Saturday, November 17, 2007

Freedom is a necessary, or at least contributory, condition, though never a sufficient one

In fact, this is one of my central deviations from Schuon, as he obviously felt profoundly alienated by modernity, let alone postmodernity. Thus, he insisted that premodern traditional societies best reflected man's true needs -- that they embodied eternal principles that made man's soul feel "at home," so to speak. I don't buy this for a second, even though I do see his point.
While I certainly don't idealize the postmodern West -- about which there is much to criticize and from which to feel deeply alienated -- there is still no doubt that, if you are so inclined, it offers the average person the greatest opportunity in history for self-willed spiritual development, if only because it provides the time and the space to do so -- i.e., the slack. Don't blame the modern West if you waste your precious slack on video games, the New York Times, and other trivialities. As Dilys put it in a comment the other day,
"In this catastrophic historical moment (like perhaps all others not rotting and static), I think the argument is that liberty and prosperity best create the tear in the collective-illusion fence for humans at all levels" to live in proximity to the sacred, "if one is so disposed. At this point freedom is a necessary, or at least contributory, condition, though never a sufficient one [emphasis mine]. And arguments about misused freedom, 24/7 celebrity culture etc., do not demonstrate that un-free is better.
"Enforced communalism, or the tribal scheme in which resources, time, and prestige are scarce and rationed, offer no such opportunity to the ordinary man, though aristocrats might be better placed. Those arguing for the now-imaginary traditional arrangements I believe imagine themselves stationed among the privileged, not the slaves."
Exactly. If Schuon had publicized his ideas in the traditional cultures he idealizes, he'd be lucky if they didn't burn him at the stake. Imagine telling some medieval cleric your ideas about the "transcendent unity of religions." That wouldn't exactly be compatible with survival, any more than it would be to live in the Muslim world and insist that Judaism is every bit as "absolute" as Islam. Please. Ironically, saying such a thing is only possible in the postmodern world (although perhaps India as well, which has always welcomed religious pluralism).
Now, there are two reasons Schuon could freely publicize his ideas in the postmodern west. First, because people don't take religion seriously, and second, because they take it so very seriously. While he was all too aware of the first, he didn't seem to appreciate the irony of the second, despite his small but devoted following. In other words, because of multiculturalism and moral relativism, many contemporary people regard religion has a hopelessly subjective and unprovable enterprise, so your personal beliefs are of no consequence, so long as you don't hurt anyone or try to force them upon others. But what Schuon missed about modernity -- in particular, within America -- was the deep spiritual hunger that has always animated us.
Sri Aurobindo differed with Schuon with regard to traditional societies, which he called "conventional." The problem is, traditional societies begin with the living impulse of spirit, but eventually contain and suppress the very impulse that gave birth to them. We see this time and again in history. Not only is this what animated the Protestant revolt against Catholicism, but it is what has animated most every sect and schism since.
As Rodney Stark wrote in For the Glory of God, people who split off into sects do not do so because they want to have some watered-down version of religion. To the contrary, with the exception of cults (which have an entirely different psychology), they are composed of people who have become dissatisfied with convention and are seeking greater religious intensity.
Of traditional, or what he called "conventional" societies, Aurobindo observed that they tend to "arrange firmly, to formalise, to erect a system... to stereotype religion, to bind education and training to a traditional and unchangeable form, to subject thought to infallible authorities, to cast a stamp of finality on what seems to it the finished life of man." In short, this is precisely what Mead meant by static religion.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Market-driven competitive journalism will hurt the long-term interest of our political system

