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SHORT TAKE ON A REVOLUTION

A History of Capitalism: 1500-2000 By Michel Beaud, Aakar, Rs 650

Very few will now disagree with the proposition that capitalism represents the most profound and far-reaching revolution in human history. The proposition was put forward by the best-known critic of capitalism, Karl Marx. It is no easy task to try and capture the dimensions of this revolution in the compass of one volume. But this is what Michel Beaud, a former professor of economics in the University of Paris VIII at Vincennes, has attempted. The result is a patchy volume where solid data and analysis are cheek by jowl with comments not all that well grounded. The themes in this book are well known: Europe’s conquest of the New World; the first Industrial Revolution; the development of world trade and the division of the world among the European industrialized nations; the transport, communications and information revolutions; the establishment of large and global corporations and of global monetary and financial networks; and an unceasing transformation of productive techniques and lifestyles.

GREED IS BAD

The roaring nineties: seeds of destruction By Joseph Stiglitz, Allen Lane, £ 13.50

There are few things more dangerous than a reformed rake. He has the eagerness of a zealot who has suddenly seen the Truth. Stiglitz, a Nobel prize-winning economist, is unfortunately a recent convert to the criticism of globalization. His first book on the subject, Globalization and Its Discontents, has already become a bestseller and has won critical acclaim. It needs to be recalled that Stiglitz was once an advocate of the very institutions that now promote globalization. In this book, he looks at the boom and the bust of the Nineties. He argues that the boom was artificially fuelled by the United States of America and its excessive deregulation. The signs of the bust-up were there to read even at the very beginning. At the root was greed and Stiglitz takes a moral position against greed which he thinks is bad for all concerned — individuals, companies and societies. The tempering of greed is not only good morality but good economics as well. The problem with this trend of analysis is that greed, as has been pointed out by previous critics of capitalism, is embedded in the very working of the capitalist system. Is Stiglitz willing to abandon capitalism'

AN INDIAN IN BRITAIN

An Encounter with Higher Education: My Years at the lse, By I.G. Patel, Oxford, Rs 495

I.G. Patel has, in his life time, held innumerable important posts. He is a distinguished economist who was the finance secretary and the governor of the Reserve Bank of India. The last job he held was director of the London School of Economics and Politics. He is now a knight of the British Empire but being an Indian citizen he cannot, alas, use the honorific that goes with a knighthood. This is a recollection of IG’s days in LSE. The style is characteristically lucid, the wit dry and wry, and the anecdotes delightful. IG, not surprisingly, did not get on with Margaret Thatcher, who was then the prime minister of Britain. She once asked him why LSE always had foreigners as its head. The legend of LSE, Karl Popper, features in this book owing to his refusal to lend his name to a chair because a candidate of his liking wasn’t appointed to it. No wonder the joke in the LSE was that Popper’s classic book should have been called The Open Society by one of its Enemies.

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