Social Scientist. v 10, no. 109 (June 1982) p. 58.


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BOOK REVIEWS

Amiya Bagchi and Nirmala Banerji (ed.), CHANGE AND CHOICE IN INDIAN INDUSTRY, K. P. Bagchi and Co., Culcutta, 1981.

THIS volume grew out of deliberations, in 1977, of a group of economists 'actively researching in the field of industrial economics in India'. As such, it reflects, and is instructive of, the state of analytical understanding of the Indian economy. The optimistic era of plan modelling when growth paths were neatly and confidently charted under constraints, believed to be accurately identifiable, as well as the heyday of 'development theory' which saw a spurt of bold hypotheses 'explaining' where the essence of backwardness lay and the palliatives thereof—appear well past. The scenario of industrial growth is now acknowledgedly complex. While our knowledge about what can be ruled out as plausible explanations, say of the deceleration of industrial growth, appears to be relatively certain, we have as yet less definite-ness about constructive and comprehensive explanations.

The papers included in the volume reflect this state of affairs. Further, even leaving aside the understanding of the processes at work, there appear to be vexed questions about the basic definitions— such as, of the 'small sector', 'industrial capacity', appropriate categorisation of business units—which nevertheless continue to be used loosely in industrial policy. There are also questions about the efficacy of industrial policy and about the suitability of the norms used to judge their efficiency, and the meta-question of all, the social vision that explicitly or implicitly informs the policy frame.

The papers put together in the volume echo all these concerns and raise significant questions. They also reflect the dotty analytical preceptions, yet to be cohered into a neat, structured view or a set of views. They can be broadly classified under three general themes. The first concerns alternative hypotheses regarding the pace and pattern of industrial growth (particularly the 'stagflation' after the mid-sixties), the second focusses on the industrial structure, raising queries about economies of scale, technological options, characterisation of and trends in business concentration, examining both basic definitional issues as well as public policy in relation to these, and the third raises the more general questions of development alternatives—the strategy of export-led growth, of import of technology and of the overall vision of industrialisation.

K. S. Krishnaswamy's short inaugural address sets the tone for the discussions. He points out that the growth of industries since the



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