Opinion - Parliamentary democracy & some challenges Somnath Chatterjee
The Hindu Thursday, Nov 15, 2007 Because of the competitive and confrontational politics that has overtaken the country today, Parliament cannot appropriately discharge its essential functions.
Intolerance, divisiveness, corruption, confrontations and disrespect to dissent are increasingly vitiating our socio-political system. Added to this is the attempt by some institutions to malign and marginalise important people’s forums with an intent to occupy larger space than what is ideally feasible or constitutionally permissible in a representative democratic system. Judicial activism is sought to be justified because of the perceived decline in the effectiveness of parliamentary accountability. Frequent interventions in the exclusive jurisdiction of the legislature will only contribute to further eroding the authority of Parliament.
Nobody is talking of an alternative to, or substitute for, parliamentary democracy. With the realisation that it is out of our Parliament that the leadership that runs the affairs of our country emerges, we have to ensure that political workers, specially young men and women with commitment and dedication to the cause of the people, come into Parliament and actively participate in working the system. As the Presiding Officer of the popular House of Parliament, it has been my endeavour to help enhance its image. In recent years we have taken several initiatives to take Parliament closer to the people.
The introduction of a full-fledged 24-hour Lok Sabha TV channel and a Parliamentary Lecture Series, the creation of various parliamentary forums to ensure more effective involvement of the people’s representatives in matters that require concerted national attention; the creation of more opportunities for MPs to have discussions and interactions with social activists, intellectuals, the academia, and so on, are all meant to ensure an effective interface between civil society and the representative body of the people.
By expelling 10 MPs for their involvement in the ‘cash-for-query’ scam, and by suspending others for different periods for various misdemeanours, Parliament has set an example. But these initiatives are not projected properly to help enhance people’s respect for democratic institutions. The media, rather than becoming the prophets of doom and contributing to the loss of the people’s faith in the institutions, should endeavour to reinforce their trust in them. They would do well to remember that only in a democracy does free media flourish. Market-driven competitive journalism will hurt the long-term interest of our political system. Once democratic institutions lose popular trust, it could very well herald the beginning of anarchy.
The cynicism that is creeping into the minds of the people, specially the youth, about our democratic structure should be removed by the proper functioning of the people’s most important institution, so that bright young citizens do not get disinterested about participation in public affairs and politics. All stakeholders in our democracy have to unitedly work with dedication, commitment, cooperation and self-discipline to find lasting solutions to safeguard parliamentary democracy from the tremendous strains experienced today and to strengthen it.
The question that we all, particularly, today’s youth, need to ask ourselves is, should we always be the beneficiaries of the system or should we not come forward to contribute to transform the quality of our polity and to make a positive impact on the socio-economic fortunes of the people. Attracting the right talent — honest, well-meaning, public-spirited and educated youth — into the arena of politics and public life is an important challenge before our democracy.
Our youth and particularly the students have to take on the onus of addressing the aberrations and for removing the various ills plaguing our society and to provide dynamic and committed leadership to change the system for the better. Politics in the country today carries with it an image of intrigue, venality, disorder and anarchy. We need to correct it urgently, so that our people begin to view politics as a respectable profession in the service of society as was perceived during the long years of our struggle for freedom. Only the youth can help correct this image. Remember that only democracy gives you the power to participate in the political process, express your opinion and thus to be a factor in bringing about positive changes in the socio-economic condition of the country.
(Based on the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture, titled Status of Parliamentary Democracy in India, delivered by Somnath Chatterjee, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, on November 14.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Left erodes individuality by equating the will with futility

Now, the West has its own version of a dysfunctional ideology that puts up obstacles to personal development and which runs counter to the Adventure of Consciousness: the psycho-spiritual left in all its insidious varieties and permutations...
Another way of saying it is that the left erodes individuality by equating the will with futility, so that the adventure of consciousness can never get off the ground...Immorality is the rule in history; it hardly needs explanation. Decency is the exception 2:47 PM The Adventure of Reality and How to Avoid It from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

Shri Rajagopalachari's vision of a civilized society

Our first Governor General and Philosopher Shri Rajagopalachari's vision of a civilized society was to see a man, woman or a child regardless of the social status, or religious affiliation to be able to walk on any place in India, any time of the day or night without fear. We can make that happen, if we prosecute the criminals particularly those criminals who hold political offices and besmirch the nation and its people; and show to the society that we believe in Justice.
As a civilized society, we should not let any one hide in the garb of Religion. It insults the religion, and the criminals go Scot-free. Our Civil and Criminal laws on the books should be used against all people involved in Godhra train burning and the Gujarat massacre. No one should be above the law. When every Indian believes that Justice will be served, and no one will take advantage of the other, that brings trust in government and peace in the nation allowing people to focus on prosperity... Gujarat - Punish the Guilty from Desicritics by Mike Ghouse

