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Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–1859).

Macaulayism refers to the policy of ostensibly eliminating indigenous culture through the planned substitution of the alien culture of a colonizing power via the education system. The term is derived from the name of British politician Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), an individual who was instrumental in the introduction of English as the medium of instruction for higher education in India.


Thomas Macaulay[edit]

Thomas Babington Macaulay was born in Leicestershire, England on 25 October 1800, the son of a former Colonial Governor of an African colony and anti-slavery activist.[1]

Elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom in 1830 as a member of the reformist Whig party, Macaulay was named in 1834 as an inaugural member of a governing Supreme Council of India.[1] Macaulay spent the next four years in India, where he devoted his efforts to the reform of the Indian criminal code and the establishment of an educational system based upon the British model, which involved introducing Indians to European ideas since the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.[1].

Macaulay held western culture in high esteem, and was dismissive of the existent Indian culture, which he perceived as stagnant and fallen well behind mainstream European scientific and philosophical thought. He saw his undertaking as a "civilizing mission": "We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population," Macaulay declared.[2]

"Macaulayism" and modern India[edit]

In the independent Republic of India which emerged in the second half of the 20th century, Hindu nationalists have blamed Macaulay for the ills of colonialism, and for ostensibly producing a subculture of Indians who are not proud of their distinct heritage.[3]

Speaking at a national seminar on "Decolonizing English Education" in 2001, Professor Kapil Kapoor of Jawaharlal Nehru University claimed that one of the byproducts of mainstream English language education in India today has been its tendency to "marginalize inherited learning" and to have uprooted academics from traditional Indian modes of thought, inducing in them "a spirit of self-denigration (heenabhavna)."[4] Rajiv Malhotra has bemoaned the "continuation of the policy on Indian education started by the famous Lord Macaulay over 150 years ago" for the virtual banishment of classic Indian literature from the country's higher academic institutions and the emergence of a "new breed" of writers professing a "uniquely Indian Eurocentrism."[5]

Many Hindu nationalists claim that Macaulayism is a mechanism of British neocolonial control in India. Britain, however, has long since ceased to play a significant role in India's economy, and Indian-originated multinational conglomerates such as ArcelorMittal and the Tata Group now own many formerly British corporations. [6]

Similar terms in other parts of Asia[edit]

While not directly related to "Macaulayism", similar derogatory terms in other parts of Asia revolve around the adoption of Western cultural habits and/or idolization of Caucasians. Pinkerton syndrome in Singapore, Kalu Sudda in Sri Lanka[7] and "崇洋媚外" in China[8] are some examples. Reports and incidences of such behaviour and attitudes are also found in Thailand, Malaysia,[9] Hong Kong,[10] Philippines,[11] Japan and South Korea.[12]

See also[edit]