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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