Monday, November 12, 2007

Being is always, in the first instance, political

The "Wrenching Duality" of Aesthetics: Kant, Deleuze, and the "Theory of the Sensible"
Steven Shaviro November 10, 2007
If there’s anything that Left and Right today agree upon, it’s the absolute incompatibilty between aesthetic values and political ones. As Marx said, "the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it." Hallward is wary of the way that Deleuze’s thought overtly valorizes "contemplation" and aesthetic experience for their own sakes. But this attitude, opposing aesthetic contemplation to political action, is precisely mirrored on the right: for example, in the way that neoconservative art critics like Hilton Kramer (1985) and Roger Kimball (2004) exalt the supposedly transcendent values of art, in opposition to any sort of politicization (either of art, or of experience more generally.
This unseemly coincidence of Left and Right is something that Deleuze, among his many virtues, helps us to get away from. For there is no contradiction between Deleuze’s valuing of aesthetic contemplation, and his insistence (with Guattari) that Being is always, in the first instance, political. Just as there is no contradiction (but rather, a mutual implication) between Deleuze’s insistence that everything is historical and contingent, and his insistence upon what he calls "eternal truths."
Contemplation is not the "interpretation" that Marx decried, but precisely a mode in which philosophical interpretation is suspended. In the aesthetic, we no longer explain things away, as philosophical apologetics have so often done; instead, we are forced to feel the intolerable intensity of the actual. Hallward reads this as the paralysis of any possibility of action; but it is rather, for Deleuze, a necessary condition and generative factor in any sort of truly radical action, any action that does not just reproduce and ratify the order of things as they are. And "eternal truths," which are highlighted precisely in aesthetic contemplation, are absolute singularities, relations and qualities that cannot be generalized, but only communicated in their very refusal to be pacified and subsumed.
For Deleuze, the aesthetic is not a sufficient condition for the political, but it is a necessary one. And if aesthetics is not subordinated to politics, this is because both are necessary, and both irreducible... Deleuze’s Aesthetics from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The entire political system looks for opportunistic advantages at all times

Home > Edits & Columns > State of the Centre T. S. R. Subramanian
Indian Express: Friday, November 09, 2007
To have unfettered ability to push through major policy measures, it is a requirement of democracy that a party should have absolute majority. Unfortunately this is not the case now. It will, therefore, be inappropriate for the Congress to blame its coalition partners. After all, what is seen as “reform” by one party may not be seen as such by all the others, whether they are partners or not.
It would have been ideal to have a two- or three-party system of governance at the Centre. Unfortunately the political system that has evolved does not make for this. There is much unprincipled practice of petty politics as has been displayed by all concerned in the decades after independence. Splitting of parties, opportunistic desertions, horse-trading, vote-bank politics, surrender of ideologies for petty gains, and the like, have all been displayed by various parties at various times. Many observers have suggested diverse solutions — single transferable votes, a presidential form of government, ban on post-poll alliances, and the like. The fact is the entire political system looks for opportunistic advantages at all times. Astonishingly, the Venkatachellaiah Commission had pronounced, not too long ago, that our Constitution is perfect. Clearly this is not so... The writer was cabinet secretary to the GOI between 1996 and 1998 7:45 PM

