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published in Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars http://csf.colorado.edu/bcas/kerala/kerther1.htm ABSTRACT: A number of influential experts in the field of international development regard Kerala as a unique model of development because it has been able to achieve exceptional social development in such areas as health, education, and even the demographic transition, despite low economic development and low per capita income. Inverting the model, however, we find that in sharp contrast to the experience of the high-growth economies of Asia, social development in Kerala has been accompanied by economic stagnation, if not deceleration in growth. This paper explores the social, political, and cultural roots of this paradox and suggests that economic stagnation can be seen to be inherent in the very pattern of Kerala's social, political, and cultural development. In particular, it draws attention to (1) a pattern of state, politics, and society that may have undermined the autonomy and rationality of institutions of civil society, and (2) a pattern of political and cultural discourse that may have undermined the basis of innovation, at least in certain domains of society and culture.
The Malayalam-speaking people of South India offer an example for the whole Earth. Extraordinary efficiencies in the use of the Earth's resources characterizes [sic] the lifestyles of the 29 million citizens of Kerala. Following the Kerala leadership we can see our way to prudent human behaviour maintaining high life quality through the twenty- first century. W. M. Alexander  [T]he Kerala model of development has almost reached the end of its tether. The paradoxical phenomenon of rapid social development unaccompanied by corresponding gains in economic growth has been exhausting itself. K. K. George  Not one of my sons or my brother's sons or my sister's sons has taken up the occupation of coconut-picking. In fact, there is not a single family in our community (caste) which has a son in this occupation. After all, climbing trees and picking coconuts requires hard physical work, not the game of tricking and hoodwinking, to which the new generation in Kerala has now become accustomed. An elderly coconut picker and a life-long activist in the Communist Party of India commenting on the severe shortage of coconut pickers. (Interview with the author, 1994). Kerala is a relatively poor state in a poor country, India. Yet the people of Kerala (hereafter called "Malayalees" since they are speakers of the Malayalam language) appear to enjoy a better standard of living than people in any other Indian state and in the other low-income countries of the world. (They may even be better off than people living in particular areas of the United States, if we accept certain definitions of well-being and quality-of-life.) It is not surprising that Kerala has been held up as a model for poor countries. Scholarly interest in Kerala as a "model" appears to have been triggered by the publication in 1975 of a pioneering study on Kerala's path to development conducted by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala's capital city. Challenging the dismal picture of poverty in Kerala painted by Dandekar and Rath in their influential report on poverty in India, the authors of the CDS study pointed out that Kerala's people had, in fact, achieved a relatively high degree of human development and quality of life despite low per capita income and consumption expenditures. They also suggested that this was the result of the pattern of development pursued in Kerala. 
The so-called "Kerala model of development" has become part of the broad global debate about development in the "third world" and it is studied by prominent experts in the field of international development, particularly from the political left, and by generally admiring researchers from Europe and America (see resource list below). One admirer has gone so far as to recommend Kerala as a sustainable and eco-friendly model for the whole world in the twenty-first century.  It is ironic, however, that in the 1990s the most enthusiastic admirers of the Kerala model have been based in the "first world," especially in the United States, while analysts and policy makers in Kerala have been engaged in a soul-searching self-analysis and self-criticism that has often sunk into the depths of despondency and despair. For Kerala is in the throes of a major fiscal, economic, political, and cultural crisis that threatens not only its future development, but the very sustainability of what has already been achieved. Nowhere was this more evident than at the International Conferences on Kerala Studies held in Kerala's capital (Thiruvananthapuram) in 1994 and in New Delhi in 1996. The major theme of both conferences was the crisis in Kerala's development.  Delivering the presidential address at the 1994 conference, which was organized at the initiative of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (hereafter CPM), the Party's nonagenarian leader, E.M.S. Namboothiripad said: I make a request: let not the praise that scholars shower on Kerala for its achievements divert attention from the intense economic crisis that we face. We are behind other states of India in respect of economic growth, and a solution to this crisis brooks no delay. We can ignore our backwardness in respect of employment and production only at our own peril.  And this comes from the most illustrious leader of a party that has a greater claim to be a patron (or even an architect) of the Kerala model than any other single organization, present or past. It is significant that some of the organizers of the 1994 conference in Thiruvananthapuram stated that "the focus of discussion at the Congress was more on the contemporary crisis and the possible solutions rather than on the much acclaimed achievements of the past."  It is important to ask whether the perceived failures are inherent in the Kerala model, that is, are the patterns of social, political, and cultural development that have produced the quality of life in Kerala the same patterns that are responsible for the failures? If they are, then uncritically recommending Kerala as a model for the rest of India or for poor countries elsewhere, would, indeed, be a serious error. This essay attempts to assess the achievements of Kerala, to examine the basic economic, social, political, and cultural facets of the model, and to delineate and critically examine the nature and causes of the crisis the Kerala model faces today. Kerala's Achievements What has made Kerala unique is its exceptional achievements in social development and quality of life in spite of a relatively low level of economic development. Kerala's achievements are well known and well documented. An excellent summary of Kerala's achievements has been provided by Richard Franke and Barbara Chasin, especially in their popular study Kerala: Development through Radical Reform. Franke and Chasin compare Kerala with India as a whole, with low-income countries elsewhere, and with the United States. They focus on per capita income and four of the most important indicators of social development: adult literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality, and birth rates. Predictably, Kerala has low per capita income as measured by official statistics, but as regards the four social development indicators it is not only far ahead of India and every other Indian state (including India's richest state, the Punjab), but it also stands out among low-income countries of the world and is even on a par with some middle-income European countries.  Significantly, Kerala's achievements are distributed relatively equally across urban-
political. They find this "a matter of particular importance for health.5 percent of Kerala's children between the ages of one and five suffered from severe under-nutrition in 1982. as against 47-25 percent for India. becomes intelligible only when we understand the intangible and mutually reinforcing consequences of such achievements as female literacy and education.  Recent comparisons provided by Sen are even more striking: the survival chances of men and women in Kerala are better than those of Blacks in the United States. when a British secretary of state for India proclaimed it as such in Britain's House of Commons. How Kerala Became a Model: The Historical Background What historical processes have led to Kerala's achievements? And what are the key economic.half of Kerala's low-caste population are literate (56 percent). and an equally pioneering and successful people's science movement. Kerala is the only state in India in which women outnumber men. the malefemale gap in literacy rates for Kerala in 1981-82 was 75-66 percent. followed close behind with respect to the attributes that made Travancore a model state. male-female. which the state has shown for a long time. a writers' cooperative that may be the world's first and most successful. is the new sense of dignity and self-worth that the formerly oppressed and humiliated sectors of its population possess. The two princely states of Travancore and Cochin and the Malabar district of the Madras Presidency of British India were combined to form Kerala. is a result of the greater access that women have to food. 68 for females). Examples of the latter are Kerala's high levels of social mobilization and democratic participation. Thus. some easily measured. in the sections that follow I shall examine the major socio-economic and cultural dimensions of Kerala's development. others more intangible. The Malayalam-speaking nation of Kerala became a state in 1956 when most Indian states were reorganized on the basis of language. This achievement. so remarkable by third-world standards. perhaps. In this respect Kerala outshines the rest of India and the rest of the world. well-being and survival. Cochin. The most intangible indicator of all. More than one.  It is noteworthy that Kerala's achievements have been mutually reinforcing. and low caste-high caste populations. health and general social wellbeing. general social mobilization and a high level of social consciousness. Life expectancy for males (in 1981-82) was. and health care in the state. and female literacy rates in Kerala are higher than those in every province in China. for example. To be sure.  In the context of the debate about third world development. Thus the demographic transition in Kerala. Travancore was regarded as a model native state at least as early as 1867. while the national literacy rate (Kerala included) is only 21 percent. lower than for females (64 years for males vs. in fact.  Kerala's fertility rates achieved without compulsion are now lower than those in China and countries in the "upper middle-income" bracket. the Rajahs of Travancore had established a British-style administration and had even encouraged the activities of European missionaries who were attracted to the region in large . in India as a whole the percentage was 6." Only 1. Another feature of Kerala hailed as "striking" by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen in their comparative study of hunger and public action is the very low incidence of "severe under-nutrition" among children and adults in Kerala. At least some of the essential elements in the Kerala model have a history that predates the creation of the state of Kerala.1. and cultural factors in the Kerala model of development? In this section I shall identify and analyze the major historical factors. social. the corresponding numbers for the rest of India are 57 and 56 years. an exceptionally high readership of newspapers and magazines. Kerala's most striking achievement may be that it has surpassed the expectations of demographers and has reached the "third stage of the demographic transition" within two decades.  There are other indictors of Kerala's high quality of life. Travancore's smaller neighbor. education.rural.
In particular." spearheaded by the Christian churches and the Nair Service Society. the newly established state achieved international renown by democratically electing the Communist Party to power. This demand led to the famous temple entry proclamation of 1936. Ironically.numbers because of the presence there of a sizable and wealthy community of ancient Christians. including the much. The Communist Party entered electoral politics in the post-independence period with a strong base in working-class.. into trade unions. especially in education and public health. the Travancore rulers (and the Cochin rulers as well) launched economic enterprises (e. When elections were held in Kerala in 1957. plantation agriculture and agri-based industries) and encouraged and even subsidized other commercial and capitalist developments. This was followed by one of the most significant social protest and reform movements in Kerala.discussed land reforms. the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDPY) eventually became an influential caste association. Recent reports. including landless agricultural laborers. led by Sree Narayana Guru of the Ezhavas. the Syrian Christians. submitted to the Dewan (Prime Minister). government schools and (government-aided) private schools. the new resources that were made available by the growing commercial-capitalist economy and expanding educational opportunities opened up new possibilities for social mobility outside the framework of the caste-based ascribed-status system. Intense mobilization and agitation by communal and caste organizations led to an arrangement of proportional representation or quotas for them in the assembly.and mass-organizations. the communal road seems to have led to secular politics.  No doubt the resurgence of casteism and communalism in Kerala is due at least in part to the current developmental and social crisis in the state. Travancore. Originally intended as a non-sectarian movement open to all.  While increases in education and social consciousness among the previously disadvantaged challenged the old order. they have generally been fought within the framework of the democratic political game and with relatively little inter-religious violence or strife.g. the newly formed Communist Party in Travancore was engaged in an intense drive to organize various sectors of the working classes. however. protesting against the dominance of Tamil Brahmins in government service in Kerala. the state developed a successful educational system that integrated the traditional and the new: Malayalam and English. On the eve of World War II. From 1888 on. The first such movements were the social reform and protest movements organized by castes and communities who had suffered deprivation under the old system. They also pioneered progressive social policies. as George Matthew has argued in a book by the same title. however. There followed a series of similar movements and caste organizations among the Pulayas. suggest a retrogressive trend in this respect. It was this government that launched some of Kerala's most radical and comprehensive reforms and social welfare measures.  To the extent that caste and "communal" conflicts have persisted in Kerala. In the 1930s the issue that dominated Kerala was the demand of the Ezhavas and other lower castes to enter the Hindu temples and the temple premises. which spread rapidly. while their comrades in Malabar concentrated on organizing the peasantry against landlordism. the model state. the largest caste overall and the most important of the lower castes." and socialist and communist movements. The new educational system was open to large sections of the population including many previously disadvantaged groups. A "liberation struggle. began to experiment with popular assemblies. More important. A tradition of social and political mobilization began to emerge in Kerala in response to these changes. In the 1930s Malayalees began to organize new kinds of social movements nationalist movements for "responsible government. Eventually. led to the dismissal of this government by the central government in Delhi in . it was the upper-caste Nairs  who set the ball rolling in 1891 with the "Malayalee Memorial" statement. which became more and more democratic by the 1920s and the 1930s. and among the Nairs.
