Neo-liberalism and the Diffusion of Development

The level of economic activity under capitalism is subject to prolonged ebbs and flows. When the economy is on an upswing, this very fact acts as an elixir that emboldens capitalists, who begin to expect that the “good times” are going to continue; this makes them less worried about taking risks, more “adventurous”, and hence more prone to taking “bolder” decisions in their asset preference. And because of this they also undertake investment in physical assets like construction, equipment and machinery which makes the boom continue, and thereby justifies their euphoria. The opposite happens when there is a downturn. It…

The Left and Opposition Unity Prabhat Patnaik

The real obstacle to understanding, or even recognizing, contemporary fascism alas is the memory of the 1930s. The fact that we have fascists in power in India, at the helm of a liberal bourgeois State, is indubitable: the RSS, which they belong to and swear by, has made no secret of its admiration for classical fascism. But we do not have a classical fascist State, and are not moving towards it at break-neck speed, as the Nazis in power had effected. This is what makes many people question whether we are at all confronting fascism. From the prism of the…

Finance versus The People Prabhat Patnaik

Sometimes even a tiny news-item can reveal volumes about capitalism. The Indian stock market, as is well-known, is booming at present: the 30-share Sensex closed at a new high of 38,278.75 on Monday the 20th of August, and the broader-based Nifty crossed the 11500 mark for the first time on the same day. One of the financial sector executives explained the reason behind this boom as follows (The Hindu, Aug.21): “The only difference between now (versus a few months back) is that politics looks more stable---prospects of an Opposition coalition are looking a little shaky”. These financial sector executives know…

Capitalism’s Discourse on “Development” Prabhat Patnaik

Capitalism’s discourse on “development” which has become quite influential all over the third world in the neo-liberal period proceeds as follows: (i) “development” must consist in shifting the work-force from the traditional (petty production) sector which is overcrowded with low labour productivity, and hence constitutes a repository of poverty,  to the modern (capitalist) sector which has much higher labour productivity. (ii) For this shift to occur, the modern (capitalist sector) must be allowed to grow as rapidly as possible, for which all impediments to capital accumulation must be removed. (iii) Even if, in the process of the modern (capitalist) sector’s…

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…

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 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…

Financing Education Prabhat Patnaik

The Draft National Education Policy unveiled by the central government puts forward a bizarre line of reasoning. Education, it is argued on the basis of a long-held and honourable belief going back to the Kothari Commission, should have an annual expenditure of around 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product; we have come nowhere near this figure even after so many years and cannot do so on the basis of government effort owing to our stretched budgetary resources; hence, to realize this target, which most right-thinking persons in the country would accept, we must draw the private sector into the…

NPAs: All talk and no action C. P. Chandrasekhar

The media are full of it. Viral Acharya, a recently inducted Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has declared publicly that resolving the problem of bank stress resulting from large non-performing assets (NPAs) on their balance sheets is the RBI’s priority, taking precedence over measures such as interest rate reduction to spur growth. The issue here is not just one of preventing bank insolvency, but of keeping the credit pipe open. Banks burdened with NPAs are likely to be less willing to expand their loan books, and if interest rates are too low, banks may be unwilling…

The Question of Farm-loan Waiver Prabhat Patnaik

The question of farm-loan waiver that is being demanded by the peasantry is much misunderstood. Such a waiver, it is argued by critics, would vitiate the credit-culture in the country: people would stop repaying loans henceforth in expectation of waivers on them. Since the UPA government had waived farm-loans a few years ago and now again there is a demand for a farm-loan waiver, peasants, they contend, are getting into a habit of not paying loans and demanding periodic waivers instead. Somebody, it is further added, has to bear the burden of the loan after all; and if the peasants…