Michael Rayner: Systematic Ideology in India

Winner, 2019 George Walford International Essay Prize.


The theory of Systematic Ideology was formed by Harold Walsby in the 1940s, and since then has been used to enrich the understanding of political, scientific and religious movements, both current and historical. However, there has been a tendency to base these studies on Western movements. Indeed, Walsby annotated his account of global ideological trends, solely with European and American examples. The following essay represents an attempt to widen the applications of Systematic Ideology beyond the West.

India presents a fascinating case study for the role of ideology in politics and social movements, owing to its diversity in languages and religions, and its long, complex history of invasion and colonisation from multiple external powers. The Indian efforts for independence can also vividly illustrate the range of ideologies described by Walsby, and the different ways in which the freedom fighters engaged the public with these ideologies.

This essay will begin with a brief explanation of the fundamentals of Systematic Ideology. It will then progress through three broad periods of Indian history, pre-independence, independence and post-independence, with a view to isolating the significant changes in ideology that have resulted from India’s attempts and ultimate success in becoming autonomous.

Harold Walsby’s theory of Systematic Ideology was a direct response to what he saw as the failures of Socialism to appeal to the majority of the lower classes that it claimed to represent, and the inabilities of a class-based theory of politics to account for historical and modern trends in politics. Looking instead towards philosophy, Walsby suggested that trends in politics were better explained as a result of ideology, i.e. intellectual-emotional attitudes. Moreover, he claimed that ideology could account for trends in a much wider range of social and psychological phenomena, including religion and even science. [1]

Ideology, in this respect, is autonomous, rather than epiphenomenal. It is determined by itself and is not merely a consequence of another factor, such as class or material conditions. The Marxist position that ideology can only be changed as a result of first changing the material conditions of society has been challenged by George Walford, who argued that this simply did not reflect the observable conditions of reality.

There are those who hold “the bourgeois ideology” and there are also those who hold non-bourgeois ideologies, but the division between these two groups does not correspond with the division between the bourgeoisie and the non-bourgeois classes. [2]

Walsby also suggested that ideology is systematic; it can be classified into a hierarchical taxonomy which describes trends in and across its various divisions and subdivisions. Walsby identified a total of seven divisions, the major ideologies, each of which reflects a general trend in assumptions about the nature of the world and the strength of identification with these assumptions. These seven major ideologies, he named protostatic, epistatic, parastatic, protodynamic, epidynamic, paradynamic, and metadynamic. [3]

The order of these groups is important, as this is both the chronological order in which they are said to have first appeared in society, and the order through which individuals develop throughout the course of their life. It is impossible to have an epistatic ideology without first having a protostatic ideology. Moreover, subsequent major ideologies add to the previous ones, rather than replacing them. The progression through these stages determines the degree to which an individual identifies with intellect, identifies with the group situation (society and family) or the cosmic situation (the environment outside the group), is politically individualistic or collectivistic, and is economically individualistic or collectivistic. The earlier ideologies are also more pervasive in society, a large proportion of society being comprised of people who solely possess the protostatic ideology, and much fewer who possess the paradynamic ideology. [4]

The first three major ideologies form the eidostatic phase, relating to the general view that both the group and cosmic situations are fundamentally static (or at least should be), changing only in ways that enable them to maintain their absolute qualitative natures. This phase identifies positively with the group situation, viewing the cosmic situation as either a threat or a tool. This phase is economically individualistic, but politically collectivistic. They also do not identify strongly with intellect, although Walsby stresses that this does not imply that they are less intelligent. [5] It simply means that they do not “expect people to think and act on the basis of thought,” [6] valuing obedience to the law and the intentions of leaders higher than pure thought.

The protostatic (or expediency) ideology is the oldest, most basic and most ubiquitous. Indeed, Walsby believes that it is necessarily present in every society. [7] This ideology is entirely concerned with “the maintenance of people themselves and their social unit.” [8] This emphasis on the social unit makes the ideology socially and politically collectivistic. As a result, there is a tendency towards mass-mindedness and therefore anti-intellectualism. Walsby presents fascism as the equivalent political party to this ideology, pointing to the systematic destruction of all opposing views enacted by the Nazi Party, and Adolf Hitler’s desire to install a Third Reich that would last for 1,000 years. [9]

The epistatic (or domination) ideology shares the protostatic concern of preserving the existing situation, while also incorporating the acknowledgement that new phenomena must sometimes be invented to preserve the current values. These include education, police and laws which protect family values. The epistatic ideology is more complex than the protostatic, holding a dualistic world-view, which accepts the validity of other social groups, although giving allegiance solely to the proponent’s own social group. The political party that exemplifies this ideology is conservatism. [10]

The parastatic (or precision) ideology is again resistant to change, but is more accepting of significant change than either of the previous ideology. This ideology is again more complex, presenting a multiple worldview, which enables a more nuanced interpretation of the outside world than the us-and-them mentality of the previous ideologies. This allows for scientific study, particularly of physical sciences, as the interest in science is largely focused against the cosmic, for the benefit of the social group. The interest in science leads to a greater sympathy for intellectualism, although the parastatic ideology is more concerned with facts than with reason. This ideology is exemplified by liberalism. [11]

