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…

Agricultural Tenancy in Contemporary India Vaishali Bansal, Yoshifumi Usami and Vikas Rawal

The problem of tenancy -- informal, insecure, exploitative, and often unfree and interlocked contracts for leasing land that have been both growth-retarding and unjust -- has been central to the agrarian question in India. Along with an uneven and distorted penetration of capitalist relations in the Indian countryside, there have been significant changes in the extent of use of tenancy, in the class configuration of tenants and lessors, and in the form of tenancy contracts over the last few decades. With the state unwilling to effectively implement land reforms in most parts of India, tenancy relations have continued to be…

Capitalism, Poverty and Praxis Prabhat Patnaik

Capitalism is an economic system driven by its own immanent tendencies, which the State that presides over it normally supports, sustains and accelerates. One such tendency is its encroachment upon the surrounding petty production economy, resulting in an income squeeze upon, or the dispossession of, the petty producers. Dispossession here refers not just to an appropriation gratis of the assets of petty producers; it also includes cases of obtaining such assets at less than “market prices”, and also cases where only certain sections of those engaged in the petty production sector are paid, while others are not, in the process…

Leapfrogging into services C. P. Chandrasekhar

By passing full-fledged industrialisation and depending on services for growth is not a bad idea says the International Monetary Fund. In the April 2018 edition of its World Economic Outlook, the IMF has endorsed a trajectory that India is known to have pursued in recent years. Characterised by an unusual process of structural transformation, that trajectory involves an early turn to services when the share of agriculture in aggregate output and employment declines with development. This contrasts with the traditional turn to manufacturing at relatively low levels of per capita income. In an India-type process, services rather than manufacturing would…

The True Face of the Global Recovery C. P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh

Optimistic assessments of the synchronised recovery across the world economy ignore the factors driving the weak upturn that make it fragile. True_Face_Global_Recovery  (Download the full text in PDF format) (This article was originally posted in the Business Line on April 10, 2018.)

The Prospect of Food Shortage Prabhat Patnaik

Orthodox economics has for long been haunted by the prospect that the growth in foodgrains output in the world economy would not be sufficiently high to sustain the growing population of the world. Malthus was an early exponent of this fear. Keynes too subscribed to the view that unless the poor countries somehow ensured that their population growth was controlled, there would be a food shortage in the world economy, of which growing poverty would be a symptom. This view of course was the product of an intellectual ethos which saw poverty as a consequence of excessive breeding, rather than…

The real confusion over MSP C.P. Chandrasekhar

Speaking at the Krishi Unnati Mela 2018, Prime Minister Modi reportedly complained that confusion is being spread about the announcement on minimum support prices (MSPs) made in the Finance Minister’s 2018 budget speech. The speech had assured farmers that they would in future be able to sell the output of notified crops to the official procurement agencies at prices to be set at a minimum of 1.5 times the cost of production. The confusion being created according to the Prime Minister relates to how costs of production would be calculated. In an attempt to clarify, he stated that beside costs…

Doyen of ‘Dependency Theory’ Sunanda Sen

Theotonio dos Santos (1936–2018), who passed away on 27 February in Rio de Janeiro, has been one of the major proponents of dependecia or dependency theory, along with Andre Gunder Frank, Giovanni Arrighi, Samir Amin and, to some extent, Immanuel M Wallerstein. Continuing to provide inspiration to large sections of people, including social scientists and activists in different parts of the world, dependency theory has been important for those interpreting the growing disparities between the advanced and the developing world. Santos had a particularly marked presence in Latin America, both through his writings and in his active involvement in political struggles against…

How unequal are world incomes? C. P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh

Global inequality has reduced as income growth shifts from the Northern countries to emerging markets like the BRICS. But this shift is quite limited and has not benefited the bulk of people in the developing world. Unequal_World_Incomes (Download the full text in PDF format) (This article was originally posted in the Business Line on 27 March 2018.)  

Technological Change and Impoverishment Prabhat Patnaik

The fact that the socio-economic effects of technological change depend upon the property relations within which such change occurs is obvious but often not appreciated. Consider a simple example. Suppose on a certain area 100 labourers were engaged for harvesting the crop at a total cost of Rs.5000; but the capitalist-landlord decides to use a harvester combine instead. Then the labourers’ income goes down by Rs.5000. The capitalist-landlord’s wage-cost goes down by Rs.5000, which accrues therefore as an addition to his profits. But suppose the harvester combine were to be owned by a collective of the workers. Then they can…