Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Civilizational Narrative and the Hindu Identity, Part I

So why is all this stuff I've been talking about so important to a nation of 1.2 billion people? What am I trying to achieve by typing relentlessly away until my keyboard rattles like a mouthful of loose teeth?

Something that is rarely addressed in internet discussions on national psyche, is a factor that is perhaps more relevant to determining the course of identity politics than any other. Namely, the quest of all peoples for a civilizational narrative.

What is a "civilizational narrative"? Very simply, it is the story of a people as they would prefer to tell it themselves.

It is their own history from their own point of view. It includes the experiences, insights and wisdom of a people's ancestors, as recorded and interpreted by that people themselves. It is the template upon which a people's present-day thinkers fashion their worldview. It is the basis on which a people determine their own role in the larger context of society, nation (in the modern, political sense) and globe. It is what a people would like to teach their children about themselves, and their aspirations for the future.

And very importantly, in an imperative that grows more urgent as a people experience increasing contact with other peoples and the rest of the world... their civilizational narrative is the one version of their own story that they would want OTHER peoples to hear, believe, and accept as the only authoritative version.

How important is a civilizational narrative? I think it is the fountainhead of all types of identity a people can have... religious, cultural, social and political. Consider the Jews... there are only a handful of them in the world, but they're driven to achieve economic and geopolitical influence out of all proportion to their numbers on the strength of their civilizational narrative alone. Perhaps there is no more successful civilizational narrative in the world... every school child is familiar, at least in broad strokes, with the whole span of Jewish history from the Old Testament to the Holocaust. You had better believe the version almost everyone accepts as the truth is the version the Jews want to tell.

On the dismal end of the spectrum are peoples who have been completely robbed and denuded of their civilizational narrative, so that they see themselves almost entirely in terms of the characterizations of others. Usually these "others" are present or former colonial masters, whose characterizations are designed to inflict feelings of shame and inferiority in the service of ulterior motives. Colonialists knew better than anyone else that hijacking the civilizational narrative of a conquered people the was key to their long-term subjugation. As a result, these peoples' view of themselves consists either of shame and guilt, or of raging, ultra-reactionary bile... both of these attitudes being sides of a single coin minted out of self-loathing. Accordingly, such peoples find themselves unable to cope with the world or achieve any kind of economic or political success.

Consider just about any nation in Africa, for instance. The view we Indians have of these Africans is too-often characterized by a contempt borrowed from the white man. We see an Africa riven by brutal tribal conflicts, where savage warlords are eager to sell mineral resources and slaves alike for profit; an Africa marked more often and widely by instances of famine, disease and disaster than anything else; an Africa hell bent on sabotaging its own potential for development by selling itself short to the highest bidder. And of course, we see white Westerners running relief camps, distributing food and medicine to these helpless Africans out of the goodness of their hearts. That is the story of Africa we hold to be true. And you can bet it’s not the story the Africans would like to tell of themselves.

Clearly, we have accepted the Western narrative of the African peoples’ story as the authoritative version. What is the African version of their own civilizational narrative? Who knows?

Could the term “civilizational narrative” be applied to the words of people like Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, sanitized and mass-produced for popular consumption by their sanctimonious European publishers? No… that is the merely the narrative of Europeans who style themselves “Liberals”, albeit told in an African accent.

Could we use it to describe rage of the Sierra-Leonese warlord, who turns his enemies into lollipops for the cameras of CNN and BBC to lap up with perverse delectation? No… that is merely a reaction to being deprived of a civilizational narrative… and again, ends up reinforcing stereotypical Western narratives about Africa.

Nor does it fit the cynical self-justification of a Robert Mugabe, who uses different consequences of the lack of an indigenous Zimbabwean civilizational narrative to manipulate the public and maintain his hold on power.

The fact is, most African peoples never had the chance to develop a civilizational narrative of their own, to tell their own story to other peoples of the world and receive a fair hearing as equals. This has damaged them as a people beyond measure. Being that we’ve never heard the civilizational narrative of any African people, we find ourselves unsure about whether they are “civilized” (in any sense that we understand the term) at all.

More importantly, in order to prevent Africans ever achieving their full potential, to ensure that they and the resources under their nominal control shall remain perpetually open to exploitation… any attempts by them to develop a coherent civilizational narrative are deliberately, systematically put down and drowned out with an external version. These external narratives that outsiders have sought to superimpose on the African peoples, for the purpose of rendering them vulnerable to exploitation, are many. They often compete with each other… for instance, the post-colonial narrative of the West and the Marxist narrative of the former Soviet Union. Recently, the Chinese have also got into the act of exploiting Africa… but as a new player on that stage, they have yet to superimpose their own narrative upon the Africans.

Ultimately, the more forgotten and unheard a people’s civilizational narrative, the more powerless they are. The world’s most disempowered and uprooted peoples… native Americans, Australian aborigines and the Gypsies of Europe… have no narrative at all that anyone can remember, least of all themselves.

Where, then, along the continuum of narrative empowerment does today’s Hindu stand?

To answer this question, we must understand where a strong civilizational narrative comes from.

First, it is based on a collective viewpoint that is generally representative of a people. No two individuals within a population have exactly the same story to tell, after all. Thus a civilizational narrative must emerge by either organically, by achieving consensus among several individually disparate narratives… or through mandated artificial synthesis, where one small group is empowered to dictate the story and everyone else agrees with their version as a matter of discipline.

(To be continued...)

Afterword on Quigley's Comparative Analysis: The Indian Political Spectrum

A tangential thought inspired by Quigley’s comparative analysis of national (and hence political) cultures in East and West, is that given their markedly different paths of development, there is no grounds for the universal application of political terminology.

In talking of Western political philosophies, the terms “Conservative” and “Liberal” are fundamental. Given the picture Quigley paints, of Western national culture evolving through a series of transformative revolutions, this dichotomy is only natural. New technologies resulted in new technics, changing society in unprecedented ways, creating environments conducive to the emergence of new ideas, engendering new types of demands that still newer technologies were birthed to satisfy, only to influence society in their turn.

The accelerated pace of social change became pronounced as never before in the early twentieth century… finally, a time had arrived when a person might see the world around him, and society itself, unrecognizably altered within his own lifespan.

A “Conservative”, then, was one who favoured traditional ideas and values, and resisted the acceleration of new and unfamiliar trends: technological, social or intellectual. He believed that rushing headlong into the future, propelled by an engine of change that had taken on a vitality of its own, was a perilous path of development that risked eliminating many useful and desirable elements of the status quo.

By contrast, a “Liberal” was one who was welcoming of new ideas, and championed the freedom to incorporate them into existing modes of social, political and economic thought. An openness to economic ideas, particularly laissez-faire capitalism and the power of the market, were the traditional hallmark of the Liberal viewpoint when the label first came into wide usage.

