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Cultural artifacts



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Kartik Ramachandran <ramachan@grinnell.edu> wrote:

<<You seem to be going back to a strongly western conception of what is more 
important... Why must the individual be more important within this society? 
Because we are conditioned by our exposure to western democracy and the 
concept of public and private?

I disagree. Indeed, much of India's culture (linked with religion, based on 
that curious relationship between religion and culture in India) has been 
about ahimsa and a functionalist view of society where each member
contributes 
a certain bit. But there is also a strong view of the "broader picture", or a

greater importance of the society over the individual.

I do not deny the existence of certain fundamental 'rights' or beliefs, which

are a result of the evolution of societies and cultures, but let us remember 
to look at the same issue from several angles.>> 

I agree. The debate about capitalism and culture seemed to be based too much
on a western perspective of culture and democracy. Indian society and asian
societies in general are fundamentally different. By different, I don't mean,
the human beings are different; but these cultures have had long histories and
the cultural artifacts are far too entrenched within the society for the shole
system to be rewritten along the western lines. 

Western society is based on a notion of "rights." Rights result from an
individualist mindset; and so do associated paradigms like democracy, economy,
etc. 

Indian society, on the other hand is historically based around a notion called
"duty" or "dharma." The paradigm is much more entrenched into the Indian
mindset than we might acknowledge. It is a role-dominate society and there is
mutual supervision among people. And this mindset is perhaps also the reason
why Indians are much more prone towards finding a solution in politics than
say in technology or economy. For all the stuff we hear about America being
the big daddy of democracy, etc. it is actually in India vis-a-vis America
that there is greater individual freedom. In India people care (and fear) more
about their family or community than for the state. Almost every business
activity in India moves around a family paradigm. A boss is considered a
leader who shows the way for his team members, not only on the job, but also
off it. A boss/teacher is always a boss/teacher. And people get very
disillusioned when their boss/teacher do not conform to their roles and norms.
(I am talking about the traditional Indian style of business -- to be found in
towns and villages, not in the MNCs of Bangalore or Cyberabads..) 

Come to think of it, we have heard far too little analyses of the Indian
culture, the social setup, etc. in IPI. We have only been hearing economics in
terms of capitalism vs socialism; that too put forth in the American
perspective. It might not be too wrong to say that money as a measure of
success, does not motivate a huge number of Indians at all. They live along a
completely different set of norms. 

Srinath 


Ideas for India: Building the future -- together 
http://www.ideasforindia.net/ 

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