Social Scientist. v 14, no. 162-63 (Nov-Dec 1986) p. 124.


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Book Reveiw

Political Economy and Development Economics

PRANAB K. BARDHAN, The Political Economy of Development in India, Basil Blackwell, Oxford University Press, New Delhi 1984; Land, Labour and Rural Poverty : Essays in Development Economics, Columbia University Press, New York and Oxford University Press, New Delhi 1984.

THESE two recent books by Pranab Bardhan differ so much in style and content that lumping them together for the purpose of review might seem a little odd at first glance : the first is wide-ranging and speculative, the second analytical and empirical. The Political Economy of Development in India (PED) is based on Bardhan's Radhakrishnan Lectures delivered at Oxford in the summer of 1983 and paints in a few broad brushstrokes the central structural problems that the author sees the Indian economy facing. Land, Labor and Rural Poverty (LLP) on the other had brings together as a collection of essays much of Bardhan's earlier work,now in a revised and expanded form, on various micro topics in development economics like peasant labour supply, land leasing and the workings of factor markets. Both books ha ve much to offer, as one would expect from a writer of Bardhan's class. But I want to suggest that, read together, the very contrast between them helps to illuminate a number of issues, not only of methodology, but of India's changing political economy.

Bardhan's main concern in PED is with "the political economy of the constraints that seem to have blocked the economy's escape from a low level equilibrium trap of slow growth" (p. viii). This for him is "more of an analytical puzzle than the question of why the poor in India do not get a better deal" (loc, cit.) and the focus therefore is on the political processes governing accumulation : questions of distribution are in fact only touched on in the Introduction, which sets the stage for the subsequent discussion by rapidly going over the salient features of India's development record, and in particular, noting the very limited impact on poverty that has been made. A quick chapter on the agricultural constraints to growth—-where the need for a continuing high level of investment and the maintenance of



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