it may, this neglect is quite unjust and not only to him but, in fact more so, to ourselves, precisely because he ever was a critic of narrow dogmatisms. Moreover, how can we hope to build sound scholarly traditions in India if we do not take the work of our predecessors seriously? Surely, their experience should be as relevant to our tasks of today, if not more so, as the concerns of intellectuals in other parts of the world. Then there is the misrepresentation I mentioned, arising out of a casual acquaintance with DP’s work. It would seem that not only his critics but also some of his admirers have arrived at evaluations of his work without studying it closely. This is harder to explain and, needless to stress, it is the more dangerous tendency. DP’s work demands to be seriously examined as was done, for instance, in his life-time by one of the very ablest of his students and colleagues, Professor A. K. Saran (see Saran 1959 and 1965). I undertake here to make a small contribution to this important task in the hope more of perhaps persuading others to do the same, and do it better, than in the conviction that I personally can do it well.

II The theme I have chosen for discussion is the relationship of tradition and modernity in DP’s thought. It is true that this bipolarity is now becoming quite outmoded. Yet, I think, there would be a consensus among intellectuals and policy-makers in defining our endeavours today as a nation as the quest for modernization: or, as DP would have put it, the effort to give a push to history towards the next higher stage. We may have become weary of the concept of modernization, but the important question is, have we carefully formulated the reasons for this weariness? And did we earlier develop adequately the argument for modernization and examine its nature and scope?

Chapter 09.indd 160

11/23/2013 3:40:54 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

161

I am not sure we have done these things; and it is my belief that DP is an excellent guide not only in the clarification of the concept of modernity but also in this self-questioning. He drew attention to some of the hazards that attend the task; and his own work illustrates others. Thus, he would have argued that our modernity is spurious, a sham, and indeed a major obstacle in the path of genuine modernization; but his criticism ultimately fails to point to a satisfactory solution. I should like to construct this argument in some detail. Let me begin with DP’s early work to examine the seeds of his ideas regarding tradition and modernity that came to flower later on. It is interesting to note here that he considered his first two books. Personality and the Social Sciences (1924) and Basic Concepts of Sociology (1932), “personal documents”—products of his endeavour to formulate an adequate concept of social science. From the very beginning he organized his ideas around the notion of Personality. He took up the position that the abstract individual should not be the focus of social science theories, and pleaded for a “wholistic”, psycho-sociological approach. It was this “synthesis of the double process of individuality and the socialization of the uniqueness of individual life, this perfect unity” that he called Personality (1924: ii). Looking back at his work of a lifetime, he said in his presidential address to the first Sociological Conference in 1955 that he had come to sociology from economics and history because he was interested in developing his personality through knowledge (1958: 228). The office of a comprehensive social science, transcending the prevailing compartmentalization of social sciences, was conceived to be the development of an integrated though many-faceted personality. This is an idea which, as A. K. Saran (1962: 167) has pointed out, is “in some ways parallel to the ideal suggested by Moore in his Principia Ethica”. Thus, at the very beginning of his intellectual career DP committed himself to a view of knowledge and of the knower. Knowledge was not, as he put it, mere “matter-of-factness” but ultimately, after taking the empirical datum and the scientific method for its study into account, philosophic (1932: iv–v). Economics had to be rooted in concrete social reality, that is it had to be sociological; sociology had to take full cognizance of cultural specificity, that is it had to be historical; history had to rise above a narrow concern with the triviality of the gone-by events through the incorporation in it of a vision of the future, that is it had to be philosophical. Given such an enterprise, it is obvious that the knower

Chapter 09.indd 161

11/23/2013 3:40:54 AM

162

T.N. Madan

had to be a daring adventurer with a large vision rather than a timid seeker of the safety of specialization. He pointedly asked in the midforties (1946: 11): We talk of India’s vivisection, but what about the vivisection of knowledge which has been going on these years in the name of learning, scholarship and specialization? A ‘subject’ has been cut off from knowledge, knowledge has been excised from life, and life has been amputated from living social conditions. It is really high time for Sociology to come to its own. It may not offer the Truth. Truth is the concern of mystics and philosophers, Meanwhile, we may as well be occupied with the discipline which is most truthful to the wholeness and the dynamics of the objective human reality.3

The philosophical approach which DP wished cultivated was that of rationalism, of “Practical and Speculative Reason”. Reason was to be understood as a tool, “not of understanding merely, but of the development of Personality” (1932: x). It seems a reasonable conjecture, though one could hardly assert it, that at this time DP may have been under the influence of the teachings of Hegel. In fact, such an influence seems to have persisted till the very end, prominently in his concern with reason and human dignity, his attitude towards the past, wanting to preserve whatever was judged as valuable in it, and his fascination with dialectics. But, then, these values could also have been imbibed from the Hindu Upanishadic tradition.

III DP’s concern in the nineteen twenties and thirties was with the mental make-up of modern Indian intellectuals and their world-view, which he rightly judged to be a borrowal of the Western liberal outlook with its various preoccupations, most notably the notions of “progress” and “equality”. These and the related concepts of “social forces” and “social control” were subjected to critical analysis in Basic Concepts of Sociology. It is in his discussion of the relation of “progress” to “personality” that, it seems to me, we come across early intimations of his later view on the nature of modernization. Rejecting the evolutionist notion of “progress” as a natural phenomenon, DP stressed the element of “purpose” in the life of human beings. Development is not growth, he admonished us, but the broader process

Chapter 09.indd 162

11/23/2013 3:40:54 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

163

of the unfolding of potentialities (in this he followed Hegel and Marx though he did not say so explicitly), and added that the “emergence of values and their dynamic character” must receive adequate consideration (1932: 9). He further wrote (1932: 15): Progress can best be understood as a problem covering the whole field of human endeavour. It has a direction in time. It has various means and tactics of development. Fundamentally, it is a problem of balancing of values. The scope of the problem is as wide as human society, and as deep as human personality. In so far as human values arise only in contact with human consciousness at its different levels, the problem of progress has unique reference to the changing individual living in a particular region at a particular time in association with other individuals who share with him certain common customs, beliefs, traditions, and possibly a common temperament.

It seems to me permissible to derive from the foregoing statement the conclusion that “modernization” is the special form which “progress” takes for people in the Third World countries today. If this is granted,4 then the following words need to be pondered (1932: 29–30): Progress . . . is . . . a movement of freedom . . . What is of vital significance is that our time-adjustments should be made in such a way that we should be free from the necessity of remaining in social contact for every moment of our life. This is an important condition of progress. In leisure alone can man conquer the tyranny of time, by investing it with a meaning, a direction, a memory and a purpose. Obstacles to leisure, including the demands of a hectic social life, often mistaken for progress, must be removed in order that the inner personality of man may get the opportunity for development. This is why the Hindu philosopher wisely insists on the daily hour of contemplation, and after a certain age, a well-marked period of retirement from the turmoil of life. The bustle of modern civilization is growing apace and the need for retirement is becoming greater.

The above passage has a contemporary ring; and it is very relevant. If we paraphrase it, using words and phrases that are in use today, we get a succinct reference to the unthinking craving for and the human costs of modernization, including alienation, to the values of individual freedom and human dignity, and to social commitment. For DP progress was, as I have already quoted him saying, a problem of balancing of values; and so is modernization. When we introduce values into our discourse, and the rationalist perspective that DP recommended will have it in no other way, we are faced with the problem of the hierarchy

Chapter 09.indd 163

11/23/2013 3:40:54 AM

164

T.N. Madan

of values, that is with the quest for ultimate or fundamental values. For these DP turned to the Upanishads, to shantam, shivant, advaitam, that is peace, welfare, unity. The first is the principle of harmony which sustains the universe amidst all its incessant changes, movements and conflicts. The second is the principle of coordination in the social environment. The third gives expression to the unity which transcends all the diverse forms of states, behaviours and conflicts, and permeates thought and action with ineffable joy . . . On this view, progress ultimately depends on the development of personality by a conscious realization of the principles of Harmony, Welfare and Unity (1932: 35).

This appeal to Vedanta, while discussing the Western notion of progress, is a disconcerting characteristic of DP’s thought throughout. He sought to legitimize it by calling it “synthesis”, which itself he described as a characteristic of the historical process, the third stage of the dialectic triad. He thus evaded, it would seem, a closer examination of the nature and validity of synthesis. Its existence was assumed and self-validating. One’s disappointment and criticism of DP’s position is not on the ground of the source of this trinity of values—I am reminded of the research student at an Indian university who told me of her deep disappointment that DP was at heart a Hindu—but on the ground that Harmony, Welfare and Unity are too vague and esoteric, as they make their elusive appearance in DP’s discourse; and he does not show how they may be integrated with such values of the West as are embodied in its industrial civilization. On the positive side, however, it must be added that DP’s preoccupation with ultimate values should be assessed in the light of his deep distrust of the installation of Science as the redeemer of mankind and of Scientific Method (based on a narrow empiricism and exclusive reliance on inductive inference) as the redeemer of social sciences.

IV I have heard it said that DP’s intellectual life reveals a striking lack of continuity between his early work, when he was interested almost exclusively in broad conceptual issues rather than in understanding the nature and problems of Indian society, and his later work, when he became increasingly immersed in India. Also, it is asserted that, this transition in his ideas was marked by a growing salience of a Marxist, or pseudo-Marxist (depending upon the critic’s own ideological position),

Chapter 09.indd 164

11/23/2013 3:40:54 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

165

orientation in his work. That the emphases in his work changed with the passage of time may not be denied—and what is wrong with that?—but to maintain that there is a sharp break in the two phases of his work would seem to be an overstatement. DP, it would seem, was always and deeply influenced by the social environment around him. To the extent to which the society in which he lived was undergoing change, to that extent there was a discernible change in his intellectual concerns also, and he was conscious of this. He even wrote about it: “In my view, the thing changing is more real and objective than change per se” (1958: 241). He was a very sensitive person, and many of those who knew him intimately will recall how a turn in events—whether of the university, the city, the country or the world—would cast a gloom on him or bring him genuine joy. He had an incredible capacity for intense subjective experience: it perhaps killed him in the end. (One of his favourite books was Goethe’s Werther). In all his writings he addressed himself to his contemporaries: he had an unstated contempt for those who write for posterity with an eye on personal fame and some kind of immortality, and I think he was right in this attitude.6 It would seem that what DP was most conscious of in his earlier writings was the need to establish links between the traditional culture of which he was a proud though critical inheritor and the modern liberal education of which he was a critical though appreciative product. The two—Indian culture and modern education could not stay apart without each becoming impoverished—as indeed had been happening—and therefore had to be synthesized in the life of the people in general and of the middle classes and the intellectuals in particular. In this respect, DP was a characteristic product of his times. He was attracted by the image of the future which the West held out to traditional societies and, at the same time, he was attached to his own tradition, the core of which was the Hindu tradition. The need to defend what he regarded as the essential values of this tradition thus became a compelling concern, particularly in his later writings. Dualities never ceased to bother DP, and he ever sought to resolve the conflict implicit in persistent dualism through transcendence. This transcendence was to him what history was all about—or ought to be. But history was not for him a tablet already etched on, once for all, and for each and every people. Hence his early criticism that, in the hands of Trotsky, Lenin and Bukharin, history had degenerated into “pure dialectic” (1932: 184). This criticism was repeated by him again and

Chapter 09.indd 165

11/23/2013 3:40:54 AM

166

T.N. Madan

again. In 1945, he complained that the Marxists had made the “laws of dialectics” behave like the “laws of karma”— predetermining every fact, event and human behaviour in its course; or else, they are held forth as a moral justification for what is commonly described as opportunism (1945: 18).

For DP historiography was meaningless unless it was recognized that the decision to “write history” entailed the decision to “act history” (1945: 46). And history was being enacted in India in the 1930s, if it ever was during DP’s life-time, by the middle classes and, under their leadership, by the masses. What they were doing increasingly bothered him, for history had not only to be enacted but to be enacted right. The question of values could not be evaded. The middle classes whose intellectual life was his concern in his earlier work were also his concern in his later work, but now it was their politics that absorbed him. In this respect his concern avowedly with himself was in fact sociological, for he believed that no one is an island unto himself but embedded not merely in his class but in his total socio-cultural environment. The focus was on modern Indian culture and the canvas naturally was the whole of India. Modern Indian Culture: A Sociological Study was first published in 1942, and a second revised edition was completed in 1947, the year of independence, but also of partition. It was written under the impending shadow of the vivisection of India; anguish and sorrow are the mood of the book. The problem, as he saw it, was first to explain why the calamity of communal division had befallen India, and then to use this knowledge to shape a better future. Sociology had to be the handmaiden of history and it was no mean role; indeed it was a privilege. His analysis led him to the conclusion that a distortion had entered into the long-established course of Indian history and crippled it. The happening responsible for this was British rule. But let me first quote DP’s succinct statement of the character of modern Indian culture (1948: 1): . . . As a social and historical process . . . Indian culture represents certain common traditions that have given rise to a number of general attitudes. The major influences in their shaping have been Buddhism, Islam, and Western commerce and culture. It was through the assimilation and conflict of such varying forces that Indian culture became what it is today, neither Hindu nor Islamic, neither a replica of the Western modes of living and thought nor a purely Asiatic product.

Chapter 09.indd 166

11/23/2013 3:40:54 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

167

In this historical process, synthesis had been the dominant organizing principle and the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Muslim had together shaped a world-view in which, according to DP, “the fact of Being was of lasting significance”. His favourite quotation from the Upanishads was charaiveti, keep moving forward. This meant that there had developed an indifference to “the transient and the sensate” and a preoccupation with the subordination of “the little self ” to and ultimately its dissolution in “the Supreme Reality” (1948: 2). This world-view DP called “the mystical outlook”. He maintained that Islam could have on its arrival in India shaken Hindu society in its very roots but Buddhism served as a cushion. Buddhism itself had failed to rend Hindu society asunder and had succeeded only in rendering it more elastic. Muslim rule was an economically progressive force but, on the whole, it brought about only a variation in the already existent socio-economic structure (1948: 65–67) and provided no real alternatives to native economic and political systems. “The Muslims just reigned, but seldom ruled” (1948: 24). British rule, however, did prove to be a real turning point in as much as it succeeded in changing the relations of production, or to use DP’s own words, “the very basis of the Indian social economy” (1948: 24). New interests in land and commerce were generated; a new pattern of education was introduced; physical and occupational mobility received a strong impetus. Overshadowing all these developments, however, was the liquidation of an established middle class and “the emergence of a spurious middle class” who do not play any truly historical part in the socio-economic evolution of the country, remain distant from the rest of the people in professional isolation or as rent receivers, and are divorced from the realities of social and economic life . . . Their ignorance of the background of Indian culture is profound . . . Their pride in culture is in inverse proportion to its lack of social content (1948: 25).

It was this middle class which helped in the consolidation of British rule in India but later challenged it successfully; it was also this same middle class which brought about the partition of the country. Its rootlessness made it a “counterfeit class” and therefore its handiwork (whether in the domain of education and culture, in the political arena, or in the field of economic enterprise) had inevitably something of the same spurious quality. “The politics and the culture of a subject

Chapter 09.indd 167

11/23/2013 3:40:54 AM

168

T.N. Madan

country”, DP wrote, “cannot be separated from each other” (1948: 207). To expect such an “elite” to lead an independent India along the path of genuine modernization, DP asserted with remarkable prescience, would be unrealistic. He warned that before they could be expected to remake India, modernize it, the elite themselves must be remade. And he wrote a forthright, if not easy, prescription for them: “conscious adjustment to Indian traditions and symbols” (1948: 215), for “culture cannot be ‘made’ from scratch” (1948: 214). It is important to understand why he made this particular recommendation, why he wanted the withdrawal of foreign rule to be accompanied by a withdrawal into the self which, let me hasten to add, was quite different from a withdrawal into the past or inaction. DP was not only not a revivalist, he was also keenly aware of the imminent possibility of revivalism and its fatal consequences. He noted that it would be the form that political hatred disguised as civil hatred would take after independence. But he was not hopeless, for he fondly believed that revivalism could be combated by giving salience to economic interests through a “material programme” that would cut across communal exclusiveness. He envisaged India’s emancipation from the negative violence of the constrictive primordial loyalties of religion and caste through the emergence of class consciousness (1948: 216). He was silent on class conflict, however, and his critics may justifiably accuse him of not seeing his analysis through to its logical conclusion. His optimism was the sanguine hope of an Indian liberal intellectual rather than the fiery conviction of a Marxist revolutionary. In any case, we know today, three decades after DP’s expression of faith on this score, that class does not displace caste in India. Nor do they coexist in compartments: they combine but they do not fuse. DP’s vision of a peaceful, progressive India born out of the “union” of diverse elements, of distinctive regional cultures, rather than out of the type of “unity” that the British imposed from above, however, remains eminently valid even today. The accommodation of various kinds of conflicting loyalties within a national framework, rather than national integration, is the strategy which new African and Asian states faced with cultural pluralism are finding to be both feasible and advantageous. We all know how Pakistan broke up in 1971 (see Madan 1974). DP’s plea for a reorientation to tradition was, then, of a positive nature—an essential condition for moving forward, for restoring

Chapter 09.indd 168

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

169

historical dynamism, for reforging the broken chain of the socio-cultural process of synthesis. Employing Franklin Giddings’s classification of traditions into primary, secondary and tertiary, he suggested that by the time of the British arrival, Hindus and Muslims had yet not achieved a full synthesis of traditions at all levels of social existence. There was a greater measure of agreement between them regarding the utilization and appropriation of natural resources and to a lesser extent in respect of aesthetic and religious traditions. In the tertiary traditions of conceptual thought, however, differences survived prominently. It was into this situation that the British moved in, blundering their way into India, and gave Indian history a severe jolt. As already stated, they destroyed indigenous merchant capital and the rural economy, pushed through a land settlement based on alien concepts of profit and property, and established a socially useless educational system. Such opportunities as it did create could not be fully utilized, DP said, for they cut across India’s traditions, and “because the methods of their imposition spoilt the substance of her need for new life” (1948: 206).

VI At this point it seems pertinent just to point out that, while DP followed Marx closely in his conception of history and in his characterization of British rule as uprooting, he differed significantly not only with Marx’s assessment of the positive consequences of this rule but also with Marx’s negative assessment of the pre-British traditions. It is important to note this because some Marxists have claimed DP on their side, despite his repeated denials that he was a Marxist; he claimed to be only a “Marxologist” (Singh 1973: 216). Some non-Marxists also have, it may be added, described DP as a Marxist. It will be recalled that Marx had in his articles on British rule in India asserted that India had a long past but “no history at all, at least no known history”; that its social condition had “remained unaltered since its remotest antiquity”; that it was “the British intruder who broke up the Indian handloom and destroyed the spinning-wheel”; that it was “British steam and science” which “uprooted, over the whole surface of Hindustan, the union between agriculture and manufacturing industry”. Marx had listed England’s “crimes” in India and proceeded to

Chapter 09.indd 169

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

170

T.N. Madan

point out that she had become “the unconscious tool of history” whose actions would ultimately result in a “fundamental revolution”. He had said (Marx and Engels 1959: 31): England had to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive and other regenerating—the annihilation of old Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in India.

Thus for Marx, as for so many others since his time, including Indian intellectuals of various shades of opinion, the modernization of India had to be its Westernization. As has already been stated above, DP was intellectually and emotionally opposed to such a view about India’s past and future, whether it came from Marx or from liberal bourgeois historians. He refused to be ashamed of or apologetic about India’s past. The statement of his position was unambiguous (1945: 11): Our attitude is one of humility towards the given fund. But it is also an awareness of the need, the utter need, of recreating the given and making it flow. The given of India is very much in ourselves. And we want to make something worthwhile out of it . . .

Indian history could not be made by outsiders: it had to be enacted by Indians. In this endeavour they had to be not only firm of purpose but also clear-headed. He wrote (1945: 46): Our sole interest is to write and to act Indian History. Action means making; it has a starting point—this specificity called India; or if that be too vague, this specificity of the contact between India and England or the West. Making involves changing, which in turn requires (a) a scientific study of the tendencies which make up this specificity, and (b) a deep understanding of the Crisis [which marks the beginning no less than the end of an epoch]. In all these matters, the Marxian method . . . is likely to be more useful than other methods. If it is not, it can be discarded. After all, the object survives.

“Specificity” and “crisis” are the key words in this passage: the former points to the importance of the encounter of traditions and the latter to its consequences. When one speaks of tradition, or of “Marxist specification”, one means, in DP’s words, “the comparative obduracy of

Chapter 09.indd 170

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

171

a culture-pattern”. He expected the Marxist approach to be grounded in the specificity of Indian history (1945: 45, 1946: 162 ff ), as indeed Marx himself had done by focusing on capitalism, the dominant institution of Western society in his time. Marx, it will be said, was interested in precipitating the crisis of contradictory class interests in capitalist society (1945: 37). DP, too, was interested in movement, in the release of the arrested historical process, in the relation between tradition and modernity. He asked for a sociology which would “show the way out of the social system by analysing the process of transformation” (1958: 240). This could be done by focusing first on tradition and only then on change. The first task for us, therefore, is to study the social traditions to which we have been born and in which we have had our being. This task includes the study of the changes in traditions by internal and external pressures. The latter are mostly economic . . . Unless the economic force is extraordinarily strong— and it is that only when the modes of production are altered—traditions survive by adjustments. The capacity for adjustment is the measure of the vitality of traditions. One can have a full measure of this vitality only by immediate experience. Thus it is that I give top priority to the understanding (in Dilthey’s sense) of traditions even for the study of their changes. In other words, the study of Indian traditions . . . should precede the socialist interpretations of changes in Indian traditions in terms of economic forces (1958: 232).

This brings us to the last phase of DP’s work. Before I turn to it, however, I should mention that Louis Dumont also has drawn our attention to an unresolved problem in DP’s sociology. He points out that one’s “recognition of the absence of the individual in traditional India” obliges one to “admit with others that India has no history” for “history and the individual are inseparable”; it follows that “Indian civilization [is] . . . unhistorical by definition” (Dumont 1967: 239). Viewed from this perspective, DP’s impatience with the Marxist position is difficult to justify. In fact, it is rather surprising that, having emphasized the importance of the group as against the individual in the Indian tradition, and of religious values also, DP should have opted for a Marxist solution to the problems of Indian historiography (see Dumont 1967: 231) and for a view of India’s future based on synthesis. He hovered between Indian tradition and Marxism and his adherence to Marxist solutions to intellectual and practical problems gained in

Chapter 09.indd 171

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

172

T.N. Madan

salience in his later work which was also characterized by a heightened concern with tradition. 7

VII For DP the history of India was not the history of her particular form of class struggle because she had experienced none worth the name. The place of philosophy and religion was dominant in this history, and it was fundamentally a long-drawn exercise in cultural synthesis. For him “Indian history was Indian culture” (1958: 123). India’s recent woes, namely communal hatred and partition, had been the result of the arrested assimilation of Islamic values (1958: 163); he believed that “history halts unless it is pushed” (1958: 39). The national movement had generated much moral fervour but, DP complained, it had been anti-intellectual. Not only had there been much unthinking borrowal from the West, there had also emerged a hiatus between theory and practice as a result of which thought had become impoverished and action ineffectual. Given his concern for intellectual and artistic creativity, it is not surprising that he should have concluded: “politics has ruined our culture” (1958: 190). What was worse, there were no signs of this schism being healed in the years immediately after independence. When planning arrived as state policy in the early fifties, DP expressed his concern, for instance in an important 1953 paper on Man and Plan in India (1958: 30–76), that a clear concept of the new man and a systematic design of the new society were nowhere in evidence. As the years passed by, he came to formulate a negative judgement about the endeavours to build a new India, and also diagnosed the cause of the rampant intellectual sloth. He said in 1955 (1958: 240): I have seen how our progressive groups have failed in the field of intellect, and hence also in economic and political action, chiefly on account of their ignorance of and unrootedness in India’s social reality.

The issue at stake was India’s modernization. DP’s essential stand on this was that there could be no genuine modernization through imitation. A people could not abandon their own cultural heritage and yet succeed in internalizing the historical experience of other peoples; they could only be ready to be taken over. He feared cultural imperialism

Chapter 09.indd 172

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

173

more than any other. The only valid approach, according to DP, was that which characterized the efforts of men like Rammohun Roy and Rabindranath Tagore, who tried to make the main currents of western thought and action . . . run through the Indian bed to remove its choking weeds in order that the ancient stream might flow (1958: 33).

DP formulated this view of the dialectic between tradition and modernity several years before independence, in his study of Tagore published in 1943, in which he worte (1972: 50): The influence of the West upon Tagore was great . . . but it should not be exaggerated: it only collaborated with one vital strand of the traditional, the strand that Ram Mohan and Tagore’s father . . . rewove for Tagore’s generation. Now, all these traditional values Tagore was perpetually exploiting but never more than when he felt the need to expand, to rise, to go deeper, and be fresher. At each such stage in the evolution of his prose, poetry, drama, music and of his personality we find Tagore drawing upon some basic reservoir of the soil, of the people, of the spirit and emerging with a capacity for larger investment.8

This crucial passage holds the key to DP’s views on the nature and dynamics of modernization. It emerges as a historical process which is at once an expansion, an elevation, a deepening and a revitalization—in short, a larger investment—of traditional values and cultural patterns, and not a total departure from them, resulting from the interplay of the traditional and the modern. DP would have agreed with Michael Oakeshott, I think, that the principle of tradition “is a principle of continuity” (1962: 128).9 From this perspective, tradition is a condition of rather than an obstacle to modernization; it gives us the freedom to choose between alternatives and evolve a cultural pattern which cannot but be a synthesis of the old and the new. New values and institutions must have a soil in which to take root and from which to imbibe character. Modernity must therefore be denned in relation to, and not in denial of, tradition.10 Conflict is only the intermediate stage in the dialectic triad: the movement is toward coincidentia oppositorum. Needless to emphasize, the foregoing argument is in accordance with the Marxist dialectic which sees relations as determined by one another and therefore bases a “proper” understanding of them on such a relationship. Synthesis of the opposites is not, however, an historical inevitability. It is not a gift given to a people unasked or merely for the asking:

Chapter 09.indd 173

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

174

T.N. Madan

they must strive for it self-consciously, for “Culture is an affair of total consciousness” (1958: 189), it is a “dynamic social process, and not another name for traditionalism” (1958: 101–02). History for DP was a “going concern” (1945: 19), and the value of the Marxist approach to the making of history lay in that it would help to generate “historical conviction” (1958: 56), and thus act as a spur to fully awakened endeavour. The alternative to self-conscious choice-making is mindless imitation and loss of autonomy and, therefore, dehumanization, though DP did not put it quite in those words. Self-consciousness, then, is the form of modernization. Its content, one gathers from DP’s writings in the nineteen fifties, comprises nationalism, democracy, the utilization of science and technology for harnessing nature, planning for social and economic development, and the cultivation of rationality. The typical modern man is the engineer, social and technical (1958: 39–40). DP believed that these forces were becoming ascendant: This is a bare historical fact. To transmute that fact into a value, the first requisite is to have active faith in the historicity of that fact . . . The second requisite is social action . . . to push . . . consciously, deliberately, collectively, into the next historical phase. The value of Indian traditions lies in the ability of their conserving forces to put a brake on hasty passage. Adjustment is the end-product of the dialectical connection between the two. Meanwhile is tension. And tension is not merely interesting as a subject of research; if it leads up to a higher stage, it is also desirable. The higher stage is where personality is integrated through a planned, socially directed, collective endeavour for historically understood ends, which means . . . a socialist order. Tensions will not cease there. It is not the peace of the grave. Only alienation from nature, work and man will stop in the arduous course of such high and strenuous endeavours (1958: 76).

In view of this clear expression of faith (it is that, not a demonstration), it is not surprising that DP should have told Indian sociologists (in 1955) that their “first task” was the study of “social traditions” (1958: 232), and should have reminded them that traditions grow through conflict. It is in the context of this emphasis on tradition that his specific recommendation for the study of Mahatma Gandhi’s views on machines and technology, before going ahead with “large scale technological development” (1958: 225), was made. It was no small matter that from the Gandhian perspective, which stressed the values of wantlessness,

Chapter 09.indd 174

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

175

non-exploitation and non-possession, the very notions of economic development and underdevelopment could be questioned (1958: 206). But this was perhaps only a gesture (a response to a poser), for DP maintained that Gandhi had failed to indicate how to absorb “the new social forces which the West had released” (1958: 35); moreover, “the type of new society enveloped in the vulgarised notion of Rama-rajya was not only non-historical but anti-historical” (1958: 38). But he was also convinced that Gandhian insistence on traditional values might help to save India from the kind of evils (for example, scientism and consumerism) to which the West had fallen prey (1958: 227). The failure to clearly define the terms and rigorously examine the process of synthesis, already noted above, reappears here again and indeed repeatedly in DP’s work. The resultant “self-cancellation”, as Gupta (1977) puts it, “provided a certain honesty and a certain pathos to DP’s sociology”. In fact, he himself recognized this when he described his life to A. K. Saran as “a series of reluctances” (Saran 1962: 169). Saran concludes: DP “did not wish to face the dilemma entailed by a steadfast recognition of this truth”, that the three world views— Vedanta, Western liberalism, Marxism—which all beckoned to DP “do not mix”.11 One wonders what his autobiography would have been like.

VIII I hope to have shown in this necessarily brief presentation that, despite understandable differences in emphasis, there is on the whole a remarkable consistency in DP’s views on the nature of modernization. Not that consistency is always a virtue but that in this case it happens to be true. Genuine modernization, according to him, has to be distinguished from the spurious product and the clue lies in its historicity. The presentation of the argument is clear but it is not always thorough and complete, and may be attacked from more than one vantage point. Professor Saran (1965), for instance, has rightly pointed out that DP does not subject the socialist order itself to analysis and takes its benign character on trust, that he fails to realize that a technologyoriented society cannot easily be non-exploitative and not anti-man, that the traditional and the modern world-views are rooted in different conceptions of time, that traditional ideas cannot be activated by human effort alone, that given our choice of development goals we cannot

Chapter 09.indd 175

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

176

T.N. Madan

escape Westernization, and so forth. It seems to me that DP’s principal problem was that he let the obvious heuristic value of the dialectical approach overwhelm him and failed to probe deeply enough into both the requirements of theory building and of the examination of empirical reality. He fused the method and the datum. I do want to suggest, however, that DP’s approach has certain advantages as compared to the others that are current in modernization studies. An examination of modernization theories in general is outside the scope of this essay; I will therefore make only a rather sweeping generalization about them. They seem to me to fall into two very broad categories. There are, firstly, what we may call the “big bang” theories of modernization, according to which tradition and modernity are mutually exclusive, bipolar phenomena. This entails the further view that before one may change anything at all, one must change everything. The examples that come to mind are many, but Gunnar Myrdal’s Asian Drama (1968) is notable. This view is, however, unfashionable now, and to that extent sociology has moved forward. Secondly, there are what we may call the “steady state” theories of modernization, according to which modernization is a gradual, piecemeal process, involving compartmentalization of life and living; it is not through displacement but juxtaposition that modernization proceeds. Examples are too numerous to be listed here (but see Singer 1972 and Singh 1973). As a description of the empirical reality, the latter approach is perhaps adequate, but it creates a serious problem of understanding, for it in effect dispenses with all values except modernity; and modernity is defined only vaguely by reference to what has happened or is happening elsewhere—industrialization, bureaucratization, democratization, etc. By this latter view, one is committed to the completion of the agenda of modernization; and hence the boredom, the weariness and the frustration one sees signs of everywhere. The gap between the “modernized” and the “modernizing”, it is obvious, will never be closed. No wonder, then, that social scientists already speak of the infinite transition—an endless pause—in which traditional societies find themselves trapped. Moreover, both sociology and history teach us, if they teach us anything at all, that there always is a residue, that there always will be traditional and modern elements in the cultural life of a people, anywhere, anytime. The virtue of a dialectical approach such as DP advocated would seem to be that it reveals the spuriousness of some of the issues that the other approaches give rise to. At the same time, it may well be criticized

Chapter 09.indd 176

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

177

as an evasion of other basic issues. I might add, though, that it does provide us with a suggestive notion, one which we may call generative tradition, and also a framework for the evaluation of on-going processes. All this of course needs elaboration, but the present essay is not the place for such an undertaking. Suffice it to say, the notion of generative tradition involves a conception of ‘structural’ time more significantly than it does that of ‘chronological’ time. ‘Structural’ time implies, as many anthropologists have shown, a working out of the potentialities of an institution. Institutions have a duration in ‘real’ time, but this is the surface view; they also have a deeper duration which is not readily perceived because of the transformations they undergo.

IX To conclude: the task I set myself in this essay was to give an exploratory exposition of a selected aspect of D. P. Mukerji’s sociological writings, using as far as convenient his own words. I chose to organize some of the available materials around the theme of “tradition and modernity” because it occupied an important place in his work and also because it survives as a major concern of contemporary sociology. Taking DP’s work as a whole, one soon discovers that his concern with tradition and modernity, which became particularly salient during the nineteen forties and remained so until the end, was in fact a particular expression of a larger, and it would seem perennial, concern of Westernized Hindu intellectuals. This concern, manifested in a variety of ways, was with the so-called apologetic patterns of the Hindu renaissance (see Bharati 1970). Hence the urge for a synthesis of Vedanta, Western liberalism and Marxism. I have referred very briefly to DP’s fascination with the Marxist method as also his insistence that he was not a Marxist. This needs a deeper examination than I am competent to undertake. What is clear, however, is that DP should not be claimed to be on this or that side of the fence without actually demonstrating such a stance. In this regard, his overwhelming emphasis on synthesis needs to be examined. An equally important and difficult undertaking would be the elaboration and specification of DP’s conception of the content of tradition. Whereas he establishes, convincingly I think, the relevance of tradition to modernity at the level of principle, he does not spell out its empirical

Chapter 09.indd 177

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

178

T.N. Madan

content except in terms of general categories, such as those suggested by Giddings and already quoted above. One has the uncomfortable feeling that he himself operated more in terms of intuition and general knowledge than a deep study of the texts. A confrontation with tradition through fieldwork in the manner of the anthropologist, was, of course, ruled out by him, at least for himself. His tribute to G. S. Ghurye as the “only Indian sociologist today”, whilst others were “sociologists in India” (1955: 238), is to be understood in this light. Also required is an examination of the general indifference of Indian sociologists to DP’s plea for the study of tradition. Mukherjee (1965) has a suggestive first essay on this problem, but much more needs to be done. There is work to do for many of us.

Notes * This is a revised version of the first D. P. Mukerji Memorial Lecture delivered under the auspices of the D. P. Mukerji Memorial Lecture Endowment Committee at the Lucknow University on 25 February 1977. I am grateful to the Committee— particularly its Secretary, Professor V. B. Singh—for the honour they did me by asking me to give the Lecture. The spoken text was later published in the National Herald at the initiative of its editor, Shri M. Chalapathi Rau, who was a close friend of the late Professor Mukerji. I owe Shri Rau warm thanks for his thoughtfulness and courtesy. I was able to reread Professor Mukerji’s works in preparation for the Lecture during two quiet and rewarding months which I spent at the Australian National University as a Visiting Fellow in the middle of 1976. I am grateful to Professors Derek Freeman and Roger Keesing of the Anthropology Department, Director of the Research School of Pacific Studies Wang Gungwu, and Vice-Chancellor Anthony Low for their many acts of kindness. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. K. P. Gupta and Professors Ramkrishna Mukherjee, A. K. Saran and K. J. Shah for their comments on the earlier text. I have benefited from these. 1. As is well known, D. P. Mukerji wrote both in Bengali and in English, but I have read only his English works. In this essay I have drawn mainly on four of his five monographs and three of his four collections of essays. The excluded books are Problems of Indian Youth (1946), a collection of essays and addresses, and Introduction to Indian Music (1945). References to his works are by date alone; references to other sources are by author’s name and date. 2. See, for example, Srinivas and Panini (1973). This fairly long essay contains only two paragraphs about D. P. Mukerji (pp. 189–90), and nearly every statement in them is either factually incorrect or otherwise misleading. It is indeed surprising that the authors should suggest that DP “viewed the processes of change under British rule as similar to changes under earlier alien rulers” or that they should think that he changed his views about “synthesis” in his later writings. His concern for the cultural

Chapter 09.indd 178

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

179

“specificity” of India is misrepresented as an emphasis on “uniqueness”, and this after they have themselves drawn attention to the influence of Marxism on DP. 3. Cp. Eliot (1940), Two Choruses from the ‘Rock’: “Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?/ Where is the know ledge we have lost in information?” I would like to record here that the most lasting impression that DP made on me, as indeed on many other students of his, was of his luminous conviction that genuine scholarship was socially useful no less than personally satisfying, that the life of ideas was not for the contended and the lazy but only for the sceptical and the restless, and that the life of an intellectual was an honourable life and intellectuals were the very salt of the earth. Given the contemporary cynicism about and among intellectuals, DP’s faith needs reassertion. The rewards he sought were large, and so were the risks. I have often heard him criticized as a dilettante; I only wish these critics would go beyond DP and examine the costs of their own narrow concerns and the little underlying faiths. He himself would have asked for no more. 4. K. P. Gupta (1977) objects to such a formulation: I think it is undesirable to link the concepts of “social progress” and modernization . . . because it [the linkage] provides a convenient bridge to legitimize the shift from the universal concern with progress in all societies to the narrower and prejudicial concern solely with the Third World development. 5. I am reminded of R. G. Collingwood who wrote in his famous autobiography that good writers always write for their contemporaries (Collingwood 1970: 39). 6. As is well known, Marx owed this judgement about India to Hegel. 7. Ramkrishna Mukherjee writes in a personal communication (1977) that my analysis does justice neither to Marx’s views on Indian history nor to DP’s “basic adherence to the principles of Marxism”. 8. DP drew an interesting and significant contrast between Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Togore. He wrote (1972: 75–76): [Bankim] was a path-finder and a first class intellect that had absorbed the then current thought of England. His grounding in Indian thought was weak at first; when it was surer . . . [it] ended in his plea for a neo-Hindu resurgence. Like Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Bankim the artist remained a divided being. Tagore was more lucky. His saturation with Indian traditions was deeper, hence he could more easily assimilate a bigger dose of Western thought (emphasis added). 9. Marx, it will be recalled, had written (in 1853) of the “melancholy” and the “misery” of the Hindu arising out of the “loss of his old world” and his separation from “ancient traditions” (Marx and Engels 1959: 16). The task at hand was to make the vital currents flow. That this could be done by reestablishing meaningful links with the past would have been emphasized, however, only by an Indian such as DP. I suspect DP would have sympathized with Oakeshott’s assertion that the changes a tradition “undergoes are potential within it” (1962: 128), his fascination with Marxism notwithstanding.

Chapter 09.indd 179

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

180

T.N. Madan

10. Many contemporary thinkers have expressed similar views. See, e.g., the motto of this essay taken from Popper (1963: 122). Or Schneider (1974: 205): Social life is meaningful; new meanings are established with reference to old meanings and grow out of them and must be made, in some degree, congruent with them; and exchange, whenever and wherever it occurs, must be articulated with the existing system of meanings. Shils puts it somewhat differently (1975: 203–04): One of the major problems which confronts us in the analysis of tradition is the fusion of originality and traditionality. T. S. Eliot’s essay “Tradition and Individual Talent”, in The Sacred Wood, said very little more than that these two elements coexist and that originality works within the framework of traditionality. It adds and modifies, while accepting much. In any case, even though it rejects or disregards much of what it confronts in the particular sphere of its own creation, it accepts very much of what is inherited in the context of the creation. It takes its point of departure from the “given” and goes forward from there, correcting, improving, transforming. Cp. also Husserl’s relatively more complex notion Stiftung, that is foundation or establishment, which, as Merleau-Ponty has pointed out, helps us understand the rich and enduring character of cultural creations. Merleau-Ponty writes (1964: 59): It is thus that the world as soon as he has seen it, his first attempts at painting, and the whole past of painting all deliver up a tradition to the painter— that is, Husserl remarks, the power to forget origins and to give to the past not a survival, which is the hypothetical form of forgetfulness, but a new life, which is the noble form of memory. 11. It may be noted though that in his earlier writings DP had shown a greater wariness regarding the possibility of combining Marxism with Hindu tradition. Referring to the “forceful sanity” of the “exchange of rights and obligations” on which Hindu society was organized, he had written (1932: 136): . . . before Communism can be introduced, national memory will have to be smudged, and new habits acquired. There is practically nothing in the traditions on which the new habits of living under an impersonal class-control can take root (emphasis added).

References Bharati, Agehananda 1970. “The Hindu Renaissance and its Apologetic Patterns”. The Journal of Asian Studies 29: 267–87. Collingwood, R. G. 1970. An Autobiography. London: Oxford. Dumont, Louis 1967. “The Individual as an Impediment to Sociological Comparison and Indian History.” In: B. Singh and V. B. Singh eds., Social and Economic Change: Essays in Honour of Professor D. P. Mukerji. Bombay: Allied.