Today things have changed slightly, at least in America where the Conservative favors an unbridled free-market and the Liberal would prefer a degree of government regulation. That’s because these definitions are necessarily dynamic… following Quigley’s model, transformative change is essential to the progress of Western society. The Conservative and Liberal differ only in their adherence to conventional ideas vs. their openness to new ideas… what those ideas may actually be, is entirely a matter of temporal context.

Given the complete dissimilarity of the developmental path followed by Asiatic national cultures, these terms become nonsense when applied in the Asian context.
What is a “Conservative” in the context of independent India, for example, where conventional political thinking is very often at odds with traditional Indic values or conventional notions of social order?

In my view, the term makes sense only when applied to those who would want the nature of the Indian Republic to stay true to the political philosophy enshrined in the 1950 constitution.

By that definition, Jawahar Lal Nehru is a “Conservative”, and so is anyone who describes himself as holding “Nehruvian” views. From a Western point of view, of course, Nehru is almost indistinguishable from the English Liberal… enamoured with Fabian Socialism, an opponent of imperialism, a product of the colonial era who resisted colonialism. However, he is no “Liberal” when seen in the Indian context. Far from being open to new ideas, particularly the relevance of native social norms to governing a newly independent nation, he rejected them in favor of Western ideas that he had been trained to accept as superior.

Sherwani-clad Western “Liberalism”, with all its prejudices, is the conventional philosophy that independent India started off with at square one. Hence, its proponents in the Indian context are the only ones who can properly be called political “Conservatives”. The Indian National Congress is India’s most politically “Conservative” party. Its adherents, who vote generation after generation of Nehru descendants to power out of a faith in its stature as India’s first and only natural party of governance, are India’s most fervent Conservatives.

This of course makes nonsense of the conception, much bandied-about among our Westernized elite, that Hindutvavadi parties are somehow “Conservative” while the Congress is “Liberal”. Those appelations are absurd in the Indian context. Hindutva is a recent phenomenon in independent India, and as a philosophy, it is anathema to the Congress loyalist who swears by conventional Nehruvian secularism. Who then is “Conservative”, and who “Liberal”?

On an internet forum I used to frequent, the term “Hindu Fake Liberal” is being used to refer to a nominal Hindu who denounces his co-religionists’ emerging claim to a political identity. However, such a person believes that in order to maintain his commitment to secular pluralism, he is required to condemn the Hindutvavadi. That belief is about as conventional, and conservative an attitude as one is likely to encounter in Indian politics. The epithet “Liberal” is entirely unsuitable.

Rather than the Conservative-Liberal dichotomy of the West, with its attendant connotative pitfalls and its tendency to render a discourse vulnerable to hijack by motivated Western interests… I propose a different nomenclature for the spectrum of political opinion represented in modern Indic society.
Essentially, there is one group which would like to deal with change in such a way as to preserve the Nehruvian ethos as closely as possible, and two others which would prefer to effect a change in the Indian political order, to one extent or another.

The first group, which is in effect conservative, is perhaps best described as “Accommodationist”. They may acknowledge their personal identity as Hindus, and even claim part of that heritage proudly for themselves, their families and their communities. However, they believe that the public face of a political identity based on Hinduism is worth suppressing, and indeed must be suppressed, in order to preserve the nation’s secular ethos. They are content to keep their Hinduism at home, and insist that other Hindus must also do the same, while giving minority religious groups free rein to leverage their political identity.
The Accommodationists may subscribe to a wide variety of opinions on the economy, foreign policy and so on. However, the social equilibrium they seek to preserve is, by and large, very similar to the equilibrium that Nehru envisioned.

Opposed to this conservative group and to each other, are two others which may be termed the “Revivalists” and the “Externalists”. Both these groups want fundamental changes in the political character of the Indian Union.

The Revivalists believe that they should have a right to a political identity as inheritors of an Indic civilizational legacy; and that such an identity, far from being suppressed, ought to be recognized as an essential aspect of Indian nationhood . The change they would like to effect is reflective of those beliefs. At the most extreme end of the spectrum, it involves across-the-board infusion of the Indian government and constitution with a profoundly Indic character. At the most moderate end, it favours a reversal of what are widely seen as double-standards in Accommodationist policy, so that the government is equally indifferent to the religious backgrounds of all its citizens when it comes to administering the rule of law, and equally sensitive to majority and minority religious sentiment when it comes to the formulation of policy.

Of course, as with all political nomenclature, the boundaries of these categories are ill-defined. It’s probably safe to say that the ideological perspectives of most Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains fall somewhere between the Moderate Revivalist and the Accommodationist viewpoints. Such nebulousness and flexibility are, in fact, probably more innately representative of traditional Indic society than any tendency towards rigid orthodoxy.

The third group, the Externalists, also seek to effect changes in the political character of the Indian Union. However, the basis for the types of change they desire, has nothing to do with an identity based on their traditional Indic heritage. In fact, their defining characteristic is an active repudiation of any sort of Hindu identity, in favour of a driving philosophy entirely alien to Indic civilization. Most typically this philosophy is some form of Marxism, or one of its derivatives. However, adherents of pro-Western internationalism and free-market capitalism whose loyalties extend to compromising the Indian national interest, a behaviour observed in certain titans of industry during Operation Parakram, would equally qualify as Externalists. So would the deracinated elite who consider themselves too enlightened to subscribe to something as basely revanchist as a Hindu political identity.

How many Externalists are there? It is hard to tell, but very likely they have acquired a public profile out of all proportion to their numbers. Much of today’s Indian media is Externalist, or under the influence of Externalists in the service of one or another alien political philosophy. Also, many Externalists have access to resources provided by the outside principals whose agendas they serve.

The enthusiastic Revivalist will all too often perceive the rest of Hindu society which does not openly share his perspective as being arraigned against him in a monolithic bloc. It is important that he learn to identify and distinguish between the motivated Externalists and the sincere, if committed Accommodationists… instead of exerting himself on fighting against Accommodationists and even moderate Revivalists.

For their part, the Externalists have certainly perfected the art of exploiting differences between the Hindu Revivalists and the Accommodationists to gain leverage for their own agendas. Today, a potentially dangerous situation is developing whereby India’s ruling party, the Congress, has come under the influence of those who appear to have Externalist rather than Accommodationist motives. Combined with the cynical machinations of that party’s vote-bank manipulators, the effect is one which is broadly perceived by Revivalists as an existential assault on the Indian national interest… on a spectrum of issues ranging from Missionary activity in Orissa to the India-US nuclear deal. Consequently, Hindu society threatens to become increasingly and perhaps irreconcilably polarized between the Revivalist and the Accommodationist points of view.

