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International Socialism, Autumn 1966


David Breen

Administritis in India


From International Socialism, No.26, Autumn 1966, pp.33-34.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Process of Planning, A Study of India’s Five-Year Plans 1950-1964
A.H. Hanson
OUP/Chatham House, 105s.

Land and Caste in South India
Dhanna Kumar
Cambridge University Press, 45s.

If planning were a self-contained process, a product of some socio-economic milieu, but one that remained unaffected by changes in it, Hanson’s book would be a classic. It shows the administrative difficulties in achieving set goals. It shows how the initial impetus drains away in the sands of a traditionalist society. It traces carefully the practical corollaries of policy statements. It is the planners’ compendium. But planning is less teleological than Hanson allows and much more the sport of changing political and social circumstances. These he does not outline. So we are left a picture of planning somehow weakened from within, rather than one of it being rapidly eroded from outside. The emphasis is on policy statements (for example, on the ‘socialistic pattern’) rather than on policy (which would show that the ‘socialistic pattern’ resolution signalled a retreat rather than an advance for the state sector). It is on trends as seen from the economic target area rather than on oscillations as seen from the hurly-burly of social conflict. It is on individuals from Gandhi to Jayaprakash Narayan rather than on social forces. It is on growth as if the whole of India shared the planners’ cognitive map.

It’s a pity. As readers of Public Enterprise and Economic Development will remember, Hanson can teach.

Dharma Kumar sets out to prove that ‘even before British rule, there was a sizeable group of landless labourers’ in the Indian rural economy, and to question ‘whether the economic condition of this group deteriorated over the nineteenth century.’ In doing so – and she does both convincingly – she puts the skids under much of Marx’s analysis of the effect of British rule. It’s a valiant tilt at a pervasive tradition, but the essence of our case is less that imperialism created the problem, but that it blocked the only possible solution – industrialisation.

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