Monday, 30 April 2018

Ela Prabandha

That her Lord took her to his bosom as both Song & but Spouse
& that, not just you, I too, misprision motivic cells' Big House
Not Mum's playing harlot but Harmony's uxoriousness absurd
Renders Lunatic our World as Love's uberrima Word.

Envoi- 
Prince! Karenin Unna was less wronged by the Boy God's Wronskian
Than Thambi, Death, by univalency Voevodskian






Did Buddhijivis bugger Bengal?

It was Professor A.K Chaudhri , addressing the inaugural Socio-Proctology Symposium at the LSE, who observed 'Buddhijivis buggered up Bengal!'

This obiter dicta of my esteemed class-mate came to mind when I began pondering the case of Rana Dasgupta- whose imminent tome on Globalisation promises to enthrone him as the Pankaj Mishra of the rising generation.

However, before putting down my thoughts on this rising young prodigy, I will need to clarify some terminology.

To start with- 'Buddhijivi' means one who lives by and for the Mind. It is the Bengali term for that type of intellectual we instinctively refer to as gobshites and, as such, is a proper subject for socio-proctological investigation.

However, the term Buddhijivi is by no means unproblematic for Bengali Geist which differs from the Pan-Indian variety because of the greater salience of Tantric (esoteric) thought followed by a superior development of Navya-Nyaya (Logicism).

Briefly, this suggests that, the Rationalist Bengali's epistemic 'unthought known' features
1) reliance on 'yantra' type' physicalist explanations- i.e. more autism type hyper-mechanistic thinking and less schizoid type 'action at a distance' hyper-mentalism.
2) a substantivist notion of property as opposed to the Pan-Indian conception of it as a 'samskar'- i.e. something hysteresis ridden, relational and unconnected with Reality save in a Coasian, intentional, sense.

North Indian Kayasthas share the latter but not the former characteristic because of Islamic influence confirming an indigenous occasionalist onomatodoxy. Thus 'Title' is real, though Realty isn't. I shall return to this point later on when I will suggest that it was not Bengali Buddhijivis who buggered up Bengal but rather the Bakhtinian dialogic, or language common to Kayasthas across regions, which, stands condemned to obloquy by the presence of Bengal's shit upon its dick's tip.

No one doubts or cast aspersions upon the wholly salutary vanguard role of the Bengali buddhijivis till the 1920's when Science had progressed to a point where both 'Mentalistic' and 'Mechanistic' ontologies ceased to make 'distinctions without a difference'- i.e. a point had been reached where they either had to shit or get off the pot.

The trajectory of Kurt Lewin's concept of 'genidentity' may be invoked in this context. The question he is addressing is how an identity propagates through time. The Buddhist solution was that it did it in the bardo, or antharabhava which was a lot like the Muslim barzakh or even the Socratic methexu.  In other words, though Identity, being complex, had no genidentity, there was some liminal capacitance diversity type phantom zone where its elements got stored up and transmitted. The Kayastha, knowing both Sanskrit and Persian, identified the Gandharvas who rule the antarabhava with Sufi 'boo' (smell) which represents essence. Thus, though form (rupa) and colour (rang) pass away, smell is conserved- rather like what happens when Prof A.K Chaudhri farts silently and flits from our Symposium on the excuse that his Uber has arrived and, anyway, he has classes tomorrow.

The Tantric turn of the Buddhist Wheel associated tantra and yantra with the production of this genidentity- which however was concerned with the delicate musk of Eros, not Chaudhri Sahib's malodorous anal eructations. As Bengal- or parts of it- were developing into cash economies with maritime emporia- this emphasis on production was internalised by the rising Bengali comprador class which in turn dowered a large bildungsburgertum of an essentially Nationalist stripe.

One reason even the stupidest availability cascade of the Bengali comprador- I am speaking, of course of the Unitittyarianism represented by the Brahmo Samaj- was welcomed by Hindus elsewhere was because the Bengali Buddhijivi elided or otherwise depassed the Vaishav/Shaivite divide over the possibility of a 'jivanmukta'. Essentially an 'amsha' theory- homologic to Kurt Lewin's distinction between partial and total genidentity- relegates the scandal to the same closet of 'don't ask, don't tell' as permits Iyengars to inter-dine with Iyers though they suspect us of putting garlic in the sambar.

Had Bengal been an island, the Bengali buddhijivi would have raised up Bengal by choosing to remain a Pratyeka, alone or hidden, Buddha.  He or she would have concentrated on getting local Mechanism Design right rather than relying upon Tardean mimetic effects to broadcast their Noble and National vision to far off parts of India. One reason they did so, at least initially, was because they knew of Nawadwip's importance in broadcasting Navya Nyaya nuances which had a regenerative effect across the breadth of Hindu India.

Still, I think it worthwhile to remark the piquant reversal of fortune here, illustrative of the ironies of Bakhinian dialogic, whereby non Bengali 'Reception pressure' creates the Bengali buddhijivi par excellence, whom we later loved to mock. Hindu Humanism, it seems, turned out to be a futile passion. The Bengali buddhijivi crucified himself in vain. Hafiz may have sped his 'one night's song' to the sugar loving parrots of far Bengal, but the Brahmo Paraclete was a bombastic bore.

Was this inevitable?
Philosophy says yes- but Socio-proctology is about more than just shitting higher than one's arsehole. Let us now consider the least noisome manner in which we can put our finger on the fundament of the problem.

Notice
1) If Hypo-mentalism commits to a notion of Samskar as Gestalt- i.e., if Property is substantive and carries meaningful Hohfeldian rights- then 'Social' bosons, including a Higgs particle, must exist in duck-rabbit type perpetual Perceptional super-imposition. The brahmanda is in free fall for its nest is the sky and is that jivanmukta we know as Mom, or that vatsalya which is life more abundant, but whom we jealously kill as the sautan, or more lovable co-wife, of our own ego.

The point about bosons is that many can occupy the same space- indeed must do so because the cells of a phase space are at best antarabhavas or barzakhs because... but let S.N Bose tell it in his own words-
I have tried to deduce the coefficient 8π ν2/c3 in Planck's Law independent of classical electrodynamics, only assuming that the ultimate elementary region in the phase-space has the content h3
In other words, if there is a hashing table for Reality, or Language, or anything else, it must be either arbitrary and idiographic, and thus proof against both state space explosion and any exclusion principle, or else violate Navya-Nyaya notions of genidentity as substantive.  Why? Because of non-commutative conjugacy- i.e. hysteresis.

Notice this is a scandal not just for a substantivist hypo-mentalism- it seems identities really are indiscernable- but also 'Sufficient Reason' type hyper-mechanistic relationism- which is how come Madam Wu's experiment fucked Patriarchy in the ass ten years before Maoist nymphets started beating the shite out of learned Mandarins. Phusis, it seems, does have a bourgeois strategy but it must be sinister and Shakta provided it has a Fourier analysable spectral density. But, if so, Nomos is constrained to 'Natural Reason' despite the fact that Nature is idiographic, not nomothetic at all.

The Begali-wog's refusal to go down the Marwari route (i.e. limited arbitrage rather than global Social Choice) is what makes the former a favourite stuffed toy of our intellectual adolescence whereas our professional career is financially underpinned only by the latter.

2) If hypo-mentalism cashes out as what Chomsky calls Mysterianism- i.e. if it utterly denies strong A.I even if fuzzy set based and stochastic- then Identity and Property are non commutatively conjugate in a manner that can't be juristically 'buck-stopped'.

The Buddhijivi now faces a hard choice. Either return to Pan Indian hyper-mentalism- i.e. turn into an Aurobindo- or concentrate on useful, but idiographic, work and thus give up the navya-nyaya claim to universal, nomothetic, significance.

As a matter of fact, Bengalis have in the main taken this route and precisely because they have been so useful to humanity, the true Bengali Buddhijivi, whose exile is more often 'external' than 'internal', remains a Pratyeka Buddha rather than a shameless self-publicist. No doubt, their own children, may- like Jhumpa Lahiri- picture them as brain damaged hebephrenics staggering around mindlessly saying 'Gogol!'- but that is the price Buddhi must pay to be useful in a world composed of only unsublateable, wholly idiographic, jivas whose own redemption arises from a globally coordinating oikonomia of a Muth Rational, mentalistic, type.

Does this mean Rana Dasgupta can't be the Christ to Pankaj Mishra's John the Baptist, on the issue of Globalisation?
Not at all. But he must grow a more impressive beard. Mishra's is at best be a pale shadow of Aurobindo's. Dasgupta must intensively cultivate a facial fungus of Tagorean proportions. Since he is a young man, it would look odd if the beard were white. Furthermore, as Bedil pointed out, such beards naturally invite the suspicion that they have been dyed in semen. Not being Bengali, I don't know the proper Buddhijivi resolution to this quandary. However, I may point out that Amartya Sen used Martha Nassbaum as his beard when he tried to bugger Manmohan Singh. Needless to say that sly Sardar got the last laugh by saddling Sen with Nalanda.









