Peasant Production in the Context of Export Promotion in Agriculture
Over much of the ex-socialist European world today there appears to be an unquestioning acceptance of the benefits of governments following 'market-friendly' policies, of promoting private enterprise and market exchange. This has involved a withdrawal of the state in most of these countries to a greater or lesser degree from production, distribution and even in some from that degree of regulation of the economy which characterises many advanced capitalist economies. The results so far have been rather distressing in terms of hyperinflation and unemployment. The populations in these countries are being told, somewhat in the manner of patients in India undergoing homeopathic treatment, that the measure of the medicine's efficacy lies precisely in the symptoms getting a great deal worse before they get better.
On the other hand the resistance to these ideas of the dispensability of state intervention and systematic regulation of the economy, is much stronger in a latent way, if not yet overtly, in third world economies in Asia like India which have never claimed to follow socialist policies in any serious sense but have had a good deal of state regulation of the economy. Perhaps there is a somewhat more realistic recognition of the effects that the unfettered operation of the market have had in the past in promoting various types of inequality, and the implicit recognition also that the stabilisation of existing high levels of inequality—a stabilisation which is of immense benefit to those near the top—is necessary for the system to continue to function at all. The margin of safety in experimenting with 'market-friendly' policies is very small in an economy like India where such a large part of the population lives so near subsistence and a substantial proportion indeed below it: policies which are over 'market-friendly* can mean famine. 'Market-friendliness', unfortunately, is seldom compatible with people-friendliness.
Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol. 20, No. 11, November 1992