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Book Review

                                                                                                              Shambhu Ghatak*

An Alternative Philosophy of Development: From Economism to Human Well-being

Author: Birendra Prasad Mathur, Publisher: Routledge India, First South Asia edition (2017), Price: `850 Pages: 248

The book provides a critique of neo-liberal economic policies from multiple perspectives. The reduction of economic development to merely growth in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been questioned by the author. Apart from making its own unique arguments, the book also presents an extensive survey of literature and presents to the readers the alternative theories, global best practises and dominant paradigms of development. The author uses a broad canvas and deft brush strokes. He proposes a scheme of fiscal balance taking into account issues of public finance, productive and wasteful expenditure, austerity, debt and overall accountability, and all of it within a moral and cultural paradigm.

Although the author's domain of expertise is governance and public administration, his latest work has gone beyond those known territories. The central thrust of Dr. Mathur's recent book is to put the idea that economics and culture are not separate spheres; rather they are inter-connected.

In his book, Dr. Mathur has taken the pains to give an exposure to his readers on the areas where India has failed as an economy, as a society as well as a democracy. Based on his vast experience as a civil servant and as a serious scholar of development and public administration, the author has explored the underlying relationship between culture and the economic policies that are formulated and implemented by successive governments.

The 18 chapters of the book are divided into four thematic parts: current socio-economic setting; current economic ideology and its problems; rethinking development; and culture as foundation of development.

The first part, dedicated to the socio-economic setting, may attract those readers who are interested in data and statistics so as to provide a realistic picture of the country's socio-economic scenario. The key sectors, which are covered in this section are Education and health, Agriculture and rural crisis, Industrial development, India's external front, and Public finance. The author has utilised and presented relevant data and statistics from reliable sources in a manner which can be easily comprehended by policy makers, researchers and academicians.


At the outset, the author has said that India is socially and economically backward due to two primary reasons, poor governance and wrong economic policies. The Indian value system stands in contradiction to the economic policies that has been pursued by successive governments, he avers. The Western nations have been successful because their economic policies corroborate western value-system like individuality, competition and materialism, he maintains. By blindly imitating the western paradigm of development, he believes, the country has failed to attain social development, which is sustainable and equitable.

The book compares the Indian and Western economic philosophies and value-systems. The importance of sustainable development and Gandhian way of living has been a central theme. Dr. Mathur goes on to demonstrate how the country can improve its socio-economic standing vis-à-vis the rest of the world in terms of human development and happiness if it pursues sound and inclusive policies that do not contradict the Indian philosophy and value-system. In short, the country's economic policies should synergize with its cultural ethos, emphasizes the author.

While economic development in terms of the GDP growth has been considered the most important objective by successive Indian governments, Dr. Mathur has explained that the real indicators of development are social welfare, happiness and self-fulfillment. The book is a 'must' for anyone who is interested in composite human development not in a linear or mechanical, but in a holistic, progressive and spiritual way.


*Shambhu Ghatak is with im4change.org

Volume: Vol. XXXVI No. 1
January-March, 2017