The following three ideologies represent the eidodynamic phase of ideologies. This presents a significant shift in focus. Eidodynamic ideologies accept that the social and natural world are in flux, and attempt to make use of the dynamic nature of things to enact social change. They identify positively with the cosmic situation, and consider the world’s injustices to be the result of the group situation, i.e. the very structure of modern society. Society must therefore “be amended structurally, not merely improved superficially”. [12] This phase identifies strongly with intellect and is politically individualistic, encouraging original thought and discourse, and distaining blind obedience. They are also economically collectivistic, i.e. they have increasingly less concern with individual property. [13]

The first eidodynamic ideology is the protodynamic (or reform) ideology. This ideology encourages social change, albeit a gradual change. This is due to a marked change in assumptions about the natural world from the eidostatic ideologies. For proponents of this ideology, “reality exhibits internal relatedness, that is, it is a complex whole whose many and various parts are connected to one another, while the whole is constantly changing.” [14] The political equivalent of this ideology is socialism, or the British Labour Party.

The fifth major ideology is the epidynamic (or revolution) ideology. At this point, drastic and immediate change is needed for freedom to be attained. Moreover, revolution is “the inevitable fulfilment of history as it advances towards its aims.” [15] The constant, drastic upheavals of society are normal, and are how society does and should exist. In the words of Yevgeny Zamyatin. “how can there be a final revolution? There is no final one; revolutions are infinite.” [16] This is the ideology behind communism.

The sixth major ideology, and final eidodynamic ideology, is the paradynamic (or repudiation) ideology. This ideology again demands immediate change, but goes further, to reject all forms of government, classes and religion. The logical conclusion of this ideology is the complete absence of ownership. The economics which underlies the capitalistic nature of government must be altogether dispensed with. This is the underlying ideology of anarchism. [17]

The final ideology, which does not fit into either the eidostatic or eidodynamic phases, is the one which Walsby believed Systematic Ideology itself to exhibit. This is the metadynamic ideology (or ideology of ideologies). By viewing the world in ideological terms, rather than social terms, this ideology is able to accept the existence of all other major ideologies, to acknowledge the assumptions of each major ideology and to make attempts to deal with the problems of these assumptions on an ad hoc basis. This can best be achieved by the impartial study of all other ideologies. [18]

Pre-Independence India

The date of emergence of Homo sapiens in South Asia is a widely-debated topic, owing in part to an incomplete fossil record and in part to the lack of a tradition of palaeoanthropology in the region. [19] There is some evidence to suggest human presence in South Asia approximately 74,000 years ago, with some arguments suggesting dates as early as 120,000 years ago. [20] Although there is no direct evidence of the nature of the ideologies that prevailed in pre-Neolithic communities, we can infer from the very fact that such social structures existed that these communities had assumptions about their social and cosmic situations. The social collectivism that leads to the formation of small family groups as a bastion against the uncertainty of the cosmic situation is what typifies the protostatic ideology. George Walford suggests that ideology originated in “small bands, rarely of much over fifty people, but occupying – or at least ranging over – surprisingly large areas,” [21] and this seems to be precisely what the archaeological record suggests about the communities that occupied the Bhimbetka rock shelters, during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, i.e. small communities living in a system of caves, isolated from any other contemporary communities. [22]

Approximately 10,000 years ago, the Neolithic Revolution transformed human social interactions throughout the world. At this point, an increasing reliance on agriculture seems to have necessitated the growth of social groups, from small families to large, complicated social structures, which in turn led to the need for a system of government and a hierarchy based on material possessions. George Walford equates this revolution with the origin of epistatic ideology. [23] Societies at this point exhibited a more nuanced outlook of the world, with some duality, with the origin of concepts such as good/bad, sacred/secular and subject/ruler. [24] The eidostatic need for the world to remain the same is upheld, but now laws are brought into effect to enforce this.

The Indus Valley Civilisation, which comprised several cities along the Indus River, which was at its height between c. 3200 BCE and c. 1800 BCE, [25] seems to fit well into this theoretical framework. The cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in modern-day Pakistan may have had a population as large as 60,000 and 100,000, covering areas of 150 and 250 hectares, respectively. [26] It was clearly a very complex, highly-structured society, demonstrating a marked difference from the small family groups that had been living in the Bhimbetka communities. The Indus Valley Civilisation was at the heart of a large trade network, trading with other civilisations of similar scales, with large merchant fleets. [27] This suggests a dualistic outlook on the cosmic situation, acknowledging the existence of other cultures, and even making efforts to engage with them, but undoubtedly still considering them other to the Indus Valley societies.

