Tag Archives: knowledge

Knowledge and Innovation for a Better Society : Ravi Sinha

An Address to the Students of Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune, India

Guest Post by Ravi Sinha

It should be a matter of no small comfort if, in today’s world and in today’s India, any discussion takes place anywhere about the relationship between knowledge and innovation on the one hand and the prospects for a good society on the other. It is greatly more satisfying and reassuring if this topic interests talented young minds such as present here, who, I hope, also nurse hopes for a better future, not only for themselves but also for the entire society and civilization. Yours is an esteemed institution with such a long history of cultivating and disseminating knowledge about society – about politics, economics and other related disciplines. I am sure this issue has been a core concern right from the inception of this institute, and I doubt if I will be able to bring in anything of added value. But, as I said, this is always a welcome topic for discussion. I am very happy for this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you.

Today if one mentions these two words – knowledge and innovation – together, it is very likely that the image of a Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs or Bill Gates will come to mind, even if such an association is not obvious to everyone. I, for one, often need to tell myself that I should not complain. After all, these gentlemen are symbols of one of the greatest technological revolutions humanity has experienced and we are living through. It has changed the way humanity works, communicates and lives, and it is not over yet. Unrealized potentials far outweigh the realized ones and far greater changes are in the pipeline. Physicists have recently discovered that the Universe now expands at an accelerated rate, but when it comes to accelerated expansion into the unknown, the Universe appears to be no match for technology.

For many the technological explosion is a cause for unadulterated excitement and a source of unbounded hope. For many others it is a cause for grave concern. There are yet others for whom it presents a mixed picture. In times of rapid and radical transformations, it is not unusual for many to have a sense of unease. Humanity has always innovated and created new ways and forms of life, and it has always found it difficult to adjust to its own innovations and creations. But the capacity to adjust improves with time. If the sense of unease or consternation appears widespread despite a greatly improved capacity for adjusting to the new, part of the reason lies in the break-neck speed of the current change. Continue reading Knowledge and Innovation for a Better Society : Ravi Sinha

Decolonization of the Mind

Our modernity is incomplete, our secularism impure, our democracy immature, our development  arrested and our capitalism retarded: ask anyone trained in the social sciences, economics in particular, about what ails India today and you can be sure of getting one or all of these answers. And you can go on adding to the list of more and more things ‘we’ lack. We did not have ‘history’, we do not have social sciences – and of course, we do not have theory/ philosophy.

Everything, in other words, is about our ‘backwardness’ and our need to catch up with the West. And seen through the lens of social science, most of the world looks like this – living ‘inauthentic’ lives, always ever in the ‘waiting room of history’, to steal historian Dipesh Chakrabarty’s suggestive phrase.

In the world view of our state elites, this is actually a form of what one could call, paraphrasing Sigmund Freud, ‘Capital-Envy’. The ‘realization’ that ‘we do not have it’ can be a source of serious anxieties. That is what lies behind the current frenzied desire to ‘catch up’ with the West. And generations of feminist scholarship has challenged this unquestioned Freudian  assumption that the penis is the norm and not to have it, is Lack. Perhaps women do not want it? Freud never conceived of this as possible. Indeed in today’s world, there are many men who claim that they feel they are women trapped inside male bodies. Generations of scholarship has made us realize that the aura of that grand universal theory actually rested on the fact that it did not just describe the sexes; it produced the sexual norm itself.

The vision that propels our political elites and their parallel numbers who write in the media today, is something like that fantasy of Freud. The anxiety produced by this awareness of the ‘primordial Lack’, is what drives them today towards what has been the most violent phase of development in our entire history. Violent uprooting of populations from their land, often at gunpoint, coupled with the most ruthless plunder of our common resources by unscrupulous corporations – all this and more has been going on with the state elites looking on ‘benignly’. For they seem to know something ordinary mortals do not – that all this is but the necessary price to pay for becoming ‘modern’ like them. Continue reading Decolonization of the Mind