This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
of the great Tamil Poet Saint Thiruvalluvar who lived about 2000 years ago, on social thought and social order. The contributions of many of the Nineteenth and Twentieth century western thinkers seemed to have toed the line of thinking of their predecessor in Tamilnadu (India). Using the Parsonian GAIL model, the analysis traces the constituents of the GAIL model in the writings of Thiruvalluvar. Examining the ‘ functional primacy’ of the subsystems in the direction of and contribution to the maintenance of social order, this paper dwells into the famous couplets of Thirukkkural. The society’s ability to ensure relationship among the people is a vital determinant of social order. One has to take note of the message that Thirukkural offers very seriously to keep the order in society; or else the society may look like one at enmity with peace. The science of sociology remains dichotomized. Of the ‘Two Sociologies’(Dawe 1970), one speaks of social system and the other social action. Though poles apart, the central problems of the ‘Two Sociologies’ revolves around those of order and control. The sociology of social system considers that without external control or constraints, social and individual well-being will be at the crossroads. On the other hand, the sociology of social action proceeds with the key notion that truly human social order could be achieved only when man is freed from external constraints. The ‘Two Sociologies’ have their intellectual ancestry in functionalism on the one hand and conflict theory on the other. One among the ‘sociological trinity’, Emile Durkheim, whose name is associated with functionalism, was preoccupied with gaining insight into social order. Functionalism is inextricably tied up with the question of order. It asks: ‘how is order maintained in society?’ Looking at society as a relatively persisting configuration of elements, functionalism considers that it is only the parts of the society which ensure order, stability, cohesion and integrity. Though the dialectical model views change and tension to be ubiquitous, both functionalism and conflict theory are based on an equilibrium model of society. Talcott Parsons (1951), evincing interest in the pattern of interaction and cooperation, believes that all social systems are confronted by two sets of problems which need to be resolved. While the instrumental problems relate to achieving certain ends, expressive problems have to do with the maintenance of efficient cooperation between individuals. Refining and shedding more light on this, Parsons maintains that any social system is subject to four independent functional imperatives or problems. The equilibrium or the ‘continued existence’ of the social system will be in jeopardy unless answers to those problems are found. These four ‘functional imperatives’ or ‘problems’ which constitute the GAIL model are: * Goal Attainment * Adaptation * Integration * Latency Goal attainment refers to setting of goals and moving the system towards its goal. Adaptation is concerned with procuring the means to achieve these ends. Maintenance of harmony and solidarity in the face of ‘deviance’ which a discrepancy between ‘ends and means’ engenders, becomes the concern of Integration. Latency is concerned with ‘tension management’ and stability in the face of strains towards destabilization. Smelser (1972) considers that certain subsystems become functionally important in
meeting the needs of the society which GAIL represents. While ‘polity’ as a subsystem aims at resolving the problems of goal attainment, the economic subsystem takes care of the ‘Adaptation’ function. Industry produces and distributes the means by which survival, progress and improvement in the standard of living become possible. The ‘Integration’ function is concerned with the problem of socialization. The cultural subsystem meets the needs of ‘Latency’, which leads us to recharge our batteries and come alive and work as useful members of society. The capacity of the social system to sustain itself is not only augmented, but the collapse of the social system is also stalled when the ‘functional pre-requisites’ are satisfied. This paper is oriented toward the examination of the ‘functional primacy’ of these subsystems in the direction of an overall contribution to the maintenance of social order. An effort is, therefore, made to bring above the watermark of visibility the extent to which their relevancy remains capsuled in the couplets of Saint Thiruvalluvar who touched upon these aspects several centuries earlier than many of the sociologists and psychologists. POLITY Since the goal attainment is characteristically connected with the political aspect of social organization, it becomes incumbent on the part of the ‘polity’ to devise ways and means of generation of wealth. Both generation and accumulation of