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…

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.…