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Re: Another review article

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  • jakobderoover
    Dear Arun, Citing David Page, you suggest the following: because the British presence did not exceed a few thousand men, its colonial power had to build on
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 2, 2006
      Dear Arun,


      Citing David Page, you suggest the following: because the
      British presence did not exceed a few thousand men, its colonial
      power had to build on existing social and political structures.
      Moreover, it necessarily had to codify the 'legal' texts of the
      Indian traditions and categorize and classify the Indian population.
      In contrast, because Islamic colonialism rested on a much larger
      base of manpower, it did not have to do the same.

      Even though it may sound plausible, this fails to explain the
      differences between the European colonial project in India and its
      Islamic counterpart. As an explanation, it is based on unwarranted
      assumptions:

      1. The first assumption is that the socio-political structure in
      India was of the same nature as the churches and states of Europe.
      That is, there was a central authority at the top, which controlled
      the rest of society through a pyramid of layers of authority. Only
      if this were the case could the British have taken power *because*
      they built on the existing socio-political structure: a few thousand
      British colonials simply replaced the central authorities of this
      pyramid of power and therefore they could rule millions of Indians.
      In this way, the plausibility of this account of the 'Imperial
      system of control' depends on the belief that the basic structure of
      Indian society was a variant of that of Europe. This does not seem
      to have been the case. Therefore, the puzzle of the success of
      European colonialism in India cannot be explained in this manner.

      2. A second assumption is that the Europeans really understood the
      existing social and political structure in India and grasped "the
      realities of power and influence." Only then could they have
      successfully built on this structure and "organized Indian society,
      albeit largely on its own terms." On this board, We have many times
      discussed the European understanding of the caste system and
      indicated how it tells us more about European culture than about
      India. The British never grasped the social and political structures
      of India; hence, they could not have organized Indian society on its
      own terms. The common argument that the British system of control
      was efficient because it recognized and built upon Indian realities
      reveals the basic stance of David Page and other authors: they
      assume the colonial classification and codification drew upon a
      veridical understanding of Indian society. In other words, they
      continue to mistake the European colonial experience of India for a
      description of the Indian social and political structure.

      This type of explanation transforms the European colonials into
      mythical beings with extraordinary capacities: after landing up in
      India, it took them only a few years to understand its social and
      political structure, then re-organize Indian society in a way that
      was acceptable to the Indians, and thus rule millions of Indians for
      more than 150 years. This reproduces Europe's mythology about its
      colonial successes, rather than explaining anything.

      Yours,


      Jakob
    • macgupta123
      Jakob, As long as each Jaati recognized the British as an authority and would contribute its members to the British Indian Army, the British power in India
      Message 2 of 7 , Sep 2, 2006
        Jakob,

        As long as each Jaati recognized the British as an authority and
        would contribute its members to the British Indian Army, the British power
        in India would be sustained. Thus, there need be no single central
        authority in Indian society, all it took was for the British to be able to
        replace each existing authority.

        Thus say, in some group of two score villages, if the people acknowledged
        a chieftain, and that chieftain acknowledged the British, then those twenty
        villages would be under British control. Multiply this by a million, and
        eventually the British do become "the central authority" in a subcontinent
        which has no central authorities.

        The British successfully constructed a cohesive army from the widely varying
        people of India. So they had some practical knowledge. While a person who
        drives a car may not be able to give a good "veridical" account of the car, it
        doesn't preclude him from driving well.

        Since the British who had initially come as traders, found themselves
        successfully insinuated into India, beyond their wildest dreams, they would
        want to codify and freeze the societal relationships that made them successful
        in the first place. If they saw "caste solidarity" as the glue that held their
        regiments together and kept them from falling apart under fire, they would
        want to codify and make permanent "caste". These actions need not be based
        on any real understanding.

        The Islamic initiative was different. Just as North Africa and Persia had Islamized,
        I think project was to Islamize India. Indians would not be copies of Muslims but
        Muslims; in the other project Indians could only be wogs. Thus, the Islamic
        tendency would be to undermine and destroy Indian society as it existed from
        pre-Islamic days. As already noted, the British would be keen to maintain those
        structures which they believed had made them successful in the first place.

        In the following, I'm not sure I'm using the right words - we need to distinguish
        between intent and motive. If I have a rich aunt from whom I will inherit, I always
        have a motive to want her dead. That motive is an objective thing - if wealth is
        a value, then that motive exists. I may have absolutely no intent to anything but
        the long life of that aunt. That intent can only be inferred however, because my
        mental states are not open to view. I think "British intent" is that psychological
        thing that Balu was complaining about - how do we establish it? Even if some
        writings indicate an intent, the actual intent may be different from the stated intent.
        Motive however, is objective; and we would need to show that the British recognized
        a particular motive, and that would be sufficient, the rest would be an account of
        how adroitly or maladroitly they acted as per that motive. So we must ask
        "what was the motive (and not the intent) of the British project to codify Indian law"
        that did not apply in case of the Muslim invaders?

