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Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
06 Jul 2011

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Mother Nature or Father Greed

In challenging the widespread notion that the billions of people in Asia should aspire to an American way of life, Chandran Nair admits that Consumptionomics may not have all the answers to the question the book poses on consumption-led capitalism. Yet, it convincingly argues that Asia cannot have its cake and eat it too!

The prospect of a prosperous Asia is nonetheless exciting; however, it is this part of the world that has the greatest potential to impose stress on our planet if it decides to opt for a consumption-driven model of growth. Sample this: if Asia were to consume as much electricity as Europe – 150 kilowatt hours/ person/ day – it would use nine times energy as America consumes now.

There is no reason why Asians should not attain the living standards of their American counterparts but that can in no way be at the risk of earth’s annihilation! Nair proposes that Asia is perhaps now, given its stage of development and the harsh realities it faces, most suited to freeing capitalism from being the captive it has become of free market fundamentalists and ideologues.

Consumption-driven capitalism has driven countries in the region to a situation wherein people have mobile phones and falling water tables as well as broadband internet and rising level of greenhouse gas emissions. Without question, the growth-obsessed model has delivered short-term wealth to a minority; with a long term misery to all.

Nair calls it the intellectual dishonesty at the heart of the model the West has pedaled to Asia. Such a perception, howsoever incisive, will be contested by business and its cheerleaders. Unless the policymakers and academia rise to the occasion, the radical shift Consumptionomics proposes will be trivialized by the vested interests to defend their short-term agendas.

If that all sounds a bit far-fetched, so be it! Unless Asia chooses local development rather than urbanization, the mother earth will be at the mercy of father greed argues Nair. Overtly provocative, the strength of the book lies in it helping readers ask the ‘right questions’.

by Chandran Nair
Infinite Ideas, UK
206 pages, US$ 25

 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
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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