ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Neo-liberalism, Development and Deprivation in India

Dispossession, Deprivation and Development: Essays for Utsa Patnaik edited by Arindam Banerjee and C P Chandrasekhar, New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2018; pp x +270, ₹ 750.


In 1960, Joan Robinson wrote in the Economic Weekly: “I am concerned particularly for India and other developing countries whose economic doctrines come to them mainly from England and in English. Is what we are giving them helpful for their development?” (Robinson 1960). She was worried that the economics departments in Britain, which used to attract some of the best minds from the third world, were indoctrinating students with “notions soaked in a prejudice for laissez-faire.” Orthodox teaching led students to distrust their native common sense, submit to the orthodoxy and perpetuate the cycle by going back to the country of origin and disseminating those ideas in the third world. Robinson gives a specific example of teaching theories in support of the free market and free trade in British universities; ideas which were once favourable to Britain and damaging to India’s interest. She hoped that with proper training, a “generation well-educated, resistant to fudging, imbued with the humility and pride of genuine scientists” could make significant contributions to knowledge and the state of affairs. Utsa Patnaik, in honour of whom the book under review is written, is among the few in India to challenge the conventional and self-serving body of economic thought originating in the first world. In her illustrious career, Patnaik has been an inspirational teacher and worked tirelessly towards developing alternative frameworks of analysis that further the interest of the downtrodden and the developing world.

Dispossession, Deprivation and Development: Essays for Utsa Patnaik comprises 10 chapters on themes that are central to the academic work of Patnaik. Chapter 1 by the editors trace her academic contributions. This chapter highlights the contributions of Patnaik in the mode of production debate, developing of the labour exploitation criterion to study agrarian class formation, critique of “neo-populism,” role of income deflation in immiserisation and exposing the conceptual and methodological errors in the official poverty lines. Patnaik has identified distinct mechanisms in the development of capitalism in the North. These include capital accumulation using the drain of wealth from colonies, deindustrialisation of colonies through distortionary trade practices and export of unemployment, and mass outmigration of Europeans to other parts of the world. The pattern of capitalist development in the North, therefore, cannot be replicated across the developing world today. Patnaik’s recent work is a strong critique of the structural adjustment programmes (SAP) pushed by the Bretton Woods organisations that led to income squeeze in countries such as India.

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Updated On : 30th Aug, 2019
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