The world seems precarious at this moment. The neo-liberal activism since the 80s have destroyed the foundations of the Liberal system, its system of nations sustained by the welfare state: The neat structures of the world order seem to be withering away.
A Russian president openly talks about the possibilities of nuclear war; the leaders of Britain and Germany precariously hang on to power in the face of right-wing revolutions while the prospect of a left revolution looks real in France; in the United States, private interests of the President trump his public duties. At the turn of 2018, chaos reigns.
If the newspapers have to be believed, it is all due to immigrants or poor people. In fact, it is immigrants AND poor people: Globalization unleashed people movements - from South and Central America to North America, from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe and from East to West Europe - and this has made the poor people in the developed countries revolt against its elite, using their power of the vote to protest against the liberal order, voting down smooth-vowel politicians and promoting tough-talking populists. Therefore, we are told, a populist revolution is underway, and the politically correct environmentally conscious rules-based system of global governance is crumbling.
Remember the last time greedy bankers broke the bank: We labelled it sub-prime and attributed the breakdown to those at the bottom of the value chain - who were lured into buying outsized houses and made to lose them at the first sight of the crisis - for the whole global chaos. This diagnosis allowed for a top-down remedy, the rescue of the banks rather than any attempt to correct the systemic and cultural failures that built the bubble, and locked the world in the same failed system further. That crisis is coming home now. It is no surprise that we have started blaming the poor people again.
But this is more a revolt of the elites than a populist revolt. President Trump, with his billion-dollar name and gilded apartments, isn't a Hitler, but rather a crude modern-day caricature of princes of the ancient regime, who assumes he has a divine right to dominate. Britain, purportedly in the middle of a people's revolution for Brexit, is really torn between the financial interests of the City, pro-EU as globalization is its life-blood, and the landed and parochial interests, which wants to regain its primacy. They are locked in a battle for the public mind, which both have learnt to manipulate. The newspapers may give an impression that the poor people are changing the world, for the worse, but it is really the revenge of the old money, intent on undoing all the little concessions won by poor people since the time of the French revolution.
This revolt of the elites has a number of causes, but technological progress is one of them. The concessions - of political and economic power, in the forms of democracy and welfare state - were made because the existence of this elite, and security of their property, depended on the willing participation and labour of the poor in wage-labour factories and all-volunteer armies. The automated factories and overwhelming powers of technological surveillance, together with sophisticated structures of modern finance and modern commerce, are weening away this dependence, making independence of the elites possible. The world is to become no longer flat but spiky, with islands of Californian prosperity spread in the middle of vast expanses of sub-Saharan poverty everywhere. The emerging elite world of gated communities and exclusive schools, to be migrated someday to an extra-planetary Elysium, have no connection, no dependence and no sympathies with the rest of the world. From that vantage point, not unlike that of the world of Louis XVth, the earth and the ordinary humans exist merely as resources, to serve at their pleasure in a tiered system of labour and consumption: The common human future has indeed become a politically correct absurdity well past its sell-by date.
Notwithstanding the demonising of the poor people and immigrants in the modern media, they are powerless now. Poor people's movements, once led by mighty trade unions, are slothful and out of touch. The trade unions today are as much part of the system of privileges with their legalistic obsession and narcissism of small concessions. General strikes are impossible in the midst of hungry immigrants and automated factories. No robot soldier would join the revolutionary ranks anymore. And, the left revolutionary formula of withdrawing labour has become utterly powerless in the face of a technologically enabled revolt of the elites.
The poor, therefore, are left with the only way of protesting, a totally counter-intuitive mechanics that defy all previous formulations. The poor's yearning to become rich is no longer a revolutionary force; their withdrawal of labour is now inconsequential. Their power, rather, has now taken an impossible form: It resides solely in their renunciation of consumption goals and in their rejection of the cultural symbols of the rich. Without these, the poor wanting to be rich - the American/Chinese/Indian dream - is bound to make them instruments in the ongoing revolt of the elites. In the middle of this, the poor can only advance its cause and not get swept away into the dungeon existence through the renunciation of the 'good life' thesis as propagated by the elites, by returning to social rather than private labour, and by rediscovering common humanity across the natives-immigrant fault line. In this struggle, there is less to be found in the theorists of the advanced industrial age, such as Marx and Lenin, and more in the works of those who spoke of strengths within and the struggles of becoming human.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.