S. Mill: his fathers child prodigy
For ever on the side of
J. S. Mill: his fathers child
CAMBRIDGE enjoys great reputation as a nursery of some of the leading intellectuals who have left a profound influence on generations of men. By sheer force of their creative work, they have added enormously to the corpus of human knowledge, which has helped resolve some of the complex problems facing humankind.
Such a tradition of fine scholarship and profound intellectual activity owes much to the unique type of teaching imparted to the students residing in the university. In the 50s one of the most inspiring and therefore popular teachers in the faculty of history was Noel Annan (now a peer sitting in the House of Lords). Young, handsome and theatrical in his gestures, Annan was sound in scholarship and lucid in exposition.
Annans largely attended lectures were intellectually stimulating. He firmly believed in the power of words and said so occasionally with a twinkle in his eyes. His excellence lay not so much in his scholarly work but in the quality of teaching which acted as intellectual prodding to many of his pupils. I remember vividly his lectures on John Stuart Mill (1806-73) as a political thinker. He read out some portions of Mills essays on Bentham and Coleridge and then gave his own interpretation of his thought. His lectures aroused our interest in Mills writings, particularly in his autobiography which had profoundly influenced 19th century thought. His autobiography has recently been published by Penguin Classics (£6.99) with an introduction and notes by Noel Annan.
Mills autobiography was published after his death in 1873 by his stepdaughter Helen Taylor. There were excisions half a dozen passages about his wife and father were not published. The autobiography is short of colour and there is little of emotion except, of course, in a few moving passages on his wife Harriet and his father, to whom the son owed a great intellectual debt for sustained guidance in literary pursuit.
The book is a gripping record of Mills intellectual development and literary accomplishment. It is an account of his state of mind through successive stages of development. It is different from Gibbons autobiography which is a living picture of its creators. It lacks the power of self-analysis for which Augustines "Confessions of Saint" is famous.
Mill comes out of his autobiography as an out-and-out Victorian. I think that the only work that is similar to this is of Bertrand Russell which, of course, is of a much larger dimension because of the inclusion of his extensive correspondence with his close friends and relations. It is interesting to note that Russell was Mills godfather; curiously enough, both of them stood for rationalism, democracy and education, and remained athiests till the end.
Why do people write autobiographies? Is it an expression of vanity, self-justification or merely a pastime at the fag-end of life? The desire for writing autobiographies has been universal since antiquity. I think the earliest autobiography was produced by Moribus Julu Aqricoles in about 97 AD.
John Stuart Mill was an English philosopher and economist, and perhaps the most important thinker of last century. He wrote extensively on politics, economics, morals and ethics and raised the moral standard of his age. He championed womens rights, freedom of expression, representative government, interests of slaves and the colonial people.
He makes it clear in his autobiography that his own life was "uneventful" and the only justification for writing the autobiography was that "there should be (a) record of an education which was universal and remarkable".
Mill owes much to his father for his moral and intellectual development. He wrote that he "received the highest order of intellectual education from his father" James Mill, author of "History of British India" which Lord Macaulay regarded as the greatest historical work since Gibbons "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".
John Stuart Mill had a head start in life. He learnt grammar at the age of three, Latin and arithmetic at eight, logic at 12, and political economy at 13. His only relaxation was a walk with his father during which he was given an oral test on what he had read. He was rebuked often for not answering questions properly. He had to bear the brunt of his fathers annoyance which brought tears to his eyes.
Mill gives a detailed account of his readings in his childhood; one marvels at the range of subjects he had assimilated under the eagle eyes of his father. At six he had started off with Greek historian Herodotus, Xenophon and "Memorials" of Socrates. By 19 he had mastered the first six dialogues of Plato, Plutarch and the historical parts of "Annual Register". He had read Homers "Iliad" about 30 times and the whole of Tacitus, Juvenal and Quantilian.
The book which contributed much to Mills education was his fathers "History of British India". Because of the rigorous education that he had, Mill wrote, with "the early training bestowed on me by my father, I started with an advantage of a quarter of a century over my contemporaries".
Mill deals at length with the mental crisis of his life in chapter IV of his autobiography which is highly significant as it highlights how an oppressive mode of pedagogy imposed by parental authority can produce a lopsided impact on a young mind. Mill thought that the training given to him by his father produced what he called a "manufactured personality", bereft of the deepest feelings of love and sympathy. The fires of his enthusiasm became thin and pallid.
He asked himself a simple question: "Suppose that all your objects in life were realised; that all changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to could be completely effected at this instant. Would this be a great joy, and happiness to you?" The answer was "no".