Why is Lord Krishna called 'scion of' as well as 'slayer of' Madhu?

Madhava & Madhusudhana are epithets of Lord Krishna. Madhu, in Sanskrit, corresponds to mead in English. The 'Madhu-shala' is the pub. However, high caste Hindus began to avoid alcohol at some early date and so Madhu has the meaning of honey. It is a term of endearment. Since Krishna is beautiful and beloved it is natural that he be called 'the defeater of Honey in the competition of Sweetness' (Madhusudhana) though he can also be called 'scion of sweetness'- in view of his distinguished ancestry- or one married to Good Fortune because of the excellence of his wife. 

The scholiasts, however, explain the epithet 'Madhusudhana' by pointing to Vishnu's slaying of two demons who had grown in his ears while he was sleeping. One was named Madhu; the other was Kaitabha.
Thus Vishnu is called both 'slayer of Madhu' and Kaitabhajit -'Victor over Kaitabha.'

We can understand that our ears may become intoxicated by hearing the Veda and that rather than being stirred to greater striving for others' welfare, we may lapse into a blissfully comatose state. Thus to say 'Madu' is distilled in the ear by hearing the Gospel,  is also to identify a potential snare in the path of eusebia which reception of Scripture may unwittingly involve.

More generally, drunkenness at a religious sacrifice or other auspicious occasion would be considered repugnant to dharma.

That being said, what on earth does 'Kaitabha'? (कैटभ) represent? Why is this word paired with one for Mead which intoxicates and tempts to acts of hubris- for example challenging God himself?

I think, 'shruti'- lit. 'what is heard'- i.e. the Veda- faces a danger when it is written down rather than lovingly recalled (Smriti). The word kaitabha is used for a class of writing systems which had the look of insects wriggling to ordinary people. However, the term- at least in Buddhist Pali- also has the meaning of ritual texts used by officiating priests as a checklist.

Just as intoxication represents one sort of danger to our reception of Revelation so too does a 'literalist' akrebia, based on the displacement of the living word by a textual availability cascade or a narrow-minded ritualism obsessed with check-lists and protocols, pose another sort of danger. On the one hand, there is a tendency to think one could rise up to God like power, on the other there is an equally corrupting belief that only the text matters- the Lord is otiose. Those of his creatures whom he has commanded us to serve, should instead humble themselves before us because of our supposed expertise in some bookish or ritualistic arcana.

How can those who seek salvation by surrendering themselves to the Word guard against these two dangers?

The answer has to do with recognising a duality within oneself. Marge Simpson is able to defeat the devil who has come to claim Homer's soul, because once she declares that it already belongs to her, Homer too realises it was never his to thoughtlessly barter away.

If a person is devoutly receiving Holy Writ, it must be the case that the better part of themselves already belongs to someone or something higher than themselves. Thus, one can humbly beseech the very obstacles your ears have created to acknowledge this side of oneself and, as the peculiar chivalry of hubristic Thymos demands, graciously grant a boon before battle is rejoined.

It seems even the Lord Almighty does not disdain to work selflessly- i.e. without Thymos- and thus we too have a World in which we may serve. This is the saving 'madhu-vidhya' or Honeyed Knowledge of radical interdependence which humbles pride and wards off ritualistic akrebia.

The online Hindu Encyclopedia says-


In the beginning there was no earth nor any other planet. There was only the Milky Ocean. Mahavisnu slept over the water. From the navel of Mahavisnu the stalk of a lotus grew up and there was a lotus flower at the end of the stalk. Brahma was born in the lotus flower. Brahma stayed in the flower in deep meditation reciting the Vedas. Ear-wax flowed out from both the ears of Mahavisnu. From the ear-wax two Asuras Madhu and Kaitabha were born.
Madhu and Kaitabha learned Vagbija mantra and worshipped Devi for thousand years. They got the boon that they can have death only when they wished. Madhu Kaitabhas saw Brahma lying in the lotus flower reciting the four Vedas. They caught hold of all the Vedas and went to Patala, (the nether world) and hid themselves there. Brahma grew sad at the loss of the Vedas and followed Madhu-Kaitabhas, who began to attack Brahma. At this Brahma became terribly afraid of the Asuras and ran to Mahavisnu for help.
According to the request of Brahma, Mahavisnu fought with Madhu and Kaitabha. The fight went on for a long time and Visnu became tired of continuous fight. So, Visnu began to meditate on Devi, who said "It would never be possible for you to kill Madhu and Kaitabha because of my boon. They could be killed only by some tricks". Hearing these words Mahavisnu approached the Asuras and said to them. "I am much pleased with you. So you may ask for any boon." Hearing this they laughed and said that they were more powerful than Visnu and that he might ask of them any boon. Taking that opportunity Mahavisnu said "Oh ! powerful persons. I ask you to grant me this boon. Give me the boon to kill you." This request shook them. They gave the boon that they are willing to be killed at any place except water. Since everywhere it is water, they thought they will never die. Mahavisnu instantly raised his thighs which were enlarged to a great extent over the water as solid earth seeing which the Asuras enlarged their bodies to the extent of a thousand yojanas. But Mahavisnu enlarged his thighs further, caught hold of Madhu and Kaitabha, laid them on his thighs and cut off their heads with his discus. All the surface of the sea was covered with the medas (fat) of these Asuras. This medas of Madhu and Kaitabha collected itself into a lump and became the earth. So the earth got the name 'Medini'.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Two Aeon authors on Human Nature

There is a hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) - do not vilify the Aeon- in obedience to which I will confine my criticism to two Philosophy professors who have published an essay on human nature on the Aeon website.

They commence thus-
A strange thing is happening in modern philosophy: many philosophers don’t seem to believe that there is such a thing as human nature.
Since humans. in a state of nature, don't specialise in telling stupid, obvious, utterly useless, lies in exchange for a credential or a salary deriving from the corrupt marketing of the same, it follows that academic philosophers won't pretend to believe in a phusis, or natural order of things, which denies their compossibility. Instead, they will hold- with Aristotle, who like most pedants held every possible position- that nomos, convention, 'artificial reason', rules, or pretends to, all truly human affairs.
What makes this strange is that, not only does the new attitude run counter to much of the history of philosophy,
Nonsense! The history of philosophy features nothing but incompossible substances. That's why everybody has always considered the subject shit.
but – despite loud claims to the contrary – it also goes against the findings of modern science.
Rubbish! If there is a 'human nature' then some minimal set of creodes or developmental paths must exist such that indiscernably identical human beings can be synthesised or simulated. Modern Science would then be univocal in affirming our future as Westworld. This would impact on Financial Markets. Our own fitness landscape would change in a manner that fulfils Science's prediction.
This has serious consequences, ranging from the way in which we see ourselves and our place in the cosmos to what sort of philosophy of life we might adopt.
I see myself as a fat, stupid, loser who might possibly justify my place in the cosmos by some kairotic act of projectile incontinence as might cause Donald Trump, on his State Visit to London, to slip upon my turd, as he alights from the Queen's carriage, so as to bash his brains out upon the Mall's macadam paving.

What serious consequence am I faced with if Human Nature actually exists? I already know I'm shit. So do all philosophers though they may be obliged to pretend otherwise.

But that pretence is not natural at all. It is conventional merely.
Our aim here is to discuss the issue of human nature in light of contemporary biology, and then explore how the concept might impact everyday living.
Your aim here is to shill your own worthless oeuvre.
The existence of something like a human nature that separates us from the rest of the animal world has often been implied, and sometimes explicitly stated, throughout the history of philosophy.
No. What has been asserted is something like a soul which we are endowed with to a higher degree or  to a different telos.
Aristotle thought that the ‘proper function’ of human beings was to think rationally, from which he derived the idea that the highest life available to us is one of contemplation (ie, philosophising) – hardly unexpected from a philosopher.
Aristotle only thought this with respect to a specific pedagogic function of his own- viz. gassing on about good & bad. Since ethics is wholly conventional, not natural, the only question that remains is whether it can be nomothetic, and feature isonomia, or whether it is wholly idiographic, or 'expert'.
Since we do in fact have what look like nomothetic laws- i.e. rigid rules which appear universal- to which however we allow equitable exceptions to prevent injustice by reason of the Law's generality- Aristotle fudges the matter in the manner we all do because the only honourable alternative would be to fudge our pants so as to drive home the only alethic point which can be made in this connection- viz. pedagogues are just big babies- attend to their noetic effusions as you would to an infant's nappies. Do hug them though. Everybody needs love. Say 'Sir, your lectures changed my life!' They like that. Don't tell them you are now homeless. Pretend, as I do, that I'm a fucking Tech billionaire or summat.
The Epicureans argued that it is a quintessential aspect of human nature that we are happier when we experience pleasure, and especially when we do not experience pain.
Really? They argued that did they? Whom with? Was there ever anybody at all who said 'we are unhappier when we experience pleasure and sad when we do not experience pain.'?

