Philosophical Anthropology and Practical Politics

By F. S. C. Northrop | Go to book overview

13
How Not to Do It; The Sinhalese Experiment

A few years ago the Swedish economist and parliamentarian Dr. Gunnar Myrdal was in Colombo as economic adviser to the government of Ceylon. He found that the task of modernizing such a society in a free democratic way could be managed if the problem were solely an economic one. But unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, this is not the case. The reason is that the roadblock to modernization in medieval or ancient societies is not primarily the weakness of their economic instruments or the dirth of finance capital, great though these be. President Mao, for example, had remarkable success in modernizing China even though he received very little outside economic aid. In short, the obstacles to modernization are more political and cultural than they are economic or technological.

One of these political obstacles is that in many old societies, such as China, India, Lebanon and Morocco, to name but a few, there are two or more medieval-minded groups often geographically localized with different racial origins and religious faiths. Because of the law- of-status tribal focus of their marriage, medical, eating and other religiously sanctioned customs, these racial and religious communities are frequently incompatible politically when they are freed from foreign rule. Also, there is an even greater conflict between the customs and traditional political aims of any one of these medieval religious communities and the political ideals and practices of any modern nation, be it free democratic or Communistic. Hence, if freed from foreign rule and left to themselves politically, holy racial and

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