At this Mill went on to write, "My heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which my life was constructed, fell down". He felt deeply depressed. He had been drilled in an analytical way of thinking; he later came to realise that "he could no longer see that point in life".
Reading and studying of poetry had no place in his fathers scheme of education. Mill wrote that "reading Wordsworth was an event in my life in 1829". He added that Wordsworths poetry "seemed to be the very culture of feelings which I was in quest of". Carlyle also enlarged his "narrow creed". It was not Carlyles philosophy, he wrote, but his poetry which was so "animate". He also read Coleridge and Goethe.
His resultant conversion opened up an unknown world of feeling and value. He wrote that the "cultivation of feelings became one of the cardinal points in his ethical and philosophical creed". Thus the adoption of a scientific outlook combined with altruistic purposes made him see social and political problem differently. The mental crisis brought a fundamental change in his view of man and the universe.
In 1823 Mill joined the East India Companys office of examiner of Indian correspondence which was headed by his father James Mill. Eric Stokes in his "Utilitarianism and India" has shown James Mills influence in the formation of Indian policy, particularly on revenue. In the Court of Directors dispatches to India by virtue of his position as the chief examiner of correspondence James Mill advocated his ideas for the authorities in India to follow. It was mainly his reputation as the author of "History of British India" that brought his prestige and authority in Indian affairs.
In his early life John Stuart Mill was deeply influenced by the writings of Bentham, whom his father regarded as his guide and philosopher. John Stuart Mill spent his childhood in Benthams house and came under his spell. He later wrote a brilliant exposition of the Benthamite philosophy in his essay "Bentham" which has become a work of authoritative reference. He rebelled against the Benthamite philosophy which wanted to destroy the individuality of mind, the best quality of man. He freed philosophical radicalism from the reproach of sectarianism.
In general, Mill was an empiricist whose aim was to construct a general system of empirical knowledge for use in social and moral affairs as is the case in science. His work "Mind" is still the foundation of metaphysics of describing casual laws. His six books on the system of logic (1843) are a treatise on deductive influence in general mathematical knowledge, induction, observation, and classification.
His classic essay on liberty is a defence of the principle of freedom of thought and discussion. His other popular works are "Principles of political economy" (1848) and "Subjection of women" (1861). His works show a marked influence of Saint Simons writings in accepting a more sophisticated approach of historical forces moulding peoples ideas.
In his autobiography Mill
tells us how his friendship with Harriet Taylor was
central to his life. In 1849 after her husbands
death he married her. His attachment to her inspired him
to produce a variety of creative work of a high order.
Mill wrote, "What I owe intellectually to her in its
details is almost infinite". For six and a half
years they jointly authored several writings. Mill
acknowledged, "All my published works were
hers". Harriet died in 1858, and Mill lived with her
memory, leading a lonely life, entirely dedicated to
creative work and public life.
For ever on the side of
Peoples Path to Social Change Essays and Reviews by N.K. Joshi. Balraj Sahni Memorial Foundation, Chandigarh. Pp. 200. Rs 100.
THE book under review is a warm homage by friends of N.K. Joshi on his first death anniversary. Joshis premature and unexpected death in an accident in 1996 has deprived us all of the book which he was writing on the Ghadar movement under the aegis of the Desh Bhagat Yadgar Trust, Jalandhar. Over the years, Joshi wrote a large number of essays and reviews on politics, economy, culture, art and literature and the contents of this book reflect his constant concern and commitment to social reconstruction.
In the first part of the book, "Remembering Joshi" friends recount and recollect their long association with Joshi, which flourished in the ambience of the then popular Indian Coffee House at Jalandhar (since closed down). For an insight into the kind of person he was one cannot but think of the Jalandhar Coffee House in the sixties for its reputation as a breeding ground of revolutionary politics. Oppression, exploitation, injustice, democracy, socialism, economy, morality and culture were the themes of discussion along with the Vietnam war, youth unrest, Cultural Revolution in China, et al.
Joshi learnt early in life to value books and reading them was a source of knowledge, pleasure and power. He used this learning to good effect in his discussions and writings.He often used to say that his insomnia had made a man out of him by providing him an opportunity of reading, for which he had an insatiable hunger.
The now twice-told essays first appeared in Peoples Path, an official organ of the Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee set up to carry on the revolutionary task initiated by Ghadar Babas during the struggle for freedom. In 1995, he tried to revive the magazine and brought out three issues under the title "Bulletin" and "Heritage", before he met with an accident and died.