What is the fucking point of writing a sentence as stupid as this? Epicurean Economics was a decided advance on what went before.  It rejected the notion that the Oikonomon would work himself to death trying to squeeze the most out of his estate rather than 'satisfice' in operational, purely 'economic' matters while hedging on chrematistic markets.
Like the Stoics, the Epicureans took up a term from literary criticism- enargeia- and interpreted it in a different way from Aristotle. It became a sort of self-certified truth. Utility or Revealed Preference corresponds to this conception of enargeia. Cicero, commending the elegans lascivia of Philodemus, displays enargeia in parrhesia- his vivid language serves a purpose of State of the highest Utility- in his great oration against Piso, Ceasar's father-in-law. A few Centuries later, the gorgeously false Gospel of Nicodemus. too, displays enargeia in teaching Pilate who mocks alethia, that but mummery is his akrebia. It is not the case that a homo economicus exists but, rather, that human beings exhibit an epigenetic creode or canalisation whereby Focal Solutions to coordination problems are saddle-point recoils from such solipsism as is represented by Piso's gross appetites or Pilate's self-serving sophistry.

Thomas Hobbes believed that we need a strong centralised government to keep us in line because our nature would otherwise lead us to live a life that he memorably characterised as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’.
Hobbes held no such belief. He could scarcely have done so in an age where no 'strong centralised government' existed anywhere. Also, the guy was a fuckwit. Why quote him? Guy Fawkes inspired the film 'V'. Hobbes inspired... what?
Jean-Jacques Rousseau embedded the idea of a human nature in his conception of the ‘noble savage’. 
Some jack-off has a conception of something. Okay, maybe he does. But how the fuck does he embed the idea of anything at all in that conception? Suppose I'm jerking off to my perfervid conception of the velvety tightness of Donald Trump's asshole. How am I supposed to embed the idea of Donald Trump into my conception such that whenever any random dude has an idea regarding the Donald he also finds my dick up Trump's arse?

The authors know very well what acceptation 'embedding' has within their own imbecilic, semi-literate, community. It is that of Polanyi or Granovetter.  So, fuck are they saying? Rousseau wasn't just Plato's God but he could also travel back in time and create the very Social Institutions which would shape his own tachyonic trajectory?
Confucius and Mencius thought that human nature is essentially good, while Hsün Tzu considered it essentially evil.
WTF?!  The word 'essentially' means, in English, in all possible worlds. Xunzi, like Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc, held that costly signals, of a wholly conventional, not natural, sort are required to establish separating equilibria- e.g that between good and evil.

Since Xunzi considered a certain defeasible, or equitably alterable, set of rituals of a wholly feasible- verging on cheap talk- conventional sort, to provide the necessary partition; the illiterate round eyed authors are pointing at a wholly false binary.
Why not simply say that Chinese vaginas go sideways? Not all of them- Confucian cunts are okay, but them Legalist Han Feizi cunts- and Xi is one!- they go sideways big time. So, Donald, you better watch out when Xi sits on your face.

The keyword here is, of course, ‘essentially’.
Which you guys essentially misused because you wrote nonsense in all possible worlds- including ones in which some Chinese cunts go sideways- you stupid as shit, every wideningly round eyed, sphincterless assholes.
One of the obvious exceptions to this trend was John Locke, who described the human mind as a ‘tabula rasa’ (blank slate), but his take has been rejected by modern science.
Yeah. That's what happened. Locke was just rappin' with Modern Science and he goes like 'dude, tabula rasa is gonna be the next big thing in Tablets' and then Modern Science goes into a huddle before returning to say- 'Sorry brah. We gotta reject your take on this. Also we're well stocked on Rohypnol and can tabula rasa the shite out of any co-ed at our parties. Still, nil desperandum. You're thinking Greek. Try Delta Tau.'
As one group of cognitive scientists describes it in 'From Mating to Mentality' (2003), our mind is more like a colouring book, or a ‘graffiti-filled wall of a New York subway station’ than a blank slate.
Yup. Minds are like some of the least important things they produce. The cogitations of Cognitive Scientists, clearly, are their own Brain-turds.
In contrast, many contemporary philosophers, both of the so-called analytic and continental traditions, seem largely to have rejected the very idea of human nature. A prominent example is our colleague Jesse Prinz at the City University of New York, who argues forcefully for what is referred to as a ‘nurturist’ (as opposed to a ‘naturist’) position in his book Beyond Human Nature: How Culture and Experience Shape the Human Mind (2012). More recently, Ronnie de Sousa argued that modern science shows that human nature does not exist and, drawing on Jean-Paul Sartre’s notion of radical freedom, concluded that this favours an existentialist philosophical outlook. We beg to differ.
Why differ with a stupid self-publicist peddling a worthless book? Why not quit competing with him and get a proper job?
What exactly does science tell us about the idea of a human nature?
Science can tell us something about the nature of ideas. It can't tell us about the idea of anything at all. If it could, there would be an 'idea of science' which would contain within itself every alethic finding of all possible scientific research programs. Science has good reasons to doubt that any such ideas exist. Thus we know that the answer to the question posed above is - 'Zero. Nothing to see here. Move along please.'
If we take evolutionary biology seriously, then we certainly should reject any essentialist conception of it, such as Aristotle’s.
We could also reject essentialism by taking Aristotle seriously rather than use him as an Aunt Sally.
There is no immutable, clearly defined ‘essence’ that characterises human beings, and only them, within the whole animal world.
There must be some set of properties which human beings share in common across all possible beings provided some 'buck-stopping' tribunal of human beings is accepted. Thus, a genetically engineered aubergine which can defeat Vandana Siva in a public debate may be accepted as human by a tribunal constituted by Monsanto. However, if Vandanajee gets peckish and orders her cook to fry it up in ghee and then eats it, her votaries may decide a vegetable is always a vegetable,  whether genetically modified or not, and so Monsanto's tribunal would change its mind.
From Charles Darwin onward, the scientific consensus has been pretty clear: we are but one species among millions on Earth, members of a not particularly numerous branch of the tree of life, endowed with unusually large and structurally complex brains.
Everybody has always believed we are smarter than other animals- unless the eat us, in which case our beliefs don't matter.
Our particular lineage gave origin to the species Homo sapiens at least 300,000 years ago, resulting from a long evolutionary period, which unfolded over millions of years from the point of divergence from our most recent common ancestor with the chimpanzees, our closest phylogenetic cousins.
Our lineage originated with a particular species, it did not give it origin.
Put that way, it would seem that biology does indeed do away with any idea of human nature: whatever characteristics our species possesses are the result of a continuous process of evolutionary differentiation from other species of primates, and there is no reason to believe that such process is over, or will be any time soon.
That is irrelevant. What matters is whether we can have a 'buck-stopped' rigid designator for human beings- in which case 'human nature' is well specified. But such a designator would be idiographic and have its own internal quid juris/quid facti resolution mechanism. So Philosophy has nothing to contribute here.
Moreover, people are fond of citing the famous figure that humans and chimpanzees differ ‘only’ in about 1-2 per cent of their genomic sequence, implying that we are not really as special as we’d like to think.
I'm very special. Mummy said so. That's why she sent me to a special school. The authors too are peddling a paideia which is actually a type of 'Special Ed'.
But as Kevin Laland has pointed out in his book Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind (2017), that small percentage translates into thousands of structural changes at the genetic level, which in turn can be combined to yield millions of ways in which humans are distinct from chimpanzees. Just because the difference is small in percentage, it doesn’t mean it is not both very obvious and highly consequential.
Sadly, it also means the reverse because only the fitness landscape matters. Cultures turn out to be more about Capacitance Diversity than Canalisation. That's why Culture isn't a driver for speciation.
In light of this, we think that the picture emerging from evolutionary and developmental biology is – contrary to the widespread opinion among contemporary philosophers – one that very much supports the notion of human nature, just not an essentialist one.
Essentialism can be a Scientific Research Program. What the authors are saying is it can't be a Philosophical Research Program. But then nothing can. The Principle of Explosion rules every synthetic a priori proposition unless Phenomenology is non empty. But we have no reason, since about the mid Fifties, to believe this is the case.
Human nature is best conceived of as a cluster of homeostatic properties, ie of traits that are dynamically changing and yet sufficiently stable over evolutionary time to be statistically clearly recognisable.
The same thing can be said of Gaia's nature or the nature of the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbour's cat or the nature of Donald Trump's comb-over.

