Social Scientist. v 17, no. 190-91 (March 1989) p. 52.

Graphics file for this page

breaks from the mould that Macleod has termed science as imperial history, into what may be tentatively called science in struggle.


An investigation of the dissemination of modern science and the social discourses of the nineteenth century infected by the scientific imperialism of the age, reveals the close connection between science, politics and culture, as much in Europe as in India. In other words, the reception of modern science embedded in the rationalising discourse of Baconian epistemology among the Indian people .was not solely responsible for the erosion of indigenous knowledge traditions. Thus the erosion of the traditional norms of Indian society was more a consequence of colonial encounter, than one triggered off by the impact of the tenets of the scientific method a la Bacon or modem science per se. On the intellectual plane, for example. Raja Rammohun Roy is known to have ushered in the era of the modem, in which the Baconian note was to acquire a critical function, its two standard flag bearers being reason and social comfort. But Ram-mohun's inauguration of what has been called the Indian renaissance remained within the Hindu-elitist framework5. As will be seen further, scientific knowledge and scientific discourses were absorbed and refashioned by the recipient Indian culture to suit their programmes of social transformation, and with the birth of nationalism, became part of the cultural and political self expression of Indian society.

However, such an investigation raises a series of questions concerning the castes and economic classes that first took to Western education, the religious backgound of individual scientists and intellectuals as well as their philosophical commitments, the professions that opened up to those with a modern education, the factors responsible for the absorption and propagation of science with characteristic alacrity, and at times the cultural intervention into, and the subsequent mutation of, scientific discourses introduced into the Indian environment. Finally, there is also a delineation of science as instrumental knowledge from its epistemological commitment and its implicit social philosophy.

The whole host of questions when removed from the specificity of the Indian context, are tied up with the nineteenth century obsession with science and cultural nationalism. On this count Bernal's understanding of the 'national exclusiveness' of science in the twentieth century, as opposed to the internationalism of the nineteenth century [(1), p. 191] is a bit too simplistic; even though he acknowledges that in the major periods of scientific development 'nationalism was beginning to appear' [(H, p. 193). It must be noted that Bernal was writing when the 'Fascist ministers of education', were attributing to science 'the blood of the race' [(1), p. 195J. In highlighting the universality of science in its internationalist idiom, he tended to underplay what he perceived as the 'different relations which exist between science in different countries' [(1), p.

Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page

This page was last generated on Wednesday 12 July 2017 at 13:02 by
The URL of this page is: