A nation nurtured for over half a century on a rich diet of socialism is decidedly turning right. A new survey, conducted by Pew Research Center on its Global Attitudes Project, shows Indians embracing free-market capitalism and a strong work ethic at the expense of socially and culturally conservative mores.
In the two decades since the liberalization, Indians are worrying about their economic future. Not that they fear for the fundamentals of the Indian economy, but blame their current ills on the failure of the current government. ‘National contentment’ in India is at its lowest. But personal contentment is high because Indians continue to show strong savings and investment rates’.
The report, which flags deepening economic gloom in India, says, “Wary of the state, Indians are solidly committed to capitalism. About six-in-10 (61%) think most people are better off in a free-market economy, even though some are rich and some are poor.”
Indians treasure their traditional culture even as they embrace modernity and a version of the protestant work ethic. Most Indians want a small government, and want the freedom to get on with their lives without government interference. The survey says almost half (49%) have lustily thrown themselves into modernity, but an even greater number (52%) worry that they are losing their traditions and four in five persons (79%) want this culture to be preserved.
“About half (53%) believe that it is more important for Indian society that everyone be free to pursue their goals without government interference rather than the state playing an active role in guaranteeing that nobody is in need (25%).”
Interestingly, even among those that believe the national economy is not in great health, two-thirds say their personal finances are doing well, increasing their levels of personal contentment, higher than 14 of the 20 countries surveyed. This is an interesting take on the Indian economic scenario, where citizens are downbeat about the national coffers but certainly not of their own financial health.
The report says Indians have a more mixed attitude to their economy. “About 49% say the economy is in good shape, while 45% describe the economy as bad. A year ago opinion was more upbeat, with a 56%-majority saying the national economy was doing well, compared with 43% who disagreed. Despite this decline, Indians remain more positive about current economic conditions than populations in most of the 17 countries, with about 45% believing the economy will improve in another year. Nevertheless, Indians’ optimism about the country’s economy over the next year has declined 15 points since 2011, the largest falloff among 17 nations with comparable data.”