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Traditions and modernity: Culture and development

Globalization is often accused of invading not only the economies but also the culture. At times, we tend to forget that ‘the only constant in this world is – Change’ (Bhagwad Gita). Changes are not always palatable to many. That is why, these are so strongly resisted; especially if there is a perceived risk to the culture. Often there is a face-to-face situation between the traditions and modernity. Now, it is not easy for either to outweigh the other. Traditions carry the glimpses of our past lessons and modernity serves as a constant meliorating force in the existing knowledge. Culture encompasses many things apart from traditions, mainly, the value system, ethics, common virtues and rituals. Here, the values and virtues are very strong element of a culture as they differentiate the one from another. Any development at the cost of the cultural values, virtues and practices can be dodgy.

These elements being critical are also more prone to be affected by globalization. Now, the bigger question is what values to continue with and what to shun. While it is said that change itself is not so big an issue, as the ultimate result which it can lead to. If the changes are of such intensity, that they have the potential to wipe out the prevailing values of a culture, it can be said to be dangerous (Hezel, 2005). However, change is as inherent in human nature as boredom. So, people try to experiment and adopt new things. But, this does not itself pose a threat to cultures. It is only when that some foreign values and practices start replacing the existing ones, in a larger context, the resistance to change comes to play. More often such people are said to be opposed to development and conservative. But, most of the time the dogmas do have a logic. Therefore, the face-off has descendent from traditions and modernity to culture and development.

So, according to the records of history, does globalization always signifies development? Similarly, does development always needs the phenomenon of globalization? I would rebuff both these questions. It is so, because even if the economies open up, and people have access to newer technologies, they might not have the capacity to avail those things, which certainly does not lead to any development. Moreover, what if the people of a country are self sufficient and able to meet all their needs themselves? This makes them able to resist the negative effects of globalization and sustain development. This can prove to be a better and more sustainable form of development because it will be, however, slow but with a bottom-to-top approach. This kind of development, taking the cultural values together will thus be holistic and inclusive. This will not only take consistent steps towards modernity and development, but also preserve the vital values and traditions.

The cultures are not necessarily threatened only by the globalization and development. There are other factors also responsible for it. In simple terms, it feels good to me when I see that how a nation, state, community or even a family has preserved its culture – not necessarily religious. Since, development and culture can co-exist, there is no mutual friction between them. The real problem arises when one attempts to outweigh the other. It is to be noted that ‘culture’ and ‘development’ are not personified, thus actually they do not outweigh themselves. It is the people who put more weight behind either of the two. Development can occur taking the culture along side, but development which replaces the existing culture or its components, with a less concrete one is no development at all. It may initially seem to be a kind of a development but can lead to making the whole society hollow. For example, modern concepts of science and technology are not a part of any culture, but they have been assimilated gradually in culture as an integrated element, thereby developing specific system of conduct (Amaladoss, 1999). This is largely a worthy phenomenon. A society cannot continue to survive in a smooth and justifiable manner, unless it adopts some set of concrete values and enforces it to all its stakeholders. A mere imitation of something regarded as ‘development’ cannot be termed as a real development; it may still harm the cultural practices – this is the fine line between them.
Thus, any development which seems to be development but it is rather superficial, is strongly intolerable. For example, the superficial economic development resulting into consumerism and materialism can lead to nowhere. Development in its real form is always appreciated if it does not wipe out the cultural elements. For instance, development in science and technology to benefit the society, does not usually bypasses the culture. It is not at all impressive, if it poses a threat to culture, because then it actually exposes the whole system to many uncertainties with respect to sustainability.


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