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Necessary Lessons

Surajit Mazumdar

By Deepak Nayyar
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 422 & 457, Rs. 795.00 each


These two companion volumes put together thirty essays of, in Joseph Stiglitz’s words, ‘one of India’s foremost economists’ who has straddled the worlds of both academia and policy making. Written over a long time span stretching from 1975 to 2008, the essays, often individually and certainly collectively, cover theory, history, empirical analysis, and policy questions. Most of them have appeared earlier in different academic journals or books and therefore are addressed to economists. Yet they are thankfully not so heavily loaded with technicalities as to make them inaccessible to the non-specialist reader.   Such a collection of previously published essays could be considered worthwhile for a number of reasons. One is of course the convenience of having all of them at one place for handy reference. Alternatively, the collection can be seen as a means of gaining a sense of a leading economic thinker’s ‘intellectual journey over the past three decades’. The essays are however not presented in chronological order of their earlier publication but have been grouped in thematic clusters. Moreover, each successive decade beginning with the 1970s is represented in the collection by an ever larger number of essays with the result that half the essays were written after 2000 and only three in the seventies. Even the ones written earlier, including those that discuss long forgotten subjects like trade, involving socialist countries, are by no means of mere historical interest. The value of the collection lies actually in the fact that the essays are grounded in an underlying perspective not fully elaborated in any single essay but whose entirety emerges more clearly through all of them collectively. The whole indeed is more than a sum of its parts, and its value is only enhanced by the context in which it appears.   The crisis afflicting the world economy today, large in magnitude and universal in character, has at least undermined though by no means undone the unprecedented hegemony of the economic philosophy that has accompanied globalization, namely neo-liberalism. There is a perceptible change in the intellectual climate and ideas that till not very long ago were dismissed offhand can today at least hope to get a reasonable hearing. Coming at such a time, this collection of essays by a self-confessed heterodox economist should contribute to the process of chipping away at the sway of the dominant but flawed orthodoxy and the quest for newer and different ways of understanding ...

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