Chapter 09.indd 180

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji

181

Eliot, T. S. 1940. The Waste Land and Other Poems. London: Faber and Faber. Gupta, K. P. 1977. Personal Communication. Madan, T. N. 1974. “The Dialectic of Ethnic and National Boundaries in the Evolution of Bangladesh.” In: S. Navlakha, ed., Studies in Asian Social Development. New Delhi: Vikas. ——— 1977. “First D. P. Mukerji Memorial Lecture: The Dialectic of Tradition and Modernity.” National Herald (New Delhi and Lucknow). 10 and 17 April, 1977. Marx, Karl and F. Engels 1959. The First Indian War of Independence. Moscow: Foreign Publishers. Merleau-Ponty, M. 1964. Signs. Translated by R. C. McCleary. Evanston: NorthWestern University press. Mukerji, D. P. 1924. Personality and the Social Sciences. Calcutta: The Book Company. ——— 1932. Basic Concepts in Sociology. London: Kegan Paul. ——— 1945. On Indian History: A Study in Method. Bombay: Hind Kitabs. ——— 1945a. Introduction to Indian Music. Bombay: Hind Kitabs. ——— 1946. Views and Counterviews. Lucknow: Universal. ——— 1946a. Problems of Indian Youth. Bombay: Hind Kitabs. ——— 1948. Modern Indian Culture. Bombay: Hind Kitabs. ——— 1952. “Sociology in Independent India”. Sociological Bulletin 1(1): 13–27. ——— 1955. “Social Research.” In: K. M. Kapadia, ed., Professor Ghurye Felicitation Volume. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. ——— 1958. Diversities. New Delhi: People’s Publishing House. ——— 1972. Tagore, A Study. Calcutta: Manisha. Mukherjee, Ramkrishna 1965. “Role of Tradition in Social Change.” In: The Sociologist and Social Change in India. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall. ——— 1977. Personal communication. Myrdal, Gunnar 1968. Asian Drama, An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations. 3 vols. New York: Pantheon. Oakeshott, Michael 1962. Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays. London: Methuen. Popper, Karl R. 1963. Conjectures and Refutations. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Saran, A. K. 1959. “India.” In: J. S. Roucek, Contemporary Sociology. London: Peter Owen. ——— 1962. “D. P. Mukerji, an obituary.” Eastern Anthropologist 15(2): 167–69. ——— 1965. “The faith of a modern intellectual.” In: T. K. N. Unnithan et al., eds., Towards a Sociology of Culture in India. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall. Schneider, D. M. 1974. “Notes toward a Theory of Culture.” In: K. Basso and H. Selby, eds., Meaning in Anthropology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Shils, Edward 1975. “Tradition.” In: Centre and Periphery: Essays in Macrosociology. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Singer, Milton 1972. When a Great Tradition Modernizes. New York: Praeger. Singh, Yogendra 1973. Modernization of Indian Tradition. New Delhi: Thomson. Srinivas, M. N. and M. N. Panini 1973. “The Development of Sociology and Social Anthropology in India.” Sociological Bulletin 22(2): 179–215.

Chapter 09.indd 181

11/23/2013 3:40:55 AM

10 D.P. Mukerji 1894–1961: A Centenary Tribute T.N. Madan

I was trained to think in large terms. It made me look closely into details, but it made me search for the wood behind the trees. . . . I could not take anything but a synoptic view. Right from the start I had accepted the synthesis of the social sciences and it has followed me ever since. —D. P. Mukerji, Diversities

I

D

hurjati Prasad Mukerji was one of the founding fathers of sociology in India. His closest contemporaries were Benoy Kumar Sarkar (1887–1949), Radhakamal Mukerjee (1889–1968), G. S. Ghurye (1893–1983), and K. P. Chattopadhyay (1897–1963). He was born on 5 October 1894 in a middle-class Bengali family that had a fairly long tradition of intellectual pursuits. According to Satyen Bose, the famous physicist, when DP (the ‘name’ by which Mukerji became better known) passed the entrance examination of Calcutta University he, like Bose, wanted to study the sciences, but finally settled for economics, history, and political science. He took M.As in economics and history, and was to have proceeded to England for further studies, but the outbreak of the First World War precluded this. DP began his teaching career at Bangabasi College, Calcutta. He soon acquired a reputation as a brilliant young man of broad intellectual

Chapter 10.indd 182

10/19/2013 5:35:19 PM

D.P. MUKERJI 1894–1961: A Centenary Tribute

183

interests, artistic tastes, and social charm. It was then that he first cultivated sociology—an interest which his friends found rather bizarre. Sociology those days, DP used to tell us, was often mistaken for social reform, socialism, or sex a la Marie Slopes! This surely was different from the late 19th century when many Calcutta intellectuals honoured Auguste Comte at an annual festival. DP began to publish articles—the essay was to become his favoured medium of expression throughout his life—on such varied topics as ‘Democracy in industry’, ‘Break-up of capitalism into group economies’, and ‘Anti-intellectualism’. He wrote in both Bengali and English, and strove to cultivate a literary style. A studio portrait of him around this time shows DP seated in a large cane chair, dressed in a suit with a stiff shirt collar and tie. A felt hat rests on a small pile of books on the nearby desk. The facial expression already has that intensity with which I was to become familiar thirty years later. In 1922 D.P. Mukerji joined the newly founded Lucknow University as a lecturer in economics and sociology. He stayed there for thirtytwo years. Radhakamal Mukerjee, the first professor in the department, had been responsible for bringing DP to Lucknow. They both shared a broad, humanistic conception of the study and teaching of economics alongside sociology from a comparative perspective. Six  years later, Mukerjee got D. N. Majumdar, another promising Calcutta University graduate, and an M.A. in Anthropology, to join them and strengthen the comparative content of the courses. Apart from this broad perspective, Radhakamal Mukerjee and DP had little in common as intellectuals, and the differences widened as time passed. Mukerjee moved from ‘comparative economics’ to explore what he called its ‘borderlands’, notably, sociology, cultural anthropology, demography, ecology, and psychology. Eventually, he got interested in art, mysticism, religion, and symbolism. The Bengal Vaishnava heritage was a major influence in his life. DP too was an explorer, but what he explored was the possibility of a synthesis between the Brahmanical tradition of intellectual inquiry, Western liberal humanism, and dialectical materialism. At a lower level, he searched for the unity of knowledge amidst the fragments of the social sciences. There are two misconceptions about DP and I would like to comment on these. The first, and more common of these is that midway in his intellectual career he became a Marxist, but was never able to master the theory and method of Marxism. Second, he has been described as basically a Hindu intellectual, a conservative who was only superficially modern.

Chapter 10.indd 183

10/19/2013 5:35:19 PM

184T.N. Madan

Aware of the first characterization, but scornful of it, DP used to jestingly say that the most that he could be described as was a ‘Marxologist’! He had discovered Marx (and Hegel) fairly early, but at no stage was he an uncritical Marxist. His deepest interest was in the Marxian method rather than in any dogmas. In a short paper entitled ‘A word to Indian Marxists’, included in his Views and Counterviews (1946b: 166), he had warned that the ‘unhistorically minded’ young Marxist ran the risk of ending up as a ‘fascist’, and Marxism itself could ‘lose its effectiveness in a maze of slogans’. Nevertheless, it would not be misleading to say that DP did indeed embrace Marxism in various ways, ranging from a simple emphasis upon the economic factor in the making of culture to an elevation of practice to the status of a test of theory. It was a close but uncomfortable embrace. As for his being a Hindu, he was of course a Brahman by birth, and not apologetic about it. He retained a lifelong interest in classical Indian thought, which he considered essentially dynamic. ‘Charaiveti, charaiveti (forward, forward)!’, from the Aitareya Brahmana, was one of his favourite aphorisms. He rejected Brahmanical religious belief and ritual, however, quite early in life. Actually, he took a broadly Marxist view of religion as an epiphenomenon, but castigated Indian textbook Marxists for their failure to examine closely the reasons why religion was the social force that it apparently was in India. (As is well known, Marx himself had posed a similar question to Engels.) At the same time, DP rejected what he considered as Western fiction, namely, that the Indian mind was ‘preoccupied’ by religion. The Charvaka theses on states of consciousness being purely physical fascinated him. It could be that DP failed to squarely face the difficulties that his triple loyalty produced; his Brahmanical intellectualism, liberal humanism, and Marxist praxis did not mix readily. He was aware of this, and wrote to his most distinguished pupil, A. K. Saran, ‘My life has been a series of reluctances’ (1962: 169; see also Saran 1958, 1965). Being an intellectual meant two things to DP. First, discovering the sources and potentialities of social reality in the dialectic of tradition and modernity, and, second, developing an integrated personality through the pursuit of knowledge. Indian sociologists, in his opinion, suffered from a lack of interest in history and philosophy and in the dynamism and meaningfulness of social life. In his presidential address to the first Indian Sociological Conference (1955), he had complained: ‘As an Indian, I find it impossible to discover any life-meaning in the jungle of the so-called empirical social research monographs.’ Western

Chapter 10.indd 184

10/19/2013 5:35:19 PM

D.P. MUKERJI 1894–1961: A Centenary Tribute

185

sociological theory generally, and its Parsonian version in particular, did not satisfy him because of its overweening accent on the ‘individual’, or the ‘actor-situation’. Paying attention to specificities in a general framework of understanding was a first principle he derived from Marx. He developed this methodological point in an important essay on the Marxist method of historical interpretation (Mukerji 1945a). DP’s first book in English, Personality and the Social Sciences (1924), was described by him as ‘a personal document’ in the sense that it was written with ‘the sole purpose’ of clarifying his ‘attitude towards systematized knowledge of society and life in general’. It was followed by Basic Concepts in Sociology (1932), in which he discussed the notions of ‘progress’, ‘equality’, ‘social forces’, and ‘social control’. In this book he gave clear expression to his lack of ease with contemporary Western sociological theories which to him seemed heavily mechanistic and ethnocentric. DP emphasized the importance of comparative cultural perspectives and the historical situatedness of social reality. ‘It may be urged against the above point of view that every systematic body of knowledge assumes all these. But when we assume, we forget.’ He also stressed the role of reason, ‘which is most intimately related to better living as the Greeks realized and others forgot’ (Mukerji 1932: xvi). The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the formal proposal for the partition of the subcontinent in 1940, and the repression let loose by the Raj in the wake of the Quit India movement in 1942, were the dark clouds under whose shadow DP first composed and then elaborated his monograph, Modern Indian Culture (1942). A sense of failure pervades its pages, but the concluding observations in the second edition are marked, rather unconvincingly, by a mood of purpose and hope. Believing that the immediate problem of Indian culture was how to overcome communal hatred, he wrote: ‘The immediate danger is civil hatred. . . . Its form is likely to be Hindu or Muslim revivalism. But it can be met by a material programme in which the interests of the people, neither of the Hindus nor of the Muslims as such, coincide. In that creative pursuit lies the hope of remaking Indian culture, thus also of the reunion of India’s parts. Unity of the type created by British administration, cannot and should not survive. But union may, and should, come’ (Mukerji 1948: 216). The central thesis of the book was that the key to the history of India was cultural synthesis—creative responses to internal and external political and cultural challenges—and that the history of India was more than its past, notwithstanding the views of Hegel and Marx on the subject.

Chapter 10.indd 185

10/19/2013 5:35:19 PM

186T.N. Madan

‘India is a going concern’, DP used to reiterate in his lectures. He did not regard the disruptiveness of British rule as a permanent injury: it was only an interruption. He recognized that the Hindu-Muslim cultural synthesis was the weakest at the level of cognitive categories, but stressed shared economic interests, and applauded achievements in music, architecture, and literature. DP did not consider the partition of the subcontinent as more than an event in its geopolitics. The future, he was almost confident, would transcend the present in a true dialectical movement. Let not politics ruin our culture, he used to say. Between the two editions of Modern Indian Culture (1942, revised enlarged edition in 1948) two books and three collections of papers were published: Tagore, A Study (1943), Introduction to Indian Music (1945b), On Indian History: A Study in Method (1945a), Views and Counterviews (1946b), and Problems of Indian Youth (1946a). The Tagore study restates DP’s thesis about the importance of roots. Comparing Tagore with Bankimchandra Chatterji, he writes: ‘His [Tagore’s] saturation with Indian traditions was deeper; hence he could more easily assimilate a bigger dose of Western thought.’ And again: ‘The influence of the West upon Tagore was great . . . but it should not be exaggerated. . . . At each stage in the evolution of his prose, poetry, drama, music and of his personality we find Tagore drawing upon some basic reservoir of the soil, of the people, of the spirit, and emerging with a capacity for larger investment’ (Mukerji 1972: 50).

II D.P. Mukerji’s career as an intellectual included, most prominently, his contributions as a teacher. In fact, there would be general agreement among those who knew him personally (as students, colleagues, or friends), and who have also read his written work, that he had a much greater and abiding influence on others through the spoken rather than the written word. The freedom that the classroom, the coffee house, or the drawing room gave him to explore ideas and elicit immediate responses was naturally not available via the printed page. Moreover, the quality of his writing was uneven, and not all that he wrote could be expected to survive long. When I became his student, DP was already in his late fifties. Lean in build, intense in expression, and elegant in appearance (long-sleeved

Chapter 10.indd 186

10/19/2013 5:35:19 PM

D.P. MUKERJI 1894–1961: A Centenary Tribute

187

white cotton shirts, the tails tucked in, and white trousers in summer; suits or tweeds in the winter; dhoti-kurta, always, at home), he cut an elegant figure. He usually began his lecture on a formal note (he spoke very softly, at times in whispers), but would soon spice it with stories, fascinating asides, and witticisms. One could never be wholly sure what DP would speak about on a particular day—the topic addressed on the previous lecture-day, a book he had read since then (he literally devoured books, pencil in hand, at an incredible pace), a movie he had seen the previous evening, or a news item in the morning’s papers. There was a significant continuity, he seemed to want to tell us, between the classroom and the world outside. If one did not explore this relationship, one was a born loser, and unsuited to the scholarly life. DP took an interest in our political views, in the books we read and the music we heard (the Lata phenomenon had just begun and he did not approve), in the clothes we wore (it took him long to reconcile to the bush-shirt), and so on. His emphasis upon aesthetic values elevated them to the level of the ethical. The students who joined him in the quest for knowledge and for life’s meaning and significance became a personal concern to him, as scholars in-the-making and as human beings. He aroused their intellectual curiosity, guided their reading, stimulated their thinking, and watched over them with care and even affection. DP once told me that the best thing about being a teacher was to see young minds blossom. I discovered many years after his death that a well-known bookseller of Lucknow, Ram Advani, had offered to let me buy books on credit when I was still a student, because, as he told me, DP had suggested that he do so. I can recall many other similar acts of personal kindness. What matters more, perhaps, is that DP conveyed to his students that the life of scholarship and intellectual questing was a life of daring, and indeed a life very much worth living. He had himself been persuaded to step outside ‘the grove of Academe’, but had not found the experience particularly exhilarating. In 1938, he had been prevailed upon to become Director of Information to the government after the Congress had formed the ministry in Uttar Pradesh. He was reputed to have discharged his duties with rare ability and imagination. Among his noteworthy initiatives was the establishment of the Bureau of Economics and Statistics. He quit three years later, as soon as the Congress relinquished office, and returned to the university, happy to be back there. His only other involvement with the government was his membership of the Uttar Pradesh Labour Enquiry Committee in 1947.

Chapter 10.indd 187

10/19/2013 5:35:19 PM

188T.N. Madan

DP’s reputation as a teacher was not confined to the students of economics and sociology, but was generally acknowledged at the university level. His lectures on the history of economic and social thought, and on historical sociology (‘culture and civilization’), were particularly appreciated during my days of studentship. Outside the curricula, his talks and newspaper articles covered the graphic arts, music, cinema, literature, and politics. I remember two erudite lectures on the social foundations of epic poetry, and impromptu discussions of many new books (including Carr’s New Society, Hauser’s Social History of Art and Nirad Chaudhuri’s The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian), and films (such as ‘The Death of a Salesman’, ‘Snakepit’, and ‘Roshomon’). I also remember many articles in the National Herald ranging from a discussion of Nehru’s personality to a lament on state-organized cultural ‘shows’, and an appreciation of Faiyaz Khan’s gayaki (musical style). I have heard DP criticized for having been a dilettante, a non-serious amateur. I guess his dilettantism, if it is admitted, would have to be acknowledged as a love of the fine arts, and a thirst for knowledge that had range and purpose. It would take wide reading and a discriminating mind, notto mention the rare art of conversation, to make a dilettante of DP’s kind. About his conversations, his colleague, S. K. Narain (of the Department of English) described them in an obituary as ‘rich and varied and wise and scintillatingly brilliant’. After twenty odd years as a lecturer, DP was made a reader in 1945. Those days Indian universities followed the principle of a single professor in the department. In 1949, Acharya Narendra Deva, the vice-chancellor, broke with this tradition when he bestowed a personal professorship on DP—a gesture that was widely hailed in the university and amidst intellectuals in the city. Today’s university teachers will find it hard to believe that it was only when DP became a professor, at the age of 55, that he was allotted an office room to himself—‘life space!’ he called it in gentle glee. The writing desk in the room, he proudly said, had come as a gift from his devoted student, A. K. Saran, who was by then his colleague.

III The next six years (1949–55) saw DP at his peak in many ways. Although he did not write any more books, he produced a number of outstanding essays and addresses, including the prescient ‘Man and Plan

Chapter 10.indd 188

10/19/2013 5:35:19 PM

D.P. MUKERJI 1894–1961: A Centenary Tribute

189

in India’ (1953), and a remarkable presidential address at the first Indian Sociological Conference entitled ‘Indian Tradition and Social Change’ (1955). In the former article, published in Economic Weekly (DP was a vigorous promoter of this journal in its early years) and reproduced in Diversities (1958), he wrote at length and perceptively about what he considered the required philosophy of planning. ‘Two questions vex thinking men at the time of major social changes’, he observed: ‘What is the new society, and what is the new man?’ He wrote: ‘India’s social change, which is both a fact and an act, has not had the benefit of a clear or a systematic theory or design of new society behind it.’ Observing that ‘bigger things than knowledge’—in fact, ‘the life and death of a whole people’—are involved in planning, he warned: ‘The Plan is a beneficent social force, an endogenous one; but its implementation may make it maleficent’ (Mukerji 1958: 54). He complained of ‘bureaucratic inefficiency, corruption, and unimaginativeness’. He called for greater attention to be given to education and the teaching profession. Above all, DP called for the cultivation of a historical perspective. Planning, he pointed out, was based on Western conceptions of industrialization, technology, bureaucratization, and so on, and on the related values of rationalism. The onward push represented by planning was, however, only one wheel of the cart; the other was Indian traditions, which would put ‘a brake on hasty change’. The coexistence of planning and traditions was bound to generate tensions in society. His conclusion was: And tension is not merely interesting as a subject of research, if it leads up to a higher stage, it is also desirable. That higher stage is where personality is integrated through a planned, a socially directed, collective endeavour for historically understood ends, which means, as the author understands it, a socialist order (Mukerji: 1958: 76).

I referred to the Sociological Conference address. What was remarkable about it was the insistence of this committed socialist that ‘the study of Indian traditions’ was ‘the first and immediate duty of the Indian sociologist’, and it was only in the light of such study that ‘socialist interpretations of changes in the Indian traditions in terms of economic forces’ could be meaningfully attempted. Knowledge of Indian languages, if not of Sanskrit, he said, would be essential in Indianizing our sociologists. He complained that ‘progressive groups’ had ‘failed in the field of intellect, and hence also in economic and political action, chiefly on account of their ignorance and unrootedness in India’s social reality’ (ibid.: 240).

Chapter 10.indd 189

10/19/2013 5:35:19 PM

190T.N. Madan

When DP came to Dehra Dun for the Sociological Conference he had a new address: Department of Economics, Aligarh Muslim University  (AMU). After visits to the USSR in 1952 and to the Netherlands (as a visiting professor at the Institute of Social Sciences in the Hague in 1953), DP was due to retire from the Lucknow University in 1954. Zakir Hussain, Vice-Chancellor of AMU (and a trained economist), upon hearing this, invited him to AMU as professor of economics and to stay as long as he wished Intellectuals of DP’s calibre, Zakir Hussain was reported to have said, enrich the quality of intellectual and social life merely by their presence, for their presence never is a mere physical fact At Lucknow, DP’s long-time friend and admirer, M. Chalapathi Rau (editor of the National Herald ) bewailed that Lucknow was letting Aligarh ‘take away one of its glories’. DP’s inaugural address at AMU, entitled ‘An Economic Theory of India’ (1954) was marked by many characteristic observations (the phrase ‘undeveloped economy’ is unfortunate not because it is an ‘insult’, but because it can ‘mislead’, ‘no economic theory has yet grown out of our objective situation’, ‘economics is a cultural subject’, and so on), but it was obvious that he was out of tune with the times, which does not mean that his views were not sensible. His days as a professional economist were, however, long done. In 1956 DP’s persistent problem of a sore throat was diagnosed as cancer. He underwent major surgery in Switzerland which saved his life, but left him physically and mentally shattered. The skilled Zurich surgeon just saved his voice, but DP never again could talk long or loudly. For a man who relied heavily on the spoken word, this was a cruel blow. He continued at Aligarh for three more years, and then retired to live in Dehra Dun (where he had made his last major public appearance at the Sociological Conference in 1955) in the summers and in Calcutta in the winters, with occasional visits to Lucknow. It was in Lucknow that I last met him in the spring of 1961, at the home of his younger colleague and former student, V. B. Singh. The scene was familiar friends and colleagues sat out in the lawn in a circle to talk with him. He made me sit by his side so that I might hear him better (He knew I had a hearing problem). Everything was as it used to be, but he was not what he used to be. During 1957–58, DP had collected some of his major essays and addresses, including the three mentioned above, and published them in a volume appropriately called Diversities. It includes, among other papers, three lectures on the philosophy of Indian history delivered in Bombay in 1946, and a most insightful essay on Mahatma Gandhi’s

Chapter 10.indd 190

10/19/2013 5:35:19 PM

D.P. MUKERJI 1894–1961: A Centenary Tribute

191

views on machines and technology, written in 1953 at UNESCO’s invitation. DP’s last piece of writing was a short memoir of his colleague and friend, D. N. Majumdar, who had died suddenly in 1960. He prepared it at my request for inclusion in a memorial volume. He wrote me that the piece was shorter than he would have wished ‘You wanted me to do it. But it could not be long. As you know, I am too ill for all that’ (Mukerji 1961). Like everything else that DP ever wrote, this memoir too was in longhand, and he had such a fine handwriting. Exactly four months later, he died in Calcutta on 5 December 1961. As A. K. Saran (1962) noted in an obituary, DP died of physical exhaustion and intellectual loneliness. Today, thirty-three years after DP’s death, his published works are hardly known among the younger generation of sociologists. They are not a significant part of the teaching of sociology even at Lucknow University. His books are out of print and not readily available in libraries. Although several historical surveys mention him (see Mukherjee 1979; Singh 1986), I know of only a couple of serious attempts at appraisal (see Saran 1965; Mukherjee 1965; Joshi 1986). I spoke on ‘The Dialectic of Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D. P. Mukerji’, in the first of the memorial lectures instituted in his honour at the Lucknow University (see Madan 1977). The ranks of those who knew him personally are getting thinner by the year. The neglect of DP’s work is a comment more on the character of the academe in India than on the true worth of his contributions as a social analyst and critic, and as a superb teacher. Presumably, the considerable body of DP’s published work in Bengali (I understand it includes, notably, an early work on social distance, a volume of correspondence with Tagore about music and literature, and a fiction trilogy in which he introduced the stream of consciousness technique) has fared better. But I do not really know. What I do know is that there is no one among Indian sociologists today who can put us in mind of D. P. Mukerji. The times have changed, and, doubtless, we have moved forward too. I only wish there was fuller, better-informed, appreciation of what the founding fathers strove for and achieved. It is they who laid and illumined the paths that later generations of sociologists have trodden and, of course, extended

(This indeed is the blessing of instruction: one finds the path that leads onward) Rigveda X. 32. 7.

Chapter 10.indd 191

10/19/2013 5:35:20 PM

192T.N. Madan

References Joshi, P.C. 1986 ‘Founders of the Lucknow School and their Legacy Radhakamal Mukerjee and D. P. Mukerji Some Reflections’, Economic and Political Weekly, 21 (33) 1455–69. Madan, T.N. 1977 ‘The Dialectic of Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D. P. Mukerji’, Sociological Bulletin, 26 (2) 155–76. Reprinted in 1978 in Social Science Information, 17(6) 777–99. ——— 1994 Pathways Approaches to the Study of Society in India Delhi Oxford University Press. Mukerji, D. P. 1924 Personality and the Social Sciences Calcutta The Book Company. ——— 1932 Basic Comepts in Sociology London Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. ——— 1942 Modern Indian Culture Bombay Hind Kitabs 2nd revised, enlarged edition in 1948. ——— 1943 Tagore A Study Calcutta Manisha Reprinted with an introductory note by Satyen Bose in 1972. ——— 1945a On Indian History A Study in Method Bombay Hind Kitabs. ——— 1945b An Introduction to Indian Music Bombay Hind Kitabs. ——— 1946a Problems of Indian Youth Bombay Hind Kitabs. ——— 1946b Views and Counterviews Lucknow Universal. ——— 1953 ‘Man and Plan in India’ Economic Weekly Reproduced in 1958 in D. P. Mukerji, Diversities, pp 28–76 New Delhi Peoples Publishing House. ——— 1954 ‘An Economic Theory for India’ Inaugural Address, Ahgarh Muslim University Reproduced in D. P. Mukerji, Diversities, pp. 228–41 New Delhi Peoples Publishing House. ——— 1955 ‘Indian Tradition and Social Change’ Presidential Address to the First Indian Sociological Conference (Dehra Dun) Reproduced in D. P. Mukerji, Diversities New Delhi Peoples Publishing House. ——— 1958 Diversities New Delhi Peoples Publishing House. ——— 1961 ‘D. N. Majumdar Scholar and Friend’, in T N Madan and G Sarana (eds) Indian Anthropology Essays in Memory of D. N. Majumdar, pp. 8–10 Bombay Asia Mukherjee, Ramkrishna 1965 ‘Role of Tradition in Social Change’, in Ramkrishna Mukherjee, The Sociologist and Social Change in India Today, pp. 185–213 New Delhi Prentice-Hall. ——— 1979 Sociology of Indian Sociology Bombay Allied. Saran, A. K. 1958 ‘India’, in J. S. Roucek, (ed) Contemporary Sociology, pp. 122–35 New York Philosophical Library. ——— 1962 ‘D. P. Mukerji 1894–1961’, The Eastern Anthropologist, 15(2) 167–69 An obituary. ——— 1965 ‘The Faith of a Modern Intellectual’, in T. K. N. Unnithan et al (eds), Towards a Sociology of Culture in India, pp. 119–49 New Delhi Prentice-Hall. Singh, Yogendra 1986 Indian Sociology New Delhi Vistaar.

Chapter 10.indd 192

10/19/2013 5:35:20 PM

11 D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India Dalia Chakrabarti

D

hurjati Prasad Mukerji (1894–1961), one of the founding fathers of Indian sociology, spoke and wrote extensively on the Indian middle class. ‘DP’, as he was fondly called, found this class crucial for the remaking of Indian society and culture in a desired way. Being a very sensitive person, he was always deeply influenced by the social milieu around him. ‘In my view’, he wrote, ‘the thing changing is more real and objective than change per se’ (Mukerji 1958: 241). He witnessed the rise of fascism, World War II, intense nationalist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, the beginning of workers’ and peasants’ struggles in India, and the independence and partition of India. He wrote, ‘I strongly plead for the study of sociology at this crisis of humanity’ (Mukerji 1946: 10). A substantial part of his intellectual preoccupation included his understanding of the contradictions in the middle-class character and the inherent limitations of its designs and efforts. He had suggestions as to how this class could fulfil its social role. In his earlier works— Personality and the Social Sciences (1924) and Basic Concepts in Sociology (1932)—his concern was the intellectual life of the middle class. But, in later works—Modern Indian Culture: A Sociological Study (1942)— it was its politics that absorbed him. According to P.C. Joshi (1986: 1467), DP’s most valuable contribution in terms of approach to culture was his identification of the Indian middle class as the key to an

Chapter 11.indd 193

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

194

Dalia Chakrabarti

understanding of the modern Indian culture. For DP, this class was a product of the colonial economic policy, on the one hand, and social and educational policy, on the other. This non-productive (unlike the industrial bourgeoisie of the West) and non-commercial (unlike the traditional Indian bourgeoisie) class played significant roles in Indian history: (a) it contributed to the consolidation of the British rule, (b) it led a successful nationalist struggle against that very regime, (c) it launched a socialist struggle, (d) it brought about Partition of the country, and (e) it became the main force behind planned social change in postindependent India. A critical analysis of this class was a personal problem for DP, as to a certain extent he could identify himself with this English-educated section of the country. Thus, for him, the Weberian bureaucratic dichotomy between ‘personal’ and ‘public’ was not important. He lamented that the westernised modern secular individuals or vyaktis, that is, atomised beings failed to develop themselves into ‘persons’ or purushas, that is, those endowed with an integrated personality. For development of personality, a synthesis of the twin process of individualisation and socialisation of uniqueness of individual life was required. The exposure of the middle class to western bourgeois education and values made its members conscious individuals. However, its distance from Indian tradition, which, for DP, was essentially social in nature, not only made this class poor in terms of collectivistic orientation, but also cut it off from the majority of Indian population, who lived by tradition. DP believed that only a synthetic science like sociology could provide a corrective for these shortcomings. He perceived sociology in India as a comprehensive, truthful, life-centred, and integrated knowledge capable of playing a critical and reconstructive role under the leadership of traditionally anchored and adequately modernised middle-class intelligentsia.

The Origin of Middle Class DP’s understanding of the origin of middle class in India can only become meaningful in the backdrop of his conceptualisation of the traditional Indian society and culture. For him, the new middle class was an artificially generated category, not duly anchored in Indian tradition  and culture. The peculiarity of its origin prevented this class to become a true agent of progress in Indian society.

Chapter 11.indd 194

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

195

DP perceived Indian tradition as a social and historical process. Indian culture represented certain common traditions that had given rise to a number of general attitudes. The major influences in their shaping had been Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and western commerce and culture. It was through the assimilation and conflict of such varying forces that Indian culture became what it is today, neither Hindu nor Islamic, neither a replica of the western modes of living and thought nor a purely Asiatic product (Mukerji 1948: 1). Tradition might change due to internal or external pressures. External pressures were mostly economic in nature like changes in the mode of production. In India, such a change occurred only after British colonisation. He said, ‘. . . unless the economic force is extraordinarily strong . . . traditions survive by adjustments. The capacity for adjustment is the measure of the vitality of traditions’ (1958: 232). DP found Marx’s materialistic understanding of history useful to analyse Indian tradition and its changes. Thus, culture was understood with reference to the material conditions of life. Yet DP did not deny autonomy to culture. That, under conditions of economic retrogression, India produced a Tagore and a cultural renaissance was, for him, an affirmation of the principle that a people thwarted in the material sphere could assert their cultural creativity and rise to great heights in the non-material sphere (Joshi 1986: 1467). At the time of British arrival, which radically altered, in DP’s words, ‘the very basis of the Indian social economy’ (1948: 24), Hindus and Muslims had not yet achieved full synthesis of traditions at all levels of social existence. They agreed at the civilisational level, that is, regarding the use and control of natural resources, but at the cultural level, that is, regarding aesthetic and religious traditions, and more particularly, in the tertiary traditions of conceptual thought, the contradiction and antagonism continued. In this situation of arrested assimilation, the British moved in with their totally alien form of economy based on money and mechanical production. They destroyed indigenous merchant capital, trade and commerce, self-sufficient rural economy, and traditional panchayat. They introduced new land-settlement based on the concepts of private property and profit, generated physical and occupational mobility in a hitherto more or less static society, and imposed on Indians an educational system with English as the medium of instruction. The new land-revenue system produced the category of absentee landlords—the main pillar of strength of British in rural India. These landlords remained divorced from both agricultural productivity and responsibility towards

Chapter 11.indd 195

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

196

Dalia Chakrabarti

the villagers. Similarly, English education gave birth to a class, who would support the colonial masters and were psychologically and socially distant from the majority of Indians who did not know English. These two classes—the landlords and the literati formed the new middle class, who were absolutely alienated from the language and culture of people. They were different from the bourgeoisie of the West, as the industrial bourgeoisie in Europe arose out of its own feudal and commercial order (Mukerji 1942: 82). The British rule in India resulted in the liquidation of an established middle class (for example, the Sethis) and ‘the emergence of a spurious middle class’ (Mukerji 1948: 25). The rootlessness of the middle class made it a ‘counterfeit class’ and, therefore, its handiwork in the social domains of education, culture, and politics as well as economy was bound to be spurious in quality. It would be unrealistic, DP asserted, to expect that such an ‘elite’ would lead an independent India along the path of genuine modernisation.

The Activity Nineteenth Century Reformism The new middle-class, generated in the course of changes introduced in Indian society by the East India Company, in the first instance, and then by the British colonisers, became the main agent of modernisation in India. DP found that, in India, modernisation had been equated with westernisation, and that too not in its fullest form, but as mere Anglicisation (1958: 247). Indian intellectuals got the exposure to modern West only through English language. DP duly noted the new elite’s deep fascination for English language. Even when writing in the vernacular, they used to process their ideas first in English and translate them into their mother tongue. This indicated their split personality. It was another thing that this split personality was most suited to creative work (ibid.). Possibly, DP himself was a victim of it. This middle class, with all its characteristic contradictions, wanted to modernise Indian society, obviously following the western or, more specifically, the Victorian English model of development. It was heavily influenced by the western liberal notions of progress and equality. The values cherished in England—materialistic and secular values as against Indian spiritualism, individualism as against traditional Indian

Chapter 11.indd 196

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

197

collectivistic orientation, reason rather than faith, and utilitarianism or instrumentalism—were deliberately upheld. Its ideas of social progress were coterminous with the British rule in India, if only a little less rigid and a little more sympathetic in the matter of high appointments (Mukerji 1946: 48–50). DP did not question the intention of 19th century middle-class reformers. But the alienated intellectuals lacked an adequate understanding about the life of the people they wanted to change. So their almost romantic endeavour largely failed. The outcome of their missionary zeal to reform Indian people in conformity with Victorian ideas of progress was ‘a tension leading to a cleft culture and split personality’ (Mukerji 1958: 167). While acting as agents of change, they were under three major historical constraints: (i) the fact that economic and political power belonged to foreigners, (ii) the obduracy and resilience of tradition, and (iii) contradiction in their middle-class character. DP’s critique of reformers stemmed from the fact that he had a conception of progress very different from the western evolutionist notion, upheld by middle-class reformers. DP did not conceive progress as a natural phenomenon. He believed in ‘purpose’ in the life of human beings. Development, for him, was not the same as growth, but a broader process of unfolding of potentialities signifying development of personality. For him, the basic precondition for personality development was freedom, which, in turn, was the essence of progress. Personality was ‘free and spontaneous’ in the sense that it was ‘self-impelled, self-determined, and self-limited’ (Mukerji 1924: 38). Freedom could be understood in three senses: freedom from the constraint of time, from social interference, and from social control. Without mentioning explicitly, DP followed Marx and Hegel in this. For him, person had to be free from the necessity of remaining in social contact for every moment of his life. Hence, leisure was important, as it alone could conquer the tyranny of time. Obstacles to leisure, including the demands of a busy social life, were often mistaken for progress. These obstacles, DP maintained, should be removed for the development of inner personality of man. He cherished the Hindu philosophy for its insistence on free time for contemplation everyday. There was even a socially prescribed stage of life, namely, vanprastha, when human beings got retirement from their busy social life. In the traditional Hindu way of life, as prescribed in chaturashrama, individuals had to go through intense social life to ultimately reach a stage, when, through constant meditation, self-realisation would become possible.

Chapter 11.indd 197

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

198

Dalia Chakrabarti

The emphasis on Him was no negation of personality. The Him was a humanised divinity: ‘I am He, and He is myself ’, which, argued DP, ‘is the most aggressive assertion of Personality that can be imagined’ (1932: 145). Hence, the individual could develop his personality in and through society and then, at last, he might come out of it as an autonomous being. The personality that developed was not one of the ‘individual’ or ‘vyakti’ which was indicative of an ‘against’ relation with society, but that of the ‘person’ or ‘purusha’, ‘living in groups through stages of growth until one was to be so socialised that freedom would have become coterminous with existence and institutions turned into agencies of growth’ (Mukerji 1958: 229). Unlike the middle-class idea of progress in materialistic terms, DP believed that progress entailed balancing of values; so was modernisation (Mukerji 1932: 15). Values were essentially hierarchical in nature. So, there must be a quest for ultimate, fundamental values. He turned to Upanishads in search of the values like shantam, shivam, and advaitam, that is, values of peace, welfare, and unity. Shantam is the principle of harmony which sustains the universe amidst all its changes. Shivam is the principle of co-ordination in the social environment. And advaitam is the principle of unity which transcends diverse forms of state, behaviour, and conflicts, and permeates thought and action with ineffable joy (Mukerji 1924: 35). Progress, for him, entailed the development of personality through conscious realisation of these ultimate values. DP identified a few positive consequences of reformers’ attempts. They were successful in bringing about some changes in people’s attitude to life and to others. This was reflected in 19th century popular literature. Man, replacing god, became the central character in numerous literary works. Human relationships, even tension between husband and wife, problem of dowry, plight of social marginals like widows, pavementdwellers, and rickshaw-pullers, which hitherto remained totally outside the purview of any aesthetic pursuit, were, for the first time, brought into the forefront.

Nationalist Movement The next attempt to change India was initiated by the nationalists. It was again a middle-class pursuit. Initially pro-British in its attitude, the middle class felt being cheated by the British when it found that industry,

Chapter 11.indd 198

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

199

trade, and commerce, and even government employment went out of their hands. Hence, for DP, Indian nationalism was a by-product of frustration of the Indian middle class. Previously, this class looked down upon Indian tradition. Its vision was then coloured by the colonisers’ perception of Indian culture. Now it started glorifying it. DP critiqued the colonial tactics of making Indians preoccupied with their past and thereby diverting their attention from the real problems of social life they faced everyday under the colonial rule. Just like the liberal view of reformers, the whole idea of nationalism was western in origin. The Indian middle class converted it into a religion of politics to substitute the age-old samajdharma, but without developing the corresponding achars (normative practices), which alone could make it meaningful for the generality of the people (Mitra 1979: 251). DP complained that national movement had actually been anti-intellectual in nature. Not only had there been much unthinking borrowing from the West, there had also emerged a hiatus between theory and practice, as a result of which thinking had become impoverished and action ineffectual. As he was always concerned with intellectual and artistic creativity, DP concluded: ‘politics has ruined our culture’ (1958: 190). Nationalism entailed an idea of national unity. Nationalists tried to develop an artificial national all-India culture without giving honour to the specificity of various regional cultures. The traditional Indian philosophy focused on a spiritual universe. What was required, for DP, was a happy balance between the needs of regional cultures and those of the national culture. After all, DP argued, Indian culture was more a union than a unity; the higher levels of its unity could be reached through the union (not the fusion) of the distinctive cultures of nationalities in different regions. Just like the reformers, nationalists remained dissociated from the people. Nationalism was basically a middle-class ideal that was imposed on the common people. The Indian nationalists, though very often glorify Indian tradition, did not properly recognise its vitality to bring about change in people’s lives. Proof of the failure lay in the fact that, immediately after independence, there was gloom and despondency and the new state of India was facing the acute problem of nation-building. The problem of communalism appeared as a major obstacle. The immediate danger, DP said, was civil hatred. It might, he apprehended, take the form of Hindu or Muslim revivalism. DP identified a contradiction in the attitude of the nationalists. They were radical in politics but conservative and revivalist in social

Chapter 11.indd 199

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

200

Dalia Chakrabarti

thought and practice (Mukerji 1946: 52). The middle-class family structure still remained feudal and patriarchal in nature. Even caste considerations played a crucial role in their lives. Changes in the family life, status of women, village economy, caste system, etc. had no doubt occurred, but their pace was much slower than what the middle-class youth thought should be in the political domain. Thus, to DP, there was a ‘note of unreality into our nationalism’ (ibid.: 60). The nationalists ignored the fact that the depressed classes and the Muslims were the economic have-nots and the ‘social protestants in the history of Indian culture’ (ibid.: 63). His solution was that the new Indian state must undertake a material programme in which the interest of the Indian people, going beyond all their differences, should be given priority.

Socialist Movement Since the second decade of the 20th century, socialist movement of the Soviet variety started gaining ground. Here again, the leadership was provided by the middle class. By that time, the middle class was internally divided into the upper and the lower middle-class. The lower middle-class was worst hit by urban unemployment and rural chronic under-employment. Thus, a new category of educated unemployed persons was created. Frustration led them to embrace socialism to find out and establish an alternative form of society. They launched a kisanmazdoor (peasant-labour) movement and tried to link up India’s destiny with the world’s progressive forces. The first objective failed, as the rate of industrialisation in India, despite war, had been very slow. The latter attempt seemed to have fallen between two stools, the hatred for British imperialism and an uncritical appreciation of the Soviet achievements. The consequence of the latter was evident in the policy of exclusion of Communists from the Congress ranks and the campaign of their vilification. The Indian communists, DP appreciated, honestly sought to reach out to the exploited class of workers and peasants and tried hard to mobilise them on socialistic lines. They offered a new value system and a new image of society characterised by class inequality and class conflict. Compared to previous agents of change, they were more realistic in their approach, but the hiatus between them and the common people of India still remained. They made a mechanical and blind application of

Chapter 11.indd 200

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

201

Marxist principles on the Indian situation, totally disregarding its specificities. DP rightly commented that the Indian Marxists were universalistic in their orientation. He had no doubt that Indian communists were communists, but he questioned the authenticity of their Indian identity. They completely overlooked Indian tradition without enquiring into the logic of its operation and its hold over the masses. A lack of sense of reality of the communist youth came from an overweening optimism, a blind faith in the Soviet ideals and practices. In an overly hierarchical caste society, communism had a natural appeal, as it was outwardly rational and fair. But, if communism disturbed the traditional makeup of the Indian mind, as it wanted to do, it would be rejected as an impracticable and undesirable alternative (Mukerji 1924: 127). According to DP, India had always been ruled by samajdharma as revealed in the srutis and as perpetuated by the smritis. Caste panchayats, shrenis, pugas, samuhas, etc., had been the ultimate repository of power in India, the monarch being only the agent of samajdharma. Priests were the interpreters of dharma, and they slowly changed the tradition without offence. Thus, the fundamental unity achieved was socio-religious in character. The consequence of this socio-religious homogeneity of interest was the humanisation of social control. Hence, the situation in India was not favourable to the emergence of a system of social control like that in the West. A system of self-culture by direct realisation, with the assistance of a guru was the keynote of the Hindu culture of personality, which was different from the communistic culture of collective guidance by an impersonal authority. Following the traditional Indian principles samajdharma was ultimately to be subordinated to swadharma, without which the individual could not become a real king in his own kingdom (Mukerji 1932: 148). Hence, in DP’s words, ‘before communism is introduced, national memory will have to be smudged and new habits acquired’ (1924: 136).

