Desai, Meghnad 1940-
DESAI, Meghnad 1940-
PERSONAL: Born July 10, 1940, in Baroda, India; son of Jagdish Chandra (a civil servant) and Mandakini (a homemaker; maiden name, Majmundar) Desai; married Gail Graham Wilson, June 27, 1970; children: Tanvi, Nuala, Sven. Education: University of Bombay, B.A., 1958, M.A., 1960; University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D., 1964. Politics: Socialist.
ADDRESSES: Home—51 Ellington St., London N7 8PN, England. Office—London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, Houghton St., Aldwych, London WC2, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of California, Berkeley, associate specialist in agricultural economics, 1963-65; London School of Economics and Political Science, London, England, lecturer, 1965-76, senior lecturer, 1977-79, reader, 1980-82, professor of economics, 1983—; director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, member of university senate. Past chairman of Holloway Labour Ward, Islington, London; consultant to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, World Bank, and University of Algeria.
MEMBER: Association of University Teachers in Economics, Royal Economic Society, Econometric Society, Economic History Society, Society for Economic Dynamics and Control, American Economic Association.
Marxian Economic Theory, Gray-Mills (Oxford, England), 1974.
Applied Econometrics, Philip Allan (Oxford, England), 1976.
Marxian Economics, Rowan & Littlefield (Totowa, NJ), 1979.
Testing Monetarism, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1982.
Hayek, Wheatsheaf Books (London, England), 1988.
The Economic Policy of the BJP, National Centre for South Asian Studies (Melbourne, Australia), 1994.
The Selected Essays of Meghnad Desai, Volume 1: Macroeconomics and Monetary Theory, Volume 2: Poverty, Famine and Economic Development, E. Elgar (Aldershot, Hants, England), 1995.
India's Triple By-pass: Economic Liberalisation, the BJP, and the 1996 Elections, National Centre for South Asian Studies (Melbourne, Australia), 1996.
Marx's Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism, Verso (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Yahia Said) Global Governance and Financial Crises, Routledge (New York, NY), 2003.
(With Dharma Kumar) The Cambridge Economic History of India, Volume 2: c. 1757 - c. 1970, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1983.
(And author of introduction) Vladimir Il'ich Lenin, Lenin's Economic Writings, Lawrence & Wishart (London, England), 1988, Humanities Press International (Atlantic Highlands, NJ), 1989.
(And author of introduction) Denis Sargan, Lectures on Advanced Econometric Theory, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1988.
(With Paul Redfern) Global Governance: Ethics and Economics of the World Order, Pinter (London, England), 1995.
LSE on Equality: A Centenary Anthology, Transaction (New Brunswick, NJ), 1997.
(With Philip Arestis and Sheila Dow) Essays in Honour of Victoria Chick, Routledge (London, England), 2001.
Also author of Leave All Things to Me, 1989, and Trahisons des Proletariat, 1989. Contributor to economic journals.
SIDELIGHTS: Meghnad Desai is a professor of economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a respected consultant on matters of economics worldwide. Desai once told CA: "I have always been interested in ideas. I hope ultimately to absorb in my work influences from a broad range of social sciences and history. In a sense, all social science provides a way to write history, if only in a more ugly and jargon-ridden way than historians manage. History is a key to change, and it is my wish to be able to harness ideas to changing society so that more people can indulge in the luxury of a concern with ideas."
Desai has written several books concerning Marxian economics and socialism and is a noted researcher in international economics, especially in the areas of the inequality of income that results from capitalism, famine and poverty and their costs to society as a whole, and the economies of South Asia and Europe.
He has also edited a number of essay collections, as well as a history of Indian economics and the writings of Lenin. One of the collections edited by Desai is LSE on Equality: A Centenary Anthology, published in 1995 on the centenary of the London School of Economics. The anthology contains ten essays by various economists. One essay, written by Hugh Dalton, is on measuring income as an indicator of individual economic welfare and covers several economic principles. Six of the collection's essays "support inequality by arguing against equality," according to William M. Dugger in a review for the Journal of Economic Issues. Such authors as William Letwin, John Charvet, and James Woodburn argue that equality of incomes, and therefore social status, in a society cannot work, for a variety of reasons. Dalton and R. H. Tawney wrote the remaining three essays, favoring equality. Although outnumbered by the authors promoting inequality, Dalton and Tawney (particularly Tawney) stand their ground, observed Dugger. He wrote, "Although more of the anthology is devoted to essays that attack equality, the power of the three egalitarian essays makes up for it. R. H. Tawney . . . was a master rhetorician. . . . I would not hesitate to assign the anthology as a whole to a good student." However, Dugger found one final point to make about the collection: "After reading all of the essays, most of the usual issues of the equality/inequality debate seem to have been covered in one or more of them. However, none of the essays is written from an instrumentalist point of view. So none of them develops the idea that equality could be instrumental, could make the poor and the deprived more efficient by making them healthier, more ambitious, longerlived, less obsequious, less servile, less frustrated, more intelligent, and more inquiring. Equality could then speed up the evolution of new and improved technology by bringing more people actively into the life process. This is the argument that institutionalists could contribute to the debate."
