Marx Liked Bourgeois Modernity Better than Feudal Despotism

(p. 24) In his early writings and well through the 1860s, Marx propounded a theory of history that extolled the heroic achievements of the bourgeoisie as the collective agent of global change. Before the proletariat could develop into a mature class and become truly conscious of its revolutionary task, he reasoned, it was first necessary for capitalism thoroughly to modernize the world. All remnants of feudalism would dissolve; local custom and tradition would be swept aside, and industrial production would surge, condensing the two remaining classes into radically opposed groups in anticipation of capitalism’s final crisis.
This theory implied a certain inevitability to the gathering processes of historical change. It also left little room for the possibility of independent revolution in less developed regions around the globe, in the east or in the outer reaches of Europe’s empires. Marx’s universalism found its classic expression in “The Communist Manifesto,” which declared that all nations must submit “on pain of extinction” to the forces of bourgeois modernity. Elsewhere, Marx celebrated the introduction of steam power into India and the consequent dissolution of the archaic “village system.” And in the first volume of “Capital,” completed in 1867, he still reserved special disdain for what he called “ancient Asiatic” forms of production, condemning them as symptoms of a despotism that must be swept aside on the way to revolution.

For the full review, see:
PETER E. GORDON. “Call Him Karl.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, October 23, 2016): 24.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date OCT. 21, 2016, and has the title “A New Biography Focuses on Karl Instead of Marxism.”)

The book under review, is:
Jones, Gareth Stedman. Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.

Environmentalists Deprive the Poor of Cool Comfort

(p. A1) DELHI — A thrill goes down Lane 12, C Block, Kamalpur every time another working-class family brings home its first air-conditioner. Switched on for a few hours, usually to cool a room where the whole family sleeps, it transforms life in this suffocating concrete labyrinth where the heat reached 117 degrees in May.
“You wake up totally fresh,” exulted Kaushilya Devi, a housewife, whose husband bought a unit in May. “I wouldn’t say we are middle class,” she said. “But we are closer.”
But 3,700 miles away, in Kigali, Rwanda, negotiators from more than 170 countries gathered this week to complete an accord that would phase out the use of heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, worldwide, and with them the cheapest air-conditioners that are just coming within reach of people like Ms. Devi.
. . .
(p. A8) Sandhya Chauhan and her family live in two musty, windowless subterranean rooms, which turn stifling on summer nights, leaving six sweat-soaked adults to fidget, toss and pace until morning. They have lived there for 20 years, unable to find other lodging on the household’s combined earnings of around 30,000 rupees a month, or less than $450.
But it was never as awful as this May, when temperatures crept so high that Ms. Chauhan’s friends speculated that the earth was colliding with the sun. After a doctor warned Mrs. Chauhan that heat exhaustion was affecting their oldest son’s health, her husband bought an air-conditioner on credit. Though they are hardly middle class — “we have never let this thought cross our minds,” Mrs. Chauhan said — the purchase has changed the way they see themselves.
“My children sleep in peace,” she said. “There was a sense of happiness from inside. There was a sense that father has done a great job.”
Among the changes that have come with increasing wealth, Ms. Devi said, is the confidence to spend on the family’s comfort, rather than squirreling every bit of savings away.
“Education is teaching people to take care of themselves,” she said. “Now that we are used to air-conditioners, we will never go back.”

For the full story, see:
ELLEN BARRY and CORAL DAVENPORT. “A Climate Deal Could Push Air-Conditioning Out of India’s Reach.” The New York Times (Thurs., October 13, 2016): A1 & A8.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 12, 2016, and has the title “Emerging Climate Accord Could Push A/C Out of Sweltering India’s Reach.” The online version of the article says that the New York edition had the headline “Accord May Push Air-Conditioning Out of India’s Reach” and appeared on p. A12. In my paper, which is probably the midwest edition, the title was as cited in the main citation above, and appeared on pp. A1 and A8.)

“I Believe in Free Markets and Open Skies”

(p. B1) DELHI — When the fast-growing Malaysian carrier AirAsia wanted to expand, India looked like the ideal frontier.
. . .
Then, AirAsia discovered the difficulties of doing business in India.
While it benefited from a recent loosening of restrictions on foreign investment in airlines, AirAsia India has contended with a web of red tape and regulations for new entrants that have added significant cost and complexity to its operations.
. . .
(p. B7) . . . Mr. Chandilya acknowledges that he misjudged India’s regulatory environment, which is uniquely stringent for airlines.
Taxes on aviation turbines are higher than almost anywhere else in the world. Every airline, even those with just a few planes, is also required to fly regularly to remote regions, where flights often run half full. And new entrants like AirAsia India are prohibited from flying lucrative international routes until they are five years old and have at least 20 aircraft, the so-called 5/20 rule.
“I believe in free markets and open skies, but if you look at the policies we have in place, I don’t think we have that at all,” Mr. Chandilya said.
. . .
Each Indian state controls its own taxes on aviation turbine fuel, and in many places it is kept as high as 30 percent. More than half of AirAsia India’s operating costs are fuel-related.
High taxes also extend to maintenance and Indian airlines often choose to take their aircraft to nearby countries for that work. AirAsia India plans to send its planes to Malaysia or Singapore for servicing once they’ve been operational for two years.
“I talk to ministers and policy makers about how they can help the industry and promote growth, but it is very difficult to get them to understand that reducing these taxes will probably boost their states’ economies,” Mr. Chandilya said.

