Social Scientist. v 29, no. 342-343 (Nov-Dec 2001) p. 1.


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Editorial Note

The current number of Social Scientist contains the second and final set of papers, selected for publication from those presented at the International Conference on Democratic Decentralization organized by the Kerala State Planning Board at Thiruvananthapuram during My 23-27, 2000. The papers published in the preceding and the current issues of Social Scientist have been selected, edited and introduced by P.K.Michael Tharakan and Vikas Rawal, to whom the editorial board of our journal is extremely grateful. The papers in the present volume, having already been introduced in the previous issue itself, need no further introduction. However a few words of a general nature may be in order here.

Traditionally, Marxism has been associated with "democratic centralization". This is because Marxism sees bourgeois society as being driven by a tendency towards centralization, and socialism as representing both a culmination and a rupture of this process. Indeed the culmination of this process is possible only through a rupture that bursts asunder the integument of private property within which the process of centralization had hitherto been nurtured. In this context the Kerala experiment of "democratic decentralization", which represents one of the most innovative and consequential measures in post-independence India, appears to go contrary to the direction charted by Marxism, even though the measure was put in place by a Marxist-led government. Coming to terms with this apparent paradox is a major theoretical task, which is why we have devoted two issues of Social Scientist to it.

The basic answer to this paradox which emerges from several papers in these two issues is that Kerala-style "democratic decentralization" is not the anti-thesis of the Marxist concept of "democratic centralization"; rather it is ensconced within the latter. It represents not a negation of planning but an instrument through which planning is carried out.

Looking at it differently, the decentralization that constitutes the negation of planning is the one in which the macro outcome is the result of the uncoordinated actions of numerous, scattered, and exclusively self-serving micro units. The free market constitutes an example of such decentralization, even when the individual units are



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