Prof Lele delivers talk on modernity

A LECTURE on 'The Challenges of Modernity: Prospects, Justice, Equality and Freedom in Contemporary India' delivered by Prof Jayant Lele, Queens University, Canada was attended by scholars cutting across disciplinary boundaries at GB Pant Social Science Institute on Thursday.
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Published on Feb 25, 2006 12:34 AM IST
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None | ByHT Live Correspondent, Allahabad

A LECTURE on 'The Challenges of Modernity: Prospects, Justice, Equality and Freedom in Contemporary India' delivered by Prof Jayant Lele, Queens University, Canada was attended by scholars cutting across disciplinary boundaries at GB Pant Social Science Institute on Thursday.

To Prof Lele modernity, a term closely linked with the Western World and Europe is a product of chain of events succeeding each other in the form of Reformation, Renaissance and Enlightenment and finally getting on the motion of reason as the guiding principle of modern world.

"This world often associated with the rise of a new economy necessitating dismantling of church and church based institutions appeared in 5th Century BC which epistemologically meant a reflection on the present ie it was ab-initio an attribute of a conscious mind," he said.

Prof Lele informed that there were four ways in which modernity is being perceived. "It is viewed as an event of silencing the church which had homogenised Divinity through Meta-narratives leading to what it was know in popular parlance as delivery of Dark Age and its retention.

Secondly, it is perceived as a conspiracy in the form of developing a project of homogeneity that is confined not only to the Christian world but rather applicable for the whole mankind. Such opinions overflow in the post-colonial literature. Thirdly it has been conceived as a harbinger of a dichotomous world-view in which modernity in counterpoised against tradition leading to a break in history," he said.

Prof Lele said that notwithstanding differing opinion, an inseparable relationship is evident between growing wealth in the wake of industrialisation demanding a new outlook supportive of it and also imaginative of a new social order in the form of democracy that differentiates between learners and not-learning ie developing a critical insight into human beings and this is precisely the essence of human reason in its human form.

"That the period preceding birth of modernity is now being questioned by some scholars who using archival source materials of that period conclude that it was not so sterile as has been commonly assumed. Society was divided into three parts consisting of intellectuals, men in arms and labourers and these three classes together formed a vibrant society. However, the question that remains intriguing is the veracity of records in depicting true picture of the whole society, as records were kept by privileged people only," he said.

The lecture led to a lively discussion. Prof Lele was of the view that Bhakti movement in India was a great modernising movement, generating the urge to question 'the given'. This was further reinforced by Prof Rajen Harshe, vice-chancellor, University of Allahabad who said that certain western concepts common among academics have hardly to do anything with majority of the population in different regions of the country.

Prof Manas Mukul Das, Prof Ramashray Roy, Prof Ajit Dalal, Prof Shusil Srivastava among others attended the lecture. The lecture was presided by vice-chancellor of the Allahabad University Prof Rajen Harshe. Prof RC Tripathi, Director of GBPSSI welcomed the speaker and delivered the vote of thanks.

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