V. 32: No. 7-8 July-August 2003 #362-363
Introduction by Prabhat Patnaik, p. 2
"What Makes the World Change: The Long View ," Irfan Habib, p. 4
"Food Stocks and Hunger: The Causes of Agrarian Distress Utsa Patnaik," Utsa Patnaik, p. 15
"The Diffusion of Information Technology: The Indian Experience ," C P Chandrasekhar, p. 42
"Bhishm Sahni: A Gentleman Communist and Bhishm Pitamah," Rajendra Sharma, p. 86
"Obituary: Ali Ashraf," Prabhat Patnaik, p.90
"Obituary:Arun Bose," Girish Mishra, p. 92
Back to the top.
Back to the top.
Introduction by Prabhat Patnaik
The editorial team of Social Scientist has for some time been acutely conscious of the fact that the journal is falling short of the role that is required of it at the current juncture. Not that the journal has not changed; it has, and quite significantly. But the nature of the social demand upon it has changed even more dramatically. What was adequate, even more than adequate, in the seventies and the early eighties, when, notwithstanding the vicissitudes in the hfe of socialism, the vigour of a socialist challenge could be taken for granted, would not suffice today when the Soviet Union has collapsed and a revived imperialism is running riot. This requires of us not just scholarly exposes of imperialism and of the fundamentalist and communal-fascist tendencies that mushroom at this juncture. These are important; we have been doing these and shall continue to do these. But something more is needed: a more intense, and direct engagement with contemporary issues and ideas, and a more conscious effort to "recover" the Left tradition. Towards this end we propose to carry many more short notes, book reviews, opinion pieces, obituaries etc. than we have been doing, in addition to the scholarly articles, and without compromising with the basic academic quality of the journal. The current issue therefore marks a change not just in the journal's appearance, but also in its contents.
The lead article by Irfan Habib, which is his convocation address at the Asian College of Journalism, provides a panoramic view of a range of issues in historiography, and in particular a critique of Karl Popper's attack on "historicism". Echo^ng the view expressed by Mao Zedong that the struggle between capitalism and socialism could last some five hundred years (Georg Lukacs in a similar vein had once talked of the transition from capitalism to socialism being almost as protracted, nearly three hundred years, as that from feudalism to capitalism), Habib underscores the need for a critical history of socialism as it fared in practice, which could suggest how more succesful alternatives to capitalism should be essayed in future.
The drought of 2002-03 has focussed attention on the acute distress afflicting rural India, but while the drought may have made things worse, growing distress has been the lot of rural India for quite some time now, a result largely of the deflation and the exposure of producers to global price volatility that have come in the wake of the neo-liberal economic polite. The per capita foodgrain availability, not just in the drought year, but even by 2000-01, had
p. 3 SOCIAL SCIENTIST
come. down for the country as a whole to the average level that prevailed during the Second World War which includes the years of the Bengal famine; the per capita calorie intake in rural India had declined by over one-eighth in the decade and a half since 1983 and is estimated to have declined further by at least one-tenth in the last five years; and rural development expenditure as a percentage of GDP had halved during the decade of the nineties, restricting the injection of purchasing power into the countryside. Utsa Patnaik's paper provides a comprehensive picture and a radical analysis of this alarming deterioration in living conditions in rural India. The fact that reputed journals in the country, at this very moment, are replete with articles about the 'success' of poverty reduction in the 1990s, is only indicative of the decline in integrity that has occurred in a significant segment of the economics profession.
The so-called IT revolution continues to be a source of much mystification. At one time there was talk of as many as 20 million skilled jobs being created in the country on account of the shift of services from the North to the South brought about. through the IT revolution, not to mention the jobs created abroad for Indian IT professionals. The suggestion was even made that the Left, imprisoned in its old dogmas and cliches, had no inkling of the massive changes occurring worldwide. The slump in the metropolitan IT sector has, for the time being at least, put an end to such talk. The subject nonetheless remains an intriguing one. There are few people as competent to talk about it as C.PChandrasekhar whose article we carry in this number.
Finally, we pay our respects to three major intellectuals, associated with the Left movement, who passed away recently.
Back to the top.