Radhakamal Mukherjee’s Biography and Contributions

Radhakamal Mukherjee along with his colleagues D.P. Mukherji and G.S. Ghurye are considered the pioneers of in sociology of India. Radhakamal Mukherjee’s contribution made Lucknow one of the leading centers of social science studies.

Radhakamal Mukherjee was greatly influenced by the works of Comte, Herbert Spencer, Lester Ward, Bagehot, Hobhouse, and Giddings. His encounter of the poor masses of the slum during the Swadeshi Movement developed a keen interest in understanding the social life in him. He started Adult evening Schools, taught poor students, wrote various economic texts and even some monthly magazines like ‘Upasana’. Accused of being a terrorist by the British, he was arrested and all his Adult Schools were liquidated in 1915. After his release, he started teaching first in Calcutta University and later in Lucknow University for nearly 30 years. He also served as an Economic Advisor, Director of the J.K. Institute of Sociology and Human Relations of the Lucknow University and served as a member of various committees appointed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Union Government.

Mukherjee’s through a universalistic vision of sociology believed the development of a general theory of sociology can be based on social action theory. With a stronghold in economic knowledge, he began his research in economic sociology and human ecology through empirical field investigations and bibliographical research. In view of the great depression during the late 1920s, Mukherjee initiated some micro-level inquiries into the deteriorating agrarian conditions of the peasantry, although it was neglected until the 1960s. His interest in this field increased even more after he received training in social anthropology and he started studying issues like inter-caste tensions, urbanization as well. He was also engaged in philosophical anthropology. Numerous books on varying issues ranging from Indian culture and civilization, societal theories, economic and social behavior, communities, etc are penned by him.

Writing about Indian culture and civilization, he explores its art, architecture, history and culture and the way they bring about collective developments and harmony. The way Indian religions and ethnicities reflect tolerance of diversities is highly appreciated by him. Through this peaceful agency of religion and its emphasis on the ultimate truth, Indian influences spread beyond its geographic limits. In his attempt to develop a general theory of society, he proposed to merge physical or natural sciences and sciences relating to man’s social and psychological aspects and avoid the compartmentalization of other social science disciplines. Human civilization, as per his proposal should be studied at three interrelated levels: ‘biological evolution’ which facilitates the rise and development of human beings; ‘universalisation’, the ability of human beings to identify oneself with the larger collectivity like the nation or the entire universe; and ‘spiritual dimension’ such that human beings are ascending through the transcendental ladder by overcoming their physical and material limitations. Mukherjee through his Institutional Theory of Economics shows how economic exchange in a country like India has been influenced by traditional networks such that most of the transactions take place within the framework of caste or tribe. The market model that works through competition has only a limited relevance here. In contrast, noncompetition and lower levels of self-interest highlights how economic activities mostly strive for the well being of the entire community.  In addition, religious and ethical constraints direct economic activities compelling the people to act collectively.

In his book Personality, Radhakamal views individual personality as an agent acting and making choices in terms of values relating to self, the other and the cosmos. However, the human personality has the quality to transcend itself and these influences, thus defining personality as transcendence. For him, society is the sum of the structures and functions through which man orients himself to the environment’s three dimensions; ecological, psychosocial and moral, thus fulfilling the basic requirements of sustenance status and value fulfillment.  Mukherjee also talks about values which are socially approved desires, internalized through socialization and conditioning. The common goals and values between men help in establishing social relationships seen within groups. Similarly, institutions are bestowed with organized formal social relationships. However, institutions are more enduring than groups. Within these institutions, individuals gain different positions based on their capacities and achievements.

