Objectivism And India: An Unlikely Alliance?

Posted on September 9, 2011 in Specials

By Mahalakshmi Ganapathy:

Objectivism, the philosophy that shook the very annals of the Western world and gave rise to a new chapter of individualism in an ever growing collectivist society also brought into the fore a new hero, a new champion of individual rights. Ayn Rand is one of the most powerful, most daring, controversial novelist, playwright, screenwriter and philosopher of the modern times.

So why Objectivism and why talk about connecting it to India? But before this comes another question-What exactly is Objectivism.

The essence of Objectivism is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose in his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity and reason his only absolute. Rand places her philosophy of Objectivism as a philosophy for living on earth. Her philosophy advocates reason and egoism in detail.

As Ayn Rand wrote: “In order to live, man must act, in order to act he must make choices, in order to make choices, he must define a code of values, in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is-ie he must know his own nature (including his means of knowledge) and the nature of the universe in which he acts-ie he needs metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, which means: philosophy. He cannot escape from this need; his only alternative is whether the philosophy guiding him is to be chosen by his mind or by his chance.”

Objectivism as a philosophy and a way of living is best suited to the climate and people of USA, the country which started on the very pillars of reason and capitalism being the key tenets of objectivism. It is easy for a person born and bought up in America to connect to and follow objectivism relatively easy as opposed to my belief in objectivism staying in India. Here the difference in the geographical context must be clearly noted because that at the very core is at the practice of objectivism.

We as Indians grow up in a very sheltered, collective, cocooned society, with parents unabashedly accepting us as a child here even if we turn 80 tomorrow. The community and we-feeling is very strong here. Family ties and relations: relations with parents, siblings, neighbours is very secure and society rules the roost in deciding what we will wear, how we must think, to what career is to be taken up, to whom we will marry. Even in this very paragraph, I have deliberately used the word ‘we’ instead of using ‘I’ because that is what our society preaches to us. I meaning selfishness whereas we meaning selfless and accepted by society.

Objectivism stands in clear opposition here. It removes all forms of ‘we’ and thus establishes the primacy of the human being, in fact glorifies man as the rational being. It says rational because it does not believe in collectives or herd mentality, and gives full credence to the rational potential in man, his own individual identity and his creative faculty.

Indian economy also stands in opposition with the objectivity philosophy. India set it’s eyes on capitalism without actually naming it and hiding it under the pseudonym of industrialisation in the post-independence period. Although it tried to bring about modernization and development, in essence it was socialism and democracy. Even after the LPG phase in the 90’s ,we see that capitalism is still interspersed with the new form called mixed economy. Objectivism is opposed to the mixed economy and advocates laissez-faire.

It calls for the role of government only as a watchdog, in case the rights of individuals are violated .In India in contrast we have the government playing the role of godfather to it’s people, industries. Objectivism also rejects altruism as the greatest virtue. It says that you are born to serve yourself and not anybody ,not your neighbour. But in India we are taught to sacrifice at all times, it is bad to have own self-interest before thinking about others. Even our social work education inherently adopts altruism and rejects self-interest of man.

Objectivism rejects miracles, God and everything that cannot be logically proved, whereas we in India thrive on these belief systems and still hold on to them strongly.

Based on my above arguments and suppositions, I ask: Will Objectivism be accepted in India?

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neha

For the first time i have read about this concept of objectivism though have heard a lot about it. It has cleared many things and i am double sure now that i am not in it’s favour.i have various questions in my mind after reading this article.Please answer them:

1.Does this isolates our happiness from our society’s happiness?i mean to ask,if we are happy that’s more than enough for us and rest is null?

2. I agree that when we come into this life ,our parents are just medium to bring us on this earth and we have right to live our life but does it mean that we can hurt anyone just because my success matters rest is null?

    Mahalakshmi

    hey thanks for reading the article ,see the basic premise of objectivism is to be free but not at the cost of making others suffer,so that does not mean that only the individual matters and the rest is unimportant ,but it says that you must live for yourself and not solely for and by the rules set by others

    neha

    i agree that rules are made by human beings onlyIt could be right or wrong.But not following rules,don’t you think will create chais?

    Mahalakshmi

    hey see there are some basic rules of society which need to be followed in order to avoid chaos in society but when it comes to people and how an individual should live,I feel the decision should not be with the people but with the individual itself ,no one should decide what is best for me,I should be free to take the decisions of my life

pallavi

Objectivism is not about being selfish rather big hearted and broad minded…. somewhere your views are right regarding govt role in INDIA. but i must say you shoudnt forget that we are still having the family culture and a descent society, where elders are still regarded from the core of heart.

The problem is we had a worse colonial past and that’s the big trouble we fear from acceptance but after the advent of globalization and liberalization things have improved and the work is going on…………..

so hiding your inability to accept the truth under the veil of objectivism is totally not a fair game for an educated citizen.@mahalakshmi,aditya nayak

    Mahalakshmi

    I agree to your point but nowhere have I mentioned that this is right and that is wrong ,I have simply stated the parallels between the two.I’m sorry but did not catch your point

Darshan Pandit

Well..all above said is true. However, not entirely true in indian context. Open up! Look around…and you’d find the same situation everywhere! ms rand herself has described a couple of stories of soviet russia, america, europe and many more…its just that we’ve got more parasites out here in india than anywhere else. But, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t enough atlas to take care of them. I always smile when I hear “99 out of 100 are corrupted…” Do you know why?…it’s because there is one atlas…and he’s my hero. He carries all the burden of the nation over his able shoulders…and I choose to protect him…them…all of them. :)

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