Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Indian Jati1 and the European Nation: The Twins-Unlike Concepts of Mega-Tribal2 Level

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Indian Jati1 and the European Nation: The Twins-Unlike Concepts of Mega-Tribal2 Level

Article excerpt

Abstract: XXI Century requires new approach to mutual relations of civilizations, if we wish to avoid the fate predicted by Samuel Huntington. We have to study carefully and without prejudice our respective achievements and see whether we can run better each our own civilization. One such case is Europe and India or better the whole of South Asia. An oxymoron definition of their mutual relationship is suggested. They are "twins-unlike" civilizations, being similar on many counts but dissimilar as their 'personalities' go. The most fascinating confrontation in their respect is provided by comparison of two social entities: the European 'nation' and the India 'caste' as well as umma and qaum. The conclusion of this comparison is strikingly political. European Union could solve its problems with supra-national integration if Europeans remodel their sense of mega-tribal identity putting more stress on competence of their respective nations as the main national identity factor while the peoples of South Asia could solve the problem of painful division of the Subcontinent by bestowing paraphernalia of sovereignty upon the constituent parts of both India and Pakistan.

Keywords: jati, caste, nation, mega-tribal identity.

The oft and on quoted first line of Kipling's Ballad of East and West3 has made many to think that the author of it was a herald of a sort of Euro-Asian apartheid which can never be bridged. But this is not so. It is enough to answer in affirmative a question whether what happens between Europe and Asia concerns already 'two strong men'? A meeting on equal terms is possible only of equally strong partners and obviously not exclusively physical strength is meant here. There is no dearth of proofs that the era of absolute prevalence of the West over the East is passé. The first to contest the primacy of the West was Japan followed by the so called Asian tigers'. Today we witness vigorous development of China and last but not least India is marking its presence among others in the software industry, Bangalore becoming fast the second largest 'silicon valley5 of the world. If this be so, then - as Kipling wants - the two strong men already stand face to face so there is neither East nor West any more. This to my mind is the unmistakable sign of globalisation.

Nevertheless such meetings are heavily burdened with numerous misconceptions resulting from the fact that the West, following its victorious technological expansion, many a time imposed upon the East its language and consequently its own understanding or - more often than not - its misunderstanding of some basic ideas and concepts of the East, which - to start with - were wrongly defined and mistakenly named. Sometimes the scale of consequences of such errors is immense and they do not only prevent mutual understanding but also make it difficult for the intellectual elite of the East to define properly its own identity. We shall try to tackle this problem which belongs to the domain of inter-cultural studies but trespasses also into the field of sociology. To begin with we shall take one of the basic notions of Indian civilisation, which is the caste, i.e.Jäti. Originally committed mistake in relation to Indian social reality, up to this day influences adversely not only the attitude of Westerners toward India and consequently toward their own civilisation, but also the self-appreciation of the Indian civilisation by the Indian intellectual elite itself, which to a large extent imbibed many a Western notion and a concept. This flaw up to now impoverishes both our own and our Indian friends' perception of reality at large and to a certain degree hampers or at least does not facilitate ripening of pan-European self-awareness. For apparently it is nowadays mainly through dialogue between civilisations that such ripening may take place.

Thus the immediate reason to tackle the problem ofjäti and nation lies also outside India, in Europe. Nevertheless it should be of interest not only to Indians at large but also or even especially to Sanskrit scholars studying the traditional social doctrines of Indian antiquity which persist in having hold over social reality even down to this very day. …

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