Nationalism used to be a dirty word for the Liberal Academy. Is it slowly on its way back to acceptability?
, an up and coming assistant Professor at Brown, has published a book,
whose innocuous title linking Solidarity & Welfare belies a mischievous misprision, backed up by 'drive by regression',
that 'sub-nationalism'- not the big beast, true, but something that might grow up into it- is a good thing for social development. She writes-
The Union Territory of Delhi is a 'political unit with primary jurisdiction over social policy'. It is doing well by comparison with most parts of India. People are willing to move there in order to enjoy a higher living standard and better life chances for their children. Does it have a 'shared identity'? Nope. It doesn't need one. Even under Kejriwal, there is no Delhi 'sub-nationalism'. Recently, post-Brexit, some newspapers have talked about an independent London remaining within the EU. In other words, a Londonian sub-nationalism has been mooted. Nothing similar has happened with respect to Delhi. Why?
Sub-nationalism is only meaningful if it can become a full fledged Nationalism. Its conventional definition is 'The policy of asserting the interest of one's own state/region/province, as separate from the interest of the nation and the common interest of all other states/regions/provinces.' It is stupid and pointless to use the term where there is no economic or cultural or religious or political divergence of the interest of people living in a particular province from that of people belonging to the Nation as a whole.
Modi, as C.M of Gujarat, was castigated by the National Media and Liberal Academia. It was alleged that he had only managed to get re-elected by appealing to Gujarati 'asmita'- i.e. chauvinistic Gujarati sub-nationalism. The EPW
and other Left-Liberal publications continually repeated the mantra- 'Gujarat is not India
. Modi represents a Gujarati pathology of hyper-masculinity. Gujarat is splitting off from India, using its coast line to attract international investment in petro-chemicals and other such evil un-Gandhian things.'
Had the BJP lost the election, no doubt Prerna Singh could have included Gujarat under Modi as an example of rapid socio-economic development because of, not good governance, but 'sub-nationalism'.
Instead, she highlights Nitish Kumar's Bihar. Previously, thanks to Jayprakash Narayan and Vinobha Bhave, Bihari 'Solidarity' had reached such a peak that 98 % of all the land in the state had been gifted away for communal use. This was not just bhoodaan but 'Bihar-daan'. In other words, the issue of who owned what got muddied. The State was disintermediated by the strong right arm. Reversing Proudhon's adage, Theft was Property. Stupid 'Solidarity' based politics had upset what was previously a well-run State. That's why no one there now mentions 'Bihar-daan' or 'Sarvodaya' or Leftist shite or Hindutva nonsense.
Instead, people vote for Nitish because he doesn't just say he will improve governance- he actually does it. I recall a Bihari cycle-rickshawallah- a Brahman- in West Delhi telling me the road to his village was better than the one he was taking me down. I said I'd visited Bihar in 1998 and the roads were horrible. He explained that Nitish Kumar had cracked down on corruption. This was not 'sub-nationalism', it was people taking pride in good governance in their natal place and telling others about it not to rub their noses into the dirt but to point out that elections do matter, not all politicians are worthless. Delhites got the message and threw out Shiela Dixit. It doesn't mean they have become 'sub-nationalists'. They are Nationalists because what is good for Delhi is good governance. But that same type of good governance is good for every part of India.
Which parts of India have or had a genuine 'sub-nationalism'- i.e. the belief that a particular territory or ethnicity would do better on their own even if pursuing policies enmical to the Nation as a whole?
Some Indian Muslims from the Thirties onward espoused a 'sub-nationalism' which resulted in the formation of Pakistan from which Bangladesh split off. However, this 'sub-nationalism' negatively impacted development indicators in so far as it involved military and or internecine conflict. It is far from clear that improved 'solidarity', by itself, had any positive impact. On the contrary, the lesson to be learnt here is that only good governance matters.
Sub-nationalism of the Khalistani, Kashmiri or North Eastern sort have had no benign impact at all. Even if Nations were created in line with the demands of these genuine examples of sub-nationalism, the resulting wars and internecine conflicts are likely to destroy whatever fragile prosperity and governance these areas have achieved.
What of Kerala and Tamil Nadu? Singh makes great play with the notion that the 'Aikya Kerala' movement was 'sub-nationalistic' and that it led to Kerala's success as a Human Development model.
This is nonsense. Rulers were under pressure from the British to improve governance or lose their thrones. At the same time, old internecine rivalries had to be controlled to prevent recurrent civil disturbances and quasi-military insurgencies.
Why did Kerala do so well educationally? The answer is that it already had a tradition of scholarly excellence and moreover had large Christian and Muslim populations with an interest in maintaining and cultivating ties with the paideias of their own wider Oikumenes.