Joshi strongly felt the tremors of social unease and wrote about it passionately. The subjects he touched and tackled varied from the general election to the banking system, Soviet arms and Asian men, thoughtful pieces like "Why not automation?", restive youth, Indian students and the revolutionary movement. An intellectual and scholarly interpretation of such subjects as middle class trade unionism, Indian society and human rights, united front governments, "The Moon and Six Pence" (his interpretation of Somerset Maughams classic of the same name in the present context). "For far too long, the human race has pined for a closer glimpse of the moon. Poets and visionaries apart, the moon is very much present in the life of all of us . . . For an equally long time, if not longer, has the human race pined for those additional six pence that would make the living on this earth more bearable..."
Joshi talks at your intellectual level instead of giving an academic view of life. His clarity of thought and lucidity of expression are far removed from the laid-back attitude of the critics of the politics of present-day India. A few samplers from the essays will testify this contention.
"We find that the United Front obtaining in India does not establish unity of action of the working class. On the other hand, it does serve a purpose: it disarms the working class ideologically and politically."
Or, "In India the parliamentary system and the personalities who patronise it so eagerly have shown their inability to do anything worthwhile for the masses. They cannot even bring about marginal reforms..."
Or again, (on five year Plans):"The people understand that planning is a farce under which their hard-earned savings and their labour is being transferred to fill the coffers of the rich. . . The new proposals would continue this solid tradition of robbing the poor Peters (the common people) to pay the rich Pauls."
His spirited and insightful book reviews appeared from time to time in The Tribune and other newspapers of this region and in this book they appear under sub-titles, "Quest for identity", "Struggle for transformation", "Socialism", "Life: politics and fiction". A re-review of the write-ups reveals an alert mind fully aware of the Indian political situation and the role of individuals with leftist leanings. A virtual explosion of dissatisfaction, faded hope and joyless void muffled in an in-depth analysis!
As his friend recollects: "I saw him crying only once during our relationship. . . I dont remember exactly how. He began to talk of his old comrades and how some of them had died answering the call of revolution. He missed them, and he felt guilty being alive. . . He too had a cross to bear."
In his reviews he could tear apart an author and could be devastating to a degree: "But what are Rushdie and other Midnights Children doing? Is it enough to sigh? Is your duty over with beating your breast on the demise of plurality? It is a tragedy that Salman Rushdie is hiding from the world, hiding from India and hiding from his beloved Bombay. ("Moors Last Sigh")
"His concern for the India of his mind is laudable. But what about the India of today on which he seems to have written an elegy. . . . If India will go under, it would be due to the combined efforts of the Advanis one Rukun who can fall back only on Beethoven in his acquired Europhilism and the other Advani who rambles in the cow belt and encourages demolitions." ("Beethoven Among the Cows" by Rukun Advani)
Calling a spade a spade was his forte, with reason. The present reviewer learnt the first lessons of reviewing from NKJ without knowing that one day he would be asked to review the book by NKJ(published posthumously). Whenever he felt that there was something missing in the text he bluntly and emphatically said "round the jagged edges to be more effective".
Persons of Joshis ilk are a species fast becoming extinct. Peoples causes, the source of his joy, would miss him for a long, long time. Borrowing words from Francis Bacon, I reiterate, "My essays (and reviews) come home, to mens business, and bosoms."
Modern ills of a tribal society
Social Welfare Administration in a Tribal State: A Case Study of Mizoram by C. Lalkima. Spectrum Publications, Guwahati. Pp xiii +156. Rs 320.
IN a welfare state like India, the government has to look after the citizens from the cradle to the grave. This responsibility has changed the nature of government activities. But how far and to what extent welfare programmes have really benefitted the destitute, deprived and disadvantaged segments of society is a moot question. In fact, a well planned and sincerely executed strategy is the only answer.
The book under review explains and analyses the working of the social welfare administration, critically examines the role played by voluntary agencies, traces the history of and the need for setting up a separate department of welfare and evaluates the impact of social welfare measures on the needy people. Also highlights the result and ill-effects of the money power on the social values of the Mizos.
A land of enchanting hills, Mizoram was known as Lushai hills district during the British administration and got its present name in 1972 when it became a union territory. It became the 23rd state of India in February, 1987. It sounds strange but it is a fact that this poor state is free from the menace of beggars. It may be due to social stigma attached to begging.
It is a closely knit society. Class and caste factors were almost non-existent. However with the economic development of the area, there is a widening gap between the poor and the rich, ushering in a class society. Missionaries had converted a majority of Mizos into Christianity.
Mizo chiefs used to carry out the day-to-day administration in the traditional way. In fact the institution of chieftain is born out of the need for providing security to villages and what mattered most was physical strength and intellectual power. Sometimes the chiefs dictatorial attitude and autocratic rule forced villagers to move to another place.
