Social Scientist. v 27, no. 316-317 (Sept-Oct 1999) p. 30.


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30 SOCIAL SCIENTIST

PRABHAT PATNAIK*

Thoughts on the Current Conjuncture from a Socialist Perspective

There was euphoria in bourgeois circles even as late as the mid-nineties that capitalism had at long last achieved its supreme triumph and was henceforth in an unassailable position. This arose not only from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the East European states, or from the inference drawn from this collapse about the apparent "unworkability" of the politico-economic system most commonly associated with socialism; it also arose from the perception, shared by many, that by contrast capitalism had been performing with reasonable credit. Within the metropolitan capitalist countries it had brought about in a secular sense very significant improvements in living standards; and the argument that it thwarted the development of third world countries had been disproved in practice by the rapid advance of East and South Asian countries within the capitalist orbit. No doubt the travails of the former Soviet Union and East European socialist countries cast a shadow, but these were passed off as temporary, a result of the legacy of long years of communism.

This euphoria has vanished. The condition of the people in Russia and Eastern Europe has gone from bad to worse: if estimates akin to those for famine deaths in China are made (though significantly they are not!), millions would be found to have died under the free market. The percentage of unemployed workers in Western Europe continues to remain in double digits, and even Japan, the most successful capitalist country of the post-war years, is enmeshed in crisis. In Africa and Latin America stagnation persists: the sharp decline in per capita income of the eighties may have come to a halt, but it has not been reversed; and further declines are in store in countries like Brazil. In addition however there has been a collapse of growth in the developing

* Professor of Economics, CESP, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 9 - 10, Sept. - Oct. 19^9



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