The Great Ideological Divide

With immigration, religion and culture taking centre stage in the conflictual dialogue between liberalism and conservatism, ideology once again has come to influence the global intellectual discourse

By Pranay Kumar Shome

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Ideology, it seems, never went away from the ideational landscape of the world. It ebbed for a few decades after the cold war but now it seems it is back and with a vengeance. In the debates surrounding immigration, cultural relativism, and friction among religious adherents across the world, ideology has come to play a key role. In fact, the current world order in general and human societies, be it the Oriental or the Occident, seemed to be divided along ideological lines just like the Cold War times.

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This time, it is no longer between capitalism-liberalism combine and communism, but between liberalism and conservatism. Podcasts and round table discussions of intellectuals and universities across the world are currently focusing on how ideology can contribute to nation-building and nation-breaking processes respectively. This ideological conflict with a human rights touch can be seen in the college campus protests across Western countries.

Therefore, it has become necessary to understand the nuanced nature of this ideological divide.

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Liberalism, which stood for the development of an inclusive society committed to the principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity espoused by the French Revolution of 1789, is gradually forgetting its roots. It is following the path of cultural Marxism

Liberalism in the modern world

As an ideology, liberalism emerged in the early 18th century to liquidate the privileges of the feudal class. It sought to prioritise the enterprising and industrious nature of the middle class. Over the centuries, liberalism, especially its political dimension – democracy, has come to occupy a position of global pre-eminence. Having said that, in the present times, the meaning of liberalism has been twisted to give it a left-liberal touch.

This ideational notion of liberalism, defined by ideologues and intellectuals of the left wing of the political spectrum, stands for the philosophy of cultural relativism, affirmative action, cosmopolitan citizenship and institutional reformation across the West to accommodate the interests of new groups of individuals that come from different societies in order to settle in the West for the sake of leading a better life.

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However, liberalism in its left-liberal disposition has ended up becoming a victim of woke philosophy, which threatens to unravel the cultural fabric of almost every society, India too is falling victim to this philosophy.

From Italy to Hungary to India, conservatism is on the rise. Seeing the havoc left-leaning liberalism can wreak in its Western counterparts, countries of Eastern Europe, including Russia, are increasingly committing themselves to revive the love for the holy trinity of “God, Family and Nation”

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From Italy to Hungary to India, conservatism is on the rise. Seeing the havoc left-leaning liberalism can wreak in its Western counterparts, countries of Eastern Europe, including Russia, are increasingly committing themselves to revive the love for the holy trinity of “God, Family and Nation”

Liberalism which stood for the development of an inclusive society committed to the principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity espoused by the French Revolution of 1789 is gradually forgetting its roots. It is following the path of cultural Marxism.

Cancel culture, which stands for opposing any viewpoint in the form of films, songs, books etc., to the point of eviscerating it has become a common norm in Western societies, especially the uber-elite universities of the West.

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Revival of Conservatism

“God, Family, Nation” is the mantra of conservatism. Conservatism is not exactly a water-tight ideology, but rather an umbrella of several status-quo ideologies that are culture and country-specific. Nevertheless, conservatism originated in the West in the works of the English philosopher, writer and parliamentarian Edmund Burke.

In its pristine nature, conservatism stands for the preservation of tradition, family and country. It is strongly opposed to changes; it regards changes as a cause for potential social upheaval that ends up disrupting the social fabric of a society. Conservatism is also found in the values and principles of several religions and philosophers, most notably Machiavelli, Herbert Spencer and Veer Savarkar.

From a subjective point of view, conservatism is sweeping the global intellectual landscape. From Italy to Hungary to India, conservatism is on the rise. Seeing the havoc left-leaning liberalism can wreak in its Western counterparts, countries of Eastern Europe, including Russia, are increasingly committing themselves to revive the love for the holy trinity of “God, Family and Nation”.

Once again India must take the lead in setting the global benchmarks for conservatism. This means actively tapping the Bharatiya culture to promote conservative values. Unlike Samuel P Huntington’s prophecy, ideology will continue to animate the global intellectual discourse

Ram Madhav, president of the India Foundation, in some of his columns for the Indian Express, has highlighted the need for a conservative philosophy to preserve the organicity of a country. In this context, India is leading the pack. Despite modernising itself, Indians, especially the millennials, are retracing their cultural roots, dating back over five millennia.

Being culturally rooted plays a crucial role in combating the negative phenomenon of Westernisation. Some economic thinkers like Walt Rostow and Talcott Parsons believe that modernisation stands for Westernisation. They advocate the need for every society to modernise along Western lines.

However, every culture has its own unique experience, lived reality and history. Reducing them to the binary of West and non-Western cultures doesn’t augur well for the organic growth of societies, especially the societies of the Eastern hemisphere. Hence, conservatism, albeit with a unique societal context must continue to grow and flourish.

Once again India must take the lead in setting the global benchmarks for conservatism. This means actively tapping the Bharatiya culture to promote conservative values. Unlike Samuel P Huntington’s prophecy, ideology will continue to animate the global intellectual discourse.

–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