Daily Archives: November 23, 2008

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

Institutional economics has been mainly concerned with institutions for economic growth. Will the same insights apply for economic development? Suppose an island is discovered amidst the pacific and a group of people decided to establish a country there. These people are from a variety of backgrounds, speak different languages and are of differing abilities. They decide that they want to achieve maximum possible development over the long run and consult an institutional economist for advice. They state clearly that growth is not the same as development and that they want to maximise development rather than economic growth. What advice will […]

What institutional economics has to say beyond growth

In order to theorise the roles of institutions in development, it is important to define development first. In this post, I argue that Amartya Sen’s “development as freedom” is the most suitable framework for theorising institutions & development. Amartya Sen has made a powerful argument for looking at development as a process of enhancing substantive freedoms (e.g. freedom from hunger, illiteracy, morbidity, etc.). This is best encapsulated in his book Development as freedom. Sen argues that freedoms have an intrinsic and instrumental importance and that human agency is the key to the pursuit of development. All three ideas have a […]

Suitability of Amartya’s framework for institutions & development

Prof. Marjorie DeVault hosts a website on institutional ethnography (see URL below). To quote her, “Institutional ethnography (IE) is a method of inquiry that allows people to explore the social relations that structure their everyday lives. It was first developed as a “sociology for women,” by Dorothy E. Smith, and is now being used by researchers in the social sciences, education, human services, and policy research”. The website offers information on teaching resources and a brief look at people who use institutional ethnography in their work. URL: http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/mdevault/

Institutional ethnography resources

When it comes to provision of basic amenities India performs badly by any account. Roads, electricity, water, schools, primary health, nutrition programmes, other amenities most basic to people today are poorly provided in most parts of India. Facilities that exist too are badly maintained and are often dysfunctional. While this is true by and large some states have performed exceptionally well. The famed example is Kerala whose education and health programmes have been remarkable. Another equally remarkable performer has been Tamil Nadu. The state has huge budgetary commitments for the social sector and most of these schemes also tend to […]

My dissertation question

An overview of institutional changes in Tamil Nadu over two centuries that explains the state’s relatively good governance Myron Weiner argued that India’s failure in providing universal education was due to the hierarchical mindset of the elite politicians and bureaucrats who did not consider it essential for children from the lower castes to be educated. Similarly in the Western world, there is evidence that evidence that relatively equal societies created provisions for universal primary education earlier. In other words, there is a strong relationship between social relations in a society and the role the government plays therein. I argue that […]

Overview of institutional change in Tamil Nadu & Governance

Institutional economists have held that we do not know how institutions change. I speculate why collective action as an agent of institutional change has been ignored I used to be surprised that institutional economists argue that they do not know how institutional change happens. Collective action is such a prominent driving force, how could the economists have missed this? I speculate that this must be due to the structure-agent dichotomy in social sciences. Social theorists across disciplines have struggled between choosing structures or agency as their basis of analysis. Those who choose structures (production relations, prices, etc.) effectively assume that […]

Institutional economics, collective action & change

During fieldwork in India, I was amazed by the differences between common people that I interacted with, and the well trained students in the Western world. There were significant differences in the questions each asked and the observations they made. I was often left wondering if more training in the disciplinary world leads to less sophisticated understanding of this complex social world. Read on...

Disciplinary training: More trained, less able