In the Hindu scheme of things, there is no exploitation of a human being by others, but rather a cohesion among living creatures.
Over the past two centuries, a narrative has been constructed globally that there are only two ideologies or “isms”: communism-socialism and capitalism. These two opposing ideologies have dominated the collective thought of the world, so much so that no other alternative narrative has been explored or come to the fore. These two ideologies are antagonistic in how they view human nature, their motivation, the development of human society, the forces that shape that development, and the purpose of human life.
Surprisingly, these two “isms” disagree specifically on the issue of human prosperity, the role of wealth, its creation and distribution, the purpose and ultimate purpose of wealth both at the individual level and at the state level- societal. From now on, the world is dominated by capitalism. Although communism-socialism attracted more intellectuals, it failed to attract more followers worldwide. This communist-socialist model has failed; lately, even the neo-world order of capitalism has also collapsed.
Interestingly, there is another alternative that has not been the subject of this mainstream bipolar intellectual discourse and has never even been opposed to this debate. This alternative is the Hindu way of life, the creation of wealth and its distribution. This article will attempt to compare the communist-socialist-capitalist model with the Hindu model of economic development.
Capitalism as an ethos of free trade, maximum profit and minimum state interference is the direct result of free growth of capital directed by the individual where market forces are allowed to operate in assuming they are a self-regulating force. Communism, on the other hand, is an assumption that is a worldview for its adherents. It has evolved over the past 100 to 150 years basing its assumption on facts, historical circumstances and interpretations of the European continent and the progression of various societies in Europe. It also evolved as a reaction to unbridled capitalism.
Hinduism is a centuries-old civilization that has evolved and flourished over the past 3,000 years in the Indian subcontinent. Many ideas of the Hindu prosperity model have stood the test of time. Moreover, this Hindu model has been successfully followed in the Indian subcontinent and has been the rationale for the prosperity and material well-being of Indian civilization and society for the past 3,000 years.
Communism assumes that “matter” or material forces are the driving force of development, whether human or societal development. Man is moved more by material factors than anything else and he is above all and exclusively an economic man. The other aspects of development like “idea”, ideology, religion, history, etc., are only the reflection of the substructure of material forces. For the capitalists, man is above all a selfish being who knows his own interests better without being controlled by society or the state. In communism as in capitalism, the purpose of life is the creation of wealth.
On the other hand, Hinduism (Hindutva) considers that man is fundamentally a multifaceted being and that his economic aspect is only one of the aspects of his personality. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, humans have four goals – one’s life pursuits namely, Dharma (righteousness), Artha (prosperity), Kama (psychological worth), Moksha (salvation). Artha implies “means of life”, activities and resources which allow to be in a state of material well-being, wealth creation and its distribution. Of these four aspects of his personality, material prosperity (Artha) is held second in the hierarchy of pursuits. Even the means of earning money should be based on Dharma and its ultimate use, both at individual and societal level, should be in accordance with the touchstone of Dharma.
Thus, it is not material forces that move the human being or society, it is the Dharma that is the basis of all development and it is only by following the Dharma that one should and that one can gain material prosperity. In the Hindu scheme of things, “wealth” is only a means to a higher end. Wealth that is excess should be avoided and a life of ‘apragrihya’ (minimum required wealth) is emphasized. The unbridled wealth for wealth’s sake which is the philosophy of capitalism is also denied. If communism bases its thesis on “matter” and capitalism on wealth, Hinduism (Hindutva) bases each of its foundations on dharma.
Communism gave the concept of dialectical materialism, which simply means that the development of society is due to conflicts and antagonistic material forces. Conflict is a natural state and indispensable to development. Conflict is the basis of the growth of man and society and when this conflict of interests becomes irreconcilable, a new stage of development takes place. Capitalism speaks of force is just and of survival instinct as the basis of progress.
In the Hindu view, conflict in individual and social life is not natural but an aberration. It speaks of harmony and cohesion. In the Hindu scheme of things, instead of any outward “evolution” of life leading to material prosperity or its pursuits, the goal of individual and social life is “involution” where Dharma-earned means and ultimately leading to the stage of Moksha which is a state in which man’s ultimate liberation takes place after enjoying the pursuit and prosperity of the riches of the world. It is interesting to note that the Hindu vision does not detract from the material aspect but says that it is a stage in the progression of man and human society.
Communism says that those who control the means of production also benefit from the distribution of wealth. However, in the Hindu view, material prosperity and its enjoyment has a limit where the unbridled enjoyment of material resources as in the capitalist ethos is despised and the excess wealth produced is instead aimed at giving back to society in terms of gifts , charity and welfare of the people. Thus, wealth is not the product of individual effort but social wealth. If socialism-capitalism is material-centric, Hinduism is human-centric. For socialism-capitalism, material wealth is an end in itself, but for Hinduism, wealth is only a means to achieve higher values both at individual and societal level.
Communism-socialism speaks of class wealth and class exploitation. The world has always been divided between two classes, one which owns the means of production and which is therefore a dominant exploiting class, the class which does not possess the material means and which is therefore the exploited class. Capitalism highlights that the individual is the source of wealth creation. In the Hindu view of things, wealth is neither individual nor does it belong to any class, so there is no class exploitation or individual property. The source and ownership of wealth, as well as its creation and distribution belong to society. Whatever excess wealth an individual has is as a trustee of the wealth and not as an owner. It is a duty of every Hindu to share his Dharma-earned material prosperity for the purpose of Dharma!
Communism-socialism speaks of class loyalty and a kind of world revolution where the exploited classes of the world proletariat will join and reject the exploiting classes of the bourgeoisie. Capitalism speaks of “survival of the fittest”; where small fish can be eaten by big fish, this being the law of society. The natural law of the market will drive out the inefficient and the unfit. In the Hindu scheme of things, there is no exploitation of a human being by others, but rather a cohesion between living creatures, i.e. ‘Praniyon Mein Sadbhavna ho’ (let all living creatures, including animals, birds, etc., live in peace). The individual-social order is based on Dharma. Against the world revolution and the new world order of capitalism, it puts forward the concept of Vasudev Kutumbkam, that is to say that the whole world is one family.
Communism aims at state ownership of the means and modes of production, whether before the revolutionary state or post-revolutionary. For capitalism, the individual owns the means of production. For the Hindu vision, the means and modes of production are societal and belong to society. The ultimate goal of communism is a stateless, classless society where there will be no exploitation. However, in the Hindu scheme of things, the ultimate goal of social progression is the establishment of Dharma where the underlying ethos would be from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
Now is the time to dwell on specific details of how the Indian way can be projected as a global alternative to dominant but declining ideologies.
The author is an independent commentator. The opinions expressed are personal.
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