These properties include characteristics that are either unique to the human species, or so quantitatively distinct from anything similar found in other animals that our version is unquestionably and solely human.
But only if there is a juristic 'buck stopping' mechanism in which case Philosophy can go hang. Thus iff this rigid designator for Human beings exists such that a set of creodes are buck-stopped as Human Nature, then Philosophers can't subscribe to it because their distinctions correspond to actual differences. Collingwood made this point long ago- but it is there in the Phaedrus.
Take language, for instance. Plenty of other animals (and even plants and bacteria) communicate, meaning that they exchange signals aimed at improving their own or their kin’s survival. But no other living species has anything even remotely like human language, with its complex grammar and high levels of recursion (where a linguistic rule can be applied to the results of the application of the very same rule, and so on). Other animals, such as octopuses, have large, complex brains and nervous systems, but no other animal has both the size (relative to the body) and especially the structural asymmetry and layering of the human brain; for instance, its enormously developed frontal cortex, which is in charge of reward, attention, short-term memory tasks, planning and motivation.
This is a bad example. We communicate with beasts- dogs, cats, even ex-spouses- so as to improve inclusive fitness.
Genetic engineering has opened new horizons- as has A.I- in a manner that makes it unlikely that some humans might not be worse at using language with respect to some other humans than a particular type of genetically modified animal or appliance endowed with A.I.
The list could go on and on, but the basic point is that it is fallacious to state that there are no fundamental differences between humans and other animals just because the boundaries are fuzzy and dynamic (over evolutionary time).
This is only the case if there is some buck-stopping procedure which solves an urgent coordination problem.
As Justice Potter Stewart said, in a case about pornography versus art in 1964: ‘I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.’
Judges aren't philosophers. Their job is to discriminate a deciding ratio on the basis of stare decisis 'artificial reason'. But those judgments are defeasible in a protocol bound fashion. Philosophy, by contrast, is concerned with developing obiter dicta to the point where they compete with the stare decisis ratio. Philosophy, since Socrates, has been about developing both sides of the argument till they are equally persuasive.
A modern biologist and a scientifically informed philosopher could say something very much along the same lines about human nature. We all know it when we see it.
The philosopher can't say that. His job is to imagine a situation where, with equal probability, we might see or not see what was previously buck-stopped and certain.
Now, if human nature is real, what are the consequences from a philosophical perspective? Why should a philosopher, or anyone interested in using philosophy as a guide to life, care about this otherwise technical debate? Let’s explore the point by way of a brief discussion of two philosophies that provide particularly strong defences of human nature and that are aligned with cognitive science: existentialism and Stoicism.
Existentialism means having to grapple with Heidegger's misological critique of Husserl- which had actually misfired for a different reason. That's difficult stuff. Similarly to engage with Stoicism would require a knowledge and appreciation of Greek and Latin literature as well as of developments in modern Set theory which tackles problems like the 'sorites' which the Stoics pondered.

The temptation to link existentialism with the idea of a tabula rasa is understandable. At the heart of existentialism is Jean-Paul Sartre’s idea that ‘existence precedes essence’, meaning that we didn’t choose to be born, but we’re free to figure out what to do about it. Sartre took this very seriously, speaking of freedom as a lack – or a gap – at the heart of consciousness, and claiming that we’re free even when in chains. In one of his more radical statements, he wrote: ‘Never were we freer than under the German occupation. We had lost all our rights, and first of all our right to speak. They insulted us to our faces … They deported us en masse … And because of all this we were free.’ It is perhaps not surprising that Sartre is frequently mocked for overstating the extent to which we are free.
Sartre was a good writer but he was scarcely up to speed on Husserl vs Heidegger. The same was true of the Beaver.
Phenomenology was not shown to be futile till the Wu experiment. Otherwise, it seemed that it could discover a priori synthetic truths- e.g. 'incongruent counterparts'- by means of pure ratocinative 'bracketed' introspection.
Satre and the Beaver may have wanted to have sex with Madam Wu, if they had ever heard of her, but they couldn't understand what she had done. They were ignorant and stupid- i.e. jumped up pedagogues in a country foolish enough to make Philosophy a compulsory subject at High School.
Even Simone de Beauvoir thought he took it too far, particularly when he told her that her seasickness was all in her head. In her autobiography ThePrime of Life (1960), she wrote: ‘If you gave way to tears or nerves or seasickness, [Sartre] said, you were simply being weak. I, on the other hand, claimed that stomach and tear ducts, indeed the head itself, were all subject to irresistible forces on occasion.’

Although de Beauvoir also accepted that existence precedes essence, she was more attuned than Sartre to the ways in which our ‘facticity’ – the facts of our existence – influence our lives. For example, we can’t choose our bodies or the economic and social situations in which we find ourselves, and often we see other people as the immutable banes of our existence. De Beauvoir argues that although we’re not free from our natural condition, it doesn’t define our essence, which is how we create ourselves out of our facticity. We don’t live only to propagate the species as animals do; rather, we are beings who look for meaning in our lives, and we do it by taking risks to overcome ourselves and our situations. This is human nature: perpetually seeking to escape our natural condition, to transcend – surpassing the given – towards self-chosen, concrete goals. But this isn’t at all easy, and is one of the reasons why anxiety is a fundamental theme of existentialism. To be human is to live in ambiguity because we are forever caught in a tension between the facts of our lives and the will to overcome them.
Worthless verbiage! To be human is to shit upon such stupidity- unless you are French and need to get into a University so as to gain white collar employment.
Biology might seem to offer a simple explanation for some limitations. For example, consider the old-school argument that women are ‘naturally’ suited for caregiving roles.
There was no such argument. Some women were excellent care-givers in certain situations. Such women were able to extend the number and type of such situations for economic reasons and thus achieved other, essentially political and sociological, objectives of their own.

Consider Florence Nightingale. The 'lady with a lamp' mythos enabled her, though confined to an invalid's bed, to set up what was essentially a Think Tank which better mobilised statistical and technical information so as to gain a countervailing power over even the War Office! Nightingale used the power and influence she had won for all sorts of other progressive causes- including that of the Indian National Congress. She wrote more perspicaciously about India's economic development- including the problem of Famine Relief- than Amartya Sen. Indeed, she helped end the cycle of famine in Sen's Bengal which only recurred after a transition to Democracy, first in the late Thirties, and then again, in Bangladesh, in the early Seventies.

Donald Trump, similarly, has used the myth of the Property Developer as ultimate Deal Maker, in order to occupy the White House on behalf of Hilary's 'deplorables'.

Nightingale and Octavia Hill and so on were well known to British philosophers and economists. Still, some rejected Female Suffrage- indeed Octavia herself turned hostile- because there is no necessary link between phusis and nomos.

This is both a wrong and a harmful way to think about our nature.
Really? Can it be 'wrong and harmful' to think something in every possible circumstance? If so, Phenomenology would not be empty. Some Categorical Imperative exists.
It’s wrong because, as de Beauvoir points out in The Second Sex(1949), gestating babies is a biological female function, but rearing children is a social commitment.
But, females can raise children without any help from men. Are the authors saying lesbian couples should not be allowed to raise a child because child rearing is 'social' and so at least one man- a father, or brother, or priest- must figure in their household?
And it’s harmful because the assumption that biology sets our destiny is oppressive.
Some people believe that theology sets our destiny. No doubt, our authors would find that oppressive as well. So what? They suffer no harm by it. Furthermore, their pointing to harm done to others is likely to be mischievous and itself harmful.

