‘‘Idea Of Freedom’’
Market, Civil Society and Citizenship
This paper argues that market, civil society and citizenship
are intrinsically linked with each other in that order, that the development of the latter two is premised on the emergence and expansion of the first. It was only after the triumph of the bourgeois society in its globality that the modern idea of civil freedom became an actuality in India. This idea in dominant form is still in the realm of liberal democratic framework. The realm of each according to his need, to each according to his capacity is still far away from realization. The domain of freedom has yet to begin; the domain of necessity has yet to end.
The idea of freedom in Indian philosophical discourse has always occupied pre- eminence in her history. Its political application has witnessed social movements, armed rebellions and triumphal march of people's liberation. It has propelled independence from colonialism, has facilitated expansion of secularism in public sphere and has been catalytic in the electoral surge of the marginalized in the elective institutions and in the ministerial executive. It has overthrown the governments, has altered their policies and has changed the paradigm of public discourse. In nutshell, it has encouraged the individual and society in the pursuance of their democratic rights.
In the past two decades, the quest for enlargement of civil freedom has centered around regulation of market, the modern Leviathan, expansion of civil society and establishment of global citizenship. The three issues encapsulate the search for freedom of mobility of capital, commodity and labour, the development of larger individual freedom in public sphere and codification of one global citizenship for every person. The commonality in all the three issues is their common origin from modern capitalism and their desire to enlarge civil freedom at global scale transcending all the boundaries of identities. The expansion of civil society and codification of citizenship have been correspondingly dependent on the success of the market in the annihilation of traditional societies. In the process of its operation and expansion, the market breaks the traditional moorings, corrodes the traditional social relations and transforms them into the mirror image of the capitalistic social structure. It creates the condition for social mobility and larger individual freedom. The market, thus, is the premise for the development of civil society and citizenship; and it is inevitably global. Or globality is in-built in its existence. In order to survive, it must expand; it must explore new areas to extend its consumer base. It must satisfy old and new product requirements and it must innovate the quality of the products. It must reduce the production cost and expand the volume of production. In the process of this development it creates standardized attributes of products at global scale and brings uniformity in production mechanism which in turn leads to global integration of diverse market and creation of standardized living condition of people. The market thus inevitably becomes global, integrates the societies and creates uniform condition for the development of civil society and citizenship at global scale. It is the precursor for the development of the other two. This stage has arrived for contemporary India, which must strive for larger civil society and global citizenship, as these are the bulwarks to build a larger democratic social structure.
Apparently, it may appear contradictory to argue that market, which creates new, marginalized classes in the wake of its operation, lays down the fundamental brick for a new democratic social structure and has been catalytic in the enlargement of civil freedom. But a careful perusal of the history of capitalism expressed through British Classical political economists (Smith and Ricardo), Social Contractualists (Locke) French encyclopaedists (Voltair), German philosophers (Hegel) and Marxists (Marx- Engels) tend to point out such dialectically opposite development. The point can be noted in Locke's 'A Letter on Toleration' (1689) in which Locke pleads for larger individual freedom in social domain, seeks secularization of space in public sphere and confinement of religious beliefs to private practices. He pleads for religious tolerance in the wake of religious persecution of Catholics by the Protestants who were once the victims of persecution. He argues that for "salvation, every man has the supreme and final power of judging himself, because he alone is concerned... The care of his soul and of spiritual matters that does not belong to the state and could not be subjected to it, is reserved and retained for each individual."1 This is a classic argument of a case for expansion of civil society. Here it may be noted that Locke had written his Letter in the social backdrop of the bourgeois democratic revolution of 1640s which had subsequently witnessed rapid growth of mercantile capitalism in England.