Five-Year Planning Failing to realise its new interests, nationalist or socialist, the Indian middle class was driven by discontent and was staggered. It suffered from a new sense of guilt and impotence. But, instead of overcoming its latent ‘fear of the people’, it sought to ‘cover its shame in the loudness

Chapter 11.indd 201

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

202

Dalia Chakrabarti

of the arriviste’s assertion or by a cloying complacency’ (Mukerji 1948: 205). That marked the modern Indian culture till the British left India, handing over the state power and the administration to the middle class. The final wave of change began in this post-independence era with the initiation of Five-Year Planning. In 1953, DP wrote a paper on ‘Man and Plan in India’ (1958: 30–76). He noted that plans were formulated primarily by the middle class with the backing of state power behind them. To understand the nature of planning and its success or failure in bringing about change in Indian society one must examine the nature of the newly formed state of India. It was a democratic state with an objective to realise socialistic pattern of society through planning. But, ultimately, DP lamented, it remained a class state with some welfare measures for the toiling masses. Contradictions in the plans were very apparent. In the unformulated psychology of the plan, DP located the fact that the two sets of incentives— those relating to private enterprise and private profit and those relating to social good and welfare—were sometimes held to co-exist as in a mixed economy, to grow each on its own and supplement each other. At other times, it was expected that the incentives of private profit and property will be somehow transmuted into social profit, welfare, etc. This kind of confusion, DP believed, could be removed only by introducing a cultural perspective, a vision into the plan: a vision which informed people about the historical fact that capitalist era was over. The psychological counterpart of this vision was recognition of the historical fact that human nature might change and the plan had to be modified accordingly (ibid.). There was a disjunction between the vision (the ideology and values of Bahujan Hitay Bahujan Sukhah underlying the plan), on the one hand, and the institutional pattern, allowing free play to forces of acquisitive society, on the other. This disjunction was the source of deep inner crisis of the planning process and the cause of its incapacity to tap India’s cultural traditions of subordinating private gain to collective good. Plans did not provide the common Indian population with a clear-cut vision of the future Indian society. Thus, common people could not be motivated; hence, they did never feel enthusiastic about it. Sectional interest of the middle class was found crystallised in these plans, particularly in the first Five-Year Plan. DP noted that the text of the Plan did not signify an umbilical contact with the life of the people, and the resultant appreciation of the forces that move them, and the analysis of these forces,

Chapter 11.indd 202

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

203

both endogenous and exogenous, in the light of local actualities including traditions, institutions, myths, beliefs, ideas and symbols. . . . People’s will, desires, hopes and aspirations do not seem too well up through these pages; no analysis merges its cautious subtleties in the depths of historical understanding; no idea soars up the facts in its talons (ibid.: 53).

For DP, planning was not just a technocratic task, but a cultural one. He pointed out that planners were totally unlike the gurus of traditional India. They were the social and technical engineers, experts in various fields, and bureaucrats. DP located the problem of planning in the ‘warped, disrupted or fragmented personalities’ of planners, who were preoccupied with ‘fishing facts out of the stream of reality and sterilising them from possible contamination of values’ (ibid.: 67). Dissociated from the people, and with knowledge that was ‘separated from knowing’ and knowing that was ‘quarantined from living’, or what Marxists would call ‘action’, the middle-class planners were too alienated to make the Plans a success and build up a culture, which was a joint human endeavour, in which the individual, an anarchic being, could really become a ‘person’, the whole or the concrete. According to DP, planners were rich in secular knowledge, but poor in religious ethics and aesthetics. Their middle-class background explained their extremely westernised attitude. Values underlying Plans were the same alien western values of rationality, materialism, and utilitarianism. The main objective of the planning had been to develop a new kind of men who were rich in secular sense but deficient in spiritual power. Emphasis was laid on professionalism and development of a functional personality. Thus, the risk of dehumanisation was very much there. DP blamed the failure of our intellectuals to comprehend the whole process of personality development in terms of continuity and contradiction. In India, the common man was still a person, a whole, a more integrated and more humanly cultivated than the English educated, westernised individuals. Though neglected by the middle class, it was the values of Indian tradition, which had held the society together so far, in spite of the vicissitudes of political changes. The historicity of the Indian social system in this sense lay in the very continuity of its normative system, the traditions, the store of values or dharma that they held, maintained, and continued. Planners, according to DP, should adopt a holistic perspective and understand development in a comprehensive manner involving

Chapter 11.indd 203

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

204

Dalia Chakrabarti

organisation of commensurate values in tune with Indian tradition. DP lamented, ‘I have seen how our progressive groups have failed in the field of intellect, and hence also in economic and political action, chiefly on account of their ignorance of and un-rootedness in India’s social reality’ (1958: 240). Planners were experts, no doubt, but experts in highly specialised knowledge. Hence, they could not appreciate unity of knowledge that sociology could offer. For DP, sociological knowledge would be very useful while remaking Indian society and culture through intelligent adaptation to and assimilation of new forces in the light of reinterpreted past (1952: 13). DP, however, appreciated some principles adopted by the planners like gradualness of change, emphasis on science and technology, and advisability of mixed economy. But he was very much aware of the major hindrances in the process of implementation of plans like bureaucratic inefficiency, corruption, and unimaginativeness of Indians. By 1959, DP had completely lost his faith in the planning process.

Mode of Change Apart from being critical of the modernising ideal of the middle class, DP also pointed out the loopholes in the choice of its very modalities of modernising India. The middle-class individuals adopted an artificial exogenous mode. For this DP squarely blamed their inability to develop into persons or purushas. The relationship of purusha and society, free of the tension that characterised the relationship between the individual and the group, was, DP maintained, the key to understanding Indian society in terms of tradition (ibid.: 235). Indian tradition was not a static reality. It continuously assimilated diverse elements within its fold and then traditionalised all these. Initial conflict was culminated in accommodation of old and new. Synthesis had been the dominant organising principle and the Hindu, the Buddhist, and the Muslim had together shaped a world-view in which, according to DP, the fact of Being was of lasting significance. He referred to Upanishadic principle of charaiveti or keep-moving-forward to denote the changes in Indian tradition. There had developed an indifference to ‘the transient and the sensate’ and a preoccupation with the subordination of ‘the little self ’ to and ultimately its dissolution in ‘the Supreme Reality’ (Mukerji 1948: 2). DP called this world-view the mystical outlook.

Chapter 11.indd 204

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

205

According to DP, each culture had its own mechanism of change. Indian tradition had sruti, smriti, and anubhava as the typical mechanisms. Sruti implied listening, while smriti meant memorising. Anubhava was the personal experience or realisation of an individual, which gradually became collective experience or a feeling of larger number of people. These traditional indigenous means were never utilised by the Indian middle class. In the absence of ‘extraordinarily strong’ economic changes, ‘community’ in India had not yet decomposed totally into a ‘society’. The emerging class conflict was smothered and covered by caste-traditions, and the common man still lived in and through group-traditions, the samajdharma or sampradaya parampara. As majority of people lived by tradition, changes initiated by the middle class were never intimate to the people. As the middle class did not have confidence in tradition, they failed to gain the confidence of common Indians, whom they wanted to modernise. DP wanted the middle class to be de-alienated (not exactly following Marx’s prescription of it), so that they would be able to reach the common man. His prescription was ‘conscious adjustment to Indian traditions and symbols’ (ibid.: 215), for ‘culture can not be “made” from scratch’ (ibid.: 214). Unlike a revivalist, DP was strongly in favour of a concordance between the old and the new, between the Indian and the western. Genuine modernisation was not possible through imitation of West as proposed by the middle-class elite. DP was afraid of cultural imperialism. He appreciated Rammohan Roy and Rabindranath Tagore for their attempt to synthesise Indian and western traditions (Mukerji 1958: 33). DP’s characterisation of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Tagore was very interesting. For him Chatterjee absorbed the then current thought of England. Initially, Chatterjee’s grounding in Indian thought was weak and later Chatterjee favoured neo-Hindu resurgence. Like Michael Madhusudan Dutta, Chatterjee remained a divided being. Tagore, on the other hand, was more deeply involved with Indian tradition. Hence, Tagore could absorb West more (1972: 75–76). DP, T.N. Madan thinks, would have agreed with Michael Oakeshott that the principle of tradition ‘is a principle of continuity’ (2007: 281). DP perceived tradition as a facility for rather than an obstacle to modernisation. New values and institutions must have soil in which to take root and from which to imbibe character. Obviously there was a possibility of conflict between the old and the new. But conflict was merely the intermediate stage in the dialectical triad, which ultimately paved the way

Chapter 11.indd 205

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

206

Dalia Chakrabarti

towards a synthesis. Unlike Marx, DP did not believe in historical inevitability of synthesis of opposites. He said that a self-conscious choicemaking was necessary in this regard. Self-consciousness was the form of modernisation. Its content was composed of nationalism, democracy, utilisation of science and technology for controlling nature, planning for socio-economic development, cultivation of rationality, etc. Typical modern man, for him, was engineer—social and technical. Scholars like Karl Popper (1963: 122) and D.M. Schneider (1974: 205) also think that new meanings were established with reference to old meanings. DP even criticised Gandhi for his failure to indicate the ways of absorbing new social forces, which the West had released (Mukerji 1958: 35). He found Gandhi’s idea of Ramrajya a vulgarised notion. He maintained that it was not only non-historical, even anti-historical in nature (ibid.: 38). But he duly noted that Gandhian insistence on traditional values might help to save India from evils like scientism and consumerism to which West had fallen prey (ibid.: 227). DP called for social action to push on the dialectics of conservative forces of tradition and new forces of westernisation and asked the middle class to push it further consciously and collectively into the next higher stage of social development, where personality was integrated through planned, socially directed collective endeavour for historically understood ends, that is, a socialist order of society (ibid.: 76). He appreciated westernisation to the extent it led to the emergence of class consciousness, which would mark India’s emancipation from primordial loyalties of religion and caste (1948: 216). Madan (2007: 275) has criticised DP for remaining silent on class conflict. His optimism was the sanguine hope of an Indian liberal intellectual rather the fiery conviction of a Marxist revolutionary. In fact, class system did not displace caste system in India. They did not even coexist in compartments. They combined but did not fuse. DP preferred accommodation of various conflicting loyalties within the national framework. And many African and Asian states with pluralistic cultural pattern find this strategy both feasible and advantageous. Although class society was a major step forward, DP wanted India to move beyond it as the prospects of personality development were not equally distributed in a class society. Actually, he negated the merits of both the western type of social control by class and the typical Indian caste type control. A socialist society for him would ensure better

Chapter 11.indd 206

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

207

development of personalities of all members of society. In caste society there was excessive social control, whereas in class society emphasis was on individual at the cost of society. Ideally, in a socialist society, sociality would be highlighted. For DP, Indians would reach this stage again under the leadership of the middle class. Unlike the Marxist position, he categorically stated during the 1950s that leadership from proletariat and peasantry in India was not yet in sight. But this time he hoped that the middle-class leaders of socialist movement would realise the fact that remaking a society would be impossible without popular participation in the process of change. Hence, the middle-class leaders must be able to mobilise the common people. Their success would depend on their ability to de-alienate themselves, that is, to get over their overly westernised mindset and to get in touch with their cultural roots in Indian tradition. DP favoured development of creative civic sense. Controlling authority had to be vested in people who, instead of being interested in controlled development of others, would be interested in their own development in accordance with the principle of self-culture or swaraj to be swarat or kings of their own selves. Only creative civic sense gave rise to a feeling of disinterested love and fellowship among people. New society had to be built upon the premise of tradition. Tradition acted positively as a check upon the hasty process of westernisation in India. Hence, capitalism in India was still underdeveloped. And this backwardness of capitalist development would be of a great help to move towards a higher level, that is, the socialist level, which, unlike western culture, required the active participation of all, and stood, if rightly constructed, in the interest of development of personality of all. But DP never believed that socialist society was the final stage of progress. Unlike Marx’s emphasis on violent revolution, DP said that it might be resorted to in the last instance only, as the Indian temperament was more in tune with evolution. Through planned social change the stage of socialistic society could be reached.

Criticism and Defence A.K. Saran (1962) has criticised DP for his preference for socialist society as conducive to the development of personality and social progress in India. According to Saran, a totalitarian society was always antithetical

Chapter 11.indd 207

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

208

Dalia Chakrabarti

to the development of personality and a technology-oriented society was bound to be exploitative and anti-man in nature. DP himself acknowledged Saran’s suspicion. He wrote in 1932 that the idea of personality, as was cherished by Marx and Gorky, was not realised in Stalinist Russia. There was dominance of bureaucracy and party. He even criticised Marxists like Lenin, Bukharin, and Trotsky for making the ‘laws of dialectics’ behave like the ‘laws of karma’, that is, predetermining every fact, event, and human behaviour in its course, or else, they were held forth as a moral justification for what was commonly described as opportunism (Mukerji 1945: 18). But there was no logical antithesis between personality and socialism, particularly if socialism stood for reconstruction of a society of individuals functioning collectively in society and yet coming out of it as persons. Saran further criticised DP for his failure to harmonise Vedantic, western liberal, and Marxist principles. DP admitted it when he described his life to Saran as ‘a series of reluctances’ (Saran1962: 162). Actually, for DP, sociology in India should play an instrumental role in such unification. DP just talked about establishment of inter-linkage or union through which all three elements were harnessed together to make a new composite culture. He strongly hoped for Indian middle class to embrace such culture. The philosophical approach which DP wished to cultivate was that of rationalism. Reason, for DP, was a tool not only for understanding, but also to develop personality (Madan 1997: 171). Madan assumes that DP was under the influence of Hegel. It was evident in DP’s concern with reason and human dignity, his attitude towards past, his longing for preserving whatever was judged as valuable in it, and his fascination with dialectics. These might also be taken from Hindu Upanishadic tradition. Madan writes, ‘It would seem that what DP was most conscious of in his earlier writings was the need to establish links between traditional culture, of which he was a proud though critical inheritor, and modern liberal education, of which he was a critical though admiring product’ (Madan 2007: 272). He was attracted by the image of the future which the West held out to traditional societies, but, at the same time, he was attached to his own tradition, the basis of which was the Hindu heritage (ibid.). DP, Madan argues, did not specify how Vedantic principles and western notion of progress, traditional Indian culture and modern liberal education could be synthesised

Chapter 11.indd 208

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

209

by the middle-class leadership in India. DP evaded a closer examination of nature and validity of synthesis; its existence was assumed and self-validating. There were contradictions in DP’s ideas about the role of the middle class in Indian history. Once, he said that the exclusive role of the middle class was over, and they must join the common people now. But, in another context, he assigned them the vital role of an agent of social change. This was required, he maintained, due to the incapacity of Indian working-class and peasantry. But it was in absolute contradiction with the Marxist position on the role of the middle class in history. It also revealed how DP slipped into the fallacy of intellectuals. He himself being part of the middle-class intelligentsia could not deny it a crucial role in history. He was, to an extent, utopian as he conceived the possibility of camaraderie between the middle class and the common people. For this to happen, DP argued, middle class must acquire certain qualities of mind. First of all, they had to be ‘persons’, synthesising traditional sociality with modern individuality. They must combine (a) Brahmanic detachment or the detachment of an intellectual with a sense of poetic universalism, which he found in Tagore, and (b) pragmatic socialism, which would enable them to address the cause of socialist transformation philosophically. Abhijit Mitra (1979) ponders why DP was so interested in the development middle-class personality, which practically led him to the question of both social and sociological transformation of India. DP, like any middle-class intellectual, suffered from, in his own words, Hamletian alienation. To explain and to get over such alienation he came to sociology. In an autobiographical note he wrote, ‘. . . soon after I began to think for myself it was also borne in upon me that I  was an Indian, that I could not but be an Indian, that I could develop my personality only by understanding Indian culture’ (1958: 228–29). Sociology connected the root of the trouble to his membership in the Indian middle-class and his education in the anglicised culture and consequent dissociation from the people at large. Mitra (1979: 259–60) points out that DP, being an Indian, could not but have in-built sociality within his self. But his middle-class background stood in his way to reach out to the people. He solved this tension by associating himself intellectually with people, whom he considered to be more integrated and humanely cultivated than the English educated, westernised

Chapter 11.indd 209

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

210

Dalia Chakrabarti

middle-class. Furthermore, he did not commit the typical middle-class mistake of neglecting Indian tradition, which he studied in terms of both its continuity and change.

Conclusion My aim in this paper has been to point out the specificities of DP’s characterisation of the middle class in India. The task was not just to reiterate his points, but also to bring out its underlying possibilities. The uniqueness of his ideas become evident when we place it vis-à-vis other academic works on the Indian middle-class. The relative paucity of relevant literature on this issue indicates DP’s exceptional sense of history. Unlike his contemporaries, he realised the centrality of middle class in modern Indian society. André Béteille (2002: 7) notes that compared to what the Indian sociologists had published on caste, they had published very little on the middle class; yet they all belonged to that class. Satish Deshpande (2002: 128) offers an explanation for this: the middle class might have seemed an ‘unworthy’ or self-indulgent topic for a generation of social scientists drawn from this class, who believed that their mandate was to act on behalf of ‘the people’ who constituted the nation. DP’s idea of the middle class in 19th and 20th century India—its rootlessness, unproductive nature, sufferings under colonial hegemony, and incapacity to play a historical role to modernise society—has been reiterated by Partha Chatterjee: . . . in the specific context of nineteenth-century Bengal, the middle class was not a fundamental class in this sense, nor were its intellectuals organic to any fundamental project of social transformation or conquest of hegemony. The new middle class was a product of English education. But in an economy under direct colonial control, in which there was little prospect for the release of forces of industrialisation, the attempt to achieve through education what was denied to the economy was utterly anomalous (1992: 24).

B.B. Mishra’s 1961 classic study India’s Middle Classes: Their Growth in Modern Times (1961) was a significant work on the middle class in post-independence days. But the middle class has changed much since then. Béteille has identified the changes in the structural composition of  the middle class. At the time of independence the

Chapter 11.indd 210

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

211

distinction between the middle class and the class of manual workers was clear. It was not just an economic distinction, but a social one, too. The technological changes, rise in the level of literacy, expansion of education, and white-collar trade-unionism (Chakrabarti 2005) have considerably lessened the gap. During the last fifty years, many new castes, belonging to the middle or even the lower levels of the traditional hierarchy, have entered the middle class. Today, the Indian middle class is differentiated not only by caste, but also by income, education, and occupation (Béteille 2002: 6). Change from hierarchical inequality based on birth and patronage, to competitive inequality based on difference at the level of achievement in education, occupation, and income (ibid.: 24) makes the middle class a more socially variegated category. In the post-liberalisation public discourse on middle class there is a consensus on the points that urban middle-class is the site of commodity consumption and that it is the recipient of the benefits of liberalisation (Fernandes 2000). The middle class has been found to be associated in structural terms with the expanded ‘new economy’ service sector and professional workforces in the private sector. It has largely been portrayed in this debate as a sizeable market, that is, affluent consumers with ability to exercise choice through consumption as well as being a victim to the excesses of consumerism (Verma 1998). Interestingly, the push towards economic liberalisation has been conducive to the growth of a certain section of the middle class, just as earlier on the promotion of development planning, the public sector and the socialistic pattern of society had been conducive to the growth of a somewhat different section of it (Béteille 2002: 18). DP traced the origin of the process of differentiation among the middle class. The benefits of colonial policies had been accumulated at upper level of Indian middle class, dominated primarily by educated upper caste landed gentry. The lower middle class, by the early decades of 20th century, virtually had no other assets apart from their university degrees to survive in the colonial economy. The shrinking of the employment prospect of educated Indians in the government offices completely sealed their future. Frustrated young men embraced the socialist ideal to fight against the oppression and inequality. DP’s focus was not much on the structure of the middle class but on its function as an agent of modernisation. Hence, Deshpande’s work, which provided us with a critical evaluation of the changing

Chapter 11.indd 211

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

212

Dalia Chakrabarti

historical role played by the middle class in India could be taken as a reference point. Referring to Gramsci, Deshpande (2003: 143–44) argues that the main function of the middle class was to build hegemony. The elite fraction of middle class specialised in production of ideologies while its mass fraction was engaged in the exemplary consumption of ideologies, thus investing them with social legitimacy. For him, the Indian middle class during colonial times launched and managed the nationalist revival. In the post-independence period it continued the same nationalist project by managing the developmental process on behalf of the nation. Much like DP’s understanding of the Five-Year Planning, Deshpande maintains that development was perceived in the Nehruvian era as primarily a scientific-technical process over which middle-class professional experts would preside. It was a top-down version of development without any scope for any active role for the people. Centrality of the middle class in Indian development was also ensured by the fact that the state-led model of development gave primacy to the bureaucracy—an exclusive preserve of this class. This situation prevailed till the late 1960s. Decline of the ideology of development was, for Deshpande, related to the increasing differentiation within the middle class. For the most influential and powerful elite fraction of this class, the nation was no longer the canvas for their dreams and aspirations. The emergence of sub-national loyalties as well as the lure of the transnational identities made such changes possible. New ideologies of ‘adjustment’ and globalisation’ replaced the ideology of national development. It was primarily the middle class, particularly its upper managerial-professional segment, who actually reaped the benefits of globalisation. The opportunism of middle class was revealed by the fact that having consolidated its social, economic, and political standing on the basis of the developmental state, this group was ready to kick it away as the ladder it no longer needed (ibid.: 150). DP appreciated, though with qualification, the dynamism of middle class in its many attempts to reconstruct Indian society. Some contemporary works on middle class also tend to glorify its economic dynamism. Gurcharan Das’s India Unbound celebrates ‘the rise of a confident new middle class’ (Das 2000: 280). Das insists that the new middle class was no ‘greedier’ than the old one, and the ‘chief difference is that there is less hypocrisy and more self-confidence’ (ibid.: 290).

Chapter 11.indd 212

10/19/2013 5:42:37 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

213

But some scholars criticise the moral deficiency of the middle class. Pavan Verma (1998: 89) condemns this class for its selfish materialism and the ‘retreat from idealism’ that was manifest in the smaller, ‘traditional middle class’ of the earlier, post-independent period. He writes at length on the declining social responsibility of the Indian middle class and its gradual abdication of a broader ethical and moral responsibility to the poor and to the nation as a whole. This class, he laments, now openly throws away the ideal of Gandhi, Nehru, and the freedom movement, which projected an image of refinement associated with a restraint on materialistic exhibitionism in a poor country (ibid.: 40). A somewhat similar attitude was traced by DP in the beliefs and practices of the early generations of the new middle-class in India. It imbibed western capitalistic values from its colonial masters and started considering everything Indian or traditional as backward, and hence to be wiped out to move ahead in the path of progress. In this journey, it would allow the poor, illiterate Indian masses only on the condition of their ability to get over their traditional temperament. This typical middle-class intellectual ego to set terms for others’ development was apparent even in DP’s effort to suggest ways of reconstructing Indian society and assigning the middle class a leadership role in it. But DP, unlike others, had the rare ability to make a self-critique. He firmly maintained that, if the middle-class intelligentsia truly intended to remake Indian society, it had to intellectually relate itself with the people whom it wants to change. Béteille argues, ‘Everything or nearly everything that is written about the Indian middle class is written by middle class Indians [who] tend to oscillate between self-recrimination and self-congratulations’ (2003: 185). Deshpande and Verma are good examples of the former, while Das could be taken as representing the latter. DP, a firm believer of synthetic sociology, successfully integrated both the extremes in his theorisation. Unlike his contemporaries, he took up the challenge to criticise the middle class. For him, it was virtually a form of self-critique. But, interestingly, his was not an outright critique. Unlike Verma and Deshpande, whose criticisms of middle class revealed unilateral denunciation of this class, DP sympathised with them. His sense of history compelled him not to forget the constraints the middle class faced. He believed that middle class did whatever it could do. His criticality was not entirely a negative exercise. He was constantly looking for

Chapter 11.indd 213

10/19/2013 5:42:38 PM

214

Dalia Chakrabarti

potentialities in the Indian middle class, which he conceived as the primary agent of social change in India. Viewed in this context, his sincere call for relating the middle class with the people at large was a unique proposition of his time.

Acknowledgement I express my gratitude to Professor Abhijit Mitra who taught me DP in my undergraduate years. His intellectually stimulating and passionate expositions had deep imprint on my mind. I thank Professor Prasanta Ray with whom I discussed various intricacies of DP’s thoughts. Professors Krityapriyo Ghosh and Rabindranath Basu shared with me their ideas as well as rare collection of Bengali works of and on DP.

References Béteille, André. 2002. ‘Hierarchical and competitive inequality’, Sociological bulletin, 51 (1): 3–27. ———. 2003. ‘Hierarchical and competitive inequality’, in André Béteille: Equality and universality: Essays in social and political theory (181–203). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Chakrabarti, Dalia. 2005. Colonial clerks: A social history of deprivation and domination. Calcutta: K.P. Bagchi. Chatterjee, Partha. 1992. ‘A religion of urban domesticity: Sri Ramakrishna and the Calcutta middle class’, in Partha Chatterjee and Gyanendra Pandey (eds.): Subaltern studies VII: Writings on South Asian history and society (40–68). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Das, Gurcharan. 2000. India unbound. New Delhi: Viking. Deshpande, Satish. 2003. Contemporary India: A sociological view. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Fernandes, Leela. 2000. ‘Restructuring the new middle class in liberalising India’, Comparative studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 20 (1): 88–104. Joshi, P.C. 1986. ‘Founders of the Lucknow School and their legacy: Radhakamal Mukherjee and D.P. Mukerji—Some reflections’, Economic and political weekly, 21 (33): 1455–69. Madan, T.N. 1997. ‘Tradition and modernity in the sociology of D.P. Mukerji’, in Abha Avasthi (ed.): Social and cultural diversities (167–92). Jaipur: Rawat Publications. ———. 2007. ‘Search for synthesis: The sociology of D.P. Mukerji’, in Patricia Uberoi, Nandini Sundar and Satish Deshpande (eds.): Anthropology in the east: Founders of Indian sociology and anthropology (256–89). Ranikhet: Permanent Black.

Chapter 11.indd 214

10/19/2013 5:42:38 PM

D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India

215

Mishra, B.B. 1961. The Indian middle classes: Their growth in modern times. London: Oxford University Press. Mitra, Abhijit. 1979. ‘Dhurjati Prasad Mukerji: From the problem of personality to the plane of sociology’, in Amal Kumar Mukhopadhyay (ed.): The Bengali intellectual tradition: From Rammohun to Dhirendranath Sen (235–63). Calcutta: K.P. Bagchi. Mukerji, D.P. 1924. Personality and the social sciences. Calcutta: The Book Company. ———. 1932. Basic concepts in sociology. London: Kegan Paul. ———. 1942/1979. Sociology of Indian culture (2nd edition). Jaipur: Rawat Publications. ———. 1945 Problems of Indian youth. Bombay: Hind Kitabs. ———. 1946. On Indian history. Bombay: Hind Kitabs. ———. 1946. Views and counterviews. Lucknow: Universal. ———. 1948/1942. Modern Indian culture: A sociological study (2nd edition). Bombay: Hind Kitabs (reprinted as Indian culture: A sociological study, New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2002). ———. 1958. Diversities. New Delhi: People’s Publishing House. ———. 1972. Tagore: A study. Calcutta: Manisha. Popper, Karl R. 1963. Conjectures and refutations. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Saran, A.K. 1962. ‘D.P. Mukerji: An obituary’, Eastern athropologist, 15 (2): 167–69. Schneider, D.M. 1976. ‘Notes toward a theory of culture’, in K. Basso and H. Selby (eds.): Meaning in anthropology (197–220). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Verma, Pavan. 1998. The great Indian middle class. New Delhi: Viking.

Chapter 11.indd 215

10/19/2013 5:42:38 PM

12 On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’ Sujata Patel

T

he posthumous publication of M.N. Srinivas’s Collected essays* is an opportunity to debate his understanding of Indian society as well as his sociology. Srinivas played a major role in the institutionalisation of the profession. He began publishing his ideas regarding the nature of Indian society soon after independence. He was also instrumental in organising the discipline in two departments, those of Baroda and Delhi. Additionally, Srinivas was a public intellectual—from his Baroda days, he took active role in the public domain, wrote in newspapers and popular magazines, and simultaneously developed a point of view regarding the interface of sociologists with public life in which he continued to be active as an educationist and critical commentator. It is no wonder that his ideas, concepts and theories on Indian society have found concurrence among his contemporaries and also came to have popular acceptance. Generations of students have understood and still continue to understand and assess the nature of Indian society through his perceptions. This book contains forty-two essays, organised in eight parts, encompassing almost all aspects of Srinivas’s work and is, in many ways, representative of the discipline as it was practiced in India in the 1960s and the 1970s, the period when Srinivas’s oeuvre came to be institutionalised as Indian sociology. The book starts with essays that deal with facets of village life drawn from ethnographic material on Rampura, and moves on to those that deal with caste, and then to issues of gender, religion and social change in India. The book also incorporates essays that explore the nature of the discipline and its method, together with

Chapter 12.indd 216

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’

217

some autographical essays. It includes an introduction by A.M. Shah, his student and colleague of many years. Certainly, for the student studying the history of sociology in India, this is a veritable treasure trove. It is impossible to do justice to all aspects of Srinivas’s work. Here I will concentrate on his views regarding the discipline and his ideas regarding content and methods with a view to debate these and thereby assess how these frame his ideas regarding Indian society.

Sociology and Social Anthropology Srinivas contends that sociology in India is and should be social anthropology. What does this imply? At an apparent level, there are no differences between the two disciplines. The questions asked by Srinivas are questions that both disciplines have answered. For instance, Srinivas’s concerns relate to classical questions of sociology: What is contemporary society, in this case Indian society? How does one characterise it? His answers are focused on the future in the same way classical socio­ logists such as Max Weber or Emile Durkheim and other European sociologists conceived of change from the old to the new. Like them, he is interested in capturing the defining characteristic of the past as it reformulates itself in the future, as is explicated in his book Social change in modern India (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1966). Additionally, it is not the choice of methods that distinguishes the two disciplines. If Srinivas believed that the fieldwork methods are the most superior, European sociologists have used varying methods to understand the transition from pre modern-to-modern societies, for example, Marxist ‘historical materialism’ as against Durkheim’s ‘positivism’ or Weber’s ‘ideal types’. Then, are there no differences between the two disciplines? Is sociology the same as social anthropology? This is not so as we know. Although there are differences among sociologists as to what constitutes the distinctive characteristic of the sociological tradition, most would agree that there are three characteristics defining this discipline. The first is a substantive theory of modernity together with an understanding of the process of modernisation. The second is a concern with methods and methodologies. Today, this aspect of the discipline is understood in terms of a concern for reflexivity, and various contemporary sociologists have

Chapter 12.indd 217

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

218

Sujata Patel

distinct frameworks on this concept and perspective. The third aspect characteristic of the discipline relates to an assessment of the pre-modern. Most sociologists theorise the per-modern in order to understand the modern. This was especially true of all classical sociologists. Thus, sociologists in Europe, whatever their theoretical differences, distinguished between the feudal and capitalist or Gemeinschaft-Gesselschaft or mechanical and organic solidarities. On the other hand, social anthro­ pologists studied pre-literate and pre-modern societies, either in terms of culture or structures. What is Srinivas’s choice? Srinivas takes an unequivocal position on behalf of social anthropology. Many of his early essays delineating this point of view form part of this volume. And, within social anthropology, he opts for the perspective put into place by Bronislaw Malinowski and A.R. Radcliffe-Brown. In an essay written in 1952 for the Sociological bulletin, he declares: (a) modern sociologist regards a society as a system of unity the various parts of which are related to each other. He considers that any single aspect of society abstracted from its matrix of sociological reality, is unintelligible except in relation to the other aspects. And even when he is writing only about a single aspect of a society like religion or law or morals, he brings to bear on his study his knowledge of the total society (p. 460).

In Srinivas, we do not have a two-stage model of structural transformation, that of transition from pre-modern to modern. Rather, Srinivas discusses only one structure, that of the caste system which seems to encompass both stages. Secondly, in his work we do not have a theory of modernity. Instead, we have a theory of social change based on mobility of groups in society, perceived in terms of the two processes of sanskritisation and westernisation. Srinivas, it is clear, collapses sociology into social anthropology, and shows his bias for the traditions associated with social anthropology. When we assess the substantive answers he gives to the questions mentioned above, we realise that Srinivas is not interfacing the two disciplines; rather he is arguing that sociology should be defined as social anthropology. In his work, we do not see a merging of the two disciplines, rather a formal collapse of sociology into social anthropology. In so doing, Srinivas was following the footsteps laid down much earlier by his first supervisor, G.S. Ghurye. Though Ghurye was the Head

Chapter 12.indd 218

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’

219

of the Department of Sociology in the University of Bombay, the discipline was steeped in anthropological traditions that emphasised the Orientalist perspective. Srinivas’s later training with the British school of social anthropology only helped to legitimise this orientation towards anthropology. However, his own theoretical proclivities made him also distance himself from Ghurye’s Orientalist perspective. It is no wonder, thus, Srinivas states that in order to understand society in India there is a need for social anthropology to distinguish itself from its contemporary Indian variants such as physical anthropology and ethnology. The collapse of sociology into social anthropology, I would suggest, has implications on Srinivas’s sociology. This can be seen in his discussions of the caste system, especially in his work on Rampura (see infra). The system emerges as a timeless structure fashioned by the past. Yet, Srinivas was clearly interested in understanding and assessing the changes occurring in modern India. This can be seen in various essays, such as ‘The Caste System and Its Future’, ‘Some Reflections on Dowry’, ‘On Living in a Revolution’, ‘Nation Building in Independent India’, ‘Science Technology and Rural Development in India’, and in some of his autobiographical essays, especially, ‘Practicing Social Anthropology in India’ (all published in this volume) These essays point to his interest in the process of modernisation. To this effect, he discusses the way the caste system is changing and argues that the contemporary political process has created the context of the radical reorganisation of the caste system and possibly its demise. For example, he argues, . . . with the emergence of large castes competing with one another to secure secular benefits, the weakening of purity-impurity ideas, and the ideological rejection of hierarchy, both in the Constitution and by huge sections of the population, all point to systemic change. As caste as a system begins to break down, individual castes are likely to continue as they secure a variety of benefits for members in addition to giving them a sense of identity. As India becomes more urban and heterogeneity becomes the norm, ethnic-including caste-identities are likely to assume much greater importance (p. 684).

Is there, thus, a theory of modernisation that Srinivas is articulating? Though not spelt out clearly, the distinction between sanskritisation and westernisation is in one sense a distinction between two kinds of mobility in different periods—pre-modern and modern. He attests that in contemporary India sanskritisation continues to be practiced together with westernisation. It seems post facto that Srinivas does not make a

Chapter 12.indd 219

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

220

Sujata Patel

sharp distinction between pre-modern and modern, and that he is, in fact, arguing for a theory of incremental change, rather than that of change with breaks, as do sociologists. It is because he considers this kind of change ‘civilisational’ in character that his sociology leans on anthropology (and some kind of Orientalism), that his oeuvre cannot distinguish between the two stages of structure. What is the implication of this for Srinivas’s assessment of the caste system and his ideas on India? In what follows, I discuss two aspects of his work—the first relates to his reading of caste in a village, Rampura, and the second his assessment of contemporary India and the role played by modern processes.

The Caste System in the Village: The Merging of the Social and the Spatial Srinivas’s analysis of the structure of caste is best seen in a discussion of it in Rampura, the village, which became ‘his’ village. In a series of papers describing this village, Srinivas discusses the caste system by dividing the population by occupation. It is only after that he sees its link with agriculture, and analyses the practices of various castes, in connection to their occupation. The idea here is to show the organic integration of each caste with others and the way these relate with each other, in a functional perspective elaborated by Radcliffe-Brown. The system is shown to have flexibility because of the integration of the parts in the whole. What is caste? To answer this question, we have to assess one of Srinivas’s earlier essays on caste. As early as in 1954, Srinivas published the now classical essay entitled ‘Varna and Caste’ (also in this volume). In this essay, he initiates a discussion on the nature of the caste system in India. Clearly, his emphasis on jati comes out of methodological proclivity for the field view. If hierarchy—this volume contains his critique of Louis Dumont’s position—does not define caste, then what does? His answer is jati. Second, he suggests that caste is best understood by focusing not only on the middle ranks, but also in the context of internal ranking of each jati in relation to others. Because there is ambiguity of rank and status, it becomes the precondition of mobility. It is in this context that he coins a new concept—that of ‘dominant caste’, the peasant caste which dominates the village.

Chapter 12.indd 220

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’

221

How does one understand the caste system in the village? There seems to be an ambiguity in Srinivas’s work regarding the relationship between caste and village. Firstly it is not clear what is the system, village or caste? One presumes that he is discussing the caste system as the structure defining Indian society. However, the village is also seen as a system. For instance, in the essay ‘The Social System of the Mysore Village’, both the title and the introductory lines suggest this theme: ‘Rampura is a village of many castes, yet it is also a well-defined structural entity’ (2000: 40) Again, in another essay, he attests that the traditional caste system ‘cannot be disentangled . . . as it operates in the village’ (p. 237). Does this mean that the caste system is equivalent to the village system? This ambiguity is reflected in the way castes are understood in the village and the way the village is assessed in context to the castes. What kind of village system do we obtain from the ethnography of Rampura? Srinivas discusses the structures of the castes and shows how these interact in the village. He asserts that, while the traditional structure of the caste system is resilient, it is also adapting itself to new changes, that being inaugurated through the economy and the polity. In his ethnography, he describes these changes. The market is creating new opportunities, new techniques are being introduced, oil mills set up, new bus routes started, and new businesses being initiated. Srinivas applauds these changes and yet when he is examining these he is freezing them in the village. Why? Why is it that there is no description of the way the market links the villages to the towns and cities and to the nation? The nation is organised in terms of the state. Why is the state absent when he discusses the panchayat? More specially, why is the social reduced to the spatial? Is there an unconscious equation of spatial and social units, that of village and caste with the nation-state and nation? Does this linkage make in Srinivas’s sociology the village a ‘microsam’ of the ‘macrosam’, India? What are the implications when socialities and territory are reduced to each other? What kind of sociology is constructed when a slice of contemporary is frozen? Does it then lend itself to an interpretation as if it is the past rather than the present? The concept of village in India, as in other parts of the world, which were colonised, has a specific history in terms of its colonial origins. The concept was constructed and legitimised in the context of a need to use definable spatial areas for administrative control. In the colonial mind,

Chapter 12.indd 221

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

222

Sujata Patel

space was integral to power. The Orientalist ideology constructed the Asiatic village system as the cornerstone of the East. Henceforth village and village-level collection of information and knowledge became a mode of understanding the East and its institutions. However, this knowledge was not merely for the archives. It was meant to construct a policy of rule and ultimately to create, a bipolar constellation of power and authority, the state and the village. By the nineteenth century, the village in India had become burdened with many meanings: it was an archaic and primary nucleus of Indian society; it had a large degree of political-administrative autonomy; despite paying taxes to various revenue collectors; an economic self-sufficiency; subsistence agriculture, low technology crafts and services; a sense of timelessness of lifestyles; and immobility of people; accompanied by their ideological integration to land. The language of the village remained part of the nationalised ideology. However, in the context of the need to frame a national identity it was reconfirmed now as the repository of the civilisational ideas of the Indian nation. Empirical research, when it started in the early decades of the twentieth century, attempted to reinforce the position. The attitude was further bolstered by the practical need of ethnographers to find a place to stay and a place to study. In the process, the village became the locale of study, a way to do ‘good’ ethnography, a place, which is called ‘my village’. Space became coterminous with social life, paradoxically in a context when colonial policies and capitalist relations had opened up the so-called relative insularity of villages. It is ironic that, though conceptually Srinivas did not agree with the position that the village was a self-sufficient and isolated unit, the emphasis on the village as a unit of ethnographic study made his paradigmatic principles contradict his avowed intentions. The village acquires in Srinivas’s oeuvre a spatial, territorial and structural significance. A localised setting became representative of a whole nation, a whole society. Such a position refracts any attempts to locate the varied networks that bind the village(s) to regions, the country and the global system. If we enlarge our imaginative boundaries to incorporate these networks, it will become apparent that our concerns will then shift to those three networks, labour, capital and communication, which inter-cross and interconnect the villages in the global system, changing thereby the entire set of principles which make the frame of reference for sociological theory.

Chapter 12.indd 222

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’

223

If social processes and external social forces are ignored by the collapse of the social to the spatial, then this collapse also makes possible an exclusion of groups and communities within the nation-state whose culture and practices cannot be explained by the caste system, or the dual system of ‘varna’ and ‘jati’, as Srinivas understood it. Tribes, religious and ethnic groups (other than caste), as well as the emerging interest groups that did not conform to the caste principles in their ways of living and functioning did not figure in his work. The issue is not only of conservatism of this approach, but the larger question of exclusion of a large number of groups that constitute the sociological space. And, surely, this should become a question that all sociologists need to assess about their own work? What kind of sociological spaces become distilled when we use spatial categories? Alternatively, what kind of spatial categories need we use so that these can incorporate all the socialities that we are discussing?

