The Ways of the Judiciary Prabhat Patnaik

Last month the Supreme Court made two important pronouncements in the space of just a few days. One was on the question of who had ownership rights over the land at the Babri Masjid site; the other was on the location of bars or liquor shops within five hundred metres of highways. On the first of these the Supreme Court made only an oral observation: it suggested an out-of-court settlement, with the Chief Justice himself offering to act as an intermediary in the negotiations. On the second the Supreme Court passed an order that no bars or liquor shops could…

Industrial Growth and Demonetization Prabhat Patnaik

Some weeks ago when the official “quick estimates” of GDP for the third quarter of 2016-17 (October-December) had been released, putting the GDP growth in this quarter (over the corresponding quarter of 2015-16) at 7 percent, which broadly conformed to the CSO’s prediction before demonetization, a veritable chorus had gone up that the critics of demonetization had been proved wrong, that the measure did not have the recessionary effect they had claimed it would. The fact that this growth estimate was spurious, produced at the behest of the BJP government which specializes in “post-truths”, was pointed out by many (see…

Communalism and Working Class Struggles Prabhat Patnaik

Comrade B.T. Ranadive used to reminisce that in pre-independence Bombay (as it was then called) there would occasionally be impressive workers’ strikes at the call of Communist-led trade unions which were powerful in the city at that time, at which Hindu and Muslim workers would stand shoulder to shoulder. Not surprisingly however, given the colonial context, these strikes were not always successful, and, when that happened, they would often be followed by communal riots. This cycle, of unity followed by horrendous disunity leading even to communal riots, was an expression of contending forms of consciousness among the workers: a budding…

The Nefarious Money Bills Prabhat Patnaik

True to form, the BJP government is all set to change the texture of the Indian State into a snooping and terrorising institution whose bonding with corporate capital will now get even closer and beyond any public scrutiny. And the content of the change it is unleashing is as damaging to democracy as the manner in which it is doing so. The manner of its doing so consists in introducing important legislation in the guise of “money bills”. Now, any important legislation has to be approved by both houses of parliament before it can become the law of the land,…

The End of Globalization? Prabhat Patnaik

Donald Trump’s recipe for reviving employment in the U.S. economy is to impose restrictions on imports from other countries. If at the same time he had taken steps to increase the level of aggregate demand in the U.S. in other ways, such as through increasing State expenditure financed by a fiscal deficit, then restricting imports from other countries would not lead to a reduction in the magnitude of such imports in absolute terms. It would not, in such a case, cause any unemployment in other countries for the sake of boosting employment in the U.S. Put differently, it would not…

Narendra Modi on Poverty Prabhat Patnaik

In his speech to BJP workers in Delhi after the Assembly election results had been declared, Narendra Modi announced that his policy henceforth would be to empower the poor by providing them with opportunities, instead of handing out doles to them, which, he believes, is what the various “pro-poor” welfare programmes amount to. Newspapers were quick to underscore, and in general laud, this shift in approach from “welfarism” to “development”. Since government policy is set to reflect this shift from now on, its implications are worth examining. Nobody obviously prefers “doles” to development, neither the recipients of these “doles” nor…

The Latest GDP Estimates Prabhat Patnaik

Perhaps no other public policy debate in post-independence India has seen as much of an “inversion of reason” on the part of the government as the demonetization debate. When critics were pointing, on the basis of government statistics themselves, to the palpable failure of the demonetization measure to achieve its purported objective, which was to cripple the black economy, the government kept harping, in its justification, on the extraordinary “boldness” of the move. Its position in effect amounted to saying that any move, no matter how irrational, is justified if it involves “courage”, i.e. invokes “shock and awe”, which was…

Interest Rates and the Use of Cash Prabhat Patnaik

Finance capital is always opposed to the use of fiscal measures for stimulating an economy. This is because any such fiscal stimulation undermines the social legitimacy of capitalism, and especially of that segment of it which constitutes the world of finance and which is peopled with “functionless investors” in Keynes’ words or of “coupon clippers” in Lenin’s words, i.e. of entities that play no role in the production process. If State intervention comes to be seen as necessary for stimulating the economy, then the question may arise in the public mind: why do we need all these entities? Why does…