There is some debate as to what happened to the Indus Valley Civilisation, [28] ut it is clear that they were not the same civilisation who inhabited South Asia in the Vedic period, from c. 1500 BCE to c. 500 BCE. This new civilisation had come from the North-West, bringing to India new customs, beliefs, religion, politics and literature. [29] Again, this civilisation seems to have adopted epistatic ideology of an early form of Hinduism. As this civilisation developed primarily from kinship groups and clans, society was structured around and maintained by a monarch who was sanctioned by a divine power. [30] While there were many laws that maintained the social order, none were as potent as dharma or the law of duty. As propagated by the Bhagavad Gita, this law demands that individuals must recognise his duties as laid down by the Law Books and act accordingly to ensure the stability of social order. “Dharma was the foundation of individual and collective security since a state of nature with without law was equivalent to anarchy.” [31]

Nonetheless, there were instances of assimilation, retaliation and rebellion which disturbed the social order. Literature of the time is rife with cases of individuals breaking out of their caster, interactions with foreign communities and tyrannical monarchs. In most instances, there was a tendency to assimilate these changes within the existing social order, thereby maintaining its overall structure. Moreover, it was primarily led by the elite or Brahmanical caste who could openly express their dissent, especially to overthrow an unfavourable ruler. [32] Walford argues that it is important to make a distinction between the trace of a major ideology in one or two individuals and the incipience of the major ideologies in society. “We noted appearances of Domination in the Expedient communities and even among animals, but only with the establishment of the ideology of principle did it become a social force.” [33] For Britain, according to Walford, parastatic ideology did not gain significant force until the 16th century CE, growing in force until, by the late 19th century CE, the ideology could have genuine influence on the politics of the country.

In India, however, societies that seem predominated by this ideology were in existence long before this. In c. 322 BCE, after a period of scattered empires, South Asia was almost completely unified into the Maurya Empire. In c. 260 BCE, the third Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka conquered one of the few remaining unoccupied states, Kalinga. So great was the devastation of this final battle, that Ashoka renounced all warfare and converted to Buddhism. [34] After his conversion, the empire experienced a period of peace, religious tolerance and scientific advancement. The features of this reign seem to reflect a number of the trends of the parastatic ideology. Certainly, there seems to be more nuance in Ashoka’s later rule than in his previous us-and-them mentality. He traded with several Hellenic empires including Syria, Egypt and Greece, generating cultural exchange between the countries for three generations. [35] Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism also implies more questioning attitude to religion. Walford argues that religion is used by political and religious leaders to repress the masses of society, [36] nd therefore demonstrates a protostatic or epistatic ideology. Indeed, he suggests agnosticism as the religious position most relevant to parastatic ideology [37] Taking on from the Vedic principle of dharma, he propagated his own ideology of dhamma or social responsibility of an individual. Given the extent of his empire (stretching across the subcontinent, he also lay great stress on tolerance towards people and their beliefs and open expression of different views. Therefore, his conversion to Buddhism was not merely religious, but a “social and intellectual movement.” [38] The ideology associated with Ashoka’s reign, however did not outlive him. Walford would undoubtedly claim that this single period of 50 years, during which a parastatic ideology had dominance, was not enough to be a social force, for, even though it was the ideology which predominated the empire, it was clearly not taken up in a significant way by the society, and thus disappeared.

After the Maurya Empire was another long period of scattered dynasties. South Asia did not receive anything like the same degree of unification until the 16th century, with the Mughal Empire. The Mughal Empire originated in Persia, and brought with it the ideologies of the Middle East, including Islam. Throughout this period, there are again indications of a more liberal ideology. Emperor Akbar built libraries and schools, was accepting of all other religious groups, and even encouraged discussions and debates on religion. He was a patron of the arts, supporting architecture, painting and literature. He even commission scholars to study Sanskrit and translate the epics to Persian and other Indian languages. [39] This approach clearly is encouraging of intellectualism, and seems to be placing a higher value on social individualism than on social collectivism, a feature of the eidodynamic phase of ideologies. While Akbar is usually singled out as the most progressive Mughal emperor in this regard, he is not unique in the way that Ashoka was, and the features of the society under his rule are found throughout the Mughal Empire. [40]

This presents a problem for Walford’s theory, because he believes that parastatic ideology “emerged spontaneously only in western Europe, arriving elsewhere as an imposition although sometimes a welcome one.” [41] For Walford, parastatic ideology as a social force has arisen only once, over the course of a number of industrial, scientific, political and artistic revolutions that predominated Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. [42] Any ideology which do not stem directly from Europe can therefore not share this ideology.

The colonisation of India by the Portuguese began in the 15th century, and by the Danish, French, Dutch and British, in the 17th century. By 1757, the majority of South Asia was ruled by the British East India Company, and from 1858 by Britain directly. At this point, the European history that Walford has described, comes into direct contact with the history of the region. Walford also considers the first enduring eidodynamic movements to arise at this point in time. While the French Revolution demonstrated some eidodynamic ideology, Walford suggests that this was mostly a parastatic revolution, with some scattered eidodynamic proponents. By the 19th century, eidodynamic ideologies were becoming more common in the West. However, the reforms and revolutions that these ideologies promise have evidently not succeeded. Western society is in general eidostatic, with collective politics and individual property. Walford concludes that “the progression from reform through revolution to repudiation has been in effect, though not in intention, a flight into theory.” [43] We cannot, then, expect to find societies that exhibit any of the eidodynamic ideologies in full, but must instead look to individuals, the theories that they held and the movements that they began, in order to appreciate the role that these ideologies are playing in society. The following section deals with the ideologies of revolution in India, that led to independence, necessarily focusing on the individuals and the movements at play, to facilitate a greater understanding of the interactions of ideologies in this period.

