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   Why not socialism?
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
09 Dec 2009

At this time when life is overwhelmed with capitalism in all hues, the mention of socialism can at best be considered rhetoric. But not for political philosopher Prof. G A Cohen who thinks there are times in our lives when we all behave like socialists. Socialism is indeed desirable, else why on a camping trip the spirit of understanding ensures that there are no inequalities to which anyone could mount a principled objection? Someone plays, someone cooks and others do washing up - each in the spirit of equality and reciprocity.

Amazingly, it works as equality of opportunity removes obstacles to opportunity on a camping trip. Cohen, emeritus fellow at All Souls College at the University of Oxford, brilliantly captures the essence of communal reciprocity in a market-dominated society. Communal reciprocity is when I serve you not because of what I can get in return by doing so but because you need or want my service, and you, for the same reason, serve me. It is, however, another matter that social ideal run up against entrenched capitalist power that perpetuates human selfishness.

The biggest obstacle to socialism is not intractable human selfishness but the lack of obvious means to harness the human generosity that is there. Cohen concludes by quoting Albert Einstein who remarked that socialism is humanity's attempt 'to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development.' It is a small size book, just 6 x 4 inches, of immense scholarship, easy to read but tough to internalize.

Why not socialism?
By G A Cohen, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 82 pages, US$ 14.95


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
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