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On human relations: From Malinowski to Keynes

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  12 July 2015 12:00 AM GMT

By H P Khaund

EF Shoemaker, in his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ lists six epoch making ideas which evolved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These, to me some are (1) Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, (2) Marx’s interpretation of human history as the history of class struggle and that, (3) all higher manifestations of human brain are a means of exploitation of the masses, (4) Freudian alysis, (5) logical positivism etc. The point to ponder is why has Shoemaker confined his list to only the above thoughts to the exclusion of many other revolutiory ideas such as; say Einstein’s theory of Relativity for instance? Scientific inventions have helped solve the mystery of the physical world. Man has even successfully explored the outer space including planet Mars not to speak of Moon where man was able to set his feet upon. But what good are all these dazzling heights of scientific achievements to man? Have they ever been able to turn man into a true human being? To quote Shoemaker, “If I do not know the Second Law of Thermodymics, I do not miss anything, but if I do not know Shakespeare I miss my life.” A genius that Shakespeare was, he knew the whole man from toe to head. There are no human characters with all finer senses which do not find a place in his dramas.

To digress from Shoemaker’s small, but beautiful world to Bronislaw Malinowski en route to Jean Paul Sartre, Nietzsche, Keynes etc… In the wake of the Second World War, Malinowski, a famous social scientist had propounded his celebrated theory of De-Socialisation which is a negation of Aristotle’s definition of man as a gregarious animal. De-Socialization is essentially an objective manifestation of a subjective phenomenon. What follows is, when a man feels that the society he lives is not moving the way it should or that the members of the society do not maintain the kind of relationship with their fellow human beings which is inimical to civilized interpersol communication of thoughts and ideas, then he develops a sense of alietion and estrangement from the society, which in consequence leads him to live the life of a recluse like Brutus.

De socialization is an ilieble characteristic of the developed industrial society of the West. The Great Depression of the Thirties which was an effect of fall in effective demand consequent upon lack of purchasing power of the people, had precipitated a crisis situation of unprecedented magnitude in Europe causing wide spread unemployment and associated problems. Were it not for John Mayrd Keynes whose general theory (General theory of Employment, Money and Income) helped salvage the capitalist economy from impending doom, the world would have witnessed the demise of capitalism.

Keynes’s suggestion of a simple mechanism mely – pump priming (asking people to dig holes and refill them) was the first step towards generation of effective employment, and given margil propensity to consume being greater than unity, a small dose of wage paid employment resulted in rise in demand for food and consequently, a demand induced growth in employment and income ensued, thus reversing the process in the positive direction.

In the event of such a contingency, would the theory of De-Socialisation hold good still? The answer is - it would, for the simple reason that de-socialization is a phenomenon that concerns human relationship.

And talking of human relationship, is Malinowski’s theory akin, if not identical to Jean Paul Sartre’s philosophy of Existentialism (I am, therefore I exist on my own) which has revolutionized the world of thought since, Sartre’s school of thought is an aftermath of Nietzsche’s shocking statement that ‘God is dead’. The moot point is, in the absence of God how can man justify his existence. For man seeks to explain his existence in relation to God. Whenever he feels his existence is in peril, he invokes God. And to justify man’s existence in spite of and apart from God is the genesis of Sartre’s philosophy. The only exception to Sartre’s school is Albert Camus’ Outsider who is literally an outsider in the school of Existentialism. The rebel in the novel who was condemned to death on charge of treason and murder spent the night before his execution looking at the Northern Star without a wink as if he felt the existence of some super tural power. This was unbecoming of one who happened to be an atheist and, hence an outsider.

The contrast between Malinowski’s theory and Sartre’s philosophy is that, while Malinowski’s theory does not make any reference to God, that of Sartre’s philosophy is built on a negative perception of God, dismissing as it does the notion of God as a myth. In either case God as a power that determines the destiny of man is relegated to a status of being inconsequential.

Post script: A brief reference to an incident involving a student from Assam aspiring for higher studies in the university of Decca in undivided India is considered worth mentioning here. On the day of his arrival in the premises of the hostel, he got introduced to Prof. Meghd Saha, the renowned professor of physics. Prof. Saha, a benign persolity, asked him where he was coming from. When the student said that he came from Assam, the Professor simply told him, “You have come all the way from Assam for a degree in physics at a higher level. Mind you that your credentials will be not be the degree you obtain but how you present yourself to society as man in the real sense of the term — ‘Manus hoye berate hobe.’ (You have to pass out as a man).” How great the teachers were in those days! Their main mission was to impart such kind of education as proves instrumental in producing a real man and not one who stakes his claim for a University degree at the expense of human relations.

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