It may be wrong or harmful for a given person to think a given thing but only under certain highly specific circumstances. However, even then, no actual wrong or harm will occur unless authority, or immunity, has been improperly vested or regulated. But, in that case, better mechanism design- not denouncing thoughts as wrong or harmful- is what is required.
Historically, women have been defined primarily by the same biological functions they share with other animals, tethered in myths about femininity, and robbed of the opportunity to transcend.
Nonsense! There is no history primer which contains sentences similar to - 'Women are animals whose dung can be used to manure the crops. Their pelts provide protection against inclement weather.'
Natural obstacles provide a different sort of limitation. It might be absurd for de Beauvoir to persist with sailing if she vomits constantly, but giving up on her goals because of seasickness is stupid, too.
So what she should do? Give up sailing not because it makes her vomit but so as to strike a blow against Adam Smith's 'deer and beaver' model?
Sometimes, we don’t have the power to break our chains, and we fail in our projects, but resignation is not the answer. To transcend is to recognise our resistances and failures, and to rebel against them creatively.
By writing shite.
This perspective matters because it emphasises that, while there are fixed elements to our being, we are not fixed beings, since we are (or ought to be) free to choose our projects. Neither biology nor natural obstacles limit our futures to a great extent, and how we live out our human nature will vary because we give different meanings to our facticities. An authentic life is about acknowledging these differences, and stretching ourselves into an open future. It does not follow that this openness is unlimited or unconstrained. We are limited, but mostly by our own imagination.
OMG! That's exactly what happened to me when Tracy called me a big fat Lezza! I was limited by my imagination- so my comeback was- 'sod off you big moo,' rather than 'That's not what your Mum called me when I was fisting her last night!'
An interesting contrast here is provided by a philosophy that is in some respects very different, and yet shares surprising similarities, with existentialism: ancient Greco-Roman Stoicism, which has seen a remarkable revival in recent years.
No 'interesting contrast' can arise save where circumstances are similar. Existentialism arose out of the failure, save at the aggregate or stochastic level, of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and the shattered  Universal Peace its Liebniz promised, as well as the dystopian trajectory of the Republics Deists dreamed of. It is associated with a particular phase of the development of the Nation State, which featured the levee en masse & an industrialised total war.

By contrast, , Stoicism only flourished after Sparta's fall- and the Athenian Academy was downgraded to providing slave-tutors for adolescent Roman patricians.
The Stoics thought that there are two aspects of human nature that should be taken as defining what it means to live a good life: we are highly social, and we are capable of reason.
The Stoics were wrong. The two aspects of human nature which determine if humans have a good life are 'Exit' from places where you might get fucked over and 'Entry' to places where you can fuck over anyone who tries to fuck with you.
In the short run, Egypt has its fleshpots, but, long term, Exodus is Gospel.
Therefore, to ‘live according to nature’, as they advised us to do, means to apply reason to the improvement of the human polis.
By being a slave or tutoring a motherfucking Nero.
In turn, the way to accomplish the latter is to improve one’s judgment (the faculty of prohairesis, which distinguishes us from any other animal species), and to exercise the four cardinal virtues of practical wisdom, courage, justice and temperance.
There is only one cardinal virtue- run away from slavery if you can't beat the shite out of your oppressor.
At first glance, it might seem that human nature plays a far more crucial role in Stoicism than in existentialism. Indeed, it is tempting to accuse the Stoics of committing an elementary fallacy, to argue for a particular way of life by appeal to nature. But Seneca, Epictetus and co were excellent logicians, which should make us pause before dismissing their philosophy so quickly.
There are no 'excellent logicians' save those who admit their subject is anything goes. That's something we do know a priori because a priori is itself a logical category and thus has an inbuilt Principle of Explosion such that, once again, anything goes.

On closer examination, it is clear that for the Stoics, human nature played a similar role to that played by the concept of facticity for the existentialists: it circumscribes what human beings can do, as well as what they are inclined to do. But the parameters imposed by our nature are rather broad, and the Stoics agreed with the existentialists that a worthwhile human life can be lived by following many different paths.
Stoicism can have a principle of sufficient reason both for Nature and for Nous, whereas facticity or 'throwness' can't. The Stoics didn't really know what would happen if they went and settled amongst barbarians. The Existentialists did know they could always move to California and start up an Encounter Group or get tenure in a Liberal Arts College.
Indeed, Stoic literature even features a story similar to the debate between de Beauvoir and Sartre on seasickness. It is told by the Latin author Aulus Gellius, who writes about a Stoic philosopher experiencing a severe storm while on a ship. Gellius noticed how the philosopher became pale and trembled in the midst of the storm. Once things had calmed down, he asked the philosopher how come his Stoicism had not prepared him better to withstand those frightening moments. His response is illuminating:
When some terrifying sound occurs, either from the sky or from the collapse of a building or as the sudden herald of some danger, even the wise person’s mind necessarily responds, and is contracted and grows pale for a little while, not because he opines that something evil is at hand, but by certain rapid and unplanned movements antecedent to the office of intellect and reason. Shortly, however, the wise person in that situation ‘withholds assent’ from those terrifying mental impressions; he spurns and rejects them and does not think that there is anything in them which he should fear.
Everybody stops worrying about something which startles them once they realise they are in no danger. Why? There is no sufficient reason linking the unexpected sensory input to any action schemata.  Grazing animals show a like behaviour.
In other words, just as de Beauvoir explained to Sartre, the ‘facticity’ of our biology is here to stay, but we have a choice about how to regard it and manage it. And that’s what philosophy teaches us.
Very true. Such philosophy teaches us something cows already know.
The Stoics grounded that teaching in an approach most famously associated with Epictetus, the 2nd-century slave-turned-teacher who became one of the best-known philosophers of antiquity. He developed a whole ethics based on the idea that we play a multiplicity of roles in life: some of them are given (we are all human beings, sons or daughters of our parents, and so forth), and some are chosen (our careers, whether we wish to have children and become parents or not).
It seems likely that every Indo-European Culture had such a notion two thousand years before this slave started teaching.  But then so did every other culture- save that of the Iyengars of the Kilburn rain-forest. They believe all human beings at birth have only one role- viz. that of making fun of Iyers who happen not to be very good at econometrics and who might plausibly be suspected of putting garlic in the sambar.
How we play these roles is up to us. In Book I of the Discourses, Epictetus discusses the case of two slaves who react differently to the same demeaning situation (having to hold their master’s chamber pot while he’s relieving himself). What determines the difference is how the slaves see themselves as human beings, a concept not that different from the existentialist notion of authenticity. Epictetus concludes the analysis of that example by admonishing his students in a way that Sartre and de Beauvoir might have approved of: ‘Consider at what price you sell your integrity; but please, for God’s sake, don’t sell it cheap.’
Obviously, the smart slave should say 'Wow! That's an amazing turd you've just produced! It is well known, within the turd assaying community, that such a turd signals a dramatic improvement in one's fortunes. Indeed, the commode carrying slave of Octavian exclaimed upon just such a turd on the eve of the Battle of Philippi and the future Emperor, choosing to accept this augury, immediately  rewarded the slave with manumission and a big Estate- thus ensuring the prediction came true.'

Similarly, the editor of Aeon, says to the authors he publishes, 'OMG! What a wonderful turd you have produced here!', and- no doubt- they reward his highly refined coprophagic palate suitably.
It’s not only modern science that tells us that there is such thing as human nature, and it’s no coincidence that a number of popular modern therapies such as logotherapy, rational emotive behaviour therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy draw on ideas from both existentialism and Stoicism. No philosophy of life – not just existentialism or Stoicism – could possibly exist without it.
Charlatanry mobilises everything to justify itself. This does not mean anything is necessary to its existence save a tropism to coprophagy amongst some section of special little snowflakes such as our Credentialised Paideia so cunningly cons.

If we were truly tabulae rasae, why would we prefer certain things to others?
If we weren't, we would never prefer certain things to others. I say 'I prefer eating chocolate to eating shit' precisely because some people do eat shit.  They wouldn't if their mental tablet hadn't a blank where the instruction 'don't fucking eat shit you stupid cunt' should have been.
What could possibly urge us to seek meaning, to build relationships with other people, to strive to improve ourselves and the world we live in?
Mummy urged us and Daddy urged us and teachers and playmates and everybody else urged us. Still some of us end up talking shite and feeding on shite so as to talk more shite.
We do all that because we are a particular kind of intelligent social animal, just as the Stoics thought.
I know a lot of 'intelligent social animals' who are seeking nonsense, not meaning, and destroying relationships with other people on the basis of that nonsense. Their striving worsens the world we live in.
And we do it within the broad constraints imposed by our (biological as well as contingent) facticity, as the existentialists maintained.
We also do whatever it is we do subject to the broad constraints of Astrology and Voodoo, at least according to practitioners of those psilosophies. Stoicism and Existentialism are no different from any other availability cascade in this respect.
There is no single path to a flourishing human life, but there are also many really bad ones. The choice is ours, within the limits imposed by human nature.
Nonsense! If we confine the authors to a steel box which we bury in the ground, they will soon find that they have no choice at all as to how enjoy a flourishing human life.
However, if that were our aim, such an action would be otiose. These guys have fashioned themselves a cage out of coprolites as hard as steel and buried themselves far beneath such ground as upon which anything utile can occur. Their 'human flourishing' is an ignoble coprophagy upon which we can loosen our bowels of wrath or otherwise vent spleen without having injured them by adding materially to their stinky condition.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Dravidian Wordsworth

 I wandered lonely as a cloud
Welsh to our Lakes' dafodwyd
Till, to thrill Lud's jaded crowd,
I fucked a faded daffodil. 
Envoi-

Prince! Tho' enargeia limn thy Regency 
A dull stupor belies all Agency




Meghnad Desai on Amartya Sen

This is Meghnad Desai, writing about Amartya Sen, in July  2000. My remarks are in bold.