        -Arun
      • Dunkin Jalki
        Dear Arun Hope I can intrude in your discussion. I have some nagging questions to ask you … You say, As long as each Jaati recognized the British as an
        Message 3 of 7 , Sep 3, 2006
          Dear Arun
          Hope I can intrude in your discussion. I have some nagging questions
          to ask you …

          You say, "As long as each Jaati recognized the British as an
          authority and would contribute its members to the British Indian Army,
          the British power in India would be sustained. Thus, there need be no
          single central authority in Indian society, all it took was for the
          British to be able to replace each existing authority.

          Thus say, in some group of two score villages, if the people
          acknowledged a chieftain, and that chieftain acknowledged the British,
          then those twenty villages would be under British control. Multiply
          this by a million, and eventually the British do become "the central
          authority" in a subcontinent which has no central authorities."

          I wonder if Jaatis work like a unit, as you suggest. We do keep saying
          that jaatis function like vote banks in India, by which me mean that
          jaatis, somehow, function like one unit. And any decision taken by the
          head of the jaati is a binding upon the rest of the members of the
          group. But this view lacks any kind of empirical research. It raises
          some of these questions: Should we assume that people belonging to a
          particular jaati across India function like a unit? And they all abide
          by the decision of its leader, if such a leader exists? How many
          villages should we include to make "some group of two score villages"?
          Nevertheless, if, what you are saying, is *somehow* true, doesn't it
          follow from it that we (like, you and me) can just teach these handful
          of caste chieftains, say, _Heathen_ and bring about a deep change in
          India? If British succeeded in doing this, we should also be able to
          do the same!

          You are open to the possibility that a central authority doesn't exist
          in India. But you also say that something called `existing authority'
          existed in India. If so, I wonder, how are they different, i.e., how
          do they differ in their function and structure? And, further, how do
          we understand the statement that "eventually the British do become
          `the central authority' in a subcontinent which has no central
          authorities"? Did British change Indian society fundamentally? How do
          we make sense of such a `fundamental change'? And now, when the
          British has left Indian Subcontinent, who is the central authority in
          India? Or, is it the case that we have reverted back to our
          pre-colonial mode of authority?

          Perhaps, some clarity on these issues may allow us to appreciate the
          points you are making.

          best
          Dunkin



          --- In TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com, "macgupta123"
          <macgupta123@...> wrote:
          >
          >
        • macgupta123
          Dear Dunkin, I m not trying imply anything about Indian endogamous groups beyond the group solidarity or group consciousness that the British found they
          Message 4 of 7 , Sep 4, 2006
            Dear Dunkin,

            I'm not trying imply anything about Indian endogamous groups beyond the
            group solidarity or group consciousness that the British found they displayed
            as they were recruited into the British Indian army. Presumably X being willing
            to take orders from somebody confers certain authority on that somebody over X.

            -Arun
          • vnr1995
            We can distinguish among intent, motive, dream, desire, aim, etc. However, the world (the regularities therein) interferes between motives and what happened.
            Message 5 of 7 , Sep 4, 2006
              We can distinguish among intent, motive, dream, desire, aim, etc.
              However, the world (the regularities therein) interferes between
              motives and what happened. One may try to write off these
              regularities, or interferences, in ceteris paribus clauses; but this
              wouldn't do.

              The question is: why one set of motives, rather than another set of
              motives?

              Any defensible explanation shall have to appeal to the structure (of
              the world in the broadest sense) and/or to the causes. Of course,
              there are as many explanations as are causes. But picking out the
              correct explanation depends on the ellipted contrast clause in the
              question that requires answering.

              On a side note, if every Indian starts examining explanations, as to
              whether it is ad hoc or based on junk psychology, offered by both
              those who criticize the West and are sympathetic to Indians, and those
              who, like many in humanities, criticize Indians, that day would be the
              advent of Indian renaissance. This includes examining theoretical
              entities postulated by the West in order to explain what they have
              experienced in the other cultures: tribe, the caste-system, religion, etc.







              --- In TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com, "macgupta123"
              <macgupta123@...> wrote:
              > In the following, I'm not sure I'm using the right words - we need
              to distinguish
              > between intent and motive. If I have a rich aunt from whom I will
              inherit, I always
              > have a motive to want her dead. That motive is an objective thing -
              if wealth is
              > a value, then that motive exists. I may have absolutely no intent
              to anything but
              > the long life of that aunt. That intent can only be inferred
              however, because my
              > mental states are not open to view. I think "British intent" is
              that psychological
              > thing that Balu was complaining about - how do we establish it?
              Even if some
              > writings indicate an intent, the actual intent may be different from
              the stated intent.
              > Motive however, is objective; and we would need to show that the
              British recognized
              > a particular motive, and that would be sufficient, the rest would be
              an account of
              > how adroitly or maladroitly they acted as per that motive. So we
              must ask
              > "what was the motive (and not the intent) of the British project to
              codify Indian law"
              > that did not apply in case of the Muslim invaders?
              >
              > -Arun
              >
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