Home >> Indian Thinkers >> Radhakamal Mukherjee

Radhakamal Mukherjee

In his teachings and writings Mukherjee emphasized the need for mutual interaction between social sciences on the one hand and between social sciences and physical sciences on the other. Indian economics modeled on British economics mostly neglected the traditional caste networks in indigenous business, handicrafts and banking. Economic development was viewed as an extension of monetary economics or market phenomenon. The Western model in economics focused on the urban-industrial centers.

In a country like India where many economic transactions take place within the framework of caste or tribe, the market model has a limited relevance. He tried to show the relationship between traditional networks and economic exchange. The guilds and castes of India were operating in a non-competitive system. The rules of economic exchange were derived from the normative Hinduism in other words according to the norms of Hindu religion wherein interdependence between groups was emphasized hence to understand rural India the economic values should be analyzed with reference to social norms. Religious and ethical constraints have always lent a direction to economic exchange. Values enter into the daily life of people and compel them to act in collectively sanctioned ways.

Radhakamal Mukherjee wrote number of books on social ecology. For him social ecology was a complex formulation in which a number of social sciences interacted. The geological, geographical and biological factors worked together to produce an ecological zone. In its turn ecology is conditioned by social, economic or political factors. In the past many Indian ecological regions were opened up for human settlement and agrarian development through political conquests. As there is definite link between ecology and society the development of ecological zones must be seen in terms of a dynamic process that is challenge of the environment and response of the people who establish a settlement. Ecological balance is not mechanical carving out of a territory and settling people thereon. Such an attempt weakens or destroys social fabric. In his works on social ecology Mukherjee took a point of departure from the western social scientists. Social ecology was the better alternative to the havoc caused by rapid industrialization. India with its long history was a storehouse of values. Therefore in building a new India the planning must not be confined to immediate and concrete problems but must be directed towards value-based development.

Radhakamal Mukherjee wrote extensively on the danger of deforestation. The cutting of trees subjects the soil to the fury of floods and reduces the fertility of soil. The topsoil that is washed away by floods or excess rainfall cannot be replenished. Therefore the forests and woods of India were an ecological asset. He also referred to the danger of mono crop that is raising a single cash crop to the detriment of rotation of crops. Such practices as deforestation and mono cultivation disturbed the fragile ecosystem and gave rise to severe environmental problems. He advocated the integration of village, town and nation into a single broad-based developmental process. Urban development at the expense of the village should be kept in check. Agriculture should be diversified and industries decentralized.

Radhakamal Mukherjee had a sustained interest in the impact of values on human society. He held that a separation between fact and value was arbitrary. The facts and values could not be separated from each other in human interactions. Even a simple transaction was a value based or normatively conditioned behavior. Each society has a distinctive culture and its values and norms guide the behavior. Therefore the positivic tradition of the west that wanted to separate facts from values was not tenable to him especially in the study of a society like India. In the west there was a compelling need to free scientific enquiry form the hold of church theology. He underlined two basic points- values are not limited only to religion or ethics. Economics, politics and law also give rise to values. Human needs are transformed into social values and are internalized in the minds of members of society. Older civilizations such as India and China were stable. Hence values were formed and organized into a hierarchy of higher and lower fields. Values are not a product of subjective or individualistic aspirations. They are objectively grounded in humankind's social aspirations and desires. Values are both general and objective: - measurable by empirical methods.

Radhakamal Mukherjee's general theory of society sought to explain the values of a universal civilization. He used the term civilization in an inclusive sense culture was part of it. He proposed that human civilization should be studied on three inter-related levels – Biological evolution which has facilitated the rise and development of civilization. They have the capacity to change the environment as an active agent.

In psychosocial dimension the people are often depicted within the framework of race, ethnicity or nationhood. Human beings are seen as prisoners of little selves or egos whose attitude is parochial or ethnocentric. On the contrary human beings have the potentiality to overcome the narrow feelings and attain universalization that is to identify oneself with the larger collectivity such as one's nation or even as a member of the universe itself.

In his view the civilization has a spiritual dimension. Human beings are gradually scaling transcendental heights. They are moving up to the ladder of spirituality by overcoming the constraints of biogenic and existential levels. In this -art, myth and religion provide the impulsion or the force to move upward. Humankind's search for unity, wholeness and transcendence highlight the spirituality of civilization. He stated that human progress was possible only if glaring disparities of wealth and power between countries were reduced. So long as poverty persisted or political oppression continued further integral evolution of mankind was not a practical proposition. The persisting human awareness of misery in the world had stimulated the search for universal values and norms.

Some of the important works
  • The Regional balance of man (1938)
  • Indian working class (1940)
  • The social structure of values (1955)
  • Philosophy of social sciences (1960)
  • Flowering of Indian art (1964)