Sen belonged to a new generation which had come of age in an independent India. They were patriotic, but they could also now take on the world in their own right.
The first step in any such quest was to go abroad. The world takes little notice of the home-grown writers and intellectuals of the non-western world.
This is very revealing. A Punjabi wrestler- like the famous Gama- may leave his own country  to go to the great metropolises of the World in order to prove his claim to be the greatest wrestler.  A Kenyan long distance runner may similarly enter marathons in London or New York to show his country excels in so fundamentally Human a field.

But would a patriotic economist do anything similar? Surely economics is about helping poor people make better decisions so that they might rise up? Since India was not just very much poorer but also much more educationally backward than its former master, it made little sense for Indian students to go to England- or in Desai's case, America- so as to study the problems  of rich countries which had well developed State bureaucracies, Judiciaries and highly sophisticated markets. 

Perhaps Sen studied some nomothetic type of economics in England which could be as easily applied to India's problems as to those of an advanced country? Sadly, Economics has no such nomothetic content. It is entirely idiographic. The only way to understand India's problem is to study them in India.

Desai, however, thinks that what matters for a 'patriotic economist' is that the world take notice of him- as if the fellow were a wrestler or a runner- not whether he can help his people make better decisions. 
In the 1950s it took even less notice. Sen went to Trinity College, Cambridge as a student in 1953. There had been a trickle of Indian economists coming to Oxbridge and the LSE through the 20th century. Indeed, economics was if anything overdeveloped in India before independence. But it was economics of an applied kind, devoted to helping develop the nationalist policy platform, using the tools learnt back in Blighty.
Actually, those who studied Economics in Blighty before the War turned out to be a withering blight for Nationalist thinking about Economics. By contrast, some who studied Economics in America had a big political impact.
Alfred Marshall had some brilliant Indian students- e.g Mahohar Lal & J.C Coyasjee- but, though of solid virtue, they lacked originality and inculcated a top-down, elitist perspective. Marshall in fact warned Lal that Indian Nationalism would be more likely to be captured by turn-key entrepreneurship of a shoddy kind rather than produce innovative companies like the Tatas. In particular, Marshall warned Indians that the English were not interested in helping them industrialise. They would be better off studying in America. Marshall in fact championed M.I.T which became the Mecca for students linked to Bhavnagar in Western India. Still, their politics was Gandhian though many were successful in the private sector.
Ambedkar and J.P, by contrast, learned from America how 'bottom-up' Economic dynamism could change the socio-economic horizons of the working population. Neither developed a coherent economic vision but rather zigzagged between rational argument and Messianic, but silly, quasi Religious ideologies, but both had great political salience. JP (and Lohia) helped the rise of the 'backward caste' parties while Ambedkar continues to be the lodestar for the Scheduled Castes.
Paradoxically, it was the American bar on coloured immigration, prior to 1965, which ensured Indian students couldn't get too comfortable there, that enabled a leavening of entrepreneurialism in the stodgy dough of Indian Economics which remained otherwise dismally Victorian.
After Independence, British Academia, though appearing to champion Nationalist Economic Planning, was covertly committed to turning Indian students into Mandarins who would 'buy British' if sufficiently flattered. The result was that India, which produced more cars than Japan in 1950, got stuck with the Ambassador car (based on the Oxford Morris) while Toyota and Nissan started making a big dent in Western markets.

Desai, though himself taking his Doctorate from America, has a different view of post independence Indian students of Economics.
The new generation had a much more ambitious agenda. Soon Sen was joined in Cambridge by Jagdish Bhagwati (now at Columbia University), Manmohan Singh (finance minister of India, 1991-1996, and pioneer of economic reform) and Mahbub ul Haq who became a leading light in Pakistan, in the World Bank and at the UN Development Programme.
This generation did not have to devote itself merely to analysing India’s problems.
The previous generation had been able to simply blame everything on the British, or the Brahmans or the Banias or some combination of all three. They were incapable of analysis. 
They could be economists from India rather than Indian economists. Of course they would go back and help India’s efforts to develop a modern industrial economy through planning.
What planning? Everyone knew that the only way to industrialise was to concentrate on Textiles and get docile, unmarried, female workers into the factories. No doubt, they would leave to have a baby or two, but it would be no more than two because the family would rather have her go back to work and bring in a little money.
Sadly, the 'export pessimism' of the Planning Commission, prevented it taking this route not so much because of Gandhian blinkers but because, it was feared, this strategy would favour a particular bunch of industrialists who had financed Gandhi. 

Furthermore, genuine Economic planning would have built up Bengal and other established centers. What we got instead was hypocritical Political mismanagement which first hurt Bengal's capacity to develop heavy industry by things like 'freight equalization' and then screwed over Punjab on the excuse that it was militarily vulnerable 

Milton Friedman was a great fan of the bottom up industrialisation he saw in Ludhiana but New Delhi was not enthused. Punjab's young people were sacrificed at the pseudo-Marxist altar of a casteist, elitist, New Delhi.

 By contrast, some regions did well by simulating a dog-like devotion to the Dynasty- the 'Andhrapreneurs' are a case in point. While appearing as stupid as shit, they cleverly ploughed their profits from Govt. contracts into a wide array of productive businesses and invested heavily in American know-how based education.
But first they had to master the sciences taught by the west.
What Science? Desai knows very well that Planning had no Scientific base whatsoever.  The thing was wholly administrative. Since India was too poor to afford much administration, the mathematical techniques these ambitious young men were learning had as much rational basis as Voodoo.
Some, like ul Haq, were sure that only by learning the “neo-classical stuff” would they know enough to undermine it, and help poor countries prosper in the face of western hegemony.
WTF? By constructing a Human Development Index which proves Bangladesh is better off than Baltimore and Cuba very Heaven what 'undermining of hegemony' is achieved? Why not simply say 'Wealth corrupts the Soul. The West will burn in Hell Fire!'

Come to think of it, Haq was Zia's Finance Minister. Thus, his contribution to Human Development and Globalisation encompasses Taliban, al Qaeeda and ISIS.
Others, such as Bhagwati, wanted India to benefit from the rational principles of international trade theory and escape from the high costs of autarky. Bhagwati came from Bombay, the rival to Calcutta, a commercial city with less radical traditions. Gujaratis from Bombay tend to be traders (banias) while Bengalis are clerks (babus). Gujaratis believe in compromise and reform (Gandhi was a Gujarati). Bengalis see themselves as radicals.
Bhagwati was thus part of the old Bhavnagar nexus which had shot itself in the foot by succumbing to the imbecilic charms of the toothless Mahatma. The poor fellow was squeezed out of India as, his lieutenant, Arvind Panagariya, has been squeezed out of Modi's Niti Aayog (which replaced the Planning Commission).

Manmohan Singh stayed in India and rose to be Prime Minister. His loyal service during the lost decades of 'Secular Socialism' and the corrupt fiasco that was Indian Planning meant that he could introduce some moderate 'market oriented' reforms which did in fact make a big difference. History, as he himself says, may judge him kindly.

Bhagwati left India because it was pursuing foolish policies and became an important voice of sanity on the issue of free trade. I am not aware of any exceptional result he has published but overall he gets a pass.

Sen, however, outdid both- according to Desai's metric- which conceives of Economists as being like athletes- because he alone got a Nobel. But what was it for?
What sort of economist was Sen going to be? Consider the choices open to a clever 25-year-old Indian economist. Cambridge was divided between a left Keynesian and a right Keynesian faction.
Keynesianism is wholly irrelevant in a subsistence economy where a bad monsoon means starvation for millions. Divisions amongst Keynesians at Cambridge ought to have been irrelevant to Sen if he really had been either bright or patriotic. 
The people from a country with endemic starvation gain nothing if one of their own wins pie-eating contests in a rich country. Similarly, a very poor country like India gained nothing by exporting experts on rich people's problems.
On the left were Joan Robinson, Maurice Dobb, Pierro Sraffa. They were engaged in a critique of neo-classical economics.
Most Indians were excluded from neo-classical markets. A critique of something they signally lacked was wholly worthless to them.
Similarly, the Indian State did not have the administrative capacity to implement Soviet style, or even French style 'indicative', planning. It did have enormous capacity for corruption and rent seeking of a sort which most flourishes in a segmentary, not a modern, society.