Ethnographical Imagination and Assessing Social Change in Modern India From the late 1960s onwards, Srinivas seems to have moved away from understanding social structure in terms of village. As mentioned above, his commentaries now have a wider canvas and focus on changes occurring in the nation and nation-state. Although the focal point remains the caste system, he is increasingly looking at those aspects of the caste system that are moulding themselves to external and internal changes. As mentioned above, critical to his understanding of caste system is the mobility structures prevalent during the pre-British period and the postBritish period, and then extended into the post-independence period (for instance, the essay ‘Mobility in the Caste System’). Here he highlights the role played by economic changes brought by the British (for example, the missionary activities, the start of educational institutions, economic opportunities such as the transport and communication, growth of industries and towns, and new system of law and order). He also highlights the political changes inaugurated after the organisation of caste associations and their conversion to movements such as backward class movements. All these trends have intensified since independence and changed the nature of the caste system. It is interesting that the index on which he defines social change in India and on which rests his theory of the caste system is that of mobility.

Chapter 12.indd 223

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

224

Sujata Patel

While examining mobility in modern India, Srinivas highlights the continuous adaptive character of the system and its ability to adjust to new processes emerging through nation building and state interventions. Many of the essays in this volume allude to the way politics has intervened to change the caste system and led to the growth of backward caste movements all over the country. He argues that government policy has now created three strata: the forward caste, the backward classes, and the scheduled caste and tribes (‘The Caste System and Its Future’). These strata are increasingly competing with each other as they try to get a share in the existing resources available in the country. Thus, the caste system of today contrasts sharply with that of the earlier versions of the system, which respected different occupation and ways of living. These changes make caste adaptive to new influences, modify and moderate its characteristics, but do not lead it to transform or completely vanish. In Srinivas’s work, the structure of Indian society determined by caste emerges as a kind of adjustment mechanism that expands and fits into any changes and which envelops every external influence within its auspices. These perceptions, I would argue, are possible only because of Srinivas’s commitment to doing ethnography. Without his emphasis on doing ethnographical work and continuously interpreting and reinterpreting social processes, it would have been difficult for Srinivas to perceive and comment on these changes. It is even possible to argue that a commitment to ethnography seems to dominate his oeuvre over other aspects including the theoretical principles associated with social anthropology and this helps in making his work contemporary. This can be seen not only from the above examples on his assessment of the caste system, but also his understanding of gender. For instance, late in his career, Srinivas became aware of the way gender exploitation was connected to the caste system, and this volume incorporates three essays on gender. From the late 1970s onwards he started writing on gender. His two essays in this volume—‘The Changing Position of Indian Women’ and ‘Some Reflections on Dowry’—bring out an interesting shift in Srinivas’ theoretical position. In the first essay, he essentially locates women within the village, within the Hindu religion-moral mould of the family. Their ritual functions are elaborated and their position never leaves the confines of space and hierarchy. Change occurs in terms of education and ‘career consciousness’. However, while writing on dowry he suddenly becomes sensitive

Chapter 12.indd 224

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’

225

to the inequalities, to the ‘status asymmetry’ and the perpetual dependence of women that form the basis of such a ‘vile institution’ as dowry. The way to overcome this system was, according to Srinivas, not just strengthening legislations but starting a wide social movement that shakes the mantle of an unjust structure. This points very significantly to Srinivas’ empirical sensitivity and highlights the way it helps him to reformulate his earlier formulations and transcend them. No wonder, Srinivas is insistent that an insider best sees the assessment of these structures, their parts and interconnections rather than an outsider. According to Srinivas, an insider is more privileged in understanding his own society. Arguing against Edmund Leach’s contention that anthropologists studying their own society ‘do not do it well’, he contends that it is the opposite. For one, the sociologist studying his own society, is well versed with its language (that is an immense edge), culture that he has experienced all along; and, in the Indian context, the diversity makes this whole insider-outsider question an issue of degree than of kind. One is never completely an outsider in India or completely an insider. Against Leach’s opinion that initial pre-conceptions of the insider prejudice research, Srinivas contends that such a handicap may be transcended by way of being a well-trained, sensitive anthropologist. Srinivas states that [in] participant observation, the anthropologist has to go much further than the mere collection of information and its analysis, difficult enough though these tasks are. He has to try and see the world from the point of view of the people he is studying. This requires a gift of empathy, the ability to place oneself in the shoes of others much in the same way a novelist is able to place himself in the shoes of his characters and view events and situations from their diverse points of views. [. . .] Ideally, the anthropologist should be able to empathise with the Brahmin and the untouchable, with the landowner and the landless labourer, and with the moneylender and his debtors (p. 583).

Did Srinivas empathise with these people? Is his sociology the sociology of the people who do not have power or prestige or wealth? The emphasis given to those in the middle rank and their mobility upward, together with insignificance towards hierarchy, have made many commentators comment on the conservatism in Srinivas’s analysis. Obviously, the field view of sociology is his major contribution to Indian sociology. However, this field view has been constrained by his

Chapter 12.indd 225

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

226

Sujata Patel

theoretical perspective. Certainly, this viewpoint helps him to reorganise his own work and move towards asking sociological questions, and it also gave a generation of students a gateway to move out of earlier ideological bearings of Indology. What kind of ethnography does one get through such an approach? This issue relates to the way ethnography was related to the functionalist paradigm and framed in the context of the principles of the liberal ideology of the nineteenth century. This ideology argued that state and market, politics and economics were analytically separate and largely self-contained domains each with a separate logic. Epistemically, it made a distinction between subject and object and suggested that the subject, the philosopher and the scientist, should distinguish himself from the object that he observed. Functionalism, by distinguishing the subject from the object, by not ever accepting that the object is the creation of the subject, also emphasised the fact that ethnography so constructed merely mirrors the subject’s ideology and advocates research that can become empiricist. What we see in Srinivas is a simple model of social change, a model that perceives social change as dependent on changes in the economy and polity. There is no recognition that the consequences may become causes for the initiation of new processes or that a combination of events and processes may trigger off conflicts which can in turn organise socialities in distinct and different ways. Surely, the problem is also with the way ethnography is practiced uncritically? Today ethnography has acknowledged the power dimension in the relationship between the insider and the outsider and the politics in the construction of knowledge. A lack of criticality can derail any good ethnographical inquiry. What is the implication of this for sociology? Not only do we seem to lose a sense of history, but also, with it, an analysis of colonialism as a force and process of destruction, of capitalism as a generator of change that distributes rewards unequally, and of development and planning as a process of elite-organised ideology of refashioning society. At the end of this brilliant ethnography we remain empty handed for we do not obtain any concepts or theory that can evaluate and understand the contemporary processes of change and conflict in society. In order to have this repertoire we have to accept that change, especially in the epoch of the world system, is exogenous, market-oriented and one which distributes rewards unequally and thereby constructs localities and regions, classes and ethnic groups in unequal relation with each other.

Chapter 12.indd 226

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’

227

Such a process does not accept spatially created boundaries of social investigation. Rather, it demands that social scientists study the processes as they are being reconstructed and through this process organise the frame of ethnographic investigation. The publication of Srinivas’s Collected essays allows us to reflect on some of assumptions and theories that frame sociology in India.

Note * M.N. Srinivas: Collected essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002, xx + 733pp., Rs 830 (hb). ISBN 019565174X

Chapter 12.indd 227

10/19/2013 5:46:28 PM

13 The Sociology of Hinduism: Reading ‘Backwards’ from Srinivas to Weber T.N. Madan

Do not stay in the field! Nor climb out of sight. The best view of the world Is from a medium height. —Nietzsche: The Gay Science

M.N. Srinivas: Some Reminiscences

M

ay I begin with a few reminiscences by way of a personal tribute to Professor M.N. Srinivas (1916–1999)? I first saw and heard him half a century ago, late in 1954. He was then professor of sociology at the M.S. University of Baroda, and had come to Lucknow, where his reputation as the acclaimed author of Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India (1952) had preceded him. He had come, it was said, to consider the possibility of becoming the director of UP government’s newly established institute of rural analysis. Professor D.N. Majumdar invited him to speak in the Department of Anthropology at the University. An interdepartmental group of teachers and students had gathered to hear him, as had been announced, talk on fieldwork.

Chapter 13.indd 228

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

229

Srinivas made a strong plea for empiricism in the social sciences and for the method of ‘participant observation’ in anthropological research. Successful fieldwork, he maintained, required total commitment, even the holding in abeyance of family and personal obligations. Incidentally, Srinivas, who was 38, was still a bachelor. All this was of course music to the ears of Majumdar, who was himself an indefatigable and exemplary fieldworker. The discussion that followed produced some excitement when A.K. Saran, a sociology lecturer respected for his scholarship, accused Srinivas of being a positivist and cavalier to deductive reasoning as a mode of knowing in social research. While the evidence of the senses may not be ignored, he argued, it necessarily is limited. Observation could at best reveal patterns of behaviour; it would not unveil their significance.1 It was clear from Srinivas’s terse response that he considered Saran’s objections an exercise in obfuscation. If empiricists might have been compared to polytheists and deductivists to monotheists, we were the audience at an inconclusive theological debate: neither Srinivas nor Saran yielded any ground! The incident was remembered on the campus for quite some time. And Srinivas, with his pipe and beret and formal style, left behind him the image of a soft-spoken and rather reserved professor. A few months later Srinivas was again in Lucknow as an examiner at the University. Also there at the same time were the avuncular A. Aiyappan from the Government Museum of Madras and the debonair S.C. Dube of Osmania University. Dube’s Indian Village (1955) had just arrived in the bookstores. Although the Aiyappan—Majumdar generation was still in command, Srinivas and Dube were in our eyes the new exemplars pointing to new ways of doing anthropology and sociology. Now, Srinivas wanted to buy a pillow for his return train journey to Baroda (his servant had forgotten to pack one in his bedroll), and Majumdar asked me to be his shopping escort. This then was my opportunity. Hopeful that he may have seen my enthusiastic review of his Coorg book in The Eastern Anthropologist, but apprehensive that he may have found it insignificant, I waited for him to say something about it; he didn’t! But he listened to me attentively when I talked to him about my plans for doctoral research involving fieldwork among my own people, the Kashmiri Pandits, and was quite supportive. Later that year, 1955, I wrote him asking if he would write a letter of recommendation supporting my application for the award of a research scholarship at the Australian National University. I enclosed

Chapter 13.indd 229

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

230

T.N. Madan

a copy of the review of McKim Marriott’s Village India (1955) that I had written and solicited his advice. To my very pleasant surprise, he responded soon, agreeing to write the letter of recommendation, and also commented on my review at considerable length. From then on, I remained in continuous contact with Srinivas until the very end. In 1959, he was one of the examiners of my PhD dissertation. I visited him in his office at the Delhi School of Economics, where he had moved recently, for my viva voce examination, which he conducted with solicitude and meticulous care, writing down my answers to the queries of the other two examiners in London and Sydney respectively. His own questions were more in the nature of advice for revision for publication. And he asked me to come home for dinner. I knew I had made it! Six years later, he strongly supported my move from Karnatak University to the Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi. As the years passed by, I came to respect Srinivas deeply for his seriousness as a scholar and for his unfailing courtesy, charm and wit as a human being. I am sure some people in this audience still remember his gifts as a raconteur. His stories about such diverse topics as the zest for life of Punjabi immigrants in England and the eccentricities of Professor G.S. Ghurye are fresh in my memory! In 1999, the last year of his life, I met Srinivas twice. He invited me to speak on religious fundamentalism at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bangalore, where he held the J.R.D. Tata Visiting Chair. Soon afterwards, he came to Delhi to give the inaugural silver jubilee lecture of the Delhi School of Economics. He told me of his plans to organise an international conference on religion and society at NIAS the following year with the focus on the imperative need to avoid confusion between religion as such and the political abuse of religion. There was a dangerous slippage, he said, from the legitimate disapproval of religious fanaticism to an uncritically negative attitude towards religious faith. He wanted me to participate in the conference. Alas, he died before the year was out. The quiet manner of his going was characteristic of Srinivas’s style of life. When Director Roddam Narasimha invited me to deliver the first M.N. Srinivas Memorial Lecture at NIAS in January 2001, I spoke on the persistence of religion in the modern world in fulfilment of the promise, as it were, I had given Srinivas to participate in his conference

Chapter 13.indd 230

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

231

(Madan 2001). And now, when the Indian Sociological Society has honoured me by naming me as this year’s M.N. Srinivas Memorial Lecturer, I have decided, once again, to engage with the theme of the relationship of religion and society, this time in the specific context of the sociology of Hinduism. I will highlight some of Srinivas’s own seminal contributions and then move backwards, as it were, to revisit the classic study of Hinduism by Max Weber (1864–1920). A comparison of the two approaches is, I am convinced, worthwhile both for its methodological interest and substantive results. I can only touch upon a few points; a fuller discussion is precluded by lack of time.

Is a Sociology of Hinduism Possible? To begin, I would like to briefly address two objections to the project of a sociology of Hinduism. Hinduism, it is said, is not a religion, for it does not have a founder, or a single foundational scripture, or a set of fundamentals of belief and practice. A notion of the supernatural is not central to it, and the idea of moral law that may be considered a substitute is highly relativistic. These and other similar doubts have been around for a long time. Srinivas himself acknowledged them, and wrote about the ‘amorphousness’ and ‘complexity’ of Hinduism and the difficulty of defining it (1952, 1958; Srinivas and Shah 1968). All this did not, however, deter him from writing about it. Weber considered reverence for the Vedas and belief in the sacredness of the cow defining features of Hinduism (1958: 27), but he too noted the virtual lack of dogma in Hinduism (ibid.: 21) and the fact that the term itself was a recent western coinage (ibid.: 4). He observed: ‘Hinduism ‘simply is not a “religion” in our [Christian?] sense of the word. What the Occidental conceives as “religion” is closer to the Hindu concept of sampradaya’ (ibid.: 23). He paid no further attention to the issue. Whether Hinduism is a religion or not, and whether religion itself is a meaningful cross-cultural category, it would be pointless to deny that Hinduism is a cultural tradition and thus a legitimate subject for study. But some historians have objected that Hinduism is not an old tradition, that it is only a nineteenth century fabrication of Christian missionaries, Orientalists, builders of the colonial archive, and would-be

Chapter 13.indd 231

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

232

T.N. Madan

makers of an Indian nationalism. ‘What has survived over the centuries’, Romila Thapar writes, ‘is not a single monolithic religion but a diversity of sects which we today have put under a uniform name’ (1997: 56). This is, I am afraid, questionable. There are other historians who have documented the continuities as well as the discontinuities between the early religion of the Vedas and the later religion of the Smritis, Shastras, Puranas and the Epics. They have also drawn attention to the ‘family resemblance’ among the regional traditions of myth and ritual to come to the conclusion that, whatever may have been the earlier connotations of the Persian-Arabic term ‘Hindu’, by the medieval times it certainly identified most of the known peoples of India by their religious beliefs and practices (see, for example, Lorenzen 1999 and Michaels 2005). For this, we have the testimony of the great traveller-scholar Alberuni, who came to India with Mahmud Ghaznavi and composed his famous work, Tarikh-ul Hind, around 1030 AD after living in India as a participant observer for a dozen years. Beginning with the Hindu conception of God, his wide-ranging ethnography covers, among other topics, sacred texts, mythology, metaphysics, ritual, custom, law and the sciences to distinguish and even contrast the Hindus as a sociocultural and religious category from the Muslims. He sarcastically notes the Hindus’ willingness to argue with words in defence of their religion but not die for it as apparently every good Muslim would.2 I will mention only a few other witnesses. In the middle of the fourteenth century, the chronicler Abd al-Malik Isami categorised the people of the Deccan as Hindus and Muslims in his account of the victories of the sultans. In the north, the Shaiva mystic Lalla of the Kashmir Valley, however, called upon the thoughtful and the wise to abandon the distinction between Hindu and Muslim as followers of different faiths, and recognise the in-dwelling Divinity in all human beings. By the sixteenth century, the religious connotation of the terms Hindu and Muslim was well established, for instance, in the vernacular literature of eastern, northern, central and western India. In the seventeenth century, Shivaji spoke of his sacrifices for the Hindu dharma. And so on, until we read about ‘Hinduism’ early in the nineteenth century. Ram Mohun Roy was perhaps the first Indian to use it, in 1816 (see King 1999: 100). The roots of the authentic (as against the degenerate) ‘Hindooism’ lay, he argued, in the Vedanta. He regretted that the ‘ancient religion had been disregarded by the moderns’ (see Kopf 1979: 13).

Chapter 13.indd 232

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

233

Srinivas on the ‘Spread’ of Hinduism and ‘Sanskritisation’ In short, the recognition of the diversities of belief and custom among self-acknowledged Hindus on a regional or local basis—the proverbial trees of ethnographic description—does not require us to deny the existence of a more than a millennium-old, evolving subcontinental religious heritage—the sociological wood. An insightful way of doing this was provided by Srinivas in the Coorg book. In a summing up towards its end, he recalls his use of the concept of ‘spread’ throughout the book, categorising Hinduism for heuristic purposes as ‘All-India’, ‘Peninsular’, ‘Regional’, and ‘Local’. ‘All-India Hinduism’, he writes, ‘is Hinduism with an all-India spread, and this is chiefly Sanskritic in character’. After drawing attention to the step-by-step change of scale, Srinivas continues: ‘In a very broad sense it is true that as the area of spread decreases, the number of ritual and cultural forms shared in common increases. Conversely, as the area increases, the common forms decrease’ (1952: 213–14). That is, they do not disappear completely. The sceptical historians will perhaps fault Srinivas for making the methodological error of category assumption, illicitly smuggling in a fictional Hinduism into his analytical framework. The charge will not stick, for he provides ethnographic ballast for his framework by pointing out that the different levels of Hinduism are not hermetically sealed, but the stages of a two-way social process characteristic of the caste-based social structure of South Asia. While the Sanskritic (or Brahmanical) Hinduism, the one with the all-India spread, had shown a remarkable capacity for absorbing local cultural elements, ‘local’ Hinduisms too have borrowed from the Sanskritic reservoir of belief and practice. This latter process has had its roots deep in history with significant consequences; Srinivas famously called it ‘Sanskritisation’. He wrote: The caste system is far from a rigid system in which the position of each caste is fixed for all time. Movement has always been possible, and especially so in the middle regions of the hierarchy. A low caste was able, in a generation or two, to rise to a higher position in the hierarchy by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism, and by Sanskritising its ritual and pantheon. In short, it took over, as far as possible, the customs, rites, and beliefs of the Brahmins, and the adoption of the Brahmanic way of life by a low caste seems to have been frequent, though theoretically forbidden (ibid.: 30).

Chapter 13.indd 233

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

234

T.N. Madan

The extreme caution that marks this initial formulation of the notion of Sanskritisation is noteworthy. It generated an enormous body of ethnographic work—more perhaps than any other theoretical construct in the history of the sociology of India—and was in the process refined by Srinivas himself and by others in the mid-1950s. Notable among these were McKim Marriott (1955), who used the terms ‘universalisation’ and ‘parochialisation’ for the two-way process; Fred Bailey (1958), who introduced the important notion of limits, showing how those below the barrier of pollution do not have this route of upward mobility open to them; and Surajit Sinha (1962), who wrote about Rajputisation or state formation among the tribal peoples. Srinivas (1966) himself presented more nuanced formulations, linking Sanskritisation to Westernisation and secularising, almost in linear progression, as strategies of status enhancement. His virtually unqualified positive assessment of Sanskritisation as productive of socio-cultural cohesion (Srinivas 1967) provoked some criticism of his failure to unmask the hegemonic character of the process. My concern here is not to make an overall assessment of his paradigm of social change, but only to look at it for the light it throws on the processual nature of Hinduism. All this is of course well known; let me just add that some of the most significant long-term evidence of the two-way process of cultural borrowing has been provided by historians themselves (Clio be praised!). One of the richest such works that I have read is Kunal Chakrabarti’s insightful account of the cultural and religious history of medieval Bengal, in which the wily Brahmans are shown to have played a most significant role in the creation of what in Srinivas’s terms is an example of regional Hinduism (Chakrabarti 2001).

Srinivas on Rituals and Social Solidarity: A Field View Let me now turn to another crucial aspect of Srinivas’s study of Hinduism. A casual look at his bibliography reveals not more than about ten titles that would suggest that Hinduism, or more generally religion, was one of his principal concerns as a sociologist; but titles can be deceptive. If one were to think of him as primarily a sociologist of caste, one would have to note that, in his judgement, caste as a social institution derived its legitimacy from religious values. His first major

Chapter 13.indd 234

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

235

publication, based on his MA dissertation at the University of Bombay, was entitled Marriage and Family in Mysore (1942), but the focus, as he himself states at the very beginning, is very much on the family as a site for the performance of rituals: puberty rites, marriage rites, delivery and naming rites, and celebratory periodical rites (fasts and festivals) are described. The practices of the Brahmans are distinguished from those of the ‘non-Brahmans’ among the Kannada castes. Little is said about the economic side of family life, although there is a short chapter on bride price, or of interpersonal relations beyond a brief discussion of the conflict-ridden relations between mothers-in-law and daughtersin-law. What is equally noteworthy is that the beliefs that go with the rites receive little attention. Thus, ‘the purpose of death ceremonies’ is described in a short quotation from Monier-Williams (ibid.: 150–51). In continuation of this emphasis, religion in the Coorg book also is structured around what Srinivas calls the ‘ritual idiom’. ‘Every society’, he writes, ‘has a body of ritual, and certain ritual acts forming part of the body of ritual repeat themselves constantly. Not only ritual acts but also ritual complexes, which are wholes made up of several individual ritual acts, frequently repeat themselves’ (1952: 70). It is thus that ritual contributes to social solidarity. What we have here is near reification of ritual, as if the act moves under its own steam. The connected beliefs, notably ritual purity and pollution, with which the book is significantly concerned, and notions like dharma and karma, papa and punya, provide only an underpinning. The same cluster of values finds mention again in The Remembered Village (1976: 312–19) and, in likewise manner, as a backdrop of behaviour. There are no detailed descriptions of rituals here, presumably because processed field-notes of the observations made may have been lost in arson in his office at Palo Alto (ibid.: xi). I find the emphasis on observable behaviour an intriguing aspect of Srinivas’s methodology, and would like to dwell on it briefly. We are told by A.M. Shah that Srinivas’s impressionable childhood was spent in the setting of a long house in the city of Mysore in which five Sri Vaishnava Brahman families had their abode (Shah 1996: 198). Writing himself about the life of the Brahman families of the village of Rampura, Srinivas observes that it was ‘permeated by ritual’ (ibid.: 293); so must have been, one imagines, the daily life of his own natal household. The preoccupation of the Brahmans everywhere with karmakanda, that is with the performance of life-cycle rituals, as householders is well known. Moreover, the karmakanda is behaviouristic insofar as the efficacy of the

Chapter 13.indd 235

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

236

T.N. Madan

mantra is believed to lie in the utterance and of the associated bodily movements and gestures (mudra) in correct procedure. Any search for the meaning of the ritual act as a whole is considered redundant if not injurious to the purpose of the ritual. The writing of Srinivas’s doctoral dissertation under the supervision of A.R. Radcliffe-Brown at Oxford must have been a felicitous meeting of minds. In his Foreword to the Coorg book, Radcliffe-Brown wrote: For the social anthropologist the religion of a people presents itself in the first instance not as a body of doctrine, but as what we may call ‘religious’ behaviour as a part of social life. Social anthropology is behaviouristic in the sense that we seek to observe how people act as a necessary preliminary to trying to understand how they think and feel (1952: vi).

There would be little to complain about this procedure if all it meant was that it is in social activity that the meaning of concepts and beliefs is located, not in themselves. But in practice it has usually resulted in religious beliefs being pushed into the background, rendered secondary. At the very commencement of the post-Enlightenment study of religion, some of the pioneers were sceptical about the existence of religious belief outside the fold of what they considered the fully evolved religions. William Robertson Smith in his classic Religion of the Semites (1894), stated that ‘antique religions had for the most part no creed; they consisted entirely of institutions and practices’ (2002: 16–17). Earlier Fustel de Coulanges in another classic, The Ancient City (1864), opened the discussion with an affirmation of ‘the necessity of studying the earliest beliefs of the ancients in order to understand their institutions’ (nd: 11ff.), only to conclude that in those cultural settings beliefs (for example, about the inseparability of body and soul) were forgotten in course of time and the connected rites alone (for example, burial and the building of tombs) survived as evidence of their existence. ‘Thus a complete religion of the dead was established’, he wrote, ‘whose dogmas might soon be effaced, but whose rites endured until the triumph of Christianity’ (ibid.: 21). Fustel de Coulanges was one of the teachers of Emile Durkheim, who defined religion as ‘a unified system of beliefs and practices’ (1995: 47), but devoted more attention to the latter. Edward Tylor’s speculation about the origin of primitive religion in the notion of the individual soul (Tylor 1913), and the earlier characterisation of belief as an ‘act of the mind’ by David Hume in his Natural History of Religion  (1757),

Chapter 13.indd 236

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

237

would have stood precisely for the kind of psychologism, and in effect reductionism, to which Durkheim was firmly opposed. For him, the social fact, comprising both collective representations and group activities, could be legitimately explained only in sociological, not psychological, terms. Durkheim, in turn, influenced Radcliffe-Brown (in Evans-Pritchard’s judgement ‘the weakest link of the chain’!), who wrote in his ethnography of the Andaman Islanders (1922) about their beliefs (for example, in ‘a class of supernatural beings’), but by his own declaration he foregrounded ritual. The point of the digression is to suggest that, intellectually, Srinivas belongs to a celebrated but not uncriticised tradition in the sociological study of religion, which valorises behaviour at the cost of belief. To be fair, I must mention that in his studies of Hinduism there are references to beliefs, but these are brief and remain confined to a mention of sectarian differences in the conception of deities (theology) and to a more general set of metaphysical ideas, notably samsara, karma, dharma and moksha. The practical notions of ritual purity and pollution, however, receive rich treatment in the Coorg book. It is likely that Srinivas’s distrust of ‘bibliocentrism’ in the study of Hindu society held him back, but the ‘field view’ itself would have revealed a great deal more about beliefs than is to be found in his book had he been theoretically differently oriented than he was, beliefs of the kind that we find in the doctoral dissertation of Jayanthi Beliappa (1979), a Coorgi scholar. I should add here parenthetically that Srinivas (1973) himself later on expressed dissatisfaction with the limitations of the functionalist framework. Like Srinivas, Beliappa too set out ‘to comprehend the nature of the relationship between religion and social reality’. Bypassing RadcliffeBrown, she turns to Durkheim to emphasise that for him ‘the concreteness of social reality was embedded in a cognitive system’ just as ‘systems of knowledge were grounded in a social framework’ (1979: 1, 9). This is elaborated to lead to the study of how the Coorgis ‘comprehend and construct their cosmology in order to derive from it a system of meanings that help their social life as a small community to endure’. She explores ‘areas of religious experience in which there is a clear delineation of religious discourse for the routines of everyday life’ (ibid.: 2.1). Beliappa acknowledges the great value of Srinivas’s pioneering study, but suggests that an alternative approach, grounded in structuralism rather than functionalism, may reveal to us more about how the Coorgis

Chapter 13.indd 237

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

238

T.N. Madan

themselves conceptualise their social life. For instance, birth and death are for them ‘meaningful’ events, besides being occasions for the performance of appropriate rituals. ‘Function’ and ‘meaning’ are, of course, intertwined aspects of these rituals. And the question of ‘meaning’—the question of making sense of the world—engaged Weber deeply.3

Weber on the Place of Beliefs in Hinduism: A Book View I would like to begin my discussion of some aspects of Weber’s ‘view from afar’ of Hinduism with the thought that he nailed to the masthead of his celebrated (although in some respects flawed) study of the rise of the spirit of capitalism in the West. In the opening paragraph of the book, he maintained that the offspring of ‘modern European civilisation, studying any problem of universal history’ were bound to reflect on the circumstantial uniqueness of certain ‘cultural phenomena’ that have ‘appeared’ there, and which they would ‘like to think . . . lie in a line of development having universal significance and value’ (1930: 13, emphasis original). Paradoxically, uniqueness is here considered generalisable, and the history of the West is privileged. As Marx put it, it was the mirror in which the rest of the world could see the face of its future. Given such a point of departure for his massive project of the study of the economic ethics of world religions, Weber’s study of Hinduism was inevitably cast in the mould of otherness. While Srinivas was born into Hindu society and studied it from within, although as an anthropologist—he wrote eloquently about ‘the study of one’s society’ (1966)—, Weber was distant from it in every conceivable respect, the absolute outsider. Srinivas wrote about Hinduism from personal experience and fieldwork study. He used secondary sources also in both the Mysore and Coorg books but sparingly, and these were contemporary English language rather than traditional texts. Weber drew heavily upon the colonial archive (including descriptive and census reports) but he also delved into the traditional texts (in German or English translation). The Brahmanical ideas that he examined for their secular, sociological significance came from his obviously selective reading of the Vedic corpus, the smriti, shastra, and niti literatures, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the Upanishads, even the tantra texts. He also consulted contemporary exegeses and

Chapter 13.indd 238

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

239

commentaries by western and Indian scholars. In short, Weber’s view of Hindu society and religion was the ‘book view’ par excellence. Now, as I have already said, Srinivas was deeply suspicious of ‘bibliocentrism’; he was equally wary of ‘paleocentrism’; they were for him two sides of the same counterfeit coin. The aridity of the book view and its lack of contact with lived reality were known to him from the work of some of his Bombay University colleagues. That Weber’s approach was different was not known to Srinivas when he formulated his early views, because although the original work was published in 1920, he did not read German, and the English translation, The Religion of India, was published only in 1958.4 Differences of method notwithstanding, what I find striking in the first place is the similarity of substantive conclusions arrived at by Srinivas and Weber, but there are significant differences too. For both, the caste system was the fundamental institution of Hinduism, and the Brahmans were the crucial mediators in the relationship of religion and society. Both recognised them as ritual specialists and repositories of sacred knowledge, but Weber especially stressed their role as the ‘cultural literati’, weaving out their webs of metaphysics that had for very long ensnared the ‘masses’. What the creative minority thought up, the mimetic majority acquiesced in one way or the other. ‘All Hindus’, Weber wrote, ‘accept two basic principles: the samsara belief in the transmigration of souls and the related karman doctrine of compensation. These alone are the truly “dogmatic” doctrines of Hinduism’ (1958: 118). Such acceptance had become manifest in the ordering of social relations, in the caste system. The bond between ‘idea’ and ‘action’ is summed up in one of the most memorable passages of Religion of India: Karma doctrine transformed the world into a strictly rational, ethically determined cosmos; it represents the most consistent theodicy ever produced by history. The devout Hindu was accursed to remain in a structure which made sense only in this intellectual context; its consequences burdened his conduct. The Communist Manifesto concludes with the phrases ‘they (the proletariat) have nothing to lose but their chains, they have a world to win’. The same holds for the pious Hindu of low castes. He too can ‘win the world’, even the heavenly world; he can become a Kshatriya, a Brahman, he can gain heaven and become a god—only not in this life, but in the life of the future after rebirth into the same world pattern (ibid.: 121–22).5

Chapter 13.indd 239

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

240

T.N. Madan

I would like to draw your attention to two aspects of Weber’s statement. First, he highlights a view of society that emphasises its embededness in a morally determined universe in which good fortune or bad fortune is a deserved condition, and society is not a matter of customs and transactions but of moral imperatives and social obligations. One does what one ought to do and not what is personally pleasing or profitable: one must be true to one’s group dharma. But—this is the second aspect—dharma is absent in the passage, although it is almost invariably bracketed with karma by most authorities including Srinivas. Dharma is, in fact, introduced at the very beginning of the work, given the broad connotation of all social action as ritual, a kind of social liturgy, and contrasted to dogma (ibid.: 21). ‘Hinduism is primarily ritualism’, Weber observed, ‘a fact implied when modern authors state that mata (doctrine) and marga (holy end) are transitory and . . . freely elected, while dharma is “eternal”—that is, unconditionally valid’. But ‘dharma differs according to social position . . . dharma depends upon the caste into which the individual is born . . . dharma can be developed . . . by finding thus far unknown but eternally valid consequences and truths’ (ibid.: 24–25). Weber’s conception of Hinduism as ritualistic is not the same, it should be emphasised, as Srinivas’s conception of it as a configuration of domestic and extra-domestic rituals associated with the human life cycle and religious devotion. Srinivas regards the ‘ideas of karma, dharma and moksha’ as ‘intimately related to the caste system’, and acknowledges that, their Sanskritic origin notwithstanding, they have reached ‘the common people’ through various channels of communication (1968: 359). In the Rampura book, he describes how in the judgement of the villagers generally, dharma refers to good, liberating conduct and karma to evil actions which have consequences that hold one in karmic bondage (1976: 312–19). But he does not engage with these ideas in any great detail. Srinivas rather focuses, as I said earlier, on another set of ideas in his writings, particularly in the Coorg book: these are the ideas of good-sacred and bad-sacred, of ritual purity and pollution (madi and polé in Coorgi speech). It is these that he sees as the principal determinants of interpersonal and inter-group relations in the contexts of the family and caste. Needless to emphasise, these ideas are more readily discernible in everyday behaviour—relating to, for example, food taboos, bodily contact, and

Chapter 13.indd 240

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

241

occupational choice—but not more important than the more abstract ideas of dharma and karma that Weber focused on. In this Srinivas anticipated Louis Dumont’s later valorisation of ritual purity as the cardinal value that defines hierarchy (Dumont 1970). It is not, therefore, surprising that Dumont (1959: 9) should have hailed the Coorg book as a modern classic in about half a dozen years after its publication. Notwithstanding his programmatic declaration that the sociology of India lies at the confluence of Indology and sociology (1957: 7), Dumont the fieldworker is closer to Srinivas than Dumont the textualist is to Weber. I cannot, however, pursue this trail here. I must return to Weber. Weber was not, of course, a fieldworker, but he was sensitive to such ethnography as was available to him and his perspective was processual. The best way to illustrate this is to recall what he wrote about the diffusion of Hinduism over time, and here he anticipated Srinivas most remarkably. He called this process Hinduisation, and believed that Hindu ‘propaganda in the grand manner’, or simply ‘missionary propagation’ (1958: 9), had been going on for close to a millennium: Hinduism had thus spread from the heart of northern India (Aryavrata) to the rest of the country. This extensive Hinduisation (as he called it) sucked local, tribal communities into a subcontinental religio-social milieu. Indeed, the propagators are ‘met halfway’ by the ‘outsiders’ (ibid.: 14). The process, Weber noted, was multi-stranded, involving the selective but expanding use of the expert services of the Brahmans, adopting new kinds of work and occupations, altering dietary habits and social customs, and accepting new modes of religious behaviour. Gradually, the outsiders would usually find themselves transformed into impure Hindu castes. Within the broader framework of extensive Hinduisation, Weber noted, there was a tendency to engage in intensive (or internal) Hinduisation in pursuit of status enhancement (ibid.: 11). If material gain motivated the Brahman to be accommodative (a player of the game), the quest for social legitimation drove the climbers forward and upward, hoping to bridge ‘the abysmal distance Hinduism establishes between social strata’: Weber called it the peculiar ‘religious promise’ of Hinduism (ibid.: 17). What all this means we know very well indeed, thanks to the vast body of ethnographic studies generated by N.K. Bose’s seminal essay on ‘the Hindu method of tribal absorption (Bose 1941) and, of course,

Chapter 13.indd 241

11/23/2013 3:42:05 AM

242

T.N. Madan

Srinivas’s discussions of Sanskritisation. Weber appreciated as well as Bose and Srinivas that the processes were collective and not individual, that it could not be ‘otherwise’ since individuals can never rise except as a ‘caste’ (ibid.: 11ff.). The similarity between Weber’s and Srinivas’s views is so striking that it is puzzling that not much attention has been paid to it (Kulke 1986 is a notable exception). Srinivas himself never mentions it in his published work. The only reference to Weber in Srinivas’s writings that I know of is to the argument about the lack of appropriate ideological resources in Hinduism for the endogenous development of capitalism. It is a very short comment (in a co-authored encyclopaedia article), criticizing Weber for ‘a partial view of Hinduism’, but noting that ‘Weber himself [had] identified a few elements of “rational ethic” in Hinduism’, and concluding with a reference to the managerial and administrative abilities often displayed by ‘Hindu ascetics’ who head ‘large and wealthy monasteries and temples’ (Srinivas and Shah 1968: 364). Weber’s views about Hinduism and capitalism have been subjected to much criticism, some of it based on misreading what he actually wrote. This is how he describes the scope of his study: ‘Here we shall inquire as to the manner in which Indian religion, as one factor among many, may have prevented capitalistic development (in the occidental sense)’ (ibid.: 4, emphasis added). Could any formulation be more cautious even if it is not wholly open-minded? Nor can Weber’s thesis be disproved by describing what Indian entrepreneurs achieved in the nineteenth century often in competition with British entrepreneurs. Weber’s concern was with initial development (or the first appearance), and he held the hereditary and non-innovative character of caste-based division of work as much responsible for the non-emergence of the spirit of capitalism as any religious ideas as such. It is not my contention that Weber’s thesis, whether about Europe or its generalisability, is above criticism (see, for example, Munshi 2003 for an excellent recent critique), but lack of time does not permit fuller discussion here. In any case, the question about capitalism with which Weber begins The Religion of India is not all that interested him in Hinduism. In the first part of the book, after introducing the ideological backdrop, he discusses the Hindu social system comprising tribe, caste, sect, etc. It is in this discussion that the convergences between him and Srinivas are pronounced. Part two, which is about as long as the first, focuses on ‘orthodox and heterodox holy teachings’; in the concluding part, he

Chapter 13.indd 242

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

243

moves into east Asia with the Buddhist missions to return to nineteenth century India’s restoration movements. For a final comment on Weber’s work, to illustrate his interest in the role of ideas, allow me to recall his insightful discussion of the Bhagavadgita (ibid.: 180–91), which, he says, ‘in a certain sense represents the crown of the classical ethics of Indian intellectuals’ (ibid.: 185). Here he lays bare ‘the inner conflict’ of the Hindu tradition, notably that between the Brahmanical and Kshatriya ways of life, and between two modes of salvation represented by, first, the moral agent’s assumption of responsibility for breaking out of the karmic chain and, secondly, his seeking refugee in divine grace (prasada) (ibid.: 187), a radical departure from the classical Brahmanical tradition. A key question is posed by Draupadi in the Mahabharata, writes Weber, when, apropos Yudhishthira’s ‘blameless misfortune’, she tells him that ‘the great God only plays with men according to his whims’. Yudhishthira’s response is: ‘one should not say such things, for by the grace of God the good receive immortality and, above all, without this belief people would not practice virtue’ (ibid.: 182). And, without virtue, there is no social life: social norms ultimately arise when individuals learn to care and give, trust and conform. But, then how does one practice virtue? The Bhagavadgita teaches the ethic of conformity to one’s varna dharma or obligations established by nature, Weber notes: right knowledge (jnanyoga) for the Brahman and right action (karmayoga) for the rest. The Kshatriya must wage war and rule—‘without any concern for consequences’, especially not for personal success (ibid.: 184). ‘The inner-worldly ethic of the Bhagavadgita, Weber observes, ‘is “organismic” in a sense hardly to be surpassed. Indian “tolerance” rests upon this absolute relativising of all ethical soteriological commandments’ (ibid.: 189–90). In his apprehension of absolute relativism in Hindu ethics, and the resultant tolerance, Weber is of course mistaken: maybe fieldwork in an Indian village would have brought to his notice the widely known fact, recorded by ethnographers (see, for example, Mathur 1965), that there are shared values also, the sadharan dharma that defines one’s humanity and cuts across varna boundaries. And there is exploitation, oppression, and violence. Weber obviously did not know certain things and got others wrong. (I wonder if he ever knew a Hindu or met one.) That is not remarkable: what is so is how much he knew right, and how comprehensive his outline of a sociology of Hinduism—and indeed of the comparative sociology of religion—was.

