b. Modernization of Indian tradition.
Tradition, by which we mean value—themes encompassing the entire social system of Indian society prior to the beginning of modernization, was organized on the principles of hierarchy, holism, continuity and transcendence. These four value-themes were deeply interlocked with other demerits of Indian social structure. Hierarchy was engrained not only in the system of caste and sub-caste stratification but also in the Hindu concepts of human nature, occupational life cycles (ashramas), and moral duties (dharma).
Holism implied a relationship between individual and group in which the former was encompassed by the latter in respect of duties and rights; what had precedence here was community or sangha and not the individual. This assumption of individual by collectivity persisted all along the line of traditional social structure, e.g., family, village community, caste and political territory or nation. Communalism in traditional social system was reinforced through the value system of continuity which in Hinduism was symbolized by principles of karma, transmigration of soul and a cyclical view of change.
The principle of transcendence also posited that legitimating of traditional values could never be challenged on grounds of rationality derived from the non-sacred or profane’ scales of evaluation. It formed a super-concept contributing to integration as well as rationalization of the other value-themes of the tradition.
The organization of tradition based on these value-components could not be called typical only of the Indian society, since at one level similar phenomenon also existed in the traditional West. The divergence between the two traditions, however, arose from their unique social heritage, existential situations and historicity of circumstances.
From this a question follows: will the historicity of modernization in heterogeneous societies and traditions result into their transformation towards a universal and homogeneous form of modernization? This question assumes significance especially for India which has a hoary past and has been the centre of civilizations with great temporal depth.
This temporal depth of civilization in traditional Indian society has relevance not only for analyzing the direction the process of modernization might eventually take through major transformations in the social structure and culture, but it is also important for understanding causality and sequence of events through which modernization has made its impact on the traditional Indian society.
It might reveal also the manner in which initial structural and cultural conditions of modernization in India might contribute to such institutional adaptations which may be universalistic in orientation yet particularistic in form. The form of traditional institutions may remain intact but their substance might undergo major transformations incorporating modernization.
Historically, social structure and tradition in India remained impervious to major elements of modernity until the contact with the West began through colonization. The earlier encounters with Islam only reinforced the tradition since Islam despite being exogenous to the Hindu tradition was basically organized on value-themes which were traditional; ideally, Islam had no place for hierarchical differentiation of individuals within its community of believers; its world-view was messianic-historical in contrast with the Hindu view of continuity; the principle of transcendence in Islam was strictly monotheistic and here too it differed from Hinduism.
The principle of holism which no doubt was present both in Islam and Hinduism also varied in sociological meaning in the two civilizations. In Hinduism, holism implied individual’s social and moral subordination to the group without theocratic implications, so basic in Islam.
Despite these dissimilarities in ideal value-themes of the Hindu and Islamic traditions, there took place a synthesis between them which reinforced the traditional character of Indian society without significant breakdown in its organization.
Islam, in its Persian transformation had already imbibed some elements of hierarchical stratification when it came to India from there, and in the midst of the caste-stratified Hindu society, more so, owing to large-scale conversion to Islam by caste Hindus, Islamic social structure in this country soon developed its own pattern of caste hierarchy.
In political structure too feudal monarchical system followed by the Muslim rulers was not fundamentally different from those of the traditional Hindu rulers, and even where there were variations attempt was made to accommodate Hindu norms of political order through institutional adjustments.
Hindu princes and administrative functionaries held important offices at the courts of Muslim rulers in the North. Consequently, there took place a high degree of cultural as well as institutional syncretism between the two systems without major breakdowns. From the view-point of modernization, therefore, the Islamic contact was more tradition-reinforcing than otherwise.
Social Changes in Traditional India:
It is necessary to draw a distinction between social change and modernization, especially to evaluate changes in the traditional society. In traditional India there were continual instances of social change without implying modernization.
These changes were from one traditional structure to another, without, however, transcending them for a qualitatively distinctive evolutionary differentiation. The changes were initiated both through orthogenetic and heterogenetic causal sources, and related to social structure as well as culture, but these were essentially pre-modern in nature and quality.
The traditional cultural structure comprising the little and Great traditions in India experienced many changes before the beginning of the Western contact. Buddhism and Jainism emerged as protest movements against the Hindu caste system; their growth led to formation of new caste-like seminary groups which later degenerated into castes contributing further to pluralistic tradition.
These movements had their impact also on political and economic structure of the Indian society. Jainism particularly was an urban movement, and both Jainism and Buddhism led to the emergence of new mercantile castes in urban centers.
Orthogenetic movements also formed the bases of Sikhism in north India, of Bhakti movements in north and south India, of Arya Samaj and Brahmo Samaj during the British regime, and finally of the Gandhian movement in the contemporary times that culminated in India’s political independence.
With the partial exception of the Bhakti movements in north India which projected egalitarian values and sought for a synthesis between the Hindu and Muslim traditions, all other movements were either break-away processes to establish parallel Great traditions or reiterated the established Great tradition of Hinduism.
The changes which thus occurred were confined to differentiation within the framework of traditional social structure and values; structural changes were very few, and those which took place were limited in respect of the types of roles. Mention may be made of the priestly roles and monastic organizations which emerged with the rise of Buddhism.
Similar developments in religious role-structures and organizations partially followed the emergence of other traditions. But these changes by no means could be called structural, since differentiation of roles was segmental and did not alter the system as a whole. The role differentiations also had an elitist character since all of them were led by members of the upper class and caste.
Only a few Bhakti movements were an exception, but these were invariably reiterative rather than innovative in significance. None of them had a meaningful impact on political system, the stratification system or the caste order against which they propagated.
The Islamic tradition in India came from a heterogenetic source; it: establishment by conquest introduced a complex emotional variable right from the beginning which has continued through time. Value-themes of Islam were holistic but the principle of hierarchy or caste was not accepted in theory; the idea of continuity was also less pronounced as Islam, like all religions of Semitic origin, was based on the conception of historical time; its value-theme on transcendence too was rooted in the principle of
These contrasts of history and value-themes could not, however, render Islam as a systematic exogenous source for radical trans- formation in the Indian tradition. Despite the apparent dissimilarities, the contact between the Great traditions of Hinduism and Islam was only a contact between two traditional systems.
Large-scale conversions to Islam during the Muslim rule in India might be said to have offered a structural outlet for the deprived Hindu castes for social, economic and cultural mobility. But the extent to which the converts succeeded in it was always limited.
Ashrafs (the four immigrant Muslim groups) generally maintained their social distance from these converts in matters of marriage and kinship ties; they never recognized them as their equals. The caste hierarchy continued within the convert Muslims and in most cases traditional occupations and caste rituals were also maintained.
