A New Social and Economic Model for 21st century

A relook at the Organizing principles of the society for a new World order based on enduring values of life.

The sudden collapse of the communist Governments of USSR and Eastern Europe and the near-collapse of the capitalist financial system  in the first decade of the 21st century –  both based on acquisitive instincts of human beings – have turned the attention of some of the leading intellectuals to take a relook at the organizing principles of societies in the 21st century.Bill Joy a leading scientist and business man,  said in an article “ why  the  future  doesn’t lead  us”  in the magazine, WIRED, where he called for alternative social goals, “ beyond the culture of perpetual economic growth” before it is too late.  George Sores, the billionaire hedge fund investor observes, “we have global markets but we do not have a global society. And we cannot build a global society without taking into account moral considerations “.  It is this context the book “ To UPHOLD THE WORLD : THE MESSAGE OF ASHOKA AND KAUTILYA FOR THE 21ST CENTURY  BY Bruce rich ( Penguin Books Pvt.Ltd, Pages.326, price Rs. 495/-) becomes essential reading for all people who are concerned with the future of the world both Asoka and Kautilya based their rule on Dharma – that which upholds both the individual and the society  – such as righteousness , truth, restraint, duty, ethics, nonviolence and reverence for life  –  which was the basic concept of Hindu civilization evolved over a millennia. He avers Dharma, literally, upholds the world.

Bruce Rich gives an account of the just society organized by Asoka on the basis of the state craft provided by kautilya since the time of Chandra Gupta Maurya. Asoka implemented the ideas of Dharma in his vast kingdom which became an ideal for many countries of Asia. Rich believes that these ideas and ideals can form the basis of a global society in the 21st century.


Rich refers to the concept of the axial age propounded by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers. He says that during the period between 800 and 200 B.C. there was a unique world wide transformation  in the major civilizations – China, India, Greece and the near East. It is the time of Confucius and Lao Tsu, the Upanishads and the Buddha, Jarathustra , the Hebrew Old Testament  prophets and the beginnings of Western philosophy ( Socrates, Plato and Aristotle).

Governance and politics became the subject of independent analysis – Kautilya in India and Aristotle in Greece. At the end of the period small cities and states were consolidated into large centralized empires in China, Greece (under Alexander) and in India (under Chandra Gupta Maurya). Jaspers observes that it was the coming of Age of Humanity. There was a yearning for a peaceful and tranquil world among the peoples of all these countries. In India Chandra Gupta Maurya and Asoka provided the basis for it.

The author says that a detailed analysis of the texts of the Asokan Rock edicts and columns reveal a remarkable system of Governance and social organization. Both Asoka and Kautilya established a harmonious society based on the concept of Dharma. It is a society where every section of society had sense of justice and fair play. RICCH observes, “societies, if they are to survive, need to recognize as an organizing principle and transcendent goal , something that goes beyond the short term calculations of real politick and economic advantage. For Asoka this something was Dharma”.


Kautilya is not only the world’s first economist, but also “The first great political Realist” according to Robert Boeshe, a professor of History of ideas at Occidental college of California. He has been compared with Thucydides, Sun Tsu and Machiavelle.  Kautilya’s vision of the Welfare of people is incomparable. He held that “In the happiness of the people lies the happiness of the king and in what is beneficial to the people is his own benefit. What is dear to himself is not beneficial to the king, but what is dear to the subjects is beneficial to the king”.

The Artha Sastra of Kautilya contains 14 books.  The first five books deal with domestic, economic, social and legal policies and the others discuss foreign policies. In the Artha Sastra the science of wealth Kautilya says that wealth is the basis of everything – kingdom, its Army, order in society and even Dharma. The book is also concerned with sustainable management of natural resources including plants and animals. Kautilya’s development agenda reminds the author the policies of the World Bank – rural development, Agriculture, land settlement, irrigation and infrastructure.

Kautilya identified corruption as the main threat to the state. He wrote that it is difficult to detect corrupt officials in the administration – it is like finding whether the fish drinks the water of the river. Therefore he said that an elaborate financial scrutiny and accountability for all officials. He also suggested that the King should collect taxes from people like a bee which collects honey without hurting the flowers.

The King according to Kautilya “ should maintain children, aged persons in distress  as also the woman who has borne no child. Woman have property rights within marriage and maintenance after divorce.  However, divorce has to be by mutual consent. Impartial judges consumer protection, occupational safety, labor law, finance, accounting and corruption and many other issues are explained in detail in Artha Sastra. There is punishment for killing animals and abusing disabled. Kautilya has elaborated on a welfare state in his book and later, built the welfare state during the reign of Chandra Gupta Maurya. In a chapter, WEALTH ABOVE ALL, the author has devoted 50 pages for Kautilya’s 50 pages.

Ashoka attempted to transform state crafted Governance from the Kautilyan emphasis on Danda (force) to persuasion on the premise that human nature is basically good.


Indian sages have envisaged the goals of man to the four fold – Dharma (rules of social and individual life), Artha ( means of sustaining life), karma (desires of life), and Moksha (liberation). These purusharthas meet not only the physical needs of the man but also the social and spiritual needs. The sages have taken a holistic view of life and every aspect of life has been taken into account. Ashoka gave more importance to persuasion. Chanakya was a realist, who gave importance to Danda (force) . Where as Ashoka was an idealist. Aright combination of both is ideal for a just society.  Reverence for life has been the theme of Hindu civilization and it finds God every where and in every thing and that reverence holds the key to peace and prosperity in the world.

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