For the full story, see:
MAX BEARAK. “India’s Restricted Airspace.” The New York Times (Tues., JUNE 23, 2015): B1 & B7.
(Note: eilipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JUNE 22, 2015, and has the title “AirAsia Faces Red Tape and Tough Competition in India.”)

Health Innovations Launch Where Regulations Are Few

(p. A15) One type of mobile device that is likely to appear first in the Far East and be widely adopted there is the digital stethoscope. This device is able to detect changes in pitch and soon will be able to detect asthma in children, pneumonia in the elderly, and, in conjunction with low-cost portable electrocardiographs, cardiopulmonary disease.
An additional advantage is that this part of the world–particularly India and Africa–has limited regulation, which makes it much easier to launch these kinds of health-care tools. In India and much of Africa, there are few government drug agencies or big insurance companies to throw up barriers.
Companies that make medical devices and their accompanying smartphone apps could establish themselves almost overnight. Then, once they have built a large, profitable base of users, they could consider jumping through the legal and regulatory hoops to bring the technology to developed countries.

For the full commentary, see:
Michael S. Malone. “Silicon Valley Trails in Medical Tech; With smartphones everywhere and little regulation, India and Africa are set to lead..” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., July 24, 2017): A15.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 23, 2017.)

Rigid Labor Regulations Hurt Labor in India

(p. A9) . . . rigid and complex regulations have discouraged investment in labor-intensive industries in India, . . . .
Many economists say India’s labor laws have encouraged enterprises to stay small, rely on informal labor or substitute capital for workers. A report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said for India to return to a high-growth trajectory, it must “reduce barriers to formal employment by introducing a simpler and more flexible labor law which doesn’t discriminate by size of enterprise.”

For the full story, see:
NIHARIKA MANDHANA. “India State Tests Labor-Law Overhaul.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Dec. 6, 2014): A9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date Dec. 7 [sic], 2014, and has the title “Modi’s BJP-Controlled States Become Labs for Contentious Reform.”)

Gandhi in South Africa Was Willing to “Acknowledge White Supremacy”

(p. C6) At the close of his presidency in 1999, Nelson Mandela praised Mohandas Gandhi for believing that the “destiny” of Indians in South Africa was “inseparable from that of the oppressed African majority.” In other words, Gandhi had fought for the freedom of Africans, setting the pattern for his later effort to liberate India from British rule.
Nothing could be more misleading. Gandhi’s concern for the African majority — “the Kaffirs,” in his phrase — was negligible. During his South African years (1893-1914), argue Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed in “The South African Gandhi,” he was far from an “anti-racist, anti-colonial fighter on African soil.” He had found his way to South Africa mainly by the accident of being offered a better job there than he could find in Bombay. He regarded himself as a British subject. He aimed at limited integration of Indians into white society. Their new status would secure Indian rights but would also acknowledge white supremacy. In essence, he wanted to stabilize the Indian community within the stratified system that later became known as apartheid.
. . .
“The South African Gandhi” deals comprehensively with Gandhi’s decisive two decades in South Africa. It complements Perry Anderson’s “The Indian Ideology” (2013), which explains how Gandhi later treated the Dalits, or Untouchables, much as he had dealt with black Africans.
For my taste, the book’s tone is too academic, but the authors use sound evidence and argue their case relentlessly–Gandhi’s vision did not include the majority of the people in South Africa, the Africans themselves.

For the full review, see:
WM. ROGER LOUIS. “Gandhi the Imperialist.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Jan 9, 2016): C6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan 10, [sic] 2016, and has the title “Gandhi the Imperialist – Book Review.”)

The book under review, is:
Desai, Ashwin, and Goolem Vahed. The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.

Low Interest Rates Cannot Substitute for Needed Deeper Reforms

(p. B3) MUMBAI, India — Three years before the 2008 global financial crisis, an Indian economist named Raghuram G. Rajan presciently warned a skeptical audience of top economic thinkers that excessive risk threatened the entire global financial system.
As Mr. Rajan stepped down on Sunday [Sept. 4, 2016] as India’s top central banker, following intense criticism at home, he offered a new warning: Low interest rates globally could distort markets and would be difficult to abandon.
Countries around the world, including the United States and Europe, have kept interest rates low as a way to encourage growth. But countries could become “trapped” by fear that when they eventually raised rates, they “would see growth slow down,” he said.
Low interest rates should not be a substitute for “other instruments of policy” and “various kinds of reforms” that are needed to encourage growth, Mr. Rajan said in a recent interview with The New York Times. “Often when monetary policy is really easy, it becomes the residual policy of choice,” he said, when deeper reforms are needed.
. . .
In discussing the Indian economy in the interview, Mr. Rajan offered a less-than-ringing endorsement of the government’s emphasis on manufacturing in India — what the prime minister has called his Make in India campaign.
Mr. Rajan said he did not support the view of critics that it was too late in world economic history for India to become a manufacturing hub. But he also said that he would not focus exclusively on manufacturing as the solution to joblessness.
If India improves infrastructure and reduces government regulations, manufacturing might take off in a big way, but it “could also be services. It could be value-added agriculture also.”`

For the full story, see:
GEETA ANAND. “A Departing Central Banker’s Warning.” The New York Times (Mon., SEPT. 5, 2016): B3.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date SEPT. 4, 2016, and has the title “Raghuram Rajan, India’s Departing Central Banker, Has a New Warning.” The online version is somewhat longer than the print version, and has minor differences in the last three paragraphs quoted above. The last three paragraphs quoted above, are from the online version.)