Chapter 13.indd 243

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

244

T.N. Madan

Concluding Remarks: The Relevance of a Sociology of Religion It is time to wind up. I trust I have been able to bring out in some small measure that, while the ‘field’ or ethnographic view of Hinduism brings into sharp focus the lived social reality, the ‘book’ or bibliographic view provides the background that illumines the foreground. Reading ‘backwards’ from Srinivas to Weber is not a retreat from fieldwork and the personally observed microcosm to the textually described macrocosm, from the concreteness of rituals to the abstraction of beliefs. It is rather the establishment of balance between the two perspectives, a fusion of horizons. Needless to emphasise, the double perspective generates questions and yields answers that neither of its two constituents do. If Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India is the one bookend of the sparse sociological corpus on Hinduism (sparse compared to what sociologists have written about other world religions), then The Religion of India is the other. We need both bookends to hold the shelf together and indeed expand it. It is work in progress, and I invite our younger colleagues to participate in it. There are hesitations, I know, that keep them away. For instance, the mistaken belief that the study of religion does not have the same social relevance or academic value as some other subjects, such as economics and politics, or class and gender, because religion is illusory, reactionary, and in retreat.6 Referring to the lack of scholarly interest in folk religions, Srinivas observed in the Rampura book that ‘leading Indian anthropologists and sociologists profess to be rationalists’ (1976: 290). Weber noticed this failing early. Acknowledging the unresolvable conflict between religion and modern rationality, he wrote in the concluding paragraph of his Protestant Ethic book: ‘The modern man is in general unable to give religious ideas a significance for culture and national character that they deserve’ (1930: 183). Developments worldwide in the last quarter of the twentieth century in the relationship of religion, politics and society have added a new significance to Weber’s acute observation. There is urgent need today, more than ever before, to understand religion as a social force for good or evil in the modern world. I do not really need to remind you about what happened in Poland and Nicaragua, in Iran and Afghanistan, in Sri Lanka and India, and elsewhere including, most notably, in the USA, where Christian

Chapter 13.indd 244

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

245

fundamentalism re-emerged with explicit political goals in the 1980s, and the USSR, which disintegrated in the early 1990s, not only constitutionally but also and more importantly, ideologically. Another but not unrelated hesitation arises from a methodological doubt: Does an agnostic make a good student of the sociology of religion? During a conversation we had in Delhi in 1998, Srinivas asked me rhetorically why Raymond Firth’s writings on religion compared so poorly with Evans-Pritchard’s, and proceeded to give me his answer: ‘Firth is a rationalist’, which of course he was (Firth 1996). And Srinivas himself was, as he publicly acknowledged (1974, 1993), a believer. Srinivas’s greatly admired mentor and friend, Evans-Pritchard, a late life convert to Catholicism, shared his doubts about rationalists as credible students of religion. He quotes Wilhelm Schmidt with approval: ‘There is too much danger that the [non-believer] will talk of religion as a blind man might of colours, or one totally devoid of ear, of a beautiful piece of music’ (1965: 121).7 But then we have Weber’s affirmation that he was personally ‘unmusical religiously’ although not ‘anti-religious’ or ‘irreligious’ (1975: 324); indeed at times he wondered, to the utter bewilderment of his wife Marianne, that he might after all be a mystic (Mitzman 1985: 218). His uncertainties did not, however, stand in the way of his wide-ranging and deeply insightful studies of several world religions. His formulation of the consequences of the historic process of rationalisation in the West, of which ‘disenchantment’ was an aspect— the retreat from ‘public life’ of ‘the ultimate and most sublime values . . . into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations’ (1948: 155)—brought out his pessimism about the fate of modernising societies. He may well have partly imbibed this pessimism from Nietzsche for whom the notion of the death of God opened several possibilities including that of nihilism, the loss of all values (Nietzsche 1974: 181). Weber saw the possibility of ‘refuge’ in religion (Evans-Pritchard 1965: 118), but as a rationalist that was not the road he took. His agonising finds echoes in the life and work of his great contemporary, Emile Durkheim (1858–1917), co-founder with him of the sociology of religion.8 I do not have the time to elaborate, but let me remind you that Durkheim had his own religious anxieties, converting from Judaism to Catholicism, and then, yielding to the prevailing anti-clericalism in Paris, he ended up as a rationalist. For the rest of his life, he searched for

Chapter 13.indd 245

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

246

T.N. Madan

a civic morality to fill the vacuum created by France’s rejection of her Catholic past (see Lukes 1973). He asserted that, for himself, he was ‘quite indifferent’ to the ‘choice’ between ‘God and Society’ since he saw ‘in the Divinity only society transfigured and symbolically expressed’ (1953: 52). Durkheim had concluded his 1915 classic study of ‘the religious life’ with the observation that, in the face of the unstoppable advance of science, religion seemed ‘destined to transform itself than to disappear’ (1995: 432). Later, he explained that ‘the fusion of consciences’ that constitutes ‘a source of religious life as old as humanity . . . can never dry’. More emphatically, he declared, ‘The only thing that matters is to sense above the moral coldness which prevails on the surface of collective life, the sources of warmth which our societies carry in themselves’ (Pickering 1975: 185, 187).9 One’s being a believer or an agnostic does not, I am convinced, by itself make or mar one’s chances of being a good sociologist of religion. One has only to ensure that one’s faith or ideology does not prejudice the outcome of one’s inquiries. Let me turn one last time to Weber, and remind you that his methodological stance on objectivity in social research, abjuring ‘value judgements’, which has of course been much criticised, did not exclude the study of values (‘value references’) (Weber 1949). And what is religion all about if it is not about values? What we need in the study of religion, as of any other social phenomenon, is genuine interest, theoretical self-consciousness, methodological rigour, sociological imagination, and above all intellectual honesty. None of these requirements is a gift of the gods; they are all eminently cultivable research skills or, if you prefer, scholarly virtues. Let me, then, hope that our younger colleagues will not stay away from the study of religion, as Srinivas thought they were doing, that they will come forward. This is indeed the tribute he would have most appreciated.10

Notes This is the text of the Fifth M.N. Srinivas Memorial Lecture delivered under the auspices of the Indian Sociological Society on 25 October 2005 at the XXXI All India Sociological Conference held at the University of Jammu. The footnotes and some references have been added. 1. Saran developed his critique of positivism in a number of papers and review articles. Notable among these are his discussion of positivist sociology (Saran 1962) and a suggestive (unpublished?) paper characterising Max Weber’s work

Chapter 13.indd 246

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

2.

3.

4.

5.

247

as ‘the end of Comtean Sociology’ (Saran 1987). He also wrote a searching critique of Marxian sociology with special reference to its theory of social change (Saran 1963). While agreeing with Peter Winch’s scepticism about ‘the idea of a social science’ (Winch 1958), he rejected his alternative of a Wittgensteinian sociology (Saran 1964). Saran’s writings on methodology have not had any significant impact on the work of sociologists and social anthropologists in India: these have been regrettably considered too heavily metaphysical to be of interest. Alberuni wrote: ‘. . . they [the Hindus] totally differ from us in religion, as we believe in nothing in which they believe, and vice versa [an echo of the Quran 109]. On the whole, there is very little disputing about theological topics among themselves; at the most they fight with words, but they will never stake their soul or body or property on religious controversy’ (Sachau 2002: 3). I should mention here that Srinivas was an examiner of Beliappa’s PhD dissertation and commended it highly. Her supervisor, Veena Das, had in her own doctoral work, conducted under Srinivas’s supervision, opened discussion of the dialectic of ‘structure’ and ‘cognition’ in the study of ritual (Das 1977). This indeed is how intellectual traditions grow, through critical engagement, and we owe a deep debt to Srinivas for his encouragement. I regret never having asked Srinivas when he first learnt, and what exactly, about Weber’s study of Hinduism. Parsons (1937: 55 ff.) contains a short summary; the Gerth and Mills edition of Weber’s selected essays (Weber 1948) also includes some discussions. I am not sure Srinivas knew about these books when he first formulated his own ideas about Hinduism at Oxford, where Durkheim rather than Weber provided the stimulus to thinking about religion (see EvansPritchard 1965). It may be helpful here to quote Weber’s gloss of the notion of theodicy: The age-old problem of theodicy consists of the very question of how it is that a power which is said to be at once omnipotent and kind could have created such an irrational world of undeserved suffering, unpunished injustice, and hopeless stupidity. Either this power is not omnipotent or not kind, or, entirely different principles of compensation and reward govern our life—principles we may interpret metaphysically, or even principles that forever escape our comprehension (1948: 122).

He acknowledges the inspiration of the Upanishads in arriving at the above formulation. The word ‘theodicy’ we, of course, owe to the late seventeenth century German philosopher Gottfried Liebniz, who derived it from Greek roots (theos, dike) to connote the ‘justice of gods’. Such justice was for him proof that the world we live in is the ‘best of all possible worlds’. 6. Cp. Béteille: I believe that the sociological study of religion brings sharply into focus certain interesting questions of approach and method, and a discussion of these may be of wider interest in the study of society as a whole, including the study of such subjects as class, gender, nation, and, more generally, politics (2005: 53).

Chapter 13.indd 247

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

248

T.N. Madan

I agree. There are some other arguments and emphases in Béteille’s essay which I find problematic, but this is not the place to go into them. I may note, however, that he recognises the differences between the Durkheimian and Weberian approaches to the study of religion, and implicitly favours the former. I have already indicated above the reasons for my preference for the Weberian approach. 7. This is problematic. Evans-Pritchard’s 1937 work on the religious life of the Azande, marked by a rationalist attitude to the understanding of witchcraft, magic and the work of oracles, is in no way a less masterly study than the 1956 work on Nuer religion completed after his conversion. In fact, the latter has been said to be marked by a personal (Christian?) bias (see Douglas 1980: 87). The image of the blind man and colours is interestingly invoked by Durkheim also: ‘what I ask of the free thinker is that he should confront religion in the same mental state as the believer . . . he who does not bring to the study of religion a sort of religious sentiment cannot speak about it! He is like a blind man trying to talk of colour’ (Pickering 1975: 184). This is, of course, a plea for empathy not for religiousness. 8. A word about the exclusion of Marx. The core idea of ‘projection’ as the essence of religion is not his; he took it over from Ludwig Feuerbach (1957). The Marxian approach, with its emphasis on the illusory, although socially functional, character of religious belief, and the consequent certainty that it can be and should be abolished (alter the social conditions that produce it and the religion will disappear), I think, forecloses fuller understanding of religion even in the class-based western society. Marx did not really construct a general theory of religion. Moreover, it is arguable that the roots of Marxian humanism lie in Christianity and that its own version of dogmatism or creedal fundamentalism makes it akin to religion. These are large questions and outside the scope of the present discussion. 9. Georg Simmel (1858–1918), another contemporary and friend of Weber (he too converted, from Judaism to Protestantism), was convinced that the methods and tempers of religion and science were in conflict, and the proving of the verities of religious faith was ‘completely outside the sphere of scientific interest’ (1997: 4). But he maintained that religion as a quality of social relationships was a fit subject for sociological study; he indeed found ‘strong similarities between the religious and the sociological forms of existence’ (ibid.: 157). 10. Written at ‘Zabarwan’, Berwyn, PA (USA) in August–September 2005.

References Bailey, F.G. 1958. Caste and the economic frontier: A village in highland Orissa. Bombay: Oxford University Press. Beliappa, Jayanthi. 1979. A study of the religious concepts of the Coorgs. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delhi. Béteille, André. 2005. ‘Religion as a subject for sociology’, in Dipankar Gupta (ed.): Anti-Utopia: Essential writings of André Béteille (53–68). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Chapter 13.indd 248

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

249

Bose, N.K. 1941. ‘The Hindu method of tribal absorption’, Science and culture, 7: 188–94; reproduced in N.K. Bose: Culture and society in India. Bombay: Asia, 1967, pp. 203–15. Chakrabarti, Kunal. 2001. Religious process: The Puranas and the making of a regional tradition. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Coulanges, Fustel de. (1864) nd. The ancient city: A study on the religion, laws and institutions of Greece and Rome. New York: Doubleday Anchor. Das, Veena. 1977. Structure and cognition: Aspects of Hindu caste and ritual. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Douglas, Mary. 1980. Evans-Pritchard. London: Fontana. Dube, S.C. 1955. Indian village. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Dumont, Louis. 1957. ‘For a sociology of India’, Contributions to Indian sociology, 1: 7–22. ———. 1959. ‘Pure and impure’, Contributions to Indian sociology, 3: 9–39. ———. 1970. Homo hierarchicus: The caste system and its implications. London: Widenfeld and Nicholson. Durkheim, Emile. (1915) 1995. The elementary forms of religious life (trs. Karen E. Fields). New York: The Free Press. ———. 1953. Sociology and philosophy (trs. D.F. Pocock). London: Cohen and West. Evans-Pritchard, E.E. 1937. Witchcraft, oracles and magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 1956. Nuer religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 1965. Theories of primitive religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Feuerbach, Ludwig. (1854) 1957. The essence of Christianity (trs. George Eliot). New York: Harper. Firth, Raymond. 1996. Religion: A humanist perspective. London: Routledge. Hume, David. (1757) 1957. Natural history of religion (ed. H.E. Root). Stanford: Stanford University Press. King, Richard. 1999. Orientalism and religion. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Kopf, David. 1979. The Brahmo Samaj and the shaping of the modern Indian mind. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Kulke, Hermann. 1986. ‘Max Weber’s contribution to the study of “Hinduisation” in India and “Indianisation” in Southeast Asia’, in D. Kantowsky (ed.): Recent researches on Max Weber’s studies of Hinduism. Munchen: Weltforum Verlag. Lorenzen, David N. 1999. ‘Who invented Hinduism?’, Comparative studies in society and history, 41 (4): 630–59. Lukes, Steven. 1973. Emile Durkheim: His life and work. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books. Madan, T.N. 2001. Religion in the modern world. Bangalore: National Institute of Advanced Studies. Marriott, McKim. 1955. ‘Little communities in an indigenous civilisation’, in McKim Marriott (ed.): Village India: Studies in the little community (175–227). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mathur, K.S. 1965. Caste and ritual in a Malwa village. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. Michaels, Axel. 2005. Hinduism: Past and present (trs. Barbara Harshav). New Delhi: Orient Longman.

Chapter 13.indd 249

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

250

T.N. Madan

Mitzman, Arthur. 1985. The iron cage: An historical interpretation of Max Weber. London: Transaction. Munshi, Surendra. 2003. ‘Revisting Max Weber on India’, in H. Hartmut Lehmann and J.M. Ouedraogo (eds.): Max Weber’s religionssoziologie in interkultureller perspective. Goettingen: Vanenhoeck and Ruprecht. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1974. The gay science (trs. W. Kaufmann). New York: Anchor. Parsons, Talcott. (1937) 1949. The structure of social action. Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press. Pickering, W.S.E. (ed.). 1975. Durkheim on religion. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. (1922) 1964. The Andaman islanders. Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press. ———. 1952. ‘Foreword’, in M.N. Srinivas: 1952. Religion and society among the Coorgs of south India. (p. v). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Sachau, Edward C., Frs. (1914) 2002. Alberuni’s India. New Delhi: Rupa and Co. Saran, A.K. 1962. ‘Some aspects of positivism in sociology’, in Transactions of the fifth World Congress of Sociology (Vol. 1: 199–233). Washington DC: International Sociological Association. ———. 1963. ‘The Marxian theory of social change’, Inquiry, 6: 70–127. ———. 1964. ‘A Wittgensteinian sociology?’, Ethics, 75: 195–200. ———. 1987. ‘Max Weber and the end of Comtean sociology’. Paper presented at an international seminar on Marx and Weber organised by Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi, October 8–11 (Miemo). Shah, A.M. 1996. ‘M.N. Srinivas: The man and his work’, in A.M. Shah et al. (eds.): Social structure and social change: Vol. I Theory and method—An evaluation of the work of M.N. Srinivas (197–218). New Delhi: Sage Publications. Simmel, Georg. 1997. Essays on religion (ed. and trs. Horst J. Helle). New Haven: Yale University Press. Sinha, Surajit. 1962. ‘State formation and Rajput myth in tribal central India’, Man in India, 42: 35–80. Smith, William Robertson (1894) 2002. Religion of the Semites. Intr., Robert A. Segal. London: Transaction. Srinivas, M.N. 1942. Marriage and family in Mysore. Bombay: New Book Company. ———. 1952. Religion and society among the Coorgs of south India. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 1958. ‘Hinduism’, in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11: 574–77. ———. 1966. Social change in modern India. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 1967. ‘Cohesive role of Sanskritisation’, in P. Mason (ed.): Unity and diversity: India and Ceylon (67–82). London: Oxford University Press. ———. 1973. ‘Itineraries of an Indian social anthropologist’, International social science journal, 25 (1–2): 129–48. ———. 1974. ‘Why I am a Hindu’, The Illustrated Weekly of India, 17 November. ———. 1976. The remembered village. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1993. ‘Towards a new philosophy’, The times of India, 09 July. Srinivas, M.N. and A.M. Shah. 1968. ‘Hinduism’, The international encyclopedia of social sciences, 6: 358–66.

Chapter 13.indd 250

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

The Sociology of Hinduism

251

Thapar, Romila. 1997. ‘Syndicated Hinduism’, in Günther D. Sontheimer and Hermann Kulke (eds.): Hinduism reconsidered. New Delhi: Manohar. Tylor, Edward. (1871) 1913. Primitive culture (2 vols.). London: John Murray. Weber, Marianne. 1975. Max Weber: A biography. New York: John Wiley. Weber, Max. 1930. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism (trs. Talcott Parsons). London: George Allen and Unwin. ———. 1948. From Max Weber: Essays in sociology (trs. H.H. Gerth and C.W. Mills). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. ———. 1949. The methodology of social sciences (trs. E. Shils and H. Finch). Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press. ———. 1958. The religion of India (trs. H.H. Gerth and D. Martindale). Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press. Winch, Peter. 1958. The idea of a social science and its relation to philosophy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Chapter 13.indd 251

11/23/2013 3:42:06 AM

14 M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber, and Functionalism A.M. Shah

R

ecently, two leading sociologists have commented on M.N. Srinivas’s engagement—rather lack of it—with Max Weber. In his M.N. Srinivas memorial lecture, ‘The Sociology of Hinduism: Reading “Backwards” from Srinivas to Weber’, published in Sociological Bulletin (55 [2], May-August 2006), T.N. Madan states ‘The only reference to Weber in Srinivas’s writings that I know of is the argument about the lack of appropriate ideological resonance in Hinduism for the endogenous development of capitalism. It is a very short comment (in a co-authored encyclopaedia article) . . . (Srinivas and Shah 1968: 364)’ (Madan 2006: 227–28). Secondly, in his introduction to Anti-Utopia: Essential Writings of André Béteille, Dipankar Gupta has made a few observations about the ‘heydays’ of Srinivas at the Department of Sociology in the Delhi School of Economics in the 1960s. He observes that Srinivas had hardly any engagement with Weber, and also that ‘The ruling theory of the day was that of functionalism . . .’ (2005: 1–2). Lack of engagement with Weber is linked here with dominance of functionalism. I write this note to present certain facts to set the record right.

I In 1956, Milton Singer published a paper, ‘Cultural Values in India’s Economic Development’,1 in the well-known journal, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. He raised a number of issues on the subject, in the course of which he referred to Weber’s ideas

Chapter 14.indd 252

11/13/2013 7:42:00 PM

M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber and Functionalism253

on the relation between asceticism and economic activity, developed in his book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930). In 1958, another well-known journal, Economic Development and Cultural Change, published in response to Singer’s paper a discussion on ‘India’s Cultural Values and Economic Development’ between four scholars: John Goheen, M.N. Srinivas, D.G. Karve, and Milton Singer.2 It began with Goheen’s note focusing on, as he stated, ‘the relevance of the Weberian thesis to the Indian situation’ (1958a: 9). Srinivas (1958) wrote a long note on Goheen’s note, dealing with three questions: (i) tradition of practical values in India, (ii) why this tradition has not been successful in improving the conditions of life of the people, and (iii) diversity of Hindu philosophical values, both old and new. Throughout the note he cited his field experiences in rural India in general and Rampura village in Karnataka in particular. Srinivas’s note was followed by Karve’s comments (1958), Goheen’s note (1958b) on Srinivas’s note, and Singer’s postscript (1958). This discussion was published in the same year the English translation of Weber’s German book on the religion of India was published (1958), but none of the four scholars referred to it. Apparently, the discussion was planned and the participants wrote their notes before the book was available to them. Notably, this happened when Srinivas was at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. In 1959, if not earlier, Srinivas closely interacted with Reinhard Bendix, author of the well-known intellectual biography of Weber (1959). Bendix acknowledged Srinivas’s ‘detailed criticisms and suggestions’ on the chapter, ‘Society and Religion in India’, in this book (ibid.:  iii). Bendix also came to the Department of Sociology, University of Delhi as a visiting professor in 1959–60 at Srinivas’s invitation. In 1970, Srinivas participated in a conference on ‘Occupational Cultures in Changing South Asia’, at the University of Chicago. He did not contribute a paper, but was a discussant for three papers. Milton Singer edited the proceedings and published the book in 1973. It includes two chapters by Srinivas. Chapter XII comments on Hanna Papanek’s paper, ‘Pakistan’s New Industrialists and Businessmen’, and Richard Fox’s paper, ‘Pariah Capitalism and Traditional Indian Merchants: Past and Present’ (Srinivas 1973a: 275–78). Chapter XIII comments on Singer’s paper, ‘Industrial Leadership, the Hindu Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ (Srinivas 1973b: 279–86). Srinivas discusses Weber’s ideas in both the chapters, but the latter is a lengthy critique of Weber’s ideas

Chapter 14.indd 253

11/13/2013 7:42:01 PM

254

A.M. Shah

on Hinduism. He first questions Weber’s identification of the ideas of samsara, karma and the ritualism of caste as constituting the ‘dogmatic foundation’ of Hinduism, and his ‘ethnocentric’ assumption that every religion has, or ought to have, a ‘dogmatic foundation’. He shows how Weber, in his construction of Hindu ethic, missed the acephalous nature of Hinduism, the changes occurring in it continually for centuries, and the diversities of caste and sect. Srinivas comments, ‘The charge of oversimplification must be laid at Weber’s door’ (ibid.: 279). He then discusses the problem of relation between modernization and traditional culture, and concurs with Singer’s conclusion that ‘traditional institutions are compatible with modern industrial organizations’ (ibid.). Madan’s main argument in the Srinivas memorial lecture is that, unlike Weber, Srinivas was concerned more with behaviour than with belief. Srinivas’s chapter XIII in Singer’s book, however, is different. He discusses here various issues with reference to: (a) philosophical and theological ideas in Sanskritic tradition, such as advaita, ashramas, bhakti, janmas, leela, pralaya, purusharthas and vratas, besides samsara and karma mentioned above, and kayakave kailasa (literally, ‘work is heaven’), a Lingayat idea in Kannada; (b) scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita and the puranas; and (c) ancient/medieval philosophers and theologians such as Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva, and modern social reformers such as Aurobindo, Gandhi, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, and Tilak. The chapter ends with a sharp comment on Weber: The tendency to revive Weber may lead to a restatement of the view that Asians cannot modernize without throwing all their traditional culture out. It may also be used to ‘flatter the ethnocentric conceits of Europeans and Americans’. It may serve to keep people in different parts of the world apart when the need is for them to come together in a collective under-taking for the abolishing of poverty and ignorance wherever found (ibid.: 286).

II I have read and heard ad nauseam that Srinivas was a structuralfunctionalist. It is true that Srinivas wrote his DPhil thesis on the Coorgs at Oxford University under the influence of structural-functionalism of A.R.  Radcliffe-Brown in the late 1940s. However, many commentators do not know that on Radcliffe-Brown’s retirement E.E. Evans-Pritchard became Srinivas’s supervisor. Evans-Pritchard differed from Radcliffe-Brown

Chapter 14.indd 254

11/13/2013 7:42:01 PM

M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber and Functionalism255

on many issues, including functionalism. However, he did not ask Srinivas to change his thesis according to his ideas. Only at the stage of its publication by Clarendon Press, Evans-Pritchard suggested to Srinivas that he might like to change it. Srinivas showed his unwillingness, and the thesis was published as it was written under Radcliffe-Brown’s supervision.3 The fact that the Coorg book (1952) was functionalist did not make it less of a classic. One of the reasons for its acclamation was that functionalism was a major advance on the earlier pseudo-historical theories of evolutionism and diffusionism, both of which had influenced the study of Indian society and culture. Many commentators have failed to appreciate—some do not even know—the fact that Srinivas wrote his Oxford thesis on the basis of data collected for his earlier PhD thesis (consisting about 800 pages, bound in two volumes) at Bombay University under G.S. Ghurye’s supervision. He applied the functionalist approach to the same data, and that made the Oxford thesis different. Incidentally, failure to grasp the importance of functionalist critique of pseudo-history is not uncommon in Indian sociology. Srinivas’s functionalism was short lived. Change began to take place in Oxford itself. Despite the Coorg book being structural-functionalist, Evans-Pritchard sponsored Srinivas’s appointment as lecturer at Oxford. Srinivas thus became part of development of new ideas in social anthropology at Oxford under Evans-Pritchard’s leadership. When he left Oxford and came to the M.S. University of Baroda as its first professor and head of the department of sociology in 1951, he immediately prescribed Evans-Pritchard’s little book, Social Anthropology (1951) as a text-book for BA students, and also asked them to read Evans-Pritchard’s Frazer Lecture, Divine Kingship of the Shilluk of the Nilotic Sudan (1948). I was one of these students.4 This does not mean that Srinivas gave up structural-functionalism altogether in Baroda. In fact, its strong influence was visible in the classrooms, in seminars, and in personal conversations for two years or so after he came to Baroda. However, change came soon thereafter. He began to talk and write about social change. The first publication indicating this transformation came in 1955. The Indian Conference of Social Work had organised a national seminar on ‘Casteism and Removal of Untouchability’ in Delhi in 1955; Srinivas was its Director and his colleague I.P. Desai its Secretary General. A number of distinguished academics as well as public men, including S. Radhakrishnan, Jagjivan Ram and Govind Ballabh Pant, attended the seminar. Srinivas presented

Chapter 14.indd 255

11/13/2013 7:42:01 PM

256

A.M. Shah

a paper, ‘Castes: Can they exist in the India of Tomorrow?’5 It was published in the report on the seminar (1955) as well as in Economic Weekly (1955). Srinivas published several other papers on social change during his stay in Baroda, the most notable being ‘Sanskritisation and Westernisation’ (1956) and ‘Caste in Modern India’ (1957). The shift away from functionalism was visible also in the research work of Srinivas’s doctoral students in Baroda. While some of them worked in the traditional fields of caste, tribe and religion, some others worked in new fields. Srinivas planned to open up for sociological research social sectors signifying changing India. Thus, N.R. Sheth worked on heavy industry, R.D. Parikh on the print media, V.H. Joshi on economic development and social change in a rural area, and I on historical sociology.6 The syllabi for the BA and MA programmes also began to include topics and books on social change. A concern for ideas of Weber and other thinkers also began. As mentioned earlier, Srinivas contributed a note to the Weber-centred discussion in Economic Development and Cultural Change in 1958, and also perhaps began his interaction with Reinhard Bendix soon thereafter. He also participated in the debates and discussions on these thinkers among a remarkable group of social scientists in Baroda at that time: his departmental colleague I.P. Desai, political scientist Rajni Kothari, economist Iqbal S. Gulati, historian Satish Chandra Misra, archaeologist B. Subbarao, and several others.

III The main point is that when Srinivas came from Baroda to Delhi University in 1959, his intellectual baggage did not consist only, not even dominantly, of structural-functionalism. The latter was of course a part of it but one of many parts, including Weber. In Delhi, Srinivas continued his work on the study of social change. He published two seminal books on the subject during the 1960s: Caste in Modern India and Other Essays (1962) and Social Change in Modern India (1967). As regards many papers on the subject, I would draw attention only to the titles of papers in his bibliography in Shah, Baviskar and Ramaswamy (1996: 219–26). Srinivas carried forward in Delhi University a broad vision of comparative sociology, which included sociology as well as social anthropology

Chapter 14.indd 256

11/13/2013 7:42:01 PM

M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber and Functionalism257

and the best of what they offered. Its first telling testimony was the syllabus he prepared for the M.A. programme as soon as he joined the university. As far as I know, he prepared it single-handed.7 It was not restricted to structural-functionalism. Other theories and approaches, including the Weberian one, were also represented in it adequately. When I joined the department in October 1961, I recall, I first taught Max Gluckman’s The Judicial Process among the Barotse of Northern Rhodesia (1955) under the paper, ‘Fieldwork Monographs’. This was not a functionalist work, and Gluckman was known to have been influenced by Marxism. I then taught Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930) and a few of the essays in the collection, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (1947), as part of the paper, ‘Sociology of Religion’, and consulted Bendix’s biography of Weber (1959). Srinivas’s two essays on Weber mentioned earlier (1958, 1973b) and Bendix’s book were recommended to students for reading, and at least the brighter students read them. I for one never felt that the ruling theory in the department was functionalism. The doctoral students in the department during the 1960s worked on a variety of topics, and hardly any of them was under the spell of functionalism. I invite attention to the list of topics of PhD theses given in the Handbook of Information of the department. To name a few, André Béteille wrote on caste, class, and power; R. Jayaraman, on plantation labour in Sri Lanka; Karuna Chanana, on women under-graduate students; E.A. Ramaswamy, on conflict between trade unions and between them and factory owners; Baviskar, on cooperatives and politics; and Anand Chakravarti, on contradiction and change in a village. Thus, structural-functionalism was not the ruling paradigm in Srinivas’s personal research and writing, in his students’ research, and in the teaching programmes, in Baroda and Delhi. Of course, he had his own preferences, but he did not impose them on others. Surely, he did not agree with Weberian approach, but that did not prevent him from including Weber’s books in the teaching programmes and from allowing freedom to others to pursue Weber’s thought in their work. After Srinivas left Delhi and went to Bangalore in 1972, his mind worked in many different directions. If he could write a paper, ‘On Living in a Revolution’ (1986), later publish a book with the same title (1992), and write another paper, ‘An Obituary on Caste as a System’ (2003), surely he was very far away from structural-functionalism then.

Chapter 14.indd 257

11/13/2013 7:42:01 PM

258

A.M. Shah

Notes I thank B.S. Baviskar, P.C. Joshi, Tulsi Patel, E.A. Ramaswamy and N.R. Sheth for their comments on the draft of this note. 1. It seems Singer was provoked to write this paper on reading certain observations on India made by Eleanor Roosevelt in her book, India and the Awakening East (1953). He devoted more than a page in the beginning of the paper on discussing her observations. 2. Goheen was professor of philosophy at Stanford University, and Karve, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. 3. To understand the relation between Srinivas, Radcliffe-Brown and Evans-Pritchard, see Srinivas’s several autobiographical pieces in his anthology (2002: 656–58, 675–79, 700–05, 711–12). 4. For a more comprehensive account of Srinivas’s life and work in Baroda, see Shah (2007). 5. Interestingly, Srinivas’s one of the last few papers was entitled, ‘An Obituary on Caste as a System’ (delivered as a lecture in Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata under different titles, and published posthumously in 2003). 6. All these theses were published: Sheth (1968), Parikh (1965), Joshi (1966), Shah (2002). 7. Srinivas joined the department of sociology as professor in February 1959, and was the only member of the department at least till the end of June—three more members seem to have joined only in the beginning of July. Srinivas drafted the MA syllabus, piloted it through the various authorities of the university, received its final approval in April, and its teaching began in the middle of July.

References Bendix, Reinhard. 1959. Max Weber: An intellectual portrait. New York: Doubleday. Evans-Pritchard, E.E. 1948. Divine kingship of the Shilluk of the Nilotic Sudan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 1951. Social anthropology. London: Cohen and West. Gluckman, Max. 1955. The judicial process among the Barotse of Northen Rhodesia. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Goheen, John. 1958a. ‘A comment on Professor Singer’s “Cultural values in India’s economic development” ’, Economic development and cultural change, 7 (1): 1–3. ———. 1958b. ‘A note on Professor Srinivas’s note’, Economic development and cultural change, 7 (1): 9–10. Gupta, Dipankar. 2005. ‘The anti-utopian liberal: An introduction to the works of André Béteille’, in Dipankar Gupta (ed.): Anti-utopia: Essential writings of André Béteille (1–19). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Joshi, V.H. 1964. Economic development and social change in a South Gujarat village. Baroda: M.S. University of Baroda. Karve, D.G. 1958. ‘Comments’, in ‘India’s economic development and cultural values: A Discussion’, Economic development and cultural change, 7 (1): 7–9.

Chapter 14.indd 258

11/13/2013 7:42:01 PM

M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber and Functionalism259 Madan, T.N. 2006. ‘The sociology of Hinduism: Reading “backwards” from Srinivas to Weber’, Sociological bulletin, 53 (1): 215–36. Parikh, R.D. 1965. The press and society: A sociological study. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Roosevelt, Eleanor. 1953. India and the awakening East. New York: Harper and Brothers. Shah, A.M. 2002. Exploring India’s rural past: A Gujarat village in the early nineteenth century. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2007. ‘M.N. Srinivas in Baroda’, in P.K. Misra, K.K. Basa and H.K. Bhat (eds.): M.N. Srinivas: the man and his work (41–61). Jaipur: Rawat. Shah, A.M., B.S. Baviskar and E.A. Ramaswamy (eds.). 1996. Social Structure and change, Vol. I: Theory and method—Evaluation of the work of M.N. Srinivas. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Sheth, N.R. 1968. The social framework of an Indian factory. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Singer, Milton. 1956. ‘Cultural values in India’s economic development’, The annals of the American academy of political and social science, 305 (May): 81–91. ———. 1958. ‘A postscript’, in ‘India’s economic development and cultural values: A discussion’, Economic development and cultural change, 7 (1): 10–12. ———. (ed). 1973. Entrepreneurship and modernization of occupational cultures in South Asia. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University. Srinivas, M.N. 1952. Religion and society among the Coorgs of South India. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 1955. ‘Castes: Can they exist in the India of tomorrow?’, in Indian Conference of Social Work, Proceedings of the seminar on ‘Casteism and removal of untouchability’, Delhi. Also in Economic weekly, 15 October: 1230–32. ———. 1956. ‘Sanskritisation and westernisation’, Far eastern quarterly, 15 (4): 481–96. ———. 1957. ‘Caste in modern India’, Journal of Asian studies, 16 (4): 529–48. ———. 1958. ‘A note on Mr Goheen’s note’, in ‘India’s cultural values and economic development: A discussion’, Economic development and cultural change, 7 (1): 3–6. ———. 1962. Caste in modern India and other essays. Bombay: Asia Publishing House. ———. 1966. Social change in modern India. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 1973a. ‘Comments on Hanna Papanek’s “Pakistan’s new industrialists and businessmen” and Richard Fox’s “Pariah capitalism and traditional Indian merchants, past and present” ’, in Milton Singer (ed.): Entrepreneurship and modernization of occupational cultures in South Asia (275–78). Durham, North Carolina: Duke University. ———. 1973b. ‘Some comments on Milton Singer’s “Industrial leadership, the Hindu ethic and the spirit of socialism” ’, in Milton Singer (ed.): Entrepreneurship and modernization of occupational cultures in South Asia (279–86). Durham, North Carolina: Duke University. ———. 1986. ‘On living in a revolution’, in James E. Roach (ed.): India 2000: The next fifteen years (3–24). Maryland: Riverdale and Delhi: Allied. ———. 1992. On living in a revolution and other essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2002. Collected essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ——— 2003. ‘An obituary on caste as a system’, Economic and political weekly, 38 (5): 455–59.

Chapter 14.indd 259

11/13/2013 7:42:01 PM

260

A.M. Shah

Srinivas, M.N. and A.M. Shah. 1968. ‘Hinduism,’ International encyclopedia of the social sciences, New York: Macmillan. Weber, Max. 1930. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. London: George Allen and Unwin. ———. 1947. From Max Weber: Essays in sociology (translated, edited and with an introduction by H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills). New York: Oxford University Press. ———. 1958. The religion of India: The sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism (translated and edited by H.H. Gerth and Don Martindale). New York: The Free Press.

Response to Shah I am grateful to Professor Shah for drawing attention to Srinivas’s ‘Some comments on Mitton Singer’s “Industrial Leadership, the Hindu Ethic and the Spirit of Socialism” ’ (1973). The title of the piece pinpoints its intentionally limited scope. Of its seven-and-a-half pages a little under four-and-a-half are devoted to Weber in the specific context of Singer’s paper. Srinivas’s criticism focuses mainly on what he considers Weber’s Eurocentric arbitrariness in, first, looking for a ‘dogmatic foundation’ in ‘an acephalous religion’ and, then, selectively, simplistically and misleadingly identifying the ideas of karma and samsara as constituting the same. Srinivas criticises Weber for failing to recognise both the Gita as a scriptural source for a ‘work ethic’ and ‘the lack of fit between the sacred literature and existential reality’. He also castigates Weber for an alleged lack of awareness of how caste actually functions. Not only are Srinivas’s comments brief (rather than ‘a lengthy critique’), they also ignore much of what Weber writes about Hinduism and the ‘heterodoxies’ in his book, including the clear recognition of historical processes on the ground, notably the twin processes of ‘intensive’ and ‘extensive Hinduisation’, which (as I said in my essay [see Madan 2006]) anticipated Srinivas’s discussion of Sanskritisation and more besides. There is a striking similarity here of both conceptual formulation and phraseology. It is a pity Srinivas nowhere commented on this convergence. As for the search for a dogmatic foundation, let me recall that Weber wrote early in his book that ‘the concept of dogma is entirely lacking’ in Hinduism (The Religion of India, p. 21). He does, however, say later that samsara and karma ‘are the truly “dogmatic” doctrines of Hinduism’ (ibid., p.118). The double quotation marks are Weber’s, indicating his reservations about the use of the term, but there is an

Chapter 14.indd 260

11/13/2013 7:42:01 PM

M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber and Functionalism261

apparent contradiction here, an uncertainty rather than assertiveness as Srinivas’s comments suggest. Moreover, it may not be denied that these concepts are common to all Indic religious traditions and, as reported in ethnographical literature, known in one sense or another among all castes. They are of critical importance. Regarding the Bhagavad Gita, Weber does indeed discuss varieties of ‘professional ethic’ in this text (devoting about eleven pages to it), contrasting different (Brahman, Kshatriya) varna dharmas. All routes lead to what he calls the ‘redeemer religiosity’ (ibid.: 187), a point also made by most commentators on this work. Srinivas’s enumeration of certain religious preceptors, concepts and styles is necessarily brief, contained in the very same four-and-a-half pages that I mentioned above. It is not the kind of engagement with various categories of Indic religious traditions that one finds in Weber’s 400 pages long book—which does not at all mean that one agrees with all of Weber’s judgments. I reiterate here what I wrote in my essay: Sociologists of Hinduism must take both Srinivas and Weber seriously.

References Madan, T.N. 2006. ‘The sociology of Hinduism: Reading “backwards” from Srinivas to Weber’, Sociological bulletin, 53 (1): 215–36. Srinivas, M.N. 1973. ‘Some comments on Milton Singer’s “Industrial leadership, the Hindu ethic and the spirit of socialism” ’, in Milton Singer (ed.): Entrepreneurship and modernization of occupational cultures in South Asia (279–86). Durham, North Carolina: Duke University. Weber, Max. 1958. The religion of India: The sociology of Hinduism and Buddhism (translated and edited by H.H. Gerth and Don Martindale). New York: The Free Press.

Chapter 14.indd 261

11/13/2013 7:42:01 PM

15 Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept: An Appraisal of M.N. Srinivas* T.K. Oommen

M

ysore Narasimhachar Srinivas (1916–1999) is admittedly the most widely read and recognised sociologist of India. The fact that the Indian Sociological Society (ISS) in collaboration with the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) had instituted a memorial lecture to honour Srinivas is a testimony to his standing in Indian social science. Memorial lectures are occasions to celebrate the contributions of the remembered personality. However, let me also state at the very outset that the spirit which informs this memorial lecture is the Durkheimian assertion that a discipline can forget its pioneers only at its peril and yet unless it transcends them no progress is possible. The three acknowledged teachers of Srinivas are G.S. Ghurye, A.R.  Radcliffe-Brown and E.E. Evans-Pritchard; the first an Indian sociologist, and the second and third British social anthropologists. While Ghurye is widely acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of Indian sociology, his ambivalence to sociology and affinity to anthropology is not so well known.1 Ghurye has substantially contributed to the ‘anthropologisation of Indian sociology’ (see Savur 2007). Srinivas did his PhD from Bombay University under the supervision of Ghurye. He registered for DPhil at Oxford University with Radcliffe-Brown but completed the dissertation under Evans-Pritchard.

Chapter 15.indd 262

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

263

Both doctoral dissertations were written based on the same material, namely, the ethnography of Coorgs. Radcliffe-Brown wrote after a meeting of anthropology teachers from Oxford, Cambridge and London thus: ‘The comparative study of institutions of primitive societies was accepted as the tasks of social anthropology, and this name was preferred to sociology’ (1952: 276). The ‘fields’ of sociology and social anthropology were clearly distinguished in Europe; by common consent sociology was the study of one’s own society which was reckoned as ‘industrial’, ‘modern’ and hence ‘advanced’. In contrast, the task of social anthropology was to study ‘primitive’ societies. Srinivas was initially trained at the Bombay University where the preferred ‘method’ those days was mainly Indological. For social anthropologists in Britain the field was primitive societies and the method they prescribed to study them was participant observation. Srinivas attempted an innovative combination of studying one’s own society through the method of participant observation. This creative leap he made has far-reaching implications for sociology in India, which is one of the two themes of my lecture.2

I The notion of one’s own society as conceptualised by Srinivas has a broad as well as a narrow referent. According to him, ‘. . . any Indian working in any part of India or with any group, is working in his own society defining the society in purely political terms’ (Srinivas 2002: 577). He refers to polity and society interchangeably; in fact, often the reference is to subcontinental India and not even ‘political India’. This conflation of polity/country with society is particularly problematic in South Asia. For example, one finds the existence of Tamil society not only in India but also in Sri Lanka, of Punjabi society not only in Pakistan but also in India, and of course the Bengali society is vivisected between India and Bangladesh and Naga society between India and Myanmar and so on. Additionally, how about the Indians in Diaspora, whose stock is continuously increasing? The conflation of polity and society, of state and nation, is so common that most social scientists are impervious to its consequences (see Oommen 1991) and Srinivas is no exception to this. On the other hand, Srinivas’s narrow conception of one’s own society is indeed vexatious. Referring to the neighbourhood in Mysore city where

Chapter 15.indd 263

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

264T.K. Oommen

he grew up, he notes that the culture of College Road inhabited by Brahmins was different from that of Bandikeri (literally, bullock-cart street), the locality inhabited by shepherds who lived barely fifty yards from the College Road. He reports that he got his first ‘culture shock’ from this neighbourhood. Srinivas goes so far as to note: ‘Bandikeri was my Trobriand Island, my Nuerland, my Navaho country and what have you’ (2002: 579). But the problem of specifying the boundaries of one’s own society does not end here; the cultural diversity of College Road itself was substantial because the Brahmin residents there are drawn from different linguistic groups and belonged to different Hindu ‘sectarian’ groups. Srinivas asserts: ‘The point I am making is that I could have found ‘the other’, not only in my backyard but even next door’ (ibid.: 580). Srinivas rightly holds that studying one’s own society is as difficult as studying the other. His reasoning goes thus: ‘I am a Sri Vaishnava Brahmin by birth, but it will take me years to do a proper anthropological study of a Sri Vaishnava Community, and a life-time to master the complex theology and ritual of different groups and subsects among them’ (ibid.: 586). If so, the social anthropologist would need a long time to study not only the other, be it the Bandikeri Shepherds or Trobriand Islanders, but also ‘one’s own society’, defined in the narrowest possible terms. In the case of Srinivas, it was the Sri Vaishnava Brahmin community into which he was born. Srinivas is right in discarding the much-touted distinction in social anthropology between studying the other and the self. However, the obliteration of the distinction between the other and the self, the merging of the two fields, poses several serious questions for the method. First, can one really merge all the others? Is it not that there is a continuum of the others beginning with one’s neighbourhood, one’s linguistic region, one’s country and the distant other be it of the Navaho Country or Nuerland with two polar points? If the degree of otherness varies, the intensity required for field observations too is bound to vary. Second, if one is studying one’s own society defined in the narrowest possible terms (for example, Sri Vaishnava Brahmins, in the case of Srinivas), is not participant observation a contradiction in terms because the observer and the participant are rolled into one? Third, if one is to understand the theology and rituals of a religious sect, is it not necessary to carefully analyse the texts (oral or written) so as to understand the gap between prescription and practice? Will intensive fieldwork in itself suffice? Is not a study of texts also essential?