The vast bulk of the population, of course, does not vote or act in accordance with any of the above political philosophies. Their priorities are good governance, access to civic and rural amenities, an honest and effective judicial system, and economic security if not prosperity. They are more interested in improving their quality of life, and securing a better quality of life for their children, than in waging ideological battles. Sometimes, however events such as economic crisis or chronic terrorist threats to personal security will force popular opinion to a threshold--opening up a context in which the competition between these ideologies becomes, at least temporarily, a matter of great consequence to the polity at large. It is at these watershed periods that the political destinies of most nations are decided, and India is no exception.

Finally, a word about India’s Muslims. The above categories, of course, do not apply to a community whose engagement in the politics of religious identity has not been suppressed, but rather, traditionally encouraged and exploited. To some extent, the Indian Muslim political spectrum is a mirror image of the Hindu spectrum.
The most moderate are Muslim Accommodationists like Asghar Ali Engineer, Saeed Naqvi and Shabana Azmi. They seek to uphold Muslim responsibilities under the social contract that the original Hindu Accommodationists, under Nehru, offered Indian Muslims on behalf of all Hindus. The terms dictated to all Hindus by the Hindu Accommodationists… including the suppression of Hindu religious identity… are the only terms under which Muslim Accommodationists can see Indian Muslims being willing to claim a stake in the Indian national interest. Unsurprisingly, these Muslim Accommodationists are quick to blame Hindu Revivalists as the instigators of communal disharmony, and cite Hindu Revivalists as being the primary threat to the only kind of social contract that enables Muslims to live alongside Hindus as fellow citizens.
The most extreme are the Islamists, who might be described as Muslim Revivalists. Of course, from the Hindu point of view, Islam is not intrinsic to the Indic civilizational canon, and Islamists would therefore fall under the category of Externalists! Equally so the Missionaries who attempt to save “benighted” Hindu souls by converting them to Christianity.

In between the Muslim Accommodationist and Islamist poles is a fairly wide spectrum of Muslim political opinion.

Politicians like Syed Shahabuddin, Asaduddin Owaisi and Imam Bukhari campaign aggressively against any attempts to cull the special status accorded to Muslim law under the constitution, ascribing Hindu Revivalist motives to those who argue in favour of an uniform civil code. They exploit the politics of religious identity to the hilt, citing Muslim Solidarity as their ideological basis. However, they emphasize preserving the social contract offered to India's Muslims by the Nehruvian Accommodationists, rather than bringing about radical change in the constitutional structure. In that sense, they are conservative.

Further along the spectrum, groups like the Darul Uloom of Deoband are ideologically committed to Islamism, and would like to Islamize the entire Indian subcontinent; yet, they too have accepted the Nehruvian Accommodationists' social contract, if only because they saw it as a likelier path to achieving their goals than joining Pakistan would have been. This is in contrast to SIMI, who are Islamist Externalists all the way, and believe in destabilizing any social contract based on Accommodation. By and large, the Hanafis tend to be Accommodationist, while the Salafis are Externalist; the Kashmiri National Conference are Accommodationist while the Hurriyat are Externalist, and so on.

Of course, there are other dimensions to the ideological compulsions of Indian Muslim political entities-- regional priorities, sectarian rivalries, economic agendas and so on. Yet, from the Hindu point of view, it is the Muslim-Accommodationist/Islamist dimension that is most relevant. Most Indian Muslims adhere to a political philosophy situated somewhere along that ideological spectrum. It is only a few rare individuals, such as President Kalam and some distinguished classical musicians, who actually subscribe to a Revivalist ideology in the Indic (rather than Islamist) sense.

It is vital to note that the Hindu Revivalist has room in his worldview to accept the Indian Muslim or Christian as possessing as much right to claim an Indic heritage as he himself does. It is, in the view of the Revivalist, the intrinsically exclusivist nature of Islamic or Christian beliefs that prevent Indians of those religious minorities from laying claim to their civilizational legacy. In the present situation, their religious identities preclude their full acceptance and appreciation of that legacy, serving to separate rather than unite them from the rest of the population.

If only the Indian Muslim and Christian eschewed the exclusivism of their faiths, and fully reconciled their ownership of an Indic identity with the fact of their religious beliefs, these two facets of their identity would stand genuinely on par with each other. That, in the view of the Hindu Revivalist, would lay the foundation for a new and more viable kind of accommodation, a more durable and egalitarian social contract than the one Nehru imposed on us all.

The most likely point of consensus between these disparate perspectives, occupies a middle ground to which both the Hindu Revivalist, the Hindu Accommodationist and the Minority Accommodationist camps must all find their separate ways. Each group would have to make sacrifices of some sort, as concessions to the perspectives of the other two... but that is hardly an unrealistic proposition. Adjustment and flexibility have always been far more characteristic of the Indic ethos than doctrinaire rigidity.

Minority Accommodationists would also have to persuade the bulk of their community's citizens to a point of view which favoured making the necessary concessions, and thereby secure a mandate to negotiate on their community's behalf. To do so might prove a greater challenge than achieving reconciliation between Hindu Accommodationists and Hindu Revivalists; yet, if enough of a residual Indic ethos continues to pervade those religious minority groups as well, it should certainly be possible.

In a vibrant, prosperous India where all had a stake in reaching such a consensus, the matter might be smoothly settled in this fashion. The reason why that hasn't happened yet, and shows no sign of happening, is the motivated pursuit by the Externalists of their own various agendas... and their relentless exploitation of India's faultlines towards the advancement of those agendas.

On the Psyche of Nations- Part III

On the Psyche of Nations: A Study of Carroll Quigley's Evolutionary Model in the Context of the Modern Indian Mindset, Part III

Let’s return once more to Quigley’s recounting of the development of Asian national cultures.

We’ve heard him tell us that Asian societies were marked by a large ruling class which had organized itself to best exploit a large peasant class that produced all the food. He has gone on to say that the peasant class did not produce food as efficiently as their European counterparts, and lagged far behind the agricultural techniques which European farming evolved through the second millenium CE.

According to Quigley, those agricultural revolutions in Europe were all-important in terms of empowering the great mass of the peasantry. Much more food was capable of being produced per acre of land, and a much smaller proportion of the population needed to work the land in order to feed an entire nation. People became liberated to some extent, capable of taking up intellectual pursuits or learning other skills. Economies grew more diverse, and as a result Europe went through a rennaissance. Or at least, so goes the Western narrative of their own civilizational development.

Asian cultures, in contrast, suffered a double-blow. Not only did they not have an agricultural revolution, but at this critical stage they came into contact with expansionist Western cultures. The first transformational consequence of that contact, for Asia, was a revolution in weapons.

