Lecture on Examining Modernisation as Sociological Concept organized by IDC
Chandigarh, April 26, 2023: Modernity is a constantly evolving phenomenon. What is contemporary is not modern, or today does not qualify as modern.
These were the views expressed by Prof. Dipankar Gupta, a distinguished and renowned sociologist, during his presentation at the Prof. Randhir Singh Memorial Lecture Series on "From Things to Relations: Examining Modernisation as a Sociological Concept" organised by the Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh under the aegis of the Randhir Singh Memorial Academic Foundation.
Prof. Gupta suggested understanding modernity not in terms of 'things of today' but rather in a relational aspect. Relations between individuals cover various facets of human existence. For instance, the relations between things and individuals are labelled modern, but they are not. The style which is holistic and is not subjected to the brands one is wearing.
Similarly, morality is to elevate oneself, whereas to be ethical is in relation to others. Prof. Gupta mentioned that ethical and moralistic standpoints bring the best of inter-subjectivity as the ethical standpoint is closely associated with the other, whereas morality remains privatised. For instance, if there is modernity, there is no concept of Mahatmas, as in the presence of ethics, morality has no place.
Mentioning the moralistic and ethical position of social beings, he stressed how a social arena bound by certain rules and regulations tends to be more innovative, encouraging and modern. For instance, sports are modern as the rules bind them, whereas games are not. In games, rules are flexible and vary as per the social positioning of the King/Headmen, participants and viewers.
Prof. Gupta summarised his arguments by highlighting the values embedded in citizenship and how a democratic nation needs leaders with modern vision and strong decision-making. He argued how, historically, it has always been the right decisions made by the leaders that made the difference or brought the change.
Thus, a society with mere fashionistas and technological advancement does not qualify for modernity. He further argued how most contemporary flag-bearing entities of modernisation are mere imprints of traditional entities as they inherited the position rather than creating. The advancement in social relations is necessary.
Responding to the participant's query on the impact of modernity on citizens (modernity being ethically normative and violent), Prof. Gupta said that enlightenment initiates modernisation. Therefore, engaging commoners and enriching their knowledge in understanding social realities in a relational context is vital. On the other hand, Prof. Pramod Kumar emphasised the role of ideology in inter-subjectivity and argued how citizens might have minds of their own but demands of others, ultimately leading to mismatched social development.
Prof. Ghuman concluded the session with a vote of thanks and highlighted the significance of social relations as a key aspect of modernity, suggesting to consider inter-subjectivity and moral and ethical standpoints while dealing with modernity.
As a part of larger lecture series, this one-day lecture was attended by several academicians and university teachers such as Prof. Pramod Kumar, Director, IDC Chandigarh, Prof. B. S. Ghuman, Prof. H. S. Shergill, Prof. H. K. Puri (retd), Dr Lallan Baghel, Prof. Kumool Abbi, Prof. Kuldeep Singh; civilians such as Mr J. R. Kundal (IAS retd), Col. J.S. Gill, A. S. Rai, Mangat Ram, S. S. Cheema; journalists; and scholars and students from Punjabi University (Patiala), Panjab University (Chandigarh), and Chandigarh University (Mohali).