Indian Independence

The earliest stages of Indian independence are often traced back as far as the 1857 rebellion. In 1857, after 100 years of Company rule, with mounting tensions over the dissatisfaction with the quality of life afforded to Indian soldiers, the company made a demand of its soldiers which forced them to choose between the laws of their religion and the laws of their rulers. The company presented them with a new variety of bullet cartridge which was opened with the teeth. As these cartridges were greased in animal fat, either pig or cow, it meant that either Muslims or Hindus were forbidden from putting it in their mouth. On the 29th of March, an Indian sepoy called Mangal Pandey, intoxicated on bhang and opium, called upon his fellow soldiers to rise up against the British. Pandey killed two British officers, before attempting to kill himself. A week later, he was court-martialled and sentenced to death. [44]

Pandey is considered the revolutionary, who sparked the 1857 rebellion, although there were a number of larger acts of unrest in Ambala, Delhi and Meerut throughout April and May. Ultimately, however, events of this nature resulted in a country-wide revolt. The 81-year-old Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was declared emperor of India by the Indian soldiers, putatively against his will, and several important cities were occupied. Finally, the company were able to suppress the revolt, and regained control of India. However, Queen Victoria’s faith in Company rule had been shaken, and so Indian was confiscated and became under the direct rule of the British crown. [45]

This revolt has clearly played a significant role in the establishment of an Indian revolution narrative. Indeed, it is often referred to as the First War of Independence. However, there is no evidence to suggest that independence is what the Indian soldiers were hoping to achieve. They were reacting to poor treatment, and when in 1858 they began to receive more rights as citizens of the British Empire, they were appeased. There followed a period of six decades with very little political unrest. Moreover, the Indian soldiers made no attempt to establish a new government that appealed to any kind of revolutionary ideology. They selected a ruler from the empire which had held dominion over India immediately before the Company. It is clear that this rebellion was not the result of any eidodynamic ideology, but simply a reaction to an impossible choice, between conflicting epistatic imperatives of following the government and following religion.

It was not until 1885 that the movement ultimately responsible for Indian independence, the Indian National Congress (INC), was established. This was in part in response to an open letter to the graduates of the University of Calcutta, authored by Allan Octavian Hume, a British civil servant and botanist, who had spent the majority of his life in Indian and had come to think of himself as a “Native of India.” [46] In his letter, Hume encouraged the students to “secure greater freedom for yourselves and your country, a more impartial administration, a larger share in the management of your own affairs.” [47] The initial meeting of the INC was also arranged by Hume, and approved of by the Viceroy of India, Lord Dufferin. The meeting was attended by 72 Indian delegates, all men, mostly Hindu, and mostly lawyers. [48] For the following 20 years, the INC was involved in proposing resolutions to the British government on their policies on India. These included giving the Indian people freedom of speech and press, electing Indian representatives to the legislative councils, and economic reforms, such as increased investment in modern industry and alterations to the salt tax, to prevent its proportionately negative effect on lower socio-economic groups. [49]

The proposed resolutions had little effect on the administration of India, but they reveal a very different ideological approach to the British than the 1857 revolts. The INC represent an ideology that values intellectualism and the freedom of political individualism, as evidenced by their interest in free speech and press. They also valued science and technological progress. The group was undeniably elitist in membership, all highly-educated, relatively wealth men, but their politics did not reflect this elitism. The salt tax had little impact on their lives, but they were able to identify it as a problem for the poor, and make attempts to address the imbalance that it created. This suggests a tendency towards economic collectivism and away from political collectivism. This closely follows the parastatic phase, as at this point the INC wanted to make gradual changes to the structure of society for the benefit of the members of society, but did not openly display a nationalist agenda. They did not want to replace the British administration, merely to increase their own freedoms under this administration.

On the 16th October 1905, Britain partitioned Bengal, in order to separate the Muslim majority regions of the east from the Hindu majority regions of the west. Notoriously known as the divide-and-rule strategy, this measure resulted in unrest throughout India, particularly in Bengal and the neighbouring states of Bihar and Orissa, but ultimately spreading to Mumbai. [50] During this time, the nationalists Lala Lajput Rai, Bal Gangadhar and Bipin Chandra Pal united to form the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate. Lal Bal Pal popularised the swadeshi method of rebellion, which targeted the economy of the British Empire by boycotting British industrial exports and using only Indian-made goods. [51] While protests were, for the most part, peaceful, there were isolated incidents of violence, and nationalist feeling was growing, with figures including Bal advocating swaraj (home-rule). [52] In 1911, fearing an escalation of political unrest, the British administration reversed the partition.

The conditions in India during the period from 1858 to 1905 were not significantly better than those from 1905 to 1911. The attempts of the INC to reform society demonstrate that Indians had legitimate grievances, grievances which were largely ignored. Yet none of the grievances before 1905 were widespread enough to inspire rebellion across the whole of India such that it signalled the dissatisfaction of British rule. The putative explanation that they were reacting to a divide and rule strategy is perhaps adequate for the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate, who were already attempting to change India to fit their ideals. However, at this point, British governance does not seem to have aggravated the larger society and therefore, not a new source of fear. However, the new policies and strategies such as the bullets and partition, posed serious threat to Indian life. For a predominantly eidostatic society, unrest at this scale could cause a major change to society. However, once the partition was reversed in 1911, peace was restored. There is no protostatic or epistatic motivation for continuing to resist the British rule, because the British rule usually works as a force for maintaining political collectivism.