These deficits are not only substantially higher than those of other Indian states. First. Kerala's problem is that it does not and cannot generate enough revenue to finance and maintain its social development. By the end of the second world war Kerala's people believed strongly that they had entitlements and that they had a right to protest about social conditions and to demand redress. health care expenditures and pension payments have been going up as the increase in life expectancy has risen dramatically. . As the politics of agitation and struggle led to increasing fragmentation of politics in Kerala the imperative to respond to such demands became even more urgent. the revenue expenditures are inherently liable to increase over the years not only because of inflation but also because of second-generation requirements of social development.1959. but are different in origin and nature. for example. For example. What is worse. George has clearly illuminated the systemic nature of these problems and convincingly demonstrated the fiscal unsustainability of the Kerala model.  Political forces in Kerala fragmented in the post.  Basically. The Fiscal Crisis In an excellent study of the fiscal problems of Kerala during the sixteen years from 1974 to 1990. The state government. have continued to play a prominent role in "public action" in Kerala. Although the logic of coalition politics leads to alternating shifts in the electoral fortunes of the two "fronts. The result was the creation of one of the most extensive welfare states by third world standards an important dimension of the Kerala model. especially the influence of socialist and communist ideologies that regarded such state intervention as ideal and desirable.  This severely reduces the government's ability to make capital expenditures. K. such as Savings Deposits and Insurance and Pension Funds. has no control over the substantial remittances sent back to the country by Malayalees employed abroad. particularly the CPM. Increasingly fragmented and unable to replenish itself with fresh recruits and energy. Third. and the continuing inability of the economy to generate employment for Kerala's people. with the result that the state faces progressively worsening deficits. prolonged economic stagnation and even decelerating growth. K. Development without a Productive Base Many observers have concluded that the Kerala model is unsustainable because of a three-fold economic crisis: a progressively worsening fiscal situation. The government has been attempting to finance these deficits by using capital receipts and public accounts. and have remained strong even in the global "postcommunist" era. In tandem with the evolution of public politics was the evolution of a state that had to respond to popular demand." the communist parties. Historians have generally stressed the connection between a tradition of continuous struggles and the trajectory of Kerala's development. the Kerala government's ability to expand its resources is severely constrained by a variety of factors including stagnation in the tax base and control of taxation policy by the national government. Second. Kerala's statesponsored welfare measures have other roots.1959 period. but a variety of parties are broadly grouped into two alliances led by the CPM and the Congress Party (giving the appearance of a two-party system). these economic problems appear to be inherent in the model. the deficits are largely in the revenue account that finances current consumption. the CPM has seen its influence wane in recent times. and not anomalies that can be easily overcome. with the result that it is unable to meet its fiduciary obligations behavior that would result in severe punishment for private trustees of such funds in most modern societies. The government has also been dipping into its public accounts. of course.
for example. while nationwide the growth was from Rs. that since the mid-1970s Kerala has been reducing its share of expenditures on social development (e.e.3 to 2. has widened steadily: by 1987-88 Kerala's per capita income was only a little over two-fifths of the Punjab's. The secondary sector (i. the agricultural or primary sector showing real negative growth of 0. Kerala is not able to sustain its achievements and it is losing its lead in social development itself.g. 718 to 798.  Since most of the available funds for social development are spent on salaries. i. It has been pointed out.71 percent during the period 1962-65 to 1974-75. the country's most dynamic state.pervasive and deep-rooted. The erosion of the state's much admired public distribution system is likely to have serious consequences in Kerala in the future since Malayalees are now more dependent on food imports than at any time in the past.. it has also been steadily declining in relative terms since the 1970s.81 and 73 percent in 1987-8825 and to 70 percent by the 1990s.  Economic Stagnation The fiscal crisis described above reflects a deeper structural crisis of continuous stagnation in the productive sectors of Kerala's economy. . For example.  Kannan regards 1975 as the crucial year in which Kerala's economy began receiving large amounts of remittances from abroad. this was also the year in which the state's economic performance began to show a real decline.6. More will be said about the false paradox below. K.76 percent while in the period 1962-65 to 1974-75 the increase was 3.26 The gap between Kerala and the Punjab. Kannan calculates that between 1974-75 and 1985-86 Kerala's SDP grew by only 1.2 percent.. Paradoxically. 594 to 636 (in 1970-71 prices). 1962-65 to 1974. The modest growth registered since 1975 has been due largely to a great spurt of growth in the tertiary sector (the service sector).e.24 In fact. Kerala's per capita income as a percentage of India's declined from 93 percent in 1970-71 to 90 percent in 1980. Kerala has already lost its lead in education and health. as will be seen below. Kerala has apparently been unable to obtain its fair share of the central government transfers that are distributed according to rules and priorities that do not take into account the specific nature of Kerala's problems.. the idea that there is such a choice needs to be quickly laid to rest. P. Experts who have examined the development of Kerala's economy since the mid-1970s have shown a remarkable consensus in arguing that the stagnation is both all. very little is left for current expenses or for modernizing facilities. Fifth. Punjab has overtaken Kerala in per capita expenditures on education and both Punjab and Rajasthan in per capita expenditures on health.15 percent as against 4. Between 1970-71 and 1985-86 per capita income increased from Rs. education and health) because of its fiscal crisis and apparently also because of a shift in government priorities.23 percent during what Kannan calls the "first" period.Fourth.  Similarly. Kerala's social security system is also under a severe strain due to the increasing numbers of the unemployed and the needs of pensioners whose benefits have not kept pace with inflation. industry) grew by 2. For as George has shown clearly. growth in Kerala's state domestic product (SDP) has been quite dismal.75. Kerala does not receive its share for social development since it is seen as having reached the national targets despite the fact that the state is unable to make the recurring expenditures needed to sustain these achievements. the Kerala government's status as the biggest entrepreneur in the state and the owner of the largest number of public undertakings among all states in India has become a serious economic liability. Those who celebrate the Kerala model generally suggest or at least imply that Kerala has made a morally superior choice in favor of human development and quality of life over economic growth. Kerala's per capita income is not only significantly lower than the national average.  Between 1980-81 and 1989-90 the share of Kerala's SDP in the GNP declined from 3.70 as against a growth rate of 2.
which is now unconnected to the commodity-producing sectors.  Kerala's share of exports. a state that has become synonymous with persistent failures on the development front. In terms of the relative intensity of unemployment (ratio of the state's share of the unemployed in the total unemployed in the country to its population share India's being number one) Kerala's figure of 4.  As will be seen below. value added in the factory sector or any like measure has been on a low side. With less than 4 percent of India's population Kerala accounts for nearly 16 percent of the country's unemployed. The second highest state. In the case of the two main food crops. it is very unlikely that there would be any admirers of the Kerala model today since Kerala would have sunk into widespread poverty long ago. tapioca.7 percent of the country's total population accounted for only 3.2. Kerala with 3.61 percent of fixed capital. such as coconut pickers (tree climbers). Kerala has been saved from such a disaster by the very substantial remittances by Malayalees employed outside Kerala especially in the Arabian Gulf and also by the state's rapid decrease in population growth. this is not the whole story of Kerala. is seen among the uneducated unemployed. From every possible parameter of measurement Kerala has the worst record of unemployment in the country.  Not surprisingly. Here.56 percent of gross output.000 in 1965 to 1. and 2. the decline was the result of a fall in area planted."  Thus. Had this been so. Kerala's real per capita income.  Unemployment The third dimension of Kerala's economic crisis is the state's acute and ever. therefore. paddy and tapioca. and arecanut.  As India enters a new era of accelerated industrialization in the 1990s it seems that Kerala is slipping farther and farther behind the nation as a whole and.000 in 1987-88.63 is way above that of any other state.879. In absolute numbers Kerala's unemployed increased from 144.73 percent in value-added in manufacturing as against the annual compound growth rate of 10. More alarming for Kerala is the deceleration in industrialization. According to K. by the 1980s.Kannan and Pushpangadan's study of agriculture in Kerala found that from the mid1970s to the mid-1980s rubber was the only crop that showed any increase in output. nor do the figures given above represent the real per capita disposable income of Kerala. construction workers. while for banana and cashew production a decline in yield was to blame. K.12 percent of employment. Kerala is yoked with Bihar. Subramanian. large numbers of Kerala's unemployed are the educated. however. There was a decline in output for paddy. banana. especially the dismal performance of the manufacturing sector in the second period. is almost certainly higher than the Indian average. the decline in agriculture was also accompanied by a fall in the absolute number of independent "cultivators. In the scramble for attracting investments in the post-liberalization period. "Kerala's industrial performance measured by any parameter annual growth of its manufacturing sector. many are graduates and post-graduates.rising level of unemployment.India average in the past.07 percent of the number of factories. Tamil Nadu. however. there are Kerala-specific characteristics to analyze. As every one in Kerala knows. and especially. has also been falling: from 17 percent in 1966-67 to less than 5 percent in 1989-90. . and stagnation in the case of pepper and cardamom. behind such industrially dynamic neighboring states as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. too. Between 1980-81 and 1987-88 Kerala recorded only a pitiable 1."  As this has resulted in a significant fall in employment in agriculture what has happened to the traditional class of agricultural laborers remains a moot question. had a ratio of only 1. share of manufacture in the state domestic product. agricultural workers. coconut. 2. The greatest paradox.90 percent of net value-added in the factory sector of the country. Here high levels of unemployment coexist with a widely reported "shortage" of labor. cashew. 3. This has triggered a major consumer boom and significant growth in the service sector of the economy. in particular. well above the all.56 percent for all of India. 2.