Chapter 15.indd 264

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

265

Including the study of self and not only the other within the ken of social anthropology has a logical consequence, namely, the study of individual self, not just the societal self, can also become the unit of research! And Srinivas did reach this logical destination when he proposed the following ‘field’ for anthropological investigations. He asks: ‘Why cannot an anthropologist treat his own life as an ethnographic field and study it? . . . The life of every individual can be regarded as a “case study” and who is better qualified than the individual himself to study it?’ (ibid.: 593). If these proposals are accepted, not only that the ‘field’ of social anthropology expands exponentially, but its methods too have to multiply because it has to study the distant other, the immediate other, one’s own society and even the individual self! Srinivas did recognise that, ‘What is one’s own society is always difficult to define’ (Srinivas et al. 1979a: 3). In the case of India with such stupendous religious, regional-linguistic, and social (caste) diversity it is indeed intriguing to define one’s own society. And yet he pleaded to undertake ‘. . . the field study of typical villages, in different linguistic areas in our country’ (italics mine; Srinivas 1955b: 21). It seems to me that a rational and an acceptable notion of what is one’s own society in the Indian context is indicated here. These are linguistic regions to which people belong and one’s mother tongue is usually the language of that region which considerably facilitates intensive fieldwork. When one refers to villages in Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Punjab, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, etc. one is referring to villages in such ‘societies’. Such an understanding avoids the conflation between polity (India) and society (Tamil Nadu) and the consequent confusion that emanates from it. Thus, the observation ‘. . . most Indians know only a tiny segment of it (that is, culture) and this is frequently confused with the culture of the country’ (Srinivas et al. 1979a: 3) makes profound sense. Yet Srinivas holds that ‘. . . the study of a village or a small town or a caste provides a strategic point of entry for the study of Indian society and culture as a whole’ (italics mine) (1972: 158). This quantum leap from the village to the country is mistaking the part for the whole. The tendency to treat the unit of one’s fieldwork as a microcosm of the macrocosm which is India (and often the subcontinent) is indeed problematic given the mind-boggling diversity of India for two reasons. One, as Srinivas himself admits, the cultural difference between College Road and Bandikeri in Mysore City, two adjacent neighbourhoods was substantial; indeed they were two different worlds for him.

Chapter 15.indd 265

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

266T.K. Oommen

Second, in spite of his suggestion to study typical villages from each of the linguistic regions, Srinivas does not accept typical villages as an empirical reality. He insists: ‘The few who do take the trouble of searching for the “typical” field discover that there is no such thing . . .’ (Srinivas et al. 1979a: 7). This indeed fits in with his stumbling on Rampura: ‘. . . the time at my disposal was so short that I had to start my work at the earliest possible opportunity, and Rampura was the only village I could get a place to stay’ (Srinivas 1979: 20). While appreciating Srinivas’s disarming sincerity, it is difficult to endorse his ambivalence about the typicality of the unit of research; ambivalence because he ‘selected’ Rampura in 1948 for sheer pragmatic reasons and yet in 1955 he recommended the study of typical villages from each of the linguistic regions, but in 1979 he asserts that typicality of village is a mirage! Situational exigency cannot be the basis of abandoning a well-established principle. All of Srinivas’s field research was done in India and the first major fieldwork was done in Coorg (now Kodagu), which was not part of his ‘society’, and hence an ideal site for participant observation. But he admits that the Coorg study was not based on intensive fieldwork (Srinivas uses the two expressions, participant observation and intensive fieldwork, interchangeably). He writes: In fact, my first major fieldwork, namely, in Coorg, was severely affected by my coming down with a serious abdominal ailment during the first few weeks of my stay in Mercara. I took months to recover and had to abandon the ideas I had entertained of spending several months in a Coorg village. I got a chance to experience field research only in 1948 when I spent over ten months in Rampura, a village 22 miles from Mysore . . . (1979: 19–20).

I want to underline here a serious disjunction which exists between ‘field’ and ‘method’. Rampura was very much a part of the society to which Srinivas belonged, notwithstanding the cultural differences between urban and rural areas within the same regional-linguistic region, which is a universal phenomenon. In contrast, the Coorg society was not a part of Hindu society; it was ‘a tribal society’ moving in the direction of Hinduisation when Srinivas was studying it. In fact, that movement provided the rationale to reinforce the notion of sanskritisation, which he noted earlier (see Srinivas 1942). By common consent Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India was/is a masterly ethnographic account and yet it is not

Chapter 15.indd 266

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

267

the product of participant observation, which calls for intensive study of a small society for two to three years. (Srinivas 1955b: 21). On the other hand, Rampura was a part of his society which he studied through participant observation and on the basis of which he formulated the concept of dominant caste. Viewed thus, it seems that participant observation is not a necessary condition for producing brilliant results. I have argued long ago that the substantive concerns of a discipline, the nature of society one investigates and the purpose for which the research is undertaken conjointly determine the appropriateness of the techniques of data collection one employs (Oommen 1969) and hence do not intend to pursue the argument here. Srinivas recognises two problems which confront the social anthropologist who is engaged in the study of her/his own society. S/he is ‘. . . likely to be influenced by his social position, not only in his observations but also in the problems he selects for study’ (1972: 154) Gender bias in the selection of themes for research existed everywhere, until recently, irrespective of disciplines and whether one studied one’s own society or the other. It required a feminist movement to overcome this bias, and viewing problems through the gender lens is providing the much-needed balance in the very selection of problems for study. The Indian society was viewed from the perspective of upper caste male, at least until recently. There was an interesting conjunction between Indology and male perspective, because women did not have access to sacred texts. The non-Brahmin perspective was subjected to a cognitive black out. The field-view is an asset here but the impossibility of an upper-caste male researcher to penetrate the worlds of women, untouchables and some of the religious minorities still linger. The advocacy of a bottom-up perspective is an essential corrective (see Oommen 2004: 161–75). It is important to underline here that it is not enough that the problems are looked at from the earthworm’s-eye view, that is, with empathy, but the earthworms (that is, the lowest groups) themselves need to study the problems, an impossibility in rural India, at least until recently. The complaint that Indian sociology is but Hindu sociology persists. The few beginnings made to study non-Hindu groups are welcome but grossly inadequate considering the size and diversity of the non-Hindu population. But the scarce attempts to study Indian social reality from the perspective of religious minorities are invariably dubbed as ‘antinational’ and ‘communal’. Thus, an unintended and indeed unjustifiable

Chapter 15.indd 267

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

268T.K. Oommen

juxtaposition between national sociology versus communal sociology comes into being (see Oommen 1983). The persisting bias in selecting problems for research, be it based on gender, caste or religion does not augur well for Indian sociology. The social location of the researcher further complicates matters, thereby bringing about a rupture between field and method. Srinivas held the view that ‘. . . sociology and social anthropology ought to be field oriented in India if not become “field sciences” ’ (Srinivas et al. 1979a: 2). This reaction is understandable viewed in terms of the Indological orientation which prevailed in the Department of Sociology of Bombay University where Srinivas got his initial training. In fact, the advocacy of field-view as against the book-view helped considerably to de-Indologise Indian sociology, and we are indeed indebted to Srinivas for this. But field-fundamentalism is as problematic as text-extremism. Let me illustrate this with special reference to the study of caste system in India. If a researcher undertakes a comparative field study of the institution of caste among Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims in India without taking into account the relevant texts of the respective religious communities it could be highly misleading. While the similarity of some of the caste practices including the practice of untouchability across religious communities could be captured through fieldwork, the fact that the norms and values of Hinduism sanctions caste system, those of Sikhism had challenged them, those of Islam and Christianity totally disapprove them will not be brought out through field-work. To argue that the fieldworker is expected to have knowledge of the relevant texts before s/he starts fieldwork is to acknowledge the importance of textual knowledge. To suggest that what is relevant for the fieldworker is only to understand people’s behaviour without bothering about the norms and values prescribed in the text is to ignore the seminal distinction between ‘ought’ and ‘is’ in the study of human society. At any rate, it will not be possible to make sense of verbal articulations and behaviour of the respondents/informants if the fieldworker is unfamiliar with the texts which are the sources of norms and values. As Marion J. Levy aptly remarks: The distinction between ideal [read, prescriptions in the texts] and actual [read, what is observed in the field] structures is one of the most vital and useful tools of analysis of any society, any time, anywhere. In one form or

Chapter 15.indd 268

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

269

another, men have been aware of it since time began for them. It is, however, so obvious and such a humble distinction that many social scientists either neglect it or overlook its importance (1966: 26).

Those who look upon sociology and social anthropology as ‘field sciences’ are apt to ignore the ideal structures and those who ignore the field and confine to textual analyses, written or oral, will not have adequate familiarity with actual structures. These one-sided approaches can only provide distorted understanding of social reality. This is particularly true of Indian civilisation region with an uninterrupted history of some 3500 to 5000 years. That is why I suggested a quarter of a century ago: Render unto the Text that which is the Text’s and Render unto the Field that which is the Field’s. The constructed estrangement between the Text and the Field, value and fact, does not exist; it is largely an artefact of scholastic craftiness, a manifestation of intellectual trade unionism (Oommen 1983: 116).

According to Srinivas, the deep division between rural people and urban academics dictates the ‘special significance’ of field-orientation for Indian sociology and social anthropology: Intellectuals in this country tend to be drawn from upper and middle strata living in urban areas, and are usually ignorant of rural India and the culture of the people inhabiting it. They are unaware of the need to study it with respect and humility’ (Srinivas et al. 1979a: 2).

I am afraid this observation is factually incorrect because not an inconsiderable proportion of Indian intellectuals are drawn from rural India. Even if it were correct on the eve of Independence, by the time it was articulated in 1979 the situation was fast changing. At any rate it is not based on any empirical evidence. I shall let that pass but the statement has nothing in it, which is specific to India. Intellectuals all over the world used to be largely from urban upper and middle classes, although the situation is gradually changing everywhere. Similarly, ignorance about rural people and their culture is indeed widespread among urban dwellers in almost all parts of the world and the latter may hold the former in contempt. Finally, given the above conditions, the intellectuals rarely recognise the need to study the rural people and their ‘culture with respect and humility’; this is not an Indian peculiarity.

Chapter 15.indd 269

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

270T.K. Oommen

But there are three grave problems in the context of field research in rural India and Srinivas did recognise them (see 1979). The problems are (i) the notion of purity and pollution, (ii) the exclusion of women from public space, and (iii) externalisation of non-Indic religious communities, particularly Muslims in North India. The Indian researchers drawn from ritually clean caste background irrespective of their religious identity cannot interact with ease with ‘untouchables’, particularly in rural India, as they are constrained by the disapproval imposed on them through the code of conduct prevalent in villages. Srinivas prescribed: ‘Ideally the anthropologist should be able to empathise with the Brahmin and the untouchable . . .’ (2002: 583). The desirability of this prescription apart, the issue is what happens if the researcher indulges in behaviour which violates the prescribed code of social conduct. There is indeed a serious conflict between desirability and possibility and some researchers have reported about the adverse consequences for their research endeavour if and when they violate the local norms (see Srinivas et al. 1979a). The way out of this impasse seems to be to view the village with the lens of the untouchables, live and interact with them. But this remedy is rarely prescribed, and if prescribed hardly executed. In either event, viewing the village from top or bottom will imperil the holistic picture, an avowed goal of participant observation. Equally tortuous is the male researcher obtaining accessibility to women respondents/informants in the field. Generally speaking, village women are not expected to interact even with men of the village, save a few close kin, not to speak of strangers. This rule applies in the reverse too although not observed as strictly. Thus, a woman researcher may have greater access to male informants/respondents as compared with a male researcher to female informants/respondents. This inaccessibility, however, varies across regions, religions and castes. Finally, just like the social architecture of Indian village is determined by the purity-pollution line (those who are above and below the line are residentially segregated), ghettoisation based on religion is common, particularly is some parts of India. The acceptability of a researcher of Muslim background visiting the areas inhabited by caste Hindus and vice verse is very low. Thus, all the three factors— the practice of untouchability, the exclusion of women from public sphere, and ghettoisation of religious communities—put severe limitations on participant observation in village India. As and when it is

Chapter 15.indd 270

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

271

attempted the possibility of obtaining a holistic view of village life, one of the main advantages of participant observation, would scarcely be accomplished. Participant observation, the method, which emerged in the context of European anthropologists studying colonies, is recommended not only to study tribal and peasant communities by Indian anthropologists, but assumed to be appropriate to study all varieties of ‘fields’. For example, of the fifteen chapters, in The Fieldworker and the Field, which report on field-work in India, ten are on non-rural ‘fields’; five, on urban India; and five, on complex organisations (see Srinivas et al. 1979b). The unstated assumption appears to be that participant observation as a method can be profitably invoked in all varieties of field situations.3 This implies that there is no relationship between the nature of ‘field’ investigated and the type of ‘method’ employed; a multiplicity of field situations can be investigated through one method. This advocacy of ‘methodmonism’ comes as an unpleasant surprise because Srinivas himself had acknowledged earlier that ‘They [social anthropologists] should also realise that there is a vast range of problems where the intensive method is either not applicable at all or needs to be supplemented with other techniques’ (Srinivas 1962: 143). It is intriguing that, after 17 years, in 1979, the year in which The Fieldworker and the Field was published, his position became rigid. Mercifully, he reverted to his earlier position and recognised ‘. . . the need for methodological catholicity and resilience, and an ability to choose the appropriate method for tackling a particular problem’ (Srinivas 1994: 13). The information types, which need to be obtained from the field, are basically three: (i) frequency distribution, (ii) incidents and histories, and (iii) institutionalised status and norms. And, the efficiency of ‘methods’ varies depending upon data-type. For example, the best method to understand frequency distribution is enumeration (census) and samples. As for incidents and histories, the most appropriate method is observation. Finally, to get a proper idea about institutionalised status and norms, the best method is interviewing informants. But no method is completely adequate by itself to collect data regarding any information type. Thus, although data regarding institutionalised status and norms are best collected through interviewing critical informants, that data need to be supplemented through observation. That is, adequate and appropriate data collection invariably requires the employment of a plurality of methods, which is a long settled issue in

Chapter 15.indd 271

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

272T.K. Oommen

sociology (see Zelditch Jr. 1962) and practised even in India (see, for example, Oommen 1987a). In this context, the persisting pointless controversy regarding the superiority of data-type, qualitative versus quantitative, should be taken note of. Different disciplines collected different types of data depending upon the demands on them and this, in turn, required different styles of data collection. These traditions are historically evolved and the practitioners of different disciplines followed them without much questioning. For example, the demands of the welfare state compelled economists to collect quickly massive quantitative data from huge populations either through census and/or samples. In contrast, social anthropologists were required to collect qualitative data from small pre-literate communities, which was a time-consuming exercise. But, over a period of time, unfortunately, these styles of data collection came to be accepted uncritically by academics, instead of understanding the limitations of the data they analyse, either directly collected by them or collected by the paid investigators. The mutual profound disrespect between economists and social anthropologists has disastrous consequences for Indian social science. Srinivas spent thirteen years at the Delhi School of Economics (1959–72) and might have experienced the condescending attitude of economists towards the discipline of social anthropology. The economists look down upon micro studies, qualitative data and participant observation.4 Perhaps as a response to that Srinivas wrote a paper (1975) which is a scathing criticism of survey research and was packed with biting sarcasm. He rightly castigated the research/academic entrepreneurs who preside over large-scale surveys as directors, and the division of labour between data gatherers who occupy the lowest position in the hierarchy, the data analysts who are in the middle and the theorybuilders who have no idea whatsoever about the manner in which the data are collected and/or analysed. In contrast, the social anthropologist who collected data directly had a great command over his/her data in discrete details, and there existed no hiatus between data and theory, Srinivas argued. However, he admitted of knowing ‘. . . anthropologists staying in five-star hotels and being driven by chauffeurs to their villages where they checked the work of their research assistants, issued instructions for the next stage of work, and returned in the evening to the cool of their air-conditioned hotel rooms (Srinivas 2002: 545) If so, research entrepreneurs and the division of labour between those who collected data and those who theorised are common to both the disciplines.

Chapter 15.indd 272

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

273

Srinivas criticised survey research mainly because of the incompetence and dishonesty of field investigators and the danger of faking data. Yet it cannot be asserted that these deficits do not afflict participant observation. Incompetence of researchers has nothing to do with the techniques of data collection; one comes across incompetence among survey researchers as well as participant observers. Similarly, there are honest and dishonest researchers both among survey researchers and participant observers. As for faking, human ingenuity for it is stupendous; humans are capable of faking everything. The point is how to formulate questions, the response to which cannot be faked. Let me conclude my observations on the relationship between field and method. Social anthropology emerged in the colonial context; its field was the study of the other. The context disappeared and there is no rationale in clinging to it; Srinivas rightly argued for the study of one’s own society as the new and/or additional field of social anthropology. Participant observation was an appropriate method to study the other, but to study one’s own society one can resort to a plurality of methods.

II So far, I have discussed the disjunctions between field and method in social anthropology and often indicated the lack of fit between them. Presently, I propose to analyse the relationship between these two, field and method on the one hand, and concept formation, on the other. Fieldwork, particularly participant observation, can only be undertaken in specific locales and settings—villages, parts of towns and cities, complex organisations—but it can be creative only if researchers make quantum leaps into concept formation and/or theory building. Srinivas is justly famous for the concepts of sanskritisation and dominant caste. The notion of sanskritisation, it is widely believed, has been formulated based on fieldwork in Coorg. When Srinivas did his fieldwork among Coorgs they were cognised as a ‘tribe’ eager to be a part of Hindu society, and sanskritisation was the means to achieve that goal.5 But this understanding is not entirely correct. Srinivas acknowledges that the idea of sanskritisation was already present in its incipient form in his master’s degree thesis (Srinivas 1942), which was based ‘. . . primarily on a study of earlier published work on Mysore’ (Srinivas 1972: 149). The process of sanskritisation followed

Chapter 15.indd 273

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

274T.K. Oommen

by non-Brahmin castes of Mysore region manifested in banning divorce and widow re-marriage, approbated norms among Mysore Brahmins. Similarly, at the time of Coorg study, Srinivas did not formulate the notion of dominant caste, although he acknowledges the possibility of Coorgs becoming a dominant caste. He writes: ‘Occasionally, a group originally outside the Hindu fold, such as the Coorgs . . . may become dominant by virtue of their numbers, wealth and martial prowess’ (Srinivas 1955a: 7). But the notion of dominant caste was explicitly formulated based on intensive fieldwork in Rampura to unfold the co-existence of two ‘hierarchies’—ritual and political. The points relevant for the present analysis are the following: (a) Srinivas, a Mysore Brahmin, was studying his own society when he was studying marriage and family in Mysore and village Rampura; (b) the first study being based on published data collected by others, was not based on intensive fieldwork, let alone participant observation but the second study was based on intensive fieldwork; (c) it is not necessary to study other cultures in order to understand better one’s own society as several distinguished European social anthropologists argued;6 (d) concepts as popular as sanskritisation (which was implied in the study of marriage and family in Mysore) and dominant caste (which was noted in the study of Coorg) were not necessarily anchored to intensive fieldwork; and (e) given the above, mystification of participant observation and study of other cultures as the unique selling points of social anthropology are dispensable ideas. I have dealt with the problems associated with the concept of dominant caste long ago and shall not repeat them here (see Oommen 1970). For the present, I shall confine my attention to the concept of sanskritisation. Srinivas initially conceived sanskritisation as an endo-genous micro-process to understand social mobility within the Indian society, thereby exploding the long-established myth that caste system is static. Initially only Brahmins were thought to be emulated, but later he discovered that twice-born non-Brahmin groups can also be role models for lower castes. But the atypicality of the field can constrict the reach and scope of a concept. Srinivas admits this: ‘My model of sanskritisation was derived . . . from both the Brahmins and Lingayats. I did miss the Kshatriya and Vaishya models . . . because Mysore region lacks the Kshatriya and Vaishya castes whose style of life is markedly different from that of Brahmins and Lingayats’7 (1972: 150).

Chapter 15.indd 274

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

275

This observation of Srinivas points to the imperative need for selecting representative unit/s from the field instead of pronouncing that no such thing exists. If the Mysore region did not have Kshatriya and Vaishya groups of appropriate social standing, other regions could have been selected for observation. If, indeed, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas too did exist in the Mysore region all the four groups—Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Lingayats—would have provided role models for sanskritisation, enhancing its scope and rendering the concept more powerful. Thus, Srinivas successfully rebutted the tendency to equate sanskritisation with Brahminisation. Even so, it needs to be underlined here that all the role models are twice-born groups or the groups which experienced substantial upward mobility through reform movements and whose status is equivalent to twice-born groups as illustrated by the case of Lingayats. The Other Backward Classes (OBCs) of Mysore were neither a source nor an obstacle to sanskritisation, although they were leading a powerful protest movement for caste quotas at that time. That is, the agents of sanskritisation cannot but be upper castes. The castes in the OBC category can become dominant castes as they are above the pollution line. But the untouchables cannot become even dominant castes. Thus viewed, we get three broad layers of caste-clusters— the upper castes, Other Backward Classes, and Scheduled Castes—the last being cumulatively dominated—ritually, economically, politically, socially and culturally. It is against this background that one must situate the cohesive role claimed for sanskritisation by Srinivas (2002: 221–35). Along with sanskritisation, which is an endogenous process, Srinivas identified as sources of social change in modern India exogenous processes such as westernisation/modernisation and secularisation. While the untouchables may take recourse to these exogenous processes, there is no scope for them within Hinduism to achieve upward mobility. Even the nonreligious route is not accessible to them, because Srinivas reports: ‘I have not come across the untouchables being dominant anywhere’ (1955a: 7) and ‘The untouchables are never wealthy . . .’ (1955b: 35). And yet he asserted: Sanskritisation is beginning to transform the culture of Hindu castes from the Brahmin to the Harijan. . . . It is enabling the lower castes and the groups marginal to Hinduism to occupy a high place in the structure of Hindu society . . . to the decrease of structural distance between various castes. This is likely to result in greater cohesion among Hindus’ (Srinivas 1962: 108).

Chapter 15.indd 275

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

276T.K. Oommen

There is hardly any empirical evidence to confirm this because it is not sufficient that untouchables attempt to sanskritise themselves but it is necessary that those who are above the pollution line should accept them, the prospects of which is bleak; sanskritisation is dysfunctional for them. For example, the smiths of Karnataka did not succeed in their efforts to sanskritise. If all the three routes to upward mobility— sanskritisation, political power and material prosperity—are inaccessible to untouchables, they cannot be ‘integrated’ into Hindu society. If, for one-sixth of Hindus, the concept of sanskritisation is alienating in its content, if not intent, is there a way out to render it relevant? I suggest that if sanskritisation is conceptualised as anticipatory socialisation on the part of a group or community and if it is visualised as an Indian variant of reference group behaviour (Merton 1957) it can be done; because anticipatory socialisation can be functional or dysfunctional. The critical difference between the two modes of anticipatory socialisation lies in the unit which takes to it; in the case of sanskritisation it is an inter-group dynamic, but in the version elaborated by Merton, it is an individual-group process. This clearly illustrates how the social structural features of the ‘field’ one investigates condition concept-formation. However, this does not mean that one cannot transcend the limitations of concepts in the light of field experiences and re-formulate them.8 As is well known, parallel thinking is common in the scholastic world and the scope of concepts and power of theory increase if they can be applied to a variety of empirical situations. I suggest that, with increasing upward social mobility occurring in contemporary India, independent of sanskritisation as formulated by Srinivas, among the ex-untouchables and the increasing individualism in Indian society as a whole, particularly in the urban setting, individuals and groups who aspire to narrow the gap between ritual and secular status may resort to sanskritisation. Sanskritisation can thus become an instrument of coping with status incongruence. Additionally, sanskritisation can also be conceived as a process of protest; given the increased freedom of behaviour available, individuals and groups may be emboldened to take to the norms and values of upper castes in a spirit of defiance not necessarily because it will lead to upward mobility. But this mode of ‘sanskritisation’ will not bring about cohesion in society. The points I want to make are two: (i) as the characteristics of the ‘field’ changes, the concepts which emerged out of fieldwork done earlier can be and should be

Chapter 15.indd 276

11/13/2013 7:42:34 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

277

reformulated, and (ii) as and when concepts are invoked to understand a variety of empirical situations, both the potentialities and limitations of concepts will be unfolded9 (see, for an illustration, Oommen 1987b). Srinivas does not mention any alternative or parallel form of endogenous source of mobility other than sanskritisation. But that there existed several such processes, which undermined the over-arching character and cohesive role of sanskritisation is for certain: Islamisation (latterly Arabisation) and Tamilisation being two examples. Since Islamisation is outside the pale of Hinduism, I shall not discuss it. But Tamilisation is very much within the ken of Hinduism (although not Sanskritic Hinduism), and hence I shall briefly advert to it. The cognitive blackout of Tamilisation goes against the very grain of India’s and Hinduism’s diversity; it promotes monistic Hinduism. Sanskritic Hinduism has been an important, perhaps the most dominant, version of Hinduism and, because of that, it is assumed that everybody is eager to fall in line and sanskritise. But as G.L. Hart III writes: . . . the role of Aryan culture in Tamil Nadu has been overestimated . . . All classes of South Indian Brahmins follow mostly Dravidian customs; that the ‘sanskritisation’ made so much of by some anthropologists is, in the case of Tamil Nadu at least, for the most part the adoption of Dravidian customs which have always belonged to the upper class; and that where Aryan elements have entered into this process, they have been radically altered to fit Dravidian norms (1975: 58–59).

In the same vein, Burton Stein observed that the Tamils invoked the symbols of Tamilakam from at least the first century BC, and suggests that the Tamils had a ‘unique culture’ (1977: 11,25). Tamilakam connotes the home of Tamil language, culture and/or people and symbolises the distinction between Tamils who are internal to Tamil Nadu and contrasts them with the ‘external other’, the Aryan Hindus, who follow Sanskritic Hinduism. Tamilakam, thus, became a political symbol. Tamils, as other linguistic groups, are also divided into a number of endogamous status groups (kudi or kulam); they follow diverse Hindu sectarian traditions as well as Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. Thus, Tamil unity is anchored to Tamil culture and language irrespective of religious variations. There is no evidence to suggest that Sanskritic Hinduism encapsulated Tamilakam. It is true that a large number of protest movements against Brahmin priesthood (not Brahmins as such) and varna hierarchy and

Chapter 15.indd 277

11/13/2013 7:42:35 PM

278T.K. Oommen

by implication against Sanskritic Hinduism crystallised, but either got marginalised or got absorbed into Hinduism. The prominent examples are Buddhism and Jainism of the 6th century BC, which emerged in North India and the Lingayat movement, which crystallised in 12th century AD in South India. But the Tamil literary tradition began before the Tamils came into contact with Sanskritic/Aryan Hinduism. And, in contemporary India, the Tamil movement was propelled mainly by language and not religion, although the undercurrent of nonSanskritic Hinduism (Dravidian Hinduism) was always present. This has been reported by historian E.F. Irschik (1969), political scientists R.L. Hardgrave (1965) and M.R. Barnett (1976), and P. Spratt (1970), a journalist, among others. In the 19th century, several ancient Tamil texts, which were available only in private libraries, appeared in print and became accessible to substantial number of educated, wealthy non-Brahmin jati groups. The Tamil scholars who did extensive research on these sources argue that Saiva Sidhantha was the essence of Tamil religion before Brahmanic priesthood made its inroads. The leaders of the Tamil (Dravidian) movement of the 20th century labelled Saiva Sidhantha as Dravidian religion juxtaposing it with Aryan/Sanskritic Hinduism and invoked it as an electrifying source of mobilisation (Irschick 1969: 292–95). The Tamil purity movement identified Brahmins as Aryans and as custodians of Sanskritic civilisation. The non-Brahmins were identified as Dravidians and as the carriers of Tamil civilisation, and Brahmins were perceived as the sole agents of sanskritisation.10 Even an exaggerated scope attributed to sanskritisation cannot completely enlist SCs, STs, OBCs, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and even Tamils (Dravidian Hindus) as agents of sanskritisation and the last three (Muslims, Christians and Tamils) may not even aspire to undergo sanskritisation. The points I am making are: (a) that unless sanskritisation is re-conceptualised so as to take it out of the groove of Aryan Hinduism it cannot encapsulate Dravidian Hinduism, (b) that unless sanskritisation is defined as the Indian version of reference group behaviour, it cannot be applied to SCs, STs as well as religious minorities and, therefore, (c) Sanskritic Hinduism, which excludes these groups from its ambit, does not promote cohesion in Indian society. It is not sufficient to suggest that the scope of sanskritisation is constantly expanding but it is also necessary to demarcate the boundaries within which the concept is functional, and to identify the eligible aspirants who are

Chapter 15.indd 278

11/13/2013 7:42:35 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

279

likely to adopt it. As it is conceptualised by Srinivas, sanskritisation cannot but be cognised as an instrument perpetuating upper-caste hegemony, of castes which are the perennial role-models and tools of cultural homogenisation, producing if successful, a coercive equilibrium because it does not address the issue of ritual inequality between the agents of sanskritisation and the sanskritised. Admittedly, sanskritisation cannot be a tool of creating consensual equilibrium, that is, authentic cohesion informed of ritual equality.

III Srinivas did not deal with methodology as such, although he frequently refers to the method in social anthropology. However, he discusses several issues in methodology such as objectivity, empathy and the like. Methodology refers to philosophy of social science, which poses questions such as: Is social science a ‘science’ in the same sense as material and life sciences? Is ‘objectivity’ possible in social science and, if yes, in what sense? What is the relationship between theory, concepts and data? (see Oommen 2007) In contrast, discussions on method deal with specification of units of study, sampling, techniques of data collection and modes of analysing data. Needless to say, methodology and method are interrelated. My present interest is to understand the methodological orientation of Srinivas. Social scientists drastically differ in their methodological orientations. For example, Durkheim gave primacy to society and hence his methodological orientation may be designated as societal determinism. Similarly, Marx’s methodology is often labelled as economic determinism. In contrast, Weber’s obsession with individual action prompted analysts to designate him as a methodological individualist (see Benton 1977). The tendency to conflate state and nation and treating nation-state as a self-contained unit of analysis is referred to as ‘methodological nationalism’ (see Smith 1979). Following the same trail, the methodology pursued by Srinivas to understand Indian society may be designated as methodological Sanskritic Hinduism. This qualifier to Hinduism is crucial because he did not take into account Dravidian Hinduism, as I argued above. But for purposes of brevity and elegance I will refer to his orientation as Methodological Hinduism.11

Chapter 15.indd 279

11/13/2013 7:42:35 PM

280T.K. Oommen

It is crucial to recall here Srinivas’s understanding of Indian unity. He writes: ‘The concept of the unity of India is essentially a religious one’ and ‘As the idea of unity of India has its origin in the Hindu religion, nonHindus are excluded from it . . .’ (1962: 105, 107). Furthermore, ‘India is the sacred land not only of the Hindus but also of the Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists’ (Srinivas 1980: 2). This vision, which absorbs even Indic religious minorities into Hinduism and, by implication, postulating them as cultural insiders and those of non-Indic origin as cultural outsiders is precariously proximate to that upheld by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (see Savarkar 1929; Golwalkar 1939). The pertinent point to be noted here is that non-Indic religious communities are outside the pale of Indian unity, as Srinivas conceptualised it.12 I have argued above that it is impossible to encapsulate especially the ‘untouchables’ and Tamils into the fold of sanskritisation. Similarly, followers of non-Indic religious groups cannot also be within the fold of Sanskritic Hinduism. These groups and communities together make up well over 40 per cent of India’s population. The cohesion that Sanskritic Hinduism is capable of producing excludes them. In spite of the above limitations, Srinivas holds that: ‘All India Hinduism was synonymous with Sanskritic Hinduism’ (1972: 149). There is also a sequential determinism in his writings which connotes an inevitability of sanskritisation. As the Brahmins were rapidly westernising, castes ritually lower to them but above the pollution line were sanskritising; the implied stages are pre-sanskritisation, sanskritisation and westernisation. But this sequential determinism may lead to cognitive blackouts in the field. Thus, although the Coorgs were more westernised than the Mysore Brahmins when Srinivas was doing fieldwork, he failed to observe the phenomenon. And, in spite of the fact that Coorgs were more westernised than the Mysore Brahmins, Srinivas found that they were eager to sanskritise! The implication seems to be that westernisation is necessary but not sufficient; sanskritisation is absolutely inevitable as a stepping stone to westernisation for upward social mobility. Finally, the possibility of a group skipping sanskritisation and directly westernising is not logically admissible within this framework, although Srinivas notes: ‘It is possible that Westernisation may occur without an intermediate process of Sanskritisation’ (2002: 217). But empirical evidence to support the possibility of westernisation skipping sanskritisation is not collected and presented by Srinivas.

Chapter 15.indd 280

11/13/2013 7:42:35 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

281

Srinivas upholds the centrality of Hinduism in grafting tribes on to Hinduism as exemplified by the Coorg case, in facilitating status mobility of Other Backward Classes as manifested in reform movements and in boosting the aspirations of even ex-untouchables to move up in Hindu society. That is, even an expansive version of sanskritisation can only be conceived as a mechanism of ‘integrating’ Aryan Hindu society because Srinivas did not pay attention to the challenges posed by Tamilisation. This is the rationale behind designating his orientation as Methodological Hinduism, which is an anachronism in secularising India. I am not suggesting that secularisation is necessarily displacing sanskritisation; the two can and do co-exist. However, as the ‘secular space’ expands, the ‘sacred space’ is likely to shrink. Perhaps Srinivas was aware of this and hence he suggested in 1956: ‘The moment it is discovered that the term is more a hindrance than a help in analysis, it should be discarded quickly and without regret’ (see 2002: 218). We need not follow his advice literally, but we need to reformulate the notion of sanskritisation so that the disjunction between the concept and the fast changing field, the empirical situation in India, is attended to. Let me conclude by affirming that Srinivas did bring in a breath of fresh air into Indian Social Science and we should celebrate his life and works. At the same time, we should not hesitate to stand on his shoulders to see far ahead to recall Isaac Newton’s aphorism. For that we need to do the following. One, abandon the ambiguity which persists in India between social anthropology and sociology, fully endorsing anthropology’s contribution. Two, de-mystify participant observation, but give full credit the method deserves for collecting qualitative data and provide critical insights. Three, undertake macro studies without ignoring the advantages of micro studies. And four, give due credits both to quantitative and qualitative. The quicker we traverse these tracks the faster will Indian sociology forge foreword.

Notes * This constitutes the text of the Seventh M.N. Srinivas Memorial Lecture delivered at the venue of XXXIII All India Sociological Conference, at Karnataka University, Dharwad, 29 December 2007. 1. A Sanskritist by training, Ghurye was sent to England by the Bombay University in 1920 to do PhD in sociology so that he could start the Department of Sociology on his return after training. The recommended research guides for him were L.T.

Chapter 15.indd 281

11/13/2013 7:42:35 PM

282T.K. Oommen

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

Chapter 15.indd 282

Hobhouse and Sidney Webb, both sociologists. But Ghurye defected to anthropology and opted for W.H.R. Rivers as his supervisor without seeking any prior approval from the Bombay University. And, only in January 1923, a few months before the submission of his thesis that Ghurye informed the Registrar of Bombay University of this unauthorised shift to anthropology. Ghurye was suitably ‘punished’ for this ‘aberrant’ behaviour by the Bombay University (for details, see Savur 2007: 10). It is not my point that metamorphosis of a scholar trained in one discipline to another is not possible or will not take place. G.S. Ghurye trained in Sanskrit becoming a ‘sociologist’, S.C. Dube trained in political science becoming a social anthropologist, Ramkrishna Mukherjee trained in anthropology (including physical anthropology) becoming a sociologist are well-known Indian examples. Incidentally, this is contrary to the rationale provided for the study of rural India through intensive fieldwork. But, even when urban India and complex organisations are the objects of study, participant observation is the prescribed method! I have no hard data to prove this. But Srinivas’s account of ‘Sociology in Delhi’ (2002: 623–40) certainly suggests this. Let me provide some anecdotal evidence to indicate the stigmatisation of sociologists/social anthropologists by economists. Dr A.M. Khusro (late), who was at the Institute of Economic Growth, used to remark that sociologists were those economists who found their arithmetic difficult during their school/college days. Nasim Ansari (late), an agricultural economist, at the AgroEconomic Research Centre, which was located on the same campus as that of the Delhi School of Economics, narrated to me with great relish an imaginatively constructed incident. In an international conference on inflation in the Delhi School of Economics, a couple of eminent sociologists from the Department of Sociology too were invited. When they were called upon to speak in the course of the conference they asserted authoritatively that there was no inflation in their respective villages, contrary to what the economists thought! Incidentally, it may not be out of place to recall here that the ongoing Kodava movement insists that the Coorgs have a unique identity as distinct from the ‘Kannada Society’ to which they are latched while creating the Karnataka state, formed on the basis of linguistic identity. The Kodava movement claims that they have a distinct language, legal system, customs and territory and hence entitled for a separate provincial state. Srinivas took Edmund Leach to task in several of his papers for holding such a view (see, for example, 1972: 148). But he ignores the view of several others who hold the view that sociological understanding can be promoted better by social anthropologists who study other cultures than sociologists studying their own societies (see Barnes 1959: 15 and Dumont 1966: 23, elaborated in Oommen 2007). Whether Lingayats can be viewed as a model for sanskritising groups is doubtful. They rejected priestly authority, Vedic sacredotalism and Sanskritic beliefs (see Venugopal 1977: 239). But I shall ignore this. I do not know whether Merton and Srinivas knew each other’s works. As far as I know, only Y.B. Damle attempted to analyse mobility in India’s caste system invoking Merton’s theory of reference group behaviour. But, unfortunately, he did not refer

11/13/2013 7:42:35 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

283

to sanskritisation as the Indian variant of reference group behaviour (Damle 1968: 95–102). It is a pity that useful cross-pollination of ideas does not always take place. 9. According to Max Weber, charismatic leadership is a system-changing force, but my field experience revealed that it can as well be a system-stabilising force. That is, fieldwork can help conceptual reformulations (see Oommen 1972). 10. Although sanskritisation is claimed to be a process much broader than Brahminisation, the principal agents of sanskritisation are indeed Brahmins (see Srinivas 1956: 481–96). 11. There is scope for misunderstanding here, and the mischievous may exploit it. Therefore, I need to make the following clarificatory remark: I am not referring to Srinivas’s religious disposition, but only indicating the implications of the concept of sanskritisation. 12. The persisting deep wedge between Indic and non-Indic religions, is an important obstacle for the unity of India (see Oommen 1986: 53–74). Therefore, the project of creating cohesion in Indian society will have to be anchored to secular norms and ideas anchored to citizenship and not to Sanskritic Hinduism.

References Barnes, J.A. 1959. ‘Politics without parties’, Man, 59: 15–16. Barnett, M.R. 1976. The politics of cultural nationalism in south India. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Benton, T. 1977. Philosophical foundations of the three sociologies. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Damle, Y.B. 1968. ‘Reference group theory with regard to mobility in caste’, in J. Silverberg (ed.): Social mobility in the caste system of India (95–102). The Hague: Mouton. Dumont, L. 1966. ‘A fundamental problem in the sociology of India’, Contributions to Indian sociology, 1: 17–32. Golwalkar, M.S. 1939. We or our nationhood defined. Nagpur: Bharat Prakashan. Hardgrave, Jr. R.L. 1965. The Dravidian movement. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. Hart III, G.L. 1975. ‘Ancient Tamil literature: Its scholarly past and future’, in B. Stein (ed.): Essays on south India (52–72). Hawaii: The University Press. Irschick, E.F. 1969. Politics and social conflicts in south India: The non-Brahmin movement and Tamil separatism, 1916–29. Berkeley: University of California Press. Levy Jr., M.J. 1966. Modernisation and structure of societies (Vol. I). Princeton: Princeton University Press. Merton, R.K. 1957. Social theory and social structure. Glencoe, Il: The Free Press. Oommen, T.K. 1969. ‘Data collection techniques: The case of sociology and social anthropology’, Economic and political weekly, 4 (19): 809–15 (reproduced in Oommen 2007: 45–56). ———. 1970. ‘The concept of dominant caste: Some queries’, Contributions to Indian sociology, 4: 73–83.

