April 30, 2007

Derivative Lot

The Telegraph, 30.04.2007

Mukul Kesavan’s “Life at second hand” (April 26) delivers a message that needs to be heard throughout India. An extreme defensiveness is noticed among urban, middle-class Indians whenever the authenticity of the ‘new’ India is questioned. The English-speaking gentry, whether left-liberal, Marxist or neo-liberal, needs to realize that modernity, as it exists today, is essentially a product of the West. The modern (Western) academia, both in the humanities as well as in the sciences, through its innumerable tentacles, engulfs the Indian student within its discourse. Slavishness can be easily detected in the association of “cool” among the youth with speaking English, and preferring Western, rather than Indian, attire and music. Kesavan shows how even the Hindutva brand of right-wing nationalism is “crudely derived from authoritarian European nationalisms”.

However, it is not enough to take Western ideological hegemony as a given and submit to it. Efforts must be made to integrate more Indian thought in academic courses, for starters. Giving Kautilya’s political theories the same importance as John Rawls in a political science course could be an example. A large GDP and a nuclear arsenal cannot help in producing a vision for the future.


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