ISC – Sociology -Structural change- Explanatory notes
ISC Class 12 –Sociology –Structural Change Chapter 1
We need to understand the past, before we try to make dense of the present ..
Young students born in independent India in the early years of this century often wonder why we value the English language so much, or why we have a centrist Congress Party and a right-leaning BJP, or why the allopathic system of medicine is so pervasive, not the Ayurveda. To understand many ideas and practices of our political system, our government, media, judiciary, educational system, and even the way middle class families live, we need to go back one or two centuries in our history, and seek the answers. The Moghul rule, and later, the long colonial subjugation under the British did influence our thinking, and culture profoundly. Our attitude to our ritual-ridden religion, education, industry, and art forms went through a phase of irreversible change. We studied western science, philosophy, and literature either voluntarily or under pressure of the colonial government. We learned to set up industries, developed a judiciary, and effected many more changes to our way of living.
How our politics was shaped by colonial rule ..Congress Party was conceived, founded and run by western-educated liberals, where as the Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the present-day BJP was conceived and founded by staunch advocates of Hindu way of life. The ideologues of Jan Sangh united to protect the interests of the Hindus, often through military ways. The British had assiduously tried to drive a wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims through carefully nuanced policies. Their policy did achieve a fair degree of success, and the animus between the Hindu and Muslim communities grew. The founders of Jan Sangh proably couldn’t see through the machinations of the colonial powers. The consequences of such division of citizens along religious lines have been disastrous for the country.
Like the founders of the Congress Party, the founders of the Jan Sangh were staunch nationalists, and men of sterling character. The difference was the emphasis and the road chosen. Gandhiji rebelled against the oppressive caste system, so did Dr. Ambedkar. Only the ways and means differed. The unrest of the Dalits continue to blight us today.
In ancient India, in the Gurukul system, students squatted on the class room floor when the Guru taught them. Why we do not do that anymore, and prefer chairs and tables instead, is a question whose answer lies in the way our British colonial maters established and ran schools in our country.
Huge transformation of society, some good, some not so good ..Some of the changes brought about by the Moghul and British are not exactly to our liking, but most changes have been welcome and assimilated into our ways of life. For a student of Sociology, making sense of the apparently contradictory ideas and practices in today’s Indian society can become easier, if they trace the roots of these in India’s history. This is why a student of sociology must delve into our past to understand the present better.
English skill-the differentiator .. Use of English language in our daily life has a peculiar status-enhancing effect. The urban middle class, the house wives, the social media users flaunt their English skills, however crude, to assert their superiority. At times, it leads to comical situations. We come across wrongly spelt words, and crudely written English in newspaper advertisements, public notices, sign boards, hoardings etc. However, the intellectual class has leverged their English skill to good effect. We have many English writers of Indian origin who have made their names in the world stage. We all have heard or read Amitabh Ghose, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Vikram Seth, and many more. Some of our English newspapers are acclaimed globally for their English.
English skill classes have sprouted all over India today, because such skill is so much necessary in our work places. As India’s interface with the global market place gets stronger, such linkage of English skill to job-worthiness becomes firmer. In fact, India aspires to be a soft power of the world, because it can effectively project its cultural richness through the medium of English. In this regard, India scores over China.
Uneven impact of Colonization on Society …So, it is evident that colonial influence on Indian society impacted virtually every aspect of our way of living. In some aspects, the impact was revolutionary, such as abolishing the scourge of Sati (widow burning), and the judicial system. In other spheres, the effect was much less felt, such as our system of marriage, dowry, and the relegation of women to a secondary role in family.
The two most conspicuous aspects of change: more factories, and more towns ….In the coming sections, emphasis will be put on two aspects …
When the economy became more and more industrialized, and more and more cities and towns came to be established, the country’s culture that had stood unchanged for centuries began to transform, although in a slow pace. The pace of industrialization and urbanization has gathered steam after the independence hastening the cultural changes. Since the changes have happened seamlessly in the pre and post independence era, it is difficult to draw a line to separate them to the colonial and free India era.
Understanding of Colonialism ..
Waves of invaders, looted India ...India is no stranger to conquerors from far-off lands. The wealth and vulnerability of the weak rulers attracted invaders one after another. Towards the last part of twelfth century, Mohammad Ghor came marching into the Indo-Gangetic plain. The intent was to plunder and pillage the enormous wealth of the people and their kings. He was followed by a succession of invaders Turkish, Afghan, and Mongolian origins.
Intent to pillage India and a misplaced enthusiasm to force Islam ..These rulers initially tried hard to enforce Islam and the repressive Shariat system on the kings and the populace, but could make very limited progress. The Hindu citizens resisted the changes. In the same way, these invaders found it hard to conquer the Deccan –the southern part of India. So, wholesale Islamization was not possible, but the invaders did influence literature, judicial system, architecture and the revenue collection procedure.
Since their main motive was to plunder and pillage, they thought it prudent not to press their religious agenda on the Hindus too hard. The Islamic rule ended with the last Moghul ruler –Bahadur Shah Jafar.
The British were far more wise in their intent ..The European colonizers were different. From among the Portugese, French and the British, the British managed to hold on to India. They consolidated their hold on the country, pushing the other two European powers to tiny enclaves.
The British came in at a time when the whole of Europe was in the cusp of a massive industrialization spree. With more industries, came more inventions, and faster strides in science. The whole of Europe began to see great wealth generation through industrialization. Capitalism became the byword for progress. The British colonizers had this in mind. They wanted to accelerate industrialization of their homeland England at the cost of India, their biggest and most fecund, resource-rich colony.
The two categories of India’s colonizers ...
We can thus divide India’s colonizers to two broad categories
- Those who came as invaders to rule, and loot. They had no intention, expertise, or urge to use India for sustained exploitation through capitalistic ways and industrialization. The Muslim invaders, and the Moghuls fall in this category.
2. The colonizers who were wise enough to see that India could propel the industrialization of their mother land. The British colonizers fall in this category.
The clever and entrepreneurial British colonizers..
The British landed in India to trade, but were quick to grasp the potential of the land not only as a place to buy and sell goods, but utilize its natural and human resources to advance the industrial surge back home.
Among the steps they took to exploit India were ..
- Coercing the farmers to cultivate those crops that they needed in England as raw materials for their factories. They promoted cultivation of cotton, poppy (opium), tea etc. They wanted cotton for their textile mills. England, then, was ahead of its European peers in inventing textile machinery, and therefore, had a head start in this sector.
They wanted humongous quantities of opium to sell to the vast Chinese market in lucrative rates.
They wanted tea for consumption back home, and for exports to other countries.
- They changed land ownership laws so that their drive to have cotton grown in place of paddy, wheat and legumes succeeded. Forest rights laws were amended so that, the tribal people didn’t get unfettered access to enter the forests. The forests were cleared to convert the land to tea plantations. It was particularly painful for the pastoralists, who had lived off the woods for generations.
- The wood of the forests were processed to provide sleepers for railway tracks both in India and in England. Large scale exploitation of forests became common in India.
- They introduced potato and tomato as crops that became a staple food for the local population and the colonial masters.
- They brought punitive legislation to curb the cultivation of organic blue used in textiles. This was done to promote the sale of industrial blue produced in factories in England.
- The forced cultivation of poppy enriched the coffers of the British traders, but played havoc with the farming community. Not only, they lost access to paddy, legume, sugar cane etc. produced in their own land, but also ended up as opium addicts.
- The introduction of the railway system enabled the colonial administrators to forcibly move agricultural workers from Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and Bengal to work in the British-owned sprawling tea estates.
8. More painfully, vast numbers of able-bodied men and women were forcibly sent to work as plantation workers in far- off West Indies. They could never see their home land again.
9. The Presidencies in Calcutta and Madras were the citadels of British power and influence. In these two regions, many schools and colleges were set up by the colonial administration to impart English education. These institutions turned out educated Indians who became clerks, doctors, and lawyers. The clerks facilitated running of the administrative machinery. Some of the doctors and lawyers moved to other regions of the country to provide their services to the people.
These schools and colleges exposed Indian students to western ideas of nationalism, democracy, human rights etc. The students grew up to become freedom fighters against the colonial power.
Wholesale transformation of Indian society .. Colonial influence backed by astute British officers impacted the society in great many ways. Education, spread of science, adoption of technology, healthcare, and even architecture went through a process of slow, but inexorable change.
Evolution of Capitalism in England, and its impact on India …
During the time the British strengthened theor trading foothold in India, England and almost the whole of Europe was undergoing momentous changes. Machines replaced manual manufacturing, factories sprang up, and profits of the factory owners soared. Great amount of wealth was thus created. It spurred greed, competition among the seafaring nations of Europe to fan out to distant lands in search of new markets, and new sources of raw materials. Businessmen competed with one another inside England to expand their factories and grab larger market shares. In the process, the value of capital came to be realized as vital to industrialization, and maximization of profits. People studied the art of raising capital , managing it for optimal gain, and the need of sound regulatory practices that could be the bedrock of a robust capitalistic economy.
India, as a colony, did benefit from the advent of Capitalism, but only marginally. India supplied raw materials for the factories in England, and bought the manufactured products. Thus, the profits were skimmed by the colonial entrepreneurs. India saw industrialization, only in limited scale, and much later.
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