Giving a Bharatiya Makeover to Modernisation

In the global discourse of civilisational development and progress across the world, there have been competing narratives on the nature of modernity & modernisation

By Pranay K Shome

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bhartiya makeover modernisation

Evolution is a foundational principle of science. The concept of evolution originated in the landmark yet controversial 1859 book of Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species. Contrary to the popular perception that the universe was a theological creation of an omnipotent and omnipresent entity called God, the idea of evolution turned the argument about the theological origin of the universe on its head, setting the stage for the science versus religion debate.

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In light of this assertion, evolution has taken place not just in the biological-scientific sense of the term, but also in the sociological cultural sense, such a conception of evolution is a combination of cultural-technological development in societies around the world. Understood from a societal perspective, evolution refers to the progress and growth of society across various parameters, the process of such an advancement from a state of ignorance to a state of enlightenment, especially one that is driven by rationality, science and a belief in humanism is regarded as modernity.

The dominant paradigm of modernisation that has dominated global intellectual discourse is westernisation, which denotes the idea of modernisation that has contributed to material prosperity and the eventual global dominance of Western countries in economics, politics, and academia

Over the years, competing narratives of modernity have emerged across the globe, particularly the debate between westernisation and non-western forms of modernisation that has had an impact on almost every part of eastern and western societies.

Westernisation

The dominant paradigm of modernisation that has dominated global intellectual discourse is westernisation. Westernisation denotes the idea of modernisation that has contributed to material prosperity and the eventual global dominance of Western countries in economics, politics, and academia.

Westernisation interprets modernisation from a highly materialistic point of view. It regards the creation, acquisition and utilisation of material resources as the ultimate yardstick of development. Such an idea of modernity emerged in Europe in the 16th century during the Age of Enlightenment when an across-the-board renaissance in European social, economic, religious, cultural and political life contributed to a radical change in Europe’s character. Its inception took place with the Lutheran reformation in Germany, whose subtle message spread like wildfire across Western Europe.

big bang

Having suffered colonisation for well over a thousand years from the Arab Invasion of Sindh in 712 CE to the end of British rule, reclaiming Indic pride and restoring confidence in our civilisation took a long time. But since the beginning of a new era in 2014, a renewed assertion in the primacy of Indic identity has commenced

Life was no longer centred around God, and intellectual contributions in the form of scintillating discoveries in science, philosophy and theology contributed to a humanistic revolution in Europe.

However, while the Age of Enlightenment contributed to a paradigm change in Europe’s outlook, it spawned a period of doom for the rest of the world. The Age of Enlightenment was concurrently followed by the Age of Discovery. The discovery of the steam engine and cotton yarn machine led to the rampant exploitation of nature, which had a cascading impact on the environment. The economic modernisation of Europe led to a massive spike in greenhouse emissions around the world, which brought the hydra called global warming to our doorsteps. Today’s climate crisis owes a lot to the marauding attitude towards nature for material wealth.

huges

The second doom was the Age of Exploration, which began in the early 15th century. The Age of Enlightenment accelerated the urge of Western European countries to explore new continents and countries in the hopes of using them as a market for their finished goods that had reached a saturation point. The Age of Discovery ushered in one of the darkest chapters in human history – Colonialism, Imperialism and the commencement of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Age of Colonialism saw the countries such as Britain, Spain, Portugal, Holland etc., discovering new continents and colonising them in the most brutal manner possible. This period saw huge and systematic exploitation and extermination of unruly subject populations and the enslavement of the rest. It has been brilliantly elaborated by Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs & Steel, and by J Sai Deepak in India, That is Bharat.

The after-effects of colonialism and imperialism are still being felt today, especially in India.

In today’s age and time, westernisation has spelt doom for the Euro-Atlantic community’s social fabric, not only is the influence of Christianity in Europe going down, but wokeness has hypnotised the European psyche. A situation of gesellschaft has started to undermine the organicity of the existing European civilisation.

Indic modernisation

Having suffered colonisation of this sacred land for well over a thousand years starting from the time of the Arab Invasion of Sindh in 712 CE to the end of British rule, reclaiming Indic pride and restoring confidence in our civilisation took a long time. But since the beginning of a new era in 2014, a renewed assertion in the primacy of Indic identity has commenced.

In this context, modernisation has taken a distinct Indic or Bharatiya metamorphosis. Indic modernisation focuses not just on growth, but development as well. Growth denotes only economic progress or material advancement. In contrast, development places emphasis on a welfare-centred approach or emphasis on meeting the needs and fulfilling the interests of the least advantaged section of society, it is based not on social Darwinism but cooperation.

The provisions of the chapter on fundamental rights (Chapter III, Articles 12-35) are a testimony to a humanistic approach.

Another distinct feature of the Indic idea of modernisation is its reverence for nature, all Indic faiths, i.e., all those faith systems whose origin is in Bharat show a deep conservation aim. Worship of nature in various forms, manifestations either in deification or animistic form of the tribal societies shows that Indic modernisation believes not in human beings being the centre of the ecosystem, but an integral part of a chain called nature. Indic modernisation believes in economic development that aims at taking along people of all hues and shades and a nature-first policy.

The Indic idea of modernisation stands apart from westernisation. Indic modernisation has positively affected the Indian discourse on international relations. It should continue and must become a norm not only at the level of policymaking but in the broader Indic society.

The LIFE approach of Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled in 2021 and the expeditious progress Bharat is making in many environmental conservation and global warming mitigation initiatives is an example.

Indianising the strategic culture

Indic modernisation has also had a positive impact on the Indian discourse on international relations, the contributions of the Indian statesman and politician Kautilya, the first prime minister of the Mauryan Empire, the first sub-continental empire in Indian history, is a good starting point.

His book Arthashastra is a timeless classic on political economy and statecraft. Kautilya’s aphorisms on diplomacy and statecraft shall help a lot in developing India’s strategic thought.

Kautilya emphasises the need for a state to adopt four policies –

Sama: Maintaining peaceful relations with equally powerful kingdoms to ensure the avoidance of conflict.

Dama: Offering concessions to a more powerful kingdom via gifts and sending of emissaries to ensure comradeship.

Danda: It means defeating a weaker kingdom either with the aim of annexing it or extracting tributes from it.

Bheda: Sowing the seeds of dissension among equally powerful kingdoms to annihilate them from within.

These policies must be carefully studied and incorporated into Bharat’s strategic culture.

His Mandala Theory of dealing with different monarchies comprising 72 mandals is a landmark contribution to the realm of Indian strategic culture.

Strategic culture is also composed of a country’s foreign policy, the Gandhian idea of Satyagraha taught the world how a commitment to truth, and its pursuit with a pure heart and mind based on tolerance and no ill will towards the evil doer was a message to the world that force always doesn’t solve a problem, non-violence too plays a positive role. In fact, the Gandhian method of satyagraha was emulated outside of India during the Apartheid struggle in South Africa by Nelson Mandela and by Martin Luther King Jr in the Civil Rights Movement in America.

Hence, the Indic idea of modernisation clearly stands apart from westernisation, this should continue and must become a norm not only at the level of policymaking but in the broader Indic society as well.

–The writer is currently working as a Research Associate at Defence Research and Studies (dras.in) and is a columnist. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda