Archive for April, 2017

A review of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh 

By Suvrat Raju

“The Great Derangement” is a very well written book. It is difficult to write accurately and readably about a complex issue, but Ghosh explores the cultural, historical and political questions surrounding climate change with remarkable grace. Ghosh’s attention to detail, his research into the history of the British Empire in Asia, and his fondness for science are evident throughout the book.   And at times, in some of the parts that I found the most enjoyable, he throws in obscure but fascinating details—an eleventh century Chinese poem about coal use, for example.

Ghosh divides the book into three parts —“stories”, “history” and “politics.” In the last two parts, as I will describe later in this review, Ghosh turns to the contemporary politics of climate change and his intervention deserves careful analysis. (more…)

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III. How One Class Enriches Itself at the Expense of Another

What, then, accounts for the growing divergence and inequality that the Survey itself reveals?

In the first place, it is a mere myth that the ‘free market’ equalizes outcomes across society and the global economy. In fact, any market is only a social institution, the product of a history of the exercise of political power. When that history has placed the control of resources in the hands of particular classes and countries, and spawned vast inequality of wealth, the ‘free market’ continuously reproduces and perpetuates that inequality. Had the free market dogma been reality, the vast inequalities prevailing across the globe would have disappeared long ago. But in fact historical experience has proved that capitalism concentrates wealth at one end of the pole and the vast mass of labouring people at the other, imperialist countries at one end and underdeveloped countries at the other. As Marx noted, “If the free-traders cannot understand how one nation can grow rich at the expense of another, we need not wonder, since these same gentlemen also refuse to understand how in the same country one class can enrich itself at the expense of another.”[1]

Casting aside such ideological blinkers, we need to look at Indian society as it actually is. We need to look at the structures which determine the paths along which the social surplus will flow. (more…)

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Ajoy Sengupta

We are saddened to learn of the death of Ajoy Sengupta, at the age of 81, on March 16. He had been an outstanding distributor of Aspects of India’s Economy in Kolkata for the last more than two decades, distributing 80-100 copies of each issue. He was the most scrupulous of our distributors, clearing his dues in the old-fashioned way, by money order, in advance of all others, with meticulous hand-written accounts. In his gentle and responsible way, he would also give us pertinent suggestions and criticisms from time to time. He was of course a Marxist, engaged in the working class movement for the last 60 years. We understand that he worked hard to promote Marxist literature and study circles amongst trade union workers. We will miss him greatly.

 

RUPE

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II. Growth that Reproduces Backwardness

Coupling and decoupling, twin processes
This process is brought out in the Government’s own Economic Survey 2016-17. The authors of the Survey themselves reveal the perverse nature of the growth process in India in some of their research conclusions. They reveal that the very ‘growth’ of certain regions/sectors reproduces backwardness and depressed incomes in other regions/sectors.

First, let us take what the Survey considers to be good news. The Survey celebrates the fact that “India has replaced its erstwhile socialist vision with something resembling the ‘Washington Consensus’: open trade, open capital, and reliance on the private sector…. Reforms along these lines have been adopted by every Indian government over the past quarter-century.” (emphasis added) As a result, in 25 years of reforms, there has been a “remarkable transformation… from a largely closed and listless economy to the open and thriving economy we see today.” (more…)

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  1. Two Worlds

Many useful articles been written about the recent demonetisation, perhaps the most discussed economic event in India in recent times. The entire discussion has brought to the fore many aspects of India’s economy. Among them is an important theme that we have emphasized in earlier issues of Aspects: Namely, the gulf between different sectors of the economy. This gulf has economic and political implications.

This gulf can be seen in many measures, which are expressions of a single reality: the gap between the income of the ‘informal’ (‘unorganised’) and ‘formal’ (‘organised’) sectors; between rural areas and urban areas; between the sectors producing commodities (agriculture, manufacturing) and the services sector; between income-poor regions which are rich in natural resources and other regions where income is concentrated. (more…)

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