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The papers collected in this volume, though based on a certain understanding of the capitalist economy, are by and large not papers on economics. They mainly concern issues of politics and ideology, and are informed by a perception that can be summarized as follows.
A capitalist economy is a self-driven or, in the words of Oskar Lange, a ‘spontaneous’ system. State intervention in its functioning, driven by political compulsions, tends to make it dysfunctional. This necessitates either further interventions, leading recursively to a transcendence of the system itself, or a progressive slide-back to the pre-intervention state. To say this is not to suggest that capitalism does not need the state. It does, not only for the maintenance of capitalist property relations and the ‘rules of its game’, and for providing it, through the acquisition of colonies and semi-colonies, with the external, precapitalist surroundings that are necessary for its functioning; but also for accelerating, through its intervention, its immanent tendencies. But state intervention that is contrary to its immanent tendencies is what makes capitalism dysfunctional, setting up a dialectics either of subversion of the logic of capital or of subservience to the logic of capital. It follows from this that all the shibboleths of capitalism, namely freedom, democracy and individual subjectivity, are actually unachievable under capitalism. They can be realized only if the spontaneity of the economic terrain is broken through a transcendence of the system and the coming into being of another system, socialism, where the nature of property relations is such that it gives people the ability to shape their economic lives through collective political intervention. The case for socialism, in short, arises precisely because capitalism is not a malleable but a spontaneous system.
Prabhat Patnaik, till recently Professor of Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, is currently Vice-Chairman of the State Planning Board, Government of Kerala. He is the author of Time, Inflation and Growth (1988),Economics and Egalitarianism (1991), Whatever Happened to Imperialism and other essays(1995), Accumulation and Stability under Capitalism (1997), The Retreat to Unfreedom (2003) and The Value of Money (2008). He is the editor of the journal Social Scientist.