In 1914, the First World War broke out in Europe, prompting Britain to bring the British Indian Army to the defence of Britain’s interests in Europe. The INC were divided on where their loyalty lay in this war. India had no stake in the war, but those advocating swaraj were still few. The Indian public still largely accepted their status as a colony of Britain. In 1915, Mohandas K. Gandhi, a British-educated lawyer returned to India from South Africa, where he had been involved in non-violent rebellion in protest of racial discrimination [53] Gandhi revolutionised the swadeshi method, applying it to mass non-violent resistance, targeting the British economy through boycotting and refusal to participate. He termed this new method satyagraha. Through Gandhi’s guidance, the INC became a national organisation, with millions paying membership. [54] The INC began to represent the views of Indians on the whole, rather than an elite group of educated men.

At this stage, the INC has shifted slightly from its ideological roots in the parastatic. Still with a strong focus on intellectualism, the INC now also has members advocating revolution. Any definition of swaraj will at least imply a protodynamic ideology, because swaraj necessitates the entire uprooting of the current social reality, to replace it with something unknown, and altogether more of a threat to society. The INC itself, while not advocating swaraj, accepted members who did, and encouraged discussion between its members, recognising political individuality. This seems to be tending towards an eidodynamic ideology. Until Gandhi’s involvement in the INC, it was mostly overlooked by the general public, with their protostatic and epistatic ideologies, as these ideologies actively dislike this kind of intellectualism. The immediate success of Gandhi in popularising the INC demonstrates that he was able to offer the general public something that the INC could not.

After the First World War, the INC under Gandhi’s leadership continued to oppose British government through satyagraha. In 1919, the Rowlatt Act was passed, in response to increasing fears from the British government of Indian nationalism. This gave the British powers of preventive indefinite detention over the Indian people, i.e. it allowed them to detain without trial, for an indefinite period of time, anyone suspected of posing a threat to the British government in India. [55] Thousands of citizens across India were motivated to gather in large cities to stage protests. Gandhi travelled to Delhi and was immediately arrested. In Punjab, several thousand people gathered in the Jallianwala garden in Amritsar. The commanding British officer, Brigadier-General Dyer blocked the exits and ordered his troops to fire into the crowds. This inspired greater rioting throughout the country, but Gandhi urged the people not to turn to violence in response. [56]

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Gandhi’s methods of satyagraha became more popular and as a result, more effective. He staged large protests, including his famous march from Ahmendabad to Dandi over 241 miles, to make his own salt. He also encouraged Indians to spin their own khadi (cloth). Throughout this period, Indian demand for swaraj was growing, but with the figure of Gandhi as an example, the nationalistic feelings were redirected into non-violent mass disobedience. [57]

Here it becomes clearer exactly what Gandhi was able to offer the general public, which made him so appealing. Gandhi was surely an intellectual; he had trained as a lawyer, and he knew enough about economics to invent novel ways of damaging Britain’s economy with relatively simple acts. However, he did not act like an intellectual. His plans for protests were very simple, and appealed to old Indian traditional knowledge. People knew how to make khadi and people knew how to collect salt, because their ancestors had made khadi and collected salt. Once he had appealed to these old traditions, it became the British who seemed to be making the changes, and upsetting the social structure of India that had existed for thousands of years before the British. In this sense, he paved the way for swaraj. Swaraj should not be perceived as a threat to the protostatic ideology, because it does not represent a change in society and traditions, but a return to the older and truer society and traditions.

In 1935, the Government of India Act was passed, coming into effect in 1937. This gave a greater degree of autonomy to the people of India, giving 30 million people the ability to vote in provincial elections. The INC, now led by Jawaharlal Nehru, a disciple of Gandhi, had great success as a political party in the 1937 election, winning the majority of seats in all but two provinces, and winning more seats than the Muslim League in all provinces, including those with a greater Muslim majority. [58]

When the Second World War broke out, the loyalty of Indians was again tested. B.R. Ambedkar, the social reformer for Dalit rights, argued that Fascism was the greatest threat to the world, and that compliance with the British administration was important for the duration of the war, in order to ensure India’s ultimate protection. [59] Many Indian civilians shared this opinion, and by 1945 the British Indian Army had 2.5 million volunteer troops, making it the largest volunteer force in known history. [59] Gandhi and the INC argued that the war in Europe was a European concern, and should not distract Indians from their own war against the British for swaraj. Gandhi completely condemned the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany, but said that he could not see how it was significantly worse than the imperialism of the British Empire. [59] Subhas Chandra Bose, a prominent Bengali nationalist, who had served as INC president in 1938, took a more severe approach. Unlike Gandhi, he advocated swaraj at all costs, and encouraged a violent opposition to British rule. Bose saw the outbreak of the war as a chance to liberate India from the British Empire, while their attentions were diverted in Europe. He escaped India, hoping to make an alliance with Soviet Russia. However, when this failed, he made an alliance with Germany, in the hope that he could encourage Adolf Hitler to assist in the liberation of India. [60] Despite initially condemning Bose’s idea of swaraj at all costs, on the 8th August 1942, Gandhi initiated the Quit India Movement, with a speech that gave the Indian people the ultimatum, do or die, effectively condoning all methods of resistance against the British. Within hours of the speech, 54 INC leaders had been arrested without trial and the rest retreated into hiding. [61] Some isolated incidents of violence followed, but resistance at the scale proposed by Gandhi only occurred in rural Bengal. However, this resistance was short-lived, as the concerns of the great famine of 1943 outweighed the peasant’s commitment to the INC cause. [62] In 1945, however, the end of the war effectively resulted in the end of the British Empire. Over the following 20 years, decolonisation occurred en masse across the globe.

