“Government by Discussion” Prabhat Patnaik

Professor Amartya Sen in his new book Collective Choice and Social Welfare which is a considerably expanded and updated version of his 1970 book with the same title, emphasizes that democracy must be understood as “government by discussion”. The idea of democracy being “government by discussion” really belongs to John Stuart Mill, though this particular phrase was coined by Walter Bagehot. The appeal of the idea lies in the fact that if government decisions are taken after public deliberations, then their opaqueness disappears; associated with it is a narrowing of the gap between those who “govern” and those who are…

Differing Concepts of Populism Prabhat Patnaik

The same term is often employed by different people with different meanings, and this can be a source of immense confusion. The World Bank has done this to good effect in the past, taking over terms that are being used in a particular sense, especially by the Left, and using them in a very different sense, in order to create deliberate confusion and exploit in some way the sympathetic feeling that the term had attracted from people in its initial usage. “Structural adjustment” is a prime example of such appropriation by the World Bank. In its initial usage it had…

Brexit, the City, and the Crisis of Conservatism Alan Freeman & Radhika Desai

In this report, the authors argue that, underneath the surface of liberal dismay and right wing triumphalism which characterizes much commentary on Brexit, two sets of developments- the electoral crisis of the Conservative Party and the British financial sector are critical to understanding the British vote on leaving the European Union. Brexit_the_City (Download the full text in PDF format) (The article was originally published in the Valdai Discussion Club)

Trump’s Protectionist Charade C. P. Chandrasekhar

As January 20th, the day Donald Trump assumes his Presidency nears, the fear that he would turn US trade policy in a protectionist direction appears to increase. Protection against import competition and an attack on global relocation and outsourcing by American firms that are seen as destroying jobs in the US and immigration that is viewed as depriving the American working class of available livelihoods were central elements of the populist rhetoric that swung the white working class in Trump’s favour. Key items in Trump’s election campaign promise list were policies to recapture American jobs by clamping down on the…

The Pursuit of Unreason Prabhat Patnaik

A distinguished Ugandan social scientist of Indian origin, whom I happened to meet earlier this month at an academic conference, told me that Modi’s demonetization reminded him of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s fiat in 1972 that all Asians should quit Uganda within a period of three months. His analogy of course would be considered inapposite for an obvious reason: expelling people from their places of domicile, as Amin did, is certainly a more inhumane act than snatching away people’s purchasing power as has happened in India; and this remains true, even when the victims in the former case are…

Globalization and the Impasse of Capitalism Prabhat Patnaik

I feel greatly honoured that I have been asked to deliver the Harold Wolpe memorial lecture for the year 2016. Harold Wolpe was an outstanding thinker who combined political activism for the liberation of the South African people with deep insights into the economic basis of apartheid. I am indeed grateful for this opportunity to pay my tribute to this remarkable person who in my view constitutes a role model for anyone aspiring to be a social scientist. Since a good deal of Harold Wolpe’s theoretical work was concerned with the value of labour power, and hence by implication with…

Understanding the American Right Jayati Ghosh

A visit to the USA at the height of the Presidential election season, in a nation obsessed with polls that are just a few weeks away, creates simultaneous sensations of fascination, dismay and even horror. Even from a distance, the entire world has been watching this hugely significant election turn into an ever more sordid and distressing spectacle, with vitriolic lows in the campaign discussion that are perhaps unparalleled in any other election through time and across countries. The personal failings of both candidates are now only too well known, and are effectively blocking out all serious consideration of the…

Developing “Infrastructure” Prabhat Patnaik

The term “infrastructure” covers all sorts of things, from ports to roads to canals to bridges to building railway lines. Because it covers such a range of things, many of which appear to be useful, most people look upon “infrastructure” development as an indubitably desirable thing under all circumstances. Questions are scarcely asked about its worthwhileness when the government allocates larger resources for the “infrastructure” sector, or when it instructs public sector banks to give larger loans for “infrastructure” development. This way of looking at “infrastructure” however is grossly misleading. What is covered by the term “infrastructure” typically varies with…

Trump, Clinton, Obama and the TPP Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement between the US and eleven other Pacific Rim countries was under negotiation for the first seven years of the Obama presidency. For the first four years, Hilary Clinton was the Secretary of State, directly supervising the negotiations. Even after she quit her cabinet position to launch for her second presidential bid, she continued to tout it in superlative terms. Yet, by early 2016, most presidential aspirants, including Mrs. Clinton, had disowned the TPP. No new information about the TPP had come to light to prompt this volte face. Nor had the then new Secretary of…

The TPP and U.S.Politics Prabhat Patnaik

A peculiar charade is being played out during the current U.S. election campaign. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is an economic agreement between the U.S. and several Asian countries has been under negotiation for almost eight years now. For four of these eight years Hilary Clinton was the Secretary of State and hence directly supervising these negotiations; and even after she quit that job she has remained a prominent figure around the Obama administration, even if not part of it. And yet both the presidential candidates, not just Donald Trump but even Hilary Clinton, have disowned the TPP during their…