Yearly Archives: 2008

An effort to build a list of good international news programmes to get news from diverse perspectives Over the last few years, I have developed an interest in international affairs. Unfortunately, International English news sources were dominated by channels in USA and Britain.  BBC and CNN that were available widely had some high quality programmes but put forward highly circumscribed views.  My earning for diversity of views got a fillip with online news channels.  I am now trying to compile a list of good weekly programmes, documentaries, etc. that we can watch now and then to catch up with major […]

Best international news programmes: A list

Acemoglu and team have authored a set of influential papers arguing that colonial experience has had a lasting influence on the growth rates of countries well after colonisation through the lasting impact they have had on institutions. Apart from very neat econometric estimations testing of their hypothesis and evaluating them against a variety of alternate thesis, they also draw attention to a host of historical literature on this subject. All this is very impressive. They make a spirited argument that countries with extractive institutions have done poorly in terms of growth. This is where their work starts getting under-defined and […]

What is expropriation in Acemoglu’s work?

Book: The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics Author: William Easterly Magnanimity of IMF and World Bank leads to policies unfavourable to poor people – The Fund and the Bank did not go far enough, argues Easterly The Elusive Quest for Growth by William Easterly reviews various theories of growth and the consequent efforts by World Bank and IMF. As the title indicates he looks at how these approaches ‘failed’ and traces some reasons for their failure. The book is interspersed with live accounts of little cases (“intermezzo”) from the field to animate the discussion. […]

Review of Easterly’s Elusive quest for growth

Understanding popular theories and their challenges is crucial to understanding institutions. Notions such as Clash of civilisations by Huntington have a powerful influence on how foreign policies are shaped in the United States. In a memorable talk, Edward Said takes on Huntington’s thesis with a powerful critique. Edward Said incisively analyzes Huntington’s notion that differences in culture between the ‘West’ and ‘Islam’ will lead to conflicts between the two civilizations. Arguing against monolithic understanding of cultures, Said makes a powerful case for multiculturalism. Edward Said is one of the most powerful speakers I have listened to off-late, and this dense […]

Edward Said’s talk on ‘Clash of Civilizations’ by Samuel Huntington

Book: India: Development and participation Authors: Amartya Sen & Jean Dreze My favourite book on India’s development issues. Provides a comprehensive overview of many important development issues In my opinion this book is gold standard and is a must read for anyone intersted in development issues. Amartya Sen is distinguished for his ability to incorporate a wide variety of concerns including growth, inequalities, gender issues, power relations, etc. Dreze complements these abilities and also brings in significant field-level experience apart from rigorous research. India: Development and Participation combines a broad understanding of development with remarkable balance in dealing with various […]

Best book on India’s development by Amartya Sen and Dreze

In his famous book Elusive quest for growth William Easterly criticizes World Bank’s attempts to control population. But his ‘economic approach’ and failure to get contextual information makes his analysis poor and prescriptions dangerous. For an overall review of the book, click here Critique of ‘unwanted babies thesis’ The key theme of The elusive quest for growth is ‘people respond to incentives’. This is a statement that will find broad agreement – but the devil is in the details. In a chapter titled Cash for Condoms? Easterly discusses efforts by World Bank to contain population growth in various countries. He […]

Easterly’s critique of cash for condoms: a case of poverty ...

Book: Anthropology and institutional economics Editor: James M. Acheson This volume is one of the rare collection of papers I found looking at Anthropology and institutional economics. Surprisingly, though the two have a large scope for collaboration, there is very little work happening between these two disciplines, to my knowledge. This volume provides a useful introduction. The book starts with an introduction about Anthropology and Institutional economics by James Acheson. This is followed by an essay on New Institutionalism by Robert Bates. The best part of the book is made up of case studies divided into three sections (1) Transactions […]

Collected works on Anthropology and institutional economics

A growing collection of Ambedkar’s works are available online at Ambedkar is easily one of the finest Indian thinkers ever. Academically, he has a degree in law, a Masters in economics (from London School of Economics), and a doctorate in social sciences (from Columbia University). At Columbia he majored in sociology and economics for his M.A. with a smattering of anthropology, politics and philosophy as other subjects. He also had a stint at University of Bonn. His experience ranges from being a untouchable boy to the principal architect of India’s Constitution. He started and ran a political party and […]

Babasaheb Ambedkar’s works online: Books, articles, talks

The husband of my most admired cousin died today. It was sudden and completely unexpected by any of us, and he was just 44. I am told that she has taken this bravely; courage has been the story of her life. Nine years ago she had a child with severe CP. Through these years, I have never once seen her complain, and was touched every time I met her to see her cheerful dedication to give the child a good life. She trained herself in special education and became a teacher in the school that her child goes to. Special […]

To a brave cousin

In this very entertaining talk, Ha Joon Chang argues against mainstream trade theories. He argues that most of the success stories, including the USA followed practices that are rejected by the current trade theories and that those who followed the policies have actually not done well. Ha Joon Chang argues this from an institutional perspective and makes a case for “infant industry argument”. While these arguments themselves are not too new, he brings in a lot of historical information that were new to me and gave me many “ah ha” moments. This entertaining and passionate talk is also delivered with […]

