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Neo-Hinduism as a Response to Globalization

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When discussing the philosophical problems connected with the notion of universal values and the process of globalization one should never lose sight of the concrete cultural conditions in which these problems pose themselves – conditions that often differ quite markedly from the situation in Europe. Therefore I will now pick out one particular non-European case and Sketch the approach some Indian thinkers have taken to tackle the challenge they have been confronted with, ever since the Europeans – especially the British, of course – gained influence on the subcontinent.

Colonialism can be regarded as one of the early stages of globalization. The very fact that Europeans appeared on the scene put a hard stress on the world views and value systems of many traditional societies. And the following conscious attempts to westernize the colonized societies have led, in most cases, to the disappearance or marginalization of the native cultures. Only in a few instances, where the non-Western cultures have been big and powerful enough, were they able to stand their ground and to react in a creative way to the European challenge. One of these examples is India.

The reactions of Indian thinkers to the ideas brought to their country by the new British rulers were manifold. Here I have to confine myself to a rough outline of one, although very important current of thought: the so-called Neo-Hinduism. It must be noted that Neo- Hinduism is by no means a monolithic doctrine, and the difference to traditional Hinduism is not always very clear. In this paper I will be thinking mainly of influential figures like Swami Vivekananda (i.e. Narendranātha Datta, 1863–1902) and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888–1975), all the time staying on a rather general level. Nevertheless, in spite of all the internal differences in Neo-Hinduism, one may safely say that the main aim of its exponents was both to preserve the heritage of Hinduism (as they understood it) and to adopt those of the Western ideas that seemed fruitful and important to them. But before I will take a closer look at some of the strategies employed in pursuing this goal, it is necessary to sketch in a few words the basic structure of traditional Hindu ethics.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2007

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