Next, Mukherjee explains how western notions of social science advocated metaphysical individualism by isolating man and his desires from his group and institutional situation. Through the atomism and rationalism, the vast sector of sharable human values, are replaced by competitive and partial principles creating an artificial division between empirical sociology and ethics or metaphysics. This western notion is supported by three assumptions: (a) values integrate man’s basic impulses and collective living modifies their selfish desires, (b) individual and social responses and attitudes make up values which are shared by all through symbolization, and (c) some universal values persist despite the presence of numerous diverse values. These values can be seen in four levels of social integration (1) in the crowd, value can be expressed spontaneously against individuals and institutions, (2) elemental values are shown in economic interest groups that are susceptible to uncongenial conflict and vengeance, (c) in societies, with values of equity and justice find manifestation, and (d) values in general, like spontaneous love, and social cooperativeness.

While values integrate man, Mukherjee brings in the concept of disvalues as well which occur due to individual shortcomings and needs to be treated through social adaptability of persons and groups. According to him, human person, values and community are all unities and transcendence which widens the possibility of human evolution. However, the meaning of community in evolution varies based on the different dimensions; biological, psychological, moral, philosophical and metaphysical. A man’s history in the contemporary world strengthens his evolution through communication and communion, extending his cosmos, making it more relevant to his meanings, values, and possibilities.

Mukherjee foresees an approach to improve the problems of the working class brought about by industrialization. Although there have been government measures to resolve these issues of the unorganized labor living in the urban slum, many problems like consumption of liquor, drugs, and crimes still need to be checked. Mukherjee’s analysis of the working class in this sense is therefore even for the present industrial organization in India.

Members in society, he believes should live together with other members in the society along with nature or ecology for harmonious development. He thus contributed to the studies of social ecology and explained that it is the study of all aspects of reciprocal relations between man and his environment. Mukherjee contended that environmental relations among individuals are to a great extent comparable with those among lower life forms. Be that as it may, if there arises an occurrence of people, social standards have a significant job. Human nature features this reality. There is an unmistakable connection between the environment and society. The advancement of biological zones is the result of a dynamic procedure that is the test of the earth and the reaction of the general population who build up a settlement. Mukherjee’s thoughts regarding social nature supported local improvement. He represented harmony between financial development and natural wellness. Thoughtless urbanization was additionally regretted by Mukherjee. From the natural perspective, he maintained that urban improvement to the detriment of the field ought to be held under wraps. Mechanical progress, as a result of its thoughtless misuse of common assets, discovers its “security undermined because of the fatigue of coal and oil” and the reducing supply of minerals and nutrients, which can’t be artificially manufac­tured. The significance of environmental qualities can scarcely be overemphasized even in modern culture.

It might be seen from the above investigation that Radhakamal Mukherjee proposed, consequently, a transdisciplinary way to deal with social research when some social researchers in India were thinking about the requirement for interdisciplinary research and spearheaded three ways to deal with sociology which mean considering financial matters as a specialization, introducing the ‘institutional methodology’ and remembering the normal acknowledgment of the term ‘sociologies’ containing different ‘disciplines’.

Mukherjee was not a Marxist, yet he plainly imagined financial aspects as managing the relationship among people concerning the misuse of common assets and the ensuing generation and allotment of material merchandise and enterprises. In his voluminous writing in this unique circumstance, Mukherjee inspected the nexus of human connections in the totality of life and living. This perspective was not satisfactory to the contemporaneous mandarins in the ‘financial’ science; nor was Mukherjee worthy to the contemporaneous mandarins of human science or some other sociology ‘discipline’. Hence, Mukherjee turned into a bratya, a negligible man in the domain of sociology. Be that as it may, Mukherjee’s observational examinations on different parts of life conditions were increasingly more refreshing individually merit; yet his promotion of ‘institutional arranging’ was not all that promptly acknowledged. In his last years, Mukherjee proposed the requirement for a combination of ‘exact’ and ‘regulating’ humanism. His weight on the significance of benefits of comprehension and toleration, moral duty of the person to the network and human obligation regarding securing biology would be viewed as significant by the understudies of human science, even today.

Sabnam, pursuing Sociology from Miranda House, Delhi University hails from the land of red River, Assam. She is a pure non-realist, because, as she puts it, "reality hurts and pain is not what I endure but what I pour into paper!".