There was recently an
article in the New York Times that positively salivated over the
‘Americanisation’ of India. And the author was not referring to
Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina or any other country on the
American continent when he referred to ‘Americanisation’. He was
referring solely to the US, which has hijacked the term. Now,
there’s arrogance for you.
The article in question praised America’s capitalism, exuberance
and free spirit and therefore the liberalisation of India’s
economy. Here we have another hijacking, this time of the term ‘liberalisation’.
In reality, this form of ‘liberalisation’ frees up nothing, but
merely hands over chunks of the economy to elite interests.
What liberalisation really entails is that people are merely
‘free’ to fend for themselves with stripped down welfare services,
while big corporations are handed subsidies, tax breaks, cheap
land grabs, public sector assets and the freedom to shift capital
around the globe in order to loot and bring havoc to local
economies. This rush towards privatisation of profit,
socialisation of loss and monopoly capitalism goes under the
benign term ‘structural adjustment’ – the plundering of public
resources by any other name.
This ‘socialism for the rich’ is all too easily equated with ‘liberalisation’,
yet when the need for socialism is vocalized by working people it
is deemed stifling and oppressive. Well, it’s plainly obvious to
whom this is stifling – the rich. It was Noam Chomsky who argued
that the wealthy use free-market rhetoric to justify imposing
greater economic risk upon the lower classes, while being
insulated from the rigors of the market by the political and
economic advantages that such wealth affords. This has become the
There is no doubt of course that many in India have gained from
the economic reforms that began in 1991. There are now countless
opportunities to go and work in an outsourced call centre, to sell
coffee or sweep floors in a shopping mall, to work as a security
guard at the entrance to some gated community, to assist Monsanto
in its design to control the agricultural sector or to get a job
with a transnational concern headquartered in the West whose prime
interest is a race to the bottom in the seeking out of cheap
And are people becoming any happier because of the frenzied
consumer capitalism we now witness, or the wage slavery to
corporate masters? Some are extremely happy. But, despite the GDP
figures, which are very limited in their capacity for telling us
anything much, on the whole, Indians are not a happy bunch.
According to the World Map of Happiness, based on standards of
wealth, health and access to education, India ranks in the bottom
third, despite all the optimism by the supporters of
neo-liberalism surrounding the ‘new’ India.
But what of ‘American values', which are said to now underpin this
‘new’ India, the ‘economic miracle’ where the rich and sections of
the middle classes have materially truly never had it so good, but
where almost 80 per cent live on less than two US dollars a day?
Let us put these values into context. The US can only sustain
itself by using around 40 per cent of the world’s resources for
just five per cent of the global population. It can only sustain
itself by the plunder of other countries, whether via direct
military invasion or bullying and bludgeoning through the policies
of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to create
dependency and economic dominance.
What of US values, when bankers are handed over trillions of
taxpayers money for their gambling activities, where arms
companies, oil cartels and other powerful lobbies fund politicians
to do their bidding once elected? What of the revolving door
between government agencies and corporate concerns? A quick look
at the make up of Food and Drug Administration, the Federal
Reserve or any other number of state concerns for that matter will
quickly tell you where their interests lie.
Hard work and a spirit of enterprise are too often posited as
being US values by supporters of the US. Any serious analysis of
how that country works will tell you that the quest for easy money
and destroying competition are what keep the ruling elites in
power there. What is there to celebrate in institutionalised
corruption and a system fuelled by the lie of perpetual peace for
A war on drugs, when the CIA have been shown to be complicit in
the drugs economy. A war on terror, when US forces terrorise and
slaughter innocent civilians with their drone attacks. What values
Imperialism has little in common with the values of freedom and
the spirit of hard work and enterprise. Should such values be
celebrated? Of course they should, especially when used for the
public good. But let’s not confuse the issue by ‘Americanising’
those values and then placing Uncle Sam on a pedestal.
Let’s not get caught out by the great con-trick of consumerism –
the conspicuous consumption of ‘things’ to elevate personal status
in the eyes of others. Because like the most ostentatious
consumer, through its hollow PR slogans, the US tries to appear to
be something that it is not, based on the conspicuous ownership of
values it does not really possess. As with any effective ad
campaign, however, some writers end up buying into the appearance
but never question the reality.
Originally from the northwest of England, writer
Colin Todhunter has spent many years in India. He has written
extensively for the Deccan Herald (the Bangalore-based
broadsheet), New Indian Express and Morning Star (Britain). Various other publications have carried his work too,
including the London Progressive Journal and Kisan Ki Awaaz
(India's national farmers' magazine).