Development / 13.06.2009

Before moving on in this series we need to make a correction.

One antonym for cooperation is competition; another is individualism. In the context of the behavior we have been discussing, individualism, not competition, was the appropriate term to use.

The inferences we have made are not affected but it is important to have the concept right.

Let us go over the essentials again and in a little more detail. The essence of the argument was that the nature of the labor requirements of different staple diets could be so different as to socialize very different behavioral attitudes in the communities.

Development / 13.06.2009

I find it hard to believe that I forgot the reason for initiating this series on the possible origins of cooperative and competitive behavior using Malaysia and North India as the case studies. I had wanted to revisit the partition of India. This is an event in history that I visit again and again trying to understand how a tragedy of such magnitude could have occurred under the very noses of so many eminent personalities. And the one counterpoint I keep going back to is the situation in Malaysia which, from an ethnic perspective, was even more complex than India but was resolved in a much more satisfactory fashion.
Development / 12.06.2009

Frankly, I do not know if this is a lot of idle speculation or whether there is substance to the hypotheses about the socialization of cooperative and competitive behavior. Nevertheless, I am excited about the range of issues one can think of once the imagination is given free reign. It is an endeavor that holds the promise of interesting surprises. A couple of questions on the last post suggest it might be useful to start further back in time. Readers have wondered how urbanization and education affect behavior. My response is that behavioral socialization is a very slow process and urbanization and education are relatively recent developments gaining pace only in the twentieth century. The behavioral socialization that was discussed in the last post (differences resulting from wheat and rice farming) is the result of 10,000 years of agricultural life.
Development / 07.06.2009

Question: Why are some people more inclined to cooperate while others are more inclined to compete? Answer: It’s all in the socialization. Let me explain how I arrived at this conclusion. I went to Malaysia for the first time about fifteen years ago. I saw in every government office I entered placards on the walls with guidance from the Prime Minister – Be Nice or Be Honest or Make Malaysia Great, etc. What surprised me was the seriousness that public servants accorded such messages.
Development / 02.06.2009

By Anjum Altaf What have we learned from our discussion of the laws of inheritance? First, that laws pertaining to the same issue can differ across societies and over time. Second, that laws need not be divinely ordained and fixed for all times and places. The law of primogeniture was introduced in England in 1066 after the Norman invasion because the Norman knights who were awarded land grants did not wish their estates to be diluted by divisions. Third, laws can have negative and positive effects. The law of primogeniture was unfair because it deprived all heirs except the eldest son from a share in the wealth of the father.However, by removing all uncertainty from the issue of political succession, it provided a lot of stability in society. This was in marked contrast to the fratricidal conflicts that plagued succession in the Mughal Empire. Fourth, these positive and negative consequences...

Development / 31.05.2009

By Anjum Altaf Have you ever wondered why there have been so many traitors in the Indian subcontinent? We can start with the most well known of them all, Mir Jafar, known as Ghaddaar-e-Hind, whose name has become synonymous with treason. In the critical Battle of Plassey between Robert Clive and Sirajuddaulah in 1757, Siraj had the advantage but at the critical moment Mir Jafar failed to move his troops because he had sold out to the British. Thus began the British domination of India. The history of the Mughal period is full of incidents of betrayal. In his book The Forgotten Mughals: A History of the Later Emperors of the House of Babar, GS Cheema documents “the readiness with which great nobles switched sides, often in the midst of battle.” These facts are well known. What triggered this thought again in my mind was reading Khushwant Singh’s A...

Development / 18.01.2009

What is the problem some might ask – Isn’t Ahmedabad still among the most dynamic cities in India growing economically at double-digit rates? True enough, but there is something special about Ahmedabad; and the city is also changing in ways that warrant watching by those who are interested in the long term. One person who has wondered about these changes is Professor Vrajlal Sapovadia who teaches in Ahmedabad and who has studied the impact of communal conflict on the life of the city. The first fact Professor Sapovadia points out is that there are over 3000 urban locations in India but half the deaths in communal riots have occurred in just 8 cities that account for 18 percent of the India’s urban population and 6 percent of its total population. Of these 8 cities, Ahmedabad is among the main contributors. Given that Ahmedabad is the home of Gandhiji,...

Development / 16.01.2009

We turn our attention closer to home and discuss if Ahmedabad is a successful city. If one looks at the pronouncements of international development agencies there is little to doubt. Ahmedabad is one of the most dynamic cities in India with 5 percent of the national population but 14 percent of its export, an average annual growth rate of 9 percent and industrial growth rate of 15 percent. Every few months there are presentations about the city and visiting delegations extol the multiplication of municipal revenues and the successful launch of municipal bonds. Rating agencies swoon and investors salivate over the prospects. And yet, within a few miles of the forums where such presentations are made one can also listen to civil rights groups showing photographs and statistics and narrating stories that can churn the stomach and make one sick with despair. One can read announcements from...

Development / 14.01.2009

Picking up on a story in the New York Times we had suggested a counterintuitive hypothesis about Singapore – that despite the fact that it is considered one of the most successful cities in the world it could have a lot of unhappy citizens whose dissatisfactions were going unregistered and failing to affect its approval ratings. A reader had asked why, if that were the case, the citizens were not protesting and making their voices heard? We had provided a speculative answer applicable to all cities but kept wondering if there was some real evidence we could bring to support our position. Such evidence is very hard to find and the frustration was mounting till we had a brainwave – when in doubt, turn to Bollywood. Bollywood captures perfectly the mood and spirit of the times and records the major changes that occur along the way. So,...

Development / 12.01.2009

Depends on how you look at it, doesn’t it? If you think about it you will realize that the design (physical and otherwise) of all cities reflects the preferences of their elites and other elites decide what criteria are to be used to define success. When you alter the criteria, you can reach somewhat different conclusions. Therefore, in any situation we have to ask ourselves: Whose preferences are we looking at and whose criteria for evaluation are we considering? The preferences of ordinary citizens do not enter into the plans that shape the design and nature of cities and the feelings of ordinary citizens do not enter into the calculations regarding the evaluation of their success. You can read all the histories you want and you will reach the same conclusion. Read how Robert Moses (who said “if the ends don’t justify the means, what does?”) transformed New York...