The Intellectual between Tradition and Modernity: The Indian Situation

The Intellectual between Tradition and Modernity: The Indian Situation

The Intellectual between Tradition and Modernity: The Indian Situation

The Intellectual between Tradition and Modernity: The Indian Situation

Excerpt

The modern intellectual -- the independent man of letters, the scientist, pure and applied, the scholar, the university professor, the journalist, the highly educated administrator, judge or parliamentarian -- has not come into the world without ancestors. Nearly every section of the modern intellectual class has its prototypes in ancient and medieval European society and in the great traditional kingdoms and empires of the Near and Far East. Nonetheless, the modern intellectual class in all its elaboration is a unique historical phenomenon. It is the product of a modem society, latterly of an industrial society characterized by rational, bureaucratic administration in the state and in economic life, widespread literacy and a high standard of living, an extensive educational system with widespread participation and at its peak a university system devoted to the cultivation of truth in science and scholarship as well as to the transmission of the cultural heritage and to the training of persons for the professions of law, engineering, medicine and the service of state, church and economic life.

The culture of the modem Western intellectual is a culture which has taken the earth and the cosmos as its concerns. It has grown out of the culture and society of the West, and although it has drawn sustenance and inspiration from Asia and North Africa, and treats the problems of all the world, it has grown by a slow dialectical evolution out of the traditions and situations of its own society. However differentiated the social structure and the cultural pattern of the West have become, however intricate the intertwinement and multifarious the strands of its own traditions, they are their own -- fully their own. Marxism and conservatism, agnosticism and Catholicism, scientism and traditionalism are all variants of a pattern which Western development has engendered and supported.

In the past century and a half, this Western culture has flowed beyond the boundaries of the European territories and the populations of European origin into far-off lands, the homes of cultures with their own separate histories, their own patterns of autonomous evolution. The story of the spread of the West into Asia and Africa has been told many times and in much detail. What is essential in this story is the dominion of the West over Asia and Africa.

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