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CAT Previous Year Paper | CAT VARC Questions | Question 23

Here is an unorthodox reading comprehension question that appeared in the CAT previous year paper. You need to possess high reading skills to imbibe the thought flow of the passages. If you feel you lack the necessary skills, check out Bharath's Reading List and read one article every day. For more such interesting RC questions try out 2IIM CAT Question Bank and crunch your CAT preparation online.

British colonial policy . . . went through two policy phases, or at least there were two strategies between which its policies actually oscillated, sometimes to its great advantage. At first, the new colonial apparatus exercised caution, and occupied India by a mix of military power and subtle diplomacy, the high ground in the middle of the circle of circles. This, however, pushed them into contradictions. For, whatever their sense of the strangeness of the country and the thinness of colonial presence, the British colonial state represented the great conquering discourse of Enlightenment rationalism, entering India precisely at the moment of its greatest unchecked arrogance. As inheritors and representatives of this discourse, which carried everything before it, this colonial state could hardly adopt for long such a self-denying attitude. It had restructured everything in Europe—the productive system, the political regimes, the moral and cognitive orders—and would do the same in India, particularly as some empirically inclined theorists of that generation considered the colonies a massive laboratory of utilitarian or other theoretical experiments. Consequently, the colonial state could not settle simply for eminence at the cost of its marginality; it began to take initiatives to introduce the logic of modernity into Indian society. But this modernity did not enter a passive society. Sometimes, its initiatives were resisted by pre-existing structural forms. At times, there was a more direct form of collective resistance. Therefore the map of continuity and discontinuity that this state left behind at the time of independence was rather complex and has to be traced with care.

Most significantly, of course, initiatives for . . . modernity came to assume an external character. The acceptance of modernity came to be connected, ineradicably, with subjection. This again points to two different problems, one theoretical, the other political. Theoretically, because modernity was externally introduced, it is explanatorily unhelpful to apply the logical format of the ‘transition process’ to this pattern of change. Such a logical format would be wrong on two counts. First, however subtly, it would imply that what was proposed to be built was something like European capitalism. (And, in any case, historians have forcefully argued that what it was to replace was not like feudalism, with or without modificatory adjectives.) But, more fundamentally, the logical structure of endogenous change does not apply here. Here transformation agendas attack as an external force. This externality is not something that can be casually mentioned and forgotten. It is inscribed on every move, every object, every proposal, every legislative act, each line of causality. It comes to be marked on the epoch itself. This repetitive emphasis on externality should not be seen as a nationalist initiative that is so well rehearsed in Indian social science. . . .

Quite apart from the externality of the entire historical proposal of modernity, some of its contents were remarkable. . . . Economic reforms, or rather alterations . . . did not foreshadow the construction of a classical capitalist economy, with its necessary emphasis on extractive and transport sectors. What happened was the creation of a degenerate version of capitalism—what early dependency theorists called the ‘development of underdevelopment’.

Question 23 : Which one of the following 5-word sequences best captures the flow of the arguments in the passage?

  1. Military power—arrogance—laboratory—modernity—capitalism.
  2. Colonial policy—Enlightenment—external modernity—subjection—underdevelopment.
  3. Colonial policy—arrogant rationality—resistance—independence—development.
  4. Military power—colonialism—restructuring—feudalism—capitalism.

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Explanatory Answer

The passage can be summed up as follows. British colonial policy was guided by the idea of Enlightenment rationalism/ European modernity. Because they believed colonies could be used as laboratories, the British resolved they would do the same in India. However, this imposed modernity came to assume an external character. External modernity was associated with subjugation and met with stiff resistance. What the economic reforms resulted in was only a degenerate version of capitalism and underdevelopment.

Option 2 captures key ideas like ‘external modernity’ and ‘underdevelopment’ that none of the other options mention.

The question is "Which one of the following 5-word sequences best captures the flow of the arguments in the passage?"

Hence, the answer is Colonial policy—Enlightenment—external modernity—subjection—underdevelopment.

Choice B is the correct answer.


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