Effect of wealth on conservatism in colonized societies and in the west.

By Phyecon1 9 Comments

I think the primary difference between western conservatives and Indian ones and perhaps in other countries too is that Western conservatives have preserved their traditions through interactions with revolution happening among them and inherited a lot of wealth having own think tanks and institutions. The consequence of this has been a faster upgradation of rights for women, blacks in america ,civil rights among others. In India and other places, being at the receiving end of colonialism followed by lack of wealth has meant the right has been haphazard. Every society has its dissenters even within an ideological group. So even of many conservatives among muslims ,Hindus and others, there might have existed many people who might have wanted to close the gap between maintaining some sense of belief and tradition while updating on social and scientific progress. I think it is harder to achieve that without sufficient wealth. Question is, in presence of wealth, could one have ended up with better response or it would have led to more entrenched dogmas. And I am not talking of oil wealth like saudis. Wealth can help ease the strains of change . Hinduism being polytheistic, I think there might have been a more robust positive intellectual development in the right had there been wealth, I think this is true for Islam as well. So the progress in India and in muslims countries was perhaps harder and even more heroic than it did in the west. I think our knowledge of non western conservatism largely comes mediated through academic left or journalism and I am worried about gellmann amnesia effect.

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9 Replies to “Effect of wealth on conservatism in colonized societies and in the west.”

  1. What exactly is conservatism in the subcontinental context? Not sure it exists outside of some eccentric niches. The swatantra party had a neoliberal vibe. Both the BJP and Congress are avid about the expansion of the centre’s influence. Maybe the ethno-regional parties are the conservatives; anti-centre, status-quoist on caste, language preservation, and feudal nostalgia.

    1. It gets confusing because classical liberals and social conservatives are in one party in the US. For the subcontinent, the prior are generally more affiliated with BJP, among those parties that actually matter anyway. Yes, in an American context, the BJP is still economically far left; however, the land and labor reforms that BJP is attempting to undertake still put it to the right of Congress, an elitist socialist bastion of nepotism. In a sense, the BJP is quite similar to the American Right, with the religious majority Right and the economic right wingers united. However, compared to their American counterparts, the latter are relatively either fewer in number, less loud, or both. I definitely agree with your assertion that the truest of the social conservatives, just by the nature of the definition, tend to be found among regional parties.

  2. Its laughable that BJP is not being considered an economic conservative party. Both the terms of Modi and Vajpayee had economic reforms (at times at the cost of their political capital, and Vajpayee losing) which on average far surpasses Congress on reforms. While MMS who’s 2 terms consisted a big fat zero on economic reforms, is considered an economic reformer by Indian intellectuals.

    Even more laughable is idea that ethno reginal parties are conservative. They spend even higher than the 2 main parties, and since the center foots their bills, they run even bigger social spending programs than their economy would allow. All the characters of social conservatives which is being described ( anti-centre, language etc) have nothing to do with regional parties, parties of all hue and color who rule a state and opposing party at the centre showcase similar characteristics.

    Modi during MMS times used both anti centre and regionalism (Gujrati Asmita) to hit out at the Congress centre. Mamta and Left have been using since time immemorial. The same fiery AIDMK (of Jayalalitha) has become a hand maidan of the BJP, while DMK when allied with the Congress, kept silent during the extermination of LTTE in 2009. All Indian parties are “feder-list” when not in power, “good state-center relationship” when in power.

    1. saurav, thats all wildly reductionist, unsurprisingly. India doesn’t have a strong tradition of property rights such that neoliberal reforms restore the traditional order. You’ve conflated conservatism with market reform. Even so, while I don’t disagree that Modi-Shah are more sincere in economic liberalization (get it “liberal”?), they are characteristic of their specific wing of the BJP, and in accord with the mercantile sensibilities of their home state.
      What is clear is, both congress and BJP are nationalist parties, and the project of national integration is a progressive one, no less if the goal is a hindu republic. Also, as many have commented before, BJP is quite progressive on the matter of dissolution of caste, and nothing is more descriptive of the traditional indian social order than the phenomena of caste. They are the party of the aspirational urban professional classes, much like the democratic party in the US, and their success has been in broadening their base to include backward castes with angst around landlord elites.

      1. I disagree that BJP’s economic outlook has to with a specific wing in party being in power. Even in the most populist socialist terms the BJP will always be at the right of the Congress (which by default means right to all other parties), we have seen 2 different generation being in power now and both of them have followed market liberalization. BJP will always do the bare minimum in the socialist front ( so as to not lose to farmers etc) , but its main thrust will be right of centre economics (as much as India would allow) . There is a reason why market economists who hate BJP/Modi to core (Rajan etc) have higher hopes from Modi on reforms then they had from their own team (Congress/MMS) . On the other analysis i agree with u Girmit.

        Its a sad day that SAD-BJP had to part ways. I always felt the partnership had the chance of fostering a closer Sikh-Hindu relationship. But i wouldn’t go far as to say it will open a front for Khalistanis and all. Both the SAD and BJP have seen the dark days of 80s and 90s and will be circumspect to take the battle on the religious front, lest it opens a pandora box which they wouldnt be able to close.

  3. What wealth does it creates choices and even if some set of ideas like say helping the downtrodden from privilege were, such groups are possible only due to wealth. Without wealth there would be less diversity. The huge period of congress regime went unchallenged due to lack of options which was in part due to lack of wealth. The traditional educated elite even among muslims who were say poets etc would have had a choice and impact on their societies perhaps with such options available. I wonder of various forms of conservatism and its negotiation with modernity. From china ,Japan ,korea , India ,afghanistan ,Africa, south america. Swatantra party is a good example. It was correct on economic issues, but people were fighting ghosts of british long after they are gone. Also thailand, it developed while still having monarchy.

  4. @girmit

    Can you please answer my Khalistan inquiry? Seems like the Jatt Sikh ethnonationalist movement may gain traction with the current unrest around the farm laws? You seem to have special knowledge about the political underpinnings and non Hindu Birdari group Punjabi racialist undercurrents of the Khalistan movement.

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