In France, one hundred years later, Voltaire was pleading for similar civil freedom in the social backdrop of impending bourgeois democratic revolution prepared by the expanding market that had sub-terraneously corroded the economic and political base of the feudal authorities. He was aghast at the lack of tolerance among people against dissent in public sphere. His reasoning was premised on the logic that intolerance is not consistent with natural law as natural law is based on liberty. He argued that "do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you... The law of intolerance is... absurd and barbarous."2 He suggested, "human rights must in every case be founded on the natural law"3 which meant, derivatively, that the Natural law was the embodiment of civil freedom in the social backdrop of the feudal past. In England, similarly, at this time Adam Smith and subsequently Ricardo and Hegel (in Germany) followed by Marx argued about the inevitability of globalization of capital in economy, and development of world history and civil society in philosophy. Marx, writing about the laws of market economy developed by Smith, Say and Ricardo posits that "all those laws developed in the classical works on political economy, are strictly true (now) under the supposition only, that trade be delivered from all fetters, that competition be perfectly free, not only within a single country, but upon the whole face of earth... These laws (subsequently) grow more true, more exact, then cease to be mere abstractions, in the same measure in which Free Trade (globalization) is carried out. (At this moment) all their reasoning are founded upon the supposition that all fetters, yet existing, are to be removed from trade".4 Later on, he himself argued that "the moment a branch of national industry completely conquers the home market, that moment exportation becomes a necessity to it. Under capitalistic conditions, an industry either expands or wanes. A trade cannot remain stationary, stoppage of expansion is incipient ruin."5 To avoid it, the bourgeoisie must expand to global market. It must break all the national barriers. He must set its production base wherever there may exist possibility of economic profit. In the process it introduces global capitalistic social relations required for new production. This was critically supported by Marx to enable free play of all economical laws at global scale as it breaks up old nationalities and carries antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie to the uttermost point to hasten Social Revolution.6 Hegel, in philosophical abstraction, had termed this capitalistic development as world history marking its synonymity with civil society.
Hegel had argued that after the expansion of commercial society religion had got divorced from the state: it had become 'purely individual matter with which the state had no need to concern itself, as church was primarily a political and authoritarian institution that was oppressive in nature; or as Christianity was irrational7, people were compelled to break free from it in search of freedom. Freedom was the benchmark to judge the development of society and of state, as according to Hegel, it was to be ideally realized in state. And if the state does not realize it people have the freedom to break free from it. Derivatively, freedom occupied central place in his argument that was facilitated in its larger realization by the new arrival of the commercial society. It was the spirit of the world- history.
Similar to such European development the onset of market society in India under colonialism, and subsequently under post- colonialism, set rolling as process that galvanized the people with expanding participatory base of society to seek larger civil freedom in the public sphere particularly beginning with religious and legal domains. One of the precursors to initiate this renaissance was Rammohan Roy who not only broke away, in a limited way, from the religiosity of the past but sought, from the colonial government, repeal of press regulation and application of some pertinent judicial and educational measures to expand the freedom for Indians; besides, he reminded about the rights of the raiyats in the Zamindari system to emphasize their freedom of humane existence. His struggle was for the emancipation of the Indians from different layers of bondage: of the Indian subjects from the feudal past and of the depressed segments from the dominant segments of the Indians. In a word, it was a quest for libertarian society, a struggle for civil-liberties. It was the beginning of the emergence of the civil society. It was the beginning of the public freedom.
Decades later, its periphery was still expanding which was best reflected in the making of the constitution, and in the subsequent years, in the political surge of the marginalized in the elective and executive institutions. In recent years, the process of its expansion has been speeded up under the aegis of globalization that has subdued every other social relation under its weight. The expanding market—industrialization, labour mobility, and commoditification—has created a mass society that has subsumed the traditionalities of the past as well as has acted as a bulwark against the state coercion. It has provided space to the citizens to pursue their own agenda and has liberalized the hierarchical relations within the state structure. The more it expands in intensity, and the more it permeates into the hinterland, the more rapidly it transforms the traditional social relations into wage relations and facilitates the emergence of civil society. In fact, the emergence of civil society is intrinsically linked with the emergence of new wage relations; and more the wage relation matures in its civic functioning over the generations, more the freedom the individual enjoys within the social relations. This process has been speeded up by globalization in the past few years by rapidly breaking up the primordialities in India thereby creating a space for the further development of civil society.
