[This post, inspired by this article provoked a conversation about the relationship between India and the Anglosphere. It seems like just yesterday I wrote about this (with Verity and I going back and forth in the comments) on Jim Bennett’s now dormant blog Albion’s Seedlings. My old post needed virtually no revision, so I am reposting it here. Setting the Way Back Machine for 2005 … .]
The comments to this post contained some vexation about whether or not India is part of the “core” of the Anglosphere. The implication seemed to be that one is either part of the Anglosphere or not, and that it was wrong therefore to suggest that India is not.
I think this is to misstate the issue. It is not “either/or” or “in/out” of the Anglosphere. It is a matter of degrees of participation. The USA, UK, Anglo-Canada, Australia, NZ are “core” areas because of very high degrees of commonality in language, law, business practices, cultural norms, etc. Jim Bennett talks about all this in his book, which you must all go and buy and read if you have not yet done so.
India is uniquely and closely related and deeply tied to this core community, but has its own distinct identity. Majorities in India do not speak English, the rule of law is not so well established and institutions which are well-rooted in the core Anglosphere are often less so in India. There is a higher degree of intra-religious animosity, leading on occasion to rather spectacular riots. There is a higher degree of family control over marriage decisions. One could go on.
India was not a country of settlement like the core Anglosphere countries. It was an ancient civilization which had a violent and costly, but in many ways fruitful, encounter with Britain. The millions of anglophone Indians whom Verity mentions in the comments are much like the Indian neighbors and colleagues I have known here in Chicago. Yes, they are part of the Anglosphere. And the Indians who have gone back to India to start businesses are also part of the Anglosphere. But India itself, as distinct from particular people or communities, is a civilization unto itself which has a special relationship with the Anglosphere, and which participates in the Anglosphere, and which has individuals and communities which are part of the Anglosphere, and which has made immense contributions ot the Anglosphere, [and which I believe will make even greater ones in the future] — but it is still a meaningful distinction to say that India is not a core Anglosphere country.
Australia, for example is simply a daughter polity of mother England, and other influences have been distinctly secondary. India however was a vast and ancient and influential civilization unto itself, which has become enmeshed with the Anglosphere, but it is not a daughter polity. Australia’s identity is Anglospheric, but India’ s encounter with the Anglosphere is an episode in its millenium-spanning history — a critical one, to be sure — but it is not a defining episode in the way that the English settlement of North America was for the USA or Anglo-Canada. India’s identity is Indian, with Anglospheric influences.
None of this in any way denigrates India. The Indians I know are well aware (1) that being conquered by England had some positive effects, but (2) that India is it’s own country with its own life and that it was right and proper that it end colonialism and be independent and assert its own identity. One of the most heartening developments I am seeing is that the Indians have the cultural confidence to be forthright about maintaining things they inherited or adopting things they have learned from the British or the Americans, and applying them to their own country without having any inferiority complexes about it. These influences, far from being “cultural imperialism”, are means for India to best achieve its potential. And, of course, the Indian cultural influence on the Anglosphere is large and growing. The future will, I suspect, and hope, see a more Indian-influenced Anglosphere, and vice-versa.
I will note here that the literary source for the word Anglosphere is Neil Stephenson’s brilliant novel The Diamond Age, or a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. In that book, after the collapse of our current civilization, the major “phyles” that emerge are Han, Nippon, Atlantis and Hind. These are, pretty much, China, Japan, the Anglosphere and India. That seems about right. The rest (Europe, Russia, the Islamic world) don’t matter (Turkey or Iran may surprise me), or are in the process of fading away. (Brazil may matter. Let’s see what happens.)
India is its own world. It is its own civilization, and it has a very important “Special Relationship” with the Anglosphere. China is also a world unto itself, whose elite speak English, and it needs to cultivate relationships with the rest of the world to smooth the friction of its current rise. Unfortunately, at the moment, the Chinese are having some trouble with that, as Walter Russell Mead eloquently observes.