Lecture in NCAER's Golden
Jubilee Seminar Series,
New Delhi, 24 April 1998.
CULTURE, DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT
James S.Coleman Professor
of International Development Studies,
University of California at Los Angeles
Emeritus Professor of Political
University College, London
till Sept. 30th:
2 Erskine Hill,
London NW11 6HB, U.K.
Tel/Fax: 0181-458 3713
From 1 Oct.:
8369 Bunche Hall,
UCLA, 405 Hilgard Ave.,
Los Angeles CA 90024.
CULTURE, DEMOCRACY AND
In this 50th year after Indian
Independence, the arrival of a government led by the cultural nationalist's
of the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), after another in a series of elections
since the mid 1980's which have delivered hung parliaments, the issues
encompassed by the three triads of my title have come to the fore in public
debates. Is democracy capable of delivering development? Are the fears
of the cultural nationalists that the modernization that the globalisation
of the economy portends will also lead to Westernisation and the undermining
of a cherished Hindu way of life, valid? These are the central questions
I want to answer in this lecture. These were also the questions I dealt
with in somewhat different contexts in my two most recent books , so that
rather than dazzle you with lots of references I will leave those of a
scholarly bent of mind to consult these books for the evidence for many
of the assertions I will be making in this lecture.
THE HISTORIAN CONTEXT
But I want to begin by putting these debates in a historical context. Despite
nationalist and Marxist hagiography, as I argued in an earlier book , modernity
,- by which I mean the promotion of modern intensive growth- began with
the British Raj in the 19th century. Intensive growth which entails a sustained
rise in per capita income is to be contrasted with extensive growth which
has occurred worldwide for millennia with output growing sufficiently to
keep pace with the rise in human population which has been a feature of
human history since we came down from the trees. Intensive growth, moreover,
is of two types. The first is Smithian growth, which occurs even in agrarian
economies whose productivity is ultimately bounded by the fixed factor
of production-land. In the past Smithian growth was largely due to the
extension of the market often under the force of imperial arms, as under
the Pax Mauryas and Pax Guptas in India, the Pax Graeco/Roman of the ancient
Mediterranean world, the Pax Abbasid of the Arabs, the Pax Sung of the
Chinese, the Pax Tokugawa in Japan and the Pax Britannica worldwide in
the 19th century. By contrast the second type of intensive growth -Promethean-
is a European miracle, and depends upon utilising the relatively unbounded
energy provided by the natural capital represented by fossil fuels to convert
land bound agrarian economies into mineral energy based 'industrial' economies.
In an important sense the process of economic development consists essentially
of this transformation, and this began with the growth of modern Indian
industry -often based on Indian capital and imported know how- from the
mid 19th century during the classical laissez faire and free trade era
of the British Raj.
This nascent process of modernization was aided and abetted by two important
institutional reforms which have cast a long shadow on independent India.
The first was the introduction of a legal system based on the Common Law,
as well as the gradual extension of representative institutions first at
local and then at provincial levels. The second was the creation of a native
class of English speaking 'creoles' through the implementation of Macaulay's
famous Minute on Education. The future of both the nationalist struggle
and post Independence India has largely been determined by the attitudes
of and divisions amongst these Macaulay's children through their use or
misuse of the legal and political institutions they inherited from the
Raj to which they took like fish to water. As Anil Seal the Cambridge historian
of the nationalist movement has put it as regards the representative institutions
created by the British :" Associations, like cricket, were British innovations
and, like cricket, became an Indian craze" Why India should have
taken so easily to these foreign Western implants when they were rejected
in so many other ex-British colonies, is a question I will come to eventually,
but before that I need to outline the dilemma that the two wings of Macaulay's
children faced from the outset and which continues to haunt them and India
to this day. This is the question of reconciling tradition with modernity.
To deal with this I need to provide an account of the role of culture in
CULTURE AND SOCIAL EQUILIBRIA
Culture remains a murky concept. I have found a definition adopted by ecologists
particularly useful. They emphasize that, unlike other animals, the
human one is unique because its intelligence gives it the ability to change
its environment by learning. It does not have to mutate into a new species
to adapt to the changed environment. It learns new ways of surviving in
the new environment and then fixes them by social custom. These social
customs form the culture of the relevant group, which are transmitted to
new members of the group (mainly children) who do not then have to invent
these 'new' ways de novo for themselves.
This definition of culture fits in well with the economists notion of equilibrium.
Frank Hahn describes an equilibrium state as one where self-seeking
agents learn nothing new so that their behavior is routinized. It represents
an adaptation by agents to the economic environment in which the economy
"generates messages which do not cause agents to change the theories which
they hold or the policies which they pursue." This routinized behavior
is clearly close to the ecologists notion of social custom which fixes
a particular human niche. On this view, the equilibrium will be disturbed
if the environ-ment changes, and so, in the subsequent process of adjustment,
the human agents will have to abandon their past theories, which would
now be systematically falsified. To survive, they must learn to adapt to
their new environment through a process of trial and error. There will
then be a new social equilibrium, which relates to a state of society and
economy in which "agents have adapted themselves to their economic environment
and where their expectations in the widest sense are in the proper meaning
This equilibrium need not be unique nor optimal, given the environmental
parameters. But once a particular socio-economic order is established,
and proves to be an adequate adaptation to the new environment, it is likely
to be stable, as there is no reason for the human agents to alter it in
any fundamental manner, unless and until the environmental parameters are
altered. Nor is this social order likely to be the result of a deliberate
rationalist plan. We have known since Adam Smith that an unplanned but
coherent and seemingly planned social system can emerge from the indep-end-ent
actions of many individuals pursuing their different ends and in which
the final outcomes can be very different from those intended.
It is useful to distinguish between two major sorts of beliefs relating
to different aspects of the environment. These relate to what in my recent
Ohlin lectures I labelled the material and cosmological beliefs of a particular
culture. The former relate to ways of making a living and concerns beliefs
about the material world, in particular about the economy. The latter are
related to understanding the world around us and mankind's place in it
which determine how people view their lives-its purpose, meaning and relationship
to others. There is considerable cross-cultural evidence that material
beliefs are more malleable than cosmological ones. Material beliefs can
alter rapidly with changes in the material environment. There is greater
hysterisis in cosmological beliefs, on how, in Plato's words, "one should
live". Moreover the cross-cultural evidence shows that rather than the
environment it is the language group which influences these world-views.
This distinction between material and cosmological beliefs is important
for economic performance because it translates into two distinct types
of "transactions costs" which are of importance in explaining not
only 'market' but also 'government or bureaucratic failure'. Broadly
speaking transactions costs can be distinguished usefully as those costs
associated with the efficiency of exchange, and those which are associated
with policing opportunistic behavior by economic agents. The former
relate to the costs of finding potential trading partners and determining
their supply- demand offers, the latter to enforcing the execution of promises
and agreements. These two aspects of transactions need to be kept distinct.
The economic historian Douglass North and the industrial organization and
institutionalist theorist Oliver Williamson have both evoked the notion
of transactions costs and used them to explain various institutional arrangements
relevant for economic performance. They are primarily concerned with the
cost of opportunistic behavior, which arises for North, with the more anonymous
non-repeated transactions accompanying the widening of the market, and
for Williamson, from the asymmetries in information facing principals and
agents, where crucial characteristics of the agent relevant for measuring
performance can be concealed from the principal. Both these are cases where
it is the policing aspects of transactions costs which are at issue, not
those concerning exchange.
To see the
relevance of the distinction in beliefs and that in transactions costs
for economic performance and in explaining the source and outcomes of the
dilemmas of Macaulay's children, it will be useful to briefly delineate
how broadly speaking material and cosmological beliefs have altered since
the Stone Age in Eurasia.
CHANGING MATERIAL AND COSMOLOGICAL
On Human Nature:
Evolutionary anthropologists and psychologists maintain that human nature
was set during the period of evolution ending with the Stone Age. Since
then there has not been sufficient time for any further evolution. This
human nature appears darker than Rousseau's and brighter than Hobbes' characterizations
of it. It is closer to Hume's view that " there is some benevolence, however
small...some particle of the dove kneaded into our frame, along with the
elements of the wolf and serpent." For even in the hunter gatherer Stone
age environment the supremely egotistical human animal would have found
some form of what evolutionary biologists term "reciprocal altruism" useful.
Co-operation with one's fellows in various hunter- gatherer tasks yields
benefits for the selfish human which can be further increased if he can
cheat and be a free rider. In the repeated interactions between the selfish
humans comprising the tribe, such cheating could be mitigated by playing
the game of "tit for tat". Evolutionary biologists claim that the resulting
"reciprocal altruism" would be part of our basic Stone Age human nature.
Archaeologists have also established that the instinct to "truck and barter",
the trading instinct based on what Sir John Hicks used to call the "economic
principle" - "people would act economically; when an opportunity of an
advantage was presented to them they would take it" - is also of Stone
Age vintage. It is also part of our basic human nature.
With the rise of settled agriculture and the civilizations that evolved
around them, however, and the stratification this involved between three
classes of men - those wielding the sword, the pen and the plough- most
of the stone age basic instincts which comprise our human nature would
be dysfunctional. Thus with the multiplication of interactions between
human beings in agrarian civilizations many of the transactions would have
been with anonymous strangers who one might never see again. The "reciprocal
altruism" of the Stone Age which depended upon a repetition of transactions
would not be sufficient to curtail opportunistic behavior.
Putting it differently, the 'tit for tat' strategy for the repeated Prisoners
Dilemma (PD) game amongst a band of hunter-gatherers in the Stone Age would
not suffice with the increased number of one-shot PD games that will arise
with settled agriculture and its widening of the market. To prevent the
resulting dissipation of the mutual gains from co-operation, agrarian civilizations
internalized restraints on such 'anti-social' action through moral codes
which were part of their 'religion'. But these 'religions' were more ways
of life as they did not necessarily depend upon a belief in God.
The universal moral emotions of shame and guilt are the means by which
these 'moral codes' embodied in cultural traditions are internalized in
the socialization process during infancy. Shame was the major instrument
of this internalization in the great agrarian civilizations. Their resulting
cosmological beliefs can be described as being 'communalist'.
The basic human instinct to trade would also be disruptive for settled
agriculture. For traders are motivated by instrumental rationality which
maximizes economic advantage. This would threaten the communal bonds that
all agrarian civilizations have tried to foster. Not surprisingly most
of them have looked upon merchants and markets as a necessary evil, and
sought to suppress them and the market which is their institutional embodiment.
The material beliefs of the agrarian civilizations were thus not conducive
to modern economic growth.
The Rise of the West:
The rise of the West
was mediated by the Catholic Church in the 6th-11th centuries, through
its promotion of individualism, first in family affairs and later in material
relationships which included the introduction of all the legal and institutional
requirements of a market economy as a result of Gregory the Great's Papal
revolution in the 11th century. These twin Papal revolutions arose
because of the unintended consequences of the Church's search for bequests-
a trait that goes back to its earliest days. From its inception it had
grown as a temporal power through gifts and donations -particularly from
rich widows. So much so that, in July 370 the Emperor Valentinian had addressed
a ruling to the Pope that male clerics and unmarried ascetics should
not hang around the houses of women and widows and try to worm themselves
and their churches into their bequests at the expense of the women's families
and blood relations. The Church was thus from its beginnings in the race
for inheritances. The early Church's extolling of virginity and preventing
second marriages helped it in creating more single women who would leave
bequests to the Church.
This process of inhibiting a family from retaining its property and promoting
its alienation accelerated with the answers that Pope Gregory I gave to
some questions that the first Archbishop of Canterbury, Augustine, had
sent in 597 AD concerning his new charges. Four of these nine questions
concerned sex and marriage. Gregory's answers overturned the traditional
Mediterranean and Middle Eastern patterns of legal and customary practices
in the domestic domain. The traditional system was concerned with the provision
of an heir to inherit family property, and allowed marriage to close kin,
marriages to close affines or widows of close kin, the transfer of children
by adoption , and finally concubinage, which is a form of secondary union.
Gregory amazingly banned all four practices. Thus for instance there was
no adoption of children allowed in England till the 19th century. There
was no basis for these injunctions in Scripture, Roman law or the existing
customs in the areas that were Christianised.
This Papal family revolution made the Church unbelievably rich. Demographers
have estimated that the net effect of the prohibitions on traditional methods
to deal with childlessness was to leave 40 per cent of families with no
immediate male heirs. The Church became the chief beneficiary of the resulting
bequests. Its accumulation was phenomenal. Thus for instance in France
one third of productive land was in ecclesiastical hands by the end of
the 7th century!
But this accumulation also drew predators from within and without to deprive
the Church of its acquired property. It was to deal with this denudation
that Pope Gregory VII instigated his Papal revolution in 1075, by putting
the power of God - through the spiritual weapon of excommunication-above
that of Caesar's. With the Church then coming into the world, the new Church-state
also created all the administrative and legal infrastructure which we associate
with a modern polity, and which provided the essential institutional infrastructure
for the Western dynamic that in time led to Promethean growth. Thus
Pope Gregory the Great's Papal revolution lifted the lid on the basic human
instinct to 'truck and barter', and in time to a change in the traditional
Eurasian pattern of material beliefs with their suspicion of markets and
merchants. This in time led to modern economic growth.
But it also led to a change in the traditional Eurasian family patterns
which were based on various forms of 'joint families' and family values,
which essentially removed the lid on the other opportunistic basic instincts
which the shame based moral codes of Eurasia had placed. To counter the
potential threat this posed to its way of making a living- settled agriculture-
the Church created a fierce guilt culture in which Original Sin was paramount,
and morality was underwritten by the belief in the Christian God.
In this context it is worth noting the important difference between
the cosmological beliefs of what became the Christian West and the other
ancient agrarian civilizations of Eurasia. Christianity has a number of
distinctive features which it shares with its Semitic cousin Islam, but
not entirely with its parent Judaism, and which are not to be found in
any of the other great Eurasian religions. The most important is its universality.
Neither the Jews, nor the Hindu or Sinic civilizations had religions claiming
to be universal. You could not choose to be a Hindu, Chines or Jew, you
were born as one. This also meant that unlike Christianity and Islam these
religions did not proselytise. Third, only the Semitic religions being
monotheistic have also been egalitarian. Nearly all the other Eurasian
religions believed in some form of hierarchical social order. By
contrast alone among the Eurasian civilizations the Semitic ones (though
least so the Jewish) emphasized the equality of men's souls in the eyes
of their monotheistic Deities. Dumont has rightly characterized the resulting
profound divide between the societies of Homo Aequalis which believe all
men are born equal (as the philosophes, and the American constitution proclaim)
and those of Homo Hierarchicus which believe no such thing.
