Thursday, August 26, 2010

Random Thought (awating further elaboration)

The phenomenon of overbearing presence of "intellectuals" (sic) in political space is a curious facet of Bengali politics. Probably other than the French, no ethnic group is so much enamored with this epithet- “intellectual”. I presume this to be an inheritance of our nineteenth century history. Economic or finance capital have always eluded Bengali elite class. In lieu of the classic class or caste dominance, the class positions in the Bengali society have mostly been determined by what Pierre Bourdieu called the “cultural capital”. More “cultural capital” you possess, more dominant you are in Bengali class hierarchy. Interestingly, though these intellectuals have their “voice” because of their “cultural capital”, there is an ever-widening gulf between “cultural choices” of them and “cultural choices” of the people. This is a paradox of a decaying society stuck in a groove. I came across an illuminating TMC graffiti yesterday- “শহীদ স্মরণে আপন মরণে রক্তঋণ শোধ করো.” (Pay off your blood debt sacrificing your life in the memory of the martyrs)- an ubiquituous CPI(M) slogan. That’s what is called “stuck in a groove”- intellectuals or no intellectuals, CPI(M) or no CPI(M).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Long Time No Write

Vilamit has now become so Vilambit, that I forgot the link to my own blog, and as I haven't kept it in My Favorites, I googled to find it. Diligent practice of such laziness, (lad in Bengali is phonetically more appropriate) is our family tradition, though not-so-ancient. Here are some of the specimens:

My younger brother's blog:

And my eldest cousin's blog:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


My friend Imran has sent this painting of Kazi Nasir to me. I like it- simple composition, but poignant. I do'nt know why it reminds me of Sidney Nolan.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Inexactitude? Exactly!

The description looked sexy to me: "Inflexibility and falsifiability in economics, and the failure of rigid worldviews". ( I guessed rightly that Professor Bhaduri will be at his pugnacious best. I guessed wrongly that this is a serious critique against methodological foundations of mainstream economics. After a paragraph or so, it's clear what follows next, because by now, I know what usually follows next. Preachers and pedagogues repeat. Ramakrishna's did that, Professor Bhaduri's do that.

There's nothing inherently wrong in repetition. There's nothing logically wrong in analysing neoliberal economic ideology in the way he does. Problem lies elsewhere. More precisely, in this opening paragraph:

"A badly kept secret among economists should be shared with non-economists. Economic theory, insofar as it consists of results derived logically from clearly stated premises, is mostly precautionary knowledge which warns against unfounded economic propositions. Very rarely, is it positive knowledge for guiding policies. There is an even more fuzzy area of economic knowledge which infers from quantitative data through statistical techniques and historical analogies. Such knowledge is even more tentative, yet essential in a subject like economics where controlled experiments are impossible. With data generated over time subject to observational error, bias, and random shocks, we would do well to remember the saying of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, a rough contemporary of Buddha, “It is never possible to step twice into the same river”."

Given the complexity of the problem and limitations of the tools at disposal, any serious economist should be wary of certitude. In fact, many of them are, and that's the origin of famous "Give me one-handed economist" joke. However, during last twenty years or so, mere pedagogic tools have become the "Holy Grail" of free-market religion, useful theoretical assumptions have become the Eternal Truth at the "end of history". "Theorems of welfare economics" first became an ideology, and then they became a credo. A new religion was born.

One of my favourite out-of-syllabus economics book was Deirdre McCloskey's "The Rhetoric of Economics". I became convinced, and still I am, that economics works best when it is instrumentalist, dealing with mundane management issues, with a short and medium-term view. "Inexactitude" and "falsifiability" of "dismal science" demand humility and self-discipline. It demands avoidance of "grand narratives". Interestingly, one of the most popular "grand narratives" of recent times- "Development with Dignity" have been authored by Professor Bhaduri himself.

It's a lucid and logical Neokeynesian macroeconomic model for Indian economy, charting the path towards full-employment. It opposes reckless anarchy of free-market fundamentalists, and avoids blunt absolutism of Statists. It incorporates a third category of co-ordination mechanism, one in vogue, "community" and "participatory democracy", neatly into the narrative. The model is not a rehash of ubiquitous Keynesian model, but neither it's greatly ingenious. It's Professor Bhaduri's way of "telling the story". And it's one of many "stories". I hope Professor Bhaduri seriously considers possibilities of plurality.

Smith, Marx and "story-tellers" of their times were brilliant narrators and rhetoricians, because their "stories" were more of serious moral philosophy and less of positive economics. Marx's "story" was persuasive, because he didn't balk at the idea of jumping headlong into political nitty-gritties. Professor Bhaduri is honest to acknowledge that his "grand narrative" presumes political mobilization which is not beyond "the realm of feasible politics", but he refuses to get into details. Neither we see any interest to delve deeper into moral philosophical issues. So "Development with Dignity" remains a curious "parable" with lofty aims, built with "inexact" tools, and "falsifiable" ideas of "reasonable economics".

We should remember Heraclitus. Boomerang is a rogue weapon.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


One of my classmate's Geography answer script used to be like this:

"X is an Indian river. There is an Indian river called X. We have a river in our great country India which people call X. X is one of the greatest rivers of India. India has a lot of rivers and one of them is X..............".

Most of the "Breaking News" moments in Bengali news channels are exactly like my classmate's Geography answer script. Just replace "X is an Indian River" with "There has been a fire in X". And then it's the same never-say-nothing-to-say spirit:

"We have just now heard that a fire has broken out near X. Our correspondent has already reached X and he's confirmed that a fire has broken out there. In fact, we can show you the live footage of the fire. You can see that there is fire in X. We have just got the news that there has been a fire in X. Our correspondent is a few feet away from the fire. You must be seeing the fire in your TV screen........"

It was a survival strategy for my friend.
For media, it's inanity.

But they are doing their job well- job of a perfect mirror.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bypass at eleven

zero sky
blunt melancholy
and billboards
jurassic trucks
waiting shadows
trembling speedometer
at eleven in the night

science city
culture city
dog's city
crushed dog
dogged love
loving police
police patrol

herr sergeant, would you be the woman of this night?

at eleven in the night

ruby island
emerald trees
topaz garden
cash and carry
free signal
no breaks
empty malls

there's no madhushala
no insight

at eleven in the night

then there're dusty trees
and sleeping chai shops
torn kites
and vigilant lamps
fading history
and rising cities
lakhs of citizens
and lakhs of homes
and that ghost
that fight
that solemn mass

let there be light

at eleven in the night