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Standing the Test of Time

Surajit Mazumdar

Edited by Alaknanda Patel
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 377, 455, 589, Rs. 995.00


These volumes, appearing 17 years after he passed away, put together A.K. Dasgupta’s writings penned over a timespan of 62 years starting from 1929. They include books, monographs, articles, and reviews authored by him, reminiscences by and of him, and a biographical sketch of the author by the editor. Each of the three volumes has a separate introduction by people familiar with Dasgupta’s work, which add value to them.   Amongst A.K. Dasgupta’s teachers, peers, and students who have held him in high regard can be counted many of the leading lights of the world of economics. According to one of them, Amartya Sen, notwithstanding the respect he enjoyed Dasgupta did not receive in his lifetime the international recognition that was due to him. Sen speculates that perhaps this was because Dasgupta worked and wrote mainly in India. Perhaps one can add to this that many Indian economists of today, particularly younger ones, are unfamiliar with Dasgupta’s work if not his name. These publications would have served a worthwhile purpose if they help prevent A.K. Dasgupta’s name from slipping into a wholly undeserved obscurity.   The arrangement of the writings between the three volumes may not be considered ideal, being neither chronological nor strictly thematic. Writings included in a particular volume do not in all cases appear to have a strict relationship with its chosen title, and sometimes seem to fit better with that of another volume. No doubt the range of A.K. Dasgupta’s scholarship would not have made the editor’s task easy. One could however profitably choose to be one’s own editor and read the pieces in a different order than that in which they appear.   Going through the three volumes, it is not hard to see why A.K. Dasgupta was such a celebrated and admired teacher. His explorations of the ideas of different economic thinkers or schools of economic thought, scattered over many essays and systematically organized under a single framework in his last book, are truly scintillating. Dasgupta had a clear perception of the distinguishing features of each of the schools of economic thought and also where they stood in theoretical terms in relation to each other. Equally clearly identified are the internal differences within individual schools and the continuities that cut across them, making for borderline cases—Marx in relation to classical political economy and Marshall in relation ...

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