The Invisible Class Prabhat Patnaik

G.K.Chesterton has a well-known detective story involving Father Brown called “The Invisible Man”, where “invisibility” is supposed to characterize the postman: one is so used to seeing the postman come and go that one scarcely ever notices him. “Invisibility” in Chesterton’s sense however can get attached not just to an individual but to a whole class; and in our country, the peasantry undoubtedly is the “invisible class”. The peasantry has been called many things by many people, from “a sack of potatoes” to “an awkward class”. But it is above all an “invisible class” whose presence, and providing of essentials…

Who Says Labor Laws Are “Luxuries”? Servaas Storm and Jeronim Capaldo

A Standard recommendation given to late-industrializing economies by the economic advisors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has been to refrain from imposing regulations on the labor market, or if such regulations are already in place, to abolish them. If you are a policymaker in a late-industrializing country, chances are you’ve been told that your problem, what is really holding your economy back, is excessive labor regulation – it is making your exports uncompetitive and chasing away capital. Laws “created to help workers often hurt them,” stated the 2008 World Bank’s Doing Business Report. To avoid any…

The Push for Privatizing Banks Prabhat Patnaik

From the very beginning there has always been a demand for undoing bank nationalization in India. This demand naturally gathered momentum with the adoption of neo-liberal policies. It was completely unacceptable to international finance capital that the bulk of the banking sector in a country like India should remain under public ownership. Accordingly, “friends” of the Wall Street working in the U.S. administration like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers would visit India and demand of our government that, even if it could not privatize the entire banking sector, at least it should send a “signal” by privatizing the State Bank…

The Misplaced Growth Discourse C. P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh

With the GDP estimates for the fourth quarter of 2017-18 placing growth relative to the corresponding quarter of the previous year at 7.7 per cent, talk of India being the world’s fastest growing economy has revived. Moreover, since the year-on-year quarterly growth rates have risen from 5.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2017-18 to 6.3, 7.0 and 7.7 per cent in the subsequent three-quarters, there is talk that India is once more on a trajectory of accelerating growth (Chart 1). However, the story emerging from the provisional annual figures (which are also now available) is at variance with…

The Modi Government’s “Achievement” Prabhat Patnaik

The Modi government is celebrating four years in office with great fanfare. The fact that these four years have unleashed an unparallelled process of social and political retrogression in the country is well-known and need not detain us here. Our purpose here is to examine what these years have meant for the living standards of the bulk of the Indian people. Here however one immediately comes across a hurdle. For a very long time India had one of the finest statistical systems in the world, with a National Sample Survey collecting data from a large sample of households, larger than…

The So-called “Consumers’ Interest” Prabhat Patnaik

In the wake of the take-over of Flipkart by Walmart, one is once again hearing an argument which one has often come across before, namely that having a large multinational in this sphere, which can do global sourcing for its products, will make goods cheaper for buyers and therefore be in the “consumers’ interests”. This argument is so old that it even goes back to the colonial times, when it was argued by many that imports from Britain, which had caused domestic deindustrialization by outcompeting the local craftsmen, had cheapened goods for the consumers and were therefore in the “consumers’…

May Day 2018: A Rising Tide of Worker Militancy and Creative Uses of Marx C. J. Polychroniou (A Truthout Interview with Prof. Jayati Ghosh)

International Workers' Day grew out of 19th century working-class struggles in the United States for better working conditions and the establishment of an eight-hour workday. May 1 was chosen by the international labor movement as the day to commemorate the Haymarket massacre in May 1886. Ever since, May 1 has been a day of working-class marches and demonstrations throughout the world, although state apparatuses in the United States do their best to erase the day from public awareness. In the interview below, one of the world's leading radical economists, Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Jayati Ghosh, who is also an activist…

A Tale of Two Discourses Prabhat Patnaik

The Hindutva bubble has clearly burst. Not that efforts will not be made to form another bubble before the 2019 elections, but the one that had formed in the run-up to the 2014 elections and had carried the BJP to power is over. In the last few days, there have been mass demonstrations by peasants, traders, doctors, teachers, students and even school children. What is striking about these demonstrations is not just that the fear that had gripped people in the recent years is over and that they are willing to take to the streets to express their anger, but…

Commoditization and The Public Sphere Prabhat Patnaik

Central to liberalism is a distinction between two spheres, the sphere of the market (or more generally of the economy) where individuals and firms interact to exchange their wares; and the sphere of public discourse where individuals interact as citizens of a polity to debate and determine the actions of the State. The importance that liberals attach to this second sphere was underscored by Walter Bagehot, the nineteenth century British essayist of liberal persuasion, who had lauded democracy as “government by discussion”. He had thereby emphasized two basic liberal political tenets, namely the role of public discourse and need for…

State or Market? : India’s telecom wars C.P. Chandrasekhar

As the shakeout in the Indian mobile telephony market continues, price wars are being complemented by verbal wars. The most recent spat involves the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India as well. Its latest revised tariff order has been attacked by Airtel and Vodafone (and by the Cellular Operators Association of India, or COAI) for favouring Reliance Jio, the aggressive new entrant that is seeking to get ahead of the other two, in what is clearly becoming a three-horse race in the industry. The “split” within the COAI, with long-time members and a new entrant on opposite sides, is indicative of…