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Towards a Better Society

Mrinal Datta-Chaudhuri

Edited by K.S. Krishnaswamy, Ashok Mitra, I.G. Patel, K.N. Raj & M.N. Srinivas
Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1977, 327, 60.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 5 September-October 1977

Festschrifts are fashionable these days. In recent years a large number of them have come out in honour of distinguished economists. By and large, they tend to be of poor quality; except for one or two articles in each, these vol­umes contain material which would not have been otherwise published. The pre­sent book is an exception. Perhaps, the unique personality of the late Sachin Chaudhuri, the founder-editor of that re­markable journal, The Economic Weekly, is responsible for that. Distinguished economists, sociologists, historians, politi­cal scientists and authors from other dis­ciplines have contributed an extremely readable collection of essays to this volu­me. Any Indian with some intellectual interests, particularly a student of the social sciences, should find this a stimu­lating book. For obvious reasons, the editors have not tried to write a long foreword, design­ed to ‘assess what these writings add up to’ because the essays collected in this volume are written by friends of Sachin Chaudhuri coming from a wide variety of disciplines but sharing a common de­sire ‘to contribute to a better society and better life’. Thus, a reviewer of this volume can only be selective, depending on his own taste and ability. Although I enjoyed reading all the essays, I shall com­ment on only a few. This is only a re­flection of my own interest. The two articles by Professor B.N. Ganguli and A.K. Dasgupta deal with the central concerns of all social scienti­sts. Professor Ganguli writes about the validity of ‘class analysis’ in trying to conceptualize the Indian middle class. Professor Dasgupta writes about demo­cracy, socialism and planning—in fact, about the kind of society one wants to live in. Both the articles are written in a clear, lucid style, almost starting from the first principles, avoiding the mysti-fications usually associated with writ­ings in these delicate areas. One wonders if it is age that confers such clarity of mind (in which case we all have hope), or if these authors belong to just one rare vintage which had the pro­mise of strength and mellowness (in which case we just blame the soil of the vineyard). Incidentally, Sachin Chaud­huri came precisely from that vintage. I hope both Professors Dasgupta and Ganguli will in future write longer pieces on these important themes, because it is important to educate younger people pro­perly ...

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