It is unsurprising that Ambedkar would see Fascism as such a threat. As a Dalit, he was from the lowest caste, commonly called untouchables because they were seen as spiritually unclean. Fascism, according to Walsby, is the result of a society that is predominantly composed of the protostatic ideology. This ideology identifies changes in society as a threat, commonly identifying marginalised groups as the source of the change, and discriminating against them. [63] This happened to the Jews and Gypsies in Nazi Germany, and it is what has happened to Dalits throughout history. Ambedkar was later responsible for writing the constitution of India, which is the longest constitution of any in the world. This reflects his meticulous consideration for the structure of an ideal India. Ambedkar wanted a drastic change to society, but he was only willing to do so through the appropriate channels, which he saw as cooperating with the British. His ideology, therefore, is perhaps best described by the protodynamic ideology.

Bose, in many ways is the opposite of Ambedkar. He wanted an immediate revolution, but the nature of the revolution, and what society would look like afterwards, he was less certain about. Clearly an India that is liberated by Nazi Germany will be significantly different to one that is liberated by Soviet Russia. His readiness to adopt any significant change to the structure of Indian society demonstrates that his ideology is eidodynamic, but beyond that is mere speculation. His opinions on economy and the ideal structure of government are unclear, because his focus was solely placed on the swaraj.

Nehru, who ultimately became the first Prime Minister of India, acts as something of a midpoint between these two. Independence was his ultimate goal, but not at any cost. His approach to swaraj mostly seems to follow that of Gandhi. Indeed Gandhi was something of a mentor to Nehru, who went to him for advice even after Gandhi’s official involvement in the INC had ended. [64] Ganghi and Nehru only significantly diverged on the question of science. Gandhi made constant appeals to traditional methods of living, and rejected modern technology. [65] While Nehru joined in the satyagraha, after indepencence was achieved, he revealed his true opinions on modern technology; he was well-known for his interest in science of all kinds and its application to society. [66]

Another major figure at this point, is Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who became the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. The Muslim League, of which he was a part was founded in 1909, promoted by the Governor General of India. [67] In an effort to discourage rebellion, the British had been convincing Muslims for some time that the INC were only securing the interests of the Hindus, and if independence was ever achieved, it would be in the form of a Hindu India, with marginalised Muslim communities. [68] Jinnah and the Muslim League attempted to relay this to the Muslim public, but by 1937, the election results demonstrate that Muslims did not consider that the Muslim League represented their needs any better than the INC. [69] However, during the Second World War, the Muslim League began a campaign to emphasise the difference between Hindus and Muslims, travelling widely throughout India to spread the message. They emphasised that Hindus did not eat cows and Muslims did, and that Hindus were polytheists, and Muslims monotheists. The campaign was so successful, that by the next election in 1946, the Muslim League won all of the seats in areas with a Muslim majority. [70] At that point, the partition of India became inevitable.

Post-Independence India

On the 23rd May, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gained a second term in office. The BJP is a right-wing party, with a commitment to Hindutva (Hinduness). It originated in 1980, with the merging of the Janata Party and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh Party (BJS). The BJS in turn grew from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist organisation, founded in 1925 to fight for swaraj, but unlike the INC, the RSS was unwilling to cooperate with Muslims to achieve this. [71] The BJS itself was founded as an opposition party to the INC in response to the one-party system in place immediately after independence. [72] The Janata Party was also founded in protest of INC, during the state of Emergency, declared by Indira Gandhi, which ran from 1975 to 1977. [73]

The ideology of the BJP is therefore somewhat complex. The Hindutva commitment suggests a protostatic ideology, placing central importance on the survival of one social group, in this case Hindus, and viewing others as threats and scapegoats. A strong attitude to religion also implies a protostatic ideology, as religion facilitates socially-collective behaviour with the threat of a punishing deity and with a set of beliefs and traditions that differentiate one social group from another. [74] to the Vedic peoples who first inhabited South Asia 3,500 years ago. The BJP see the Hindu people of India as an unchanging group, who have existed for thousands of years and will continue to exist for thousands more. All other races and religions in India are therefore outsiders, and while they may be tolerated, the laws of the country should be in place to protect the rights of this group. The BJP’s commitment to their narrative of Hindu historical By harking back to the past, the BJP relates modern Hindus directly longevity has recently resulted in the BJP changing the country’s history syllabus to reflect their traditions, [75] thereby shutting down intellectualism.

The BJP’s nationalist agenda has resulted in strong policies on defence, counterterrorism and economic protection. However, nationalism itself does not imply protostatic ideology. The nationalism that existed throughout India in the early 20th century was led by eidodynamic and parastatic ideologies, reflecting the desire to change the political landscape. The idea of nationalism was not popular amongst the people until Gandhi redefined nationalism in protostatic terms as a return to the status quo. Here again, the nationalism of the BJP implies a desire to change, to give Hindus more rights and power, and again it is put into the parastatic terms of returning to the status quo.

