This post is about my recent reading of J C Kumarappa’s “Why The Village Movement” and “Philosophy of Village Movement”. J C Kumarappa’s bio can be found here. The reason i say forgotten is becuase if i were to do a survey today of the students of all the IITs and IIMs and some of the other best colleges and ask them “Who is J C Kumarappa” i think barely 5% will be able to answer. You ask me why ? .. in telugu i would say … “మన దౌర్భాగ్యం నాయనా” .. (which means “Our misfortune mate”)
Anyway these books and a couple of others are his musings/reflections on gandhian economics or the village economy or the decentralised self-sustenance based economy. Very well written i’d say. The logical flow of arguments is undisputable. One thorough reading and you’d be more than convinced ;).
So in this post i just put some quotes from these books which somehow left a strong impact on me. Btw he studied economics, business administration, public finance etc in Columbia Univ and Syracuse Univ back then in 1920s… so we can safely assume that the man knows what he is speaking and that he has seen the west and east both :). I say this because the first argument against Gandhian Economics is that it is something that is idealistic and impractical or that it is not in sync with times etc.
Oo and btw if someone needs softcopy of the first book drop a comment here. It is not available online and i had to speak to people in Kumarappa Institute of Gram Swaraj, Jaipur to get a copy. I am not sure if it is correct if i upload on scribd or somewhere.. so do drop a comment if you need a copy ;) .
I’d like to start with something i picked up from Schumacher society’s webpage. This is something relevant to B-school junta and consumers by and large and seems to one of his more famous quotes ;)
“If the raw materials for making cocoa are obtained from plantations on the West coast of Africa which use some form of forced native labour, are carried by vessels on sea routes monopolised or controlled by violence,
manufactured in England with sweated labour and brought to India under favorable customs duties enforced by political power, then a buyer of a tin of cocoa patronises the forced labour conditions in the West coast of
Africa, utilizes the navy and so partakes in violence, gains by the low wages or bad conditions of the workers in England and takes advantage of the political subjection of India. All this responsibility and more also is put
into a little tin of cocoa!
Are we prepared to shoulder this grave responsibility and pander our palate or shall we content ourselves with a cu of nutritious milk drawn from a well-kept cow at our door. These conditions are not far-fetched but actual. Anyone who looks on life seriously and as a trustee cannot afford to ignore these far-reaching consequences of his/her actions“
The argument for “local production local consumption” is put wonderfully well in 3 lines as below.
“If we feel it is beyond us to guarantee the concomitant results of all our transactions, it necessarily follows that we must limit our transactions to a circle well within our control. This is the bed rock of swadeshi. The smaller the circumference, the more accurately can we guage the results of our actions, and (the) more conscientiously shall we be able to fulfill our obligations as trustees.”
The disintegration and degeneration of the indian society is very well illustrated in this talk below. I am not a big supporter of the caste system but i think i am in agreement with one metaphor.. we as a society by placing brahmins on top of the hierarchy valued wisdom over everything else. The typical order we followed was Wisdom – Power – Wealth – Labour representing each of the varnas.
“Western society glorifies the multiplicity of possessions, rather than simplicity of life. However ignorant the person may be, as long as he has wealth- it makes little difference how he came by it- he can command respect and if he has not got the claim by reason of birth to the first rank, he can obtain it by being ennobled by the king. The whole western economic organisation pivots on competition, which has encouraged individualism to the extent of even weakening family ties. While our society is maintained by force of public opinion and sanction, the west has to depend on force of civil and criminal law to maintain order and regulate the individual life of the citizen. Unfortunately the glamour of power which is a concomitant of Society as organised in the west has caught our imagination and we have forsaken the foundation laid on the rock, to build on sand. The brahmin has abandoned the privilege of learning and teaching and has taken to the profession of law to exploit the quarelsomeness of human nature. The Kshatriya is fraternising with the foreigner to hold his own country-men in bondage for pecuniary gains. The Vysya has entered the international speculative market the ruin of our farmer. The sudras have joined Government service in the menial departments or have embraced Christianity to better themselves and have thus become alienated from their country men by adopting in toto foreign ideas“
This is another .. from a 1935 speech titled “Prostitution of Art”. This argument against standardisation of art is in direct contrast with the arguments for standardisation of art in Ludwin Von Mises’ “The Anti Capitalistic Mentality” ;) .. as expected ofcourse ;).