The classic statement of this Christian cosmology was St. Augustine's "City
of God". His narrative of a Garden of Eden, a Fall leading to Original
Sin and a Day of Judgment with Heaven for the Elect and Hell for the Damned
has subsequently had a tenacious hold on Western minds. Thus the philosophes
of the Enlightenment displaced the Garden of Eden by Classical Greece and
Rome, and God became an abstract cause- the Divine Watchmaker. The Christian
centuries were the Fall. The Enlightened were the Elect and the Christian
Paradise was replaced by Posterity. This seemed to salvage the traditional
morality in a world ruled by the Divine Watchmaker. But once Darwin had
shown him to be blind, as Nietzsche proclaimed from the housetops at the
end of the 19th century, God was dead, and the moral foundations of the
West were thereafter in ruins. But the death of the Christian God did not
end secular variations on the theme of Augustine's Heavenly City. Marxism,
Freudianism and the recent bizarre Eco-fundamentalism are secular mutations
of Augustine. But none of them have succeeded in providing a moral anchor
to the West. Such an anchor is of importance to the economy because the
'policing' type of transactions costs associated with running an economy
are increased in its absence.
There is also the growing collapse of the Western family. It was presaged
by the overthrowing of the traditional family patterns of Eurasian civilizations
by Gregory I's individualist family revolution. This would have destroyed
the Western family much earlier were it not for the subsequent fierce guilt
culture the Church promoted in the Middle Ages, which kept the traditional
morality in place. But with the exorcising of both guilt and shame as illegitimate
moral emotions in the West, there are fewer moral bulwarks left to shore
up the family.
consequence of Gregory I's family revolution was that the social safety
nets provided by the family in most Eurasian societies were from an early
date partly provided by the State in the West. This nationalization
of welfare accelerated in this century, leading to vast transfer states.
The accompanying erosion of traditional morality in the West is manifest
in various social pathologies- such as widespread family breakdown,
high levels of illegitimacy and divorce, proliferation of single parent
families, soaring crime rates and the perpetuation of an urban underclass.
It is these accompanying social effects of modernization in the West, concerning
equality and the family which disturb so many of Macaulay's children,
who have had two distinctive responses to modernization.
NEHRU VS GANDHI
The two wings of Macaulay's children can broadly be classified as socialist
and traditionalist, and can be identified with their towering nationalist
leaders- Nehru and Gandhi. In their own ways both sought to reconcile India's
ancient cultural traits with modernity.
Nehru while embracing modernization found a particular thread in Western
cosmologist- Marxism- which had become dominant from the late 19th century,
useful in reconciling tradition with modernity. In its economic ideas,
from the days of Dadabhai Naoroji through Gokhale to Nehru the modernizing
element of this new English-speaking caste chose to adopt only the radical
and not the classical liberal elements in English economic thought. This
is partly understandable as a natural revolt by nationalists against the
dominant economic ideology of the metropole at the time- which in mid to
late 19th century Britain was the classical liberalism of "laissez-faire".
But there was more to their embrace of the collectivist and anti-market
strand of Western economic thought. As their chief spokesman Nehru, memorably
put it in his Autobiography, " right through history the old Indian ideal
did not glorify political and military triumph, and it looked down upon
money and the professional money-making class..Today (the old culture)
is fighting..against a new and all-powerful opposition- the bania (Vaishya)
civilization of the capitalist West. But the West also brings an antidote-
the principle of socialism, of co-operation and service to the community
for the common good. This is not so unlike the old Brahmin ideal of service,
but it means the brahmanization- not in the religious sense of course-
of all classes and groups and the abolition of class distinctions". A more
succinct expression of the ancient Hindu caste prejudice against commerce
and merchants- the lifeblood of a market economy- would be hard to find.
This socialism espoused by the English-speaking caste seemed to combine
tradition with modernity, whilst allowing this caste to behave as the Brahmins
of old. But its stewardship of the economy has been a disaster.
Most poignantly, except for those agile enough to become 'rent-seekers',
these economic policies have above all damaged the prospects of their progeny.
In India, during the years of the Nehruvian dynasty the English-speaking
caste sought to place many of its progeny abroad, thereby demonstrating
by its private actions the bankruptcy of its public policies. Even the
recent partial liberalization has markedly changed the perceptions of the
young of this class about the possibility of a fruitful life in India.
In the long run this is the greatest prize that liberalization offers,
as on it will depend not only the health of the economy but also of the
But there was a second solution to the conundrum faced by the early nationalists
of reconciling tradition with modernity. Vivekanand, Tilak but above all
Gandhi were as much Macaulay's children as the radical modernizers. Gandhi
-as he outlined in Hind Swaraj- eschewed modernization and sought to preserve
the ancient Hindu equilibrium. He was implacably opposed to western education,
industrialization and all those 'modern' forces which could undermine this
equilibrium. Above all, even though he was unequivocally against untouchability,
he nevertheless upheld the caste system and its central feature of endogamy-
a fact that at least Mayawati and her Bahagun Samaj Party (BSP) have noted.
