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For a new world order


By M Raghuram
Published: Wednesday 31 January 1996

-- (Credit: Rustam Vania)IT'S still the age of ideas despite the failure and death of ideologies and dearth of seminal ideas to rescue the collapsing fundamentals of social order and societies.

Development and Environmental Economics: The Relevance of Gandhi, written by K Rajaratnam, an eminent economist and Gandhian activist, is an expanded monograph from public lectures in this context.

The ruling Weltan- schaauung or world-view becomes a formidable reality to reckon with, as in the case of development, to feed and raise putative living standards of the burgeoning billions. Its stark impossibility and inadvisability has been acknowledged even by the postmodernist who has finally gone for it.

But the Homo Economicus (productive man) fuelled capital-centred industrialism, and Homo Consumens (consumer) encouraged post-war consumerism. Human productivity and consumption of goods were stupidly re-invented and artifically linked to self-fulfilment and happiness. And worse, it was made the ruling idiom.

Unsustainable development is sought to be changed to sustainable development by the Third World, protestors and champions of development alternatives.

It's the West's despiritualisation, rootlessness, mores, values, lifes, idioms and paradigms vs Mahatma Gandhi's spiritual idiom and human-centred praxis. But understandably, Gandhian models have failed to provide a workable macro-Ievel theory like those of the alternate school or the votaries of the Western development model.

The book's title is misleading. There's an elementary and simplistic foreword by former University Grants Commission chairperson, G Rami Reddy, and an appreciation by the eminent environmentalist, T Shivaji Rao. Two irrelevant and major chapters have been unhesitatingly smuggled in under general and misleading headings, on his successful grassroots programme and the Centre for Research on New International Economic Order, Madras, the publisher.

The author's unconventional style of presentation is marked by demystifying Gandhi's fundamental values With great clarity. But there is an woeful lack of presenting even a review of critique of the themes in the title, and making out a case for the relevance of Gandhian economics.

The author could have provided valuable critical evaluation of Gandhian self-reliance at village level regarding production of food and clothing visa-vis negative effects of centralised market economics.

Rajaratnam, the economist et al, quite unsurprisingly presumes that capitalism and development are synonymous. and not realise that it's erroneous to treat capitalism as a comprehensive system a la Marxism, just because the capitalist idiom is popular and dominant even among its bitterest critics.

The structural solution of village republics will find favour with votaries of power and resource devolution to panchayati raj bodies.

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