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Unformatted text preview: PERSPECTIVE Economic & Political Weekly EPW july 24, 2010 vol xlv no 30 33 This paper owes much to discussions with Akeel Bilgrami and Rajendra Prasad. Prabhat Patnaik ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) is at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A Left Approach to Development Prabhat Patnaik Against the “means-based approach” to development that the bourgeoisie projects, the left must project a “rights-based approach”. Since “rights” are guarantors of welfare gains, every winning of rights likewise strengthens them. The acquisition of rights on the part of the people, including rights to minimum bundles of goods, services and security, amounts therefore to winning crucial battles in the class war for the transcendence of capitalism. If the left were to put on its agenda a struggle for people’s rights and adopt a rights-based approach to development as opposed to the means-based approach of the bourgeois formations, it would not constitute a retreat into abstract humanism but would be an integral part of the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital. 1 T he term “development” has almost become synonymous with the achievement of a high rate of growth of the gross domestic product ( GDP) . It used to be claimed at one time that the benefits of a rapid expansion of GDP would automatically “trickle down” to the poor, so that a high growth rate of GDP could very legitimately be looked upon as the summum bonum of the development ef- fort. This claim however has been so obvi- ously discredited that few would make it now. The argument that has replaced it states that even if there is no automatic “trickle down”, a larger GDP enables the State to garner larger resources through taxation, and hence to spend more for the benefit of the poor. A larger GDP , and hence by inference a high rate of growth of GDP , is therefore, according to this ar- gument, a necessary condition for “deve- lopment”, though not a sufficient one as believed earlier. This argument, articulated for instance in the Planning Commission’s Approach Paper to the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, comes to the same conclusion as the earlier one, namely that a high growth rate of GDP is the summum bonum of “development”, but it avoids intellectually untenable and morally questionable concepts like “trickle down”. This entire approach will be re- ferred to below as the “ means-based ap- proach” to development, since it believes that the essence of the problem of devel- opment consists in simply expanding the sum total of the available means of pro- duction and consumption. The “means-based approach” however is untenable in all its incarnations, includ- ing the one that promotes it on the ground that it is essential if the State is to do “good things”. This is so well-established empiri- cally that one hardly needs to labour the point. During the period when India’s growth rate was accelerating, prompting...
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