wealth involves planning, order may also be seen as explicit in such planning. Resource mobilization, innovative enactment, preservation and distribution are the functions of a kingdom. (Thirukkural 39.5) Besides this, it is necessary for the State to estimate what its actual revenue is likely to be. Given so much to spend, how much to be allocated to what? Such an estimation of income before opening of the expenditure account is necessary, as otherwise there is every likelihood of the State coming to grief. Although the inlet for income is narrow, and small If the outlet is not expanding, there will be no fall. (48.8) The life of person without concept of proportions Will evaporate and liquidate in the passage of time. (48.9) Helping kith and kin should be in proportion to possessions Any excess will eat away the hard earned wealth. (48.10) Though wealth is a pre-requisite and appears to be an end in itself, Thiruvalluvar resolves the ‘dilemma of ends’. In one stroke, he explains the importance of wealth as and end and such an end becoming a means to further ends. Amass wealth; there is no other proper steel To destroy the arrogance of your foes. (76.9) Thiruvalluvar brings out the primacy of accumulation of wealth for purposes of driving the enemies out of the State. Insofar as the word ‘enemies’ is concerned, it cannot be seen within the narrow confines of protection against external aggression. The word ‘enemies’ has to be viewed as having a wider connotation to mean and include the war against poverty. The best way of savings and investments will be
To feed the needy poor; it will accumulate for later use.(23.6) This couplet highlights the fact that the goal of accumulation of wealth is to eradicate poverty. Eradication of poverty, therefore, comes to stay as one of the main functions of the State. Thiruvalluvar comes down heavily on the one in abode in Heaven for having created a class of people born to eke out a livelihood on alms. If begging has been made a way of life by the Creator of the world, let Him slog to places, begging in despair. ( 107.2) Besides being in the nature of a ‘warning signal’ to those in the saddle, the paramount necessity of doing away with poverty in order to ensure the ‘diminishing return’ of social disorder is also highlighted. While wealth is seen as a ‘defense mechanism’, Thiruvalluvar cautions the State to eschew expansionist designs in order to stem the tide towards loss of wealth. Even if it yields good results, abandon the wealth which has been obtained by unjust approach. (12.3) The seeds of socialist philosophy may be seen as embedded in Tirukkural. Refraining from being vocal in regard to regulation and limitation of property, Thiruvalluvar’s advocacy is meant to minimize social disorder and exploitation. Speaking for the establishment of an egalitarian social order, in a veiled manner, Thiruvalluvar pleads with the ‘haves’ to make common cause with the ‘have-nots’ by voluntarily sharing what they have in excess, be it wealth, or land, or even work. Such a change of heart on the part of the ‘haves’ will help establish a social order based on ‘consent’. In the form of a ‘social peace treaty’, it becomes a pre-requisite of social stability and integration. The burning disease of hunger cannot touch him who is accustomed to sharing his food with others. (23.7) To share the food with others and to care for various living beings is the chief of all virtues enunciated by people of learning. (33.2) The riches accumulated by virtue of hard work are considered as for the use of people who deserve. (22.2) Like the drinking water tank filled unto brim is the wealth of the wise, learned, cultured man of brains. (22.5) The wealth accumulated at the hands of the kind man is like the tree with fruits in central town, free for all without any ban. (22.6) All parts of a medicinal tree are useful to others so also the riches in the hands of self-sacrificing seers. (22.7) The wealth of a person not liked by others is like a poisonous tree bearing fruits in the center of a town. (101.8) Thiruvalluvar highlights in the above couplets that the very purpose of possession of
property gets defeated unless the accumulated wealth is pressed into service of those bereft of the comforts of life in order to alleviate their sufferings. ‘ECONOMIC INSTITUTIONS’ Having enunciated the principles of socialism to usher in a welfare state. Thiruvalluvar suggests that the ‘ends’ could be achieved by adopting the ‘means’ most appropriate for an agrarian economy. Agriculture does indeed occupy a central place in the treatment of various subjects by Thiruvalluvar. While placing agriculture on a high pedestal, he considers it the queen among occupations. Amidst all avocations, the world stands behind the plough in spite of the difficulties, agriculture is still the chief. (104.1) In the case of those who pursue agriculture as an occupation, he