Human being is a social animal dwelling and growing up in social networks. These networks provide different narratives, leading to the development of various norms, values and, ultimately, several identities and patterns of behaviour. Self identities and shared identities determine the level of tolerance and cooperation within the group. For example, if the state decides to tax you and you are not inclined to comply, you don’t have shared identity with the people in power. Otherwise, you would be willing to pay a tax considering it as beneficial for the nation or for us. A word like ‘us’ assures unity and cooperation. It becomes easier for power to turn into authority and achieve compliance with lesser coercion in such situations.

Photo Courtesy : Pixabay

Cause of Corruption:

If the person in power is corrupt or incapable; the tax official would feel that the person in power cannot utilize the tax money for welfare and thus his family and the nation would remain deprived. This causes the tax official not to pass the tax collected to the power above him. He would instead siphon it and pass this benefit to himself and his family (a social network / group). Effective, efficient, capable and incorrupt power is must for every nation. This applies throughout all groups you belong to and restricted not just to money, but also ideas and knowledge.


Identity and power must go hand in hand. Nationalist and protectionist forces had summed up around the world due to this mismatch paving a threat to globalization. There are live examples of the European Union (EU) and Scotland. The EU had control over all the member states, i.e. they had supranational power. But people now wanted the power to be decentralized at the national level. The United Kingdom (UK) decided to leave the EU (“Brexit”) and Italy might be the next one to leave. Every member state is culturally different from each other. Despite being one of the oldest supranational institutions, it failed to align their identities with the power. Similarly, Scotland also wanted to move out of the UK now.



The Tanzania – Kenya Case:

Tanzania and Kenya were free from the British Rule around the same time. Both neighbours were culturally and ethnically diverse. After independence, President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere published development blueprint titled the Arusha Declaration. He used Ujamaa (a Swahili word meaning ‘extended family’) as the basis of his development agenda. It involved one-party political system with rotating leaders of different sects, abolishing social discrimination, self-reliance, compulsory education and the creation of Tanzanian rather than tribal identity through use of the Swahili language. He tried very hard and was successful in spreading the message of brotherhood and unity amongst different tribes. He was successful in social development but not in economic growth. On the other hand, the story of Kenya is completely opposite. After independence, Kenyan government focused on economic development through polarization. Kenya is ahead of Tanzania on the economic front, but not socially. Kenya’s politics and society are still ruined due to the shibboleths of tribal identities which was the main reason for the 2007-08 Kenyan ethnic crisis.


Complex Case of India (As Always):

The Indian subcontinent was ruled by various princely states and nation concept did not prevail then. Thus power and identity were at sub-national level. The British invaded India and established systems, developed cities, provided educational facilities and organized various territories as one. Indians revolted several times for freedom, but these fights were led by smaller groups and thus had a little impact overall. Slowly, the agitations raged and every Indian was united in freedom struggle throughout the 20th century. The congruence of national identities and national power within freedom fighters was the main reason for independence in 1947.


India has 1,652 languages, 29 states and 7 union territories, abode of at least 8 major religions, about 3,000 castes, over 25,000 sub-castes, 7 national, 58 regional and 1,786 other registered political parties. A country with more than a billion population and stratified across various attributes is indeed difficult to manage. (An important reason for the success of British’s Divide and Rule policy). India’s politicians resorted to identity politics to please regional and religious sentiments. It gathered momentum and proliferated throughout the nation leading to fragmentation, polarization and populism. Today, Indian voters demand economic growth and quality of life. It is the time that political leaders realize the importance of unity and the need to align the above matrix on the right path to be in vogue and to save the country’s sovereignty.


Numerous scholars in psychology, sociology, political science, anthropology, and history have adopted identity as a central concept for many theories. George A. Akerlof and Rachel E. Kranton considered applying it to economics and gave birth to the modern economic concept of ‘Identity Economics’.


Moving along the matrix is must to get the desired outcome and ensure shared identities and power. But there is no right or wrong direction in this shift. Co-operative Banks, Regional Rural Banks, Export-Import (EXIM) Bank and sector specific financial institutions are at subnational level, which catered the needs of specific businesses or people while other commercial banks are at national level. But every financial institution is necessary and has played an important role in financial inclusion and economic development. Similarly, we can find a number of sector specific or social group specific laws around the world which have played important role in their fields. Policy makers funambulate to get the correct recipe on it.

We have discussed many examples regarding every position in the matrix. You may replace ‘national’ parameters with whatever you like to assess; where your company’s or social group’s matrix lies, are you lost in it or where you intend it to grow. The answer for ‘Where to go?’ depends on the judgement and knowledge of history, psychology and economics. All the best in your efforts!

– Swapnil Karkare

Idea Credits: Prof. Paul Collier, Oxford University, edX Course (2017)

Photo Courtesy: https://pixabay.com/en/identity-mask-disguise-mindset-510866/


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