Susanne Hoeber Rudolph
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The Times of India Jan 02 2016
The passing of Professor Susanne Hoeber Rudolph on December 23 brought a rush of memories about my years as a student at the University of Chicago where I first met Susanne and her husband and sixty-year colleague, Lloyd. I had not yet decided what I would do with my life. I had in fact started down the road to medicine. At that time, I took a course with the Rudolphs that convinced me I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something relating to the political and social changes taking place in the world. That course was entitled “Subjugation, Domination and Equality“ and it aroused both my intellectual interest in how the colonised and subjugated sought dignity and equality in the face of efforts to dominate them and it also aroused my hope of doing something positive with my life. Susanne Rudolph was my dissertation adviser at the University of Chicago and a mentor who pointed me in the direction of a career that proved to be satisfying. She was a brilliant analyst of politics and society and of course a brilliant analyst of India which gave her the inspiration for the many books she wrote with her husband.The government of India in 2014 awarded them the Padma Bhushan, the highest honour the state of India can give for contribution to the advancement of knowledge.
Perhaps no book influenced me more their first book and a classic read to this day, `The Modernity of Tradition: Political Development in India'. They argued that many of India's traditional institutions could and did adapt in ways that were “modern“ (i.e. produce change). A modernising India would not necessarily become an Asian version of Europe or the United States, as so many development scholars in the United States and Europe then argued and some still do. They pointed out that the old and often criticised institution of caste (jati), for example, had potential to perform the function of lobby groups pushing for their own interests.Traditional groups like the Marwaris emerged from the villages of Rajasthan in the 19th century and practiced a kind of entrepreneurship (a major vehicle of change) that would have been the envy of the hard-driving Protestant business families of northern Europe in the 16th century who triggered dramatic changes in their own countries. The Rudolph analysis has stood the test of time in part it incorporates many disciplines such as sociology, political science and political psychology. Not as well known about Susanne was her interest in the conduct of American foreign policy toward India. She has several works in this area, most prominently `Making US Foreign Policy Toward India' in which she and several other contributors to that volume are critical of the lack of US focus on India and its potential in the Asian balance of power.
The 1960s were a great time to be a graduate student interested in India and at the University of Chicago. The Rudolphs belonged to that first set of post-World War II American scholars analysing the newly independent India and wrote about it with the passion of explorers discovering something new and wonderful. What made it especially interesting for them and others was that this was a country whose political leadership was committed to democracy and equity as they addressed India's enormous developmental problems.The British had left India with a population that was largely poor, largely illiterate and a country industrially very undeveloped.Other newly independent countries were succumbing to various forms of dictatorship. At that time, there were great developmental scholars like Gunnar Myrdal who suggested that an authoritarian system was more likely than democracy to lead the newly independent states like India to real economic growth. The Rudolphs and their colleagues who were laying the groundwork for the study of India in the United States tended to be liberal and disagreed.Their numbers were small but their contribution to our understanding of India was enormous. They included scholars like Myron Wiener, Bernard Cohen, A K Ramanujan, Edward Dimock, Michael Mandelbaum and Milton Singer.A high percentage of them were at the University of Chicago and I am so lucky to have been there at that time.
The author is the director, South Asian Studies Program, School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC