On The Myth of Liberal “Nationalism”

Liberal Nationalism is an oxymoron. Why?

Whilst liberalism disintegrates a Samaja in the name of inalienable individual rights and freedoms, in Nationalism on the other hand, one finds the ingredients of a shared history of struggles, traditions, cultures, languages and most importantly for the Hindu Samaja, a manner of communication between diverse people owning all these and more. In this last aspect, the Hindu Rashtra differs considerably from “Western” style nation-states. In the latter the drive was towards achieving greater homogeneity.

I would like to provide a critique of The Acorn’s “On Liberal Nationalism”

The Acorn starts off with a truism – That in the “natural state” Man is a brute. This means that in a state of emotional disconnection or immaturity; that is circumscribed only by the natural instinct to survive anyhow (Matsyanyaya)and in the absence of any sources of knowing better, Man’s life, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, was – “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

So what does such a Man or suffering groups of such Men, do? Their common Will to survive perhaps allows them the desperate window of looking for an agreed “leader”? In the form of the State (King) who will take away all or some of Man’s free Will and rule over them in exchange of agreed maintenance – The State (King) needs to live also.

Two examples of such “contract” are mentioned –

That of Kautilya :

People suffering from anarchy as illustrated by the proverbial tendency of a large fish swallowing a small one (matsyanyayabhibhutah prajah), first elected Manu, the Vaivasvata, to be their king; and allotted one-sixth of the grains grown and one-tenth of merchandise as sovereign dues. Fed by this payment, kings took upon themselves the responsibility of maintaining the safety and security of their subjects (yogakshemavah), and of being answerable for the sins of their subjects when the principle of levying just punishments and taxes has been violated.[Arthashastra I:13]

Some Western thoughts :

In Western philosophy, this trade-off forms the basis of social contract theories. In Leviathan, Hobbes argues that individuals cede all their rights in return for protection to a sovereign who is himself above the law. John Locke, writing after Hobbes, is more moderate: in his view, individuals surrender only some of their rights to a government that rules by the consent of the governed.

So, in other words, in both the Hindu and Western thought, Man has not merely ceded his Natural Rights (some or all) to the State (King) but he has also burdened the State (King) with responsibilities in return for compensation. This latter deduction is very important if we are to understand the non-Liberal or Traditional view of Samaja or ordered Human Society.

In both the above quoted excerpts, what is missing is how Men, who ceded power to the State, behaved amongst themselves. Did the State (King) dictate or police their day-to-day life? Or was there some self-regulatory mechanism that did not require the State’s (King’s) direct and micro interventions?

This lacuna is sought to be explained by the mechanism of the Constitution:

This trade-off forms the basis of modern liberal democratic states. The exact implementation differs from state to state, and depends on a number of factors. But most often, the social contract is codified in a constitution. Constitutions are not, and do not have to be either perfect or immutable. To varying degrees, they affirm the rights of the individual and offer an enlightened method to settle the differences between the interests of individuals. In sharp contrast to Hobbes’ Leviathan, modern constitutions also, to varying degrees, make the government itself subject to the rule of law.

On closer scrutiny, what seems absent from the narrative is how such Constitutions are brought about? What are these “enlightened methods” that are offered for Men to follow? Do these have basis in Traditional experience or are they the outcome of enlightened “whims” of the State (King)? What are these Traditional experiences I speak of?

It is my contention that “Man is Social but perhaps not an animal”. Man can think, can experience, can reason, is weak, is in need of protection and so instinctively gathers together for varying periods of time. The duration in time of such “gathering” lasts as long as Man feels safe in his surroundings. The need for safety too is a passing phase for once assured of such safety, Man begins to think of bigger things – the need to perpetuate himself, his race. The way to perpetuate himself as known to Man was through trial and error. Errors generate experiential knowledge on what needs to be avoided. Conversely, what works is adopted and passed on. This latter is Tradition. Since Man does not experience such events alone and is always in the company of other Men – remember Man is weak – workable Traditions of common good, spread. The Wheels are not endlessly re-invented. These then become obligations and responsibilities toward one another in the Samaja of shared Traditions. Not merely in abidement to the State’s (King’s) wishes.

The Hindu Samaja uses the term Dharma to describe such obligations and responsibilities.

One sorely misses this crucial aspect in The Acorn’s narrative. The aspect whereby Men relate to one another even in the absence of Stately (Kingly) Constitutions. Even in the event where such a State (King) can breakdown and collapse.

On a much larger scale this is also the narrative of Hindu Rashtriyatva…”and most importantly for the Hindu Samaja, a manner of communication between diverse people.”

But how can such a noble “manner of communication between diverse people” gel with the concept of an atomized Liberal “Nationalism”? It is not even true that anything atomized can be termed a “Nationalism”.

So what sort of animal is this?

If it is only required that Man is in contract with the State (King) and the State (King) assures him protection and “enlightened methods of settling differences” with no reference to evolved Traditions, then this cannot be called “Nationalism” or “Rashtriyatva” by any stretch because there is simply no reference to a Nation. This is, to my mind, Statism or Rajyatva. Instead of being “wedded” to one another in the Samaja, such a concept only encourages that Man “wed” the State (King).

None of what I have said negates the importance of the State (King) in the scheme of the Samaja but the critical difference is that the Samaja cannot be dependent on the State (King) or Rajya for its sustenance and growth. In turn, the State (King) or Rajya has a duty or in other words a Rajya Dharma towards the Samaja. The Samaja refuses to purchase its freedom to live by Dharma.

Therefore any “National Interest” that can be contemplated should be in line with the Samaja'(s) Rashtra or National Interest whose life is based on Tradition(s) and Dharma.

As Samaja establishes itself and commonalities and/or manners of communication are established allowing diverse people with their Traditions and Cultures to live and thrive on land that they grow attached to through give and take, National boundaries are formed. It is important to realize that in the Rashtriyatva scheme, the Rashtra’s territorial bounds are organic to the Samaja’s growth and compatibility with such territory. In other words, the territory exists because the Samaja needs it and can use it variously to protect itself and to thrive on it.

Of course Man grows attached to his land. He fights for it and will fight to retrieve it. His Will to retrieve lost land; given away or surrendered in times of weakness; is a reflection of the strength of his Samaja and Rashtra. Therefore any loss of Traditional land or land made sacred by continuous life and Traditional attachment toward it should be retrieved in one form or another. This becomes the duty of the State (King) or Rajya towards the Samaja or Rashtra. So the State (King) or Rajya is an extension or part of the Samaja or Rashtra. Is part of and does not hover overheard.

Next we come to International Relations. Again, what is missing in The Acorn’s narrative is the dire need of the Nation’s or Rashtra’s strength feeding the State(King) or Rajya’s Will. Ultimately, it is less the nuts and bolts of weaponry and more the cultivated character of the Nation or Rashtra that ensures its strength in the International arena and helps in facing down bullies and threats to the Rashtra’s interests. So long as the Nation or Rashtra is weak in character, it has no way of projecting strength. The only way such a Nation or Rashtra can be strong in character is by cultivating and strengthening its “organism”. To miss this linkage is to sail against the winds.

Liberalism inherently does not respect Traditions and Dharmica Samaja because it entails duties and obligations that every member must take seriously. These are such obligations that provide room for members of the Samaja to enjoy their freedoms in a healthy environment. Liberalism views all Samajica obligations and responsibilities as chains that bound the Individual’s Free Will that is only answerable to the Rajya and its Constitution. Therefore whilst Liberalism can indeed encourage Statism or Rajyatva it cannot in any event nurture Samajatva and Rashtriyatva as it is seen as its mortal enemy.

Yogakshema is ensured when the Rajya in pursuance of its Rajya Dharma allows the Samaja to pursue its own unique Praja Dharma. It is only when the Rajya forgets this sense, that rights and freedoms are in danger and the Rashtra collapses Internationally due to a weakened Samaja.

– Namaste

7 Responses

  1. Your arguments supposes that everyone shares the same tradition. What do you when you have diversity and not everyone shares the same tradition ? There is a huge muslim minority in India which shares some traditions with thier hindu neighbours and some of thier own traditions.
    Short of advocating the unrealistic option of population transfer how do you dealwith them ?

  2. My argument in this post does not suppose that at all.

    This is the reason I stress the following – “…”and most importantly for the Hindu Samaja, a manner of communication between diverse people.”

    So it’s the reverse of what you have understood.

    Coming to the Muslims, you are correct. However, localized traditions and cultures are not strong enough to subsume pan-Islamic pulls. It does not seem possible for people of the Islamic faith, anywhere, to somehow place local traditions and customs over what is dominant in Islam. This comes out fairly strongly in situations where Muslims are under (reciprocal) attack. The reaction is borderless.

    Why do you say population transfer is unrealistic?

  3. I thought you meant diverse people within Hindu samaj.
    Muslim peoples have diverse cultures from Indonesia to Morocco. However the idea of ummah as well as migration,Hajj and today’s communication and transport technology that it is even easier for ideas to spread across the muslim world.
    How and why do you think population transfer can take place ?This reminds of the riot slogan pakisan ya kabristan
    It is upto you to make a case how feasible this is.

    This is just idle drawing talk. Which public figure can even talk of this ? This can only happen in the case of war but not in peace time. Many north Indian muslims did have a chance to goto Pakistan but did’nt. Also how many muslims do you think will voluntarily accept population transfer ? Are you suggesting making social and economic conditions such hostile to them that they migrate? Even riots on several towns led tothe formation of ghettos but how many people actually moved and will move where ? Bangladesh or Pakistan? Illegal immigrants are itself coming from Bangladesh and we have not bee able to really stop them

  4. Also a large number of people who would call themselves hindu would not support this because they believe that secular liberal democracy is superior form of arrangement.

  5. Yes. I did mean our diverse Hindu Samaja.

    Please read my post on Kashmir. I have outlined the circumstances under which population transfer can be initiated. And avoided.

    Population transfer is perfectly feasable. I offer a civilized manner of achieving it if the desired circumstance makes itself available.

    This is not idle talk. Ambedkar wrote an entire treatise on the issue. Moreover, post partition no such plan for transfer was put in place. Hindu leadership then, just like Hindu leadership today, labored under the delusion that Hindus and Muslims can still be one Nation. In the meanwhile Pakistan and Bangladesh seem to have affected transfers of Hindus from their domains with less fuss.

    So you can see very well, our secular-liberal democracy is not so superior after all.

  6. that was different time – at partition . Personally i dont think many muslims would go willingly. Are you suggesting they b forcibly removed ? After all we r talking about crores of people here . We just cant be just so casual about it

  7. Again, I request you to please read my post on Kashmir.

    The decision to administer the plebiscite should be taken by the GoH (Hindusthan)in response to such a demand by Kashmiri Muslims and by implication, Muslims across Hindusthan and PoK.

    The terms should be stipulated by GoH. These terms should be similar to the ones proposed in my post.

    At the end of the hypothetical meeting, all parties to the plebiscite will agree to these conditions.

    So, there is no question of forcible removal. Once agreed, it is implied that Muslims have agreed to move if they vote YES for “Azadi”.

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