Institutions for an unequal world: Talk by Ha Joon Chang

During my recent field work in India, I was impressed by the depth of social understanding by common people I met in the villages. Often, their views on the society were more sophisticated than many works I read in the academia. This has made me question not just what we learn in the social science disciplines, but also how we learn. I feel that the process of disengaged reading comfortably away from the hustle-bustle of the society compromises our learning. I have been thinking about how we can “teach” social sciences better and this talk by John Seely Brown was […]

Learning as doing: John Seely Brown’s exciting ideas

How far can we understand a society on the basis of ancient texts One often hears Western commentators on China asserting that China is organised on Confucian principles. I do not know much about China and so cannot comment on how fitting this description is. But I have questions on making inferences about a society using a text written in 500 BC. To take an Indian analogy Manu Sashtra or the Laws of Manu were used by many authors (mainly till mid-1900s) to understand the caste system in India. In a paper written in the 1960s Andre Betèille criticised Louis […]

Confucius & Manu: Understanding institutions from texts

Basic components of an institutional understanding (Evolving note) Someone who has an interest in understanding the role of institutions in development, or institutional change will find it difficult to go about the task by ‘decoding’ the rules of the game and analysing them. The sheer mass of rules in any society will be overwhelming and will not be amenable to such analysis. Even that would be of limited help in understanding on how they operate. A more profitable approach would be to look at formative influences of institutions that are likely to have widespread influence. In this post, I look […]

Basics to understand institutions & institutional change

Book: Food politics: How the food industry influences nutrition and health Author: Marion Nestle The book was motivated by the contradictions between nutrition policy and practice. The author argues that the basic nutrition advice has remained more or less constant for the last fifty years. She examines the role of food industry in the US in creating an environment conductive to over eating and poor nutritional practice. From an ID Perspective, this book offers a fascinating picture on formation of policies and laws regulating the food industry; I’ll have more to say on this below. Overproduction, Competition & pressure to make […]

Food Politics: Building institutions that regulate choice

Book: Development as Freedom Author: Amartya Sen This is a world of unprecedented opulence, which coexists with remarkable deprivations. Overcoming these deprivations is central to development. Sen argues that individual agency is key to addressing these deprivations, but it should be recognised that agency is constrained by social, political and economic opportunities. Sen argues for “integrated analysis of economic, political and social activities involving a variety of institutions and many interactive agencies”. In my opinion Amartya Sen offers the most sophisticated view of institutions and their relevance for development; Development as freedom is the culmination of many decades of his […]

Development as freedom: Amartya’s importance for ID

This (in)famous minute on Indian education is a sample of early discourse on institutions and development Macaulay argued in 1835 that providing education based on Sanskrit and Arabic in India is of no use for India’s development, and argued instead for education based on English literature. He envisaged creating, “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect”. The Minute is based on an idea that English education is not just superior in ‘science’, but would also inculcate superior morals, etc. that were responsible for making the English superior. […]

Macaulay’s “Minute on Indian Education”

Any course on the role of institutions in development has to cross disciplinary barriers. Since most social sciences have something to say on this topic, there are a lot of resources to borrow from. This page presents a collection of syllabi from different universities that can inform syllabus design on institutions and development. This is an expansive list for exploratory purposes. A concise list with my ideal syllabus will be developed elsewhere. Institutions, policies & development This course combines development theories and institutional theories and offers a broad selection of topics on institutions and development. When I reviewed courses in […]

Designing a course on ID: Syllabus collection

Economists have done numerous studies trying to relate the institutions of a country to economic growth there. This has been used to argue that institutional quality of a country matters for its growth. Is a country the relevant unit of analysis? Sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein argues that the world should be taken as one system. Interestingly a spate of recent works by mainstream economists begs us to take this approach seriously. Colonial impact on institutional set up A series of recent works in institutional economics have looked at the colonial impact on institutional formation. Based on a dataset of mortality of […]

World systems theory and institutional economics

Many sociologists have argued that caste system in India underwent a fundamental change with the advent of British rule. I did not understand what it meant till I saw colonisation at work in Iraq Concepts like social cohesion and trust have been central to the study of institutions in politics and in economics. It has been argued widely that a society that is more cohesive (or where people tend to trust each other) tends to perform better. This argument has been used in explaining economic growth, political stability, industrial productivity, functioning of markets, among other things. I subscribe to the […]

Colonisation & Social cohesion

Is social cohesion an absence of differences, or acceptance of differences Economists have argued that social cohesion & trust are important for economies to grow. But they have often mistaken cohesion to mean the lack of differences. If capitalism in Holland is anything to go by, it’s not the lack of differences, but an acceptance of it that leads to a cohesive society. Measuring social cohesion Having argued that social cohesion matters for economic performance economists set out to establish it. This was “achieved” by measuring social cohesion and relating it to growth (of course, teasing out other factors). Unfortunately, […]

Social cohesion & the Dutch revolution