© 1993–2011 Mario Gómez Zimmerman. All rights reserved.


The Capitalist Structures of Hinduism

The above points to several conclusions that reveal capitalist structures in Hinduism:
The socialist concepts of equality and a classless society are completely rejected by the Varna system. All too rigid as it was (at least theoretically), it would appear at first sight as a statist construct–so common under any socialist scheme. However, such a system constitutes an ontological need of a society rooted in the cosmogonical myth mentioned in note 1. The way it was implemented, the system limited many freedoms, but it also allowed each caste not to be fused within a general standard and to be free to live its own way. Of course, endogamy and other features of a caste system do not exist in capitalism. Nevertheless, with the allowance of greater social mobility and the recognition of equal human dignity for all, capitalism has indeed modernized the Varna system.

Central planning and regulations were implemented according to higher parameters set by Hinduism’s worldview, which were accepted by the collective conscience as traditional goods, with the state being, at least ideally, an instrument. Big bureaucracies resulted from the desire to control and maintain power, and other statist measures arose from the need to face external threats. Worldviews (religious, political or humanistic) limiting free will are to be found in every human group. In India, some over-regulation resulted from the greater interpenetration of what, according to Western thought, is to be legally enforced and what belongs to personal choice. But here the state was never a mechanism to subordinate the individual good to that of the society, which in short defines a socialist worldview.

Hinduism never denies the right to property; calls to renunciation fall outside the legal sphere. The attainment of wealth, although embodied with a social function, is considered a praiseworthy personal achievement. In fact, there is also a need in capitalism that economic activities project to the common good. Except in a utopian and ideal

capitalist society–where all the property would be privately owned and we can even contemplate a voluntary financing of the government–public enterprises and subsidizing policies do not necessarily contradict capitalist tenets. They may be deemed to be supported by a legitimate social patrimony if they represent instances of epoch-related common goals of society, which originate specific secular functions of the state. The difference here, and so in Hinduism, is that the right to property is not subordinated to the above, that is it is not left at the stage of a functional need, and that the individual good is the highest aim of society.

Although subjected to regulations, man always enjoyed in India enough freedom over what he had created. Following what we had said in the last two paragraphs, for the time being capitalism does not propose absolutely unregulated free trading practices. Basically in reference to the labor market, free trade must still abide by certain directives which relate to the general framework of right upon which our social orders have been constructed. But as long as such directives do not interfere with any rational pursuit of fulfillment according to each one’s merit and to making one’s own talents count, as was indeed the ideal aim in Hinduism, we can say that we are witnessing at least an instance of pre-capitalist praxis.

In conclusion, we cannot say that traditional Hinduism thoroughly shares capitalist precepts, but we can assert that it pre-figures capitalism much closer than socialism. What characterizes socialism above all is that it takes the person as a means, while the recognition of the individual as an end, and thus as subject of inalienable rights, is the most distinctive juridico-economic structure of both capitalism and Hinduism.

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