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…

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…

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 Nirav Modi Scandal Prabhat Patnaik

Nirav Modi, and his uncle Mehul Choksi, are the latest additions to the list of the so-called “entrepreneurs of new India” who have looted public money and decamped with the loot. The Punjab National Bank, the second largest bank in the country, kept giving them loans without any collateral (which is basically what happened through the complicated procedure of the so-called “Letters of Undertaking”); and one fine day Nirav Modi simply left the country with his immediate family, to be followed by his uncle a few days later. Several characteristics are shared by all these decamping “entrepreneurs” whose list includes…

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 Financialization of Everything Servaas Storm

The following article forms the Introduction to a set of 10 articles which assess the logic and consequences of ‘financialization’ across a range of geographic, economic and social scales — deep down, at the level of ‘ideas’, and also by providing ‘knock-out evidence’ on the social inefficiency of a capitalism ‘without compulsions’ for finance. The authors in the Debate expose how establishment economics has been hiding its reactionary political agenda behind the pretence of scientific neutrality. The financial emperor wears no clothes. Full Article (This article was originally posted at Wiley Online Library on January 24, 2018.)

Call for Papers for the Japanese Political Economy Journal

The Japanese Political Economy has now been rejuvenated and renewed with a new Editor, new Co-editors and new international Editorial Board. It continues Japanese Economic Studies; a leading journal published continuously since 1972. From 1997 to 2013, the journal was known as Japanese Economy. The Japanese Political Economy seeks to publish a wide range of scholarship that draws from multiple theoretical, empirical and methodological perspectives. The journal will be a resource for scholars, students, policymakers and practitioners who seek to better understand the contemporary and historical, transnational and internal processes of social and economic change in Japan, Asia and the…

The Growing Income Inequality Prabhat Patnaik

Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel have just written a paper as part of their work for the World Inequality Report discussing the movement of income inequality in India. And their conclusion is that the extent of income inequality in India at present is greater than it has ever been at any time in the last one hundred years. Their estimates go back to 1922 when the Income Tax Act became operational in India. The share of the top 1 percent of the population in total income at that date was around 13 percent. It increased to 21 percent by the…

Lecture series by Professor C. P. Chandrasekhar on ‘Karl Marx’s Capital & the Present’

The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) organised a series of four lectures by the eminent economist Prof. C.P. Chandrasekhar to commemorate 150 years of the publication of Volume I of Karl Marx’s seminal work, Capital at Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi. First Lecture (on 9 September 2017) The first lecture, titled ‘Capital and the critique of bourgeois political economy’, was delivered on 9th September 2017 at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. In this lecture, Professor Chandrasekhar talks about Marx’s analysis of capitalism as an inevitably transient mode of production in a constant opposition to political economists of that period.…