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

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Life and Death Questions in India

Globalisation, Democracy and Corruption: An Indian Perspective by Pranab Bardhan, London: Frontpage Publications, 2015; pp x + 250, price not indicated.

Pranab Bardhan is an internationally acclaimed economist and needs little introduction either to serious practitioners of economics or the enlightened public at large. He has contributed both to what may be described as the pure theory of economics as well as to applied areas of which economic development constitutes a major part. The book under review does not belong, of course, to his much quoted academic contributions. It consists, instead, of a collection of his writings and interviews for the popular media (such as New York Times, Hindustan Times, Telegraph, Business Standard) and a hybrid of semi-popular media (such as Scientific American, Yale Global, Journal of Asian Studies, Economic & Political Weekly, Ideas for India) and so on. And the different chapters of the book are built around the common theme of paradoxes linked to globalisation, democracy and corruption. It ends up with his conversation with Amartya Sen, who, in response to a query on why corrupt Indian politicians keep getting elected, replies, “You wrote this great paper...what was it called?” Bardhan responds “Life and Death Questions in India” (EPW 1974).

Perhaps, the book itself could have been similarly titled. However, we have moved a long way since the time the paper was written, and, in the last 25 years or so, made rapid progress, more towards life one hopes, than death. Even the most cynical assessment of India’s development contours during the age of liberalisation will admit this much. And after reading this delightful collection of essays, Bardhan himself comes out as a moderate critic, rather than an angry observer, of the globalisation forces at play.

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