He wished to see a revival of the ancient and largely self-sufficient village
communities which were an essential part of the Hindu equilibrium.
His ideas still continue to resonate, as witness some of the professed
economic beliefs of the BJP and the extraordinary speech by the ex PM Narasimha
Rao in the special Lok Sabha session. But this is a means to perpetuate
poverty. The modernizers were right to believe that the only way to ultimately
eliminate India's age old structural poverty was to convert an agrarian
economy condemned to diminishing returns because of its dependence on a
fixed factor- land- into a mineral based energy using economy through industrialization.
The problem was with the means they adopted.
If both the socialist and the traditionalist panaceas of Macaulay's children
have failed India, perhaps the time has come to free ourselves of them
and their influence? This is what seems to implied by Mulayam Singh Yadav's
recently stated desire to eliminate the role and influence of English in
our national life.
MODERNIZATION AND WESTERNISATION
Assessing the role of English in national life leads directly to the issue
of whether modernization requires westernisation. There are three important
points to be made. First, as is apparent from the surge in learning English
as the second language of choice worldwide- from culturally nationalist
France to China- it is now the world 'lingua franca' in large part because
it is now the international language of science and commerce. These are
the instruments of the modernity on which future prosperity is increasingly
seen to depend in a globalised economy. India has a head start in this
respect given its colonial educational heritage. It would be senseless
to give this up.
Second, as the experience of the Austro-Hungarian empire, as well as the
continuing resistance of many non-Hindi speaking states in India attests,
in multilingual states, if the language of any group is adopted as the
official language that immediately puts its speakers at an advantage, and
will be fiercely resisted by other groups. To allay these discords, like
the Austro-Hungarians many ex-colonial nationalist states have kept the
old Imperial 'lingua franca' as the official language. The same pragmatic
consideration continues to apply to India, and seeking to eliminate the
colonial 'lingua franca' is likely as in Austro-Hungary to lead to the
vernacular nationalism which will destroy the Union.
The third point is more complex. It concerns Macaulay's children. As we
noted, the cross-cultural evidence shows that rather than the environment
it is the language group which determines cosmological beliefs. Therein
lies the rub for Macaulay's children. For the full-fledged members of this
caste, for whom English has become their first language, their cosmological
beliefs are likely to conform more closely to those
of their linguistic cousins
in the West than their vernacular countrymen. They are Westernised in
a way that those for whom English is a second or third language are
But if modernization requires a knowledge of English for instrumental reasons,
does that mean that Westernisation will follow willy nilly? There has been
an influential body of thought in development studies which has claimed
this necessary connection. But this is to assume that material beliefs
determine cosmological beliefs. Even though in the rise of the West the
two were conjoined, there is little reason to believe this is the case
as the important case of a modernised but non-Westernised Japan has shown.
Unfortunately in India there continues to be great confusion amongst the
intelligentsia on this point which is reflected in the two diametrically
opposed panaceas that its Macaulay's children have prescribed for its ills.
The roots of this confusion go back to the early days of the nationalist
struggle. All the early leaders of the movement were Macaulay's children,
and their nationalism echoed the creole nationalism that overthrew colonial
rule in the America's - both in the North and the South. The major complaint
of the 'creoles' against the 'penisulares' was that even though in every
respect- language, descent, customs, manners and even religion- they were
indistinguishable they had an inferior status because of the accident of
In India, Macaulay's children too had an inferior status, despite being
English in every respect except "in blood and colour." Like the American
creole elites they first sought to remove these restrictions on their advancement,
eg. by agitating for the ICS exams to be held in India, and when these
fell on deaf years, they sought to exclude their peninsulares from their
colony with the cry of full Independence. There was however a division
we noted between the modernising and traditionalist elements in this English
speaking caste. Both groups implicitly believed that modernization and
Westernisation were linked. But whereas the Nehruvians - who despite lip
service to marrying Indian with Western culture-accepted the implication
and sought to implement a particular secular Western set of cosmological
beliefs, the Gandhians (whose cultural successors include the various Hindu
nationalist groups) have sought to resist modernization for fear it would
lead to Westernisation.
But there was another choice which was to modernise without Westernising-
a process in which the role of English would be instrumental. For the myriad
district and lower level service functionaries whose first language remained
their vernacular the English they spoke as a second or third language already
fulfilled this role. They were not infected by Western cosmologist like
the English speaking caste. Even though not Westernised they could
have been modernisers. It was fateful that, during the nationalist movement,
it was Gandhi-that other Macaulay's child- who mobilised them politically.
For unlike the modernisers, Gandhi was above all concerned with maintaining
a refurbished Hindu equilibrium. But by equating modernization with Westernisation
he created a backlash not only against the cosmological views of the West
but also its material beliefs. Many of the views of both the Hindu nationalists
and many in the Janta Dal also reflect this confusion.