With the establishment of autonomous councils in 1952, the state underwent a democratic change which made the institution of chieftain unpopular and it was ultimately abolished in 1956. The village council is responsible for the collection of taxes, maintenance of sanitation, provision of drinking water and preservation of forests.
The so-called "zawlbuk" system played a significant role in the inculcation of the spirit of voluntary participation among the people, particularly in the field of health, sanitation, housing and water supply.
Voluntary agencies play a major role in development programmes and have become an effective instrument in bringing about social and political change. They are active in a variety of programmes intended to meet the local needs. The Young Mizo Association also mobilises and motivates the youth. The missionaries are primarily engaged in the progress of Christianity.
The Mizo Women Organisation, which was said to be the largest until the two-decade-long insurgency starting in 1966, has contributed a lot to bringing tradition-bound women out of their confinement in their homes to active participation in society, Social legislation such as the Mizo Hills District Inheritance of Property Act, 1956, also helped improve the status of women.
Many social, health, rehabilitation and training centres such as maternity centre, weaving school, working womens hostel, etc., were established for the upliftment of women. Such efforts received a setback in 1966 when violence engulfed the tribal state; this situation did not stall the formation of the Mizo Women Federation in 1974 which was in fact an offshoot of the Mizo Women Organisation.
Then there was the Zoran Upa Pawal (ZUP) pensioners association which had earlier limited its membership but later widened it to cover all aged persons. It plays an active role, particularly in providing health care and generally in the development of Mizo society as a whole.
The Mizo Autonomous District Council did not get funds for its welfare activities. The political disturbance left little scope for the government to engage itself in any worthwhile social welfare activity. The Social Welfare Advisory Board was under the education department, and a separate department of Social Welfare came up only after it become a Union Territory. However with the expansion of its activities, it became a full-fledged directorate in 1983. By that time social morality had taken a back seat and alcoholism has spread widely. Drug addiction crippled the youth.
There was an increase in the number of destitute children. A higher rate of divorce has left children without parental care. There is hardly any social evil which has not hit the tribal life.
The government has come out with a number of schemes and programmes for the rehabilitation of the socially and economically depressed people. It provides a grant-in-aid to voluntary organisations to step up social welfare activities.
In the process, the Integrated Rural Development Programme has failed to provide a positive lead. It could be due to the lack of will or shortage of trained people, even to some extent to the wrong selection of workers.
Anyway the tribal state has to go a long-way to uplift its people. Creating awareness, strengthening voluntary organisations and initiating measures to diagnose social problems on a scientific footing and, above all, preparing a well-planned strategy can make the social welfare administration really meaningful.
Books as profit-bringing commodity
Publishing and Development: A Book of Readings edited by Philip G. Altbach and Damtew Teferra. Sage Publications, New Delhi. Pp. 191 +xvi. Rs 325.
THE publishing industry in India has witnessed seen a boom in recent times. In spite of the rise in book prices and the printed word moving far beyond the reach of the common man, more and more books get published every year. Book fairs have grown in size. There has been a major qualitative change in printing technology. All this for what? Does it change the human condition? From a peoples perspective, this is the central question.
In their book, Altbach and Teferra begin to address this question, although they end up answering it more from the point of view of publishers, money-makers, and multinationals. Not surprising, given that the book is a collection of articles written mostly by representatives of universities, publishers, and organisations based in the developed world. At any rate, it is valuable reading for anyone interested in media and publishing in India. Except for the article on the economics of book publishing by Datus Smith, Jr., all the other eight have been first published within the past three years.
The editors were apparently asked for their work by an organisation called Obor (meaning "torch" in Bahasa Indonesia), a part of Bellagio Publishing network, a research and information centre associated with Boston College Centre of International Higher Education. Obor was established in 1970 as an NGO to select important books to be published in Bahasa Indonesia.
At that time the publishing industry was a small part of the economy in the developing world. Today, except for the continent of Africa, it has become a fairly large industry. Still it remains a dwarf compared to the multinational behemoths.
The editors recognise this as a "struggle between independence and dependence". Local control on indigenous publishing and competition with outsiders in an era of globalisation is a serious challenge.
Coping with basic financial principles and yet publishing primarily for the sake of communication is difficult. This can be seen in how severely the vernacular press in this country is affected by economics. Even a shoddy piece of work with reasonable effort can get published in English, because a large market exists in terms of libraries and other institutional support. However, publishing in Indian languages, even if the material is of high quality, is a difficult proposition unless support comes from an institution.
