Radical Political Economy: Explorations in Alternative Economic Analysis

By Victor D. Lippit | Go to book overview

cadres and the engineers. But that is an option open only to a minority. As there is room for only so many cadres and engineers, most must remain workers, consigned to inferior status by virtue of the inferiority of their knowledge.

The point of my argument is not to glorify but to rediscover and to legitimize techne; to argue for a balance and even for a tension between techne and episteme. I have neither the intention nor the need to denigrate episteme in order to attack the hierarchical ordering in which episteme is placed above techne; my purpose is to argue against an imbalance that puts the very project of erecting a decent society at risk.

Outside the West, conditions are at once more problematic and more promising. To take India as a concrete example, the problems of poverty and internal conflict are intertwined with the problems posed by the encounter, cultural as well as economic, with the West. The economic consequences of that encounter are ambiguous. Whether the British deindustrialized India or laid the basis for its industrialization (or perhaps did some of each) is still debated by scholars and the issue will perhaps never be settled.

But the cultural consequences seem to me to be much more clear-cut. If India is to build a society on the foundations of democratic and participatory work organization, it will do better to follow the impulse of Mohandas Gandhi and his kind to look to India's own tradition than to follow the impulse of the ilk of Rajiv Gandhi to look to the West.


Notes
1.
"Efficiency" is the economists' preferred term for describing the virtue of the market. An efficient set of economic arrangements is one that precludes the provision of more of one good except at the sacrifice of some other good. "Goods," it should be noted, has an elastic meaning: a good can be defined as narrowly as a specific commodity like bread or ice-cream or it can be stretched to mean the well-being of individuals. In its second meaning, an efficient set of arrangements is one which precludes increasing the well-being of one individual except at the expense of another.

The advantage of the more technical terminology of "efficiency" over a more informal notion like "the size of the economic pie" is that it permits comparison of situations where tastes differ: "size of the pie" becomes ambiguous when some people like blackberry pie while others like apple pie. But taste differences are not matters of great moment for present purposes, and we lose correspondingly little if we take the informal route of identifying efficiency with pie size.

Observe that the economist's definition of efficiency is somewhat at odds with conventional usage. A businessman thinks he is increasing efficiency if he is successful in imposing a speed-up. But the economist will object that the higher output is at the expense of greater effort. It is not necessarily more efficient in the sense of providing more of one good without sacrificing something elsewhere.

2.
"Pyramids, Empire State Building--these things just don't happen. There's hard work behind it. I would like to see a building, say the Empire State, I would like to see on one side of it a foot-wide strip from top to bottom with the name of every bricklayer, the name of every electrician, with all the names. So when a guy walked by, he could take his

-109-

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