Ramachandra Guha’s article, “In Absentia: Where are India’s conservative intellectuals?” in “The Caravan” magazine published on 1 March 2015, as a brief intellectual history of India since independence, is much more significant in many other ways as a barometer of the current state of Indian culture than what the author identifies as the paradox: The lack of conservative intellectuals in India while having a conservative government in power.
I discussed the issue of this paradox in an earlier article: How To Resolve Ramachandra Guha’s Paradox About Lack of Conservative Intellectuals in India? In that article, I did not consider the validation or otherwise of Guha’s classification of intellectuals in three categories as liberals, conservatives, and socialists. I just tried to explore the reasons that Guha articulated in his column for the absence of many conservative intellectuals in India, and whenever I found his reasons to be wanting in its explanation, I offered my own reasons. In other words, I implicitly accepted his classification of intellectuals in three categories, but I am going to contest that classification itself in this article.
Apart from that paradox, there are many other ideas of political theory and political philosophy implicit in this article, which Guha takes for granted. If those ideas are explicitly stated, it would be clear why they are much more significant than the paradox. The truth or falsehood of those ideas will have a bearing on Indian culture and its future course. As the culture is a complex battleground of different ideas, the resilience of a culture is determined by the kind of ideas that are offered as alternatives to people at every stage of its development, I consider this analysis to be of utmost importance.
I will confine myself to one such issue in this article: His classification of intellectuals in three categories, and the underlying political philosophical ideas that might have led him to put forward such a formulation, and its significance. In subsequent articles, I will discuss other issues.
Ramachandra Guha as an Intellectual:
Before moving further, I want to state at the outset that I admire Ramachandra Guha as an intellectual for some of his ideas about India as a nation and its culture. He is the only intellectual from the left, to my knowledge, who has admitted, albeit implicitly, that the economic reforms of 1991 undertaken by the then Prime Minister of India, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao and his Finance Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh have benefited India to a great extent.
There are some starting points for a dialogue on many issues, say, Maoist insurgency, the so-called conservation movements, secularism, etc., from which a discussion may be possible between me and Guha. We may disagree on various aspects of these issues, but at least some kind of discussion or a dialogue is possible on these issues concerning India’s development, its culture and the ideas that are dominant today and India’s future prospects as a nation. As an example, I would suggest his very good article “A fifty-fifty democracy – Seven threats to freedom of expression” written in defense of Individual freedom, which can serve as a starting point for a discussion about political freedom and its corollary economic freedom.
But, I am not sure that I can have such discussion with other intellectuals from the left or even from the right! It does not mean that I am afraid of having discussion with people having different ideas than me. I can have discussion with anybody on any issues provided we agree on two basic principles that are sacrosanct for any intellectual discussion: The use or threat to the use of force or any attempt to invoke one’s emotion (or even anybody’s emotion) on any issue for consideration to resolve intellectuals issues is barred. Reason is the only method of resolving disputes. In discussing any issue, one must remember that an attempt to invoke the majority will or opinion for or against an issue is also a form of threat, an indirect threat, to the use of force. In fact, intellectual discussion implicitly takes these two issues for granted; otherwise, no intellectual discussion would be possible, but many people forget this.
Karl Mannheim and his Sociology:
Coming to this article, I am going to explore the significance of only one point in his article that of Guha accepting Karl Mannheim’s classification of three major political orientations in the modern world, namely “liberalism,” “conservatism,” and “socialism.”
Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) is “a Hungarian-born sociologist, influential in the first half of the 20th century and one of the founding fathers of classical sociology as well as a founder of the sociology of knowledge” – Source Wikipedia.
There are many political philosophical principles involved here that would need a deeper and wider discussion. A few questions come immediately to my mind, which needed answers before moving to consider their significance: Are there only three “political orientations” possible in the modern world? Must any intellectual identify himself as one of these types? Or to put it more explicitly, are there no other type of intellectuals possible in this modern world?
To this end, let us consider the way Guha defines these political orientations and the basic philosophic principles that might have led him to select these three orientations.
Liberalism, Conservatism, and Socialism:
I am quoting from Guha’s article of how he defines these three orientations: “Mannheim argued that liberalism was a rationalist response to the religious fervour of the late Middle Ages. It sought a “dynamic middle course” between feudal oppression and the “vindictiveness of oppressed strata” that religiously oriented rebels represented. As a philosophy of social action, liberalism is future-oriented, seeking progress in human evolution.
