ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A K Dasgupta on Gandhi and the Economics of Austerity

A K Dasgupta spent his lifetime teaching and researching on the classical, marginalist and Keynesian theories of value and distribution associated with the writings of Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Marshall and Keynes. In the last part of his life he was much attracted to the writings of M K Gandhi as well as the notion of austerity contained in the writings of David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill. The questions Gandhi had raised still continue to be astonishingly relevant. This article briefly explores this literature.

An earlier version of this article was presented as the 11th Professor A K Dasgupta Memorial Lecture on 15 September 2017 at the annual conference of the Bangiya Arthaniti Parishad (Bengal Economic Association) held at Prabhu Jagatbandhu College at Andul, Howrah. I am deeply grateful to the conference participants, as well as Y P Anand, Biswajit Chatterjee, Partha Dasgupta, Mark Lindley, Binod Nayak, Nalini Nayak, Alaknanda Patel, and T P Sinha for reading through it and offering valuable comments. All remaining errors are mine.

Amiya Kumar Dasgupta (190392) was unquestionably the doyen among the economic theorists of India. If we begin to look at Indian economic thought from the 19th century onwards, there certainly were a number of major thinkers who made significant contributions to the subject, namely, Dadabhai Naoroji (18251917), Mahadev Govind Ranade (18421901), R C Dutt (18481909), Gopal Krishna Gokhale (18661915) among others. However, none of them were economic theorists as we associate with, say, the classical or the marginalist schools. Among the other major pre-independence figures, one would also have to consider the names of B R Ambedkar, Brij Narain, Jehangir Coyaji, Gyanchand, and V K R V Rao, among many other notable names (Krishnamurty 2009), but, again, none of them were principally theorists.

In a particularly insightful presidential address, entitled Tendencies in Economic Theory, delivered in 1960 to the All India Economic Conference in Chandigarh, Dasgupta dwelt on this very question. He observes, Indian economists, particularly of the older generation, have been somewhat allergic to theory. He goes on to add,

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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