Yet, it is reasonable to believe that there must have been some advantages; being a Muslim in a political set-up where Muslim kings and chiefs were the
rulers did offer security and other peripheral benefits to these groups.
These facts, however, do not support the view that conversion to Islam was motivated by cultural rigidity of the caste system and its dysfunctions. Both caste and cultural deprivations did largely survive among the converts within the Islamic social structure. A stronger motivation behind conversion, therefore, might have been that of the felt structural deprivations (in terms of new economic opportunities, security and power) rather than cultural deprivation of the caste system.
The spirit behind conversion may not have been merely that of escape but also of innovation. However, the groups which took readily to the Islamic faith were from the lower castes for which psychological appeal of belonging to the ruling community must have been stronger apart from the material benefits they must have anticipated.
The main structural deprivations here were those of power and social status, which Dumont righty characterizes as an equation between ‘power and religion’. In all traditional societies where the system of social stratification is closed and there are no legitimate structural means to climb up in social hierarchy, the change of faith, or of customs and rituals might offer a relatively secure means of gambling for higher status.
This is clearly revealed when we shift our analysis from the Great to the little traditions. These Little traditions as Redfield and Singer have maintained comprise the cultural beliefs and practices held by the folk, through oral tradition and localized adaptations of cultural roles and values of the Great tradition.
Both Hinduism and Islam in India have maintained these little traditions. Plurality of the little traditions was preserved through caste structure and its local cultural expressions especially among the castes of lower and intermediate ranks. These castes, both Hindu and Muslim, formed their own plural traditions and micro-structures.
As we have already mentioned kinship and social ties of castes hardly ever extend beyond the radius of two hundred miles in any part of India; the diversity of languages and communication barriers traditionally delimited the scope of caste interaction. Thus, plural traditions of these castes formed the little traditions in India.
Two important processes of change which have traditionally been active in the little traditions are those of Sanskritization and Islamization. Sanskritization refers to the processes of change from within the Hindu tradition whereas Islamization has been in response to the contact with an external tradition.
Both these processes reflect a tendency among the strongly deprived groups to adapt or change their local traditions in conformity with the normative elements of a Great tradition, whether orthogenetic or hetero- genetic in origin. There is considerable literature on Sanskritization which has grown since the pioneering studies conducted by M.N. Srinivas.
Similar empirical studies on the process of Islamization are, however, lamentably scarce, although both Sanskritization and Islamization are at one point homologous processes. This homology arises from the similarity of structural contexts in which the motivation for these changes comes into being.
An important causal factor here is that of ‘relative deprivation’ of groups and castes in comparison to other groups and castes enjoying better social status; within or outside the tradition, this form a part of the theory of reference group analysis.
Structural Changes and Sanskritization:
Endogenous changes in the cultural tradition of Hinduism were mainly confined to Sanskritization before the beginning of Western contact. Sanskritization took place in two different forms throughout this period; first, as a historical process by collective recognition of lower castes to the ranks of upper castes as a result of their acts of chivalry, rise in economic and power status and political alliances.
In most such cases mobility was legitimized by consensus of the dominant castes and came into being as a historical necessity. Such legitimating to status upgrading was provided by the established higher castes, even by kings through royal decrees, and by other formal means of admittance to a higher rank recognized by the priestly castes.
Here, Sanskritization had a wider historical implication. Although its impact was confined to a region or a sub-region the implicit political and economic relationship in its background gave it a new dimension of importance.
In the second form, Sanskritization has a contextual or local meaning and generally amounts to unilateral attempt of a caste or sub-caste to move upward in hierarchy. Some lower caste groups begin to emulate customs and styles of upper castes in their region, give up some of their own low-rank customs and seek to get recognition for higher caste status within the system.
A major difference in this process from the historical context of Sanskritization is the absence of consensus. Often the opposite of it, that is, resistance by the dominant castes, prevails. Sanskritization in this form is seldom legitimized within the caste system. The maximum empirical cases of Sanskritization refer to this type of change.
Sanskritization in the second, or the contextual form, is a slow and non- spectacular process of cultural mobility of castes. It is devoid of wider political implications which this process follows in the historical sense.
In both forms, however, Sanskritization results from certain developments which may be called the structural pre-requisites of this process.
(1) A change in the self-image of castes or groups followed by higher status aspiration;
(2) Some improvement in social and economic status of these castes (groups) which could render changes in aspiration and self-image viable for making active effort for status mobility;
(3) The closure of stratification system in respect of other avenues (social roles, occupations, economic competition and competition for power status, etc.) except through emulation of customs and cultural styles;
(4) The absence of social and psychological pressures among the aspiring castes to identify upper caste status as negative reference group either due to deeper commitment to ideology of traditional society or force of habit;
(5) The absence of organized opposition from the upper castes to such behavior of the lower castes due to reasons either psychological or structural.
In the light of these pre-requisites which in various combinations are present in all reported cases of Sanskritization, whether historical or contextual, many structural implications of this process can be seen. Sanskritization, might not be a result of lower castes’ greater acceptance of the values of the Great tradition held by the upper castes, but it might be used as the only pragmatic means available to them for status mobility in a closed system of social stratification.
Hence, Sanskritization may often disguise the seedbeds of effective modernization. Sanskritization is psychologically or even structurally, akin to modernization in so far as the motive forces to challenge the deprivations imposed by Great tradition are stronger.
After Independence, with the lower and backward classes having gained political and legal rights to fight out their deprivations not Sanskritization but formation of politically oriented caste associations is the practice.
Sanskritization denotes changes in the cultural and not the structural aspect of tradition and society. It does not, for example, show how role differentiations following urbanization and new occupational innovations, or changes in family structure and power structure (leadership and elite) follow from the inter-linkage of social variables, and how these variables could be explained.
The major analytic orientation in this concept is culturological rather than sociological. However, some social scientists believe that once Sanskritization is evaluated in the framework of reference group theory it could be defined not only culturally but also structurally.
Owen M. Lynch writes:
Under the frame or analysis provided by reference group and status role theories, Sanskritization can be defined not only culturally but also structurally. That is to say, it can be seen as more than a borrowing of status attributes or as more than a change of behaviour of a particular caste, whereby it substitutes the ritual, pantheon, and practices of an upper caste for that which it previously held.
Sanskritization can now be seen as structured relation between groups or castes. Thus a Sanskritizing caste defines the social situation in which its mobility is to occur (reference groups) and thereafter interacts with members of other castes. In such interaction particular statuses are activated (dominant and salient statuses).
Such social action has the intended consequence of a rise in status within the caste hierarchy and an opening of the power and opportunity structure to the members of the Sanskrits tang caste. More often than not, such social action has the unintended consequence of ‘conflict’ or ‘contradiction’. (Italics added.)
The important distinction involved here is between Sanskritization as a concept referring to cultural changes in the internal organization of a particular caste and as a concept relevant to the understanding of structural changes within the caste system.
There is no doubt that reference group theory offers a structural explanation of the cultural process called Sanskritization; it is because being more general, reference group theory has greater explanatory power. But in the analysis of Sanskritization by Lynch there seems to be unfortunate implications that simply by introducing the reference group theory to this nominalistic concept, Sanskritization could be made to explain structural changes in the caste system. The reason for this simplistic assumption in Lynch’s analysis lies in his lack of focus on some other important distinctions that Merton has introduced while formulating his reference group conceptual frame.
(1) The distinction between membership and non-membership groups based on the feeling of relative deprivation of members within a group ;
(2) The process of anticipatory socialization of members willing to renounce their existing membership to a group in favor of some non-membership group; and
(3) The important role of closure or openness of membership of the aspired for non-membership group which would finally define the limit of success or failure of reference group behaviour of the aspirants.
Sanskritization process found in some, castes is more like anticipatory socialization in the hope of status enhancement; but it must be stated that this hope is rarely if ever realized. Lynch’s statement that a Sanskritizing caste defines the social situation in which its mobility is to occur, is very relevant but his conclusion, “and thereafter interacts with members of other castes”, is highly vague. Probably the idea is of the interaction with the higher reference group caste, but again the meaning of interaction is left undefined.
This is particularly misleading as some negative (conflict, litigation) or positive (cooperation, jajmani) forms of interaction are always present among castes forming its social system. The specific context in which ‘interaction’ assumes additional meaning through reference group analysis can only be made by membership non-membership distinction which is not fully explained by Lynch.
The fatavas of Agra whose cases he cites could never be accepted within the membership fold of the upper castes; their interaction with upper (Kshatriya or Brahmin) castes could never be either commensally or connubial, the two most significant and key forms of interactions which define the structure of the caste system.
Consequently, these upper castes have according to Lynch’s own statement become a negative reference group for the fatavas. It la here that the status of caste as- closed group assumes new explanatory significance which Lynch’s analysis fails to pin-point.
In a more comprehensive treatment of the reference group theory as applied to the study of mobility in the caste system Y.B. Damle writes:
The caste system is characterized as a closed system and inclusion into a caste (jati) other than one’s own (by birth) is not normally possible. But the reference group theory sets forth the pre-requisites for positive orientation in an open system, where ultimate inclusion in the non-membership group is possible and often anticipated.
If ultimate inclusion in another caste (jati) is not normally possible by the very nature of the caste system, would positive orientation to a caste other than egos be dysfunctional for the person concerned? The paradox of caste lies in the fact that, although lower caste persons cannot expect to be included in a higher caste (jati), and also because higher caste persons need not fear their inclusion, positive orientation for reference and imitation is permitted and even encouraged.
Anticipatory socialization can thus occur and it has the effect of reducing distance and repulsion between castes even if it does not ensure ultimate absorption or inclusion.
This renders it clear that Sanskritization as a process only refers to changes in cultural attributes of a caste and not to a structural change in its system; the structural factors, however, are highly meaningful; mention may be made of the five structural pre-requisites of Sanskritization we mentioned above.
The most important among these is redefinition of a caste’s self- image following either a change in its economic or political situation. What matters more in such changes is not the actual amount of improvement in status but the perception that a positive change is possible. Once this feeling is there, closure of membership to the aspired for group does not matter as it is adequately compensated by recognition by default of reaction from the upper castes.
However, if the reaction of the upper castes is hostile or is perceived to be so by the lower castes, it is likely that latter (lower castes) would define the former (upper caste status) as a negative reference group, and from this a break-away movement in the caste system would follow. Particular mention may be made of conversion to Islam m the medieval period, to Christianity during the British period, and the current neo-Buddhist movement among the scheduled castes and tribes in India.
Despite these limitations, Sanskritization is an extremely viable concept to understand the changes in the traditional system of Indian society, where the social stratification system was closed and the normative principles were correspondingly hierarchical and holistic; the latter strengthener the former and thus a relatively stable social equilibrium was achieved.
The changes which took place within tradition were seldom contradictor to this system of stratification and the value-themes. On the contrary legitimating was sought for changes and innovations from within these twir structural-normative attributes of the traditional society. Sanskritization connotes the special form that change takes place in the framework of Indian tradition.
Now the question is: What were the forms of structural changes in the traditional Indian society? To analyse such changes we have made a distinction between micro-structures and macro-structures of society. Heuristically, this categorization is attempted on the basis of extension of networks of relationships.
The range of extension of relationships of micro-structure is limited both in terms of territory and choices of activities involved. Its instances are: family, caste and sub-caste, and village community. The caste structure played crucial role in defining the networks of relationship both of the family and community in the traditional society.
Empirical studies suggest that its own boundaries of interaction very rarely outcrosses the limits set by the regional-linguistic and cultural inclusiveness, which in territorial terms extended not beyond two to three hundred miles.
The macro-structures, on the other hand, have an inter-regional and pan-Indian spread of relational networks. Instances of such macro- structures in traditional India were the imperial and feudal political networks, the institutions of banking and commerce and monastic and other religious structures, etc.
An important aspect of structural change in the traditional society was determined by the nature of the relationship which existed between the micro-structures and the macro-structures. These relationships were characterized by a high degree of autonomy; its consequence was that changes and upheavals at macro-structural levels could seldom generate corresponding repercussions at the micro-level of society.
Hence, the spectacular continuity of cultural practices and norms in India despite the steady stream of encroachments to its cultural identity from alien sources. The inter-structural autonomy helped in selective syncretism of new cultural modes, forms of behavior and structure. Innovation at one level could be effected without causing breakdown in the social structure as a whole.
This structural characteristic of traditional Indian society proved to be extremely helpful in its adaptive transformations towards modernization, beginning with the British regime. This attribute of traditional society also set a limit to the nature and direction of structural changes.
These changes were characterized by circular processes: a joint family would become nuclear and then again grow, joint in structure; townships and trading centers would appear and disappear and re-appear; there would be circulation of elite and rulers from among the same class and caste, etc. without major structural transformations.
The changes were, therefore, adaptive rather than structural in the real sense. Fluctuating nature of these changes would be evident from the estimates of India’s population between 300 B.C. and 1845; population during this period fluctuated between 100 and 140 millions. Only after 1855 a rising trend in population seems to have stabilized in India.
The social structure had, thus a ‘fused’ character without much functional differentiation of roles. This was because most innovations were re-interpretative adjustments in structural forms and activities (role-structures) within the traditional principles of legitimating and not alternative evolutionary solutions. This pattern continued even after the first major exogenous impact, that of Islam, on the traditional Hindu social structure.
An Encounter between Two Traditional Systems:
For social change the Islamic influence on India was limited and not conducive to modernization. However, its diffusion gave birth to the emergence of new great and little traditions, although it is not clear to what extent Islam led to innovations in the micro and macro-social structures of Indian society.
Its impact on family, caste and village community was insignificant, and in the macro-structures too it did not set out any basically new forms. Islamic polity and judicial administration were essentially feudal and patrimonial; the legal principles and norms were also hierarchical and did not fully recognize the principles of equality and equity in political and civil rights.
This explains why Islamic impact unlike that of the West failed to contribute to modernization. The cultural changes which the impact of Islam initiated emerged from the growth of Islamic Great tradition on Indian soil. Since Islam established itself in India by conquest some element of force in the spread of this tradition cannot be ruled out, but a more important reason for its growth can be attributed to structural factors which in early Hindu tradition motivated castes towards Sanskritization.
It is revealing that both Sanskritizadon and conversion to Islam or Islamization had been most popular among the lower castes of India. The structural pre-requisites for Islamization too were the re-definition of self-image, frustration from the closure of existing system of stratification and anticipation that conversion would improve social chances; the same factors were active also in Sanskritization.
Important difference, however, was in the reaction of the Hindus to such changes which presumably was of definite hostility and isolation. Islamization at every stage might have meant an active and hostile reaction from the original membership group towards the converts and their complete exclusion from its membership. This was not the case in Sanskritization.
Hence, Islamization also led to some structural changes through continual differentiation and segmentation of new castes who got converted to Islam. As the sub-culture of these Muslim castes even to this day suggests, they did not renounce many of their former rituals and practices.
This led to formation of little traditions of Islam. These traditions were remarkably syncretic and worked out a synthesis between the Hindu and Muslim cultural patterns and beliefs. With formation of little traditions of Islam, Islamization further developed structural similarities with Sanskritization.
The lower caste converts began to strive for the status of Ashrafs (the Muslim upper castes or groups) and a caste of pseudo-Ashrafs emerged. As in Sanskritization, here too the claim for higher status is not recognized by the upper Muslim castes. Such cases of Islamization are widespread and have been reported from different parts of the country.
With the establishment of the British power gradually the relations between Hindu and Muslim groups and traditions began to be politicized. This was sparked off by many factors, such as the emergence of Hindu revivalist movements (e.g. the Arya Samaj professed to reconvert Muslims to Hindu faith), frustration of Muslims with the British, and the beginning of new political movement for national independence which stimulated Muslims to chalk out their own course of action. The result of this politicization was finally the division of India, adding a new dimension to the minority status of the Indian Muslims.
There has now emerged a new awakening among the Muslims to level off the differences of their little traditions and of caste ‘subcultures of the past by encouraging purist conformity with the Great tradition of Islam.
Tabligh movement, for instance, is directly oriented to this goal. Muslim communalism has also become active and forceful in some parts of northern India and Kerala. The process of vertical mobility to new caste status by Islamization is now being replaced by emphasis upon horizontal solidarity of the entire Muslim community.
Thus, we see how Islamization as a cultural process has completed a full cycle in India. It began as a process of external impact and conversion of low caste Hindus to Muslim Great tradition, then it emerged as a process of status mobility within the Islamic social structure very much like Sanskritization, and finally it regained its earlier orthodoxy; sub-cultural frills which ate outside the tradition of Islam are purposely renounced with the view that Muslims must consolidate themselves into an organic whole irrespective of divergent Little traditions (of language, caste and sub-caste and region, etc.,).
This turn in the process of Islamization corresponds with the new movement among the lower Hindu castes to form caste associations and establish horizontal solidarity instead of seeking status mobility within the caste system through Sanskritization.
The causal background for both seems to be structurally identical. It emanates from the realization that in a democratic society power and status mobility would more easily be gained by consolidation of one’s rank and formation of effective power and protest groups rather than by imitating a traditionally defined higher status which is difficult to get and is also becoming rapidly obsolescent in the new social dynamics.
It may well be that latent reasons for such changes both in the Hindu and Islamic cultural tradition are disguised protest movements against the established system of stratification and power.
Attempt is not only towards forming horizontal communal solidarities but also to give them organizational shape of modem corporate groups, based on rational norms, allocation of duties and obligations and rational means of communication and propaganda. This aspect of the movements which may apparently seem to be traditionalizing is highly relevant to our analysis of modernization.
Processes of Modernization:
Modernization in India started mainly with the Western contact, especially through establishment of the British rule. This contact had a special historicity which brought about many far reaching changes in culture and social structure of the Indian society. Not all of them, however, could be called modernizing.
The basic direction of this contact was towards modernization, but in the process a variety of traditional institutions also got reinforcement. This demonstrates the weakness of assuming a neat contrariety between tradition and modernity. This polarity may be more heuristic than real.
However, only after the establishment of British rule in India, modern cultural institutions and forms of social structure were introduced. In this respect the impact of Western tradition fundamentally differed from that of Islam, although both were heterogenetic and both began with political domination and ruler-ship.
The Western tradition at the time of contact had itself undergone fundamental transformations through Industrial Revolution and social reformation. Its traditional principle of hierarchy in stratification represented both by Church and feudalism were shaken; its medieval holism of value system was seriously jeopardized by emergence of Protestantism, and was on the way out.
Its place was now being taken by rational-individualism in economy and society. The basic dynamism to all these processes was impacted by cumulative chain of innovations in science and technology. It was a period of extreme optimism and ever more accelerated rate of social change in the West, particularly Britain.
This social background to a large extent determined the attitude of the British rulers and administrators about modernization in India; another determining factor was their colonial status. With the exception of a handful of Orientalists who were overwhelmed by the textual grandeur of Indian tradition, the majority of British missionaries and administrators were only impressed by contrasts which Indian society presented to their own Western society.
Indian society appeared to them as consisting of discrete plural traditions of castes, sub-castes and tribes devoid of a systematic binding force of a universal nature. The significance of British contribution to modernization mainly lies in the creation of such networks of social structure and culture which were modern and pan-Indian.
Initially, the contact led to growth of a modernizing sub-culture or Little tradition of Westernization, especially during the seventeenth century in Bengal, Madras and Bombay, where a small nucleus of interpreters, trader- cum-middlemen emerged who were slowly being socialized to Western ways; subsequently, there also emerged sects which emphasized assimilation of Western cultural norms, and Western modes of learning (e.g. Brahmo samaj, Prarthana Samaj, etc. ); these also ran a crusade against obscurantism Hindu traditions.
These movements on one hand and the consolidation of the British power towards the middle of the nineteenth century on the other finally led to the institution of a modernizing Great tradition.
Its components were: a universalistic legal system, expansion of Western form of education, urbanization and industrialization, spread of new means of communication and transport and social reforms. Along with these modernization norms structural modernization also took place.
For instance rational bureaucratic systems of administration and judiciary, army, and industrial bureaucracy, new classes of business elite and entrepreneurs came into being. These were accompanied by emergence of political elite and a nationalist leadership by the middle of the nineteenth century.
Growth of industrial entrepreneurship also contributed to the emergence of industrial working class and trade unions organized on corporate lines as in the West. These modernizing structures had a uniform character throughout the country. Their development led; therefore, to articulation of nationalist aspirations in the country which itself was a major step in the growth of modernization.
There was, however, one important feature of Indian modernization during the British period. The growth of this process was selective and segmental. It was not integrated with the micro-structures of Indian society, such as family, caste and village community. At these levels, the British by and large followed a policy of least interference, especially after the rebellion of 1857.
Moreover, some British administrators were wrongly impressed by the staticness and autonomy of these micro-structures compared with the rest of the Indian society. This was especially so about the notion of village community, and importance attributed to caste.
For a long time caste and ethnic factors were given recognition in recruitment of officers to army and middle and lower ranks of bureaucracy. Later, in the twentieth century, as the nationalist movement gathered momentum, a communal electorate system was introduced.
These historical factors have deeply influenced the process of modernization which followed during the post-colonial period. It increased the contingency of traditional institutions and symbolisms to the Indian process of modernization.
This development is fully articulated in the freedom movement and the pace of modernization of Indian society thereafter. Freedom movement ushered in a new political culture of modernization. At its centre was the personality of Mahatma Gandhi whose one foot was always deeply embedded in tradition.
His emergence during the peak of Westernization process in India signifies an orthogenetic response of Indian tradition to the new challenges of social change. Gandhi successfully mobilized Indian people for the attainment of freedom, but he could not, however, avert one serious breakdown in the process . . . the partition of India into two independent nations.
As we mentioned above, it followed from the uneven growth of sub-cultural traditions of modernization in Hinduism and Islam, each conditioned by unique historicity of their own. The quest for a separate nationhood by the Muslim community in India reflected a crisis of aspiration along with that of confidence.
Following Independence, modernization process in India has undergone a basic change from its colonial pattern. As an integral part of developmental strategy now modernization has been envisaged for all levels of cultural and structural systems. Discontinuity in modernization between macro-structures and micro-structures and between the little and Great traditions, as during the British regime, has now been consciously abolished.
Introduction of adult suffrage and a federal parliamentary form of political structure have carried politicization to every sector of social organization.
Conscious legal reforms in Hindu marriage and inheritance laws have deeply affected the foundations of traditional Hindu family structure.
Community Development Projects have carried the cultural norms and role-strictures of modernity to each and every village in India, and this, coupled with introduction of land reforms and elective village panchayats, has initiated villagers to a bureaucratic form of participation in local level management and administration of justice.
Caste has in the process undergone radical tram-formation of roles, developed new functional adaptations and activated aspirations unleashed by democratization of polity and power structure. We have analyzed in detail how caste is increasingly developing an associational character. Now it functions as an important structural network in the process of modernization.
As the process of modernization becomes all encompassing, it also generates inter-structural tensions and conflicts between traditions (past and contemporary). Future course of modernization in India would depend much on the manner in which these tensions are resolved as modernization gathers momentum.
In many developing countries in Asia modernization contributed to a structural and cultural breakdown in society. The cases of China, Indonesia, Burma and Pakistan could be cited. The only successful case of modernization in Asia is that of Japan, but there too its institutionalization has not been without a breakdown following the Second World War.
Institutionalization and Breakdown in Modernization
The questions are: Under what structural or cultural conditions does modernization lead to integrative transformation of society? What are the structural pre-requisites for institutionalization of modernizing changes without breakdown? How far does the Indian case warrant the possibility of institutionalization of modernity or alternatively of structural breakdown in the process?
Answers to these questions are related to the way modernization is conceptualized. Significantly, there is still no unanimity on concepts and evaluative standards of modernization among social scientists, and each approach can be charged with having latent ideological bias.
Sociologists having a Marxist approach to modernization might decry the very concept of ‘breakdown’ as employed by sociologists from the ‘free world’ bloc; for Marxists ‘breakdown’ may be a vulgarized conceptual substitute for ‘revolution’ which is a pre-requisite for modernization in all developing as well as developed capitalist societies. It is, therefore, necessary that we try to evaluate some important theoretical presuppositions of modernization which may have a bearing upon modernization in India.
Most approaches to modernization could be grouped under two broad categories: structural and evolutionary. The structural approach is rather preponderant in social sciences. It seeks to analyze modernization with the help of selected social or normative variables.
Such variables as ‘social mobilization’ growth of ‘communication’, ‘media exposure’; democratic political institutions and values, morals and norms conducive to modernization, technological and economic resources of society, and ‘initial conditions’ of society with respect to the presence of cultural and structural autonomy of parts within the social system, have been taken into consideration.
Modernization is supposed to follow as a result of the presence of these variables in the social system; their intensity and proportion would determine the nature and extent of modernization in specific situations.
Evolutionary approach to modernization, on the other hand, b based on more systematic theoretical assumptions. It treats modernization as an evolutionary stage in the life of human society. There are, however, differences in formation of the process of evolution and its direction.
Its methodological formulation may cither be structural-functional or dialectical; similarly direction of evolution may also be either unilinear or multilinear. A major difference between dialectical (Marxist) and structural-functional evolutionary approaches to modernization is that the former treats ‘breakdown’ in the established political, economic and structural framework of a society as a necessary and inevitable condition for development towards modernization.
Class-struggle and its international form of struggle between the rich and poorer nations are here assumed as necessary processes for such evolutionary achievements. Even modernization as a concept is understood differently, its focus is upon changes in stratification system, system of property ownership and ownership of productive resources in a nation, and not on psychological-normative variables like ‘achievement orientation’, ‘psychic mobility’ and ‘rational hedonism’, etc., common among the treatments of many social scientists. Individual characteristics are here treated as by-products of major aggregates of changes in institutional structure of society and its structure of power and property relationships.
The structural-functional evolutionary treatment of modernization is drawn primarily from an organism analogy where evolution is treated as continuity from the sub-human to human phase and beyond. In an essay on modernization as an ‘evolutionary universal’ of human society, Talcott Parsons writes that such evolutionary changes would engulf all human groups despite their topicalities in other facets of social and cultural organization.
His view assumes that the watershed between sub-human and human does not mark a cessation of the developmental change, but rather a stage in a long process that begins with many pre-human phases and continues through that watershed into our own time, and beyond.
Modernization follows a succession of ‘evolutionary universals’, which are defined as “any organizational development sufficiently important to further evolution that, rather than emerging only once, is likely to be ‘hit upon’ by various systems operating under different conditions”.
An important ‘evolutionary universal’ in the sub-human organic world as a whole is that of vision, and in case of man it is development of hand and brain. In the social realm the sequence of its evolution is set by four pre-requisite universals; these are: communication with language, religion, social organization with kinship, and technology.
These integrated together constitute a set for elemental social organization. On this foundation universals like ‘stratification’, ‘cultural legitimating’, bureaucratic organization, ‘money and the market complex’, ‘generalized universalistic norms’, and finally, the democratic associations develop in a sequential order.
Of these, the last four (bureaucratic organization, money and market complex, the generalized universalistic norms and democratic associations) constitute the structural-normative conditions of a modem society.
Structural breakdown in modernization, according to Parsons’ theory, emerges when, due to historical or other cultural factors, the sequence of evolution is reversed or made uneven or when some of the universals become far too rigid and offer more than normal resistance to further evolution. Such conditions according to a later study by Buck and Jacobson prevail in the Asian nations.
These nations, being ex-colonies, have many evolutionary structures like bureaucracy, democratic associations, and generalized’ universalistic norms introduced into their social structure with- out adequate development of other basic founding universals like communication, technology, stratification and principles of legitimation.
This is true for countries like Indonesia, India, Pakistan and many others m Africa, Latin-America and the Middle East. Particularly about India, Buck and Jacobson’s study reveals higher development in respect of bureaucracy and generalized universalistic norms but very poor growth in spheres of communication, kinship, technology, social stratification and money and market complex.
Thus, value support to, many modern institutions is lacking, and the wholesale transfer of many institutions from the West renders the lag more acute.
There are many assumptions in Parsons’ evolutionary theory of modernization which may not be accepted by other sociologists. For instance, his assertion that democratic association’ is the highest evolutionary stage in the modernization of Indian tradition: analysis process of modernization could be variously interpreted or even refuted both by Marxist and non-Marxist sociologists. Gunnar Myrdal in a recent study on Asian prospect of development and modernization writes:
Yet it may be doubted whether this ideal of political democracy with political power based on free elections and with freedom of assembly, press, and other civil liberties—should be given weight in formulating the modernization ideals.
This is not because the ideal is at present not very fully met, and may not be met in the future: value premises represent merely an angle from which actual conditions are viewed and need not be ‘realistic’ in that sense… This democratic ideal is not essential to a system comprising all the other modernization ideals. (italics added)
Despite these limitations which emanate from value premises of modernization, Parsons’ formulation is theoretically powerful and could be used to explain many structural and cultural contradictions of modernization in under-developed countries.
Stratification is one important factor which causes bottlenecks in rapid modernization of India by its rigidity and non- egalitarian character. His model also delineates a course of modernization hypothetically, which would involve least conflict through stages of transition.
Formulations closely resembling those of Parsons but without similar theoretical presumption have also been made by Marion J. Levy, E.S.N.
Eisenstadt and Gunnar Myrdal. Much responsibility for either ‘breakdown’ or smooth transition to modernization is attributed by these sociologists to structural and normative ‘initial conditions’ in the developing societies.
Comparing the cases of China and Japan, Marion J. Levy attributes successful modernization in Japan in contrast with structural breakdown (revolution) during this process in China to dissimilar initial structural conditions in the two countries despite many other structural similarities which they shared.
For instance, both had merchant class placed at the bottom of stratification system, both had strong feministic ethic and similar religion-cultural values. Yet, owing to structural differences in initial stages of modernization, results of this process varied fundamentally in the two nations.
In China, the family authority was supreme and encompassed the principles of the authority of Emperor and feudal lords, which were modeled after it; the class system was open in comparison to Japan where it was not so, and finally, the feudal system was not fiddly crystallized in China while it had a developed form in Japan.
Under the impact of the initial modernization in China during the nineteenth century when the industrial-urban centers offered employment opportunities independently, the family authority collapsed; this collapse also meant decline of authority in other spheres of state administration, as the source of legitimating for these was also in the authority system of the Chinese family. Corruption in the bureaucratic echelons and general decline in the moral norms followed from it.
Moreover, since China had an open, class system, monetary gains which accrued to merchants (till then at the bottom of stratification pyramid) were invested in land to attain the status of nobility; the reverse of it happened in Japan where, such opportunities being denied, investment was made in the industries.
Eisenstaedt attributes this breakdown to the lack of institutional autonomy in China between polity and value system, between political system and stratification and between major social groups and strata.
Eisenstadt’s conclusions are similar to those of M.J. Levy. In the Chinese case he reiterates that no autonomy existed between the Confucian value systems and legitimating principle of the Empire; “no church or religious organization existed independently of the state”. Stratification was also primarily centered on political system; “the literati as an elite group was contingent on the persistence of the ideal of a unified Empire”
This was reinforced by strong formulistic bonds which did not allow for creative innovations and when the imperial structure collapsed, the elite and other groups could not contain the new forces of change through alternative sources of legitimating.
The whole system had to be fabricated afresh. Contrary to this, Japan had a specialized form of feudalism under the Tokugawa, and the dual authority structure, one of symbolic Emperor and the other of feudal Shogunate existing before the Meiji restoration helped in selective adaptation to modernizing structural and cultural demands.
The stratification system was not as homogeneous as in China. This consisted of landed nobility, merchants and intellectuals each with some autonomy of functions and norms. The value system of familism, which was also predominant here, went along with equal commitment to collective loyalties; this was particularly reinforced by Meiji emphasis on renovation of traditional symbols and small particularistic groups for economic modernization.
Even the traditional austerity norms of Buddhism and Shintoism were utilized in the initial stages of industrialization when stress was laid on controlled wages to produce cheaper goods for market competition abroad.
Also, Meiji governments showed little interest in promoting welfare measures in early phases of industrialization.
The Indian Scene:
Modernization, in its initial stages in India, according to Eisenstadt, did not lead to any serious breakdown because of the peculiar structural characteristics of the Indian society. Here, cultural system was fairly independent of political system. Louis Dumont writes: “This domain (polity or artha) is, in the dominant tradition, relatively autonomous with regard to absolute values” there was also independence between the political system and the system of caste stratification.
Castes had their own panchayats and plural traditions, and similarly there also existed autonomy for groups and regional committees. This intercultural autonomy facilitated assimilation of modernizing innovations, without introducing major breakdown. Modernity, however, mainly developed as a sub-structure and sub-culture without pervasive expansion in all sectors of life.
The colonial phase of modernization did not seriously articulate many structural challenges which now the totalization of this process in free India implies. As segmental nature of modernization becomes encompassing, relevance of structural autonomy ceases to operate as a shock-absorber. Changes in political system begin increasingly to impinge upon the system of stratification (caste, class, ethnic communalities), and these together create serious stresses for the cultural system as a whole.
The cultural pre-requisites of a comprehensive modernization necessitate adaptive changes m the system of values which come in direct confrontation with traditional cultural values and norms. For instance, secularism, untouchabiiity, non-parochialism are some cultural demands of modernization in contemporary India which its traditional value system continues to resist.
The question thus arises: will Indian society be able to avoid structural breakdown also in the second phase of modernization? Will not the advantage which it formerly enjoyed through structural autonomy, become, under the changed circumstances, a bottleneck for smooth institutionalization of modernity?
The answer to these questions can be formulated only through objective analysis of important trends of social and cultural changes in India which arc relevant to the process of modernization. In cultural sphere, major changes have been introduced by legislations.
These seek to abolish social inequalities and exploitations handed down by tradition and accord democratic rights and constitutional privileges to all members of society. This has led lo u trend away from Sanskritization (emulation of the Great tradition; and towards formation of new identities and associations of castes, regional groups and tribes.
These processes are accelerated by ‘Great traditions’ of modernization such as, urbanization, industrialization, spread of education, and politicization. The traditional structures and loyalties are being mobilized for objectives which are essentially modern and an increased emphasis is on protest movements.
However, the tradition also gets reinforcement in the process; modern media of communication and transport are increasingly used for spreading ritual order and for rational organization of religious groups and their mode of activities and social participation.
There is a tendency among religious sects to organize themselves on rational bureaucratic model, and the previous fission of each new sect from the parent body has now changed into strong orientation towards fusion.
Inconsistencies are similarly there in structural changes that India has undergone during the post-colonial phase of modernization. Micro-structures like caste, family and village community have retained their traditional character; caste has shown unexpected elasticity and latent potential for adaptation with modern institutions, such as democratic participation, political party organization and trade unionism, and it persists, unabatedly Joint family loyalties and particularistic norms continue to prevail.
These contradictions arc, however, further magnified at the level of macro- structures, such as the political system, bureaucracy, elite structure, industry and economy. The colonial period of modernization had homogeneity in elite structure. These elite from industrial, civil and military bureaucracies, as well as political spheres came from similar class-caste stratum; they had equitable exposure to Western education, and socialization.
They also had uniformity of ideologies and aspirations. This was because the social base for recruitment of these elite was limited. This has fairly widened during the post-Independence period; it may not be equitable in terms of stratification system, but in cultural background there is enough representativeness which leads to many contradictions.
A gap is specially coming into being between political elite and non-political elite; the former are less Westernized, and externally at least identify with traditional cultural symbolisms more strongly than the latter.
Contradictions are also growing in the federal structure of the Union as one party government is being replaced by multi-party governments in States, having divergent ideological policies (Communist-led united fronts in Kerala and West Bengal, D.M.K. in Tamil Nadu).
There is also evidence that, in the course of three five-year plans additional income generated by economic investments has gone in favor of only the well-to-do classes to the detriment of poorer sections. Planning has thus accentuated and sharpened the gaps in social stratification.
This along with the slow rate of economic growth and rapid increase in population creates additional intensities for structural tensions. Despite the years of effort at industrialization, India continues to be a rural-peasant dominated society with general poverty of living standards.
Thus, major potential sources of breakdown in the Indian process of modernization may, in one form or another, be attributed to structural inconsistencies, such as: democratization without spread of civic culture (education), bureaucratization without commitment to universalistic norms, rise in media participation (communication) and aspiration without proportionate increase in resources and distributive justice, verbalization of a welfare ideology without its diffusion in social structure and its implementation as a social policy, over-urbanization without industrialization and finally modernization without meaningful changes in the stratification system.
Gunnar Myrdal refers to similar impediments to modernization in India and other Asian countries in his work Asian Drama. Nationalism and democratic institutions themselves, according to him, have grown in a structurally uneven form in these countries.
“In Europe, strong independent State with a fairly effective government and a common pattern of law enforcement,” he says, “preceded nationalism, and both preceded democracy;” in South Asian countries democratic ideology if not reality, has, due to special historicity, preceded strong and independent State and effective government, and this is further complicated by onslaught of nationalism.
This uneven historicity goes along with economic dependence of these countries on developed nations and slow rate of economic growth and still slower pace of institutional changes. Particularly in India, which, according to Myrdal, has a more viable size of intellectuals and middle classes necessary for democracy, planned economic growth has not made as deep an impact towards liberalizing the structural bottlenecks for modernization as should have been expected.
According to Myrdal, India’s ‘soft-state’ policy after Independence inhibited its leadership from going to the root of the problem, that is, introduction of basic changes in the institutional structure of society.
Consequently, the in egalitarian structure of society continued to grow and consolidate itself; there developed a long gap between verbalization (even enactment) and implementation of policies of reform the decentralization of power in rural sectors led to concentration of power in the hands of a petty plutocracy. Also, the leadership of the country as a whole remained with those who are opponents of real economic and social change.
Myrdal’s well-known position on theory of social change and development is that of circular causation and cumulative change. He suspects the validity of constructing universal evolutionary stages of ‘growth’. These according to him tend to be teleological and often have conservative ideologies latent in them.
The crucial factor in development is an ‘upward’ movement of the social system as a whole with all its component ‘conditions’.
These conditions for the South Asian countries as described by Myrdal are:
(1) Output and income;
(2) Conditions of production;
(3) Levels of living;
(4) Attitudes towards life and work;
(5) Institutions; and
He assumes a uni-directional causal relationship between these conditions; an upward’ or ‘downward’ movement in one would cause cumulative movement of similar nature in other conditions too. Value premises, related to these conditions might differ from country to country specially in regard to conditions which are treated for their ‘independent’ (as a goal in themselves) values as different from those having ‘instrumental’ values.’ These valuations define ideological contexts of development in each national society, but their selectivity is organically linked with attributes of social system as a whole.
The modernization process in India and other South Asian countries, according to Myrdal, is heading fast towards’ a climax, and the time for reasonable choice for them is limited.’ The opportunity for a ‘gradualist’ approach is also over.
Myrdal thinks “it is not more difficult, but easier, to cause a big change rapidly than a small change gradually.” The prime arias for such big, rapid changes are social and institutional conditions in Indian society. These conditions (4 and 5 of the above) hold keys for mobilization of all other conditions of development.
Myrdal’s theory of modernization could best be evaluated through the distinction he introduces between ‘independent’ and ‘instrumental’ values that institutions and social realities of a society (‘conditions’) have for their people.
The ‘independent values’ of a traditional society differ from those of a modem society, and more often they are mutually contradictory. But the ‘independent values’ cannot be demonstrated to be false or irrelevant without transforming them into ‘instrumental values’.