The field was then left clear for the modernisers cum Westernisers, symbolised
most powerfully in the iconic figure of Jawaharlal Nehru. It is instructive
to see why it is the Western cosmology they imbibed- Marxism- which has
had such inimical effects on the material prospects of Indians.
To put this in context a useful distinction made by the English political
philosopher Michael Oakeshott needs to be kept in mind. He distinguishes
between two major strands of Western thought on the State: the State viewed
as a civil association, or alternatively as an enterprise association.
The former view goes back to ancient Greece, with the State seen as the
custodian of laws which do not seek to impose any preferred pattern of
ends (including abstractions such as the general (social) welfare, or fundamental
rights), but which merely facilitates individuals to pursue their own ends.
This view has been challenged by the rival conception of the State as an
enterprise association --a view which has its roots in the Judaeo-Christian
tradition. The State is now seen as the manager of an enterprise
seeking to use the law for its own substantive purposes, and in particular
for the legislation of morality. The classical liberalism of Smith
and Hume entails the former, whilst the major secular embodiment of society
viewed as an enterprise association is socialism, with its moral aim of
using the State to equalize people. Equally, the other major ideological
challenge to classical liberalism in this century, Fascism (national socialism),
also viewed the State as an enterprise association. Both involved collectivist
moralities as a reaction to the morality of individualism.
Till the rise of centralised nation states in Renaissance Europe, few states
had the administrative means to be 'enterprising'.Once the administrative
revolution of the 16th century expanded the tax base and the span of control
of the government over its subjects lives three types of 'enterprises'
have been pursued by states. A religious version as epitomized by Calvinist
Geneva and in our own times by Khomeni's Iran. A productivist version consisting
of 'nation-building' and a distibutionist version promoting some form of
egalitarianism. Each of these 'enterprises' conjures up some notion of
perfection, believed to be "the common good".
the various variants of Marxism have their cosmological parentage in the
Christian cosmology. As in
Augustine's "City of God",
Marxism, looks to the past and the future. There is a Garden of Eden- before
'property' relations corrupted 'natural man'. Then the Fall as 'commodification'
leads to class societies and the impersonal conflict of material forces
leading to the Day of Judgment with the Revolution and the millennial Paradise
of Communism. This mutation in Western cosmology also leads to Oakeshott's
distibutivist "enterprise" view of the State . But it should be noted that
whilst recently this 'enterprise' view based on the Juadeo-Christian cosmology
has dominated Western political thought there is the older Greek current
which looks to the State as a 'civil' association which was associated
with the Scottish Enlightenment, and which has greater relevance for India
than the Judaeo Christian version which has so poisoned the minds of Macaulay's
Finally, as Japan has shown, the Rest do not have to make the Faustian
compact of the West where the instrumental rationality promoted by its
individualism led to the Industrial Revolution but in the process destroyed
its soul. Japan has been able to alter its material beliefs by adopting
the institutions of the market, and transforming its ancient hierarchical
social structures by basing them on acquired rather than ascribed status
through the fierce meritocratic competition based on educational attainment.
It has also not had to give up its traditional forms of family nor its
other cosmological beliefs based on shame. The same opportunity is open
to India to adopt the West's material but eschew its cosmological beliefs.
The ultimate fear of the cultural nationalists is that modernization will
undermine traditional mores concerning marriage and the family. The resistance
to the purported cultural pollution coming over the satellite channels,
and the shenanigans concerning the Miss World contest reflect this fear.
But is it justified?
Since Marx and Engels there has been the view that with modernization the
traditional extended family identified with pre-industrial societies is
doomed. Modern families will become more and more like Western families:
with love marriages, nuclear families and a cold hearted attitude to the
old. There are others who maintain that as the Western style of family
seems to go back at least to the Middle Ages in Northern Europe, this modern
family pattern was not merely the consequence but the cause of the Western
industrial revolution. Research by the Cambridge anthropologist Jack Goody
casts serious doubts on both these positions.
First, as the historical evidence shows that the Western family revolution
predated the Industrial revolution, clearly the latter could not have caused
the former. Second, as Goody shows at length, the purported advantages
of the Western system, leading to a greater control of fertility, were
to be found in many other Eurasian family systems which, however, did not
deliver industrial revolutions.
But that the Western Christian world particularly in its North Western
outpost deviated from what had been the traditional family pattern in Eurasia
from about the late 6th century seems undeniable. The major difference
was that in the West the Church came to support the independence of the
young: in choosing marriage partners, in setting up their households
and entering into contractual rather than affective relationships with
the old. They promoted love marriages rather than the arranged marriages
common in Eurasia. Friar Lawrence in "Romeo and Juliet" egging on the young
lovers against their families wishes is emblematic of this trend. But why
did the Church promote love marriages?
It has been thought that romantic love far from being a universal emotion
was a Western social construct of the age of chivalry in the Middle Ages.