T. According to T. it is also generally seen to be the safest and best investment given the still volatile nature of the stock market.  it is what C. The average "farmer" in Kerala is now a "gentleman" farmer who is not engaged personally in most agricultural activities. It is ironic that a people who have so valiantly struggled against capitalist exploitation at home. during the period 1972-73 to 1989-90 annual remittances ranged from 15 to 30 percent of the SDP. given that its prosperity and high levels of consumption are based on the largesse of international employers and on the ability of societies with different models of development to produce the goods so widely sought after by Malayalees today? More Paradoxes of the Kerala Model It is clear that the economic and the social structure of Kerala has some unique features and is radically different from that of every other state in India. The radical changes in Kerala's agrarian economy have also led to transformations in the nature of agricultural activities.24 percent in 1991 (India = 38. R. especially from 1970 to 1973 and from 1989 to 1992.09 percent..41). In per capita food consumption Kerala is now said to be behind only the two states that are the "food granary" of India: Punjab and Haryana. as noted above.06 percent in 1981 (India = 41. wages and working conditions arbitrarily determined by the employer). land is real estate.000 hectares in 1990-91.. Second. employment. racial discrimination (e. and the share of cultivators in the total workforce also fell from 17.8 percent in 1971 (compared with 43.  Today the production of food for consumption. But then what are Kerala's choices.  The substantial rise in food consumption during the 1980s and 1990s.  The vast majority of Malayalees employed abroad are in lower-class jobs and are subject to exploitation (e.46 percent) and to 12. needed for residential homes and as an indicator of social status. and lifestyles. mainly remittances from abroad or employment in Kerala's highly bloated . While Kerala has had a long history of commercial agriculture.3 percent for all of India) to 13. Kurian has called the new commercialization that needs to be emphasized here. The fact is that agriculture is neither a subsistence activity nor a viable economic enterprise in Kerala except for a limited number of plantation crops. and to organize trade unions. During the past two decades the production of food grains in Kerala declined at an annual rate of 1. particularly that of foodgrains.Consumption levels in Kerala have moved steadily upward from a point lower than the national average in the early 1970s to a point higher than the national average in 1983-84. the open and blatant practice of unequal pay on the basis of color and national origin). Krishnan. the right to terminate employment and return home at their choice (they are forced to surrender their passports to their employer). so that Kerala can no longer be classified as an agrarian society without important qualifications. Kerala is unique in India in this respect. The phenomenal rise in land prices has little to do with the value of land for agricultural use. is completely unrelated to the state's own agricultural production. I shall highlight just a few basic features that are central to understanding the specific nature of Kerala society. N.g. notably rubber. He also estimated Kerala's per capita consumption in real terms in 1994 to be about double that of 1960-61. Area cultivated for food grains diminished from 960. Krishnan's data show that by 1987 consumption expenditure exceeded SDP. is only a minor activity for Kerala's people.g. Furthermore. Kerala's agrarian economy has undergone radical and far-reaching changes in the past four decades. obviously due to the influx of remittances from abroad.000 hectares in 1970-71 to 560. a substantial number of "agricultural families" have non-agricultural sources of income. are now knowingly sending their sons and daughters to work abroad under these humiliating conditions. The are also denied fundamental human rights such as religious freedom. First.
and other disruptive methods. estimates that by 198384 the income effect of Kerala's poverty-alleviation programs represented 26 percent of the income of rural labor households. continuously putting pressure on the state. are no longer seen to be economically viable as they do not provide what is regarded as an adequate return. Significantly.  State. Furthermore. a variety of traditional economic activities. for example. The goals of mobilization and organized activities centered on extracting benefits from the sarcar . and built educational institutions and hospitals with their own local resources had practically disappeared by the 1960s. (Note: a gherao is a form of harassment in which officials or leaders of an organization are surrounded and kept encircled by protestors until the demands of the protestors are met. There is little doubt that state intervention has been instrumental in significantly reducing poverty in Kerala since the mid-1970s. the coexistence of labor shortages with high unemployment is due in part to the perception that these jobs are not economically "worthwhile. this model of state intervention and politics too seems to have reached its limits and become disruptive of Kerala's economic and social development. if not an "antigrowth" one. Society. the organized groups that engage in political mobilization and struggles." More importantly. and. and Politics: A Kerala Model of Socialism? Reference was made above to the dialectics of a patronizing state that implements reform and welfare and distributes the fruits of the collective pie to various demand groups. More important. over-politicization and bureaucratic state interference have adversely affected the orderly functioning of civil society and systematically undermined the autonomy and efficiency of economic enterprises and the educational system. A failure to understand this explains the naâ½¹vetâ½ of those romantic scholars who project the Kerala model as the ideal for the twenty-first century. It is widely acknowledged that Kerala's gains could not have been achieved without extensive intervention by a well-developed and well-organized state and bureaucratic apparatus that has acted in response to mobilized pressure from below. Weak and short. including the cultivation of many seasonal crops and many small businesses. One consequence of this kind of development has been that politics has been overemphasized and over-developed and people have begun to place undue reliance on politics and the state to achieve all their goals. the patronizing state government: land. the tradition of self-help that was evident earlier when communities mobilized investment capital through local mutual funds (such as kuries and chitties ) and banks. Third.lived state governments (between 1951 and 1970 Malayalees elected a new government every three years) were unable and unwilling to address some of these long-term goals or to secure Kerala's legitimate interests vis-â½¦-vis the central government. the Kerala economy exists and functions as an integral part of the Indian economy and polity and of the underdeveloped periphery of a world economic system that at this stage needs the cheap unskilled. semi-skilled. roads. among . and perhaps most important in understanding the Kerala model. sit-ins. Kerala has successfully organized and administered extensive educational and health delivery systems and welfare programs. on the other side. rice. on the one side. the stoning of public buses. Fourth. and other varieties of welfare. from the point of view of economic growth. schools.  However. it has been a "no growth" model of intervention. Fifth. The means to obtain all this was typically mobilization and agitation. and skilled labor of Malayalees. which was not always confined to peaceful and democratic methods. low-status and physically irksome jobs are no longer culturally desirable options. but included gheraos. Kannan. jobs. preventing the articulation and pursuit of basic collective goals by the people and the state. including economic ones.service sector.) This also led to the fragmentation of politics and to destructive competition among rival parties and trade unions. It has also implemented other radical and far-reaching reforms that have been relatively effective by Indian and world standards.
 Let us look at public sector enterprises and education. nor those of the 331 "parallel" colleges. 990 million. which.952 tutorial colleges catering to both university and secondary school students.  In 1989-90 there were eighty public enterprises. Public Sector Enterprises State government is one of the biggest entrepreneurs in Kerala. accounting for 9. .65 and for the richest state. sixty-five units had carried forward losses of Rs. The most serious issue here is probably not the losses per se.530 million (from 1989-90) and thirty-seven enterprises had negative worth.  The problem is a systemic one. or the 1. quite basic in understanding the Kerala model.900 during the same period. In his 1993 study K.Sc. But post-secondary education in Kerala today is stagnant and an unsustainable burden that does not and cannot meet the economic and social needs of society. To begin with. educational institutions cannot set or meet educational priorities without political and bureaucratic interference. education at the primary and secondary school levels has been a success story in terms of promoting general literacy and quality of life and in providing Malayalees with a definite comparative advantage in obtaining employment abroad. Government loans become euphemisms for hidden subsidies since these are not backed by adequate mechanisms for recovery.'s (and later M. B. is similarly entrapped in a web of institutional.Sc. What returns does Kerala receive from such massive investments? Clearly. These institutions provided and continue to provide a type of education mostly unrelated to the labor requirements of the economy or of the development needs of the state.7 percent of total investments in these enterprises.000 in 1960-61) and the number of teachers increased from 2. This does not include privately registered students. 370 million. 3. George revealed that audits of sixty-three enterprises were in arrears and one of the public enterprises had not completed an audit since 1982-83. During the past three decades (1960-1980) Kerala's expenditure on education has ranged from 30 to 40 percent of its total revenue receipts. By the 1980s Kerala was spending more than 6 percent of its SDP on education.318 parallel-cum-tutorial colleges (figures are from 1989-1990). But of the eighty. the only state to meet the norm recommended by the Kothari Commission. Furthermore. But higher education is a very different story.170 to 13.'s and B. but the lack of accountability. The Educational System The educational system. the 2. political. only thirty-two units made a profit.others. The great expansion in college education in Kerala began in the 1960s when in response to organized demands from various constituencies the state government began to build or sanction the establishment of colleges offering degrees in arts and sciences. particularly post-secondary education. K.26.'s and M. in a bygone era. "affiliated colleges" spread to the towns and villages of Kerala in response to a great demand for degrees. excluding the state electricity Board and Transport Corporation.  In 198889 the percentage for all states was 3.'s). a total of Rs.  By 1989-90 the number of students in these colleges had risen to 330.000 (from about 36. were useful in obtaining prestigious and comfortable jobs in the civil service sector and in teaching. Mass education has been one of Kerala's greatest success stories and at the foundation of its major achievements.A. who are allowed to take the examinations of the universities (roughly half the number of the registered students).7 percent of the total of 823 enterprises in all of India and 6. 6. Public sector enterprises do not function in conformity with the ordinary norms of economic rationality. Punjab. and cultural constraints.A. The losses of the other forty-eight units amounted to Rs. resulting in a net loss of 620 million to the state. two crucial areas controlled by the state.
bureaucrats. is undermined by the activities of unions. Given Kerala's dependence on employment outside the state and the country. Ironically. wasting the vast .000 applications. but that any attempts to restructure or rationalize the system are stymied by entrenched interests and a political system and culture that supports these interests. On the other hand. In the end. and in countries such as Germany. forcing large numbers of Malayalees to go outside the state for the training they need. Canada. the majority of these young women could find training only in other Indian states.graduates (including one doing doctoral studies in laser physics). Suppose.  Vast numbers of graduates are not only unemployed but unemployable. Of the 6. In 1989 when the Kerala Public Service Commission advertised a few vacancies for the post of (bus) conductors for which the minimum qualification was a high school diploma the commission received 268. these young people provide employment for teachers in hundreds of private tutorial colleges who offer them "coaching" (for a substantial fee). Yet. Kerala shows an inverse relationship between growth in education and economic development. Third.First. and the United States. It is likely that they would prevail. For example. In fact.000 who qualified for the interview 80 percent had qualifications beyond the requirement. More serious. and academics are unlikely even to contemplate radical measures given Kerala's political culture and their own entrenched vested interests in the system. The unions that represent thousands of teachers and nonacademic staff and function under the auspices of several political parties can be expected to resist such a change to the status quo. yet exercise considerable power through the unions and other highly politicized bodies such as Senates and Syndicates. Thus. these cuts are made without any rational ordering of priorities. Second. It can be predicted quite safely that such a proposal would be effectively thwarted. one would have expected the educational system to cater to the needs of these job seekers. not in Kerala. and 20 percent of these were post. for example. In particular. that a decision were made by Kerala's educational authorities to abolish the largely useless and wasteful post-graduate degrees offered in hundreds of state colleges in favor of a leaner and superior program at the level of university departments where the resources are better. Kerala's nurses have sought and found employment in many parts of India. the most disruptive of these activities are likely to be carried out by the non-academic staff who often lack a high degree of commitment to the main business of the universities. they do not qualify for the prestigious jobs reserved for the well-educated and Kerala's unemployment problem becomes even more acute. The very terms of the discourse would have Kerala-specific characteristics issues such as employment security taking precedence over academic issues. The list also included several graduate engineers. those concerned with higher education politicians. Two former vice-chancellors complained bitterly to this author about how the business of universities. the quality of higher education has deteriorated to the point where it can only be characterized as dismal. The problem is not just that the system has failed. which basically ought to be higher education. at least since the 1950s. Kerala's facilities for providing such vocational training are meager and underdeveloped. it is not surprising that the unemployment rate among educated women in the rural areas in 1990 was a whopping 57 percent. in the Arabian Gulf. however. Kerala has the worst record of educated unemployment in the country and probably in the world. when the fiscal crisis forces the government to accept spending cuts. The issue of vocational and professional training has only recently begun to receive some serious attention in Kerala. College degrees for women are seen as assets in the marriage market. Kerala's students are ill-equipped to compete in national competitive and entrance examinations. the inverse relationship between rural education and agricultural growth during the past quarter century (despite many favorable circumstances and considerable government investment) has been contrary to all expectations and predictions.
