Jan 17, 2018

Rundle: how capitalism failed India

In India, on the pavements, you will be stepping over the great grandchildren of the people your great grandparents stepped over. This is, quite simply, the failure of capitalism.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The old lefty observation that the only newspaper worth reading was the Financial Times was never more true than in the age of decadent neoliberalism. The typical Trot of yore always had the FT or The Wall Street Journal tucked under their arm, because they knew that the news sections of such papers had to tell the truth about world politics, so that investors could make decisions based on accurate information. Guff about freedom-loving capitalist dynamism and animal spirits could be exiled to the op-ed pages; if you had $50 million in cocoa futures, you wanted to know that starving farmers in West Africa were about to rise up and seize the crop.

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14 thoughts on “Rundle: how capitalism failed India

  1. aswann

    Rundle, I’d be interested in some reports from the ground in India, if you’re thinking of going. I think your colourful journalism well suits such a fragrant subject as India.

  2. Robert Smith

    Not one of Mr Rundle’s best.
    Four points (and there could be many more):
    –have no time for neoliberalism but India’s problems extend well beyond the quite limited trimming of the licence/quota/permit raj often equated in India with neoliberalism
    –Indian agriculture is a mess
    –cheap Chinese smart phones have enabled many people to move beyond the wood fired Nokia that I still use.
    –being middle class by the figures is not the same as feeling middle class and having aspirations beyond the traditional. PM Modi’s appeal to urban people with aspirations is remarkable and worth close study.
    However good to see The Economist’s charts being publicised.

    Bob Smith

  3. Robert Smith

    I think the last para is misleading. The quote I read is
    “Tellingly, few websites venture beyond English, a language in which perhaps only one in ten are conversant and which is preferred by the economic elite. “
    It seems to me they were using this fact to support the point of their article rather than Making a recommendation.

  4. paddy

    Good piece today Guy.
    India has always induced (in me) an intense mixture of love and despair.
    I’m beginning to dread that the “miracle” of it working at all, is beginning to seriously come unstuck.
    I really hope I’m wrong.

  5. old greybearded one

    Captitalism is destroying the world. Why should India be any different? Seriously though the BJP are a collection of appallingly racist nasties and the Congress are crooked. Poor India and a pox on the people who saw it divided. India has given the world much and the world has robbed it blind since the Portuguese arrived.

  6. Nudiefish

    Great piece, GR.

    I wonder what type of politics in India might effect a cure? This is a serious question? Surely the scene is set for some kind of revolution?

  7. AR

    A culture that shuns the necessity of toilets has no future.
    There are more mobile phones in India than toilets and the effect of this on women’s health & safety is beyond calculation.

  8. klewso

    Looks like “Coal to free India of poverty!” has a task ahead?
    …. Unless of course that’s just empty rhetorical BS – spread by this government and their one-eyed media throwback groupies, to pimp the embracing of Adani and coal to our sceptical masses : with no real regard for Indians in poverty?

  9. Matthew Harris

    Rundle’s lost the plot (again). In his desire to bravely slay straw men he manages to attribute to the Economist an argument that they simply did not make. He also manages to conflate neoliberalism with capitalism in his attempt to discredit both. And to top it off he suggests that famines in India in the late 19th and early 20th century can be solely blamed upon ‘liberalism’, conveniently ignoring the role that colonial exploitation and bureaucratic inefficiency played in these disasters.
    China’s rapid growth has coincided with increasing openness to trade and free markets. Their attempts to modernise before this shift were disastrous, as Rundle well knows.
    India has many problems that are hampering its efforts to modernise and reduce the poverty and extreme inequality that have long held it back, including the corruption endemic in its legal, government and business institutions, a Byzantine bureaucracy that smothers innovation and clogs up the wheels of commerce, and a social structure that is cruel and unfair. Some progress is being made, but reforming such entrenched structures will be a long and difficult process. Rundle, in his desire to shadowbox his neoliberal boogeymen, seems determined to ignore these issues, and at the same time take away one of the few things working in India’s favour – a relatively free and open economic system supported by a robust democracy.

  10. TomM

    Your last paragraph is misleading. The Economist makes the observation on website languages, but clearly does not make the recommendation to have more websites in native language(s). The Economist article identifies the education system is India’s most intractable problem, accompanied by high rates of malnutrition with poor physical and mental development. Given that poor education systems and malnutrition can be found in many different countries under many different economic structures, it seems disingenuous to be throwing the many problems of India at the feet of neo-liberalism. To throw fuel on the fire, it seems more like the article has been written with the end in mind (neo-liberalism is all bad) without considering the supporting and contradicting evidence to the hypothesis.

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