Recent anthropological and psychological research however confirms that
this is erroneous- romantic love is a universal emotion. Moreover
it has a biological basis. Neuro-psychologists have shown that it is associated
with increased levels of phenylethylamine an amphetamine-related compound.
Interestingly the same distinct biochemicals are also to be found in other
animal species such as birds which also evince this emotion. However, it
appears that this emotion is ephemeral. After a period of attachment the
brain's receptor sites for the essential neuro-chemicals become desensitized
or overloaded and the infatuation ends, setting up both the body
and brain for separation- divorce. This period of infatuation has been
shown to last for about 3 years. A cross-cultural; study of divorce patterns
in 62 societies between 1947-1989 found that divorces tend to occur around
the fourth year of marriage!
A universal emotion with a biological basis calls for an explanation. Socio-biologists
maintain that in the primordial environment it was vital for males and
females to be attracted to each other to have sex and reproduce and also
for the males to be attached enough to the females to look after
their young until they were old enough to move into a peer group and be
looked after by the hunting -gathering band. The traditional period between
successive human births is four years- which is also the modal period for
those marriages which end in divorce today . Darwin strikes again! The
biochemistry of love it seems evolved as an 'inclusive fitness' strategy
of our species.
The capacity to love maybe universal but its public expression is culturally
controlled. For as everyone's personal experience will confirm it is an
explosive emotion. Given its relatively rapid decay, with settled agriculture
the evolved instinct for mates to stay together for about four years and
then move on to new partners to conceive and rear new young would have
been dysfunctional. Settled agriculture requires settled households. If
households are in permanent flux there could not be settled households
on particular parcels of lands. Not surprisingly most agrarian civilizations
sought to curb the explosive primordial emotion which would have destroyed
their way of making a living. They have used cultural constraints to curb
this dangerous hominid tendency by relying on arranged marriages, infant
betrothal and the like, restricting romantic passion to relationships outside
marriage. The West stands alone in using this dangerous biological universal
as the bastion of its marriages as reflected in the popular song "love
and marriage go together like a horse and carriage".
The reason for this Western exceptionalism goes back to the earliest period
of the Christian Church, as we have seen. But the Church also had to find
a way to prevent the social chaos which would have ensued if the romantic
passion its greed had unleashed as the basis for marriage had been allowed
to run its course in what remained a settled agrarian civilisation. First
it separated love and sex, and then created a fierce guilt culture based
on Original Sin. Its pervasive teaching against sex and the associated
guilt it engendered provided the necessary antidote to the 'animal passions'
that would otherwise have been unleashed by the Church's self-interested
overthrowing of the traditional Eurasian system of marriage. But once the
Christian God died with the Scientific and Darwinian revolutions, these
restraints built on Original Sin were finally removed. The family as most
civilizations have known it became sick in the West, as the Western humanoids
reverted to the 'family' practices of their hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Within Western cosmologist there was, however, another way to deal with
the death of the Christian God, rather than rely on these continuing secular
variations on Augustine's "City" to provide the moral cement of its society.
These were the views associated with the Scottish Enlightenment- in particular
of its most eminent sages: David Hume and Adam Smith.
Hume, unlike the philosophes, saw clearly that Reason could not provide
an adequate grounding for morality. As Nietzsche was to later say so trenchantly
about utilitarianism any such attempt would be unsuccessful because :"moral
sensibilities are nowadays at such cross purposes that to one man a morality
is proved by its utility, while to another its utility refutes it". Kant's
attempt to ground a rational morality on his principle of universalisability-
harking back to the Biblical injunction "therefore all things whatsoever
ye do would that men should do to you, do even so to them"- founders on
Hegel's two objections: it is merely a principle of logical consistency
without any specific moral content, and worse it is as a result powerless
to prevent any immoral conduct that takes our fancy. The subsequent ink
spilt by Western moral philosophers has merely clothed their particular
prejudices in rational form.
By contrast Hume clearly saw the role of morality in maintaining the social
cement of society and that it depended on a society's traditions and forms
of socialization. Neither God nor Reason needs to be evoked (or can be)
to justify these conditioned and necessary habits. This is very much the
view about ethics taken by the older non-Semitic Eurasian civilizations
whose socialization processes are based on shame.
However, as this account shows, there is no reason whatsoever for the rest
of the world to follow this peculiar and particular Western trajectory.
It is not modernization but the unintended consequences of Pope Gregory
I's family revolution which have led to the death in the West of the Eurasian
family values the Rest rightly continues to cherish. The Rest do not have
to embrace this cosmology. Moreover, even Macaulay's children can heal
their fractured souls by embracing the Scottish sages: Hume's morality
based on tradition and Smith's material beliefs based on the market. This
classical liberalism provides a means of modernizing without succumbing
to the moral emptiness of the current Western cosmology.
DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT
This leads on to the final question I would like to address in this lecture:
is there any necessary link between democracy and development?