and the decline of community. and goals (the collective habits of mind and heart) that has come to prevail in Kerala and that has a bearing on Kerala's development experience may be called the culture of the Kerala model of development. norms. norms. Not only does the state contribute little to the task of capital accumulation."  Nossiter clearly overstates the case. reveals a relatively stable pattern of social behavior produced and reproduced by the members of that society in and through their everyday actions. and orientations to everyday life. also relatively stable over a period of time. Given this motif. and therefore this system. and to generate and sustain an adequate degree of enterprise and creativity in its individual members. and politics. goals. Kerala reveals all the signs of a bureaucratic. and marauding contractors pillaged the public treasury. crime. There are probably other aspects of this cultural crisis as reflected in such phenomena as new religious movements and cults. the connection is with mobilized groups. but these are outside the scope of this paper. Popular movements and democratic initiatives for total literacy or local self. What needs to be asked now is whether and to what extent the economic stagnation."  Two general conclusions can be drawn from this discussion about state.  A Cultural Crisis? In the last analysis. the "developmental-" or "growth-"states in East Asia. with particular constituencies. such as education and industry. severely constrains their autonomy and rationality. of course. ignores what is perhaps Kerala's greatest achievement a remarkably successful welfare state and a social democracy that has allowed the left and the right to compete and to come to power with very little violence. Second. like every social system." Evans's conclusion is that "the Kerala case reinforces the idea that reconstruction must involve a more encompassing definition of embeddedness. Nossiter's characterization. mental illness. at least within the framework of the world system in which Kerala is embedded. to promote adequately a social ethic that informs public life. In his comparative study on state-society relations.government laudable and necessary as they are cannot compensate for economic growth. Nossiter. Underlying and informing these actions. but he is on the mark in drawing attention to the "feudal" character of the state and its predominant role as a distributor of dwindling state resources to various interest groups and to Kerala's political and bureaucratic-managerial elite. and political entropy that afflict Kerala are a reflection of a crisis at the cultural level. their retainers. J. In Kerala. These need to be restored if progress is to be made. is a set of values. the state's contribution to economic growth is so little that Kerala can be characterized as a "no-growth" if not an "antigrowth" state. Though only a (very small) state within the (larger) nation-state of India. "socialist. while in East Asia it is mainly with industrial capital. has unflatteringly described Kerala as "a degenerate form of feudalism in which managerial barons. alcoholism.investments already made and jeopardizing Kerala's future development. The failure referred to .  This failure is all the more damaging since the central government in Delhi has not been particularly helpful to Kerala in this respect. Kerala. it does even less to "induce" growth as most modern "developmental" states do. First. state intervention in institutions of civil society. Peter Evans compares the "redistributive" state of Kerala with its mirror image. The set of values. In both cases. At least this is so from the conventional perspective of economic growth." a combination of close relationship and insulation. social dysfunction. T. society. Kerala's "idiosyncratic version of 'embedded autonomy' [was] extremely well suited to accomplishing a transformative project aimed at increased levels of welfare. At least one writer. a well-developed and relatively effective state apparatus stands in a relationship of "embedded autonomy." welfare state system one that is proving to be unsustainable in the new world order of the late twentieth century. I contend that there is indeed such a crisis and that this crisis has resulted in society's failure to effectively articulate and pursue collective goals in a sufficiently disciplined manner.
internalized values and goals that have been. such as agricultural loans. Every society feudal. This is a far cry from the Kerala of recent times in which substantial amounts of remittances have contributed little to the state's economic development or to the maintenance of the services necessary for its high quality of life. that land reforms would lead to significant increases in agricultural production. and by the central government. For the earlier social reform movements and the socialist. Two aspects of this which are important here are the work ethic and entre. and that maintaining employment was not merely more humane. A second aspect of the economic ethic is another much-discussed puzzle about Kerala. to say the least. socialist or any other kind must ensure that its members develop a certain degree of commitment to work. Both the administrators and the recipients of state. but economically more rational and efficient since it released the suppressed energies of the people. In modern industrial societies where economic activities are carried out in organized enterprises in a highly coordinated and rationalized manner in order to meet standards of efficiency and productivity. it has been taken as self-evident socialist axioms that socialist production was not only ethically superior. For example.here must also be seen as the end result of a recent process of development. It is a sad irony that Malayalees. who had built the highest number of banks per capita in their towns and villages by the 1930s. I would suggest that it has. unhelpful to economic growth. Those who distribute "sarcari" patronage and benefits. There is hardly anyone today who discusses Kerala's economic failure without referring to the erosion of the work ethic. keep a share for themselves as bribes and part with the other share easily. by which I mean culturally defined and culturally induced orientation of people towards everyday economic activities. the Malayalees prefer the security of government jobs or similar occupations.communist movements that followed were infused with high ethical values and commitments to collective goals. My own field notes. by and large. low rates of loan recovery. are pumped outside the state.related or "sarcari" business. The inevitable question that arises at this point is whether the left in Kerala has played a role in creating and promoting these cultural patterns that have had a detrimental effect on economic development. these values take on even greater importance. In Kerala the erosion of the work ethic and the lack of personal accountability are particularly acute in matters that are considered government. particularly those who were socialized within the mass movements. the Cochin stock exchange. 53] The cultural crisis seems to have become aggravated in the aftermath of the ideological vacuum created by the decline of India's left parties following the rapid collapse of socialist and communist states and ideologies internationally. The savings. One dimension of Kerala's culture that is worth examining is what may be called the economic ethic of society. but also economically more rational than introducing technological innovations that reduced employment. abound in such expressions by .sponsored welfare benefits share such attitudes. and low productivity in agriculture. This sad and tragic story requires explanation by social scientists. collected in Kerala in the 1970s. but a detailed treatment of this point is beyond the scope of this paper.  While this concept has many complex meanings it can be broadly defined as a systematic and disciplined approach to work as a duty and a responsibility and even as an ethical ideal. the very low levels of entrepreneurship despite the high degree of human resource development and despite the early rise of a commercially minded middle class.preneurship. A whole generation of Malayalees. that state ownership was an effective means for rationalizing the economy and accelerating growth. In the 1930s Travancore had the highest number of banks per capita in the country. and carry out their duties with a sense of responsibility and accountability. This reality provides a perspective on another of Kerala's paradoxes: the anomalous mixture of relatively easy access to agricultural loans. with Cochin in second place. capitalist. Today the savings of Malayalees are mobilized mainly by the national banks. must today have their remittances pooled and utilized by financial institutions based outside Kerala. Instead of taking individual or collective initiative to become entrepreneurs.
if not earlier. Kerala has also been experiencing an unprecedented consumption boom and increasing standards of living thanks to the remittances received from Malayalees abroad.the rank and file in the left movements. This. has contributed to the erosion of collective ideals and goals. Even more important is the impact of a tradition and culture that regard a patronizing state as the central institution in initiating and managing increasingly larger spheres . there is strong evidence to suggest that the state's industrialization and economic development have been hampered by restrictive labor practices. in such essential fields as investments in education and health care. is Kerala's dilemma. our understanding is enhanced if we turn the model on its head. while at the same time it has been slipping behind the rest of India in economic development. The political right blames the left for the debacle in Kerala. people do not necessarily turn to alternative theories or belief systems. like Punjab and Haryana. The question then becomes not how an economically backward society managed to achieve such high social development. However. although their roots probably go back to the 1950s and 1960s. and in various forms of banking. in turn. agri-based industries. Admirers of the Kerala model see it as a romantic dream come true a society that has emphasized and achieved high quality of life for its people with a significant degree of equity and social justice despite low levels of per capita income and economic development. trade unions working under different political parties can paralyze not only the functioning of the organization but also work at cross purposes. Faced with overwhelming empirical evidence that belies these beliefs. While this is an oversimplification. particularly in the coir and cashew industries. The remittances contribute to inflation. while unionism per se may not have hindered Kerala's economic development. State government in Kerala is not only unable to invest in greater social development. but how a society with such a wealth of social and human resources and at least some economic factors in its favor has shown itself to be unable to mobilize and harness these resources to reach a level of economic development commensurate with its social development. Although there is no evidence that land reforms in Kerala have affected agricultural productivity negatively it is clear that they did not lead to anticipated increases in productivity. in economic terms. This. In the same field or industry. One result of this discrepancy between cultural expectations and empirical realities has been widespread cynicism about politics and a loss of faith in politicians. and over. In fact Kerala has already fallen behind richer states in India. citing in particular.politicization. particularly in cash crop agriculture. and to the fragmentation of politics. Furthermore. undermining the collective interests of the workers themselves. and efforts by some unions to prevent modernization and technological innovation. the argument is not without merit. But deficiencies in the Kerala model became visible only in the 1970s. and they were doing so while making gains in economic development. The rulers of Travancore were investing in human development even earlier than those in the so-called Asian tigers. Paradoxically. disruptive politics of competing unions. Conclusions The paradox of Kerala is that it has achieved exceptionally high levels of social development by third world standards (including the demographic transition). ineffective land reform programs. militant unionism.  Kerala stands in sharp contrast today to the Southeast Asian countries whose investments in human development have led the way to rapid economic development. Kerala's social development has involved a commitment of fiscal support by the state government that cannot be maintained without an adequate productive base or other sources of revenue. but do not help to ease the fiscal problems because the state government has no control over these. but it is proving to be incapable of maintaining the gains it has already achieved. commercial rice growing. When I observed this tendency among the highly successful agricultural labor unions in Kuttanad in the 1970s union mobilization had reached a plateau and had just begun to stagnate.
Anyone interested in Kerala's development today cannot ignore the question of why its people show such a collective inability to run economic enterprises or to produce commodities (agricultural or industrial) with the minimum of efficiency required to be competitive in the Indian. G. but the others largely beg the question since they require explanations themselves." return 5. This is. 1994. 1993). Alexander. and a lack of entrepreneurship. 1975). Several favorable factors have so far enabled Malayalees to sustain their achievements in human development and to maintain a level of consumption that may be far above the national average. But there is something precarious and intrinsically unsustainable about the lifestyle and "model" of a people who live as hewers of wood and drawers of water at the periphery of a capitalist world with little power to maintain even this lowly status. William M. they discourage private enterprise and devalue institutions of civil society. Poverty. The status quo not only represents the least line of resistance in a difficult political situation. Notes 1. 4 (Heidelberg: Spectrum Akademischer Verlag GmbH. or world market without protection and subsidies. 3. K. K. while. it also serves the interests of powerful groups. no. Centre for Research and Studies. of Economic and Social Affairs. Humanities and Economics). structural distortions. 1996). Vol. and discriminatory treatment by the central government (especially in relation to investments in the state). Asian. to be sure. We need to explain why the state with all its advantages has not been able to transcend its colonial condition and join a resurgent Asia and why Kerala has not been able to do better withstanding discrimination by the central government. The left generally tends to attribute Kerala's failures to external factors such as Kerala's historical development of underdevelopment. p. 133. constraints imposed by the imperialist. at the same time. return 4. Economists cite the following contributing factors as explanations for Kerala's dismal economic performance: insufficient natural resources. world capitalist system and its institutions. 5 vols. return 3. See International Congress on Kerala Studies Abstracts. Dept. but they are no longer useful as explanations for Kerala's basic problems.of economic and social activities. have deeply conservative roots. indeed. The fragmentation of politics and the erosion of collective purpose and commitment that are now characteristic of Kerala society are. in no small part. George. K. Centre for Development Studies. "Exceptional Kerala. The natural resources explanation has merit. Limits to Kerala Model of Development: An Analysis of Fiscal Crisis and Its Implications (Thiruvananthapuram: Centre for Development Studies. a cultural and human problem for a people who have achieved relatively high levels of human development. It is a sobering thought that what appears to be a noble and radical defiance of the global capitalist model and its rationality in favor of equity and quality of life may. The initiative and enterprise of community associations that played such a crucial role in the earlier development of Kerala society were undermined as they became inextricably entangled in the scramble for state patronage. Unemployment and Development Policy: A Case Study of Selected Issues with Reference to Kerala (New York: United Nations. See "International Conference on Kerala's Development Experience: National and International Dimensions." GAIA (Ecological Perspectives in Science. Abstracts" (New Delhi: Institute of Social Sciences. return .).1 (Thiruvananthapuram: A. a consequence of this. in fact. Alexander. return 2. There is truth to these charges. low investment. " Exceptional Kerala: Efficient Use of Resources and Life Quality in a Non-Affluent Society. Monograph Series. (Hereafter cited as ICKS A ). 1994).
return 21. Limits to Kerala Model of Development . is also spelled as Nayar .993-2. See also his later papers. Communal Road to Secular Kerala (New Delhi: Concept Publishing House. 1987-88 and 1989-90 revenue deficits absorbed more than a quarter of Kerala's total capital receipts. return 20. "Kerala: Towards a New Agenda. S. return 16. nos. 1981). Amartya Sen. 1992).1989). "Whither Kerala Model?" p. pp. Zachariah et al. Gita Sen. George. see also Richard Franke." presented at the Conference on Regional Disparities in India. K. As we shall see later.T. Nair is the most common current usage in Kerala. 1983). return 9. in Hunger and Public Action. "Whither Kerala Model?" presented at the International Conference on Kerala Studies. Thomas Isaac and Michael Tharakan. p. well known in anthropological literature for its matrilineal system of earlier times. 1989). K. return 11. 221. Agrarian Class Struggle. 1992). 31 and 32 (1995): 1. See Tharamangalam. South India (Vancouver: UBC Press. Demographic Transition in Kerala in the 1980s (Thiruvananthapuram: Centre for Development Studies. Life is a Little Better: Redistribution as a Development Strategy in Nadur Village. return 14.6. return 13. "D. In Politics. see Ronald Herring. Land to the Tiller: The Political Economy of Agrarian Reform in South Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press. 4. 1994. See George. A. See Tharamangalam.G." return 19. C. Kerala (Boulder: Westview Press. George Mathew. return . 8. On land reforms in Kerala." in ICKS A. "Social Needs and Public Accountability: The Case of Kerala. This caste (community). Guwahati. Women and Well Being (Delhi: Oxford University Press. Joseph Tharamangalam. Centre. return 10. Thiruvanathapuram. Kerala: Development through Radical Reform (San Francisco: Institute for Food and Development Policy. M. return 12. in 1986-87. Namboothiripad. 1993). 1994)." Development Policy and Public Action (Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1994). Marxists generally describe mobilization and struggle as varieties of class struggles. George. Isaac and Tharakan. return 17.K. Agrarian Class Conflict: the Political Mobilization of Agricultural Labourers in Kuttanad. Hunger and Public Action (Oxford: Clarendon Press. E. and "Liberalization: What It Foretells Different States.004. Agrarian Class Conflict. 1989). p.. Dreze and Sen use "public action". Lakadawala Memorial Lecture" (New Delhi: Institute of Social Sciences. 1996. 94-95. return 15. Richard Franke and Barbara Chasin. return 18. the comparison of per capita incomes is problematic because of the significant gap between official per capita income figures and the real per capita purchasing power. According to K. "Kerala: Towards a New Agenda. The tradition of mobilization and struggle has gone through different phases and has been variously described by historians. return 7. return 22. return 8." Economic and Political Weekly 30. Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen. See my earlier monograph. Robin Jeffrey refers to the tradition of "public politics". "Presidential Address.
There is a joke among Indian Marxists that refers to Bihar as the world's most advanced communist society in which the state has already withered away. "Kerala's Story: Review of Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State. return 25. P. Limits to Kerala Model ." p. "Development Paradox in Kerala. return 37.." Economic and Political Weekly 29. 35 and 36 (1 September 1990): 1991-2004. Limits to Kerala Model . 210. return 33. K. nos. George. p. Oommen. Limits to Kerala Model. T. In the second edition of their book. "Liberalization. 10 (5 March 1994): 549. no. and Alexander. Oommen. Kurian. no. 15 November 1994. Kannan. return 35. Oommen. K. return 42. its sustainability may depend in important ways on this structural linkage.500 million rupees during the past two decades.000 to 1. Pushpangadan. K. "Exceptional Kerala" fails to take account of this. 6. Kurian. p." Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 16. Essays on Kerala Economy. p. return 26. "Dissecting Agricultural Stagnation in Kerala: An Analysis across Crops. return 27. A genre of popular writing about the Kerala model of development is exemplified by such writers as Franke and Chasin. p. "Public Intervention and Poverty Alleviation: A Study of the Declining Incidence of Poverty in Kerala. return 32. George. Oommen. George. Joseph Tharamangalam. p. 211. M. K.. return 28." Economic and Political Weekly 30. Krishnan estimated remittances to be on the order of some 1. "Penetration of Capitalism and Agricultural Change in Southwest India. no. in fact. Kerala: Radical Reform As Development. "Kerala: A Fall from Grace. Essays on Kerala Economy . Franke and Chasin acknowledge this in responding to the criticism raised in Robin Jeffrey's review of their book. But by not making this structural linkage an essential part of their analysis they present the model as sustainable when. 210. p. "Kerala's Development Experience. p. 1 (1984): 53-62. Ibid. 147. Essays on Kerala Economy (New Delhi: Oxford and IBH). Kannan and K. Essays on Kerala Economy. Bihar's economic failures are also associated with increasing levels of social and political disorder and violence. "Kerala Economy at the Cross Roads?" Economic and Political Weekly 30. N. Krishnan. C. return 40. 4 ." Development and Change 26. return 30. return 24. return 41. 262. ed. 25. 2053 return 34. return 31. Oommen. India. p." Economic and Political Weekly 30." India Today . See Robin Jeffrey." p. K. "Foreign Remittances: Consumption and Income. return 36. p. nos. "Kerala's Development Experience: Random Comments about the Past and Some Considerations for the Future.2058. Essays on Kerala Economy. 35 and 36 (1 September 1990): 1951-1956 return 29." ICKS A 2 (1994): 58-59. R. C. return 39. P." ICKS A 1 (1994): 27. Seasons and Regions. P.110. Subramanian. Ibid.A. Kannan. 27. 6. T. pp. George. 154. See also T. return 38.. Krishnan. 119. Development through Radical Reform. no.23. 108. p. 37 (15 September 1990): 2053.
p.modernists. especially the fiscal and development policies of the central government. 234 (Thiruvananthapuram: Centre for Development Studies. 28. and democratizing society. Oommen. Their conclusion is that even this "exciting new project" and "fresh start" have been failures. Malayalees had also shown a relatively high degree of entrepreneurship in the earlier period. Its prescriptions amount to "more of the same. 35-37. TÃ¶rnquist and Tharakan distinguish between the approaches of the more traditional "statemodernist" and the new left "popular developmentalist" schools. the paradigms of the left are not new (were not some of the methods of the PDs once tried in China and Cuba?). George. return 50. In particular. pp. Essays on Kerala Economy." See TÃ¶rnquist and Thrakan. N." return . Nossiter. pp. The following data are drawn from Oommen. See. 24-30. return 46. including E. The Kothari Commission was charged with examining and making recommendations to improve education and educational policies in India. the works of K. if not discriminatory altogether. See especially the new edition of their book. return 43. Limits to Kerala Model. See Olle TÃ¶rnquist and Michael Tharakan. 289. Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation (Princeton. See Peter Evans. return 51. I would like to point out that I consider some of these popular movements extremely significant not only for Kerala but for the world as a whole. which have been extensively used in this paper. 237. S. return 45. 1988). Development through Radical Reform. no. for instance. 1990). "Democratization and Radical Development Project. 30 (3 parts: 13 July 1996.(1995): 721. K. have been discussing the issue of improving the work ethic in Kerala. 1995). 118119. George and M. Ibid. return 54. 29. 35. and the total literacy program under its leadership have been influential in raising peoples' consciousness. "Some Aspects of Performance of State Sector Enterprises in Kerala. p. that none of these movements has been able to address the issue of the serious fiscal problems of a modern welfare state or of economic growth in a Kerala that is inevitably embedded in an Indian and global system. Communism in Kerala (Delhi: Oxford University Press. have been unfavorable to Kerala. and 27 July 1996)." return 52.J. George. Mohanan Pillai. "Democratization and Attempts to Renew the Radical Political Development Project.: Princeton University Press. and have made a detailed study of the work of the latter whom they refer to as the PDs. Some authors such as Franke and Chasin and TÃ¶rnquist and Tharakan have seen significant new development initiatives within the left in Kerala. return 44. It may be pointed out that in recent years some leaders of the CPM. nos. improving the general quality of life. p. return 53. return 49.. M." Working Paper. however. Frank and Chasin seem to put much hope in the "new democratic initiatives" of the left such as the total literacy campaign and the resource mapping project. It is my view. Limits to Kerala Model. T. return 47. perhaps up to the 1950s. Namboothiripad. 114. return 48. In general. p. TÃ¶rnquist and Tharakan also make the point that improving the work ethic has been one of the projects of the "state. J. There is a strong view across Kerala's political spectrum that the federal system. 20 July 1996. pp." Economic and Political Weekly 31. the work of the Kerala Shastra Parishat (the People's Science Movement) on the environmental front. A.
This made the dependence on Arabic . Thus through the so called µreawakening¶.Islamic sources Sunil P. Delhi in connection with the Birth Centenary Celebrations of E. The alternate solution proposed to overcome this embarrassment was the delinking of technical knowledge in Arabic from Muslim culture. there was a severing of an Arabic learning from Islamic culture on the one hand and the constitution of a new source of pure and pristine knowledge. -1- Introduction During the last two decades or so. Chinese and Indian contributions to the repositories of human knowledge and on the other the Arab interventions which perhaps made even the European renaissance possible. as well as comparative advantages in areas such as plantation agriculture. In the so called dark ages of Europe2 the Arab World was a multi layered society and Arab knowledge incorporated the contributions from India and Persia to its hoard.M. after a long period of stagnation in the medieval period and deterioration in the darkages. the concept and the historical experience of renaissance have also been subjected to thorough critique. of classical antiquity. Whatever Kerala's limitations. and paved the way for the so called µrevival¶ or µretrieval¶ of the Greek knowledge.4 Renaissance : The Pan Indian Context and the Kerala Experience Eventhough the employment of the concept of renaissance and the conceptual boundaries associated with it is markedly different in the Indian/Kerala contexts. owing to which the grandeaur of Greaco . Rather than being conceived as an unblemished historical phenomenon. conceiving a trajectory of the development of human knowledge in this fashion invisibilise on the one hand the ancient Egyptian. Indian and Persian knowledge systems. When the spirit of nationalism . But in recent times there was an undermining or even a subversion of this idea. But by that time. Elayidom Cross . All these paved the way for a unique nativization of Greek knowledge3. the concept of renaissance has lost the lofty status it had been enjoying for a long time. the Christian/European attitude towards Islam had turned hostile. renaissance has begun to be understood as a site of contest where conflicting forces of colonial domination and national resistance had been engaged in the making of the µmodern¶. which would signify a break in the trajectory of the development of knowledge at that time or as a retrieval of the values and wisdom of the past. and now a rapidly falling population. it has become almost impossible to conceive renaissance as an unblemished domain in the history of mankind. The contemporary critique of renaissance holds the view that the general perspective associated with the concept of renaissance. in the wake of the crusades. This was effected from the thirteenth century onwards a through systematic concealing of Europe¶s link with the Arab world and through the constitution of an exclusive Greek heritage for the Europe. Namboodiripad on 21 Feb. 2009. Europe found its own Greece.S. the critical rethinking generated out of the European situation is very much applicable here too. As a result. Such a vision envisages a rebirth of a golden era. through the renaissance. After being introduced by Jules Michelt in 1850s it has been appreciated as the revival of a solemn stage of pristine knowledge in the history of mankind1. -2- for inbibing Greek learning an unacceptable proposition for Europe. As a result of this amalgamation a number of critical Islamic elements had been introduced into the Greek. it does have the advantages of high savings rates and the inflow of remittances. frames the history of the development of human knowledge as a Eurocentric phenomenon.55. Babylonian. which had been allegedly µretrieved¶ by the European scholars in 14th century. To fulfil this. Along with the critical interrogations about the ideological functions and hegemonic dimensions of modernity. a knowledge which was porportedly not contaminated by the process of transmission.Roman knowledge got a new incarnation in 16th Century Europe. Definitely. Problematic of European Renaissance Contemporary historians of science point out that it was an Arabized and Islamized Greek knowledge that entered Europe through Arab texts.Currents within : A Cultural Critique of Kerala Renaissance* * Paper presented in the seminar on µKerala : Towards New Horizons¶ organised by Jan Sanskriti.
. Thus the feudal apparatus was retained without much content by the colonial administration and old customs and faith were used as ideological state apparatus by the colonial-feudal nexus. news papers. The golden jubilee celebrations of the formation of the Kerala State and the subsequent first communist government led by E. On the other hand. The ruling sections were allowed to retain their formal status and Janmis were made owners of land in a modern sense. in the unique form of co-existence of change and changelessness from the beginning of the 19th century. In that context. The feudal social apparatus was appropriated as the ideological tools of JanmiNaduvazhi system reorganised by the colonial rule.embraced the emerging middle class intelligentsia in the second half of the 19th century. Thus in 19th century. Production for local consumption was gradually giving way for the production for the market8 which consequently made an integration of the stratified locales and regions possible. By that time the colonial rule had shaken the foundations of feudal social order and colonial ideology had made inroads into the social consciousness of the emerging middle class Various social and cultural institutions-banks. first of all.7 A critical rethinking about the course and functions of Kerala renaissance. Caste system became more oppressive because of the changes in the land relations brought about by the colonial administration. While the land had been acquiring the status of a commodity. though it had been connected with the global system through the colonial rule. Naturally there were many a contradiction behind this new form of domination. accepted the supremacy of the colonial rule. the specific goals of the social reformers were absorbed into a dominant pan-Hindu framework and renaissance began to be comprehended as a retrieval of an infallible vedic supremacy and a national past built upon it. They made the landlords and chieftains their mediators. already propagated by imperialist historiography and ratified by the nationalists. in return. Namboodiripad had engendered considerable amount of discussions on reformation. at that time difference between reform and revival was one of degree rather than of kind. an assumed retrieval of an imagined golden era had a magnetic appeal. this aspect conjoins Indian renaissance with the European experience in a subtle way and extends itself into the regional reformist enterprises. This supposed retrieval could serve two major concerns of the day. the clutches of feudal forms were being accelerated.. As Sumit Sarkar has pointed out. other non Hindu traditions. It attributed an infallible religious authority to the scriptures which became the central tenet of reform and renaissance movements.5 Thus. On the one hand it could provide a consolation to the nationalistic pride which had to face the slander and abuse of colonial domination. µmedieval dark age¶.signifying the emergence of a capitalist and modernist social edifice came into being in the last two decades of the 19th century. Despite its situatedness in an entirely different historical context. At the same time the colonial economy was one which hindered the internal development of the productive forces in Kerala. a retrieval of which would definitely offer an appeasing remedy to present day problems. renaissance. This resulted in the formation of a new sense of Malayali identity exemplified by Malayali Memorial Malayali Sabha9. feudal and modern forms of social organization co-existed under colonial domination. the reform movements in conceiving the µnational¶ employed the conceptions of µMuslim tyranny¶. Bhashaposhini Sabha etc. new generes of literary expressions etc. -3- demands a close look at the power relations that determined the structure of society in the mid 19th century. Tribal. Semi tribal. All these scholarly interventions revealed in one way or another the shortcomings of Kerala renaissance and enlightenment appended to the project of modernity. Colonial administration made use of the apparatus of the old feudal structure as a less expensive tool for their exploitation. nationalist historiography was tirelessly trying to build up a national past. All these sections.S. Hence a re-awakening would be a deliverance. This conception of retreival of the golden past in both the European and Indian situation involves the violent othering of the Muslim and in the Indian context. the feudal-colonial system was trying to perpetuate the old social hierarchy.M. From the last decades of 19th century. While the growing market economy generated a new sense of modern national identity. etc. Some of the historians of modern India hold the view that Indian renaissance paved the way for the semitization of Hinduism. This resulted. the concept of renaissance had been appropriated by the middle class intelligentsia as a consoling idea. modernization of Kerala and the merits and demerits of a µKerala model¶ development.
three strands are being incorporated in the above said explanationy model. The final strand deals with the changes in the mode of production. Concentrating on the structural changes in the production system. But by the mid decades of 19th century. Generally there pervades a lingering nostalgic aura around renaissance in most of the prevailing explanations. At the same time.10 Renaissance in Kerala was an attempt to fill the gap between the material realities generated out of this colonial context and the persisting fuedal social practices. however. These explanations attempt to summarise the project of modernisation of Kerala as primarily located in the domain of social reforms put forward by anti casteist movements. Renaissance. The increasing erosion of the public sphere. the renaissance in Kerala was a complex process.culturally Kerala society remained bounded by the shackles of old feudal hierarchy. emerging communitarianism which always maintained a reactionary role because of its concealed . As a consequence of the above said structural hindrances. this tries to locate the social change in the domain of material production. receives scant attention in this strand.12 The historical experience of Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham. Yogakshema Sabha. the role of cultural ideology is missed out. A giant leap in the cultural front was an essential requirement to resolve this extreme contradiction. It is true that. How ideas become a material force when they have a grip on society has not been taken into account.14 Despite the attention it pays in taking into account the objective dimensions of social change. It failed to address the issues of reframing and embolden of caste hierarchies that colonial rule effected through the enactment of land laws. Nair Service Society (NSS) etc. First one exclusively concentrates on the role played by the mainstream reform movements like Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP). etc. The struggles of left movement in 1930s and 40s have been regarded as the second phase of the renaissance. though at a limited level. the strengthening of the middle class mentality associated with crude forms of ritualism. inflation of the religiosity which has almost severed its links with the spiritual humanism. in general acted as the domain of these negotiations. which had to face extinction in the first half of the 20th century and that of Prathyaksha Raksha Daiva Sabha (PRDS) which even after its organizational continuance got marginalised and exerts little influence in the present day Kerala life. which dilated and fortified the anti castiest foundations of the renaissance through anti-feudal and anti-colonial struggles and the uprooting of landlordism. These struggles led by Veluthambi and Pazhassi Raja inevitably failed because of the backward character of its world view and conditions of material existence. Eventhough stated in simple terms. In the beginning of the 19th century there was an armed resistance led by the feudala lords who represent the cultural past of Kerala against an alien colonial power. The social reforms has been conceived generally as a byproduct of the new awareness inspired by western education. So after conferring due respect to this time honoured and well received explanatory model. new class relations began to emerge and constituted a new paradigm for cultural resistance11 which on the one hand fought against the ritualistic dispositions of caste and against the cultural ideology of the colonial masters -4- on the other. It was led by different sections of the people motivated by anti-feudal and anti-colonial struggles in a phased manner from the last decades of 19th century to 1950s. Only through such an analysis can we have a realisation of the crisis that hangs over present day Kerala society. The second one gives emphasis on the institutional changes brought out by the colonial administration and the provincial Governments and the employment of the rule of the law13. it should be realized that the conception of renaissance and the project of modernity as a flawless and untainted historical reality will miserably fail to comprehend the subtleties and nuances of the project of modernization of Kerala. such an explanation has something to do with the lived historical experiences of Kerala society. this was a complex negotiation between traditional and the modern which resulted in the formation of the µnational modern¶. a contemporary critique of renaissance and the attendant project of modernity has to concentrate on the internal contradictions that governed it. As a result of these shortcomings the mainstream explanations of Kerala renaissance have some blindspots which exposes the falsity of its exalted and glorified claims. Precisely speaking.
modernisation came into being as an amalgam of varied factors like capitalist expansion. Despite its claims of progressive humanism and projection of emancipatory credentials. It will be a grave mistake if we conceive the trajectory of the Kerala renaissance as a mere extension of the above said. some Muslim sects and Adivasis (along with women who were the primary objects of µothering¶ in the western context) were cast out consequential to the operational strategies of the national modern. it conceived humans in the body and mind of a white eurocentric male. This . The lower sections of Indian Society. Even though scholars have pointed out the possibility of the emergence of an alternative modernity in India as well as in some other developing countries15. This is not to deny the revolutionary interventions made by the reformists and renaissance movements or to neglect the social changes it had brought out. The internal dynamics of the modern was always paradoxical. The elevated claim of 19th century humanism.17 The major reformist movements in Kerala came into existence deriving inspiration from the SNDP yogam. casteist ideal for the -6- µnational modern¶. In effect it was a double edged phenomenon. functioned as the bedrock in the making of µnational modern¶ and made the marginalization of different sections µnatural¶. in order to find some solace for the present day crisis. in an abstract level breaks the boundaries of caste. This made the historical experience of Indian renaissance a highly problematic one. the modernisation process was entirely different from that of the west. Despite this there remains an irrefutable fact that all these structural changes gave birth to new forms of marginalization through the creation an elitie. because of the interconnectedness of the colonial rule and feudal hierarchy in Kerala as well as in India. Unlike the pioneering reformist endeavours of Bengal. the historical experience of modernisation was primarily related to colonial administrative and institutional measures. which were primarily upper caste attempts to break away from the customs of caste hierarchy and bring the light of the western enlightenment in Kerala. This µdialectic of enlightenment¶ in the Indian context performed its double role through the endorsement of a discursive field of the national modern which could absorb and appropriate the Brahmanic values into its domain. class and gender had been employed as a suitable vehicle for the appropriation and accommodation of the Brahmanic ideology.all these impediments in the path of democratic development of Kerala society has its roots in the project of modernity. a lower caste movement which spearheaded the anti-casteist struggles of the downtrodden. modernity never was a domain of absolute freedom for all where all the forms of exploitation ceased to exist. Along with universalism it gave birth to colonialism. which had become the order of the day for quite some time. This is not to argue that the renaissance and modernisation of Kerala was an evil in itself. The distinctiveness of the Kerala Renaissance has generally been attributed to its strong footing in the subaltern sections of the society. As Samir Amin explained. This discurssive field. Along with the concept of a free nation state there existed tyrannical forms of imperialism. The revolutionary potential attributed to the ideal of µman¶ which. But at the same time we should not plunge into -5- a nostalgic glorification of the renaissance. What was apparent was not the real. A close look at the constituents of µmodern¶ will reveal contradictory forces and conflicting positions emanating from it. Renaissance and Colonial Modernity It is generally known that. Despite the verbosity on behalf of the entire humanity. industrialism and democratic revolution. technological advancement. where gender and caste dimensions embedded in the ideal of the man get concealed. Together with its egalitarianism it upheld the ruthless and unequal practices of the market.relations with the power politics . modernity in its real conditions of existence was always capitalist modernity16. None of the above acted as a source behind the modernisation in India. Dalits. From the very beginning there was an attempt to dethrone the caste system instead of some µhumanitarian¶ attempts to rectify it. which upheld the old dictum of µman is as the measure¶ failed to reject these hegemonic dimensions of modernity. With modern science it brought out the notion of the conquest of nature. reform movements largely originated from the lower caste. With the notion of free will there was the apparent face of fascism. In Europe.
etc.20 Narayana Guru breaks away from the abstract notion of oneness of the absolute and harbours on the materiality of the body as the founding principle of anti casteism.22 As an extension of this reformulation of religion. The ethical and humanitarian bearings of religion have generally been derived from this abstract universalism.subaltern dimension further strengthened in the second phase when the agrarian movements led by the left forces came into being and fought against landlordism that had provided the economic foundation for the caste system. Failure of Renaissnce Humanism Ironically. In his famous work µJathinirnayam¶ where he denounces the caste system emphasizing on the oneness of mankind. This was a strategic double bind which aimed on the one hand to unite the members of the lower castes and on the other to maintain a critique of casteism.23 Here we have to keep a guard against confusing the present day communatarianism with the concept of community projected by the renaissance movements. Renaissance. in the domain of religious interventions. This may be the reason why Gramsci. He also made it clear that one can use the term µMalayali¶ instead of µezhava¶ because the latter only indicates one who came from an µezham¶. The actual life of any religion is a negotiation between the abstract values which will function as the kernal of religious doctrine and the institutionalized and ritualistic practices in which the power relations of the society make inroads. Despite the faulty suggestions of migration from the µEzham¶. All this underlines the fact that the renaissance experience of Kerala could not easily be equated with that of Bengal and other regions. fraternity and non duality. a new sense of community emerged and that was upheld by the renaissance movements. It was against the suppressive conception of caste that they upheld a somewhat abstract notion of community. Conspicuously it was an attempt to appropriate the humanist ideology they were trying to comprehend at that historical juncture. he employes a language which is radically different and emphatically free from the metaphysical baggage of idealist arguments. the preceptor of Kerala Renaissance. bear the potential to challenge the hierarchical social ordering appended with the institutional religion.. the humanism of human beings make them the members of a single entity. Definitely there is much more in this reformulation than that of a simple reform.18 What make these explanations essentially different from the prevailing idealist arguments is their emphasis upon the materiality of the body in order to negate casteist and other forms of hierarchical social stratification. It will be an ahistorical assumption if we conceive the existence of a religion purely in terms of absolute values. Kerala Renaissance and its reformulations The manifestation of this distinctiveness can be found at a more subtle level in theoretical explanations propogated by Narayana Guru. This may sufficiently explain why the the notion of the oneness of man reverberates in the mottos/slogans of almost all of the reform movements. this humanism itself was the root cause of the crisis of the renaissance. was an attempt to assert the supremacy of the absolute values over the ritualistic practices.19 The major discourse of the day stressed on the metaphysical oneness promulgated by Advaita philosophy which had been upheld by the leaders of Pan-Indian renaissance like Swami Vivekananda and Dayananda Saraswathi. Another important aspect of the renaissance was its reformulation of the essence of religion. These absolute values -7- like compassion. love. On the other hand. taking into account the revolutionary dimensions of the interventions made by Gandhi described his attempts as µnaive theorisation of passive revolution with religious overtones¶. because of their immanent universalism. every religion has its own historical and institutional life which is primarily ritualistic and priestly. Generally all religions have a two-dimensional life. This may .21 In general. even though the conception of the µhuman¶ was a highly problematic one. renaissance aimed at the humanization of religion. which manifestes itself in the external/material world in various forms. It was an attempt to locate universal humanism as the founding principle of religion and religiocity. Narayana Guru once explained that the term µezhava¶ should be conceived against the casteist assumptions and should be understood in relation with its geographical dimensions. For them the oneness of mankind is caused by the oneness of the absolute. First is that of absolute principles with some abstract overtones of universalism. what is important here is the new sense of community upheld by the reform movements. There he says that like the state of being a cow makes all cows a single species.
This definitely was an attempt to make an internal critique of casteism using its own logic. µThe Gender Trouble¶ Together with the renovated and fortified forms of ritualism and casteism. Namboothiripad. A crude form of religiosity. another bewildering problem. unravelled the grave lacunae of renaissance. Even in the 21st century the endeavours of reforms that were initiated with the Muslim and Christian communities receive only scant attention. were thrown out and Brahmanic deities like Vishnu. The interventions of Abraham Malpan. from 1980s onwards Kerala society has exhibited apparent signs of increased ritualism. the very first µproletarian¶ movement in Kerala had ceased to exist. etc. This was very much clear by the 1930s.M. it was this counter productive potential that gained an upper hand in Kerala society in the second half of the 20th century. Marutha etc. Makti Thangal. he asserted that Sudras were free to learn Vedas because a prohibition was not proposed regarding this in the Vedas. NSS and Yogakshema Sabha which negotiated and maintained a dialogic relation with the Brahmanic value system could assure their continued existence. renaissance humanism failed to accommodate the life practices and relations of social existence of the lower sections of the society.sound strange in the background of an unremitting eulogization of the humanist ideology in general extending particularly to lower class dimensions.25 Yet in our mainstream explanations this grave problem did not receive attention sufficient enough to generate a critical awareness of it. Building upon the Brahmanic ideology inherrent in the mainstream reform movements. which has severed its relations with spiritual humanism and is primarily communal enjoys an unchallenged authority in present day Kerala society. E. And precisely because of its Brahmanic underpinnings. despite not having a middle class background and a dialogic relation with Brahmanism. the renaissance movements itself began to be appropriated by communal forces. a promotion of the ideology of Brahmanism which had been denounced by the renaissance itself. forms of sectarian communitarianism emerged and in many ways destabilized the secular fabric of Kerala society. rightly pointed out the elite character of Kerala renaissance in 1948 itself. But this inversion tends to attribute a status of infallibility to the Vedic doctrines which in turn enhances the cultural capital of Brahmanism. Simultaneously. the emergence of godmen who had become more powerful than the state machinery. have never been mentioned in the mainstream narratives on renaissance. These inherent deficiancies of the Kerala renaissance get symbolically revealed in some of the major initiatives of its leading figures. though in a concealed manner. Siva. Nevertheless all these would become futile and even counterproductive in the absence of a vibrant mood of anti-casteism. etc. as part of his reformist attempts removed the idols of primitive deities from the shrines of the lower castes and consecrated the idols of elite vedic deities (µSathwikadaivangal¶). in his path breaking work on Kerala history. The humanism propagated by reform movements. In his famous Apasudradikarana-bhashyam. occupied their place. By then the Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham. etc. The return of feudal forms of worship. As a result of this.M. Even though he had been widely criticized for his failure to acknowledge the contributions of the lower caste -8- movements like Sadujanaparipalanasangam.26 As also. however.S. failed to exert considerable influence on a social transformation that embraced all sections of society. Another truely subaltern movement was the Prathyaksha Raksha Daivasabha established (PRDS) by Poikayil Yohannan. exemplifies this deplorable situation. Keralam Malayalikalute Mathrubhumi. E. Despite its continuance it failed to act as an influential force at any time.S. It is true that there was an element of revolutionary inversion in all these attempts.27 The same idea repeats itself in the explanations prpounded by Chattampi Swamikal against the established custom of not allowing Sudras to learn Vedas. Despite its exalted claims of anti-casteism. with its roots in the trajectory of renaissance is the grip that patriarchy . Narayana Guru. This was. it has never been critically interrogated why the renaissance movements in Kerala. the implicit ideology that governed reform movements were that of sanskritization24 . Thus local deities like Madan. Only the reform movements like SNDP. was never able to move away from the basic paradigm of the national modern. Hence.
This low participation rate poses a much grave issue when we consider that Kerala claims to enjoy the highest position in women¶s education. All the progressive embellishments that should adorn µmodern¶ public space failed to make any inroads into the familial space. But this visibility conceals the stark realities of women¶s lives. The failure of our reform movements.enjoys in modern Kerala. namely the domestication of the public space. to . The ideal of the domesticated housewife has been projected to the public space through new forms of sexual division of labour. According to the latest social survey conducted by the Kerala Sastra -9- Sahithya Parishath (KSSP) in 2005. Written as a sequel to V. Adukkalayil Ninnu Arangathekku. The ideal of womanhood which had been projected by the reform movements was that of a housewife. Symbolizing the role of women in the reformed Kerala. especially in higher education. this work was pushed into oblivion for at least half a century only to resurface as a historical relic. This ideal of the housewife confined woman to the innerspace of the household and acted as a hindrance to her social and economic interventions.10 - to the fragility of the project of modernity. this play was a refusal of the ideology of family and the conception of womanhood projected by the reform movements.2% only28. This had undermined or even jettisoned the possibilities of a replacement of the ideology of the national modern with that of the national popular. even when women attained some economic independence it failed to get translated into social power. Actually middle class family as an institution in Kerala has become the most authoritarian and patriarchical one and to retain a gender democratic and dialogic relation within it is almost an impossibility. This exemplifies the contradictions inherent in the project of modernity. Kerala holds the lowest position regarding women¶s participation in the work force. What is notable is that this is against the national average of 26%. It is true that women¶s lives have a high level of visibility in present day society. This makes the return to the familial space a return to the ideological domain of religiosity and patriarchy.T¶s. Even though there are many other factors which determine the form and function of patriarchy. The same institution which came into being as an outcome of the reformist endeavors now acts as the spring board for the downward plunge of the renaissance values. the cardinal component that betrayed the emancipatory zeal of renaissance was the role played by cultural ideology. Instead. This is a highly paradoxical situation as women¶s emancipation was one of the major concerns that governed the renaissance movement itself. It is this exclusive domain of the family that provides a concealed space for an inflated religiosity and communal tendencies implicit in it. while even the so called underdeveloped state like Mizoram has a participation figure of 45%. it advocated the seizure by woman of the social and economic domains of life. Kerala renaissance and the project of modernity were located in the domain of a concealed Brahmanic ideology. the critical potential and social power enjoyed by women still continues to be at a bare minimum. In a sense domestication is the greatest challenge that Keralite women have to face for the last many decades. Secularization and democratization generally remains out of the domain of the family. the root cause of the problem is the conception of the womanhood within the renaissance project. As mentioned above. The ideological domain where present day patriarchy has been located is the domestication of female life. Certainly this model had an emancipatory appeal in the context of the stringent opposition to marriage forms that prevailed at that time in namboodirinair communities. Role of Cultural Ideology Even though there may have been many other elements which had contributed enormously . Even after the increased participation in political life and local governance. A new form of engendering rules are at work there. Subsequently this tendency has attained a new dimension. This is evident from the history of the play Thozhil Kendrathilekku (µTo the Work Place¶) jointly written by the members of the Namboodiri Andarjana Samajam in 1940¶s29. the figure reading as a meagre 13. Because of the hegemonic status enjoyed by the ideal of the domesticated housewife.
