V.31: No. 1-2 January-February 2003 #356-357
Editorial note, p. 1
"Colonialism, Culture and Revivalism," K.N. Panikkar, p. 3
"Our Tribal Past," Shereen Ratnagar, p. 17
"What the World Bank Knows But Won't Tell You," Richard Z. Duffee, p. 37
"Dialectics and Cosmology: The Big Bang and the Steady State Theories," K.K. Theckedath, p. 57
"The Politics of Essence," Nishad Patnaik, p. 85
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When the current number of Social Scientist was in press we learnt of the sad demise of Professor RR.Brahmananda the renowned economist who was a stalwart of the Bombay School. Brahmananda was extraordinarily original as well as prolific. The reactions to different segments of his overall output therefore were naturally quite varied: some would find certain parts of his work leaving a lasting impression but not certain other parts, while others would see nuggets of wisdom in these latter parts that they consider to be quite unmatched in the former. Absolutely nobody, however, could afford to ignore what Brahmananda had to say on any subject at any time, because behind everything he wrote there was a combination of passion and intellectual force that was quite unique.
From Brahmananda's substantial written output, at least two contributions in my view would be generally recognized as absolutely outstanding. The first is his work, together with his teacher C.N.Vakil, on the wage-goods bottleneck in underdeveloped economies. It would not be unfair to surmise that Brahmananda's contribution in the formation and development of this idea was much more than what is suggested by joint authorship. The idea itself however was a pioneerin b one. It would appear later in the works of a host of outstanding development economists from Ragnar Nurkse to Michael Kalecki, but Vakil and Brahmananda's Planning for an Expanding Economy clearly takes precedence.
The second contribution was his lengthy three part review of Piero Sraffa's Production of Commodities by means of Commodities in the pages of the Indian Economic Journal which interpreted Sraffa to the economics profession both in India and abroad (so necessary at a time when even Roy Harrod had totally misunderstood Sraffa in his review of the book in the Economic Journal, prompting Sraffa himself, so reticent and modest a person, to take the most unusual step of writing a rejoinder to a review). What is more, Brahmananda's work on Sraffa stimulated a good deal of interest in the subject among researchers in the Bonbay University, from among whom Krishna Bharadwaj was to emerge as Sraffa's closest disciple. Brahmananda's interest in Sraffa waned subsequently, though not before he had discovered an earlier presentation of some of the Sraffian ideas in the
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work of Ramsay, but his review of Production of Commodities remains an excellent introduction to Sraffian ideas, which, notwithstanding their temporary eclipse at present, constitute a fascinating branch of economic thought.
Brahmananda's legacy however does not remain confined only to his academic contributions. What was remarkable about him, above everything else, was his absolute and passionate commitment to economics as a subject. He was simply mad about it. Indeed the term "wedded to a subject" could not have a truer meaning than what Brahmananda displayed towards economics. He introduced generations of students to the grandeur of the subject, and thereby contributed to the creation of an economics profession in the country. He was of course remarkably erudite and meticulous: many would recollect his critique of the Eleventh Finance Commission's report which was so incisive that it belied the age of the author. But this erudition and meticulousness derived from an attitude of reverence towards the subject, and indeed towards academic activity in general which is so scarce these days but which is the bedrock on which the academic universe is built. His death is an irreparable loss to the discipline of economics, to academic life in the country and to his numerous admirers among whom I count myself.
The current number of Social Scientist covers very diverse themes. In the first of the two historical articles K.N.Panikkar sees the current conjuncture in the country as entailing a choice between the legacies of Renaissance and revivalism, both of which sprang from the search for identity in a colonial context, while in the second, Shireen Ratnagar makes a strong case for a sui generis study of tribal society, free of misconceptions such as "tribes have been with us since `time immemorial"' or that "tribal life is inherently `backward"' etc. In the only economics article in this issue Richard Duffee argues that the difference between the Purchasing Power Parity value of a currency and its official exchange rate can provide a measure of exploitation through unequal exchange. Kishore Theckedath's piece on Dialectics and Cosmology provides an exhaustive overview of the theoretical debates in Cosmology. It leans towards the Quasi Steady State Cosmology of Hoyle, Narlikar and Burbridge as against the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, and sees a confirmation of dialectical materialism in the former. The note by Nishad Patnaik attempts to trace the roots of Martin Heidegger's engagement with Nazism to that element in his philosophy which assimilates all praxis to thinking.
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