Essay: Middle Way Quiet Revolution Caste System Modernization Political Diversity Major Trends

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¶ … Economic systems are quite complex and, despite purist theory, rarely work in the ways that the original theorist intended due to the individual nature, needs, and traditions of human beings. For years, Soviet planners were confounded with the idea of rapidly developing their system (which was admittedly feudal) with socialism, but allowing some elements of capitalism in (free market). Similarly, Chinese Communist planners knew that in order to unify the country in a single direction, and move from an agrarian economy, they would need to first build a centralized structure, and then loosen it.

In both systems the patterns were quite similar. First, the State dismantled any private ownership and replaced it with State owned industry, manufacturing, production, and distribution. While the two countries different in their approach to modernization, both experienced extreme hardships and shortages of staple good during this "collectivization." What history tells us, though, in both areas, is that opening up a "middle path," a bit of free market enterprise (economic liberalization), changes the structure of the economy to the point where it is no longer communist or socialist. Free market enterprise quickly transforms the personal economic structure into one of profiting for goods and services, and so people have a strong impetus to grow crops, produce goods and services, and provide that extra entrepreneurial spirit because they will directly benefit from the tasks. Then, when the populace sees that they can put in x effort for y return and actually make more than under the State, most of their focus and impetus goes towards privatization. Often, this is countered with the desire to increase the standard of living, have more consumer goods, and modernize and participate in a more democratized government. However, this being said, it does not mean that both Russia and China are moving in the direction of democracy; but perhaps more of State capitalism. Both know that their population must have more access to goods and services, and the middle classes must be allowed to grow. In Russia's case, socialism has been somewhat replaced by an oligarchy based on wealth; in China, the controls over the classes are not structured for a move towards complete capitalism, but economic growth and Chinese power (436).

3.2 the Quiet Revolution - China unfortunately missed the Industrial revolution of the European continent in the 1800s, a fact which led them to revolution after World War II and a huge push to catch up and exceed the West since then. The current economy of the PRC is the third largest in the world, after the United States and Japan. It is also the fastest growing economy globally, in part because of the tremendous resources available, in part because there is little or no environmental regulation to increase modernization costs and/or limit companies from rapid growth. It has an average GDP growth rate of over 10%, but has also resulted in a number of income inequities (rising disparity between the very well off and the rural poor). China is the largest trading nation in the world -- the largest exporter, and the second largest importer of goods, and the largest available workforce. In recent years, China has struggled to control social strife and improve the quality of living for its population, to reduce corruption, and to move almost 100 million surplus rural workers into low-paying, but subsistence, urban jobs.

20th Century China is an experiment with new systems of government, societal interaction, and economic organization -- from corrupt dynastic control that favored a very small elite to a burgeoning one-party system that doles out bits of reform as need is perceived. Since 1949, there have been 3-4 major shifts in overall philosophy within the elite; as globalism continues to develop, China wishes to be part of the global economic push with import/export and fiscal rewards, so small concessions have been made over the past decade to allow greater autonomy in business ownership and purchasing decisions. Yet, China remains a large urban/rural dichotomy, with the ruling hierarchy centered in urban areas. Urban income is up, and consumer goods are more available in the cities; unregulated environmental issues and lack of strict building codes are problematic; China is attempting to develop quickly without the structures of other countries. There is high political, economic, societal, and military cohesion since all are central controlled and there is no evidence of a lapse in the power base. Most recently, China has been under international pressure for its continued censorship program (television, motion pictures, and the Internet). Most sources do not believe China's ruling parties are even close to relaxing control; they simply want to be part of the new global economic elite.

Part 4.1-the Caste System -- the Caste System, really epitomized in India, describes an ancient system (tradition) of social stratification based on birthright and hierarchy. The four basic castes are (from high to low) Brahmans, princes, merchants, and servants. Traditionally, each caste performed certain duties, had certain jobs, and even within the castes were various levels of hierarchy from birthrank to gender. Since 1980 the idea of the caste system has become a major issue in Indian politics, with a number of commissions established to identify the socially backward and come to a way to redress caste discrimination. This is especially true now that science has proven that there is actually no identifiable genetic difference between castes and all the indigenous ethnicities of the subcontinent likely derived from the same population (445, 459).

There are a few solutions to the caste problem, but none easy. There would be the formal system -- legislation and making it illegal to discriminate, much like the Civil Rights legislation in the United States; over time, as we have seen since the 1950s, ethnic minorities have risen in political power and visibility. Much of this was due to education, and certainly, if India were to provide greater incentives for lower castes to receive higher education, over time this problem might be mitigated. Informally, the country might look at popular culture -- their Bollywood movie tradition; legitimize and portray positive stories of mixed caste marriages; glamorization of higher castes being just like lower castes, and really educating the public through subtle means until there is a larger vein of acceptance. This could also be accomplished by changing the newspaper, magazine, and television coverage and slant, as well as more open and honest communication and appointments of lower caste members to important political and social positions.

Part 4.2 -- Modernization in Islam -- One of the reasons that it is difficult for Islamic countries to modernize is because the history of the state is tied in with religion and law. There is no clear separation of church and state under Islamic law. Under Islamic law (literal), the religion of Islam and the government are one. Islamic law is controlled, ruled, and regulated by the theocracy of religion. Islamic law purports to regulate all public and private behaviors including hygiene, diet, sexual conduct, and child rearing. Islamic law, similar to the Torah and Old Testament in Judaic tradition, was written thousands of years ago. Populations were quite different then, few were literate, and the oral religious traditions were used as a way to structure and organize societies of the time. For Islam, though, the locus of law is called the "Five Pillars of Islam," tasks that unite all believers regardless of culture or country and a way to ensure that all of Islam has cultural commonality

However, globalism has touched the Arab world as well; mass media, the rhetoric of the Internet, and a new electorate that is more educated, some with Western education and ties to a new economic and social order. Reasons for a lack of true modernization focus on the conflict between conservatives and liberal reformers; the conservatives tend to focus on religion as the basic tenet of society, and therefore reluctant to throw off such a lengthy tradition. Too, the Arab world is also torn with a lack of satisfaction with consumer goods and societal freedoms (Iran, Iraq, etc.) with the more Westernized republics (Kuwait, Jordan, etc.). Clearly, there are liberal ideas that surface in the West (Salman Rushdie, Azadeh Moaveni, etc.) and those ideas simply need to promulgate. Essentially, the Arab world is tied into the past -- looking backward for guidance, and the conflict that comes from the answers for the 21st century not necessarily being found in Quar'anic law (540-2).

Part 5.1 -- Political Diversity in the Developing World - One of the key changes in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that ties the developing world together is the complex economic, political, social and cultural system known as "globalism." This idea ties economic and political structures together regardless of the geographic location, and is based loosely on the idea that countries that trade together -- that is countries that actively engage in commerce with one another, will have a basis for friendship and be unlikely to wage war upon… [END OF PREVIEW]

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