Even though the Chinese invented gunpowder, it was the Europeans who first incorporated it into reliable, effective techniques of war by introducing the practice of corning in the late 14th century. It was through this roundabout route, by way of Turko-Mongolian and Persianate warcraft, that gunpowder artillery found their way to India with the invasion of Babur. Portuguese, Dutch, British and French weaponry was more impressive still. By the 16th century, many Indian rulers were hiring European artillery officers for their field forces. The Chinese, ironically, were overwhelmed by superior British weaponry during the Opium wars of the 1840s, as were the Japanese fifty years later, by the guns on Perry’s black ships.

Needless to say, European powers leveraged their ability to supply superior weapons for commercial, and then political gain. It is important to note that the Asian experience of a weapons revolution was almost exactly the opposite of the Western experience.

In the West, the wide availability of revolvers, rifles and such “amateur” weapons had a democratizing influence. In Asia, the Europeans supplied these weapons to the ruling classes, increasing the power differential between the rulers and the masses. Asia’s peasantry could not afford to possess such weapons, or train themselves in the use or manufacture of such weapons. Being shackled to the land because of their backward agricultural practices, they did not even have the all-important leisure time to explore ideas of political equality, such as motivated the French commoner to take up his rifle and overthrow the aristocracy. They were too low on the misery index for intellectual pursuit.

It is only today, in such places as Dera Adam Khel, where we see the Asian peasant building weapons in his cottage to challenge the authority of the state; recapitulating a stage that his European counterparts went through three hundred years ago. The ideology motivating the gun-forging Pashtun is also quite different from that espoused by Voltaire and Rousseau… but that is fodder for another discussion.

Because of the infusion of Western weapons, the authoritarian character of Asian societies was intensified, and the ruling group could take from the peasant ever larger fractions of what he was producing. Moneylenders offered credit to the peasant at crushing interest, while government bureaucrats taxed him at punitive rates to finance the army’s purchase of Western weapons.

According to Quigley, by the end of the 19th Century, the Chinese ruling classes took so much from the peasant of what he produced that he did not have enough left for his own subsistence. Even so, the peasantry managed to survive by selling leather, wood and straw handicrafts to the ruling classes in the cities, thereby getting just enough credit to survive. Peasants found time to manufacture and sell handicrafts, thanks to agrarian underemployment. This is a phenomenon still seen in the developing East today, whereby the farming population remains idle for about five months out of the year outside of the planting and harvesting seasons. It is, today, directly responsible for the mass movement of rural Indians to the cities; individuals and families travel to the cities at first to seek temporary employment in the idle season when there is no agricultural work to do, and then decide to stay when they encounter an entirely new spectrum of economic opportunities.

After weapons, the next transformational change brought about by European influence in Asia was what Quigley calls the Commercial Crisis. It resulted from the industrial revolution in Europe, and was represented by the influx of European manufactured goods into Asian markets, which Asian peasant handicrafts simply could not compete with. Now the Asian ruling classes, having ceased to buy the craft products of their own peasantry in favor of the industrial products of European cities, continued on the other hand to demand the same and even more in taxes from the peasant. This squashed the peasantry to below subsistence level, says Dr. Quigley.

It was, of course, this particular flavour of colonial exploitation that M.K. Gandhi sought to counter with his emphasis on swadeshi goods. A peasantry depressed beyond all hope was entirely beyond the reach of inspiration, and without inspiration on a mass scale there could be no independence movement.

I repeat all of this here, not because I think it is necessarily a true or complete account of the development of Asiatic national cultures. I recount it because Quigley’s is as objective a Western view as we are ever likely to see, of the nature of Asiatic national cultures.

Westerners found what they saw as rigidly hierarchical societies in Asia. It was not for them to distinguish between the subtleties of Jati and Varna, or to understand the entirely different ethos of social contracts that operated in Asia… but only to exploit whatever power differentials they encountered in every way possible. What they brought to Asia in the colonial age was damaging. The introduction of weapons that dramatically reinforced power structures, and later the forcing of manufactured goods onto the captive consumer markets of their colonies, had extremely harmful consequences. They intensified the stratification of our soceities, and rendered them more functionally oppressive than if European influence had never been felt in our lands. This is important to realize.

It is also important to realize that almost all Western exponents of comparative world history will refer to Asia as being characterized by inegalitarian, oppressive social structures in the first place… structures that could only have been improved by change, even the disastrous types of change that the Europeans brought. This is the mythic narrative that the West has developed about Asia, to justify the relative “morality” of their own depradations to themselves. This is the foundation of all the nonsense you read about the caste system in the few paragraphs’ worth of treatment that Hinduism receives in an American primary school textbook; it is the basis of college courses referring to the fictitious religion of “Brahminism”, of the unholy nexus between Indian Marxist academicians and Christian-fundamentalist organizations, of the phony platforms on which missionary groups claiming to serve “Dalits” mount their drives for funding and political influence. The West will continue to pretend that Asian societies were always stratified and oppressive, and hence inferior to their own. This is the message being conveyed when you hear a Westerner say, “life is cheap in India”. And it is a view of ourselves that we, as Indians, must stop internalizing right now.

Quigley goes on to reveal the extent of the European colonialists’ role in exacerbating the commercial crisis brought about by their dumping of industrial goods. Having established their political supremacy in Asia through subsidiary alliances and military superiority, the Europeans forced native governments to sign agreements not to raise tarriffs on imported goods above 5 percent, or in one case 8 percent of their value. These agreements were enforced well into the twentieth century, even in nations that weren’t directly colonized by the Europeans, like China, Japan and the Ottoman empire. In effect, these extortionist agreements made it impossible for the Asian ruling classes to keep Western manufactured goods out of their markets, or to preserve the handicrafts of their own peasantry, even if they had wanted to do so.

The European colonialists sought to create a subservient Asian ruling class in their own image. This was the template upon which Sun Yat Sen and Professor Gokhale were fashioned. They were educated under the systems of their conquerors, trained to imbibe the cultural attitudes and political perspective of their colonial masters, and encouraged to reject their native heritage as inegalitarian and undemocratic. At the same time, this manufactured ruling class were unable to safeguard the welfare of their peasantry from the effects of European colonialism, such as the destruction of the market for their handicrafts. They continued to subject the peasantry to crushing taxation, now on behalf of their colonial masters. This is what ultimately prevented many Asian ruling classes … including the nationalists of the Chinese Republic, and the pre-Gandhi Indian National Congress… from ever earning the confidence of the vast majority of their people. What authority did they have to sign a social contract with those they couldn’t protect or provide for?

Instead, the Asiatic rulers fashioned in the image of their colonial masters became willing clients for more Western influence, and eager consumers of more Western capital… how else were they to finance the introduction of yet more Western technology, such as railroads and infrastructure? The transport and communications revolution in the West was financed by capital generated by the industrial revolution; in Asia, it was imported with money and skills borrowed from the West. This left Asiatic governments in debt, increasing the relative power of the West in terms of fiscal surplus as well as technological dependence.

At about this time, and on into the post-colonial era, the Western revolution in sanitation and medicine began to impress itself upon Asian populations. In Quigley’s view, the effect of this was to thrust Asian countries into the demographic revolution before they’d had a true agricultural revolution. Birth rates spiralled and populations dramatically increased beyond the capacity of food production or underdeveloped local economies to sustain them. This led to the emergence of vast, poverty-stricken populations, an emblem feeding further into the Western myth that life is cheap in the East (and that it’s somehow the East’s fault for being inegalitarian and oppressive).

However, the inevitable empowerment of these vast and burgeoning populations caused dramatic upheavals and changed the developmental course of several Asian national cultures. This occurred most dramatically in China, where to resist the Japanese invasion, a great mass of peasants was finally given direct access to weapons—those same rifles that had once contributed to the Western world’s democratization. The consequence, of course, was that an armed peasantry took matters into its own hands, refused to take any more orders from the Chinese Republican ruling class, and had itself a Communist revolution. The essentially socialist path undertaken by India’s leaders after independence, is a subtler consequence of a premature demographic revolution that left the nascent republic with a huge population of poor people.

Quigley ends by discussing ways in which Asiatic nations attempted to industrialize in the twentieth century; in order to keep up with some of their own neighbours like Japan who had industrialized successfully, or to resist the economic pressures of an industrialized West. Some Asian countries achieved this by squeezing their peasant population even in the absence of an agricultural revolution… like Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s China. Others did it by borrowing heavily from the West. It was only much later that Asia’s “Tigers”, through tremendous discipline and sacrifice, managed at last to erase and even reverse their debts and turn their erstwhile Western creditors into markets.

As we part ways with Dr. Quigley, he is rounding off his lecture with thoughts about how Asian agriculture might benefit more from the introduction of low-tech farming practices that actually take advantage of the continent’s labor surplus, and which would fill in the many missing stages between antiquated local techniques and modern Western farming.

For my own part, Quigley’s repeated emphasis on the enormous importance of agriculture gave me a new appreciation of the mammoth accomplishment that Mrs. Gandhi’s stewardship of India’s green revolution represented. Without falling into crippling debt or driving our peasantry like Stalin, we managed to become self-sufficient in food production. Which, by any standards, amounts to quite a miracle.

Friday, October 3, 2008

On the Psyche of Nations- Part II

On the Psyche of Nations: A Study of Carroll Quigley's Evolutionary Model in the Context of the Modern Indian Mindset, Part II

The section of Dr. Quigley’s lecture dealing with the development of Asiatic national cultures is startlingly brief by comparison with his lengthy exposition of their Western counterparts. Expectedly so, perhaps… by his own admission, his perspective is that of an occidental historian. His interest in the then “Non-Aligned” group of Asiatic nations focuses on their utility as a “buffer fringe” between the West and its Communist nemesis. He is interested in studying the East only in terms of how the West has interacted with it, and draws only such conclusions as the West may find useful in plotting an advantageous course of future interaction.

The line between assimilating Quigley’s universally valuable insights on the development of national cultures, while eschewing the prejudices that mark him as a man of his time and place in the world, is a difficult one to negotiate. Indic scholars have grown wary of the condescending, self-aggrandizing narrative that professional “Indologists” of the West have sought to superimpose upon our civilization. So tired are we of being flogged with the same old Macaulayite and Mullerite litanies, that the first critical observation we encounter from a new and unfamiliar source will sometimes put our teeth on edge, priming us to reject everything coming from that source in toto. The obvious disadvantage is that it amounts to tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

Let us, then, remind ourselves that Quigley is an American thinker of early Cold War vintage, a creature of his era, and a product of his own national culture. Still, he is no child of Macaulay, nor a motivated belittler of Indian national culture in the mold of Fareed Zakaria or Romila Thapar. He is not out to bash us, either in the language of traditional Churchillian imperialism, or in the tones of today’s Marxist collaborators who package their condescension in the snide verbiage of revisionism.

To give Quigley a fair hearing for our own sake, it is best to brush any lingering post-colonial chips off our own shoulders at this point. Raising an ideological shield bars our vision even as it wards off blows. The true test of our judgement is to determine when being open to external perspectives may better equip us to defend ourselves.

To begin with, Quigley attempts to explore the development of “buffer fringe” national cultures down the ages, in terms of the same series of revolutions as he applies to his analysis of the West. However, his chronology of the East begins at the time Europeans first encountered the nations and peoples of the orient. Not at 1000 AD, as in his exposition of European national cultures, but some five hundred years later.

Indeed, for the purpose of his comparative analysis, Quigley is quite uninterested in the course of Asiatic history before 1500. This initially rang a few “Indologist!” alarm bells for me, but on further contemplation I actually find it refreshing. He’s clearly not interested in contriving a back-story to denigrate us as deserving victims of exploitation. Rather, he earnestly explores the story of his own people, featuring Asian civilizations as characters encountered in the course of their expansion… altogether a more intellectually honest effort.

Quigley pays not even lip service to the lost millenia of golden ages that Asiatic scholars are always agonizing over… no Mauryas, no Guptas, and equally no Hans or T’angs. Instead, he begins with a generalized view of the dystopic East that European maritime explorers and merchants first encountered.

His view of Asian societies at that time is unapologetically Eurocentric. He sees them as rigidly hierarchical structures, ossified by the sheer weight of tradition, where a very large ruling class which he terms “the quartet” cooperated amongst themselves to exploit a food-producing peasantry. This “quartet”, in his view, consisted of (a) Government officials and bureaucracies, (b) military personnel and armies, (c) bankers and financiers and (d) landlords.

Lest such a characterization, with its obvious parallels to the Varna system, put us at once on the defensive—let us pause to consider that this was exactly how contemporary Asiatic societies must have appeared to the first European visitors, given their prejudices and their ignorance of what had gone before. Quigley is harking back to the atavistic first-impressions of the Westerner on arriving in 16th-century India or China. That is quite separate from the malicious parallels that motivated saboteurs of India’s civilizational narrative came to draw in the age of colonialism, and seek to reinforce in the age of soul-harvesting.

The other thing Quigley admits in effect, is that Asiatic societies operated on a vastly higher scale of organization by that period than their European counterparts, which were constructed around self-sufficient manors as the discrete and isolated subunit. He is actually talking about a national ruling class, organized to exploit a country full of peasants. Corrupt, power-hungry and short-sighted perhaps… but organized at a level beyond anything the Europeans even attempted until the Turks menaced the Danube in the seventeenth century.

There is little doubt about this. From C. Northcote Parkinson to Franz Kafka, European intellectuals emerge from contemplation of Asiatic national entities with a sense of awe at their gargantuan proportions. Parkinson, in his seminal “East and West”, lays out the most fundamental distinctions between Europe and Asia. Asia had vast, fertile land masses isolated by great stretches of water (the Pacific and Indian Oceans) and mighty natural barriers like the Himalayas and the Steppe. This allowed for the agglomeration of closely related civilizations into vast quasi-national entities, the great empires of India, Persia and China, but it also isolated different civilizations almost completely from one another. Europe, meanwhile, was characterized by the abundance of navigable bodies of water… the Mediterranean and North Seas and numerous rivers… as well as having almost no insurmountable natural barriers. Thus, even as the earliest political entities were isolated and self-sufficient, commerce was able to develop extensively across the whole region, ideas traveled rapidly between cultures, and different peoples could be united temporarily under the banner of a reasonably competent empire, such as the Romans, who could muster the ability to mount an invasion across a modestly challenging barrier like the English Channel.

Quigley observes that, circa 1500, Asiatic agricultural methods had not evolved to the levels of efficiency that contemporary Europe’s had. Asian peasant farmers did not widely employ the techniques of crop-rotation with fallow fields or leguminous planting that brought about revolutionary increases in Western civilization’s capacity to produce food. Instead, they used such techniques as fertilizing soil with human excrement, which yielded less food per acre than contemporary European farming to begin with. On top of this, no transformational developments in food production, such as greatly accelerated the advancement of Western civilization, ever took place in Asia.

Is this observation about Asiatic agricultural practices true, and if so, why was it so? That’s just the first of several questions which the Asia-specific part of Dr. Quigley’s lecture raises… but to which we must seek the answers for ourselves, because Dr. Quigley himself lacked the necessary perspective to answer them in a manner we would find useful.

To some extent, maybe Dr. Quigley’s entire emphasis on technological revolutions is deeply influenced by pre-eminent American historical discourse of his day. His illustrious contemporary, Louis Mumford, was honing his theories of technics and civilization at about this time… emphasizing the difference between technology (the harnessing of science towards practical applications) and technics: the dynamics of interplay between technology, inventions, methods, and the societies which employed them. Contemporary trends in Western humanities academia encouraged a good deal of post-industrial navel gazing, with great emphasis on the role of technics in shaping the course of a society’s development. Perhaps Quigley’s assigning such importance to the appearance or lack of technological revolutions as a determinant of human history, is reflective of this.

But what of ourselves? Leave aside malicious Marxist and Liberation Theologist caricatures of Indic society as a rigid hierarchy where knowledge was the jealously guarded preserve of all-powerful Brahmins. The 1500s in India were a period of Mughal dominance. They were marked by a Brahmin polity divided between servile collaboration with the Mughal administration and ideological resistance as fugitives in Hindu enclaves, and a Kshatriya aristocracy similarly divided between subsidiary alliances with the Islamic overlords and sporadic military self-assertion. This is clearly a much more complicated picture than the “quartet” to which Quigley simplifies matters… and yet, neither Brahmin nor Kshatriya nor Mughal is relevant here. When we talk of agriculture we talk of the Shudra.

What was the truth of the Shudra’s inadequate adoption of agricultural techniques? Were his methods really less efficient than those of his Western counterpart? Was this because, as the revisionists relentlessly suggest, the evil Brahmin had connived to deprive the Shudra of knowledge? I don’t think so… the Western peasant certainly wasn’t being sent to agricultural college by his feudal lord, and had the brains to figure out crop rotation for himself. Unless we decide that the Shudra was generally less intelligent by comparison, and there is no basis for concluding that he was… why couldn’t he, similarly, have discovered and practiced crop rotation?

Quigley would probably answer this with his notion of “Western Ideology” lending itself to innovation and advancement in a manner superior to anything we Asiatics possessed. To us that seems chauvinistic and petty. It surely makes no more sense to argue that Sanatan Dharma was inferior to Western Ideology, than to hold that the Shudra was intrinsically more stupid than the European serf. However, we must allow for the possibility that a Dharma under siege and threatened with extinction, as it was in the age of Islamic political dominance over the subcontinent, may not have provided as hospitable an intellectual environment for reflection and innovation as Western Ideology during the renaissance... simply because the priority was ensuring survival of the old ways in a new and hostile milieu. When a civilization is fighting to preserve its traditional heritage, a task that must often be performed in surreptitious ways for fear of reprisal, the prevailing ethos is far from conducive to intellectual progress. Security in the present is a prerequisite for looking forward, and the Hindu of the 1500s had very little.

The Marxist might argue that Hindu civilization's lack of the innovative spark was an intrinsic failing, having nothing to do with external threats; that the Shudra, after several millenia of ideological bludgeoning under the horrendous caste system, had lost his will to innovate long before the advent of Islam. This is demonstrably untrue.

Indian agriculture may not have kept up with its European counterpart into the leguminous-crop-rotation revolution of the 1500s. Through the first millenium CE, however, Indian farming could boast of as much innovation as farming anywhere else in the world. We had developed the domestication of animals, the plough and harness, the wheeled cart. We had irrigation, we had the wickerwork basket to remove chaff from grain by tossing it into the air; and as even Quigley admits, we used human excrement as fertilizer. Surely that wasn’t a “Brahmin” innovation! No, anything to do with human excrement was by definition a technique developed by the the “lower” castes… amply demonstrating that the Shudra and the Bhangi were as intelligent, innovative, and well-informed about their lines of work as any European peasant.

It is possible that Asian cultures in general didn’t come up with those early agricultural innovations as rapidly as their European counterparts. After all, Asia had a surplus of agricultural labor and generally a more hospitable climate compared to Europe, so the pressure to innovate might not have been as urgent. However, the fact remains that through about 1000 AD, we did not lag behind in food production to any significant degree. The Indian peasant of that time was almost certainly better off than his European contemporary.

Why, then, did we fail to keep pace with the Europeans in agricultural innovations, and perhaps other innovations as well, past the end of the 1st millenium CE?

Did India’s parallel to the crop-rotation revolution never have a chance to arrive, because of the exigences of our history in the second millenium CE? Could this have to do with the shock of an alien invasion that, for the first time, posed an existential threat to evolved, intact and fully functional Indian society? Is it because by the 16th century in India, given the fractured social contract that was forced into existence between the Islamic overlords and the Hindu polity… the Shudra had become divested from his national culture, with no stake in its progress or betterment?

I believe this latter explanation to be closer to the truth. The Marxists' and Western Indologists' insistence that the Shudra simply never had the will to innovate because the caste system was tyrannically restrictive of his intellectual capacity, is not borne out by even the most casual observations. However, it is conceivable that the Shudra, and others of the more earthy Varnas, faced a dire crisis of identity after the Islamic invasions. A sense of being set adrift, of losing the specific investment in Indian national culture that they once possessed by virtue of their role and function in a vibrant, flourishing Hindu society. After all, a schism was developing in that society before their very eyes; large sections of Brahmins, Kayasthas and Kshatriyas were trying to accommodate the new political reality of Islamic dominance in ways that must have seemed an abdication of their responsibilities under the Dharmic social contract. It is easy to imagine this shaking the faith of the masses in the solidity, or even the survival, of their Hindu national culture.

Understanding this distinction is all important.

The Marxist and Western Indologist say: Hindu society was fundamentally flawed by the existence of an oppressive caste system, which hamstrung the development of our national culture and ensured that the "lower" castes never had a stake in such development. In other words, Hindu Dharma was never viable as a national culture, and isn't viable as the foundation of Indian national culture today. This is the essential ideological argument employed by those who would forever constrain the emergence of Hindu political identity at the level of a national culture, and for India's sake, it must be torn down.

The truth, which emerges on closer examination and the application of Dr. Quigley's comparative model of civilizational development: Hindu society developed a national culture as vibrant as any in the world, but came under extreme duress because of the onslaught of an alien, expansionist Islam. In the trauma of adapting itself to survive this onslaught, schisms and cracks appeared in Hindu society that were detrimental to the development of a Hindu national culture at the same pace as that of European nations. Progress, as Quigley measures it, clearly was slowed far below optimal rates. And yet, it is a testament to Hindu society's innate strength... not its weakness...that it successfully survived many existential threats, and survives to this day with its essential character unchanged. How many other cultures that came into contact with the expanding imperialism of Christianity or Islam, survive today in any recognizable form? Even the Zoroastrians continue to exist, only because they sought refuge with the world's most ideologically hospitable national culture.

The Marxist insists that Hindu national culture was fundamentally flawed, and is worthy only to be discarded. The Indian must recognize that, while rife with imperfections, Hindu national culture survived blows that obliterated many others; and that the damage sustained as a result of those blows can and must be repaired for India to realize her potential.

It is the mission of the Marxist, the Western Indologist and the Missionary to ensure that we give up hope of repairing the damage, that we persist in viewing our heritage as a disposable commodity worth preserving only in the sterility of museums. It is to their benefit that we continue to stumble around as easy prey in an ideological wasteland. It must be the mission of all 800 million of us to reclaim what is ours, and to reinstate it as the basis of our national culture, in the face of an onslaught better organized and more fiercely motivated than any Babar or Mir Qasim could have mustered.

When the Europeans got to India they found a civilization that was already riven and bleeding. They encountered a similar situation in China as well; Marco Polo found Kublai Khan, an Islamic Mongol overlord, in charge of the Middle Kingdom. The Dutch and Portuguese, three centuries later, dealt with a declining Ming dynasty besieged by Mongols to the north and rising Japanese power to the east. Credit must, however, be accorded to the Ming dynasty’s founder Chu Yuan-Chang. In 1371, he ended the 90-year Mongol rule of Beijing… too short a period to make a serious dent in Chinese Dar-ul-Harb.

In my next post I’ll continue with the rest of Quigley’s lecture, dealing with subsequent stages in the development of Asian national cultures. Again, I’m sure there will be more questions than we’ll immediately have answers for. In the course of seeking those answers, perhaps, new paths towards reclaiming, repairing and reinstating our own national culture will suggest themselves.

Friday, August 15, 2008

On the Psyche of Nations

On the Psyche of Nations: A Study of Carroll Quigley's Evolutionary Model in the Context of the Modern Indian Mindset

On 13th November 1957, the late historian Carroll Quigley delivered a typically insightful lecture entitled "Comparative National Cultures " at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C.

The lecture, available online here, is a comparative exploration of the courses along which Western and Asian national entities evolved over the course of the past millennium, in terms of their economic and technological development as well as their social and political characters.

Essentially, Quigley charts the evolution of both sets of national cultures in terms of the sequence of watershed developmental stages through which each progressed. While his verbiage is certainly tinted by the lens of Cold War geopolitics... he refers to the predominantly Asian group of third-world powers as the "Buffer Fringe" on the periphery of the Soviet bloc... his underlying analysis is of enduring value.

Briefly, his narrative of European history from 1000 CE to the present encompasses the following chapters:

1) Emerging from the clean slate of the dark ages, we see a feudal society that is authoritarian, but where political power is almost entirely decentralized. Much of the European continent is divided into self-contained economic and political units called manors, each presided over by a knight.

The knight is a fighting specialist, and his power derives from mastery over the supreme weapons of the era: steel weaponry and horse for offense, and a stone castle for defense. Since his castle is virtually unassailable before the advent of gunpowder, the knight cannot be compelled to answer to any higher authority and his manor is, for all practical purposes, an independent political and economic entity.

2) Around 1440 CE, the advent of a money economy results in a commercial revolution. Earlier, each manor had been a self-sufficient agrarian entity engaging in little or no economic exchange with other manors. The substitution of money arrangements for personal or barter arrangements leads to heightened commerce, a division of labor, increased specialization, and a higher order of economic efficiency.

3) There follows a revolution in weapons technology, particularly the advent and improvement of firearms, whose effects become dramatically evident from 1500 onwards. At every stage, the arrival of new types of weapons that alter conventional military realities is seen to have profound political consequences.

From 1000 to about 1250 CE, the knight enjoyed elite status by virtue of the dominance of "specialist weapons" in that day and age... weapons that only a few could afford to possess and in training for the use of which only a few could afford to invest. The knight was a specialist fighter who had trained for years to engage in armed combat; he possessed expensive horses and armour, far beyond the reach of the 97% of the population who were serfs or agricultural workers.

The arrival of cannon that could breach the walls of a knight's stone castle heralded the first stage in Europe's weapons revolution. The cannon was a supreme offensive weapon, capable of defeating the stone castle which had thus far been the supreme defensive weapon. Yet, cannon were extremely expensive and only the very wealthiest and most powerful knights, i.e. the ones who would become Kings, could possess them. This caused the authoritarian but decentralized society of self-sufficient knightly manors, to agglomerate into larger political units that were still authoritarian, still governed by an elite, but more centralized in structure: Kingdoms.