The conservative critique of liberalism is that it lacks concreteness. Conservatives focus not on possible futures but on life as it is actually lived. Mannheim wrote that “For conservatism, everything that exists has a positive and nominal value merely because it has come into existence slowly and gradually.” Consequently, “not only is attention turned to the past and the attempt made to rescue it from oblivion, but the presentness and immediacy of the whole past becomes an actual experience.
As for socialism, like liberalism, it works towards and looks forward to a future where freedom and equality have been established. But whereas liberalism’s orientation is gradualistic, socialism actively seeks the breakdown of the capitalist order. And while liberalism is resolutely anti-utopian, many socialists believe that they can construct a perfect society in the future.”
Individualism Versus Collectivism:
There are many shortcomings, errors, misrepresentation of ideas, and plain lack of knowledge of history or deliberate distortion of history behind these formulations.
If one carefully goes over the formulation of these “political orientations,” one would observe a kind of collectivist idea as its underlying principle. The principle of individualism has been excluded by implication as a possible fundamental philosophic principle to serve as a basis for identification of political orientations.
If one goes further deep into the works of Mannheim, beyond what Guha quotes him in this article, this would become much clearer. I will return to this in a short while.
As for the formulation of the idea of a conservative, I doubt that conservatives would accept his formulation that everything that exists has a positive and nominal value merely because it has come into existence slowly and gradually. They claim only that certain values from the past are worthy for the life of a human being and therefore valuable for preservation.
Classical Liberalism of 19th Century – John Locke, Adam Smith, and Jean-Baptiste Say:
In the definition of liberalism by Mannheim, the absence of any mention of the idea of individual freedom, free market and free trade is very conspicuous. Classical Liberalism as a political philosophy was first developed by John Locke (1632-1704) through his work “Two Treatises of Government,” (read in Wikipedia) in which he developed the basic ideas of organizing a society through the principles of individual rights such as the right to life, liberty, and property.
Later on Adam Smith (1723-1790) based on these ideas developed most of the basic principles of political economy as a new discipline through his work “An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” (read in Wikipedia) in which he expounded the basic idea of how individual self-interest leads to the overall prosperity of society through this famous sentence: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.”
Following him, Jean-Baptiste Say (1767- 1832) developed another basic tenet of political economy, the famous “Say’s Law of Market,” which essentially means that production is the source of demand, the production of one commodity or service is the source of demand for some other commodities or services and that money plays only an intermediate role in the market. Most people still misunderstand or misinterpret it as “supply creates its own demand,” which is not exactly correct.
How did Mannheim not know any of these works? Did he not know that these above ideas were the cornerstone of 19th century liberalism? Did he not know that these were the ideas that led to the progress of Western civilization in every sphere of human life on earth in the 19th century? Why did he, omitting these ideas, define liberalism based on the dialectic ideas of Hegel and Marx?
I would like to remind Guha that any attempt to define liberalism of 18th and 19th centuries without considering the ideas of individual freedom, free trade, and free market as expounded by John Locke and Adam Smith’s and Jean-Baptiste Say and others would be as absurd as talking about the development of revolutionary ideas in physics without considering the ideas developed by Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton.
Dialectical Materialism of Karl Marx or Sociology of Karl Mannheim:
Why Guha, a leftist intellectual, chose Karl Mannheim to define the political orientations needed to analyze the intellectual history of India? Why not Karl Marx and his dialectical materialism? Because he calls himself a “lapsed Markist!?” I will come to this point later in this article.
I am quoting from “Mannheim’s Sociology of Political Knowledge.” “Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge targeted a specific theoretical enemy: the idea of the existence of a universal and ahistorical reason in which all human beings partake and through which we are able to reach definite and objective truths about history and society. This type of thinking, Mannheim held, was typical of the liberal thought style dating back to the era of the Enlightenment.”
Before analyzing this idea, let us brush up our knowledge of Enlightenment. “The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment, or Age of Reason) is an era from the 1650s to the 1780s in which cultural and intellectual forces in Western Europe emphasized reason, analysis, and individualism rather than traditional lines of authority.” Wikipedia.