A number of cross-sectional statistical studies claim to have found such
a relationship. But the statistical proxies used for the political variables
in these studies do not inspire much confidence, which are further plagued
by the econometric problem of identification. In our recent book
Myint and I found no relationship between the form of government and economic
performance during the 30 year economic histories of the 25 developing
countries that we studied. Rather than the polity the initial resource
endowment, in particular the availability or lack of natural resources
was a major determinant of policies which impinged on the efficiency of
investment and thereby the rate of growth. This was basically due to the
inevitable politicisation of the rents that natural resources yield, with
concomitant damage to growth performance. By contrast resource poor countries,
irrespective of the nature of their government, were forced to develop
their only resource- their human subjects. Thus the economic performance
of resource poor countries like the Far Eastern Gang of Four tended to
be much better on average than that of those with abundant natural resources
like Brazil and Mexico. Countries like India and China whose factor endowments
fall in between these extremes swerved between following the policies of
their resource abundant and resource poor cousins, with a resultant indifferent
intermediate economic performance. The difference in performance was further
explained by the other major determinant of growth- the volume of investment.
Thus whilst the efficiency of investment in India and China during both
their dirigiste and more economically liberal periods was about the same,
China's investment rate has been about twice India's resulting in its growth
rate also being twice as high.
If differences in the polity cannot explain differences in economic performance,
is there any reason to prefer one type of polity over another- in particular
democracy over some authoritarian alternative? As usual de Tocqueville
is both succinct and prescient. In his Ancien Regime he wrote:
" It is true that in the long run liberty always leads those who know how
to keep it to comfort, well- being, often to riches: but there are times
when it impedes the attainment of such goods; and other times when despotism
alone can momentarily guarantee their enjoyment. Men who take up liberty
for its material rewards, then, have never kept it for long...what in all
times has attracted some men to liberty has been itself alone, its own
particular charm, independent of the benefits it brings; the pleasure of
being able to speak, act, and breathe without constraint, under no other
rule but that of God and law. Who seeks in liberty something other than
itself is born to be a slave".
Democracy, therefore, is to be preferred as a form of government not because
of its instrumental value in promoting prosperity- at times it may well
not- but because it promotes the different but equally valuable end of
liberty. However, as the experience of many countries- not only in the
Third world - attests, democracy is a frail flower, and India is unique
in having successfully nurtured it in such a vast, diverse and poor country.
The assault on it during the Emergency merely succeeded in showing how
deeply rooted it had become in the Indian soil.
This success needs an explanation. It is to be found in the political habits
of different cultures which have been formed as much by the geography of
the territory where the relevant culture was formed than any ideology.
Thus, China in its origins in the relatively compact Yellow river valley,
constantly threatened by the nomadic barbarians from the steppes to its
north, developed a tightly controlled bureaucratic authoritarianism as
its distinctive polity which has continued for millennia to our day. By
contrast Hindu civilisation developed in the vast Indo-Gangetic plain,
protected to a greater extent by the Himalayas from the predation of barbarians
to the North. As I argued in The Hindu Equilibrium, this geographical feature
(together with the need to tie down the then scarce labour to land) accounts
for the traditional Indian polity which was notable for its endemic political
instability amongst numerous feuding monarchies, and its distinctive social
system embodied in the institution of caste. The latter by making war the
trade of professionals saved the mass of the population from being inducted
into the deadly disputes of its changing rulers. Whilst the tradition of
paying a certain customary share of the village output as revenue to the
current overlord, meant that any victor had little incentive to disturb
the daily business of its newly acquired subjects. The democratic practices
gradually introduced by the British have fit these ancient habits like
a glove. The ballot box has replaced the battlefield for the hurly-burly
of continuing 'aristocratic' conflict, whilst the populace accepts with
a weary resignation that its rulers will through various forms of 'rent-seeking'
take a certain share of output to feather their own nests.
There is no intrinsic reason why this particular form of polity should
be inimical to development, as long as the rulers adhere to the principles
of good government so lucidly set out by the sages of the Scottish Enlightenment-
Smith and Hume. A good government on this classical liberal view looks
upon the State as a civil association, which promotes opulence through
promoting natural liberty by establishing laws of justice which guarantee
free exchange and peaceful competition. It should not seek to promote some
enterprise of its own or seek to legislate a particular morality. The reason
for India's relative economic failure lies not in its polity but in the
Nehruvian era's embracing of the view of the State as an enterprise association-
promoting the enterprise of Fabian socialism.
This seems to be changing, but there still does not appear to be a firm
enough understanding, particularly amongst the intelligentsia, of promoting
the view of the State as a civil not enterprise association amongst our
rulers. One important way to achieve this would be to adopt in the sphere
of economic policy what seems to have been attained in defense and foreign
policy- a cross party consensus which allows continuity in policy. As the
example of numerous liberalising developing countries has shown, for successful
development, a team of technocrats broadly committed to an open market
economy needs to be given its head, for at least a decade and protected
from political cross-winds. India has such a team in place, the only remaining
question mark is whether it will be allowed to complete the reform process
above the political hurly-burly. If it is, there is no reason why India
should not be able to combine prosperity with liberty without losing its