History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2008: Q.1 (a)

Q.1 (a) “Sprung from Paternalism the English Utilitarian Philosophy as introduced in India rejected its human warmth between rulers and the ruled.” Comment.


The English Utilitarian Philosophy and Paternalism

The utilitarian philosophy, born in the atmosphere of British liberalism, had impact on the British administration in India.
The English Utilitarianism owed its genesis to the ideas of Jeremy Bentham. Bentham preached that the ideal of human civilisation was to achieve the greatest happiness of the greatest number. He argued that good laws and efficient administration were the most effective agents of change and ideas of rule of laws was necessary precondition for improvement.

The utilitarian philosophy justified colonisation by arguing that paternalistic colonial governance of indigenous people are required untill they matured and acceded to rational thought and self government. The pursuit of colonial people’s own welfare and happiness defined in utilitarian terms was invoked to justify colonisation.

Indian civilization was branded by British as backward. The Englishmen took on themselves the task of taking India on course of modernity. Indians were to be taught the virtues of self-government.
The English Utilitarianism in India took roots under such paternalistic attitudinal context. They saw Indian people held in bondage by despotic rulers, archaic economic relations, and by religion steeped in superstition. So, they set about to reform the Indians and the colonial system.

British took many steps in paternal manner to apply utilitarianism. For example: British passed several legislations (eg. Ban on Sati), codified laws, gave importance to ryotwari system of land revenue etc.

English Utilitarian Philosophy in India lacked human warmth between rulers and the ruled:

(1) The paternalism in utilitarianism involved restrictions on the rights of individuals in order to protect and reform them. This caused loss of human warmth between rulers and the ruled.

(2) English Utilitarian’s ideas of strong, efficient and centralised administration gave almost despotic power to the government.
This was without human warmth in the relations between the ruler, whereas humans constituted the centre point of the libertarism of which utilitarianism was important part.

For example: Bentinck’s administrative reforms were in line with utilitarian theory but with deference to local conditions and in harmony with his own military sense of command. He applied utilitarian principle in heavy hand manner without taking the consideration of people.

(3) Ryotwari system derived from utilitarianism also caused sufference of peasants.


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