This may explain why the BJP’s nationalist agenda is so popular, but not why it is popular now. Before 1977 the INC had won every election since independence, and when, finally, another party won the election, it was the Janata Party. The BJP did not win an election until 1996; the BJS never won an election. As the Janata Party’s policies were so specific, it is clear that the results of the 1977 election were in response to the Emergency. The Emergency was a period of two years, in which Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was given authority to rule by decree, in response to what she saw as internal disturbance. This allowed her to suspend elections, imprison her political rivals, dispense with freedom of the press and restrict civil liberties [76] On the surface this seems protostatic, as she used the Emergency to limit political individuality, but her motivation behind it was to enact significant social change as quickly as possible, with no opposition. Her programme of development was also highly left-wing. Among her 20 Point Programme were plans for expansion of education, improvement for slums, protection of environment, and attack on rural poverty. [77] All of these imply significant change to society, and it is perhaps for this reason that the Emergency resulted in a loss of faith for the INC, rather than the politically collective landscape she brought about.

India’s development is often compared to that of China. They are the largest countries in the world by population, and they both began to develop their industry at similar points in time. The most significant difference between the two countries is that India is a democracy, with approximately 900 million people eligible to vote in the elections. [78] Yet India experiences some of the worst poverty in the world, with one of the biggest problems in malnutrition. [79] China, in many ways very progressive, seems to reflect a government not dissimilar from Indira Gandhi’s government, i.e. one which makes significant change at the cost of reduced political individualism. This reflects an eidodynamic ideology, propped up by a protostatic government. India under Modi has been described as “the next China.” [80] He has made some drastic changes to Indian society, relatively unopposed, yet his popularity has not suffered as Indira Gandhi’s did. Modi differs from Indira Gandhi most significantly in his priority of Hindutva and his view of India as the land of Hindus. Perhaps then, his appeal to an unchanging India is what allows him to make changes without criticism from proponents of protostatic and epistatic ideologies, while proponents of parastatic ideologies approve of the changes he is making.


Throughout this account of Indian history, Systematic Ideology has, for the most part, been able to enrich the subject, by appealing to the ideology of the people as a whole and particularly of the rulers, who have used ideology to successfully sway the masses for their own end. This is a particularly useful approach for India, as the range of languages, religions, cultures, politics and castes in India yields a complicated picture. By addressing only ideology, as the underlying cause of all of these factors, a clearer view of the changing events can be established.

In Beyond Politics, Walford presented a Eurocentric impression of the history of ideologies, assuming that all major ideologies had originated in the West and subsequently been adopted by the rest of the world. Moreover, he suggests that the history of Europe’s relationship to ideology should act as the model for which we understand ideologies throughout the world. [81] In responce to this, I have suggested instances of the various ideologies throughout the course of Indian history. Social transformations do not occur in the same way throughout the world. The very reason that Systematic Ideology can be usefully applied to various events is that it is not culturally specific. The industrial revolution may have been a specifically Western social transformation, but decolonisation is a specifically Eastern social transformation.

In response to this, this paper suggests instances of the various ideologies throughout the course of Indian history. Social transformations do not occur in the same way throughout the world. The very reason that Systematic Ideology can be usefully applied to various events is that it is not culturally specific. The industrial revolution may have been a specifically Western social transformation, but decolonisation is a specifically Eastern social transformation. Moreover, systematic ideology could be applied to understand a wider range of cultural phenomena if the chronological requisite is removed. It is interesting to note how various ideologies co-exist and interact, and thereby lead to the formation of a new social order. In the cases of nations formed from colonisation, such as India, it can be particularly revealing of how the ideas of nationhood develop and evolve.


[1] Harold Walsby, “The Domain of Ideologies,” 1947, http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=138

[2] George Walford, “Ideology, Autonomous or Epiphenomenal?,” 1977, http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=423

[3] Walsby, “The Domain of Ideologies.”

[4] Walsby.

[5] Walsby.

[6] Zvi Lamm, “Ideologies in a Hierarchal Order,” Ideological Commentary, 1984, http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=218

[7] Walsby, “The Domain of Ideologies.”

[8] Lamm, “Ideologies in a Hierarchal Order.”

[9] Walsby, “The Domain of Ideologies.”

[10] Lamm, “Ideologies in a Hierarchal Order.”

[11] Lamm.

[12] Lamm.

[13] Walsby, “The Domain of Ideologies.”

[14] Lamm, “Ideologies in a Hierarchal Order.”

[15] Lamm.

[16] Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, trans. Clarence Brown (New York: Penguin Classics, 1993), 168.

[17] Walsby, “The Domain of Ideologies.”

[18] Lamm, “Ideologies in a Hierarchal Order.”

[19] Anek R. Sankhyan, “The Emergence of Homo Sapiens in South Asia: The Central Narmada Valley as Witness,” Human Biology Review 2, no. 2 (2013): 136–52.

[20] P. Mellars et al., “Genetic and Archaeological Perspectives on the Initial Modern Human Colonization of Southern Asia,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. 26 (2013): 10699–704, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1306043110.

[21] George Walford, “Beyond Politics,” 1990, http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=85.

[22] Archaeological Survey of India, Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka Continuity through Antiquity, Art & Environment (New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, 2003).

[23] Walford, “Beyond Politics.”

