Thursday, 31 December 2009

Hierarchical and equalitarian societies

From De Smet I learned the difference between the organicity of the Christian concept of person, and the atomism of rationalist individualism. The former seems to be the mark of all organically related, hierarchical societies. The latter seems to be, instead, the presupposition or the foundation of modern (and technological) democracies.

This insight is not exclusive to De Smet. He himself draws on Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, for example. (See De Smet, Brahman and Person, 2010 69.)

Strange that I had to come across the very same reference - and insight - in Edward Rutherfurd's historical novel, Sarum.

And then again in Richard Howard's ongoing series of articles in Divyadaan on Gandhi. The difference between Gandhi and Nehru - one of the differences - is that between an organic, hierarchical, pre-modern society and an atomistic, modern society.

But there is food for thought here. For the hierarchical societies are prone to structural injustices, such as the caste system, while the equalitarian societies attempt at least to do away with such. Logically, in fact, Gandhi defended the varna system, while Ambedkar attacked this system and the hierarchical society to which it belonged, opting for modern democracy.

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