According to Mannheim, therefore, “the era of the Enlightenment” was an era of evil force let loose on the world! So he formulated a theory to banish reason as a means of gaining knowledge. What is reason? Reason is the faculty of the individual, the faculty that integrates all of human knowledge by a process of logic, logic being the method of using reason. Now, Mannheim would never dare make an attempt to try to openly and explicitly eliminate reason as a form of gaining knowledge and as a means of communication of that knowledge among men; no one has attempted to do that since Enlightenment. But by means of stealth, many have attempted that, and that was what Mannheim also did. How is he going to achieve his goal?
When an individual is asked to identify himself with a group, the first thing he will loss is his individual identity. His reasoning ability is the source of his identity. If whenever your mind needs to question some type of conduct of members when they does not make sense, if you identify any irrational behavior among some members of the group, if you are asked to compromise with that then it would mean that you do not possess an individual identity, then if you come to accept it, it would mean the elimination of inquiring mind, an active mind, and it would finally lead to the elimination of reason as a form of communication. This is what would be called group identity.
If you think that I am exaggerating, or that I have made undue deductions which are not implicit in his statement, I ask you consider the following from that article: “Mannheim’s contributions to political theory do not consist of pioneering analyses of key political concepts such as equality, justice, freedom, power, and participation. His achievements in this regard are to be located on another, more abstract level (italics mine): they arise, first and foremost, from his realization that “there are modes of thought (italics mine) which cannot be adequately understood as long as their social origins are obscured (italics mine).”
Before moving further, I wanted to ask some questions of Mannheim. What are the concepts that he refers as being “more abstract level” then equality, justice, freedom, power, and participation? If there are “modes of thought,” which cannot be understood as long as their social origins are obscured, then why he dose not evaluate the relevance of such modes of thought to the context on hand? What if the social origin goes back to hundreds of years, which would ultimately make it impossible to find out?
The answer to these questions would become clear immediately on further reading: “Philosophy…may look at this matter differently; but from the point of view of the social sciences, every historical, ideological, sociological piece of knowledge…is clearly rooted in and carried by the desire for power (italics mine) and recognition of particular social groups who want to make their interpretation of the world the universal one.”
Philosophy, which is seeker of wisdom, “may look at this matter differently,” but for Mannheim, it is of no concern. What was he after then, if not wisdom? Desire for power! This was the motive of all collectivist going back to millennia, and Mannheim is no exception to this rule. Since his purpose became clear, I have lost interest in reading further.
At this time, it occurred to me as if I am reading some Marxist propaganda material rather than the work of an intellectual interested in ideas, who with an active mind groping in the dark realm of Marxist dialectics, trying to find the truthfulness or falsehood of ideas and their relevance to man.
On further search of more work of Karl Mannheim, I came across this article: Marxist Sociology, and I am quoting from that article: “The notion of ideology provided the central theme in the work of Karl Mannheim, who envisioned his task as the elaboration of a general sociology of knowledge from Marx’s one-sided criticism of bourgeois ideologies, as a means of understanding the ideological and political conflicts of the twentieth century.”
Do I need to say anything further? Now, I have become a skeptic of the claim made by Guha in his twitter account that he is a “lapsed Marxist.” He very well remains a Marxist still despite his reluctance or his inability to defend Karl Marx.
From Karl Marx to Karl Mannheim:
Now, let us come back to the question of why Guha chose Mannheim for defining political orientations instead of Karl Marx: After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which triggered the collapse of communist countries of Eastern Europe, and ultimately the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991, Karl Marx began to lost favor among the leftist intellectuals. Instead of questioning why Communism failed, and to find the basic answers that resulted in such a failure, the intellectuals have now picked up another collectivist like Karl Mannheim to defend their failed ideologies in an attempt preserve the same collectivist ideas in the guise of a new theory.
No further reading or analyzing Mannheim was necessary either, because, after discussing Mannheim on “three major political orientations in the modern world,” Guha drops him and picks up another author, Roger Scruton, for a “more recent work,” implying as if a more recent work (2014) would fit the context of the present inquiry rather than older works (1936)! Then, how come “modes of thought” whose origin goes back to hundreds of years, and which are obscured, can be made to fit into any current context? Your guess is as good as mine!