proclaims them as crusaders and sees them as harbingers of hope for the eradication of poverty. Those who toil and earn their livelihood from lands will not beg, but will freely give to those who beg. (104.5) Besides agriculture proving itself to be a feeder industry on whose success depends the fortunes or otherwise of other avocations, agriculture is seen as one which is capable of catapulting the economy into soaring heights. The farmers form the backbone of the society; for they support those who are unable to till the land . (104.2) Those are men who live, that plough the land all the others go behind for food with folded hands. (104.3) The farmers who bring rich harvests to their chief will see the flags of other Chiefs, below theirs, creep. (104.4) While agriculture holds the key to ’3p’s’, namely, plenty, prosperity and progress, which are the essential ingredients to keep disorder at bay, commerce cannot be said to have received a raw deal at the hands of Thiruvalluvar. Thiruvalluvar brings out the essentiality of capital formation for ensuring the success of business. There is no income without capital; even so there is no status without support proper. (45.9) Thiruvalluvar suggests that businessmen should imbibe an egalitarian sense of dealing in order to stay put in business. The relevancy of Thiruvalluvar’s wise counsel has to be seen in the context of today’s commercial activities which are in the cold grip of competition. Such competitions represent an indirect form of conflict and undermine social order. The best interests of merchant are to act taking care of other’s interests, as his, when he transacts.(12.10) Though commerce is an integral part of the economy, commerce was not at its pinnacle of glory unlike its counterpart agriculture during the period when Thiruvalluvar lived. Notwithstanding the fact that commercial transactions were done mainly on an individual basis, the importance commerce assumes in shaping the economy has not failed to catch the prying eyes of Thiruvalluvar.
‘SOLIDARITY GROUPINGS’ It is social experience which is seen as engendering the self. Since ‘reality is a social construct’, a linkage could be established between social order and socialization when the notion ‘what is acceptable’ is taken up for consideration. Individuals’ conformity with practices accepted as proper behaviour patterns provides the answer to the question of social order. When conformity indicates the existence of social order, nonconformity or deviance spells chaos or disaster. Social order cannot be brought about unless individuals take over the meanings, values and expectations of the social group with which they interact. It is precisely here that a relationship existing between social order and socialization could be discerned. While socialization involves transmission of behaviour patterns, proper performance of the role by the occupants becomes the determinant of social order. As roles and statuses are the obverse and reverse of the same coin, what is expected of each incumbent of a role needs to be taken cognizance of. The ‘code of conduct’ which Thiruvalluvar enunciates is not only a ‘macro’ concept, but also could be brought down to a level meaningful to the individual. Though Emile Durkheim, considered to be one among the ‘sociological trinity’, was seen as arguing that social norms came to be internalized in the personality of individuals, Thiruvalluvar not only touches upon the aspect of ’internalization’, but besides speaking about what one has to ’internalize’, he exhorts that one should shun those practices which have been disapproved by the society. There is no need to shave the head or grow a beard if acts condemned by the world are spared. (28.10) With courage of conviction, Thiruvalluvar says that one is certain to meet one’s end when one pursues the path that is ‘prohibited’ or allows oneself to be carried away by following what is ‘prescribed’. Destruction will be the culmination of the acts of commission and omission. (47.6) Thiruvalluvar brings out the existence of a homology between the expectations and acceptance since performance of role obligations is guided by expectations and acceptance. Do not enter into things that have no authority and acceptance of the society. (47.10) It is not only necessary for an individual to fall in line with societal expectations, but it is equally important for him to take stock of where lies his own strength as otherwise he is likely to pay the penalty for being unaware of his own capacity and capability. He, who is not adjustable, nor aware of his strength but always indulges in self-praise, will soon be wrecked. (48.4) Having postulated among others, principles of acts considered ’prohibited’ and ’permitted’, Thiruvalluvar brings out the futility of knowledge, as according to him, its roots lie in what the society enjoins on the individuals as practices ’prescribed’ to
be followed. The three ‘Ps’ of behaviour pattern, namely ‘prescribed’ ‘permitted’, and ‘prohibited’ have received elaborate treatment at the hands of Thiruvalluvar The three ‘Ps’ of behaviour pattern , namely, ‘prescribed’, ‘permitted’ and ‘prohibited have received elaborate treatment at the hand of Thiruvalluvar. The learned people who have not learned to live in consonance with the world, are really foolish. (14.10) To be in unison with the functioning of the world is what is done by a wise understanding mind. (43.6) Since the family forms the cornerstone of socialization, Thiruvalluvar’s address is directed towards the performance of role obligations by each role occupant with a view to paving the way for social order to usher in. The major roles a man and a woman play are as husband and wife and as father and mother of son and daughter. According to Thiruvalluvar, a family could be taken to have realized its goals when the couple begin to bestow love and affection on others and lead a righteous way of life. Love and living virtuously leads family life its character and utility as nobility and reward. (5.5) Without being oblivious of what he means by ‘righteousness’, Thiruvalluvar says that an individual has to distance himself from feelings of being jealous, greedy and angry and avoid the use of harsh words so as to thread a ‘righteous’ path. Envy, desire, anger, harsh words are avoided in virtuous living. (4.5) Insofar as the responsibility of the husband as father is concerned, he exhorts that an inalienable duty is cast on such occupants of roles to ensure that their sons have access to knowledge. The knowledge so gained should be capable of keeping them in good stead. The duty of father is to see that his offspring occupies the highest seat in the court.(7.7) Thiruvalluvar’s prescription is a double-edged weapon. Without stopping with what he says as the duty of the father, he considers that a son should prove himself worthy of being so by his exemplary conduct. The duty of the son to his father is to get the acclaim ‘what penance did his father do to get such a son!’. (7.10) For the wife, Thiruvalluvar hands down that besides her remaining chaste, she should take upon herself the responsibility of caring for the husband and be in possession of all good qualities that go wit her feminine character. What is more adorable than a woman if she is strong minded and chaste? (6.4) That woman, who untiringly takes care of herself and her husband earns the appreciation of the society. (6.6)
Thiruvalluvar opines that nothing would give greater pleasure to a mother than to see her son make a mark in life. By implication and with rapidly returning conviction, he means that it is obligatory on the part of a son to measure up to the expectations. The mother rejoices more to hear her son called ‘great’ than when she gave birth to him with all the strain. (7.9) ‘CULTURAL ORGANISATIONS’ To question as to the existence or otherwise of cultural organizations during the relevant period when Thiruvalluvar was alive is of no consequence, since culture refers to ideational aspects of social life. Culture points to a society’s adaptation to its needs. The values which a society cherish are only elements of any cultural complex. It may be said that values become an integral part of the culture. Though an examination as to what extent the integration has reached a state of perfection is not called for, suffice it would be to say that certain minimum internal harmony and functional connection exist between values and culture on the one hand and social solidarity on the other. This link needs to be seen in the context of a threat to the cherished values which is sure to endanger social solidarity. The discussion here is limiting itself to examine how the various elements of culture are perceived and how these transmissible intellectual aspects of civilization make their entry into Thirukkural. Thiruvalluvar may be seen to motivate people to win rewards through conformance to values. In the case of those who remain without being motivated, he cautions them that non-conformance will entail forfeiture of the goodwill, respect and esteem of others. In his effort to persuade people to adopt or conform to specified patterns of behaviour, Thiruvalluvar brings into play both positive and negative methods of social control. Each of the positive courses of action pursued is shown to have a fundamental advantage over all the negative ones. In Chapter 8, Thiruvalluvar makes an attempt to dilate upon the importance of universal love or affection from a disinterested motive. He considers that love provides the springboard to lead a contented life. It is to be appreciated that a contented life becomes a continual feast. People who enjoy life and acquire fame are said to have qualified with a life of love. (8.5) In driving home the point in regard to hospitality, Thiruvalluvar views that those who are given to the practice of being hospitable will have everything to gain and nothing to lose. In his house, who treats his worthy guests with pleasure The Goddess of wealth will reside with all Her treasures.(9.4) The family man who daily entertains and welcomes guests Will not be ruined for want of funds. (9.3) Advocating suavity in speech, he declares that those who are prone to be soft-spoken gain advantage over those known for providing material comforts to others. Advocating suavity in speech, he declares that those who are prone to be soft-spoken gain advantage over those known for providing material comforts to others. It is better to bear a pleasant countenance and utter kind words than to give a gift with love in the heart.(10.2)
Gratitude is yet another value which Thiruvalluvar speaks about. Such a quality, he considers, is capable of assisting one to attain salvation besides proving itself to be a tool to cut at the roots of impending evils. Those who commit any vice can be redeemed; but not those, who are ungrateful of the help received. (11.10) Even if somebody does grievous harm equivalent to murder thinking of one good act by him to us will pacify the anger. (11.9) In the case of those vested with the power to take decisions that are likely to affect the interests of others, he cautions that such people will have to free themselves from likes and dislikes and remain neutral in order to become the recipients of the encomiums of all others. To remain balanced and not bend to any side like the weighing beam is the beauty of the great. (12.8) Defending the quality of being humble or modest, Thiruvalluvar says that mastery over the five sense organs will bring in its wake all good things of life. In this life if one practices control over the five senses like the tortoise, it will bring one grandeur for seven births. (13.6) Since patience and perseverance are required in the production of anything valuable, Thiruvalluvar counsels patience in the face of adverse conditions in consideration of the fact that it arms the individual with yet another weapon in his armoury. The poverty of poverty is neglect of hospitality the strength of strength is forbearance of fool’s hostility. (16.3) Though jealousy is one of the undesirable qualities that one has to free oneself from to become ‘righteous’ (Thirukkural 4.5), one needs to overcome feelings of jealousy, as otherwise, according to Thiruvalluvar, the chances are greater for one to get oneself ’pushed into bottomless perdition’. Envy is the sinner who will lead one into the path of fire, robbing one of all wealth. (17.8) While entertaining the idea of taking over another individual’s possession is looked down upon with contempt with indications of adverse consequences, Thiruvalluvar by the same token brings home the beneficial effects of not allowing oneself to be possessed by such evil designs. The moment one wants to covet the property of others one’s family name is spoiled and guilt accrues. (18.1) The Goddess of wealth will identify and reach that person who knows and lives a virtuous life not coveting others’ possessions. (18.9) Thiruvalluvar exhorts the rich to part with what they have in excess in favour of the poor. Since the poor cannot think in terms of doing anything in return, such an act
qualifies itself to be called ‘benevolence’. Giving to the deserving poor is charity others are to be construed as expectant. (23.1) CONCLUSION Without being exhaustive, it may be said that no facet of social life goes without being treated by Thiruvalluvar. The feeble attempt made herein to have a comprehension of the inexhaustible treasure Thirukkural contains may appear to be the blind gropings of Homer’s Cyclops round the wall of its cave. It may, however, be seen that the premium placed on social order increases with each preceding incidence of unrest. The society’s ability to order relationship among the people appears to be the crucial determinant of social order. Unless the message of Thirukkural is seriously taken note of, society may look like one ‘at enmity with peace’. William Wordsworth’s observations appear as though he makes common cause with Thiruvalluvar: The discipline of slavery is unknown Amongst us, hence the more do we require The discipline of virtue; order else Cannot subsist, nor confidence, nor peace. ********************* Notes and References This article adopts the English translation of Thirukkural provided by T.R. Kallapiran, (1995) in his book ‘Thirukkural: Words of Eternal Wisdom’, Chennai (Madras), Baba Publishers. Dawe, A (1970) ‘The Two Sociologies’, The British Journal Of Sociology, 21, Pp 207-18. Parsons,T. (1951), The Social System, New York, Free Press. William Wordsworth, Edinburgh Review, November 1814 in Francis Jeffrey (ed), Essays on English Poets and Poetry: From the Edinburgh Review, London, George Routledge and Sons Limited. *********