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…

Trump’s Protectionism Prabhat Patnaik

On March 8 Donald Trump made an announcement which according to many has the potential of starting a global trade war. He announced that the U.S. would be raising tariffs on imported steel by 25 percent and tariffs on imported aluminium by 10 percent. Now, the WTO allows tariffs under certain circumstances, against for instance some country that is “unfairly” subsidizing its exports, or is dumping its goods, which means charging higher prices on the domestic market for the same goods that are sold cheap in the export market. It also allows tariffs under a “safeguard” clause whereby a country…

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.…

A Dangerous Period Prabhat Patnaik

For over half a century after the second world war, fascism had ceased to be a serious political force anywhere. There were no doubt many authoritarian, even murderous, regimes, and military dictatorships, especially in the third world, often installed through CIA-backed coups against progressive nationalist governments, and enjoying the tacit support of the U.S. But these must be distinguished from fascist regimes, which rely on mass political mobilization by arousing hatred against some hapless minority. For people of my generation, and several succeeding ones, the main contest appeared to be between liberalism and socialism. There were I believe, two major…

The Problem with the Indian Left Prabhat Patnaik

The current problem with the Indian Left, and in this term I include all sections of the Left, from the so-called “parliamentary Left” to the so-called “revolutionary Left”, is in my view, its lack of appreciation of the dialectics between “reform” and “revolution”. There have been many critiques of the Indian Left, but none to my knowledge has made this point; and their not making this point is perhaps indicative of the fact that the critics themselves suffer as much from this lack of appreciation of the dialectics between “reform” and “revolution” as the Left that they are critiquing. Before…

The Obscenity of Hunger Deaths Jayati Ghosh

There is no doubt that human life is cheap in India, perhaps more so now than ever before. The attacks, atrocities and killings of people from minorities and marginalised groups that have now become so common are particularly appalling because they reflect a culture of impunity. Indeed, the lack of punishment does more than embolden the perpetrators and those who would imitate them: it also points to a deadening of sensibilities not just among those in power but in society as a whole. The murder of innocents is no longer even a cause for much outrage; the horrifying proliferation of…

Palestine or How the Market fails without a State Heiner Flassbeck

Palestine is economically extremely dependent on Israel. Reducing this dependency must be the ultimate goal of the political effort to implement a two-state solution. However, in order for the Palestinian government to use its political power for the good, it is essential to understand the proper role of the state in the development process. Last week, I spent four days in Palestine. I was invited by the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) to deliver the ninth annual development lecture in memory of a pioneer of Palestinian political economy, Prof. Yusif Sayigh. The series aims at prompting a critical, heterodox…