Friday, November 9, 2007

Arya means an effort or an uprising and overcoming

FROM THE "ARYA" What is the significance of the name, "Arya" ? Referring to the Word "Aryan written in Devanagari characters on the cover of the philosophical monthly Arya. Sri Aurobindo
THE question has been put from more than one point of view. To most European readers the name¹ figuring on our cover is likely to be a hieroglyph which attracts or repels according to the temperament. Indians know the word, but it has lost for them the significance which it bore to their forefathers. Western Philology has converted it into a racial term, an unknown ethnological quantity on which different speculations fix different values. Now, even among the philologists, some are beginning to recognise that the word in its original use expressed not a difference of race, but a difference of culture. For in the Veda the Aryan peoples are those who had accepted a particular type of self-culture, of inward and outward practice, of ideality, of aspiration. The Aryan gods were the supraphysical powers who assisted the mortal in his struggle towards the nature of the godhead. All the highest aspirations of the, early human race, its noblest religious temper, its most idealistic velleities of thought are summed up in this single vocable.
In later times, the word Arya expressed a particular ethical and social ideal, an ideal of well-governed life, candour, courtesy, nobility, straight dealing, courage, gentleness, purity, humanity, compassion, protection of the weak, liberality, observance of social duty, eagerness for knowledge, respect for the wise and learned, the social accomplishments. It was the combined ideal of the Brahmana and the Kshatriya. Everything that departed from this ideal, everything that tended towards the ignoble, mean, obscure, rude, oruel or false, was termed un-Aryan. There is no word in human speech that has a nobler history.
In the early days of comparative Philology, when the scholars sought in the history of words for the prehistoric history of peoples, it was supposed that the word Arya came from the root at, to plough, and that the Vedic Aryans were so called when they separated from their kin in the north-west who despised the pursuits of agriculture and remained shepherds and hunters. This ingenious speculation has little or nothing to support it. But in a sense we may accept the derivation. Whoever cultivates the field that the Supreme Spirit has made for him, his earth of plenty within and without, does not leave it barren or allow it to run to seed, but labours to exact from it its full yield, is by that effort an Aryan.
If Arya were a purely racial term, a more probable derivation would be at, meaning strength or valour, from ar to fight, whence we have the name of the Greek war-god Ares, areios, brave or warlike, perhaps even aretĂȘ, virtue, signifying, like the Latin virtus, first, physical strength and courage and then moral force and elevation. This sense of the word also we may accept. "We fight to win sublime Wisdom, therefore men call us warriors." For Wisdom implies the choice as well as the knowledge of that which is best, noblest, most luminous, most divine. Certainly, it means also the knowledge of all things and charity and reverence for all things, even the most apparently mean, ugly or dark, for the sake of the universal Deity who chooses to dwell equally in all. But, also, the law of right action is a choice, the preference of that which expresses the godhead to that which conceals it. And the choice entails a battle, a struggle. It is not easily made, it is not easily enforced.
Whoever makes that choice, whoever seeks to climb from level to level up the hill of the divine, fearing nothing, deterred by no retardation or defeat, shrinking from no vastness because it is too vast for his intelligence, no height because it is too high for his spirit, no greatness because it is too great for his force and courage, he is the Aryan, the divine fighter and victor, the noble man, aristos, best, the srestha of the Gita.
Intrinsically, in its most fundamental sense, Arya means an effort or an uprising and overcoming. The Aryan is he who strives and overcomes all outside him and within him that stands opposed to the human advance. Self-conquest is the first law of his nature. He overcomes earth and the body and does not consent like ordinary men to their dullness, inertia, dead routine and tamasic limitations. He overcomes life and its energies and refuses to be dominated by their hungers and cravings or enslaved by their rajasic passions. He overcomes the mind and its habits, he does not live in a shell of ignorance, inherited prejudices, customary ideas, pleasant opinions, but knows how to seek and choose, to be large and flexible in intelligence even as he is firm and strong in his will. For in everything he seeks truth, in every thing right, in everything height and freedom.
Self-perfection is the aim of his self-conquest. Therefore what he conquers he does not destroy, but ennobles and fulfils. He knows that the body, life and mind are given him in order to attain to something higher than they; therefore they must be transcended and overcome, their limitations denied, the absorption of their gratifications rejected. But he knows also that the Highest is something which is no nullity in the world, but increasingly expresses itself here, - a divine Will, Consciousness, Love, Beatitude which pours itself out, when found, through the terms of the lower life on the finder and on all in his environment that is capable of receiving it. Of that he is the servant, lover and seeker. When it is attained, he pours it forth in work, love, joy . and knowledge upon mankind. For always the Aryan is a worker and warrior. He spares himself no labour of mind or body whether to seek the Highest or to serve it. He avoids no difficulty, he accepts no cessation from fatigue. Always he fights for the coming of that kingdom within himself and in the world.
The Aryan perfected is the Arhat. There is a transcendent Consciousness which surpasses the universe and of which all these worlds are only a side-issue and a by-play. To that consciousness he aspires and attains. There is a Consciousness which, being transcendent, is yet the universe and all that the universe contains. Into that consciousness he enlarges his limited ego; he becomes one with all beings and all inanimate objects in a single self-awareness, love, delight, all-embracing energy. There is a consciousness which, being both transcendental and universal, yet accepts the apparent limitations of individuality for work, for various standpoints of knowledge, for the play of the Lord with His creations; for the ego is there that it may finally convert itself into a free centre of the divine work and the divine play. That consciousness too he has sufficient love, joy and knowledge to accept; he is puissant enough to effect that con- version.
To embrace individuality after transcending it is the last and divine sacrifice. The perfect Arhat is he who is able to live simultaneously in all these three apparent states of existence, elevate the lower into the higher, receive the higher into the lower, so that he may represent perfectly in the symbols of the world that with which he is identified in all parts of his being, - the triple and triune Brahman. Page -396 Location: Home > E-Library > Works Of Sri Aurobindo > The Hour Of God Volume-17 > Arya