Only through such painful and self critical interrogations Kerala society can conceive a course for its future development. Before coming to the conclusion. On the other hand there is an erosion of the societal concerns inversely proportional to the increasing social stratification. however. It would be no less a serious misconception to comprehend all these as disguised attempts to establish the supremacy of uppercaste ideology in the making of the national modern. which provided a firm footing for the emerging middle class. presents a totally different picture. This necessitates a reflective dialectical thinking on renaissance and the project of modernity. patriarchy and Brahmanic ideals of the human. who never shied away from self introspection and dialectical thinking. Even though there existed anti-casteist and anti-elitist popular tradition of Buddhism etc. Later Jacob Breckhardt further strengthened the concept of renaissance as the rebirth the grand tradition of Greco-Roman civilizations. social stratification is also increasing. Jules Michelt (1798-1874). I would like to make a comment on a strand of contemporary critical thinking on renaissance and the project of modernity. But this realization would not lead to an ahistorical and wishful abandonment of the past experiences which will end up in a new form of obscurantism. As a result there was a vacuum in the cultural domain of the national popular which has been furnished by that of the national modern. It is necessary to realize the internal contradictions that governed and circumscribed the course of renaissance. 2. And this would result only in a futile reversal of the old framework of . To condemn all these as the evils of neo liberalism and to find solace in some so called golden age might be an easy way to stay clear from the disturbing realities. As a result Kerala society is becoming more and more intolerant towards all forms of egalitarianism. this strand of critical thinking harbours on an outright rejection of the consequential changes brought out by the renaissance movements. Notes 1. the French nationalist historian. Now. renaissance in Kerala had done a great deal of work in paving the way for structural transformations. which can be appropriated as the cultural capital of the national popular.get located in the domain of a counter ideology inflected the future course of the national popular. As mentioned earlier. it would be a grave mistake to expect the Renaissance to have been a flawless homogeneous event which acted as the bedrock of emancipatory upheavals. Along with the strengthening of the middle class.30 In all the levels of social life this tendency is very much visible.M. Taking a cue from the ongoing celebrations of singularity and drawing extensively from the post modern declarations on µthe incredubility towards the metanarratives¶. Scholars who try to abandon the eurocentric versions of the history of . in the future course of the development of popular movements these aspect never received sufficient attention. It should be admitted that despite the continued presence of the ideological baggages of Brahmanism. Historically it was the emerging middle class which functioned as the bedrock of modernization almost all over the world. Nowadays many ideologues of neoliberalism argue that the increasing middle class population would ultimately flatten the world in the level of opportunities and resources. It adopts a stance of outright dismissal of the relevance of these historical events as hegemonic upper caste endeavours that resulted in the marginalization of the subaltern. Such explanations could scrve only the purpose of providing some nostalgic pas time. Only by engaging in such a critical thinking we can uphold the legacy of Com. the need of the hour is to make a through critique of the past experience inorder to find out the root causes of the present day crisis. The contemporary situation in Kerala. the lower ten percentage of the population has a meagre share of 1.11 - explanation. This convergence ultimately resulted in the reemergence of the elite dimensions inherent in the national modern which could be comprehended as a sophisticated amalgam of individualism. Rather.S. E.3% of the total wealth while the upper ten percentage controls 42%. In the contemporary discussions on the history of knowledge the Dark age is a highly problemmatic term. who is best known for his monumental work History of France (Historie de France) employed the word renaissance to designate the changes occurred in the cultural domain of Rome in the 15th and 16th century. If conceived in this manner it would be clear that our reforms and renaissance movements were very much restricted by the ideologies of patriarchy and caste and also by its middle class foundations.
He also points out the possibilities of alternative modernities in the absence of colonialism. Panikkar draws our attention to one of the reported incidents which could unravel the ideological . Monthly Review Press. Mcmillan India Ltd. Trivandrum. 323-41. of Publication. Permanent Black.cit. Trivandrum. Culture and Renaissance. Delhi. 9. 1999.N. George Varghese Joseph. Nanu Pillai etc. Cambridge. He also points out that µafter his initial rationalist phase.. µWhatever Happened to Renaissance in India¶. His propositions demolish the centrality and authenticity attributed to Europe and conceive the µDark Age¶ as a highly productive one. Gopalakrishnan. pp. 511 . µMalayali Sabha¶ was the organization which had organised the famous Malayali Memorial. 2004.12 - supremacy Vedas enjoyed in the course of Indian renaissance. 16. 70-76. Raman Pillai to promote the demands evinced in Malayali Memorial. A. Sreedhara Menon in his survey of Kerala history narrates the process of modernisation of Kerala purely in administrative and political terms. 2007. . Namboodiripad held the view that the changes occurred in the life pattern of Kerala society had its roots in the pre-British period itself. p.M. 1988. Even though it is not proper to use all these terms interchangeably because of the diverse and sometimes even contradictory dimensions associated with it. 2003. 98. pp.J. Labelling Britain as a derivative late developer. Raveendran. Harward University Press. The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization. which is employed to designates the period from 10th to 14th century as obscurantist and fanatic. 8. in the context of the modernisation of Kerala. 1992. P. Histories. Eurocentrism.S.H. pp. µCultural Formation of Kerala¶. Sumit Sarkar. proposed an alternative trajectory for the development of knowledge rejecting the classical Eurocentric vision which negates the contributions of civilizations other than Europe. Keralathinte Innalekal. 4-15. Dept. 2009. 10. P. Oxford University Press.P. 137. pp. E. Modern India 1885-1947. Actually Sabha was the later version of the Social Union formed by C.M. 276. 4-8. Orient Blackswan. which following the European example is generally described as the Renaissance. 13. Panikkar. Penguin. E. Delhi. was an early expression of the onset modernity and enlightenment in India. who made enquiries about the non-European roots of Mathematics. Keralathinte Samskarika Charithram Mal). Essays on the Cultural Formation of Kerala. Some scholers even think that renaissance can be described as the introduction of the modernity project in India.). E. The Crest of the Peacock : Non-European roots of the Mathematics. London. Delhi. Colonial Practices. p. Kerala Bhasa Institute. 1999.N. Colonialism. pp. K.N. Pratik Chakrabarti. ibid. Samir Amin. Rajeevan.90. 1994. Here Prof. Panikkar. 1989. He points out that evidences of this can be found in the writings of Kunchan Nambiar.´ K. pp. S. p. Kerala Government. Ganesh. P. 385 . p 137 7. ³The cultural and intellectual regeneration witnessed during the period of colonial domination. p. Kerala Charithram (Mal). John Hobson. John Hobson in his influential study points out Britain¶s debts to China in its industrial development.V. 5. (Trivandrum. pp.K. Vol. 9) Trivandrum. 22. Western Science in Modern India : Metropolitan Methods. 6. 12. Science and Civilization in Islam. P. Sreedhara Menon.¶ ibid. 99. London. Geographies : Reading Indian Literature. 1991.13 - 15. op. Chintha Publishers. pp. they usually overlap and converge together. when Raja Ram Mohan Roy had argued that the Vedas are dated.knowledge challenge the notion of the Dark age. 21. Namboodiripad. Cambridge. Kottayam. Chennai. in 1877. ³It was reported that (Eswar Chandra) Vidyasagar spent several sleepless nights µreviewing and searching out ancient Hindu Sastras¶ for evidence in support of the widow marriage´. Govindapillai. Kerala Gazetteers Department. Nasar. Kerala Navodhanam Oru Marxist Veekshanam. 190-218. Trivanjdrum. 1999. Texts. pp. 151-53 . Cheriyan (ed. Cambridge University Press. Rajeevan. 17. 3. B. B. 133 also see P. 11. History of reform movements and renaissance are included only as an appendix chapter in his popular text.S. (EMS Samboornakrithikal. Actually this obscurantism was the unique experience of Europe at that time. Krishna Pillai. K. 30-33. Keralam Malayalikalute Mathrubhumi. 4.561. Sahithya Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangham. p.P. George Ghevarghese Joseph. µMalayali Sabha¶ brought out a news journal named Malayali under the editorship of C. A. he not only attributed infallibility to the Vedas but also considered them as revealed texts coeval with nature. chintha Publishers] pp. 14.
There also exists a radically different explanation regarding Guru¶s consecration of idols. 1996. 23. Panikkar. 2002. 270 26.). Chinta Publishers. One God for the man). held on he even asserts that the 30 crores of Indians have their food only because of the caste system. Namboodhiripad. p.). Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishath. 22. Udayakumar.P. 2003. 1985. 107. K. Orient Longman. Darsanam (Mal.14 - endeavours that occurred in the Christian and Muslim communities. 28.6. Krithikal. Gramsci seems to justify the religious overtones of Gandhiji¶s theoretical explanations.18. 77-88. Selections from Pris Notebooks. Narayana Guru.M.). Culture. One religion. ³Sanskritisation is the process by which a low caste Hindu or tribal or other group changes its custom. Elayidom Dept. p. op. cit. Social Change in Modern India. 29. Describing Gandhiji¶s passive resistance as a war of position. 381-398. which at certain moments. Keralapadanam (Mal.´ M. Aravindan..N. op.. Aravindan (edi. Shaji (ed. According to that view Guru¶s attempt was to challenge the Brahmanical tradition through the subversion of upper caste religious ideology. K. 21. Sree Ramakrishna Math.).. 24. of Malayalam Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit Kalady. Thrissur. Thrissur. There. Trivandrum. 30.N. Govinda Pillai¶s two volume work on Kerala Renaissance (Keraleeya Navothanam Marxist Veekshanathil) is an exception. Current Books. Kozhikode.N. He created new places of worship in order to resist the incorporation of lower castes into Brahmanism. New Delhi. 137. 9). Vivekananda Sahithya Sangraham (Mal. pp.. 27. Kerala Sahithya Akademi. Delhi.. K. ritual. In his discussion with the philosophy students of Haward University.. Malayala Nataka Sahithya Charithram (Mal. Kerala. Swami Vivekananda. 20. he goes into the details of renaissance . . 114. 229. (E. becomes a war of movement. cit. Udayakumar. Thrissur. ³ Manushyanam Manushyathawam Jathir Gothwam Gavam Yadha´ Sri Narayana Guru. Madras.). Hegemony : Intellectual and Social Consciousness in Colonial India. p. 2000. 2006. Jeevitham. verse 1. Despite his repeated emphasis on the oneness of the absolute Swami Vivekananda was ready to accept the functional utility of caste. Antonio Gramsci. Orient Longman.S. Oru Matham. 1995. p.). ³Oru Jathi. Jathinirnayam. Sunil P. ³Pulayanum Manushyananu (A pulayan is also a human being). Sreenivas. ³Namboothiriye Manushyanakkuka´ (Let¶s make Namboodhiris human). The mobility associated with Sanskritisation results only in positional changes in the system and does not lead to any structural change. : µSwathvam Sareeram Anthakaranam : Sree Narayana Guruvinte Krithikalepatti Chila Nireekshanangal¶. P. Ideology. Samboona Krithikal Vol. ideology and way of life in the direction of a high caste. p. p.M. E. Dr. Keralam Malayalikalude Mathrubhoomi. K.P. Oru Daivam Manushyanu¶ (One caste. 1988. G. 25. 19. Sankara Pillai. pp. The major works on the history of Malayalam theatre does not even mention the name of this play. Tulika. In all these dictums an emphasis has been given to man/human.S.
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