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Understanding What Has Gone Wrong in Pakistan

Rentier Capitalism: Disorganised Development and Social Injustice in Pakistan by Shahid Ahmed, UK: Palgrave Macmillan UK, March 2016; pp 248, $120(hardcover).

Almost 50 years ago the Swedish Nobel economist Gunnar Myrdal described an Asian drama in which a self-serving elite spawned a vicious cycle of socio-economic inequality, low levels of productive investment (both public and private), low productivity (particularly in the rural sectors), national economic disintegration, slow economic growth and a captured state that perpetuated the whole process. A good deal of Myrdal’s voluminous research was focused on India and Pakistan. In his drama, Myrdal believed that without deep and radical reforms to the structure of the state, these systemic pressures would eventually overwhelm efforts at modernisation, regardless of whether these emerged from democratic or authoritarian regimes. The danger he thought was the spread of “resentful” nationalism.

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