“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…

In the 2017 Budget, the Government has Compounded its Folly Prabhat Patnaik

The Budget estimates, which have generally become somewhat suspect of late, are particularly meaningless in the case of the 2017-18 Budget for two obvious reasons: first, the early presentation of the Budget means the availability of that much less information for the current year, upon which the Budget is based; and second, the draconian demonetisation that has occurred, while certain to pull down the GDP growth rate (even the Economic Survey concedes that), makes any precise prediction impossible. Let us therefore look at the broad strategy of the Budget rather going into its numbers in any detail. One obvious thing that…

A Quiet Scholar Prabhat Patnaik

The name of Amitava Bose who passed away in Kolkata on January 13 may not be known to many people outside of a small circle of scholars, students, and friends, but he was in formal terms the finest macro-economist in the country, and among the best anywhere in the world. My colleagues at JNU tell me that he was also, in formal terms, the finest micro-economist in the country, and also the finest in every other branch of economic theory. I can well believe what they say, but my direct first-hand knowledge relates to his intellectual prowess in the realm…

Neo-Liberal Capitalism and India’s Nationhood Prabhat Patnaik

India’s anti-colonial struggle was not just about getting independence from foreign rule. In fact, this struggle would not even have succeeded if it had been only about that. It was simultaneously, and indeed had to be, an effort to forge a new nation, of a sort that was not only unprecedented in modern world history (since the earlier emergence of nations in Europe had been part of an imperialist project which the anti-colonial struggle did not propose to emulate), but also represented, conceptually, a transformation of the country from a caste-ridden unequal society to one characterized by a fraternity of…

The Demonetization Fiasco Prabhat Patnaik

The demonetization of 86 percent of the currency of the country, a virtually unprecedented  measure anywhere in the world, has brought immense hardship to the working people of the country, and will damage their living standards permanently (since the Modi government plans not to replace the entire value of the demonetized notes by printing new ones). Many however believed that it was a step being taken for the greater social good, for achieving certain important social goals. Three of these goals were mentioned by the government from time to time: to attack black money, to replace counterfeit notes, and to…

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…

The Dialectics of Authoritarianism Prabhat Patnaik

We are seeing in India at present a remarkable inversion of reason. The more the common people suffer from the impact of Modi’s demonetization, the more he is lauded for the “courage” shown by him in undertaking it. An economic measure should be, and normally is, judged on the basis of how it benefits the people, and any measure that brings distress to the people is derided for that reason. What we find in the present case however is just the opposite: the more demonetization brings distress to the people, the more it is applauded for its wisdom and courage.…

Demonetisation and Banks’ Lending Rates Prabhat Patnaik

Spokesmen of the ruling party are busy these days spreading another falsehood, namely that, because of demonetisation which has brought in huge amounts of cash to their coffers, banks would be so keen to lend that their lending rates are going to fall, and that such a fall will act as a stimulus for the economy. This is completely wrong, and banks’ lending rates can never fall for this reason. They may of course fall because the monetary policy announced by the Reserve Bank of India is so altered as to cause such a fall. But that could happen anyway;…

Demonetization as the Basis for a Fiscal Stimulus Prabhat Patnaik

A bizarre argument is doing the rounds these days. It states that the cash which gets disabled in the “black economy” because of the government’s demonetization measure, would enable the government to undertake an equivalent amount of expenditure with impunity; it can therefore spend more on infrastructure and other essential areas, or simply provide cash transfers to the people. BJP spokespersons who have been putting forward this argument, are promising transfers to everyone, in a manner reminiscent of Modi before the Lok Sabha elections, when he had promised that “black money” from Swiss Banks would be brought into the country…

Demonetization as a Means of Fighting “Black Money” Prabhat Patnaik

So many lies are being spread by the government which is currently busy wrecking the Indian economy in the manner of a bull in a china shop, so many spurious economic arguments are being trotted out by it, that one has to be extremely vigilant not to be swept away by this tide of unreason. In the current article, and the two subsequent ones to follow, I propose to examine some of the more persistent assertions that are being made by government spokesmen. The most persistent assertion of course is that demonetization is a measure against “black money”. In an…