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Advancing the collective good, and simultaneously minimising and mitigating the costs borne by some sections Who needs democracy?
8 Nov, 2007 T K Arun
Indian industry needs democracy, and desperately. The Indian economy’s sustained growth today is hostage to incomplete democracy, never mind all that champagne spilled on plush carpets of the rich growing richer while toasting the vaulting Sensex. Today, millions of Indians can only stand and stare as spectators while a tiny minority races, twinkle-toed, towards prosperity. Unless these resentful bystanders are transformed into joyous members of the procession, the music will soon stop and the dancing turn into a stampede of the kind that follows a bomb blast at a public place.
Cassandra-like scaremongering? Many Latin American countries have registered decent growth rates under the iron rule of military dictators. So did Korea till the late nineties. Assorted authoritarian governments have presided over impressive economic performance in much of east and south-east Asia for long periods. Even today, the fastest growing large economy of the world, China, is governed by an authoritarian, rather than a democratic, regime. So why should India alone need democracy for sustained growth?
In fact, it is often argued that India’s democracy is actually a hindrance when it comes to economic growth. After all, democracy does mean slower decisionmaking, if not endless dither, with all its greedy politicians, bungling bureaucrats, miles of red tape, self-seeking unions, environmental fundamentalists, trigger-happy litigants, other assorted, competing stakeholders, all translating into a thousand outstretched palms waiting to be greased. So, from the point of view of economic growth, shouldn’t industry be happy with less, rather than more, democracy? After all, businessmen do have access to bureaucrats and politicians, apart from to resources, to insulate themselves from any excess of authoritarian state power.
We could, if we want to, examine the vast literature examining the relationship between capitalism and democracy, their parallel historical growth, their shared common foundations in the freedom of individuals, institutional rather than arbitrary functioning, etc. Decentralised decision-making, which is at the heart of a vibrant, competitive market economy, cannot really happen in an authoritarian political structure, which would curtail freedoms of choice and action in assorted spheres.
So, authoritarian polities are unlikely to produce sustained efficiency in the economies they govern. China, for instance, curtails consumption to save and invest more than half its output, to produce 10% growth. India, on its part, consumes as much as two-thirds of its output and squeezes out 9% growth from the one-third of its output that it saves and invests. Clearly, India’s bumbling democracy is not all that inefficient when it comes to making effective use of resources!
But the practical point is that it is not possible for India to dispense with democracy, whether to rid the economy of the inconveniences arising from democracy or for any other such noble enterprise. It would make more sense to see how deepening democracy is likely to remove key constraints holding back India’s growth.
Consider some of the constraints.
Inability to obtain land for large projects. Nandigram has become a metaphor for forcible acquisition of agricultural land for industrial development and the violent resistance that follows. In a country where 40% of farmers report themselves as being reluctant tillers of the soil who would happily pursue some other occupation if it were available, the only reason farmers still resist industrial advance is that they see no stake for themselves in that development. Rather, they see themselves being deprived of their basic source of sustenance, with only bleak uncertainty about the future being offered as compensation.
This is failure of democracy. Advancing the collective good, and simultaneously minimising and mitigating the costs borne by some sections while pursuing that common good, are integral to democracy. This does not happen in India. People have no faith it would happen, even if it is promised by politicians and the administration. This reflects absence of real empowerment of the people, which is the cornerstone of democracy.
This failure of democracy gets compounded by the forms of competitive politics characteristic of democracy. It is easy for anyone to finance a local agitation against a new industrial venture. Posco, the Korean steel major that came to India with a $12 billion project, has not been able to get going after years of struggle with the political and administrative establishment. A stone throwing mob, assembled easily enough, is enough to close down organised retail in Uttar Pradesh.
Consider communal and caste violence that simmers under the surface, fanned by cynical politics that feeds, ultimately, on the huge gap between the political and social consciousness of much of India and the norms of liberal democracy enshrined in the Constitution.
Or consider shortage of electricity. The problem here is theft —patronised, ultimately, by politics. If one-third of an industry’s output is stolen with impunity, that industry cannot grow. Patronage of power theft is part of a larger malaise. The entire exchequer is seen by the political class as fair game, the rightful fruit of power. This just would not happen in a system where the people have some real control over the government supposedly working for them.
Or consider the traffic snarls in Bangalore or Mumbai. The state governments’ apathy has its roots in another failure of democracy, the huge disconnect between the prosperity of the cities and life in the countryside, where the voters reside.
And let us not forget the harsh reality that more than one-fourth of India’s 593 districts are now officially classified as Naxalite-affected. Civil strife takes a daily toll in Kashmir, the Northeast and different other parts of the country. Not just the bomb blasts that are large enough to grab wide attention, but also the violence that breaks out sporadically over road accidents or petty theft betray social tensions all stemming from a sad deficit of democracy.
For an environment free of the threat of random violence and crime, crucial for security of life and prosperity, industry needs democracy to grow. There is no alternative.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