In a country where people are well fed, the Sen-Dobb thesis- viz. freeze real wages to invest productivity gains in capital goods- makes some sort of sense. It makes none whatsoever in a country where you have to raise real wages to improve nutrition and health so as to permit productivity to rise.
On the right were Dennis Robertson, Austin Robinson and James Meade. They were moderate neo-classicals and not averse to the Butskellite compromise.
I suppose Sir Partha Dasgupta, Meade's son-in-law, inherits that tradition. But he is now more useless than Sen. 
Cambridge had been the centre of two revolutions in economic theory before 1939. The first was Pierro Sraffa’s work on perfect competition, which showed that the accepted version of Alfred Marshall’s theory of equilibrium among competing firms was logically incoherent.
In which case Marxism too was incoherent. But, Sraffa is a footnote. He didn't and doesn't matter.
The second revolution was wrought by Keynes’s General Theory, which showed that a high level of unemployment was quite consistent with a properly functioning market economy.
In a rich country- not a subsistence economy. 
Cambridge had thus undermined the case for liberal free market economics.
For rich countries. 
Or so it thought. In the 1940s and 1950s, the American economists came back to reverse the two revolutions. They were more professional, used more formal techniques, and their discourse was less political. Economics was to be a pure, value free science. Neo-classical economics was extended and redefined to absorb the Cambridge critique. We were all neo-Keynesians now.
The Americans stressed know-how. The type of economics they taught appealed to engineers. Like the Soviets, their experience of Planning (during the War) had highlighted Operations Research as a nomothetic area of research which, with adequate idiographic knowledge of local conditions, could indeed lead to rapid 'catch up growth' provided free trade obtained and rent seeking was the exception not the rule.

All this was irrelevant to India which needed to get rid of irrational 'paternalistic' caste and gender based discrimination so as to permit market formation rather than foreclose that possibility by worrying about their functioning.
The Cambridge left was outraged at this bastard Keynesianism, created by Paul Samuelson and others.
But the Cambridge left didn't matter because Britain itself didn't matter. 
It intended to extend the inter-war critique of neo-classical economics into a full assault on the economics of capitalism.
This is like saying, Lillian Gish was outraged by the sexy wiggle of the young Schwarznegger. She intended to extend her critique of his vulgar booty shake into a full scale assault and brutal anal rape of the strapping Austrian at the Oscars. 
Socialism needed a different economics. Who was going to provide that, if not young economists from the third world?
Wow! Where is climbing up from Subsistence and where the dream of Socialism? How on earth could a young economist from a place where most were malnourished and many starved provide a 'different economics' which would make the British factory worker- who had a higher standard of living than an Indian Doctor- so much better off that the gap between him and his plutocratic employer would appreciably narrow?

India could export Swamis because it is plausible to claim that very poor people are closer to God. Lacking medicine, they are afforded miracle-workers. Being untrained in the exact sciences, they tap into a deeper spirituality of an organic kind founded upon what Freud called the 'oceanic feeling'.

Some Indian Swamis did get very very rich gulling the Westerner. Ambitious young Indian Academics, like Desai himself, may have received some 'intellectual affirmative action' and may have done well for themselves personally but they never grew so rich that they could found and fund their own Universities as some of our Maharishis did.

But the 'individually rational' strategies of Indian Economists were collectively a disaster. They saw themselves as athletes competing for prizes only the West had to offer. They failed to develop esprit de corps so as to raise up their own people by speaking a univocal truth to power. Their role in public discourse was to cancel each other out. Within India's own bureaucracy, the 'brilliant' economist- like Sukhamoy Chakroborty- was always ready to do the dynasty's bidding no matter what stupidity or corruption was involved.

Sen, however, did not follow in the footsteps of this aforementioned mentor of his.

Even in his twenties Sen rose above such stereotypes. While he did not neglect to write on development and on “Indian” topics, he chose not to be a development economist like ul Haq or a trade theorist like Bhagwati.
Why? Was it because he knew following in the footsteps of his first mentor- or indeed of Manmohan Singh- would involve crawling through a sewer of corruption.

Bhutto, and then Zia, used Haq as a stick to beat the '22 families' and thus permit the burgeoning of the Punjabi entrepreneur- whose great contribution to Social Democracy is Nawaz Sharif. Sen could not be instrumentalised in that way. Even when he tried to stab Manmohan in the back, the Punjabi got the better of him by steering him into the Nalanda pile of shite where Sen backed a VC who was Manmohan's daughter's saheli.

Bhagwati is a different case. Trade actually exists. Social Choice doesn't.
Instead, he took on the most philosophically abstruse field of social choice theory.
So- he was an 'internal exile' even before he quit the country. However, Philosophy wouldn't have kept his hands clean either. Mrs. Gandhi's Commerce Minister, during the Emergency, was a Bengali Philosopher. 
This did not make him popular. He went back to India to teach at the Delhi School of Economics at the age of 30, but he never accepted an assignment from the government.
Because the Delhi School of Econ was a wholly autonomous institution- I don't think! When one looks at the list of the great foreign economists associated with it- they are the same fuckers as wot fucked up the Planning Commission. Sen's genius was to get out from under them and head West to stake his own claim to something equally imaginary.
He confined his serious work to social choice, the field opened up by Kenneth Arrow’s 1951 essay “Social Choice and Individual Values.” This work relied on mathematical logic rather than calculus, linear algebra or topology.
In other words, it couldn't have any spin-offs for O.R or Control Theory or anything useful. 
When there were urgent problems of poverty, hunger and unemployment, why was one of India’s brightest stars concerned about transitivity, symmetry and the problems of utilitarianism? It is only now, 40 years later, that an answer can be given, and the ambitious architecture of Sen’s economic thought has become clearly visible.
40 years later, eh? For thirty of them India as a whole stagnated because Economists were talking shite. Bengal continued to stagnate for another decade because Sen, among others, could talk nothing but shite.
The 'ambitious architecture' here is of a Castle in Spain.