Chapter 15.indd 283

11/13/2013 7:42:35 PM

284T.K. Oommen Oommen, T.K. 1972. Charisma, stability and change: An analysis of bhoodan-gramdan movement in India. New Delhi: Thompson Press. ———. 1983. ‘Sociology in India: A plea for contextualisation’, Sociological bulletin, 32 (2): 111–36 (reproduced in Oommen 2007: 21–44). ———. 1986. ‘Insiders and outsiders in India: Primordial collectivism and cultural pluralism in nation-building’, International sociology, 1 (1): 53–74. ———. 1987a. ‘On the craft of studying social movements: Two illustrations’, The eastern anthropologist, 40 (3): 185–202 (reproduced in Oommen 2007: 76–93). ———. 1987b. ‘Theoretical framework and empirical research: Their interaction in the analysis of two social Movements’, Sociological bulletin, 36 (2): 15–34 (reproduced in Oommen 2007: 57–75). ———. 1991. ‘Internationalisation of sociology: A view from developing countries’, Current sociology, 39 (1): 67–84 (reproduced in Oommen 2007: 111–27). ———. 2004. Nation, civil society and social movements: Essays in political sociology. New Delhi: Sage Publications. ———. 2007. Knowledge and society: Situating sociology and social anthropology. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. 1952. ‘Historical note on British social anthropology’, American anthropologist, 54 (1): 275–78. Savarkar, V.D. 1929. Hindutva. Delhi: Bharti Sahitya Sadan. Savur, M. 2007. ‘Why sociology in India, and why in the Bombay School of Economics and Sociology’. Paper read at the seminar on ‘History of Sociology in India’, Department of Sociology, University of Pune, 3–4 February 2007: 1–16. Smith, A. 1979. Nationalism in the twentieth century. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Spratt, P. 1970. D.M.K in power. Bombay: Nachiketa Publications. Srinivas, M.N. 1942. Family and marriage in Mysore. Bombay: New Book Company. ———. 1952. Religion and society among the Coorgs of south India. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ———. 1955a. ‘Introduction’, in M.N. Srinivas (ed.): India’s villages (1–14). Bombay: Media Promoters and Publishers. ———. 1955b. ‘The social structure of a Mysore village’, in M.N. Srinivas (ed.): India’s Villages (21–35). Bombay: Media Promoters and Publishers. ———. 1956. ‘A note on sanskritisation and westernisation’, Far eastern quarterly, 15 (4): 481–96. ———. 1962. Caste in modern India and other essays. Bombay: Media Promoters and Publishers. ———. 1972. ‘Some thoughts on the study of one’s own society’, in M.N. Srinivas: Social change in modern India (147–63). Bombay: Orient Longman. ———. 1975. ‘Village studies, participant observation and social science research in India’, Economic and political weekly, 10 (33, 34 and 35): 1387–94. ———. 1979. ‘A village in Karnataka’, in M.N. Srinivas, A.M. Shah and E.A. Ramaswamy (eds.): The fieldworker and the field: Problems and challenges in sociological investigation (19–28). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 1980. India: Social structure. Delhi: Hindustan Publishing Corporation. ———. 1994. ‘Sociology in India and its future’, Sociological bulletin, 43 (1): 9–19. ———. 2002. Collected essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Chapter 15.indd 284

11/13/2013 7:42:35 PM

Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept

285

Srinivas M.N., A.M. Shah and E.A. Ramaswamy. 1979a. ‘Introduction’, in M.N. Srinivas, A.M. Shah and E.A. Ramaswamy (eds.): The fieldworker and the field: Problems and challenges in sociological investigation (1–15). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Srinivas M.N., A.M. Shah and E.A. Ramaswamy (eds.). 1979b. The fieldworker and the field: Problems and challenges in sociological investigation. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Stein, B. 1977. ‘Circulation and historical geography of Tamil Country’, Journal of Asian studies, 37: 1–28. Venugopal, C.N. 1977. ‘Factor of anti-pollution in the ideology of Lingayat movement’, Sociological bulletin, 26 (2): 227–41. Zelditch (Jr), M. 1962. ‘Some methodological issues of field studies’, American journal of sociology, 67 (4): 566–76.

Chapter 15.indd 285

11/13/2013 7:42:35 PM

16 On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology: The Challenge of Understanding Indian Society—Critique, Generosity and Transformations Ananta Kumar Giri

Work for your contemporaries; but create what they need, not what they praise. —Freirich Schiller

T

K. Oommen’s M.N. Srinivas Memorial Lecture (Oommen 2008) and responses of A.M. Shah (2008) and M.V. Nadkarni (2008) have raised a number of important issues which call for further exploration, cultivation, and probing. In this discussion note, I focus mainly on the following issues in Oommen’s lecture: his reflections on methodological pluralism, his application of the label ‘methodological Hinduism’ to characterise the work of Srinivas, and the conflation of language and social reality in Srinivas’s use of the word sanskritisation which Oommen misses in his critique.

On Fields, Methods, and Methodological Pluralism Oommen talks about the disjunction between field and method and the need for methodological pluralism. He argues that one particular method, for example, participant observation, is not suitable to

Chapter 16.indd 286

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

287

all situations of fields; instead of method monism, we need to practise methodological pluralism. Oommen attributes methodological monism to parts of Srinivas’s works, but he himself presents Srinivas’s argument for the need for ‘methodological catholicity and resilience, and an ability to choose the appropriate method for tackling a particular problem’ (Oommen 2008: 68). Cultivating methodological plurality is an indispensable challenge before us, but this urges us to have a multidimensional and plural realisation of method itself. It seems, by method Oommen mainly refers to techniques of data collection. This is part of the modernistic view of looking at method only as a tool, as an aspect of epistemology. But method is not only a tool of understanding outside reality, objective world, it is also part of the constitution of self, an aspect of ontology. Method is part of what I have elsewhere called ‘ontological epistemology of participation’ (Giri 2006) involving both epistemology and ontology in interpenetrative and transformative ways. With a broadened and deepened realisation of method, involving both epistemology and ontology and more than just techniques of data collection, we can overcome some of the difficulties that Oommen finds in the method of participant observation. Oommen writes, ‘If one is studying one’s society defined in the narrowest possible terms (for example, Sri Vaishnava Brahmins, in the case of Srinivas), is not participant observation a contradiction in terms because the observer and the participant are rolled into one?’ (ibid.: 62). But is it not the fact that in all situations of participatory learning (I am deliberately not using the term ‘participant observation’ because of the limitation of the primacy of the observing) one is simultaneously an observer and a participant? In fact, modern science has long ago questioned absolute separation between the observer and the observed. Not only in the study of one’s own community but even in the study of distant other is it possible to separate the participant dimension from the observing dimension? Oommen finds this contradictory, possibly because he is still working within a dualism between participation and observation. It is probably because of this binding that Oommen finds Srinivas’s call for making oneself an object of anthropological study problematic. Oommen writes, Including the study of self and not only the other within the ken of social anthropology has a logical consequence, namely, the study of individual self, not just the societal self, can also become the unit of research! And Srinivas

Chapter 16.indd 287

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

288Ananta Kumar Giri did reach this logical destination when he proposed the following ‘field’ for anthropological investigations. He asks: ‘Why can’t an anthropologist treat his life as an ethnographic field and study it? [. . .] The life of every individual can be regarded as a ‘case study’ and who is better qualified than the individual himself to study it (ibid.: 62).

Oommen reads the implication of this in this way: ‘If these proposals are accepted, not only the “field” of social anthropology expands exponentially but its methods too have to multiply because it has to study the distant other, the immediate other, one’s own society and even the individual self ’ (ibid.: 62–63). But he associates social anthropology with one method only, namely, participant observation. Anthropology itself has a plurality of methods including life-history. Some classic works in anthropology such as Sidney Mintz’s Worker in the Cane: A Puerto Rican Life History (1960) has involved life-study method where case study of a single individual tells us a lot about society in which one lives and histories within histories that flow through individuals and societies. In his The Body Silent, anthropologist Robert Murphy (1987) has gifted us an excellent autobiographycum-ethnography of his predicament as not being able to move. Thus, in putting forward self as a field of investigation which is not meant to be confined only to the discipline of anthropology and which ought to overflow also into fields like sociology, Srinivas is indeed articulating many creative streams in social sciences and at the same time challenging us to go beyond the subject-object dualism. Why should we study only objects and others, why our own life and self not be a subject of study? Thus, reflections on methods and the call for methodological pluralism invite us to take part in fundamental methodological transformations in this field where there is a move towards going beyond dualism of participation and observation and realisation non-duality as a journey. Tim Ingold probably has this in mind when he writes: Yet all science depends on observation, and all observation depends upon participation—that is, on a close coupling, in perception and action, between the observer and those aspects of the world that are the focus of attention. If science is to be a coherent knowledge practice, it must be built on the foundation of openness rather than closure, engagement rather than detachment. And this means regaining the sense of astonishment that is so conspicuous by

Chapter 16.indd 288

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

289

its absence from contemporary scientific work. Knowing must be connected with being, epistemology with ontology, thought with life (2006: 19).

Understanding the relationship between field and method also invites us to explore if we can look at method itself as a field. For example, participant observation as a method can itself be looked and realised as a field. Such a field-view of method would help us to embody pluralities in each of the methods that Oommen talks about, for example, the qualitative and the quantitative. For development ethicist Des Gasper, what is often labelled as case-approach includes a varieties of cases or different kinds of cases, for example, ‘thick case studies; thin case studies; real life choice situations; real life anecdotes and other illustrations; conceivably true fictions; and impossible fictions’ (2003: 196). Thus, Oommen’s call for methodological pluralism invites us to pluralise each of the methods which are conceived in a unitary and monolithic way. One important challenge of methodological pluralism is to combine description of the field and the voices of actors who constitute such a field. The voice of individual actors and communities is missing from Srinivas’s account of sanskritisation which is presented mainly in macro terms.1 For Oommen, social anthropology began as a study of the nonwestern society, while sociology, a study of the West. But both sociology and social anthropology involve study of both western and non-Western societies, self and other. This is not only true of the present but also of what happened in the past, as Shah also makes this point in his response. Elsewhere Oommen writes, ‘Participant observation was an appropriate method to study the other, but to study one’s own society one can resort to a plurality of methods’ (Oommen 2008: 70). But participant observation is helpful not only in the study of the other but also in the study of the self. At the same time, there is a foundational limitation of participant observation that we need to explore. Participant observation gives primacy to observation in the practice of participation and this is limiting. It subjects the object of study to the gaze of observation. Participation involves many processes of interaction and communications—verbal, non-verbal, and visual. In order to realise methodological pluralism as an ongoing process of pluralisation, we need to pluralise the monolithic conceptions of available elements of methods, such as quantitative and qualitative, and strive to overcome the dualism between participation and observation.

Chapter 16.indd 289

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

290Ananta Kumar Giri

On Methodological Hinduism Oommen writes, Social scientists differ in their methodological orientations. For example, Durkheim gave primacy to society and hence his methodological orientation may be designated as societal determinism. Similarly, Marx’s methodology is often labelled as economic determinism. In contrast Weber’s obsession with individual action prompted analysts to designate him as a methodological individualist. The tendency to conflate state and nation and treating nationstate as a self-contained unit of analysis is referred to as ‘methodological nationalism [. . .] Following the same trail, the methodology pursued by Srinivas to understand Indian society may be designated as methodological Sanskritic Hinduism. This qualifier to Hinduism is crucial because he did not take into account Dravidian Hinduism [. . .] But for purposes of brevity and elegance I will refer to this orientation as Methodological Hinduism’ (ibid.: 76).

‘Methodological Hinduism’ is the label Oommen uses to describe the methodology used by Srinivas to understand Indian society. In his first major work, Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India, Srinivas (2003b/1952) used the methodology of participant observation from social anthropology and sociology to understand Indian society. It is mainly through study of Hindu religion and society, by applying the methods of participant observation, that Srinivas not only made Hinduism an object of study but also Indian society. As André Béteille argues: Srinivas’s representation of Hinduism in Religion and Society is that of the social anthropologist and not of the philosopher or the moralist. [. . .] his task was to present an account of its actual beliefs and practices as seen from the vantage point of a particular Hindu community. [. . .] As a social anthropologist, he valued observation and description above introspection and speculation. He knew that introspection had been valued far above observation in the Indian intellectual tradition, and in his early and most productive years as a sociologist, he felt that he had to swim against the current. Those productive years began with the writing of Religion and Society among the Coorgs (2003: xxiii–xxiv).

Thus, according to Oommen, for Srinivas, Hinduism became an object of study and it became methodological as opposed to merely textual or self-valorising.

Chapter 16.indd 290

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

291

In modernity, method has been looked at as an epistemological process; it has been looked at only as a tool. But method is not only a tool for understanding social reality; it also plays a role in the constitution of self and society (Ankersmit 2002; Giri 2004). This is the ontological dimension of method. In modernity, only the epistemological dimension of method was emphasised. But, once we look at method as having both an epistemological dimension as well as an ontological dimension, it opens up new vistas, horizons, realities, and possibilities. Take, for example, the term methodological individualism: it treats individuals as a unit of study. But methodological individualism is also an individualism that emerges out of methodological meditations and engagements which is different from egoistic individualism. For example, methodological individualism as an ontology has the potential to make individualism more self-reflexive and different from either possessive individualism or egoistic individualism. Similarly, once we realise that method also constitutes self and society, constitutes our reality, then methodological Hinduism is a Hinduism which is methodological, as different from what is just uttered by people or written in the texts. Methodological Hinduism, thus, has a potential to make it much more self-critical and open-ended. Similarly, methodological religion and theology is much more self-critical and open-ended (see Béteille 2009; Wilfred 2004).2 Thus, one implication of applying the label of methodological Hinduism to Srinivas’s construction of Hinduism is that he understood Hinduism through the methodology of participant observation which presented a different portrait of Hinduism than what appears in the texts or in the valorised speeches and articulations of its practitioners. Hinduism that emerges from such engagement is methodological; it is not just what is written in the texts and what is spoken by the people. Methodology has another implication: an act of valorisation. It sometimes valorises individualism as methodological nationalism valorises nationalism. Applying the label of methodological Hinduism raises the question: Did Srinivas valorise Hinduism? Here, Srinivas’s approach is much more complex and multi-dimensional. In some of his passages we can find an element of valorisation of Hinduism, but in others it is an engagement of non-valorisation and critique.3 Srinivas has not only used the language of cohesion, he has also used the language of revolution. In his 1986 essay ‘On Living in a Revolution’ Srinivas writes, A most depressing scenario for the future is that concerning the relations between dominant, landowning castes and the scheduled castes. The conflict

Chapter 16.indd 291

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

292Ananta Kumar Giri between the two is likely to become more and more bitter, and violent. It will be a primary arena for the struggle for equality in India (2009: 381).

If Srinivas wrote in 19564 that if caste dies then so does Hinduism, his last major essay which was posthumously published is titled: ‘An Obituary on Caste as a System’ (2003a). In this essay, while writing an obituary on caste as a system facilitated by transformations in production relations, Srinivas does not write any obituary about Hinduism, nor does he show any anxiety about this. Oommen writes that Srinivas used methodological Hinduism to understand Indian society. India is a plural society but Srinivas did not study any other religion expect Hinduism. Even Srinivas’s 1987–88 essay, ‘Social Significance of Religion in India,’ does not discuss much the dynamics of non-Hindu religions in India. Oommen applies the label ‘methodological Hinduism’ to Srinivas to suggest that Srinivas used Hinduism in an exclusive way to understand Indian society. Such an exclusionary emphasis is noticeable in Srinivas’s Marriage and Family in Mysore (1942). As Simon Charsley argues about this study: The framework of ‘discrete, classifiable castes already promoted by the succeeding Censuses of India [. . .] provided the frame for the project which Srinivas was given by his teacher Ghurye. [. . .] This framework already served to focus discussion and make important sections of the Mysore population peripheral to the argument. In fact, religious orientation—being Hindu— is introduced as the initial qualification for relevance. The chief result was to rule out and make invisible major sections of the population which did not relate positively to the Brahmans. These were first the Muslims, making up 6 per cent of the total in 1931 but more important than this proportion implies. [. . .] To his exclusion of Muslims, Srinivas adds ‘Christians, Jains and even Lingayats’, though ‘the last mentioned are no doubt Hindus’ (1998: 533).5

But the use of the label ‘methodological Hinduism’ also urges us to probe the methods of Hinduism. Different ways of logic, argumentations, and philosophical systems within Hinduism have a rich repertoire of methodology. This is a vast topic, but let us explore some of the methodological reflections and practices in these ways of argumentations and philosophical systems. And then we can probe whether Srinivas built upon these methodological insights to deepen the vision and method of participant observation or he just applied the method of participant observation and the theory of social structure from British social anthropology to study

Chapter 16.indd 292

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

293

Indian society. The methods of argumentation and conversation in the Upanishads6 have a potential for participatory discussion and learning which are also aimed at in the methods of participant observation in sociology and anthropology. As Godavarish Mishra argues, The most important method is the method of inquiry where certain simple but critical questions are raised and answered. [. . .] In the Upanishads we repeatedly find that the questions are asked in different ways and answers are given till the students are [. . .] satisfied. [. . .] The underlying intention is to provide clarity of the concepts and create a corresponding experiential base in the interlocutor. [. . .] This method of questioning is adopted in many systems of Indian philosophy to ensure that no view was accepted without being examined for its experiential validity (2004: 278–79).

Sruti (listening) is an important method in ways of thinking in Vedas, but it is also accompanied by pramanas, evidence which give us ‘objective knowledge’ (ibid. 275). The pramanas make methods empirical, thus enabling building bridges with methods in social sciences such as participant observation and survey research. ‘Sankara does not dogmatically follow Sruti. He says that there should be experiential domain for Sruti, as ‘even a hundred scriptural texts declaring fire to be cold or non-luminous, will not be authoritative’ (ibid.: 287). Around this method of pramanas the Mimanshakas developed hermeneutical methods ‘for the understanding and the interpretation of the Vedas’, while at the same time acknowledging the limitations of hermeneutical method and the need for it to be open to revelation (ibid.: 279–80). In order to resolve the seeming contradictions of the text, Mimamsaka proposes that the subject matter (visaya) has to be identified first. This has to be followed by statement of possible doubts (samsaya). Then comes the prima facie view (purvapaksha) which postulates a set of meanings [. . .] based on which the doubt is answered. This is followed by the suggested view (uttarapaksha), which refutes the meaning proffered by the prima facie view, through rational arguments and offers an alternative set of meanings. Then comes nirnaya, the definitive judgment on the meaning of the text. The chief aim of this hermeneutic method is to identify the proper context in which the Vedic passages could be related to human needs in a more meaningful way and to show its all time applicability beyond the temporal justification (ibid.: 280).

Advaita Vedanta has a method called adhyaropa-apapada (super­ imposition and de-superimposition). While adhyaropa points to the fact

Chapter 16.indd 293

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

294Ananta Kumar Giri

that many of our concepts and languages are superimposition upon reality, apapada reiterates the need for de-superimposition. Languages and concepts we use are many a time a superimposition upon reality which need to be accompanied by a process of de-superimposition. Language does not only help us communicate, it also creates illusion and distortion of reality. In this context, it is worth asking whether the language and concept of sanskritisation is a superimposition upon reality. As we shall shortly see, the word sanskritisation conflates language and society which is a super­imposition upon reality which not only constructs reality in a particular way but also distorts it. In this context, Shankara emphasises de-superimposition as an inevitable part of understanding reality. As Ramakrishna Puligandla helps us understand: ‘advancing an argument and rescinding it at the end; one advances an argument in order to inspire and orient the listener; and one finally rescinds the argument’ in order to enable one understand reality in an open-ended way (quoted in Giri 2004: 354). Thus, methodological practices from these broadly conceived Hindu modes of thinking have important implications for methods in social sciences. Methods like de-superimposition help us overcome illusions and not to be bound to the prisons that we ourselves create through the use of language and concepts. ‘It is part of movement from adhyasa—illusion (which is a very important concept in the Indic epistemology) to ever greater approximation to truth’ (Wilfred 2004: 167). It also urges for purification of methods and consciousness in its stages of sense-perception, rational and theoretical understanding, and at the stage of wisdom. Methodology in these systems of thinking is not only confined to sense perception and rationalisation, but also includes movement towards the ‘third stage of prajna or wisdom’ (ibid.: 168). Thus, if we talk of ‘methodological Hinduism’, then methodological implication of working with some of these ways of thinking and being is (a) to realise the limits of both sense perception and rationalisation and (b) to impregnate these practices with perspective and practice of wisdom. Here a facile distinction between Indic speculation and modern day social science methods of either empiricism or rationalism does not help us realise that not only speculation creates illusions, empirical work, concept formation as well as theoretical construction, application and analysis can and do create illusions. There is a need to purify our sense perception and rational mode of thinking and embody an art of prajna or wisdom. As Felix Wilfred helps us understand this: At this level there takes place a purification of the rationalizing process. For the latter process could be seriously conditioned by interests, passions and desire.

Chapter 16.indd 294

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

295

[. . .] Wisdom is a stage in which intellect and will, reason and passion, desire and restraint are reconciled and not polarised. The stage of prajna is able to do that precisely because it is a stage of wholeness in which various layers and dimensions of the real are held together (ibid.: 169).

In his methodology did Srinivas build upon such methodological insights from broadly conceived Hindu intellectual traditions? In his unease with the Indological approach and cultivation of an anthropological approach, Srinivas did not build upon such methodological insights from Hindu traditions. Srinivas did not carry out a dialogue between methods of social sciences and such insights from Hindu traditions. Such a dialogue is, by and large, absent in Indian social sciences including in most of the followers of Srinivas and his critics.7 Oommen, for example, has not carried out such a dialogue. He is critical of the project of indigenisation which for him promotes ‘pathological nationalism’ (2007a: 12). But the dialogical project presented here is different from the project of indigenisation. The task here is one of learning, going deeper and across, and being engaged with dialogues across traditions of thinking—modern social sciences and traditions of argumentations in India. This is a major poverty of Indian sociology and the need for such a dialogue can be easily swept under the carpet by constructing the challenge of understanding Indian society in terms of a facile dualism between book-view and field-view.8 Oommen (ibid.) himself urges us to go beyond the dualism of universalisation and indigenisation and to focus on contextualisation (see Welz 2009). But contextualisation too calls for dialogues. Undertaking dialogues across boundaries, for example, between modern social sciences and traditions of thinking such as Shankara’s adhyaropa-apavada is also an important challenge here. Contextualisation also calls for going beyond surface view of context.

Sanskritisation: The Conflation of Language, Religion, and Dynamics of Self and Social Transformations The foundational problem with the word sanskritisation, which is offered as a concept, is that it uses the category of a language to connote religion and dynamics of self and social transformations. Srinivas uses this word keeping in mind Sanskrit as a language but such an innocent phrase hides many deeper processes such as Brahminisation or difficulty

Chapter 16.indd 295

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

296Ananta Kumar Giri

of expressing the dynamics of change that Srinivas wants to present through the category of Brahminisation. As Shah writes, A question is often asked, particularly in discussions of the concept in regional languages: is this word based on Sanskrit (name of the language) or sanskriti (meaning culture, civilisation)? Both Srinivas and Chatterjee [Chatterjee who had independently used this word to describe cultural change in Indian history] based it on the former rather than the latter. For both of them, the concept was inextricably linked to the religious and cultural complex found in classical Sanskrit literature (2005: 239).

The word for culture in Sanskrit as well as in several Indian languages is sanskriti. Sanskrit comes as shorthand for the description of the work in the field of culture, sanskriti, a process which is also primarily looked at in cultural terms rather than structural terms. As Srinivas clarifies, he looks at sanskritisation primarily in cultural terms rather than in structural terms.9 The use of the linguistic category of Sanskrit to describe the dynamics of change in the field of sanskriti (culture) contributes to the conflation of language and social reality. This has been a foundational problem with Srinivas right from the days of his MA theses on ‘Marriage and Family in Mysore’, as Charsely helps us understand this: ‘This term ‘Sanskritic’, of such significance for the future, slips into discussion without introduction or definition’ (1998: 531). It is probably for this reason that Sanskritists objected to use of the word sanskritisation. As Srinivas writes, ‘The Sanskritists condemned my use of the word sanskritisation. [. . .] The term has been uniformly condemned by Sanskritists everywhere, but in spite—or because—of that, sanskritisation has been used extensively by those writing on social and cultural change in South Asia’ (2009: 680–81). It seems, Srinivas did not pay any heed to the objection of Sanskritists, possibly because, as a non-living language lacking in political power, Sanskrit had its own limitation in modern India to force Srinivas to realise that he was using the category of language to bail him out of his conceptual and methodological difficulty of describing and representing social and cultural change in India. As Srinivas writes, sanskritisation is no doubt an awkward term, but it was preferred to Brahminisation for several reasons: Brahminisation is subsumed in the wider process of sanskritisation though at some points Brahminisation and sanskritisation are at variance with each other. For instance, the Brahmins of the Vedic period drank soma, an

Chapter 16.indd 296

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

297

alcoholic drink, ate beef, and offered blood sacrifices. Both were given up in the post-Vedic times. It has been suggested that this was the result of Jain and Buddhist influence. Today, Brahmins are, by and large, vegetarians: only the Saraswat, Kashmiri, and Bengali Brahmins eat non-vegetarian food. All these Brahmins are, however, traditionally teetotallers. Had the term Brahminisation been used, it would have been necessary to specify which particular Brahmin group was meant, and at which period of its recorded history (ibid.: 201; emphases added).

Insofar as the word sanskritisation is concerned, Shah reiterates: ‘In any case, however, in scientific discourse the substantive content of a term is far more important than its etymology’ (2005: 239). But, what is the substantive content of the term? As Srinivas writes in one of his early formulations of sanskritisation in the chapter on social structure in his Coorg book: Every caste tended to imitate the customs and ritual of topmost caste, and this was responsible for the spread of sanskritisation. When this process is viewed in a continental scale and over a period of at least 2,500 years, it is easy to see how Sanskritic ideas and beliefs penetrated the remotest hill tribes in a such a manner as not to do violence to their traditional beliefs (1952: 30).

But the key question is why call it sanskritisation? Etymology, as Shah seems to suggest, is not innocent here. It is deliberately used to conflate language with religion and dynamics of self and social change and, as Srinivas acknowledged, in such construction ‘facts have been oversimplified in order to make some general statements’ (ibid.: 27–28). Such oversimplification facilitated by the conflation of language, religion and social dynamics constitutes the foundational problem of the discourse of Sanskrtisation which is rarely realised by its supporters or problematised by its critics. Let us hear what Srinivas has to say about different aspects of sanskritisation. Srinivas offered sanskritisation to present a dynamic view of caste mobility. In the same Coorg book, he writes: It is not always the Brahmin priest who is the agent of Sanskritic Hinduism. In every part of the Kannada country, and in Coorg, the Lingayat sect, consisting exclusively of non-Brahmins, have exercised in the past a Sanskritizing influence. Lingayat ritual is Sanskritic (though not Vedic), and the Lingayat Rajas

Chapter 16.indd 297

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

298Ananta Kumar Giri of Coorg have been responsible for the sanskritisation of the customs, manners, and rites of Coorgs. Customs like marking the forehead every morning with three stripes of sacred ashes (vibhuti), celebrating the festival of Sivaratri, and erecting tombstones, surmounted by the figure of the Nandi Bull, over the graves of important persons reveal Lingayat influence (ibid.: 226).

Srinivas further writes, The Brahmin too has been influenced by non-Sanskritic modes of worship, and impressed with the power of village deities and, very rarely, through a non-Brahminical friend, of an animal to the village deities like Mari during an epidemic of small pox or plague or cholera (ibid.: 226–27).

In his 1956 essay, ‘A Note on Sanskritisation and Westernisation’, Srinivas writes: ‘However thoroughgoing the sanskritisation of an Untouchable group may be, it is unable to cross the barrier of untouchability’ (2009: 215). For Srinivas, It is necessary to undermine the fact that sanskritisation is an extremely complex and heterogeneous concept. It is even possible that it would be more preferable to treat it as a bundle of concepts than as a single concept. The important thing to remember is that it is only a name for widespread social and cultural process, and our main task is to understand the nature of these processes. The moment is discovered that the term is more a hindrance than a help in analysis, it should be discarded quickly and without regret (ibid.: 218; emphases added).

Srinivas himself outlined the need for more research which is yet an unmet challenge in Indian sociology after more that fifty years: One way of breaking down sanskritisation into simpler and more homogeneous concepts would be to write a history of Sanskritic culture taking care to point the value systems subsumed in it and to delineate the regional variations. The task would be a stupendous one even if the period beginning with British rule were excluded. Such a study is not likely to be forthcoming in the near future and anthropologists would be well advised to continue studying sanskritisation as they are doing at present: study each field instance of sanskritisation in relation to the locally dominant caste and other factors. The next task would be to compare different instances of sanskritisation in the same culture-area, and the third task would be to extend the scope of comparative studies to include the whole of India. Such an approach might also enable us to translate historical problems into social problems (2009: 219; also see Shah 2005).

Chapter 16.indd 298

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

299

Sanskritic Hinduism is fundamental to the concept of sanskritisation.10 Srinivas uses the term Sanskritic Hinduism, as do his supporters such as Shah and critics such as Oommen. But what does Sanskritic Hinduism mean? Is it Hinduism where its practitioners—priests, for example—speak Sanskrit as a language, or some of its important sacred books are written in Sanskrit? If sanskritisation conflates language, social reality, and social dynamics to overcome the difficult social and ritual issue of the role of Brahmins in Hindu social structure and dynamics, then the term Sanskritic Hinduism continues the same conflation of language, social reality, and religion. Let us read what Srinivas writes about Sanskritic Hinduism: ‘Sanskritic Hinduism is Hinduism which transcends provincial barriers and is common to the whole of India’ (1952: 74). But why it should be called Sanskritic Hinduism? According to Srinivas ‘The sacred literature of the Hindus in Sanskrit (or inspired by Sanskrit but in regional or other languages) has played a vital part in enabling Sanskritic Hinduism to absorb local cults’ (2009: 223). But the sacred literature in the original text and translations do not just propagate one monolithic version of Hinduism. Moreover, when translated in mother languages of India, these texts have also interrogated existing hierarchy, as, for example, one finds in Sarala Das’s translation of Mahabharata into Oriya in the 15th century. Srinivas writes: Paradoxical as it may seem, the use of the ordinary languages of the people for religious purposes, the advocacy of a single-minded love of God as the simplest means of achieving salvation, and the general anti-elitism of Bhakti cults, greatly enhanced the spread of the ideas associated with Sanskritic or higher Hinduism’ (ibid.: 365).

But Bhakti movements are complex formations of contestations in language, religion and society. For examples, Bhakti poets in medieval Orissa have interrogated both the dominance of Sanskrit language and caste hierarchy. The literature of Bhakti movement simply did not reproduce the so-called values of higher Hinduism. In this context, what M.V. Nadkarni writes in his rejoinder to Oommen deserves our careful consideration: But there is also a vast body of non-Sanskritic literature, composed by bhakti sants, which is considered equally sacred by its followers as the shruti, which is strongly opposed to the caste system. This dates from about 6th century AD itself from Tamil Nadu, spreading all over India (2008: 404).

Chapter 16.indd 299

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

300Ananta Kumar Giri

Srinivas has also written about the significance of Bhakti movement in cultivating non-Sanskritic language, but it seems this has not affected his model of sanskritisation.11 In his 1956 essay on sanskritisation, Srinivas wrote, ‘The spread of Sanskrit theological ideas increased under British rule’ (2009: 206).12 Furthermore, ‘The discovery of Sanskrit by Western scholars, and the systematic piercing of India’s past by Western or Western-inspired scholarship, gave Indians a much needed confidence in their relationship with the West’ (ibid.: 207) Sanskritic Hinduism as a discourse as well as practice is produced by the process of westernisation and is inconceivable without Orientalism. We have to take into account the wider historical and discursive field in which Hinduism as Sanskritic is produced in which Orientalism played a significant role. Colonial government with the aid of Orientalists formalised Hindu customs and gave primacy to what is written in the Sanskrit language texts. Such codification had profound implication for what constitutes authentic Hinduism and the constitution of a new legal order. It also gave primacy to Sanskrit language, which was not there in the life of the people, thus undoing the creative work of Bhakti movements in questioning the primacy of Sanskrit language13 as well as Brahminical hegemony. But the discourse of Sanskritic Hinduism was limiting as it did not embody pluralities within Hinduism. The concept of Sanskritic Hinduism used uncritically by Srinivas and his followers such as Shah and critics such as Oommen does not adequately reflect plural streams of living, contestation, and creativity in Hinduism not only in the present but also in the past. Pluralism is an important challenge in understanding not only Indian society but also Hinduism, and Srinivas’s stance on it is quite complex. In his vast oeuvre there are some passages which are more plural than others. But one issue needs to be noted. Even in his 1987–88 essay on ‘The Social Significance of Religion in India’, there is not much discussion of the work of non-Hindu religions and their social significance. Srinivas also did not work on non-Hindu religions to understand their dynamics in India society and their significance for understanding Indian society. In his critique of sanskritisation, Oommen does not address the foundational problem of conflating language, religion, and society in it, rather he himself continues this conflation by offering phrases such as Tamilisation.14 Like sanskritisation, such terms are supposed to be

Chapter 16.indd 300

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

301

concepts and have a self-generating conceptual effect holding us in awe and amazement. Oommen also does not interrogate the construction of Sanskritic Hinduism itself as monolithic, produced under the joint regime of Orientalism and colonialism. Instead, in an exercise of critique, which at this foundational level does not go beyond an act of mirroring and reproducing the very terms of discourse, Oommen proposes Dravidian Hinduism as an alternative to Sanskritic Hinduism.15 But both of these are complex mirrors of each other. As M.S.S. Pandian helps us understand this in his significant work, Brahmin and Non-Brahmin: Genealogies of the Tamil Political Present (2007), it is Orientalism which produced Hinduism as Brahminical, and the non-Brahmin movements in Tamil Nadu, instead of interrogating this construction, accepted such a construction of Hinduism uncritically. Hinduism of Non-Brahmin movement became a mirror opposite of the Sanskritic Hinduism constructed by the Orientalists. For Pandian, Orientalist notions of Hinduism ‘celebrated Sanskrit texts and Brahmins as true bearers of Hindu authenticity’ (ibid.: 51). The anti-Brahminism of Iyothee Thoss and Maraimalai Adigal was no different, for the metaphysics of caste as an enforced hierarchy remained in their discourses, largely in tact. [. . .] Negating Brahminism, they respectively valorised Buddhist Parayar and Saivite Vellalar. Regrettably, this substitution only recast their ideal in more or less in the image of the Brahmin (ibid.: 143, 142).

For Pandian, the Brahmin as a trope’ continued unquestioned in the much valorised self-respect movement of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy: ‘Ramasamy’s idea of an essentialised Hinduism was premised on Brahmin self-representation based on Orientalist knowledge. [. . .] the Orientalist conception of Hinduism became the basis of advancing a new critique of Brahmin power (ibid.: 204, 187).16

It was not only Brahminical Hinduism that was exclusionary, the Hinduism of the non-Brahmin movement, including what Oommen seems to be celebrating as Dravidian Hinduism opposing Sanskritic Hinduism, that was and continues to be exclusionary. It excluded the lower castes and the dalits. Such exclusion continues in the present strengthened by the reign of Dravidian politics in the last eight decades

Chapter 16.indd 301

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

302Ananta Kumar Giri

which has created a politics and language of closure on the path of selfrealisation and emancipation of dalits. In his mirroring critique of Srinivas, as different from a foundational one, Oommen writes: ‘Srinivas did not pay attention to the challenge of Tamilisation. This is the reason behind designating his orientation as methodological Hinduism . . .’ (2008: 77). Here Oommen invokes the notion of Tamilakkam presented by Burton Stein: ‘Tamilakkam connotes the home of Tamil language, culture and/or people and symbolises the distinction between Tamils who are internal to Tamil Nadu and contrasts them with the “external other”, the Aryan Hindus, who follow Sanskritic Hinduism’ (ibid.: 74). But those who spoke Tamil in the past practised different religions such as Hinduism, animism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Christianity. Oommen constructs the oppositional categories of Dravidian Hinduism and Sanskritic Hinduism, but Tamilakkam was and is not a space for Dravidian Hinduism only. It was and is a space of pluralities, including plural religions; homogenous construction of Tamilakkam makes many people who live inside it feel alienated. Roy Gowthamam, a contemporary dalit cultural critic from Tamil Nadu, writes: ‘Tamil culture, though being talked of as if a homogeneous one, contains several contradictory elements’ (quoted in Pandian 2007: 341). Giving expression to the pain of the marginalised such as dalits, in what Oommen celebrates as Tamilakkam, Gowthamam writes: ‘All are hunters. We can call our Tamil culture as the culture of the hunters’ (quoted in ibid.: 241).17 In order to appreciate the significance of Oommen’s critique of sanskritisation via ‘Tamilisation’, let us read Srinivas on this: In the Tamil country, however, there has been an attempt to reject the older epic Ramayana on the ground that it is Northern, Aryan, and anti-Dravidian. The organised hatred for the Ramayana is part of the Tamil non-Brahmin movement, a cultural and political movement which began towards the end of World War I (2009: 226).

In his essay, ‘A Brief Note on the Ayappa: The South Indian Deity’, Srinivas writes: A student of South Indian ethnography cannot help becoming deeply interested in Ayyappa. To call him South Indian is not to deny him all-India and Sanskritic affiliations, but only to stress the fact that the form he assumes in South India is different from the form he assumes in the North. Quite

Chapter 16.indd 302

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

303

frequently, a deity’s character changes from one region of South India to another. The Sanskiritic and popular names are often different, and occasionally, there is no relation between the deity as he is represented in Sanskrit literature and the deity and his devotees in any small local area conceive him to be. These differences are important to the ethnographer, and a fieldworker has to be specially careful to see that he does not allow the Sanskrit name of a deity into attributing to him all the characteristics which are found in Vedas and Puranas, and other works (ibid.: 347).

This shows that Srinivas was aware of differential work of Hinduism in different parts of India, especially in South India, and in the Tamil country. Oommen refers to Islamisation in talking about sanskritisation. There is a need to explore the link between Islamisation and sans­ kritisation. Hindus, especially low-caste, down the centuries have found a way of escaping caste hierarchy by embracing or converting to other religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. Thus, understanding the dynamics of change in Indian society requires looking at sanskritisation and these forces of conversion together.

Labour and Love of Mutual Understanding: Critique, Generosity and the Challenge of Learning In their response to Oommen, Shah (2008) and Nadkarni (2008) have raised many important issues. Nadkarni urges us to go back to the texts and argues that the hierarchy of caste is not legitimised in Purusasukta. Nadkarni also refers to guna and karma in Gita as important markers of caste but these have not been able to transform the caste system. The only thing that has given a jolt to caste system is the transformation of jati-based division of labour and caste-based production system. As Srinivas writes, the localised system of food grain and other necessities [. . .] based on a castewise division of labour is fast breaking down all over rural India, and is likely to disappear in near future. This event is of momentous importance for it augurs the end of a social order which has continued for 2,000 years or more’ (2003a: 455).

Srinivas goes on to argue that just an ideological attack on caste system as it happened in Buddhism, Jainism, and Bhakti movement which is

Chapter 16.indd 303

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

304Ananta Kumar Giri

‘not backed up or underpinned by a mode of social production ignoring or violating caste-based division of labour [. . .] is totally inadequate’ (ibid.: 459). In his rejoinder, Shah has made important contributions about the method of anthropology and history of the discipline in India and Britain. But his critique of Oommen is not accompanied by generosity, just as Oommen’s application of the label ‘methodological Hinduism’ to Srinivas without elaboration of its many implications lacks in generosity. Shah writes, ‘Oommen should read all of Srinivas’s writings, and in full, rather than pick on a couple of convenient sentences as he has done repeatedly’ (2008: 397–98). How does Shah know and can be so sure that Oommen has not read Srinivas in full. Shah accuses Oommen of ‘violation of norms of academic discourse’. What is the norm that Shah follows in making such an accusation? What example is Shah setting? Shah writes towards the end of his rejoinder: ‘Srinivas wrote a great deal on secularism, pluralism, and other values enshrined in the constitution of India, but Oommen has not read them, and if he has, he has either not understood them or ignored them deliberately’ (ibid.: 399). Critique needs to be accompanied by generosity, which is not simply a matter of charity or academic courtesy; it is a fundamental aspect of integrity and responsibility. Undoubtedly, Srinivas has written a great ‘deal on secularism, pluralism, and other values enshrined in the constitution of India’, but so has Oommen (2002). Oommen has not only written about these issues extensively in his creative oeuvre of the last forty years, but he also embodies an inspiring passion for nurturing plural spaces for conversations, realisations, and transformations in India and the world. Has Shah read or felt the obligation to read any of Oommen’s writings, including the one most relevant to his discussion, Knowledge and Society (Oommen 2007a)? The anger and accusation manifest in Shah’s critique of Oommen is not merely personal; it is a reflection of the nature of Indian sociology as a discursive and interactive field. In Indian sociology very rarely has there been a dialogue among its practitioners.18 There is studied and deliberate ignorance of each other’s work in Indian sociology. We practitioners very rarely feel that we all belong to an intertwined field of strivings in which we have a moral responsibility and professional obligation to read each other’s work. Very rarely do we read each other’s works: a study of referencing patterns could be a creative project of sociology of knowledge of Indian sociology. We embody not only profound mutual disrespect, but also disrespectful indifference. Most of the time, in our

Chapter 16.indd 304

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

305

normal interactions, we do not even care to respond. Apathy, to be sure, is more dangerous than unfair criticism. Given the lack of normal critical dialogue among fellow practitioners, the only way it can be expressed is through angry outbursts. Mutual understanding is a matter of love and labour. It does not sweep under the carpet envy, hatred, jealousy, apathy, and unfair criticism; it seeks to transform such conditions. The challenge of understanding Indian society needs to be met by transforming such conditions of apathy and creating conditions of mutual learning, dialogue, and respect. Here, interrogating some of our foundational assumptions such as the conflation of language and social reality as it happens in the term sanskritisation is important. There is also a need for dialogue between methods of modern social sciences and traditions of argumentations in India. Indian sociology, as a field, needs to nurture generous critique as a mode of being, inter-subjectivity, and mutual engagement, where critique is accompanied by generosity, which is a matter of not only charity but also integrity and responsibility. Critique and generosity also can be accompanied by work of humour. Satish Deshpande (2003) tells us that sociologists as a tribe have very few jokes in their field. But probably in Indian sociology we have some jokes about each other which are spoken in the backyard rather than in the front yard. Such jokes, if spoken to each other in front, can help us have a sense of humour and contribute to fostering mutual reading, learning, and conversation in the pool of sociology, which, bereft of such interactions, unfortunately faces the danger of stagnation. Jokes could be disrespectful and we need to have a sense of respectful humour. Here, Srinivas, with his inspiring ease and humility, can be our teacher and fellow-traveller. I was once conversing with an anthropologist from abroad and he told me of the following quip by Srinivas in a conversation with fellow scholars: ‘He [referring to a student of Srinivas] complains that I am not a theorist, but I do not complain that he is not a Buddhist.’