[24] George Walford, “Meet Systematic Ideology,” Ideological Commentary, 1994, http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=286.

[25] Jane R. McIntosh, The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives (Santa Barbara, California: ABC Clio, 2008).

[26] McIntosh, 213–14.

[27] McIntosh, The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives.

[28] McIntosh.

[29] Romila Thapar, A History of India, Volume One: From Origins to 1300 (London: Penguin Books, 1990).

[30] Romila Thapar, Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations (New Delhi: Orient Longman Ltd., 1978).

[31] Thapar, 30.

[32] Thapar, Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations.

[33] Walford, “Beyond Politics.”

[34] Thapar, A History of India, Volume One: From Origins to 1300.

[35] Thapar, Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations.

[36] George Walford, “Some Notes on the Ideology of Religion,” Ideological Commentary, 1980, http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=194.

[37 George Walford, “Systematic Ideology,” Ideological Commentary, 1989, http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=244

[38] Thapar, Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations, 63.

[39] Satish Chandra, Medieval India: From the Sultanate to the Mughals, Volume 2 (Delhi: Har Anand Publications, 2004).

[40] Chandra.

[41] George Walford, “Eastern Ideology,” Ideological Commentary, 1993, http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=327

[42] Walford, “Beyond Politics.”

[43] Walford.

[44] Kim A. Wagner, The Great Fear of 1857. Rumours, Conspiracies and the Making of the Indian Uprising (Oxford: Peter Lang Ltd., 2010).

[45] Claire Anderson, The Indian Uprising of 1857-8: Prisons, Prisoners and Rebellion (London: Anthem Press, 2007).

[46] Edward C. Moulton, “Allan O. Hume and the Indian National Congress, a Reassessment,” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 8, no. 1–2 (1985): 5–23.

[47] B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, The History of the Indian National Congress (1885-1935) (Madras: Law Printing House, 1935), 12.

[48] Sitaramayya, The History of the Indian National Congress (1885-1935).

[49] Sitaramayya.

[50] Ranbir Vohra, The Making of India: A Political History, 3rd ed. (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2013).

[51] Judith M. Brown, Gandhi’s Rise to Power: Indian Politics 1915-1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972).

[52] Vohra, The Making of India: A Political History.

[53] Brown, Gandhi’s Rise to Power: Indian Politics 1915-1922.

[54] Brown.

[55] Vohra, The Making of India: A Political History.

[56] Vohra.

[57] Vohra.

[58] Vohra.

[59] Suhas Palshikar, “Gandhi and Ambedkar,” Economic and Political Weekly 32, no. 30 (1997): 1918–19.

[60] Vohra, The Making of India: A Political History.

[61] Vohra.

[62] Romain Hayes, Subhas Chandra Bose in Nazi Germany: Politics, Intelligence and Propoganda, 1941-43 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

[63] Vohra, The Making of India: A Political History.

[64] Vohra.

[65] Walsby, “The Domain of Ideologies.”

[66] Vohra, The Making of India: A Political History.

[67] Om Prakash Misra, Economic Thought of Gandhi and Nehru: A Comparative Analysis (Springfield, MO: MB Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1995).

[68] Misra.

[69] Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

[70] Jalal.

[71] Jalal.

[72] Vohra, The Making of India: A Political History.

[73] Des Raj Goyal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Delhi: Radha Krishna Prakashan, 1979).

[74] Craig Baxter, The Jana Sangh – A Biography of an Indian Political Party (Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1971).

[75] Bipan Chandra, Aditya Mukherjee, and Mridula Mukherjee, India Since Independence (New York: Penguin, 2008).

[76] George Walford, “Patterns of Faith,” Ideological Commentary, 1993, http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=301; Walford, “Some Notes on the Ideology of Religion.”

[77] Rupam Jain and Tom Lasseter, “By Rewriting History, Hindu Nationalists Aim to Assert Their Dominance over India,” Reuters, March 6, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/india-modi-culture/.

[78] Chandra, Mukherjee, and Mukherjee, India Since Independence.

[79] Chandra, Mukherjee, and Mukherjee.

[80] Poorvi Vora, “Making the World’s Largest Democracy Work: How India’s 900 Million Voters Cast Their Ballots,” The Diplomat, 2019, https://thediplomat.com/2019/05/making-the-worlds-largest-democracy-work- how-indias-900-million-voters-cast-their-ballots/.

[81] Anthony R. Measham and Meera Chatterjee, Wasting Away: The Crisis of Malnutrition in India (London: World Bank Publications, 1999).

[82] Ruchir Sharma, “As PM Modi Discovered, India’s Economy Will Never Look like China’s,” The Straits Times, 2019, https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/as-modi-discovered-indias-economy-will-never-look-like- chinas.

[83] Walford, “Beyond Politics.”


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Misra, Om Prakash. Economic Thought of Gandhi and Nehru: A Comparative Analysis. Springfield, MO: MB Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1995.

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———. Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations. New Delhi: Orient Longman Ltd., 1978.

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———. “Meet Systematic Ideology.” Ideological Commentary, 1994. http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=286.

———. “Patterns of Faith.” Ideological Commentary, 1993. http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=301.

———. “Some Notes on the Ideology of Religion.” Ideological Commentary, 1980. http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=194.

———. “Systematic Ideology.” Ideological Commentary, 1989. http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=244.

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