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…

The Importance of Dissatisfaction Prabhat Patnaik

In a slave society, one can argue, the interest of the slaves lies in keeping the slave-owner happy, for otherwise he is likely to flog and whip them mercilessly which would cause them great agony. Likewise in a caste society, one can argue, the interest of the dalit lies in being as inconspicuous as possible, in not “polluting” the upper castes through his presence, for otherwise he is likely to be beaten and lynched. Such behavior however appears “rational” only if we adopt exclusively a perspective that accepts the system that sees no possible existence outside of it. The same…

The UGC Directive on Autonomous Colleges Prabhat Patnaik

Higher education in India is facing a twin danger today. One is its commoditization, by which is meant not just the fact that higher education itself is becoming a commodity but also that the products of higher education, i.e. those in whom higher education is “embodied”, are also becoming commodities, in the sense of simply having their worth assessed both by themselves and by others in terms equivalence to a certain sum of money, the amount that they can command on the market. Commoditization makes the products of higher education self-centred individuals without any social sensitivity, and prepares them only…

The Tripura Election Verdict Prabhat Patnaik

Two clear conclusions emerge from the Tripura election verdict. First, it is exceedingly difficult for an opposition party that has an incumbent government in any state to withstand the onslaught of the BJP. This party brings to the electoral arena the might of its Central government to buttress its own well-financed electoral effort. True, the Manik Sarkar government had been crippled in its last term in office by a financial squeeze which had doubtless affected its performance, but this squeeze itself had been the result as much of the recommendations of successive Finance Commissions that had been grossly unfair to…

The Destruction of a University Jayati Ghosh

For more than two years now, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi has been in a state of turmoil. There is reason to conclude that this turmoil is no accident: it is the result of a set of decisions imposed from above that appear to be aimed at undermining the fundamental nature of this university and all that it has stood for. The fact that these decisions and actions are being adopted by those supposedly in charge of protecting and nurturing this institution - the Vice Chancellor since January 2016 and the administration that he has appointed - is particularly alarming.…

The Financialization of Everything Servaas Storm

The following article forms the Introduction to a set of 10 articles which assess the logic and consequences of ‘financialization’ across a range of geographic, economic and social scales — deep down, at the level of ‘ideas’, and also by providing ‘knock-out evidence’ on the social inefficiency of a capitalism ‘without compulsions’ for finance. The authors in the Debate expose how establishment economics has been hiding its reactionary political agenda behind the pretence of scientific neutrality. The financial emperor wears no clothes. Full Article (This article was originally posted at Wiley Online Library on January 24, 2018.)

The Politics of being a Dalit Woman Jayati Ghosh

In the political landscape of contemporary India, it is only too easy to find more reasons for depression than optimism. The rise of a nastier, more aggressive, communally charged and openly patriarchal political discourse is evident all around us. Oftentimes, it feels like the poet W.B. Yeats’ apocalyptic description is coming true: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity.” Perhaps more than at any previous time in Independent India’s history, we are faced with existential threats to our most important institutions, and challenges even to the very notions of democracy and secularism that…

Arun Jaitley on Electoral Bonds Prabhat Patnaik

Arun Jaitley had outlined a scheme of electoral bonds in his budget speech on February 2, 2017. Now, exactly 11 months later, the notification of the scheme and some details of it have finally been announced in a Press Information Bureau release on January 2, 2018. Along with this release Jaitley himself has also written an explanation-cum-defence of the scheme, from which it is clear that the scheme, far from countering the threat to democracy arising from large-scale corporate funding of elections, does not even address this issue. On the contrary, its implementation will have the very opposite effect of…