Comment of the day

This comment by girmit touches on the interethnic distribution of wealth. Of course a lot of the East is now following the West in adopting a more traditional class system determined predominantly by wealth.

“appreciate the detailed response. I can’t dispute that overall schema if we take a broad view of things. Most certainly, we’ve even seen historically the consolidation of ethnicities as service castes to strong polities. And yes, over a long enough period i don’t think its inconceivable that the most heterogenous stratified population could coalesce into an ethnic group. Sort of how in england the Saxon and Norman cultures are no longer ethnicities but are only subtly perceptible by surname and regional concentration and church denomination, they may still residually correlate to social class in a way. So something like this could happen in India I suppose, but I imagine the gestation time to be incredibly long, so long that it may not outpace the coalescing of a global human ethnicity.

Another thought about highly functional institutions is that they may be incredibly well performing but incapable of distributing opportunity evenly across the population. The Indian armed forces are an example of a national institution that is highly prestigious across all regions, but cannot possibly accommodate the majority of qualified candidates. So it can be respected and resented at the same time. Defence jobs are great careers for rural youth and the economic impact on high recruitment regions is exceptional. But this was also important pretext to the bhindranwale movement, where punjabi sikhs felt affront at legacy recruitment quotas being scaled back (or reverse discrimination, don’t know the whole picture) and it resulted in enough rural youth unemployment to be fertile ground for extremism.

Another challenge for india is major industries running like ethnic cartels. Even if we concede that these business communities have a certain genius for efficiency, and are in the current moment the most able stewards, it is a lost opportunity to another group. In many ways , the creation of Pakistan allowed the Punjabi muslim agrarian castes to move up the value chain into commodity dealing and other enterprises, one would assume that in an unpartitioned Punjab, khatris and Agarwals may have dominated those trade networks. So the appeal of separatism often goes beyond ethnic narcissism and can be sublimated economic strategy. If Punjab weren’t such a massive beneficiary of central grain procurement, it might have had less to lose by going its own way.”

ZachNote: I remember when I first lived in Uganda I was taken aback by how important tribal links were and in some cases superseded wealth; rich Ugandans would socialise very freely with their poorer counterparts, on the strength of tribal affiliation (this is of course diminishing over time thanks to Westernisation). This phenomenon was very different to Britain and Pakistan, where class has such a dominating role and guides one’s social life.

It’s also arguable whether to be fully civilised one must have a very differentiated class system, which supersedes all other ties like religion or race or caste. In Britain there are many aristocratic families with Jewish ties or descent (a few come immediately to mind like the Chlomondleys, the Marquess of Reading, the Whalley-Cohens, the Lascelles family), which means that anti-Semitism wasn’t really a bar to the elite over the last century, if not more..

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