Once Kerala realized the value of English- because it was a gateway to learned professions and clerical employment- the expected return on modern education increased, hence demand for it rose. Since Kerala had a lot of Christians- for whom teaching was considered a spiritual vocation- as well as a traditional 'Ezhutachan' teacher caste- the quality of their schools, even in small villages, soon came up. For geographical reasons, there were 'economies of scale and scope' which quickly came on tap. The native brilliance of the people asserted itsel
f. V.P Menon
was an 8th standard drop-out. Sheer ability took him to the very top of the Bureaucratic pyramid. Why? He understood Constitutional Law better, and could write more cogently, than Oxbridge educated barristers or 'twice born' ICS officers.
Kerala began to export Doctors, Lawyers and Civil Servants. In New Delhi the joke was you had 'to run from Pilliai to Pillai' to get things done.
However, the other side to the story of educational success was declining opportunities at home- with Hirschman 'Exit', not 'Voice' or 'Loyalty', serving as a safety valve. Initially this was because of inherited legal and institutional factors but, after independence, crazy Leftist militancy was the decisive factor in holding the region back. Still, like Cuba, Kerala saw a perverse benefit from Economic strangulation in that the Education industry (making 'Exit' possible) did not suffer 'Baumol cost disease
', rather (this is the exception Baumol later noted) it was temporarily reversed with a one-off gain in Knowledge based Public and Merit good provision.
The Aikya Kerala
movement could be called an example of linguistic sub-nationalism featuring the merging of princely states with British territory. It was supported by the King of Cochin and perfectly sensible as such. However, it had no real salience after '56. Thenceforth, there is no question of 'sub-nationalism' in Kerala as there was in Tamil Nadu where Dravidian parties were contesting Congress hegemony. Communism however did have salience in Kerala. The first elected Communist Govt. took office but there was a 'caste arithmetic' aspect to it. That Govt. came a cropper when it tried to take control of Christian schools.
Since Kerala has no real rancor directed at its neighboring states- Tamil Brahmans taking jobs there in the late Nineteenth century were not resented as Tamils or as Brahmans but envied because they had gotten access to English education- the large number of migrants it has received, more especially in recent times, don't seem to have caused any type of backlash. Moreover, Malyalams's long tradition of literary excellence has rendered the threat of 'Globish' rather benign.
Far from Keralites ever demanding English be banned, they have always been insisting that their kids learn English and other 'modern' subjects because they too wanted to get the same type of jobs as the 'Iyers' who had come up a little thanks to British Rule. In fact, an 'Iyer' (Tamil Brahmin) Dewan of Travancore, who had taken a strong anti-Communist line, was almost assassinated because it was thought that he was holding up accession to the Indian Union.
What about Tamil Nadu? The Dravidian parties did indeed toy with separatism at one time. However, the mass patriotic groundswell in response to the Chinese invasion showed that 'sub-nationalism' had no mass appeal. What people wanted was good governance. Kamaraj had come up with the free school meal idea. M.G.R (a Keralite) implemented it. Who gives a damn where 'Amma' comes from? If she understands that ordinary people need affordable food and sets up proper canteens then it is a matter of upholding basic dignity not 'sub-nationalism' or any other such bogus concept.
What bloody 'Solidarity' is involved if an elderly person gets a portion of idli sambar at a reasonable price? Are you telling me the rich people are showing 'Solidarity' by giving this as charity? No. They are paying taxes because they will go to jail if they don't. If they don't want to pay taxes they are welcome to emigrate to some country where taxes are not collected. Otherwise, not 'Solidarity' but proper Economic 'Mechanism Design' is what builds schools and runs hospitals and provides canteens so that people can live with dignity.
This at any rate was the message of Tamil Cinema- which was market driven. Those films which showed the hero standing up for the dignity of ordinary people and fighting against their oppressors did well at the box-office. Those film writers or actors who gained popularity entered politics and, once again, gave the people what they wanted- not all they wanted by any means- but a product slightly better than what their rivals were selling.
As a Tambram myself, I can tell you that Rajaji was considered a senile casteist buffoon by people of my grandparent's generation. That idiot, nobody else, supported the Pakistan demand. That shithead, nobody else, thought kids should learn their father's trade. Yes, Tanguturi Prakasam
- who wanted to demolish Textile factories to show himself the true inheritor of Gandhi's mantle- was a bigger idiot. But he was a Telugu idiot so not our problem.
Interestingly, Telugu speakers after getting a linguistic state, have opted for a further division so as to improve governance. Mayawati, in Uttar Pradesh, is calling for a similar re-organization to improve administration. There is a linguistic argument for this but no-one wants to have their kids schooled in what is perceived as a rustic dialect as opposed to 'shuddh Hindi'. Indeed, Uttarakhand has Sanskrit as its second official language so as to preserve what is perceived as its scholastic advantage in this respect. But, even there, access to English and instruction in STEM subjects is what people are clamoring for. Solidarity can go hang, if it involves stupid nativism.
Good governance- as the term is used by Narendra Modi, not Amartya Sen- means the individual's dignity is upheld. I am a 53 year old man. I'm perfectly ready to lift up my dhoti and urinate and defecate on the side of the road. My dignity is not compromised. Rather I am asserting my equality, as a Brahman, with the Holy Cow which wanders the streets in a similarly random, though admittedly not inebriated, manner. However, even I have to accept the situation is different for a young person or female. 'Swacch Bharat' is not about Solidarity or Sub-Nationalism. It is about a person's dignity by virtue of being a person, not some entitlement arising from membership of a collective.
Economic theory is aware that Social Choice requires a Goldilocks condition re. diversity in endowments and preference profiles. Too much or too little diversity means every possible information aggregating mechanism has a pathology. The precondition for 'good governance' is that a sequence of co-ordination game yields an allocation in the 'core'. But, that's stuff we have evolved to sort out for ourselves without the need for any bogus Academic lecturing us about 'Solidarity' or spouting mischievous nonsense about 'Sub-Nationalism'.
Social life is possible because it is a coordination game with a pooling equilibrium. Nationalism is a dis-coordination game because it requires a 'costly signal' giving rise to a 'separating equilibrium'. At the margin, it penalizes Exit, rewards Loyalty and channelize's Voice. Sub-Nationalism, by definition, is a dis-coordination game aimed at overthrowing a 'pooling equilibrium'. If there really is a 'costly signal' which it correctly discriminates- if for example it were true that Scots have some traits which others don't have, or which it would be very costly for others to acquire- then, absent massive exogenous coercion, Scottish sub-nationalism would have triumphed long ago by entirely non-political means.
It is mischievous to suggest, in the Indian context, that Kashmiri or Khalistani or Bodo or Naga sub-nationalisms create 'Solidarity'. They don't. They involve mayhem, nothing more.
Why would Prerna Singh, whose first degree was from Delhi, praise 'sub-nationalism'?
It seems she has been misled by, Harvard shithead, Gershenkron's
argument that the State must take a vanguard role in Industrialization in 'backward countries'. India certainly believed some such nonsense in the Fifties. But, because the State relied on the Credentialized Academy, it did very stupid things. The reductio ad absurdum of this type of 'Solidarity' based Nationalism, involved Lal Bahadur Shastri, a tiny little man, appealing to Indians to skip a meal so as to 'save the Nation'. This was idiocy pure and simple. The State had no choice but to allow the Army to grow in fighting capacity and to allow the peasants to get hybrid seeds to grow more food. Otherwise, 'Solidarity' demanded that everybody keep skipping meals till everybody looked like Shastri and some beefy Pathan General was emboldened to invade.
Slowly but surely, the Academics were confined to the Ivory Tower and even some patriotic bureaucrats turned pragmatic and ready to wield the knife upon their own unsustainable racket.
Prerna Singh, now securely tenured within the Ivory Tower, can write-
Why is the above fucked in the head? Well, we all know that Saint-Simon paved the way for Napoleon III, the defeat at Sedan, the revanchist but stupid alliance with the Tzar which paved the way for two World Wars, and the crazy attempt to resurrect French 'glory' in Indo-China and Algeria. Similarly, List paved the way for Luddendorf's notion of 'total war'.
Solidarity is stupid. At best it is cheap talk which establishes a bilateral 'threat point' which is imaginary and gives rise to a pathological dynamics. At worst, it is a 'costly signal which assures mutual destruction.
Far better is methodological individualism- mechanism design which is about the price of bread, the cost of a hospital stay or a College education, stuff that matters to individuals. Left to themselves, people can solve the underlying co-ordination game associated with channeling preference and endowment diversity such that Tiebout sorting occurs and the proper correlated equilibrium is reached.
Still, perhaps Singh's book represents the Liberal Academy's slow accommodation to the notion that Nations want not worthless universalist pi-jaw based upon some Platonic conception of the 'Good', but limited and pragmatic governance somewhat better than what went before.
Has Prerna Singh been inspired by NaMo?
Is she the future Donald Trump of the Politically Correct Academy?
She observes all the pieties and her wild misprisions and drive-by regressions are 'friendly fire' simply. As such she deserves promotion.