According to one statistic given in the book, approximately half of the book titles published in India are in English, although less than 3 per cent of the population is literate in English. Even in the developed world, as Gordon Graham points out in his article, "Multinationals and Third World Publishing", "Those corporations that have grown dramatically are either based in countries where English is the native language or have taken deliberate decisions to move out of their own language cultures.... Those corporations that have not moved out of their native languages, ...have either been contained, or have chosen to remain within the parameters of their national cultures, which can make excellent sense in terms of profits, but is bound to slow down top-line growth in the end."
Copyright restrictions and global agreements on intellectual property rights imposed on the poorer countries literally by stick have created a difficult situation for scholars and readers who want to use printed material for research or other meaningful purposes. A book priced in a hard currency like the dollar, pound or the DM is beyond the reach of most Indian readers. Even in a premier institution like Panjab University, a teacher doesnt get more than Rs 600 ($15 !) as annual support for purchase of books, subject to the condition that an equal amount or more is spent by him or her.
The editors say in their introduction: "Control over technology, the copyright system, international distribution of books and knowledge products, and capital remains rooted in the West." Following this is a rather questionable comment: "...developing countries might benefit from current world trade practices by assuming an if you cant beat them, join them attitude. India, China and many other developing countries in Asia have done this very effectively." One wonders if such optimism holds for merely the indigenous investors or also the consumers who usually have no interest other than using the end product for what it is really meant, namely acquiring knowledge and information.
Not surprisingly, this optimism is also reflected in other articles. Graham, for instance, writes: "While multinationals, seeing no short-term scope in line with their financial goals, corral themselves in the mature markets, publishing industries at a earlier stage of development grow as expressions of national culture and language, and at such stages, the book is the ideal vehicle. These industries, relying on print and paper to serve the four-fifths of the worlds population outside of Western Europe and North America, could become in the next decade or two a force comparable to, or larger than, that of todays multinational communications industry."
In an age of electronic revolution, this does not seem to be a reasonable hope, though many of us would feel encouraged by it. There has been a sea change in the communications sector and we are not yet anywhere close to where it is going eventually. Half a century later, most people may not be even reading books in print. Already some types of information on line (on a computer) is more convenient than the equivalent in print for a person plugged into the technology. What will happen when the prices of computers fall to the level of the todays calculators is hard to predict. In such a situation, technologically more advanced countries or corporations will control the scene with much greater vengeance
In Third World countries today, some of the important sectors ignored by commercial publishing are taken over by the state. Cheap subsidised books are, for instance, published for children, for neo-literates, etc. Many NGOs have also been semi-commercially publishing books on environment, health care, womens issues, and child related issues, including education and social politics.
Paul Brickhill questions this in his article "The transition from state to commercial publishing in African countries" with the usual argument of free market encouraging "book diversity as well as a growing pool of specialised authors." We find this having only limited validity if you judge from the experience in this country. While low quality books come out from both commercial and state-subsidised publishing, many good books would never have appeared had it been left entirely to the commercial sector. Although the state machinery is choked with bureaucracy, for commercial publishing profit comes first and quality later.
In his rather outdated article "The economics of book publishing" (1989), Datus Smith, Jr, gives details of the costs and profits involved in publishing. Of course, what should be is not usually followed in reality and indigenous publishers usually save on the author royalties and spend more in getting their product "through" the right channels for greater sales. Nonetheless, the details presented are helpful for writers to understand the logistics of the business of publishing.
There is a detailed sketch on the history and the rights and wrongs of copyright laws and international agreements in "International copyright" by Paul Gleason. It is interesting that until about a hundred years ago even a country like the USA had no respect for the rights of Europeans, though they did protect the rights for local publishers.
Thus cheap reproductions of books published in Europe were available in the USA in the 19th century, but today eyebrows are raised if the developing countries make copies of books published in the USA (which are usually exorbitantly priced). Even the poorest country has a transition period of merely 11 years (until January, 2006) following the final act of the World Trade Organisation in January, 1995, to switch to market based economies with severe restrictions on access to copyrighted works of industrial countries.
A point not mentioned is that in countries like India, copyrights are of little monetary value to authors, since they usually get paid lump sums rather than royalties.
So, by the end of the book, we still havent learned much about publishing as a useful human endeavour. There is a greater concern about how the industry is affected because of certain restrictive government policies. Not much is said about how the needs and desires of the common reader are of little concern to the publishers. Profit, more than anything, has become the primary goal of a publisher and in their relationship with the authors, publishers stoop to their lowest. This is especially true of small publishers. The bigger giants treat authors as necessary unit-leaders in assembly line production.
Nonetheless, I recommend this book as a useful and well-conceived compilation on different aspects of publishing. Researchers as well as authors and publishers will benefit from reading it.