We must distinguish between the public sphere and the state

LEADER ARTICLE: Communism Is Dead
The Times of India 5 Nov 2007 Anthony Giddens
India needs a thoroughgoing debate about the future of the Left. The Congress party seems to lack a clear ideological direction, while others expend their energies decrying American imperialism, offering few or no remedies for the future. It would help to begin with a reality check. Self-proclaimed communist parties still exist in India, and indeed are partners in the current coalition. Yet not only communism but more widely socialism too, are dead. The precise date of their death is known — 1989 — but they were ailing for quite a while before. The idea of overcoming capitalism through secular political revolution has almost completely disappeared. Today's far Left defines itself almost wholly in terms of what it is against — sometimes still 'anti-capitalism', more often 'anti-globalisation'. That is why it lacks positive vision.
Reformist socialists, by contrast, have always taken a more sober view. For them the irrationalities of capitalism can be tamed by giving the state a partial role in economic life. The commanding heights of the economy, such as transport, communications, iron and steel, coal and electricity, should be put under state control. For several decades after World War II this compromise seemed to work in the West, and to a much lesser extent in India too. It worked, however, not because of socialism per se, but because of an economic theory produced by a liberal, John Maynard Keynes. The state could exert overall control over the economy by regulating demand, while the welfare state picked up the pieces when things went wrong.
The key question is whether this type of socialism is dead too. I would answer definitively yes. The state has mostly proved inept at running business in a direct way. Keynesian demand management is no longer effective — indeed can be actively dysfunctional — in a globalised marketplace. There is a clear line of descent from reformist socialism to left of centre parties of today, but more in terms of values than policies. The centre-left stands for values of egalitarianism, solidarity, the protection of the vulnerable and the belief that collective action is necessary to pursue these values effectively. 'Collective action' includes a role for the state, but also other agencies in civil society too. To pursue such values, however, very considerable rethinking is necessary.
First, we can no longer define left of centre thinking simply in terms of limiting the damage markets do to our lives. Capitalism still needs regulation. However, sometimes the role of government has to be to expand the role of markets rather than reduce it, or to help markets function more effectively. It is no use saying that liberalising labour markets, for example, is intrinsically an anti-Leftist policy. A divided labour market, such as India has, does not advance the cause of social justice. It is a major factor producing high unemployment. It is significant that the most socially just countries in the world, the Scandinavian societies, have all thoroughly reformed their labour markets.
Second, we must distinguish between the public sphere and the state. The traditional Left, both revolutionary and reformist, tended to equate the two. A robust public sphere is essential to the creation of a productive and socially just society; but not only can the state be a barrier to it, other groups (such as third-sector organisations) are important in providing public goods too. Reform of the state is crucial wherever state institutions are overly centralised and corrupt. In a globalising world, decentralisation and bottom-up power should be the order of the day.
Third, in the contemporary world a great deal of supply-side investment is necessary. We have to invest in people in an era of much greater individual freedom and aspiration than in the past. The education system has to be radically upgraded to cope with a world of intensifying competition; higher education, again of top-class standard, has to be much more widely available; and education has to be open to those in older age-groups, too.
Fourth, the term 'centre' in 'centre-left' has real meaning and substance. It does not (or should not) stand for wishy-washy compromise. There are core issues that do not fit readily into the left-right divide, and where mutual agreements between parties of different complexions may be in the general social interest. The most important is the environment. The days are gone when India could say to the West, 'climate change is your problem, you resolve it'. The debate over nuclear power is not a left-right question, any more than investment in renewable technologies is.
Finally, what about one of the biggest problems India faces, the massive divisions between rich and poor? India must not turn its back on globalisation, the source of its now rapidly expanding economy. But managing globalisation is crucial. There are bound to be growing disparities of wealth as a society grows richer, since development is always uneven. Government intervention is necessary to help redistribute that wealth, provide social safety nets, upgrade health care, protect children and help provide opportunities for women. The key thing is to avoid mistakes other countries have made in so doing. For example, paying out passive benefits to the poor has been shown to produce welfare dependency. 'A hand up, not a handout' is the first principle of modern welfare. The writer is former director, London School of Economics.