Notes I am grateful to Professors M.V. Nadkarni and Simon Charsley for their kind comments on this note. 1. As Charsley argues, towards the end of his life, Srinivas realised that in his account of sanskritisation he has not addressed ‘personal sanskritisation’, that is, ‘the deliberate

Chapter 16.indd 305

11/23/2013 3:43:07 AM

306Ananta Kumar Giri adoption of a sanskritised life-style by individuals, which he had not previously sufficiently noticed’ (1998: 544). 2. Probably, with this spirit, Béteille (2009) makes a distinction between sociology of religion and theology of religion. 3. We can read here passages such as the following in his 1967 essay, ‘The Cohesive Role of Sanskritisation’: One of the most important tasks confronts independent India is to draw all sections of India’s heterogeneous population into the mainstream of national life while at the same time retaining what is valuable in Sanskrit thought and culture. To do this +it is necessary for Hindus to accept the entire tradition to which all sections of the population have contributed, and for the latter to regard the Sanskrit heritage as their own. This can only be the result of slow process of cultural osmosis (Srinivas 2009: 235). In the following passage in his essay, ‘The Social Significance of Religion in India’, we find that Srinivas did not valorise Hinduism as a tolerant religion: ‘Hinduism is regarded as a tolerant religion both by its votaries and others [. . .] However monotheism occurs in Hinduism at the sectarian level, and it is usually accompanied by intolerance towards other sects’ (ibid.: 363). Srinivas has been a critique of Hinduism from his first encounter with it in his MA theses. As Charsley writes, ‘Indeed a recurring theme in the book, the work of a modern and progressive young Brahmin is to challenge the patriarchal nature of Sanskritic culture and in particular its disadvantages for women’ (1998: 535). 4. According to Srinivas, To the question whether the threat to religion from westernisation is common to all countries in the world and not something peculiar to Hinduism, the answer is that Christianity and Islam are probably better equipped to withstand westernisation because they have a strong organisation whereas Hinduism lacks all organisation excluding the caste system. If and when caste disappears, Hinduism may also disappear (2009: 217). 5. Charsely, however, urges us to realise that, despite such emphasis, Srinivas’s sociology is not a Hindu sociology [personal communication]. 6. Upanishad means to seat near by and discuss. 7. In a rare exercise, Nadkarni (2009) carries out a dialogue between methods of modern social sciences and insights from Bhagavad Gita. 8. It is worth noting what Béteille has to say about this: ‘Perhaps it was a mistake to have presented the book-view and field-view as if they stood in complete mutual opposition. A comprehensive scheme for the understanding of Indian society and culture must find a place for the book-view as well as the field-view’ (1996: 247). This also resonates with Oommen’s plea for studying both the fields and the texts. 9. Srinivas admits that he looks at sanskritisation primarily in cultural terms, though it can also be looked at structurally: ‘To describe social changes occurring in modern India in terms of sanskritisation and Westernisation is to describe it primarily in cultural and not structural terms. An analysis in terms of structure is much more difficult than an analysis in terms of culture’ (2009: 212).

Chapter 16.indd 306

11/23/2013 3:43:08 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

307

10. Note here what Shah writes: ‘The concept of Sanskritic Hinduism, the foundation of the concept of sanskritisation, is essentially a culture concept’ (2008: 398). 11. But here we need to keep in mind that those who wish to creatively cultivate their mother languages need not be necessarily at logger heads with Sanskrit. For example, Gandhi wrote in Gujarati but he read Sanskrit. In his essay ‘Gandhi and Gita’, Bakker helps us understand this: ‘We need to be aware of the extent to which the articulation of Gandhian social philosophy is “Sanskrit-based”. [. . .] In addition to his native Gujarati it was the study of Hindu (and Hindu-Buddhist) scriptures, often in the “original” Sanskrit, that influenced him most deeply’ (1998: 225). 12. In his essay, ‘The Social Significance of Religion in India’, Srinivas writes, ‘As a result of two centuries of contact with the West, the activist streak in Hinduism is receiving greater emphasis, the Bhagvad Gita is becoming the single most important book of the Hindus’ (2009: 369). 13. It must be noted that when Britishers came the official language of the Mughal courts was Persian. We need to understand the dialectic of valorisation of Sanskrit in Orientalism as well as in the colonial government with Persian as well as mother language spaces of India. 14. Here we can compare Oommen’s present critique of sanskritisation with his earlier critique of Srinivas’s concept of dominant caste (Oommen 1970). It seems that the later critique is more foundational than the former. While his critique of dominant caste raises foundational questions to the very concept of dominant caste, in his critique of sanskritisation we do not find a parallel foundational critique, for example, of the conflation of language and social reality in this. 15. Oommen considers Saivism as the core of Dravidian Hinduism, but was there no relationship between Saivism in Tamil Nadu and Saivism in Kashmir? 16. From a comparative historical perspective, we can note similar processes of Orientalist influence in the construction of Buddhism in Thailand. This has been commented upon in discussing the work of Buddhist reformer Budhadasa Bikhu in Thailand (see Jackson 1987). 17. It is this pain that we must understand in the dynamics of social and cultural change. Srinivas’s account of sanskritisation misses the pain of people who do not make it in their striving for emulation. As Oommen rightly argues, imitation also can be protest (see Rao 1979). 18. Oommen argues that a dialogue between Y.B. Damle and M.N. Srinivas on sanskritisation and reference group behaviour could have enriched the discussion and understanding of such issues in Indian sociology. For Oommen, Damle applied reference group theory to analyze mobility within caste. [. . .] Merton’s unit of analysis in reference group behaviour is the individual who functions in American society characterised by acute individualism. The mechanism adopted is anticipatory socialisation, that is, gradually internalizing the norms and values of the group in which s/he aspires membership. It is an individual-group dynamic. [. . .] In contrast, given the fact that the Indian individual has little autonomy [. . .] and it is the lower castes which aspire to move upward, by adopting the norms and values of the upper castes, the dynamic involved is an intergroup one. Admittedly, M.N. Srinivas’s formulation of sanskritisation can be

Chapter 16.indd 307

11/23/2013 3:43:08 AM

308Ananta Kumar Giri justifiably described as the Indian variant of anticipatory socialisation. [. . .] By so doing the power of reference group theory could have been considerably enhanced. Unfortunately Damle has not attempted this and Srinivas has ignored reference group theory. To my mind this was a missed opportunity for Indian sociologists/social anthropologists for extending the frontiers of social theory (Oommen 2007b: 10–11).

References Ankersmit, F.R. 2002. Political representation. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Bakker, J.I. (Hans). 1998. ‘Gandhi and the Gita: Sanskrit and Satyagraha’, in Subrata Mukherjee and Sushila Ramaswamy (eds.): Ethics, religion and culture: Facets of Mahatma Gandhi (vol 4) (203–33). New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications. Béteille, André. 1996. Caste, Class and Power (2nd edition). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2003. ‘Introduction to the New Impression’, in M.N. Srinivas: Religion and Society among Coorgs of South India (xvii–xxix). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2009. ‘Sociology and ideology’, Sociological bulletin, 58 (2): 196–211. Charsley, Simon. 1998. ‘Sanskritisation: The career of an anthropological theory’, Contributions to Indian sociology (ns), 32 (2): 527–49. Deshpande, Satish. 2003. Contemporary India: A sociological view. New Delhi: Viking Penguin. Gasper, Des. 2003. ‘Anecdotes, situations, histories: Varieties and uses of cases in thinking about ethics and development practice,’ in Philip Quarles van Ufford and Ananta Kumar Giri (eds.): A moral critique of development: In search of global responsibilities (194–220). London: Routledge. Giri, Ananta Kumar. 2004. ‘The Calling of creative transdisciplinarity’, in Ananta Kumar Giri (ed.): Creative social research: Rethinking theories and methods (345–58). New Delhi: Vistaar. ———. 2006. ‘Creative social research: Rethinking theories and methods and the calling of an ontological epistemology of participation’, Dialectical anthropology, 30 (3 & 4): 227–71. Ingold, Tim. 2006. ‘Rethinking the animals, re-animating thought’, Ethnos, 71 (2): 9–20. Jackson, Peter A. 1987. Buddhadasa: Theravada Buddhism and modernist reform in Thailand. Chiangmai, Thailand: Silkworm Books. Mintz, Sideny W. 1960. A Worker in the cane: A Puerto Rican life history. Yale: Yale University Press. Mishra, Godavarish. 2004. ‘Transdisciplinary methods and tools of experiment: Insights from the philosophical traditions of Buddhism and Vedanta’, Ananta Kumar Giri (ed.): Creative social research: Rethinking theories and methods (273–96). New Delhi: Vistaar. Murphy, Robert F. 1987. The body silent. New York: W.W. Norton. Nadkarni, M.V. 2008. ‘Hinduism and caste’, Sociological bulletin, 57 (3): 402–04. ———. 2009. ‘Limits of the analytical method: A perspective from Bhagavad-Gita for holistic social science research’ (manuscript).

Chapter 16.indd 308

11/23/2013 3:43:08 AM

On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology

309

Oommen, T.K. 1970. ‘The concept of dominant caste: Some queries’, Contributions to Indian sociology (ns), 4: 73–83. ———. 2002. Pluralisms, equality an identity: Comparative studies. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2007a. Knowledge and society: Situating sociology and social anthropology. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2007b. ‘Y.B. Damle: The teacher, the researcher and the scholar’ (Occasional paper). Pune: Department of Sociology, University of Pune. ———. 2008. ‘Disjunction between field, method and concept: An appraisal of M.N. Srinivas’, Sociological bulletin, 57 (1): 60–81. Pandian, M.S.S. 2007. Brahmin and non-Brahmin: Genealogies of the Tamil political present. Delhi: Permanent Black. Rao, M.S.A. 1979. Social movements and social transformations: A study of two backward class movements in India. Delhi: Macmillan. Shah, A.M. 2005. ‘Sanskritisation revisited’, Sociological bulletin, 54 (2): 238–49. ———. 2008. ‘Violation of the norms of academic discourse’, Sociological bulletin, 57 (3): 388–404. Srinivas, M.N. 1942. Marriage and family in Mysore. Bombay: New Book Company. ———. 2003a. ‘An obituary on caste as a system’, Economic and political weekly, 38 (5): 455–59. ———. 2003b/1952. Religion and society among the Coorgs of South India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2009. The Oxford India Srinivas. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Welz, Frank. 2009. ‘100 years of Indian sociology: From social anthropology to decentering global sociology’, International sociology, 24 (5): 635–55. Wilfred, Felix. 2004. ‘Indian theologies: Retrospect and prospects—A socio-cultural perspective’, in Alosius Pieris, Marshal Fernando and Asanga Tilakaratne (eds.): Encounters with the world: Essays to honour Aloysius Pieris, SJ (145–76). Colombo: Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue.

Chapter 16.indd 309

11/23/2013 3:43:08 AM

Index

The Aborigines-so-called-and their Future (G. S. Ghurye), 2, 67 acculturation, 12 meaning of, 9 acquisition of vidyas, in Indian polity, 26 action, meaning of, 170 Adaptation, Goal Attainment, Integration and Latent Pattern Maintenance (AGIL), 17 adda (rendezvous), 148–49 adhyaropa-apapada (superimposition and de-superimposition) method, 293–94 Adult Evening Schools network, 141 advaitam, 164 Advaita Vedanta, 293 Agastya (rishi), 22 age conflict, 117 Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), 155, 190 All-India Hinduism, Srinivas’s views on, 233 All India Sociological Conference (1958), Agra, 124 The Ancient City (Fustel de Coulanges), 236 Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science journal, 252

Index.indd 310

anti-intellectualism, of Indian politics and social movements, 150 anubhava mechanism, 205 archaeology, 8 Aryan Hindu society, 281 Aryanization of south, 22 Asian communalism, 124, 146 Asian Exceptionalism, 147 asvamedha sacrifice, 22 Bangha-Bhanga movement, 115–16 Basic Concepts in Sociology (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 98 Bengali literature, 139 Bhagavad Gita, 237, 243 Bhakti movements, 299–300, 300–1 Bhils tribe, 20 bibliocentrism, 237 big bang theories of modernization, 176 blameless misfortune, 243 bourgeoisie, of West, 194 Brahmanical ideas and values, 9 Brahmanic mythology, 11 Brahminical Hinduism, 48, 301 Brahminisation, 275, 283n10, 295–97 Brahmins crystalization into castes, 11 practices, 235 role in spreading Hinduism, 11

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

index Brahmi script, 21 bratya (marginal man), 80 break-up of community life, 154 Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 23 British colonisation, 195 British Orientalism, xxvii, 33–36 British policy, of scheduling tribal communities and areas, 71–72 British social anthropology, 292–93 British steam and science, 169 Buddhism, 9, 99, 125, 166–67, 195, 277–78, 302–4 The Burning Caldron of North-East India (G. S. Ghurye), 3, 67 capitalism, xxv, 171, 183, 207, 226, 238, 242, 252–53, 257 Cartesian theory, 17 caste(s), xxxix, 19–21 based social structure of South Asia, 233 removal of untouchability, 64 sponsored associations, xxvi, 19 system in village, 220–23 usefulness of, xxvi Caste and Race in India (G S Ghurye), 61 centrality of Hinduism, 281 of Indian middle class development, 212 ceremonies, in vedic culture, 26 Chandala, 61–62. See also Scheduled Castes charana, 19 chaturashrama, 197 Chhandogya Upanishad, 23 China’s, emphasises on practical knowledge, 18 chronological time, 177 civilisational unity, 48–50 civilisation of India Ghurye’s sociology of, 40–53 nationalist renderings of, 36–39

Index.indd 311

311 clash of ideas, 18 classifiable states, framework of, 292 class conflicts, 168, 200 organization, 10 society, 206–7 colonial economic policy, 194 Colonialism creation of classes, xxxiii emergence of dual tension between West and indigenous culture, 129 colonial modernity, 127 colonised Indian mind, 129 commonalty, 96 communalism, 21, 32, 122, 199 Communist Manifesto, 239 comparative historical approach, xxiii compassion, Ashokan policy concreteness of social reality, 237 conflict(s), 173, 131, 173–74, 257 against alien rule, 129 of age, 117, 140 between old and new, 205 among caste groups, 52 class, 168, 200, 205 cultural, 37 as fundamental feature of Indian society, 32 of global revolution and war, 125 initial, 204 within colonial society, 121 constant meditation, 197 consumerism, xxiv, 175, 206, 211 content of tradition, concept of, 177 continua of levels, notion of, 96 core institutional order idea, 68 counterfeit class, 167 crowd, 96 cultivation of historical perspective, 189 cultural complexity, of India’s population, 68 cultural heritage of India, 12

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

312 cultural history, Indian, 45–47 analysis of, 11 cultural homogeneity, 13 cultural imperialism, 172–73, 205 cultural monists, 73 cultural pluralism, 168 cultural unity, 9, 12 cultural values, 91 culture, Indian, 172 affair of total consciousness, 174 as a-theoretical reality, 17 Mukerjee’s views on, 94 social and historical process, 166 of subject country, 167–68 Dalits, xxviii, 61. See also Scheduled Castes dandaniti (policy of coercion), 28 Darwinian biology, 124, 146 Dasas (Shudras), 11 dehumanization, 174 Delhi School of Economics, 247 delivery rites, 235 depressing scenario for future, Srinivas’s viewpoints on, 291–92 development, Mukerji’s views on, 162–63 dharma, notion of, 131, 232, 237, 240 dialectical materialism, 37, 98, 125, 183 dialectics, notion of, 125 diaspora, xxviii, 239 diffusionism, xxiii, xxv, xxvii, 5–6, 39–40 dimensional, xxiv disciplines, 217–19, 262, 267, 272 academic, 103, 114, 135 of anthropology, 43, 288, 304 independent, xiv at national and international level, x sociology as, xiv, xix, xx, xxxvii specific boundaries, 126 discrete states, framework of, 292 disposal of scarce means, 92

Index.indd 312

Pioneers of Sociology in India District Sahitya Parishad, Murshidabad, 117 disturbing trends, 2 diversities of belief and custom, among Hindus, 233 diversity of sects, 232 division of labour, between sociology and social anthropology, 4–5 Dravidian Hinduism, 278–79, 290, 301–2, 307n15 dual organization, 6 Durkheim, Emile, 217, 236–37, 245, 245–46 The Dynamics of Morals (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 95 eastern rural communalism, 123–24 economic development, notion of, 175 economic problems, Mukerjee’s philosophical approach to concrete, 145 economics, as a specialization, 79 The Economic Weekly, 137, 189 economies, concept of Mukerji’s views on, 138 empiricism in social sciences, Srinivas’s strong plea for, 229 England’s crimes, in India, 169–70 enlightened Indians, 129 ethnicity, 19–21 ethnographical imagination, 223–27 ethnological ferment, 18 ethnology, 8 ethnosociology, xxiv ethos, meaning of, xix eurocentric approach, 146 eurocentric arbitrariness, 260 evolutionism, 6, 8 extensive Hinduisation, 241, 260 exterior caste, 61. See also Scheduled Castes externalisation, of non-Indic religious communities, 270

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

index family as site, for performance rituals, 235 family-exogamy system, 11 family resemblance, 232 fascism, 193 fields and method, relationship between, 273 participation observation method for, 287 First All-India Sociological Conference (1955), Dehradun, 99 first generation sociologists, 8 fissiparous tendencies, in modern India, 2–3 five-year planning, 201–4. See also middle class in India, Mukerji’s views on The Foundations of Indian Economics (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 90, 127 frequency distribution, 271 functionalism, 7, 226, 237, 252–57 fundamental revolution, 170 Gandhi, Mahatma, 143, 174–75, 190–91, 206, 254 general theory of society, Mukerjee’s conceptualisation of, 127 generative tradition, 177 Ghaznavi, Mahmud, 232 Ghose, Aurobindo, 116 Ghurye, Govind Sadashiv, xx–xxxi, xxxiv, xxxvii on culture and nation-building, 16–29 Hindu nationalist sociology of, 31–55 historical evolutionary approach in sociology of, 1–13 Goheen, John, 253 Gonds tribe, 20 goodwill, Ashokan policy gotra-exogamy system, 11, 19

Index.indd 313

313 Groundwork Economics and The Institutional Theory of Economics (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 144 group interactions, nature of, 96 group-traditions, 205 guna, xli, 303 gurukulas, 25 Harijan, 61. See also Scheduled Castes harmonise Vedantic, 208 hierarchical inequality, 211 Him (humanised divinity), 198 Hindooism, 232 Hindu conception of God, Ghaznavi’s view on, 232 Hindu Dharma Shashtras, 65 Hindu heritage, 208 Hinduisation, 48, 57n20, 67, 69–72, 74, 241, 260, 266, xxviii intensive and extensive, 260 of North-east tribes, 72 of Scheduled Tribes of Central India, 74 of tribes, xxviii, 69–70 Hinduism, xxv, xxviii, xxxv, xxxvii, 9, 11, 13, 232–34, 260–61, 268, 275, 277–81, 291–92, 299–304 Hindu method of tribal absorption, 241 Hindu nationalism, xxxvii, 32, 38, 55 Hindu polity, decline in Gupta Age, 28 Hindu social organisation, xxxvii Hindu society, 20 untouchables assimilation into, 65 Hindustan, 169 historical–dialectical mode of sociological analysis, xxiii history, Indian enacted by Indians, 170 Mukerji’s views on, 172 history, Marx’s materialistic understanding of, 195

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

314 homogenisation of nationstate, 73 Homo Symbolicus, 125 human society, xix transnational understanding of, xxx Hussain, Zakir, 190 ideology of national development, 212 illicitly smuggling, in fictional Hinduism, 233 impure untouchable, 63 Indian civilisation, notion of, xxvii Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), 262 Indian culture, notion of, xxii Indian National Congress, 152 Indian Village (S. C. Dube), 229 Indian School of Economics, Sociology, and Culture, 118–21 Indian Sociological Conference (1955), first, 184, 189 Indian Sociological Society (ISS), 231, 262 India Recreates Democracy (G. S. Ghurye), 2 India’s Middle Classes: Their Growth in Modern Times (B.B. Mishra), 210 India Unbound (Gurcharan Das), 212 individual self, study of, 265 Indo-Aryan civilization, in India cultural supremacy of, 12–13 entry into India, 10 Ghurye’s contribution to, 2 role of, 11 Indo-European family, 10 indology, xxiii, xxv, 5, 33 industrial bourgeoisie of Europe, 196 of West, 194 information, types of, 271 institutional approach to planning, 79 institutional economics, 91–93

Index.indd 314

Pioneers of Sociology in India The Institutional Theory of Economics (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 92, 94 institutions, durations in real time, 177 intellectual context, of Ghurye’s sociology, 32–40 intensive Hinduisation, 260 inter-caste conflict, 66 interdisciplinary approach, Mukerjee’s, 85–88 interest-association, 96 Isami, Abd al-Malik, 232 Islam, 9, 166 entered in India, places, 21 Jainism, 9, 20, 50, 277–78, 302–3 jati, 22, 220, 223 jatras, 24. See also values, Indian jokes, 305 Judaism, 245, 248n9 justice of gods, 247n5 Kannada castes, 235 karma, xxxvii, 37, 166, 208, 235, 237, 239–41, 243, 254, 303 karmakanda, 235–236 karmic bondage, 240 knowledge society, xx knowledge system, Ghurye’s credit to Kautliya for devising, 27 Kodava movement, 282n5 labour of mutual understanding, 303–5 landlords, xxxiii language, conflation of, 295–303 laws of karma, 166, 208 learning, 303–5 Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation paradigm (LPG), xxiv linguistics, 8 category of Aryans into racial one, 35 of Sanskrit, 296

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

index classification of Indian people, 43 communities, 69 connections, 35 division of states, 22 groupings, 73 regions in India, 67, 266 separateness, 22 local Hinduisms, 233 logico-philosophical approach, xxiii loss of autonomy, 174 love of mutual understanding, 303–5 lower-caste Hindus, 69 low castes, 43, 233, 239, 303 Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology, xxx–xxi, 134–36, 139–41, 148, 156–57, 190 Lucknow triumvirate, 113 Lucknow University, 88–91 madhyam marga (the middle way), 125 magico-religious ideas, philosophical systems of India, 18 Mahabharata, 238, 243 Mahayana Buddhism, 18 mantra, 236 marga (holy end), 240 manual workers class, 211 marginal desiredness, 92 Marriage and Family in Mysore (M N Srinivas), 235 marriage rites, 235 Marriott, McKim, 234 Marxian approach/Marxism/Marxists, xxi, xxii, xxiii, xiv, xxxi, xxxiii, 151, 166, 170–71, 175, 184 Marxologist, 98 mata (doctrine), 240 materialism, 104–5 material programme, 168 method/methodology implications of, 294 in modernity, 291 methodological Hinduism, xxxvii,

Index.indd 315

315 279, 281, 286, 290–95, 302, 304 methodological individualism, 291 methodological monism, 287 methodological nationalism, 279, 290–91 methodological pluralism/plurality, 286–89 challenges towards, 289 middle class in India, Mukerji’s views on, 193, 211 mode of change, 204–7 nationalist movement, 198–200 nineteenth century reformism, 196–98 origin of, 194 as product of colonial economic policy, 194 socialist movement, 200–201 mindless imitation, 174 Modern Bengali Literature (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 117, 140 modern India, problems/tensions in, 13 Modern Indian Culture (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 99 modernisers of Indian sociology, xxiv modernization, India’s, 172 examination of theories, 176 modernized/modernizing, 176 modern man, 174, 206, 244 moksha, 237, 240 Mokslia, 29n5 Mukerjee, Radhakamal, x, xiv, xx, xxi, xxii, xxv, xxix–xxxi, 130–31 career at Lucknow University, 88–91 contemporaries, 97–105 early career of, 79 emphasises on unitary base for all disciplines, 125 empirical studies on aspects of life conditions, 80

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

316 Mukerjee, Radhakamal (Contd.) inadequacy of sociological categories of West for Indian reality interpretation, 124 interdisciplinary approach of, 85–88 life and times of, 115–18 moral imperatives in institutional planning, 82 pioneered approaches to social science, 79 predominant concern in old age, 82 quest for Indian School of Economics, Sociology, and Culture, 118–21 vision for development of Asia, 121–23 western modernity and Indian mind ambivalence, 127–30 Mukerji, Dhurjati Prasad, xiii, xiv, xx, xxi–xxiii, xxv, xxviii, xxx, xxxi–xxxiii, 85, 113, 149 centenary tribute (1894-1961) to, 182–91 development planning, 80 dialectic of tradition and modernity in the sociology of, 159–78 and Indian middle class, 193–214 intellectual influence of, 149–50 planning, concept of, 155 protest against emerging trends in Indian economics and planning, 137–38 spiritual nervousness before possibilities of dehumanisation, 154 stressed on dialectic between forward movement and rootedness in tradition, 152 mummification, 7 Mundas tribe, 20 mutual understanding, 303–5 mystical outlook, 167, 204

Index.indd 316

Pioneers of Sociology in India Namashudras of West Bengal, 63 naming rites, 235 nation, 16–17 National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, xxxv, 230 national integration, national leaders role in grappling problem of, 3 nationalism, xxvii, xxviii, 20, 23 nationalist, Ghurye’s as, 50–53 nationalist movement, 198–200 National Planning Committee, 113–14, 145 nation, notion of ’, xxviii, 61, 72 Natural History of Religion (David Hume), 236 Nehru, Pandit Jawaharlal, 80, 113, 145, 152 new middle class, xxiv, xxxiii, 194, 196, 210, 212–13 Nidrita Narayan (God Asleep) novel, 117 non-Brahmans/Brahmins as Dravidians, 278 movements in Tamil Nadu, xxxvii role model for lower castes, 274 non-commercial class, 194 non-exploitation, 175 non-possession, 175 non-productive class, 194 non-tribal society, 5 non-Western economic forms, 91 one’s own society, notion of, 263–67, 273–74, 288–89 Oommen, T. K., 60–74, 262–81, 286–92, 295, 299–304 Oraons tribe, 20 organisation, meaning of, xix Orientalism, xxii Orientalist notions of Hinduism, 301 Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 36, 275, 278

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

index Pal, Bipin Chandra, 116 papa, 235 parental impulse, 81 parochialisation, 234 Parsonian theory of social action, 6 participant observation method, 229, 263–64, 266–67, 270–74, 281, 286–90 peasant society, 68 Pentad (complex of five deities), 11 personality, 161 Personality and the Social Sciences (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 98 personal sanskritisation, 305n1 philosophico-sociological approach, xxiii place of beliefs in Hinduism, Weber’s views on, 238–43 planning societies, problems persists in, 137 planning system drawback in current, 137 Mukerji’s conception on, 189 pluralisation process, 289 pluralism, xxvi definition of, 29n1 political conflict, against alien rule, 129 political context, of Ghurye’s sociology, 32–40 politics, of subject country, 167–68 pollution, notion of, 270 positive assessment of Sanskritisation, as productive of socio-cultural cohesion, 234 positivistic–utilitarian tradition of Western social science, xxx post-liberalisation public discourse, on middle class, 211 pre-modern and modern societies, distinction between, xxxviii, 219–20 Principles of Comparative Economics (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 91, 144

Index.indd 317

317 progressive groups, failure of, 189 progress, notion of, 162–63, 208 Protestantism, 245, 248n9 puberty rites, 235 Public–Private Partnership (PPP), xxiv pumsarthas, 23 punya, 235 pure dialectic, 165 pure untouchable, 63 purity, notion of, 270 purpose in human life beings, element of, 162 purushas (persons), xxxii, 194, 198, 204 racial theory of Indian history, 42–44 Rajputisation, 234 Ramayana, 238 Ramrajya, Gandhi’s idea of, 206 rational ethic element, in Hinduism, 242 reference group behaviour, xl, 276, 278, 282n8, 307n18 refuge in religion, 245 regional autonomy, xxvii regional Hinduism, 234 regionalism, 32, 93, 95, 143 regional planning, 95 regional traditions of myth and ritual, 232 relativism, applied in science field, 17 relevance, xxiv religion, 13, 73 conflation of, 295–303 as unified system of beliefs and practices, 236 Religion of India (Max Weber), 239 Religion of the Semites (William Robertson Smith), 236 religious connotation of terms Hindu and Muslim, establishment in sixteenth century, 232 religious duty, components of, 23–24 religious nationalism, 73–74

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

318 reservations, xxvii revivalism, xxviii, 151, 168, 185, 199 right action (karmayoga), 243 Rigyeda, 23 ritual idiom, 235 rituals, Srinivas’s view on, 234–38 Roy, Raja Rammohun, 173, 232, 254 rural communalism, eastern, 123–24 rural-urban dichotomy, 68–69 sacred pursuits, 26 sacrifices, in vedic culture, 26 sadharan dharma, 243 Samaveda, 23 sampradaya, concept of, 231 samsara, 237, 239, 254, 260 sangh (collectivity), concept of, 131 Sanskritic (Brahmanical) Hinduism, 233, 277–80, 290, 297, 299–302 sanskritisation, concept of, xxxv, xxxvii, 12, 57n20, 233–34, 242, 256, 260, 266, 273–81, 294–303, 305 Santals tribe, 20 Sapinda rules, 11 Saran, A.K., 207–8 Sasvata Bhikhari (Eternal Beggar) novel, 117, 139 Scheduled Castes, 60–61, 74, 275 characteristics of, 66–67 Scheduled Tribes, 60, 74 contact with Hindus, 68 culturally assimilated through Hinduisation, in Central India, 71 features of, 67 Ghurye’s enthusiasm to integrate Hindus into, 69 Hinduisation of, 69–70 secular pursuits, 26 self-acknowledged Hindus, 233 self-cancellation, 175

Index.indd 318

Pioneers of Sociology in India self-conscious choice-making, alternative to, 174 self-control (dama), 23 self-realisation, 197 self, study of, 265, 287 self transformations, dynamics of, 295–303 Shaiva mystic Lalla, of Kashmir Valley, 232 shantam, 164 shivant, 164 Shukranīti, 104 single monolithic religion, 232 single societies, 8 Skanda (god), 22 Smith, Adam, 92 smriti mechanism, 205 social action, 206 social anthropology, xxxiv, 3–4, 217–20, 236, 255 diffusionism role in, 6 emergence in social context, 273 field-orientation for, 269 peasant society in, 68 social arrangements, 91 social base, impact of neglecting, 99 social change, 152, 194, 207, 209, 214, 216 mobility of groups in society, 218 in modern India, assessment of, 223–27 nature and direction of, 129 strategy to eliminate untouchability, 65 social control, concept of, 162 social ecology, xiv, xxix, 93–95 social forces, concept of, 162 social groupings, typology of, 96 social heritage, elements of, 157 social interactions, natures of, 96 social issues, Mukerjee’s concerns over, 115 socialist movement, 200–201 socialist society, 206–7

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

index socialist struggle, 194 social mobility, xxii, xxiv, xxv, xxxiv, 94 social problems, Mukerjee’s philosophical approach to concrete, 145 social science approaches to, xxviii Mukerjee’s contribution to, 79 social solidarity, Srinivas’s view on, 234–38 social space, 94 social status, 94 The Social Structure of Values (Radhakamal Mukerjee), 95 social tensions, in free India, 20–21 Social Tensions in India. Whither India? (G. S. Ghurye), 2 social transformations, dynamics of, 295–303 society, Indian, 72–73 challenges in understanding, 305 Ghurye’s views on, 2, 9–10 holistic perspectives on, xxxvii modern sociologist views on, 218 relationship of purusha and, 204 social changes since Independence, xix sociological study of religion, 247n6 sociologists as tribe, 305 Sociology as a discipline, xix clues for reshaping of society, xx in India, xxvii, 217–20, 263 analysis of, xxiv challenges to, xx early phase of, xxiii field-orientation for, 269 Mukerji’s views on, 208 social conditioning of, xix of Hindus/Hinduism, 228–246 of religion, relevance of, 244–46 Sociology of knowledge, xxvi, 19 development in West, 17

Index.indd 319

319 sociology of values, xxix, 95–97 Srinivas, Mysore Narasimhachar, 216–246 disjunctions between field, method and concept, 262–81 and sociology of India, 286–305 Sruti (listening) method, 205, 293 state, xx, xxviii, xxxiii, 16 state formation, among tribal peoples, 234 statistical–positivistic approach, xxiii steady state theories of modernization, 176 structural–functional approach, xxii, xxiii structural-historicism, xxiv structuralism, xxi, xxiv structural time, 177 subjectivistic nature, of Indian education, 26 Sufism, 21 survey research, Srinivas’s criticism of, 272–73 swadeshi, 116 swaraj, 116, 207 synthesis of opposites, 173–74 systems of knowledge, Indian, 24–28 Tagore, Rabindranath, 173, 205 Tamilakam, 277 Tamilisation, xli, 277, 281, 300, 302 tantra texts, 238 Taoism, 125 Tarikh-ul Hind (Mahmud Ghaznavi), 232 tensions, coexistence of planning and traditions generate, 189 theodicy, Weber’s notion of, 247n5 Third World countries, 81–82, 163 total consciousness, culture an affair of, 174 totalitarian society, 207–8 totemism, 6 traditional bourgeoisie, Indian, 194

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

320 traditional values, Gandhian insistence on, 206 traditions, Indian mechanisms of, 205 and modernity, dialectic between, 173 principle of, 173 relevance to modernity, 177–78 as social and historical process, 195 tribal society, 5

values of wantlessness, 174 vanprastha, 197 varnas, 24, 277–78 varta (commerce), 28 Vedanta, 18, 125, 175 vedas, religion of, 232 Vedic knowledge, 105 vidyas, Indian, 26–27 village caste system, 220–23 vyaktis (individuals), xxxii, 194, 198

ultra-nationalism, xxviii unapproachables, status transformation of, 64 unity, Indian, 13, 95 evolution of, 22 features of, 21 Ghurye’s thinking on, 22–23 marriage as unifying factor, 21 Srinivas’s understanding of, 280 universalisation, 234, 295 unmusical religiously, 245 untouchability, xxvii, 64–65 untouchable castes, types of, 63 Upanishadic principle of charaiveti, 204 Upanishads, 164, 167, 198, 238, 247n5, 293, 306n6 Upasana, Bengali monthly journal, 117 U. P. Lalit Kate Academy, 148

Weber, Max, xxv, xxxv, 6, 107n3, 109n11, 217, 228–46 western democracy vs eastern rural communalism, 123–24 Western Divine Right theory, 25 western economic forms, 91 Western industrialism in India, twin products of, 119–20, 144 Westernization, 170, 176 Western liberal humanism, 183 Western liberalism, 175 western modernity and Indian mind mixed feelings, 127–30 Western notion of progress, 164 West influence, on Tagore’s life, 173 white-collar trade-unionism, 211 women exclusion, from public space, 270 Worker in the Cane: A Puerto Rican Life History (Sidney Mintz), 288 World War II, 193

Vaishnava Brahman families, 235 valorisation of ritual purity, 241 values, Indian, 23–24

Index.indd 320

Pioneers of Sociology in India

Yajurveda, 23

11/20/2013 3:15:16 PM

About the Editor and Contributors

The Editor Ishwar Modi is President, Indian Sociological Society (2012–13) and also International Sociological Association Executive Committee Member (2010–14). He is also the President, ISA Research Committee on Sociology of Leisure & Delegate to the ISA Assembly of Councils (2006–14). World Leisure Organization honoured him with its rare distinction of Honorary Life Membership in 1994 at Minneapolis, USA. He is Director, India International Institute of Social Sciences, Jaipur. He is on the Editorial/Editorial Advisory Boards of the journals SOCIOPEDIA. ISA, World Leisure Journal (Journal of the World Leisure Organization), Leisure Studies (Journal of the British Leisure Studies Association), Indian Journal of Gerontology, and Sociological Bulletin. He was also a member of the Editorial Board of the ISA journal Current Sociology/SSIS Monographs (2006–10). Professor Modi has made invited presentations at the inaugural/plenary sessions of the conferences organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, South African Sociological Association, Polish Sociological Association and the Russian Society of Sociologists.

The Contributors Dalia Chakrabarti is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Jadhavpur University, Kolkata. She was awarded M.N. Srinivas Memorial Prize in 2011.

About the Editor and Contributors.indd 321

11/27/2013 3:36:33 PM

322

Pioneers of Sociology in India

Ananta Kumar Giri is Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, India. P.C. Joshi is former Professor and Director, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. He was President of the Indian Sociological Society (1990–91) and a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award (2008). T.N. Madan is Honorary (Emeritus) Professor of Sociology, Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi, Delhi, and a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award (2008) of the Indian Sociological Society. Ramkrishna Mukherjee is the founder of Sociological Research Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. He was President of the Indian Sociological Society (1973–75) and a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award (2005). T.K. Oommen is Professor Emeritus, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was President of the International Sociological Association (1990–94), and also the President of the Indian Sociological Society (1998–99) and a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award (2010). Sujata Patel is Professor of Sociology, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad. She was Vice-President, National Associations (2002–06), International Sociological Association. Swapan Kumar Pramanick is former Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Kolkata. He was also the Vice-Chancellor, Vidyasagar University, Midnapore, West Bengal. A.M. Shah is former Professor, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. He was President of the Indian Sociological Society (1992–93) and a recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award (2009). Manish K. Thakur is Associate Professor, Public Policy and Management, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Kolkata. Carol Upadhya is Professor, School of Social Sciences, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore, C.N. Venugopal is former Professor of Sociology, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

About the Editor and Contributors.indd 322

11/27/2013 3:36:34 PM

Appendix of Sources

All articles and chapters have been reproduced exactly as they were first published. All cross-references can be found in the original source of publication. Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material for this volume. 1. “Historical Evolutionary Approach in the Sociology of G.S. Ghurye,” Swapan Kumar Pramanick

Vol. 31, No. 1 (March), 1982: 24–40.

2. “G.S. Ghurye on Culture and Nation-Building,” C.N. Venugopal

Vol. 42, No. 1&2 (March and September), 1993: 1–14.

3. “The Hindu Nationalist Sociology of G.S. Ghurye,” Carol Upadhya

Vol. 51, No. 1 (March), 2002: 28–57.

4. “Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the Nation: Situating G.S. Ghurye,” T.K. Oommen

Vol. 60, No. 2 (May–August), 2011: 228–244.

5. “Radha Kamal Mukerjee—A Note,” Ramkrishna Mukherjee

Vol. 38, No. 2 (September), 1989: 261–265.

6. “Radhakamal Mukerjee and His Contemporaries: Founding Fathers of Sociology in India,” T.N. Madan

Vol. 60, No. 1 (January–April), 2011: 18–44.

7. “Radhakamal Mukerjee and the Quest for an Indian Sociology,” Manish K. Thakur

Vol. 61, No. 1 (January–April), 2012: 89–108.

Appendix of Sources.indd 323

11/23/2013 3:45:47 AM

324

Pioneers of Sociology in India

8. “Lucknow School of Economics and Sociology and Its Relevance To-Day: Some Reflections,” P.C. Joshi

Vol. 35, No. 1 (March), 1986: 1–28.

9. “Dialectic of Tradition and Modernity in the Sociology of D.P. Mukerji,” T.N. Madan

Vol. 26, No. 2 (September), 1977: 155–178

10. “D.P. Mukerji 1894–1961: A Centenary Tribute,” T.N. Madan

Vol. 43, No. 2 (September), 1994: 133–142.

11. “D.P. Mukerji and the Middle Class in India,” Dalia Chakrabarti

Vol. 59, No. 2 (May–August), 2010: 235–255.

12. “On Srinivas’s ‘Sociology’,” Sujata Patel

Vol. 54, No. 1 (January–April), 2005: 101–111.

13. “The Sociology of Hinduism: Reading ‘Backwards’ from Srinivas to Weber,” T.N. Madan

Vol. 55, No. 2 (May–August) 2006: 215–236.

14. “M.N. Srinivas, Max Weber, and Functionalism,” A.M. Shah

Vol. 56, No. 1 (January–April), 2007: 126–133.

15. “Disjunctions between Field, Method and Concept: An Appraisal of M.N. Srinivas,” T.K. Oommen

Vol. 57, No. 1 (January–April), 2008: 60–81.

16. “On M.N. Srinivas and Indian Sociology: The Challenge of Understanding Indian Society—Critique, Generosity and Transfor­ mations,” Ananta Kumar Giri

Vol. 59, No. 2 (May–August), 2010: 256–277.

Appendix of Sources.indd 324

11/23/2013 3:45:47 AM