Subrata Mitra: Bridging Self and the Other: A plädoyer to meld Culture and Rationality, to mend rupturing globalization

Speaker: Subrata Mitra

Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg. Germany

Topic: Bridging Self and the Other: A plädoyer to meld Culture and Rationality, to mend rupturing globalization”

Ruptured conversations between the Global North and the Global South are one of the main causes of the clash of cultures, and deepening conflict, in our fast-fracturing world. At risk are vast losses of lives and living spaces, and, forfeiture of gains in science and the arts that mankind has cumulated over past many centuries. I ask in this paper: how might we achieve a meaningful dialogue between the Self and the Other when a conceptual blank and power asymmetry separate us? Exclusive reliance on indigenous categories (Mitra, in Voskressenski: Is Non-Western Democracy Possible? A Russian Perspective; 2017) can lead to a chaotic Babel, generating a ‘hall of mirrors’, with an infinite regress of the I-think-you-think-I-think… On the other hand, the uncritical acceptance of categories from the dominant Other in the name of ‘modernisation’ can crush all diversity, leading to asymmetric power relations, ‘imperialism of categories’ (Susanne Rudolph: 2009) and emergence of a hegemonic super-power. The recognition of different cultures - deeply held indigenous values, collective identities and belief systems – and rationality - based on the fungibility of interests and negotiated transaction between partners – can help bridge the chasm that separates conflicting parties and become a conceptual bridge between parties in conflict. We can illustrate this conjecture on the basis of three examples, from the Global South (Subrata Mitra and Michael Liebig Kautilya’s Arthashastra: An Intellectual Portrait - the Classical Roots of Modern Politics in India; 2017); the Global North (Robert Axelrod’s Evolution of Cooperation, 1984), and a case-study of both Global South and Global North (Mitra and Carciumaru: “A tale of four cities” (2018)Kautilyan realism builds on the conflation of transcendental Dharma and transactional Mandala. In India’s classical political theory, the duopoly of the King and the Brahmin could achieve a stable, legitimate state and a dynamic equilibrium in the global order. Axelrod achieves a similar result on the basis of four variables: proximity, knowledge, recursiveness and reciprocity. Based on ‘philosophical realism’ (Joseph Maxwell and Kavita Mittapalli, “Realism as a Stance for Mixed Methods Research”: 2010), ontological realism and epistemological constructivism can be combined effectively in order to conflate indigenous culture and rationality. The paper concludes with the argument that conflation of culture and rationality is a precondition for a meaningful dialogue between adversaries.