Renowned historian David Priestland talked with Pratap Bhanu Mehta about how the occupations of people have shaped history in the THiNK session ‘Game of Thrones: A History of 3 Castes that Have Ruled the World’. Priestland put into perspective the changing dynamics of the three castes – the military, merchants and the intelligentsia. He also spoke about the technological evolution and intellectual reactions to these three castes. Priestland who hails from Oxford, looks at history as a product of power and disbalance between the three castes.
Priestland spoke aboutÂ his book Merchant, Soldier and SageÂ where he proposed a radical framework for understanding our past and shed new light on the present, besides also giving some pointers for the future.Â He spoke about a parallel that he thinks can be drawn between the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Depression of 1929. PriestlandÂ states that, the latter happened because of the dominance of merchant views over the world. The decrease in employment elasticity we are seeing today, says Priestland,Â is not inevitable. It is because large amounts of profits are going to shareholders and CEOs, and not to the working class.
Priestland notes,Â “It is a certain type of capitalism, that emphasises trade and finance. The earlier form of capitalism in the 60s was ‘produce oriented’. The problem with the merchant perspective on capitalism is that merchants have been a positive force historically and they have opened up the world in terms of cosmopolitanism and communication, but their interest only lies in short term gains. They move on soon to the next region looking for new avenues to set up business, which is not good for long term development.”
The biggest danger in contemporary India according to Priestland is the lack of collaboration between the different castes. “Some of the most successful economies are ones where Brahmins and the merchants have collaborated with each other. This is something India needs to work on.”
Priestland also gave his perspective on how India needs new Davoses in Nagarkot, and not Swiss resorts – for only that would lead to a more collaborative world. One that is not so dominated by merchant values and banks, and where there is more partnership between the creative castes and the technocratic castes.
By Donna Mathew