Two different issues have gripped its agenda at this juncture: first, the struggle for institutionalization of direct participation of people in the governance at every level and second, accosting respectability to identity. Both the issues enlarge civil freedom of the individual, in public and private domains. Both the issues strengthen democracy and both the issues are against the state. While in the first case, there is a fight of the people against the state to determine their own governance; in the second case there is a struggle against coercion engineered by the state or by its paraphernalia (e.g. political parties) for imparting universality in personal sphere. It's a struggle to respect multi-culturality of different identities that fall within the private domain. Protests of people, both organized and spontaneous, in different forms reflect their non- acceptability of status quo in existing social structure and in governance. Eruption of frequent violence reflects their intensity of anger which many times degenerate into riots facilitated by the state. Many times, the state engineers communal riots to obstruct the polarity of the people against the establishment. Therefore, accosting respectability to multiculturalism is important in contemporary India as it provides freedom to diverse identities, however, its very existence under rapid capitalist development is at stake. In fact, its existence is the result of unfinished agenda of capitalism. The more the capitalism develops in its intensity, and expands spatially, the more it brings the people in larger number into the vortex of market which integrates them by universal, centralized, cosmopolitan, production relation transcending the particularistic cultural features of different localities. Or it fuses the diversities through common material culture and similar wage relation. In the process, the multiculturality of identities is transformed into a homogenized culture, the way the European culture evolved in the past centuries under the dominance of market. The emerging commonalities of cultural components of people, both in material needs and in civility across different regions of India and of world reflect the homogenization process of market. Here, for the sake of clarity, it may be stated that multicultural identity itself is a product of pre-capitalist social formations that was primarily premised on the natural subsistence economy located in villages. The villages were the local units of production and of consumption. Their interdependence was bare minimum. Therefore, the trans- regional, pan- Indian cultural formation among the people was bare minimum. The localized nature of economy facilitated the formation of local identity with every village / region generating its local deity, caste groups, dialects, rituals, and other distinctiveness. This locality withered away after the arrival and expansion of the market that created a debilitating effect on this identity as the traditional economy was transformed by the market. More the market penetrated in the new regions and affected the local economy more the question of identity arose afresh which has persisted for decades across the regions of the world. Where the proletarian culture has evolved, which evolves over the generations and is distinct from the culture of the past, the problem of identity arising out of primordialities has subsided. The assembly line production work culture of capitalism subsumes the primordialities of the proletariat and substitute it with knowledge based identity recognized by the professional groups and society at large. The market, in a word, transforms the traditional identities / multi-culturality into uniform, secular mass society.
More important, however, is the struggle of the people for the institutionalization of their direct participation in the governance which is a stage ahead of the civic governance of the bourgeoisie which has become gradually dysfunctional in post- Nehruvian era leading to the frequent intervention of judiciary under the weight of Public Interest Litigation to pressurize the legislature and executive to adopt corrective measures. The struggle for civic governance has been an important agenda of civil society since 1970s but gradually it is being transcended by people's governance, at least, at micro level the process is underway which has been speeded up by Right to Information Act. The important component of this tenuous struggle is the principle of self-governance by the collective in contradistinction to an administrative- representative governance by the other, the state. The self-governance process has arrived at a stage where the policy of development at grassroots level is being formulated by the collective and its implementation is being monitored by them. But their limitation is that they are still dependent on the state for funds and for implementation of programmmes. If this can be transcended at the macro level and institutionalized, then it will be the beginning of a new era of civil society in India that will be a reflection of qualitative transformation of social consciousness. It will be the foundation for the actual functioning of the Aristotlean conception of citizenship. The first stage of this process was initiated in 1861 when after the failed bourgeois democratic revolution of 1857 popularly known as the first war of independence few Indians were granted 'right' to observe the deliberations of the Imperial council of colonial state. Subsequently, as the resistance to colonial state increased in frequency and in strength the legality of political rights to larger number of Indians increased in similar proportion leading to the expansion of rights for every Indian in 1947. These were individual, group and community rights, more political and cultural in content, to check discrimination in the society and the arbitrariness of the state. These were mostly liberal democratic rights which emerged in the process of struggle against the colonial state and against decaying feudal structure. These rights were primarily the requirements of the new elite needed for their individual / class interests propped up by the dynamics of the market against the stranglehold of the inscriptive rights of feudalism. It was inevitable under the new social backdrop of expanding industrialization, trade and urbanization which became the new primary source of livelihood for people substituting agriculture. The change in the social structure changed the form and content of the social rights now dominated by the new economic / political elite. The existence of group and community rights, however, are due to the continuation of the legacy of the past that sustained untouchability, gender discrimination and perpetuation of religious communities in political domain which continued due to the failure of the bourgeoisie to carry forward the radical reforms of liberal democracy. It failed to create an ideal replica of itself, of individual rights for every citizen breaking the barrier of traditional communities and groups. In brief, it failed to radically transform the subjects into modern citizens and substituted it, instead with incremental legal engineering. While the group rights were justified as protective in nature to check the existing discrimination against them and to create condition for the development of their individual rights, the community rights were justified on two counts, first, the communities were not yet ready to cede their religious rights (of marriage, divorce and inheritance) and, secondly, it (educational rights) created a social safeguard for the minority religious communities. However, both these justificatory arguments were a pretext to cover up their failure. Nehru in his characteristic honesty had confessed in an unambiguous term in the Constituent Assembly that they had failed to break away from the past due to the fear of its implications. They were unsure how the communities will react once their religious rights were abolished.8 It was, therefore, left to the future legislators to surmount this problem, and to the self- initiative measures of the religious communities. Here, for the sake of clarification, it may be posited that many of these religious rights which were the outcome of the feudal social relations dominated by the elite were corroded from within by the market. Its abolition, nonetheless, would have broken the backbone of religiosity and would have facilitated the emancipation of the women and poor.