The Chimera of a ‘Cashless’ Economy Prabhat Patnaik

A secondary justification for the demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes, apart from its presumed deterring effect on “black money”, is that it ushers in a move towards a “cashless” economy. This argument too, however, like the perception that “black money” is just held in the form of a hoard of currency notes, is staggering in its simple-mindedness. All money constitutes a liability of the banking system. (The only exception was the one-rupee note which was a liability of the Government of India, but its amount, always small, has now dwindled into insignificance). What we call “currency” is the…

Demonetization of Currency Notes Prabhat Patnaik

Narendra Modi went on national television at 8 p.m. on November 8 to announce that from midnight of that very date, i.e. in a mere four hours’ time, 500 and 1000 rupee notes would cease to be legal-tender. The justification advanced for this bizarre move was that it would strike at “black money”. An additional argument was thrown in, to the effect that fake currency notes used by “terrorists” would now cease to be effective; and some particularly enthusiastic supporters of the government even went to the extent of calling it a “surgical strike against terrorism”. I shall come to…

The Spontaneity of Capitalism Prabhat Patnaik

  The post-war restructuring of capitalism involving decolonization, the introduction of Keynesian demand management, and the institution of democracy based on universal adult suffrage, represented concessions made by the system to ward off the Communist threat which the enhanced prestige of the Soviet Union, the march of the Red Army across Eastern Europe, the sacrifices made by the Communists in the anti-fascist struggle all over Europe, and the Chinese Revolution had brought to the fore. True, the Yalta agreement had bound the Soviet Union into not supporting Communist ascendancy in Western Europe, in countries like France, Italy and Greece, in…

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…

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…

The Growing Resistance against Globalization Prabhat Patnaik

All across the world, from the United States to Britain to Europe to China, a huge resistance is building up against globalization. True, this resistance is not self-consciously aimed against globalization per se; in different countries it focuses on different issues. But since each of these issues arises as a fall-out of globalization, not to see the interconnectedness of this resistance, as one that essentially and implicitly targets globalization, is to miss the wood for the trees. What is also remarkable is that this resistance, contrary to what one might expect from the fact that its source lies everywhere in…

Focus on Inequality Prabhat Patnaik

The World Bank and the IMF have started a new trend of late, of taking “progressive” positions in their publications even while insisting on the same old “conditionalities” in policy negotiations with particular countries. In accordance with this new trend these institutions have now got concerned with issues of poverty and inequality; and the World Bank has just brought out what is supposed to be the first of a series of annual publications tracking progress towards poverty removal and curtailment of inequality. This publication is called Poverty and Shared Prosperity. While I do not wish to review this publication here,…

Marxist Theory and the October Revolution Prabhat Patnaik

Marx’s theory when it was first presented had a far more profound impact on intellectual life in Russia than anywhere else. True, in Germany the entire working class movement, far stronger than elsewhere (the German Social Democrats used to bring out as many as 86 daily newspapers in that country on the eve of the first world war), was directly influenced by Marx, but this is quite different from influencing intellectual life in general. By Marx’s own admission one of the most perceptive reviews of Capital had appeared in Russia; and Lenin attests to the fact that in the Russia…

The Leninist Conjuncture Prabhat Patnaik

The basic theoretical presumption underlying the October Revolution was that because inter-imperialist rivalry had unleashed an epoch of wars that forced workers of different imperialist countries to kill each other across the trenches, capitalism had reached a climacteric. It had become historically “moribund”, ushering in an era of social revolutions, which would not just be confined to the advanced capitalist countries but would also encompass the oppressed countries whose peoples too got dragged into these wars as “canon-fodder”. What could hold back such revolutions was vacillation on the part of some sections of the working class deriving from the pusillanimity…

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…

Minimum Wage and the Poverty Line Prabhat Patnaik

The criteria for determining the minimum wage have evolved in India over a long period of time. The basic guidelines set at the Indian Labour Conference have been subsequently improved upon by the Supreme Court in the early 1990s. As of now, the principles for setting the minimum wage after all these modifications stand as follows. The basic family unit for which the calculation is made is supposed to consist of four persons, a husband, wife and two children. These two children together constitute one consuming unit, so that one can say that the family has three consuming units altogether.…