“In Olden days every article was produced according to every man’s taste. If one wanted a thing one went to the workman, gave him a model according to one’s own taste and in the use of it one derived the pleasure of one’s own creation. Now today we find the foreigner who is ignorant of our tastes, producing articles for us and we have forgotten what talent and art our country possessed. Thus our art and culture are slowly deteriorating. Today tastes are cultivated for the things manufactured by machines, instead of things being manufactured to suit tastes. This is not the propagation of art but the prostitution of it. The same kind of prostitution is being carried out on every walk of life”
The whole philosophy behind the decentralisation movement is captured as below here. Why decentralisation is a mean between the twin extremes of Capitalism and Communism is illustrated here.
“While we do not reject profit motive, we may attempt to curb the capacity of the individual to accumulate profits and wealth. We human beings are so built that human progress can only be possible with the advance of each individual. For the advance of each individual, it is necessary to allow a certain amount of self interest. This is fully demonstrated in every day life. When a man works for a fixed salary in a Government post, the contribution he makes to the society is generally of a routine nature. The greatest inventions and discoveries have been the results of venture, some spirits attempting to give expression to their inner urge. Decentralisation of production ensures the producer the product of his labour. Therefore if group production has its disadvantages the alternative is decentralised production“
The supply-demand dichotomy of the pre-machine and post-machine is era is explained below. I think this one sort of sums up the whole thing very well.
“Supply has made larger strides than demand. In the earlier stages the struggle was to increase the supply, now over production loudly calls for an increase in demand. Machinery spells standardisation and large scale production. Even then this does not meet the demand correctly. A man wants a pair of shoes in Bombay. He goes into a shop and he is presented with large numbers of footwear made in Northampton by a shoemaker who had never set eyes on the customer. The shoe manufacturer makes standard sizes and without trouble he easily multiplies the numbers. He does not stop to wait for orders. Like pat-a-cake the bakers man , he makes them as fast as he can and ships them to various parts of the world for sale. The supply comes into existence without knowing the demand and then it seeks out demand. Again, in an industry like the steel industry powerful vested interests influence the government to find outlets for their products. The government seeks out “Backward” peoples and builds railways and bridges for them while the children of these “Backward” peoples are starving physically and mentally”
“In the past, directive forces which stimulated economic activity were natural hunger of the savage and the discomforts of the sensitive body of the agriculturist. These were nature’s urge or goad. But now we have to artificially increase demand by habits cultivated by imitation or custom, so that excess production may be absorbed. Food, Clothing, Shelter were nature’s demand, but tobacco, lipstick, rouge and face powder are examples of demand cultivated by imitation and custom. In many cases even if consumer is indifferent, the producer, by modern methods of advertisement and other means of propaganda, persuades the public to use that which has no utility and makes business for himself and sells his goods”
“To dispose of excess production markets have to be found. Competition has assumed a keenness never before known. To increase the consumers i.e., the demand, it is necessary to complicate the lives of simple folks – “Civilize” them. The eagerness to capture markets and “civilize” backward peoples has led to jealousies between industrialised nations and resistance among the victims and in both the cases it has led to armaments and violence on a scale in keeping with the large scale of production, the root of the trouble“
In the next post i will try to summarise some stuff from the bigger and more exhaustive book “Why the village movement” .. this post was largely excerpts from his collection of speeches/essays “Philosophy of village movement”.
I think it is important to know what is going wrong in our world today. We may or may not be able to correct it. But that shouldn’t be the reason to stop exploring why things are the way they are. For all that i know i will be sitting for placements in some months and all this may become irrelevant soon. But i think it is still important to know :)
And the break from the fraud blog break has been described here.