Since, the institutions and attitudes towards life and work in a traditional society come to be valued for their ‘independent values’, it is necessary to demonstrate their poverty over ‘independent values’ of a modern society in order to motivate people to renounce them for the latter.
This, however, cannot be realized without introducing the medium of ‘instrumental values’. If we want to convince people that “(A) closed system of stratification is bad” and “(B) open system of stratification is good”, then we have to demonstrate also that “(C) the goal of social justice cannot be realized in a closed stratification system, but it can be easily accomplished in an open system.” People would change their independent value (A) for (B), more easily when the instrumental value (C) they cherish, is shown to have closer association with the latter (B) than former (A).
As we have explained above the crucial variable to bring this about lies in mobilization of people’s motivations for change on utilitarian ground or what Myrdal calls the grounds of rationality.
If we accept this, then it would appear that Myrdal’s overemphasis on priority of radical changes first in the value systems of the developing society over the more instrumental or structural ‘conditions’ such as income, production, etc., tend to be highly unrealistic. To our mind it is difficult to begin with radical value changes in traditional society’ in order to facilitate the growth of modern instrumental structures.
In fact, Myrdal votes for a ‘mobilization system of social transformation which is valid but does not logically conform to his emphasis on first changing the values or institutions rather than the structures of society.
The institutional changes are, however necessary for coordinating modernizing changes in other structural conditions of a society, but no general hypothesis, that ‘big-push’ policy of change in institutions is preferable to ‘gradualist’ approach to change, can be tenable.
This in fact, contradicts Myrdal’s own theory of balance among various ‘conditions’ for development and modernization. More important factor will be rational coordination rather than ‘big-push’ policy which in an uncoordinated manner might inevitably contribute to a breakdown in the social structure, especially in India where democratic polity and way of life have been accepted as independent values.
In fact, the emergent tensions caused by processes of modernization in India do direct our attention too much needed further coordination in the strategy of change with radical changes in policy. Contradictions are emerging in the system at various points as a result of uncoordinated institutional reforms and economic measures introduced for modernization during the post-Independence period.
These contradictions, however, also inhere Mild symbolize the frictions caused by upward movement of hitherto suppressed aspirations and interests of groups. Protest movement’s weather. Disguised (like Sanskritization, Islamization, formation of parochial associations based on caste, language and regional culture) or overt (Centre- State tensions) are inevitable in democratic transition to modernization.
These, of course, indicate the specific areas where institutional and other reforms could further be accelerated to remove friction in the process of change. Modernization should thus proceed by a series of conciliatory steps through a forceful strategy of mobilization in the course of the developmental process.
The need is also simultaneously to reinforce the democratic values and institutions. Given a democratic political framework, there exists a built-in mechanism in this system to build pressures for removal of inconsistencies emerging from uncoordinated changes in the ‘conditions’ of modernization; but the same cannot be said to be true for other forms of totalitarian political systems.
On the Indian scene it appears that, despite continual tensions and contradictions, chances of the institutional breakdown are minimal; democratic values have fairly institutionalized in the political system; cultural gap which has recently widened between various levels of the diet does not go far enough to introduce major conflict about the ideology of modernization.
Caste, which represents institutionalized form of inequality sanctioned by tradition now fights battles against inequality and inegalitarianism its own rational self-transformation into associations; many independent or categorical values of tradition have shown a surprising degree of elasticity to adapt themselves to the cultural system of modernization. Some of these traditions even thrive as modernization processes accelerate without creating major contradictions.
In the realm of material resources too, the recent ‘agricultural revolution’ in the countryside has created a new atmosphere of optimism for future progress. This, along with peoples increasing awareness to curb the birth-rate may point towards new hopeful signs of modernization without a breakdown.
This assumption would, however, rest on one major conditional assumption, that at no stage in the Indian process of development would conciliation as a goal of resolving contradictions be renounced or replaced by a policy of controlled suppression. A constant coordination of mobilization with conciliation is a pre-requisite for democratic form of modernization in India.
Historicity of Modernization:
The problems connected with historicity of modernization emerge from the ‘initial conditions’ of different societies from where modernization as a process starts. The differences in these conditions may be both cultural and social structural in origin and lead to variations in adaptive patterns in modernization, which have been recognized by many social scientists.
In contrast with evolutionary universalistic theory of modernization these social scientists hold that modernization would develop typical forms in different societies. This is also our contention in this essay.
There are both logical and substantive grounds why growth of modernization might vary in pattern from society to society. Often, modernization is defined through attributes which are too abstract and partial in nature and do not take account of the dynamics of social and cultural forces in each society.
Modernization is understood as growth of a uniform set of cultural and role-structural attributes, but attention is not paid as to how these attributes develop typical adaptations within the traditional conditions of each society.
This limitation, in our view, can be avoided if we conceptualize both tradition and modernization as sets of values and role-structures which interact as they come into contact and between them a selective process of assimilation and syncretism starts.
The crucial role in selective acceptance is played by the system of values. These values in each society are differentiated into (1) categorical or independent and (2) instrumental types. All role-structures whether traditional or modern inhere both categorical and instrumental standards, and this leads to a combination of both; a person who is well-trained in the modern role-structure with high instrumental value, for instance a surgeon or an engineer or a scientist, may be deeply committed to traditional categorical values.
This is logically quite possible, because the categorical values enjoy autonomy over the instrumental values. Such instances are quite common in the Indian society, but it is presumed that no society would be an exception to this rule.
As for modernization in India, we find a growing trend that traditional role-structures are giving way to modern ones. But persons following these roles often retain categorical values of tradition instead of those of modernity. We have mentioned how caste itself is adopting many functions which properly belong to rational corporate groups.
Generally, ritual order and religion which are essentially based on categorical values of a traditional nature do not show evidence of decline, nor is there an easy possibility of their disappearance in the near future.
Since many of these categorical values differ from one society to another, there may always be a possibility of unique combination of traditional values with modem ones; the categorical values can hardly be falsified by scientific proof and hence the spread of science may not logically lead to obsolescence of traditional categorical values.
This would explain the diversity in the pattern of modernization in different societies. But it would be wrong to deduce from this argument that modernization will not bring about structural and cultural similarity among the peoples of the world.
As modernization proceeds, it would create uniform sets of role-structures with accompanying modem value commitments, instrumental or categorical. Inconsistent combinations of roles and values may still persist but a large sector of societal and cultural life of societies would share uniformity of standards with other modern societies.
Diversity may persist within this strong sense of unity in the traditions of mankind. The major factor would here be the nature of value premises that societies adopt for modernization. So far, however, no uniformity of such value premises is in sight.
The divergence of political ideologies, contradictions in cultural and racial identities coupled with inequality of resources among nations create basic schism in the value-structure of modernization. Hence, particularistic growth pattern of modernization seems to be more credible than universalistic form of its development.