A more significant, and more dramatically transformational stage of the weapons revolution occurs from 1500 onwards: namely, the rising dominance of what Quigley calls "amateur" weapons. These are weapons that are cheap enough for the vast majority of people in a society to possess them, and easy enough to use that they can be mastered within weeks or months, rather than years of training.

This trend arrived at its apex in the mid-19th century, when the Colt revolver and rifle were cheap and ubiquitous in the United States. Every private citizen was as well armed as most of the agents of his government. As the French Revolution demonstrated, a great mass of people equipped with weapons as good as those of government troops, could not be compelled to obey their government by force. Quigley contends that modern Western democracy arose, at least in part, as a direct political consequence of this new military reality.

The investment by governments into researching military technologies since that time, beginning with the Gatling gun and on through tanks and battleships and aircraft and so on, reversed the trend in favour of specialist weapons once again. However, the upheavals that took place in the age dominated by amateur weapons were of profound and lasting consequence for Western national cultures.

4) Quigley argues that successive agricultural revolutions are particularly significant in explaining the divergence in evolutionary paths followed by Europe and Asia.

In Europe, the practice of leaving a field fallow for one out of every three years (so that the soil could recoup its nitrogenous nutrients) had been followed by and large from 1000 CE onwards.

From the 1700s onwards, this practice was replaced by crop rotation: the planting of leguminous crops like clover and alfalfa which replenished nitrates in the soil, in alternation with the food crops which depleted them.

The significance of this new process was twofold: not only was soil fertility restored more quickly, but the leguminous crops themselves could be used as feed for meat animals. This completely revolutionized prevailing techniques of animal husbandry: thus far, animal herds had been left to graze and forage for their own food. As a result, there was an explosive increase in the amount of food that could be produced per acre of cultivated land.

Another revolution in the 1840s brought with it chemical fertilizers and farming machinery, and the adoption of new agricultural techniques.

The most important consequence of these agricultural revolutions for the evolution of Western society was that the people of European nations came to enjoy an unprecedented surplus of opportunity. In the 1500s, says Quigley, 17 men had to labor full-time in order to produce enough food for 21; only 4 of every 21, then, could pursue any other occupation of any sort. By the 1950s, the labor of 4 men was sufficient to feed a hundred.

5) The fifth stage in the development of Western national cultures, according to Quigley's narrative, is the Industrial Revolution. It begins in the 1780s with the advent of the external combustion (or steam) engine, and is boosted by the arrival in 1900 or so of the internal combustion engine.

The chief benefit of the industrial revolution is the production of vastly more non-food products per man-hour than before. Its main feature is the large scale use of power from non-living sources, such as coal and oil, for production.

Factories become engines of mass production, cities grow and become the hotbeds of a new consumer society, and the possession of capital becomes a new currency of power in Western societies.

All this results in two compelling new motivations for European colonial expansion: every nation is in search of raw materials for its factories, and captive markets for its products.

6) Next, Quigley addresses the sanitation revolution, which transformed the state of public health in Western societies. Beginning with Jenner and the smallpox vaccine in the 1770s, infectious diseases were rapidly curtailed by large scale campaigns of vaccination. The work of Pasteur and Lister in the 1830s transformed European medicine's understanding of microbial pathogens and antisepsis. A spate of inventions followed in the 20th century, including antibiotics, surgical techniques, prosthetics and so on.

Quigley goes on to discuss the demographic implications of the sanitation revolution. Declining death rates and increased survival of childhood diseases lead to increasing populations with a preponderance of young individuals. Further on in their development, societies make attempts to limit birth rates for the sake of population control, even as life expectancies increase, so that individuals of advanced age begin to predominate.

There is also some comparison, at this point, of trends in population growth and composition between the West and the "buffer fringe", clarified here as referring to Asia. Quigley postulates, correctly, that by the end of the twentieth century, Western nations are likely to have an increasing proportion of middle-aged and senior citizens, while Asiatic populations will be overwhelmingly youthful.

7) Finally, the revolution in transportation and communications is briefly addressed. From macadamized roads in 1750 to railroads in 1830 and automobiles from 1900 onwards, the invention and availability of various modes of transport shaped the development of Western society in fundamental ways.

At the same time came new communications technologies; the telegraph arrived contemporaneously with railroads, electronic communications along with aircraft and so on. This trend has continued past Quigley's own death in 1977, with the emergence of satellite television and the internet.

At this point, Quigley points out that each revolution builds on the successes of preceding revolutions. For example, the industrial revolution required the availability of labor, food, and capital. Food became abundant as a result of the agricultural revolution, as did labor (because the emergence of new agricultural techniques freed up labor from tilling the land). Capital came from the commercial revolution, which had inspired mercantile explorers to mount expeditions to Europe's future colonies.

It might be considered that Quigley betrays a degree of Occidental chauvinism in the course of an otherwise comprehensive and illuminating discourse on the development of Western national cultures thus far.

Namely, he credits "Western Ideology" as the foundation of all the successive watershed developmental stages he describes. For instance, he cites "invention" as a key ingredient in the success of the industrial revolution. In his view, "invention" comes out of an aspect of Western Ideology: an "urge to innovate and provide better ways of doing things."

According to Quigley, "Western Ideology" is a combination of the "scientific outlook, the Christian outlook and the liberal outlook". Its key features are
1) the belief in the existence of an objective truth, and the urge to seek it out;
2) the recognition that unearthing such a truth or truths is a process of gradual approximation that unfolds over time, rather than one of sudden and ultimate revelation;
3) the idea that seeking the truth is best pursued as a cooperative effort, because a consensus resulting from the pooled discoveries of many will be closer to the truth than the observations of any individual;
4) a non-dualistic nature, whereby the material and spiritual are not considered to be separate or opposed; rather, the material is considered necessary while the spiritual is important, and spiritual goals are thought to be best achieved by working through material techniques.

Fair enough, one might say. As long as Quigley's thesis is borne out by our observations with regard to the development of Western society, let us accept that the philosophy he articulates as "Western Ideology" had something to do with it.

To his credit, Quigley does not contend that the fortuitous sequence of watershed "revolutions", whereby each successive stage could build on the foundation of previous stages, resulted from any sort of a grand plan. Rather, he says, it is a matter of happy accident that these stages came in the chronological order that they did.

Yet, it is in his application of this historical model to Asiatic cultures, viewed through an extremely distorted prism of interactions between Asian peoples and European colonists over the past 500 years, that the shortcomings of his Eurocentric point of view become most evident. In the next post, I will go over his comparative narration of Asian history since 1000 CE, but attempt to analyze it from a standpoint more appropriate to our stated quest: exploring the epigenesis of the Indian psyche.