I hope by now it would be quite clear to everyone why Guha and Mannheim have blanked out the ideas individual freedom and individual right as a means of deciding political orientations. Reason as a means of gaining knowledge and applying that knowledge to lead one’s life on earth is not a value to them. If reason is banished from political discourse somehow, riding on the bandwagon of another mystic and collectivist like Mannheim, the leftists hope that they can devise a grand new strategy to replace the collectivist utopia developed by Marx that has failed miserably.
Socialism and Capitalism:
Now, coming to the third “political orientation,” of Socialism, which according to Mannheim, actively seeks the breakdown of the capitalist order. Why should capitalist order be broken up? What was evil about Capitalism? How socialism going to eradicate any type of evil they date to attribute to capitalism?” Blank out! One sweeping statement about two types of social organizations by implication wipes out the achievement of western civilization and the progress it has made with the aid of capitalism in every aspect of human life over a brief span of less than 100 years!
“Socialism actively seeks the breakdown of the capitalist order.” This one statement of Mannheim, without offering any justification, would disqualify him, and as a consequence Guha, to their title of intellectual. Even the title of “ideologue of socialism,” which they may try to claim instead, would not apply to them, but only the title of a provocateur as per Guha’s terms. Don’t take my word for it! Read further on, and you would be able to make your own decision about my statement on the intellectual pretensions of Mannheim and Guha.
The capitalist order has been marked as irrelevant even without defining what capitalism is, analyzing how it performed in the past compared to other social systems like feudalism. He takes for granted that capitalism is evil and therefore has become outdated. If someone from the general public had exhibited such an attitude towards capitalism, I would have understood that, but coming from the so called intellectuals like Guha and Mannheim, this is disgusting to say the least. At least, they could have written a few sentences why they thought that capitalism was evil and had thus become so irrelevant.
What was the performance of Socialism compared to Capitalism?
Socialism has been a failure in every country where it has been tried since the 1927 so called Russian Revolution (in fact, it was a putsch). The USSR never promised to be a success story from its inception. Neither was China, which turned communist country in 1949.
Socialism may have been established by force in USSR, China, and in many East European countries, or it might have been established by vote (like suicide) in many Western European countries, but the results have always remained the same: Disaster for every country that has come under Socialism! See where England is now when compared to where it was in the early nineteenth century!
Even in the 1970s (after 50 years of “dictatorship of proletariat), the USSR was struggling to feed its population in spite of having in its possession some of the most fertile lands of the world in Siberia and Ukraine. This was in spite of forced collectivization of agriculture by Stalin with planned starvation and death of millions of its people. And it was importing wheat from USA (a “capitalist” country), which country the Soviets were claiming “to destroy without wasting one bullet!” Alas! It was the Soviet Union which had to suffer that fate!
Soviet Union was never any great power in its entire history except in military and space technology (which was to serve as an adjacent to military)!
As for the comparative performance of socialist and capitalist countries, the existential difference between East Berlin and West Berlin at that time, and the present difference between North Korea and South Korea is an example for everyone to see and understand the value of each system with human life as a standard of measure – if they have any active mind – like a laboratory experiment for that purpose.
Even in China, which was another example of full-fledged socialistic experiment like USSR, only after the economic reforms of 1978 by Deng Xiaoping, when the country moved away from the leftist ideology and adopted some principles of capitalist ideology, did it begin showing the promise of becoming a developed country.
I recently read an article “THE AGE OF COMMUNISM LIVES” which raised many questions why the world (particularly the intellectuals) has been indifferent to the atrocities of socialism and communism. I am quoting from that article because Mannheim and Guha should have given an answer to the questions raised by this author before writing this sentence, “Socialism actively seeks the breakdown of the capitalist order.”
“Alexander Yakovlev, Gorbachev’s right-hand man, who examined the archives for the last Soviet leader and who came away a deeply changed and heroic man, let us know that 60 million were slain in the Soviet Union alone. The Chinese author Jung Chang, who had access to scores of Mao Zedong’s collaborators and to the detailed Russian and local archives, reached the figure of 70 million Chinese lives snuffed out by Mao’s deliberate choices. If we count those dead of starvation from the communist ability and desire to experiment with human interaction in agriculture—20 million to 40 million in three years—we may add scores of millions more.
The communist Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot, who was educated in France and taught his politics by French communist intellectuals, butchered one-fifth to one-fourth of the entire Cambodian population. That would be as if an American regime had murdered some 50 to 70 million of its people. In each and every communist regime, countless people were shot and died by deliberate exposure, starved and murdered in work camps and prisons meant to extract every last fiber of labor before they die.
No cause ever in the history of all mankind has produced more slaughtered innocents and more orphans than communism. It was a system of production that surpassed all others in turning out the dead………………. The communist holocaust, like the Nazi, should have brought forth a flowering of Western art, witness, sympathy, and an ocean of tears, and then a celebration at its downfall. Instead, it has called forth a glacier of indifference.
Kids who in the 1960s hung portraits of Lenin, Mao, and Che on their college walls—the moral equivalent of having hung portraits of Hitler, Goebbels, or Horst Wessel in one’s dorm—came to teach our children about the moral superiority of their generation. Every historical textbook lingers on the crimes of Nazism—rightly so—seeks their root causes, draws a lesson from them, and everybody knows the number six million.
By contrast, the same textbooks remain silent about the catastrophe of communism, everywhere it held or holds power. Ask any college freshman—try it if you don’t believe me— how many died under Stalin’s regime and they will answer even now, “Thousands? Tens of thousands?” It is the equivalent of believing that Hitler killed hundreds of Jews.”
How has Socialism performed in India? Even after 67 years of socialist rule, India is still reeling under poverty. I still remember reading in newspapers in the 1970s, Indira Gandhi, during one of her Independence day speeches, making a promise to provide clean drinking water to every village of India very soon! I remember literally laughing at her while reading that news at that time. Her program of Garibi Hatao desh bachavo”‘(Meaning “Abolish Poverty rescue the country)” was one of the greatest jokes on the gullible public of India by her with the active support of India’s Intellectuals!
Watch this wonderful video about Socialism : Heaven on Earth The Rise and Fall of Socialism:
Why Intellectuals Still Cling to Socialism?
In such circumstances, how can intellectuals like Guha continue to cling to such a disastrous ideology, disastrous to the entire population wherever it has been tried, except perhaps 1% elites of socialism? This remains a mystery for me and the answer to this question eludes me, and I hope Guha can give some clue to an answer to this question!
Achievements of Capitalism:
Now, consider the performance of Capitalism. Unlike fully socialistic countries such as USSR and China, no fully free economy has been established in any country based on completely free trade and free market principle. But, the degree of freedom of any country resulted in a corresponding degree of progress of that country, and America the freest, achieved the most.
The United States America in the first 100 years of existence came very close to being a laissez-faire capitalist economy. But, after the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, and Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, USA started slowly moving away from being a country of free market and free trade towards a mixed economy, a mixture of freedom and control.
Various other countries, particularly Western Europe, and Japan after the Second World War, and some other Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan made enormous progress, and some of them have become developed countries, while the Asian Tigers are fast approaching to achieve that status, but India still remains a developing country.
For the benefit of Guha, I would like to suggest that for a better understanding of the principle of capitalism he read “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” which contains a collection of essays on the moral aspect of Capitalism and about some common policies about capitalism. I also suggest that he read two article in the appendix “Man’s Rights” and ” The Nature of Government” for the fundamental political philosophic principles on which the idea of laissez-faire capitalism is founded. It would be still better for Guha that he try to understand the moral and ethical principles on which the political theory of laissez-faire capitalism. For this, I would advise him to read, “The Virtue of Selfishness.”
Roger Scruton and His Conservatism:
Some of the ideas of classical liberalism that I explained above, which Guha could have studied in college, might be still lingering somewhat in the periphery of his mind, which he could not get rid of completely. This probably could have prevented Guha from accepting wholeheartedly the anti-enlightenment ideas of Mannheim. Or, he had his own doubts and uncertainty about defending his ideas completely. In any case, he dropped Mannheim and picked up Roger Scruton (born 1944) and his ideas of conservatism as a basis for his analysis about Indian conservatives.
Scruton thinks that “reason and law rather than faith or religion should guide public affairs,” which is a very good idea to start with. I am quoting Guha: Scruton thinks conservatives should accept and endorse the fundamental premise of post-Enlightenment (I hope not anti-enlightenment like Mannheim) thought: “the radical distinction between religious and political order, and the need to build the art of government without depending on the law of God.” What he speaks of obviously is secularism, the separation of religion and state, which again is an acceptable and enlightened idea of state.
But, while moving further on, Scruton, without considering the ideas of individual rights and individual freedom, begins to talk about the necessity of acquiring and affirming a first-person plural—a place, a community and a way of life that is ‘ours’ without any religious base. His advice to conservatives, “Whereas conservatives, unlike atheist socialists or scientistic liberals, respect the role of religion in providing “peace, hope and consolation,” they “must concede to others the right to be different” in the god or gods they worship,” again affirms the principle of secularism.
Guha thinks that there will be problem in applying Scruton’s ideas to India as Indian conservatives organizations like RSS believed that “nationhood is intricately bound up with religious affiliation.” I think that this was an excuse rather than the real reason for the failure of Indian leadership to establish a secular state immediately after independence. Nehru was focused on establishing a socialistic state in India than a Secular state to placate the Muslim community rather than any perceived opposition from the Hindu organizations like RSS. The services of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel could have been used to achieve uniform civil code along with identifying secularism as the guiding principle of the constitution. I have to do more research on this topic in order to deal with this subject more clearly later in another article.
More About Political Orientations:
Let me revisit the question that I raised at the beginning of the article: Are there only three types of “political orientations” possible in the modern world?
Guha himself later in his article adds another political orientation, that of Marxism. Since I do not see much difference between a socialist or a Marxist, this is not a problem for me. But, Guha (or Karl Mannheim) has to explain a lot why this term was not introduced at the beginning.
On my part, I would like to add my own political orientation of Capitalism to Guha’s ( and Karl Mannheim’s) list. They would object to this since as per their idea, capitalist order has to be broken down. But, since his article is based on his claim to be an intellectual, he would have to answer many questions that I raised earlier in my article regarding capitalism before deciding against considering Capitalism as another political orientation that is relevant to the modern world.
How would Guha classify the political orientation of Jagdish Bhagwati? According to Guha, Bhagwati “despite his long-standing and consistent orientation towards market liberalization remains committed to religious and social pluralism.” This would mean that Bhagwati is a conservative in economic realm and liberal in political realm.
I would not be surprised if the reader becomes skeptic and begins to question the methodology used by Guha (and Mannheim) for the classification of political orientation. The relevance of their classification to the intellectual concerns of the modern world is highly doubtful.
I again want to reiterate my point that I cannot identify myself in any one of the three (or four if Marxism is added, or five if another political orientation of how Bhagwati is classified). I will call myself as a radical for laissez-faire capitalism. Since most of the people do not have any decent idea of what capitalism is, I am defining it here for the purpose of whoever wants to know this unknown ideal:
“Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.” Ayn Rand: “What is Capitalism?” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
Philosophic Foundation of Political Orientations:
Politics is the science that studies the relationship among men and it defines the fundamental principles of a proper social system. Any political theory, and any political orientation of individuals, will obviously be based on some fundamental view of man and his knowledge, either implicitly or explicitly.
The concept of liberalism that is usually understood and followed now has lost its original meaning as formulated by John Locke. Instead of supporting liberty and free market ideas, today’s liberals are clamoring for the involvement of the government in every field of human life, issue by issue, without explicitly proclaiming that their basic idea is that of statism, and that it would ultimately lead to the abolishment of individual liberty and free trade and free market principle and the establishment of dictatorship.
The concepts of conservatism and liberalism are elastic concepts which could be stretched to mean anything. The reason for this is that the fundamental nature of the philosophical ideas implicit in these concepts is based on some misconception of the nature of man and his life – a false dichotomy about the nature of man – the Soul-Body Dichotomy (See Below).
The method of crudely identifying individuals as materialists and spiritualists, and even philosophies which are designated essentially as materialism and spiritualism are the result of such a false dichotomy. These two types of men can be called as “Mystics of Spirit” and “Mystic of Muscles.”
“Man was cut man in two, setting one half against the other. They have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies engaged in deadly conflict, two antagonists of opposite natures, contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to injure the other, that his soul belongs to a supernatural realm, but his body is an evil prison holding it in bondage to this earth—and that the good is to defeat his body, to undermine it by years of patient struggle, digging his way to that glorious jail-break which leads into the freedom of the grave.
“It is taught that man is a hopeless misfit made of two elements, both symbols of death. A body without a soul is a corpse, a soul without a body is a ghost—yet such is their image of man’s nature: the battleground of a struggle between a corpse and a ghost, a corpse endowed with some evil volition of its own and a ghost endowed with the knowledge that everything known to man is non-existent, that only the unknowable exists.
Do you observe what human faculty that doctrine was designed to ignore? It was man’s mind that had to be negated in order to make him fall apart. Once he surrendered reason, he was left at the mercy of two monsters whom he could not fathom or control: of a body moved by unaccountable instincts and of a soul moved by mystic revelations—he was left as the passively ravaged victim of a battle between a robot and a dictaphone.” Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged.
“As products of the split between man’s soul and body, there are two kinds of teachers of the Morality of Death: the mystics of spirit and the mystics of muscle, whom you call the spiritualists and the materialists, those who believe in consciousness without existence and those who believe in existence without consciousness. Both demand the surrender of your mind, one to their revelations, the other to their reflexes. No matter how loudly they posture in the roles of irreconcilable antagonists, their moral codes are alike, and so are their aims: in matter—the enslavement of man’s body, in spirit—the destruction of his mind.
The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive—a definition that invalidates man’s consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence. The good, say the mystics of muscle, is Society—a thing which they define as an organism that possesses no physical form, a super-being embodied in no one in particular and everyone in general except yourself. Man’s mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God. Man’s mind, say the mystics of muscle, must be subordinated to the will of Society. Man’s standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man’s power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith. Man’s standard of value, say the mystics of muscle, is the pleasure of Society, whose standards are beyond man’s right of judgment and must be obeyed as a primary absolute. The purpose of man’s life, say both, is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question. His reward, say the mystics of spirit, will be given to him beyond the grave. His reward, say the mystics of muscle, will be given on earth—to his great-grandchildren.
Selfishness—say both—is man’s evil. Man’s good—say both—is to give up his personal desires, to deny himself, renounce himself, surrender; man’s good is to negate the life he lives. Sacrifice—cry both—is the essence of morality, the highest virtue within man’s reach.” Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged.
The application of this philosophical false dichotomy in the field of politics leads the political orientations that are defined as “Conservatism and liberalism.”
Both hold the same premise—the mind-body dichotomy—but choose opposite sides of this lethal fallacy.
The conservatives want freedom to act in the material realm; they tend to oppose government control of production, of industry, of trade, of business, of physical goods, of material wealth. But they advocate government control of man’s spirit, i.e., man’s consciousness; they advocate the State’s right to impose censorship, to determine moral values, to create and enforce a governmental establishment of morality, to rule the intellect. The liberals want freedom to act in the spiritual realm; they oppose censorship, they oppose government control of ideas, of the arts, of the press, of education (note their concern with “academic freedom”). But they advocate government control of material production, of business, of employment, of wages, of profits, of all physical property—they advocate it all the way down to total expropriation.
The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories—with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe—but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread.
Yet it is the conservatives who are predominantly religionists, who proclaim the superiority of the soul over the body, who represent what I call the “mystics of spirit.” And it is the liberals who are predominantly materialists, who regard man as an aggregate of meat, and who represent what I call the “mystics of muscle.”
This is merely a paradox, not a contradiction: each camp wants to control the realm it regards as metaphysically important; each grants freedom only to the activities it despises. Observe that the conservatives insult and demean the rich or those who succeed in material production, regarding them as morally inferior—and that the liberals treat ideas as a cynical con game. “Control,” to both camps, means the power to rule by physical force. Neither camp holds freedom as a value. The conservatives want to rule man’s consciousness; the liberals, his body.” Ayn Rand in Philosophy: Who Needs It?
But, what about the idea of socialism and where do socialists fits into this description? As with the difference between communists and socialists, who profess the same ideal but differ only over the method of achieving their ideals, so is the difference between liberals (not 19th century liberalism) and socialists and communists. Liberals, socialist, and communists should be properly called “Mystic of Muscles,” albeit in varying degrees.
Is this article of Ramachandra Guha’s the work of an Intellectual or an Ideologue?
In summary, the article by Ramachandra Guha looks like the work of an ideologue for socialism rather than the work of an intellectual looking and searching for the right ideas of political philosophy and political economy that are needed for making India a modern developed nation.
By this article, I lay claim to the idea that laissez-faire capitalism is the ideal social system for India if one wants to see India as a modern industrialized state in which there is opportunity for every citizen to lead the life of a rational human being in any field they choose for their productive career with the state as the protector of individual rights including property rights