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Companion To Economics: A Critical Look

Arindam Banerjee

Edited by Kaushik Basu  and Annemie Maertens
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 357 & 750, price not stated


The volume under review can potentially serve as a ready reference for students, teachers, policy makers and researchers, both within the discipline and for those with an interdisciplinary approach. The brief write-ups on the contributions of the doyens of the dis-cipline in India like Krishna Bharadwaj, P. C. Mahalanobis, Sachin Chaudhuri and Sukhamoy Chakrabarty, to name a few, introduce readers to those who played crucial roles in developing teaching and research in economics in India, though, K.N. Raj seems to be an unintended exclusion here. The Companion has a total of 232 entries on nearly as many themes, with some rare topics like 'inflation' having more than one entry and certain select themes are overlapping on each other. While the many short entries on usual and 'not so usual' themes have critical and informative insights, some of the longish pieces in the Companion even attempt to en-gage with differing perspectives on a particular issue, often with the help of rigorous analysis of available evidence. In that sense, this pub-lication will benefit not only young researchers but also serve as a useful reference for sea-soned academics. The piece on 'Food and Nutrition' by Jean Dreze is an example where the author has tried to bring in the various theoretical positions along with the use of data to examine some of these positions. However, one feels that it might have been a more useful exercise to ac-commodate multiple entries on themes where the contestation of ideas are intense in order to provide a wholesome view of the ongoing debates. Other themes like 'Fiscal deficits' or the 'UIDAI' also seem to be ideal candidates where more than one entry could have illu-mined different paradigms. The inclusion of the critical points raised against the dominant mainstream view in the forthcoming issues of the Companion would help readers to gain a more comprehensive overview. While it is unfair to point out additional themes that have not been included, as obvi-ously it is a near impossible task to include every issue in economics in a single publi-cation, however, certain conspicuous omis-sions demand some criticism of this work. A surprising omission has been the persisting challenge of the agrarian crisis since the nineties in India. The discussion of the same under the entry 'farmer suicides' is grossly inadequate, particularly as the latter concentrates on the behavioural reasons for farmers' suicides and hardly engages in any policy-level or ...

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