The development of capitalism since 1947 has proceeded on this path. It has further corroded the religiosity of such rights across different religious communities resulting into codification of new community rights (Hindu Laws of marriage and succession), which are more democratic than the preceding ones, and their subsequent modification for further equalization of rights for Hindu women (right for unmarried Hindu girl to inherit cultivable land in traditional property) across different regions. Muslim community, similarly, has witnessed internal reforms under the pressure of judicial intervention and under the pressure of its women groups demanding equalization of rights. In fact, judiciary has been quite instrumental in the secularization of religious communities.'9 Or it has widened the democratic periphery of fundamental rights by equating directive principles with it. It reorganized the social development rights of the citizens as of fundamental importance and initiated the acceptance of Public Interest Litigation that changed the dynamics of citizenship rights. The Right to information propelled by the protests of civil society has played similarly major role in the democratization of governance. Or democratization of service conditions of the employee is another area that has witnessed quantitative betterment. The rigour of hierarchy and protocol has been modified and the laws governing the service conditions of the employees have been liberalized. It has resulted into attitudinal change among the personnel at different tiers. Such developments have expanded the base of citizenship rights, both in terms of legality and of its application that were alluding the citizens, and have secularized their nature.
In the past two decades, approximately, globalization has provided further impetus to the growth of citizenship rights, both in terms of qualitative and quantitative expansion. The denial of citizenship to any individual is being strongly opposed followed by the demand of one integrated global citizenship that transcends the boundary of nations. The denial of rights, it is well acknowledged, is a part of the victimization process of state that makes an individual bereft of many social- political rights; it transgresses the conditions that facilitate his development. It checks his legal opposition to the process of exploitation / subjugation and breaks his political / social relations with the society. On the other hand, global citizenship forces the state to accord equal rights to every individual without its denial to any person. It forces equalization of condition of development and governance for every individual across regions. This process has been expedited by globalization that has spurred the movement of capital, commodity and labour. While the degree of freedom in the circulation of capital and of commodity has been quite enormous, the similarity has been lacking in the movement of labour. The integration of global market, however, will impel the globality of labour as it is in built in the structure and function of capital. In fact, the process has already been speeded up in comparison to the past that reflects in the growing demand of the civil society for an integrated global citizenship. Simultaneously, pressure is also being generated to incorporate economic-social issues as part of citizenship rights. Right to education, employment and health are being sought as fundamental rights or are in demand for their inclusion into the ambit of human rights. The fear of market has impelled the civil society for their inclusion as mass of the population is devoid of such basic requirements. The inclusion of such rights will facilitate the creation of a knowledge society, equalization of gender rights and secularization of identities; besides, it will stretch the society beyond the realm of necessity.
The contemporary market society, to use Macphersonain phrase, has not yet transcended the realm of needs and the realm of nation. The civil society unleashed by the market, centuries back and still expanding, is becoming its anti-dote. It's stretching the liberal democracy to its limit. In the process liberalism is being democratized and democracy is being liberalized leading to expansion of civil society and citizenship. But unless the domain of necessity ends, the realm of freedom cannot begin. And unless the process of market is terminated none can be accomplished. The civil society and citizenship, once created by the market, must terminate the market for their fullest realization. Contemporary India, propelled by the global market, however, is still in the process of expansion of civil society and citizenship and is far away from their fullest realization.
[This paper was presented at the seminar "Idea of Freedom" organized by the Department of Political Science, Punjab University, Chandigarh.]
Notes and References
1. E K Bramstead And K J Melhuish (eds.), Western Liberalism: A History of Documents from Locke to Croce, Longman, London, 1978, pp 182-84.
2. Ibid., p 184.
4. K Marx And F Engels, Collected Works, Vol 6, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, pp 289- 90.
5. Ibid., Vol 26, p 529.
6. Ibid., Vol 6, pp 290, 465.
7. Hegel, Political Writings, Lawrence Dickey And H.B. Nisbet (eds.), CUP, 1999, pp 225- 231; Sudipta. Kaviraj and Sunil Khilnani (eds.), Civil Society, CUP, 2001, pp 106-107.
8. See the speech of Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on 26-05-1949, Constituent Assembly Debate (CAD), Vol 8, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Reprint, p 329.
9. See the enlisted judicial pronouncements in different cases in the Chapter Fundamental Rights in DD Basu, Shorter Constitution Of India (ed. By) Y V Chandrachud, 13th ed. Wadhwa And Company, Nagpur, 2001.
Frontier, Autumn Number
Vol. 46, No. 13-16, Oct 6 - Nov 2, 2013
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