ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Prejudice: Primordial to Modern

A History of Prejudice: Race, Caste, and Difference in India and the United States by Gyanendra Pandey, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013; pp 244, Rs 595.

It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom.

—Albert Einstein

Prejudice may be charitably understood as a prejudgment or a pre-conceived idea and is usually negative. In his book the Conservative Mind, the American political theorist Russell Kirk explains prejudice asthe answer with which intuition and ancestral consensus of opinion supply a man when he lacks either time or knowledge to arrive at a decision predicated upon pure reason.” Or, nervously, it can be viewed as a manifestation of a very innate instinct in humans, one which directs us to differentiate ourselves from others and assert our uniqueness and yet at the same time desire reconciliation and commonality with others. The former makes prejudice a primarily cognitive phenomenon, the product of learning and socialisation practices or based on the pure over-generalisation of conditioned attitudes and beliefs, whereas the latter makes it natural and something integral to human existence.

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