A brief introduction to value neutrality and its relevance in life

It is the early spring of 1913 in Madras presidency, bringing the best of weather in Madras. But a relentless young clerk was balancing his passion for mathematics and his responsibility as a clerk. Motivated by his gurus, he sends his first letter enclosing about 120 theorems to eminent professors in universities of London. Some saw potential, some didn’t, but every one of them sent the letters back. And why wouldn’t they? After all, the person had no educational background in Mathematics, rather he had failed his intermediate exams. Moreover, an Indian! Now we all know who that man turned out to be once Prof.Hardy came his way- The man who knew infinity : S. Ramanujan

Umpteen such examples can be found where our prejudice about something prevented us from discovering the reality. This phenomenon is Value Judgement. It paints your lens with the color of your presuppositions, values, emotions already know and lets you see the world as a “free” man.

Problems start when this color impedes you from seeing a complete truth, to collect all the facts and weigh them objectively and then make an opinion without prejudice.

This makes a person empathize with those standing in his spectrum while despising others or their opinion. Though it might appear as uniting people, especially those who are vulnerable, but it only breaks the ice into smaller chunks further dividing them,and as Marx said, it still remains a “class-in-itself”. This is evident when Reservations in India to some are imperative to right the wrongs historically inflicted upon the downtrodden, while to some it’s only burdening the present generation with crimes they did not commit and making the society even more divided than harmonized. This micro-analysis would form part of a different discussion.

To present the nemesis of value judgment, let me take up value neutrality, the essence of which is the capability to keep your subjective sense - your values, emotions away from what you try to study / opine upon.

Now it might appear to be the panacea of value judgment, an easy path, but it is very difficult to ever achieve. Sociologists like Max Weber, Gunner Myrdal have themselves encountered this problem and concluded that subjectivity creeps in at various stages of work as the man is a social being and his subjectivity cannot be taken away and solutions must be built likewise.

Thus, when reporting/analyzing an issue of public importance, it is imperative that we try, otherwise, the output is an MGNREGS, which for some colors is an achievement of Indian democracy- giving people the right to work/earn, but others view it critically as a programme without any capability building that cripples the demographic dividend hindering economic growth.

Another example is the obligation on sugar mills to buy cane at prescribed prices irrespective of the market condition, leading up to the death of many sugar mills in UP and Maharashtra.

In a recent case, one might be ecstatic that dynamic pricing was banned if she is solely a customer at heart, or might be angry as an entrepreneur that free market dynamics are being trampled crippling the Ease of Doing business in Delhi.

Another very common example would be our media - both electronic and print is not effectively the fourth pillar of democracy essentially for this reason as they opine within a cultural / ideological framework.

Very few objectively pursue journalism, to present arguments from both sides and then build up a solution. Here we can commend papers like Business Standard and Indian Express (to some extent) to achieve the value-neutral journalism.

Every nook and corner of your life will present you with situations to wear a color and view things or shed them or wear all. You choose well mate! You choose well!

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