Perspectives and methodology of Dhurjati Prasad Mukerji
Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur
D P Mukerji was one of the first among world’s intellectuals to take note of the powerful forces of anti intellectualism in the socialist movement. He explored the vital link between economy and culture in the context of the planning of the national economy. His analysis of the problem of cultural unity and social processes need fresh consideration by social scientist and policy makers in view of the new challenges being posed. DP Mukerji contributed the perspective of Marxian sociology in India. He was tolerant of western ideas, concepts. In his views Indian socialism had to come to terms with Indian tradition and Indianise itself.
Brief life sketch
D.P. Mukerji was perhaps the most popular of the pioneers in Indian sociology. Dhurjati Prasad Mukerji (1894-1961), popularly called as DP, was one of the founding fathers of sociology in India. He was born on 5 October 1894 in West Bengal in a middle class Bengali family that had a fairly long tradition of intellectual pursuits.
DP began his career at Bangabasi College, Calcutta. In 1922 he joined the newly founded Lucknow University as a lecturer in economics and sociology. He stayed there for a fairly long period of department, had been responsible for bringing DP to Lucknow. He retired as Professor and Head of the Department in 1954. For one year (1953) he served as a Visiting Professor of Sociology at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. Chair of Economics at the University of Aligarh, which he occupied with great distinction during his last five years of active academic life. He was the first President of the Indian Sociological Conference. He also remained the Vice-President of the International Sociological Association.
DP’s career as an intellectual included, most prominently, his contributions as a teacher. He has a much greater and abiding influence on others through the spoken, rather than the written, words. The freedom that the class room, the coffee house, or the drawing room gave him to explore ideas and elicit immediate response was naturally not available via the printed page. Thus, he was a co-student, a co-enquirer, who ever stopped learning. He has such an influence on his students that he lives in the mind of his students even today.
He was deeply interested in understanding the nature and meaning of Indian social reality rooted in the Indian tradition. He was equally interested in finding out the ways of how to change it for promoting welfare of the common people by adapting the forces of modernity to the specificity of Indian tradition. He followed Marxism as a method of analysis, rather than a political ideology. His dialectical analysis of India history suggested that tradition and modernity, colonialism and nationalism, individualism and collectivism could be seen as dialectically interacting with each other in contemporary India.
DP Mukerji contributed the perspective of Marxian sociology in India. He was tolerant of western ideas, concepts and analytical categories. He viewed that there is a need for an indigenous sociology and social anthropology, but he certainly did not want to insulate these disciplines in India from the western social traditions. He was one of the very few social scientists in the academic world who recognized the importance of Marxism to analyse socio-economic forces operating in human society. Mukerji’s contributions to various fields are discussed as follows:
DP once told with a sense of humour that he propounded the thesis of ‘purusha’. The ‘purusha’ is not isolated from society and individual. Nor is he under the hold of group mind. The purusha establishes the relationship with others as an active agent and discharges responsibilities. His argument is that the ‘purusha’ grows as a result of his relations with others and, thus, occupies a better place among human groups. He admits that the Indian Social life is like the life of bees and beavers and the Indians are almost a regimented people. But “the beauty of it” is that the majority of us do not feel regimented. He is exposed to the advertisements, press chains, chain stores and his purse is continuously emptied. Contrastingly the low level of aspiration of an average Indian which is moderated by group norms, results into greater poise in life.
D.P. Mukerji points out that tradition comes from the root ‘tradere’, which means “to transmit”. The Sanskrit equivalent of tradition is either parampara, that is, succession or aitibya, which ha the same root as itihasa, or history.
Traditions are supposed to have a source. It may be scriptures, or statements of stages (apla vakya), or mythical heroes with or without names. Whatever may be the source, the historicity of traditions is recognized by most people. They are quoted, recalled, esteemed. In fact, their age-long succession ensures social cohesion and social solidarity.
DP was by training an economist. He was, however, aware of the limitations of the practices of other economists. They were interested in mastering and applying sophisticated techniques and abstract generalizations following the western model.
Marxism and Indian situations
DP had a great faith in Marxism he expressed doubts about the efficacy of the analysis of the Indian social phenomena by the Marxists. He gave three reasons for it:
(1) The Marxists would analyze everything in terms of class conflict. But, in our society, class conflict has for a long time been covered by the caste traditions and the new class relations have not yet sharply emerged.
(2) Many of them are more or less ignorant of the socio-economic history o India.
(3) The way economic pressures work is not that of mechanical force moving a dead matter. Traditions have great powers of resistance.
In the new set-up the educated middle classes of the urban centers of India became the focal point of the society. They are oblivious to the Indian tradition. Thus, for Marx, as for so many others since his time, including intellectuals of various shades of opinion, the modernization of India has to be its westernization.
DP’s Introduction to Music (1945) is a sociological piece which can be compared with the Rational Social Foundations of Music by Max Weber. DP’s work even today remains only of its kind. It shows that “Indian music, being music, is just an arrangement of sounds; being Indian, it certainly a product of Indian history”. In both, classical music at moments of crises had drawn from people’s music for fresh life, elaborated its leisure and imposed sophisticated from upon it in return. Making of Indian history
At this point it seems pertinent enough to point out that while D.P followed Marx closely in his conception of history and his characterization of British rule as uprooting, he differed significantly not only with Marx’s assessment of the positive consequences of the British Rule but also with his negative assessment of pre-British traditions.
D.P. Mukerji was a versatile scholar. He wrote nineteen books, including Diversities (1958); ten in Bengali and nine in English. His early publications include; Basic Concepts in Sociology (1932) and Personality and the Social Sciences (1924). Some of the other publications are: Modern Indian Culture (1942, revised enlarged edition in 1948), Problems of Indian Youth (1942), and Views and Counterviews (1946). Modern Indian Culture (1942) and Diversities (1958) are known as his best works. His veracities can be seen from his other contributions such as Tagore: A Study (1943), On Indian History: A Study in Method (1943), and Introduction to Music (1945). Apart from these, he also enjoys a unique place in Bengali literature as a novelist, essayist and literary critic.
Dhurjati Prasad Mukerji was one the founding fathers of sociology in India. He had fairly long tradition of intellectual pursuits. Being an intellectual meant two things to DP. First, discovering the sources and potentialities of social reality in the dialect of tradition and modernity, and, second developing an integrated personality through pursuit of knowledge. Paying attention to specificities in general framework of understanding was the first principle derived from Marx. D.P. Mukerji developed this methodological point in an important essay on the Marxism method of historical interpretation. He embraced Marxism in various ways, ranging from a simple emphasis upon the economic factor in making o culture to an elevation of practice to the status of a test of theory.
· Nagla, B.K., Indian Sociological Thought, Rawat publications, 2008
· Yogendra Singh & Boris Erasov, The Sociology of Culture, Rawat publications, 1991
· Yogendra Singh, Culture Change in India, Rawat publications, 2000
· Mair, Lucy, An introduction to Social Anthropology, 2nd edition, OXFORD university press, 2000
Received on 03.02.2012
Revised on 15.03.2012
Accepted on 21.03.2012
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