In his 2002 book Marx's Revenge, Desai presents a revisionist commentary on Karl Marx's economic writings, a subject on which Desai wrote a textbook in 1979. In the new book, Desai maintains that Marx knew that capitalism would prevail as a successful economic system after socialism was dead. He bases his theories on Marx's writings in Volumes 2 and 3 of his major work Das Kapital. Marx's Revenge contains chapters on: the writings and principles of economists Adam Smith, Hegel, Keynes, Schumpeter, and Hayek, in addition to Marx; war and revolution; war and imperialism; the years between the two world wars; the rise and fall of socialism; the global order; the golden age of capitalism; and capitalism's future. Desai shows how Marx's original theories on capitalism and socialism were displaced by a "Marxist" movement, which Faisal Islam, in a review for the London Observer, said was a "reductive Bolshevism that emerged in the last century, shaped by Lenin's pamphlet on imperialism and these days incorporating a wide span of belief, including the fringes of fascism." Those who adopted this theory, said Islam, selectively read Marx's comments in Volume 1 of Das Kapital that a falling profit rate would bring about the end of capitalism. They also ignored Marx's surplus profit exploitation equilibrium models, Islam commented. The reviewer wrote that the book's importance lies in its audience. "Nobody in Wall Street or the City of London will care that Marx is now on their side," Islam commented. "But for those who still express moral indignation at pronounced and prolonged inequality and poverty, the market is the most likely rescue route. . . . As Desai points out, the market is a tool for eliminating scarcity. It is departures from the free market, such as big subsidies for agriculture in rich countries, that are doing most to solidify poverty."
In a review of Marx's Revenge for the London Sunday Telegraph, Michael Prowse wrote, "Some books are more than the sum of their parts; others are less. Unhappily, Marx's Revenge falls into the latter category." Prowse thought that Desai's argument that globalization of trade and the lifting of tariffs and other barriers will eventually lead to the collapse of capitalism and the natural implementation of socialism was "not rigorous." Prowse wrote that Marx "could neither identify the process whereby capitalism would fail, nor even sketch how a post-capitalist society would function." However, Prowse thought that the individual chapters in Desai's book were "entertaining and instructive" and that readers will "learn much from his analysis of two centuries of economic history."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
British Book News, May, 1982, review of Testing Monetarism, p. 292.
Choice, December, 1982, review of Testing Monetarism, p. 623.
Economica, August, 1989, L. G. Godfrey, review of Lectures on Advanced Econometric Theory, p. 405.
Economic Books: Current Selections, fall, 1990, review of Lenin's Economic Writings,
Economic Journal, September, 1989, Hedley Rees, review of Lectures on Advanced Econometric Theory, p. 863; January, 1996, The Selected Essays of Meghnad Desai, Volume 2: Poverty, Famine and Economic Development, p. 291; November, 1996, review of The Selected Essays of Meghnad Desai, Volume 1: Macroeconomics and Monetary Theory, p. 1835.
International Affairs, October, 1996, Tony Evans, review of Global Governance: Ethics and Economics of the World Order, p. 797.
Journal of Asian Studies, May, 1987, review of Agrarian Power and Agricultural Productivity in South Asia, p. 427.
Journal of Economic Issues, December, 1998, William M. Dugger, review of LSE on Equality: A Centenary Anthology, p. 1165.
Journal of Economic Literature, December, 1995, review of The Selected Essays of Meghnad Desai, Volume 1, p. 2054, and The Selected Essays of Meghnad Desai, Volume 2, p. 2079; March, 1998, review of LSE on Equality, p. 307.
Kyklos, spring, 1996, Amitrajeet A. Batabyal, review of The Selected Essays of Meghnad Desai, Volume 2: Poverty, Famine and Economic Development, p. 76.
New Statesman, January 31, 1997, "Destiny, Not Defeat," p. 11.
Observer (London, England), May 19, 2002, Faisal Islam, "Can You Hear Marx Tittering in High-gate?," review of Marx's Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism.
Pacific Affairs, fall, 1986, review of Agrarian Power and Agricultural Productivity in South Asia, p. 515.
Slavic Review, spring, 1991, Alfred Evans, Jr., review of Lenin's Economic Writings, p. 190.
Sunday Telegraph (London, England), April 21, 2002, Michael Prowse, "Marx in the Marketplace: This Paean for Market Economies by an Ex-Marxist Does Little for the Cause of Capitalism, Says Michael Prowse," review of Marx's Revenge.
Times Literary Supplement, June 10, 1983.
London School of Economics Web site,http://econ.lse.ac.uk/staff/mdesai/ (August 6, 2002).*