In the 1950s, to choose between left and right was to choose between alternative means of state management of the economy.
Not for India. The country was too poor to feed civil servants to manage what was mainly a subsistence economy. The left/right issue came down to something very simple- proper land reform based upon fungible title in land. This in turn entailed empowering panchayats (elected village councils) to take power from the muscle-men employed by Landlords and Usurers. 'De-feudalisation' one might call it.
But how was one to know that this management was truly in the interests of the majority?
This is only a problem if civil servants, not the people themselves, are making decisions because 'process' (which Sen calls Niti) differs from 'outcome' (which he calls Nyaya). But this is an artificial distinction. It can't arise in a subsistence economy where there isn't enough food to feed a civil servant to do the job. There is only one way forward- viz. bottom up development with Civil Servants doing the 'Niti' for Market formation and then moving on to create other missing markets.  Society can then do itself Justice.
As Arrow pointed out, counting heads in a referendum on economic policy ignores the fact that different people vote yes or no with different intensities of preference.
Referendums are not held on economic policy. True, something like it may happen because of an essentially party-political problem- e.g. Britain's two referendum's on Europe. 
Anyway, poor countries like India couldn't afford such referendums.
The problem of preferences also arises in the defence of redistribution.
Again, this is a rich people's problem. India did not have enough food to give everyone adequate nutrition under existing property assignments and methods of procurement and distribution. Nobody objected to feeding the starving. That type of 'redistribution' required no defense.
Suppose that there is a simple case of imposing a direct tax which will take money away from the rich and give it to the poor.
Which can only happen in a rich country with a well functioning Administration and a 'solidarity pact' of the Scandinavian type such that skilled workers share productivity gains with their less skilled brethren. But such pacts quickly break down.
If there are more poor than rich, then surely society is better off on utilitarian—”greatest happiness of the greatest number”—grounds? Money is a means to an end. The end is well-being and this is best measured by the utility an individual derives from consuming things. The principle of diminishing marginal utility means that an extra £100 is worth less to a rich person than it is to a poor person. This was the economic rationale for the welfare state advanced by the Cambridge economist Arthur Cecil Pigou, Keynes’s teacher and colleague at King’s College, Cambridge.
This may be something taught to Econ students but it wasn't why the post War Welfare State came into existence in some rich countries. 
But some economists, of both left and right, found this utilitarianism unsatisfactory.
So what? They were pedagogues. Nobody cared what they found unsatisfying provided they didn't masturbate in public. 
How can you compare the satisfaction I get from spending £100 on a seat at the Royal Opera House with the satisfaction that a homeless person may get by blowing the money on, say, junk food and booze?
Desai, you just did. You said you spent £100 to go to the Opera coz that gave you more Utility  than handing the money to some homeless dude likely to spend the money on heroin. You would have acted differently if it were a person of your own background who had been rendered homeless by an earthquake or flood. 
Surely you cannot compare utility across individuals—you cannot add it up as if it was the same for everyone? So argued Lionel Robbins of the LSE, and others on the free market right.
Why would anyone want to do anything so foolish? A utilitarian will want to assign more utility to someone doing something everybody will later benefit by than that same action by a similar person which has no such positive 'externality'.
Can democracy override these objections?
Democracy, under the Rule of Law, can never be concerned with any such arguments because the domain of Choice is hugely restricted. It comes down to this douchebag vs that turd. 
If a majority prefers one thing over another, is that not enough?
No. The Rule of Law creates Hohfeldian Rights- including immunity with respect to majority preferences. 
Yes—but only if the voting procedure truly reflects people’s preferences.
Fuck off! Everybody, except Tony Blair, may genuinely prefer to use the fellow as a public toilet but that option is not on Rule-of-Law Democracy's choice menu. 
Arrow showed that given three options (1, 2 and 3), three people (A, B, and C) with diverse preferences would find it hard to arrive at an appropriate choice.
So what? There is an impossibility result for even one person with three options- viz. (1) to do x in compliance with a voting rule, or (2) to do x absent any such beastie, or (3) do x iff the voting rule is regret minimizing. We can show that, under an assumption more plausible than any of Arrow's- viz that cognition is costly- that 2 is better than 1 but worse than 3 which however is worse than 1.
Let us say that A prefers 1 to 2 and 2 to 3, B prefers 2 to 3 and 3 to 1, and C prefers 3 to 1 and 1 to 2. Which option do you take? Moreover, the intensity of first preference or second preference may differ over the three individuals. Thus A may prefer 1 only mildly more than 2, but would rather have 2 than 3 in any circumstance. Reflecting the true preferences of a collective is much harder than the crude theories of democractic choice imply.
Crude theories don't matter. All we ask of the pedagogues who peddle them is that they don't touch themselves lewdly while doing so. 
In attempting to unravel Arrow’s paradox, Sen returned to first principles on the nature of choice. If we observe an individual buying fish rather than meat, how do we know it was his/her consistent preference and not just a whim?
Why would we care? 
Or, I may choose fish not because I like it more, but because I am boycotting meat this week in support of the meat workers’ strike. Thus my choice may not reflect an egotistical, utility maximising action, but a more inclusive set of preferences, including my commitment to solidarity with strikers.
which makes you feel good, and thus is part of your utility. 
Sen showed that we must take into account notions of sympathy or commitment in order to understand such things as voting behaviour, paying for public goods, looking after elderly relatives, sticking together in a marriage for the sake of the children, and so on.
Sen asserted this- but it's nothing everybody doesn't know- he didn't show it. Game Theoretic Biology can show why, in aggregate, such behaviour arises. Sen-tentious shite can't show anything.
This may seem obvious to non-economists,
It is also obvious to economists. We very well know that a pedagogue obliged by a 'publish or perish' imperative to recycle his own shite is a waste of space. But, tenure is tenure. Our own head is not that safe.
but Sen helped to take economics out of the confines of private consumption into real life behaviour where families, groups, collectivities have claims on us. He did this not by an emotional diatribe but by using logic. Buried in some highly technical material was a formidable challenge to Homo oeconomicus.
What is this shite? An emotional diatribe might cause us to be less stupid and selfish and cruel. We are wholly unaffected by some stupid pedagogue pretending some other stupid pedagogue fucked up the world and that he alone can redeem humanity thanks to his greater 'technical' mastery of mental masturbation.
Sen also showed that the freedom to choose, beloved of the political right, may not be a real freedom at all.
The 'political right' says choice is a type of Hohfeldian immunity arising out of a specific type of  vinculum juris. Real freedom is not subject to any Social Choice mechanism.
Many seemingly free people can be observed making apparently free choices which are in fact a reflection of their dependence or interdependence. Elderly widows in Indian households often eat very sparingly, and if asked, say that is what they prefer.
A wealthy Marwari widow may do so for religious reasons- and that is genuinely what they prefer. A poor Brahman widow may say the same thing but the truth is she doesn't have any money. She had no choice at all. 
But if they were not dependent on the son or daughter in whose house they live, they would behave differently.
So, they had no effective demand, made no economic choice, and thus weren't free at all. Why mention them? 
(Modern psychology is partly based on the idea that the sovereign, conscious, choosing self is a kind of illusion—but economists, including Sen, have paid little attention to psychology.)
Modern psychology? The ancients had the same idea. Plenty of economists have paid a lot of attention to psychology. 'Behavioural Econ' of one sort or another has been around for a long time now.
In 1970, Sen finished his ten years of work on social choice. His book Collective Choice and Social Welfare was a definitive advance on Arrow’s work.
But did it advance Collective Choice or Social Welfare in India? That is the only relevant test of a 'patriotic' Economists work.
Young economists, many of them Indians, began to work on these topics.
& thus wasted the money Society had invested in their education. 
But it was now that Sen began the long journey back from theory to practice. He also left Delhi, in 1971, and joined the LSE. Although he has retained his Indian passport, he has not worked in India since. The hostility of a section of the Indian academic establishment, and his divorce from his first wife, the Bengali poet and novelist Nabaneeta, with whom he had two girls, partly explain this decision.
During the 1970s, Sen began to apply his critique of orthodox economics to the questions of inequality, poverty and national income measurement. Right-wing economists, who reject the utilitarian logic for income redistribution, are often the first to argue on utilitarian grounds that a higher per capita national income is good for a country. This is logically inconsistent. At the very least, one might worry about the distribution of income, not merely its total growth, which may flow to a small number of “winners.” (The left-wing anti-utilitarians, such as Sen, can also be accused of inconsistency on this point—as their egalitarian critique of national income rests on Pigou’s applied utilitarianism.)
So, Sen was chased out of India by 'academic hostility'- which must have been Left wing- in order to go fight right wing Economists in the UK. Did he succeed? Nope. 8 years later Mrs. Thatcher was elected. 'Redistribution' was off the table.  Even the Butskellite consensus re. averting mass unemployment was abandoned.
But Sen, now in his early forties, had moved on again to ask some basic questions about well-being. In both his previous fields he had been clarifying, sharpening, improving, existing tools. But the new direction Sen now broke into had deep roots in his childhood, and in the humanist, anti-instrumental ethos of Santiniketan, where he had grown up.
The bengal famine of 1943 had shattered the illusion of a Golden Bengal.
That's hilarious! In 1770, ten million starved. In '43, the figure was much smaller.
Sen began to write about the famine in the mid-1970s. I remember receiving his first draft while I was teaching in Belgium. I was excited by the draft and wrote to him at once saying that he ought explicitly to challenge neo-classical theory because that was what his article did. In his analysis of the famine, Sen was to show that the conventional wisdom that people died because of a shortage of food was mistaken.
Sen showed that Democracy causes famines in Bengal because Bengalis are heartless beasts. They gobble up five times as much rice as normal- even though this is physically impossible for other human beings- so as to enjoy the spectacle of their kith and kin starving in the villages.  Of course, Hindus thought Sen was making a veiled reference to the democratically elected Muslim leaders who presided over two famines- the second was in the Seventies- in that province which had only laid golden eggs for its British masters.
His detailed work on weekly arrivals of food grains into Calcutta showed that food availability had improved rather than deteriorated. People starved not because there was no food, but because they lacked purchasing power. They lacked purchasing power because the demand for their labour services had collapsed. Their entitlements, normally sufficient for a modest livelihood, fell to below subsistence. Just as Keynes had shown that a market economy could be in equilibrium with many people unemployed, so Sen showed that a functioning market economy could leave millions dead.
Keynes was writing of rich countries which provided a social minimum to the unemployed. Sen was writing of the beastly nature of Bengali democracy such that most people ate more food than they could possibly digest so as to have a hearty laugh at their fellow countrymen perishing of hunger. Needless to say, Sen was lying. Still- it is good to know that Sen outdid any Britisher in painting a picture of the Bengali as being of utterly loathsome moral character.
The argument was developed in Poverty and Famines, which extended case studies to the horn of Africa as well as Bengal in 1943 and Bangladesh in 1976. Poverty and Famines received a savage review in the Indian journal, Economic and Political Weekly, from a fellow Bengali economist and former adviser to the Indian government—Ashok Mitra.
Mitra, as Finance Minister of West Bengal, can take some credit for land reform in Bengal which genuinely did raise a lot of people out of near starvation. 
He derided Sen’s book as old hat. The famine code of British India itself had laid it down that to relieve distress in famines, the local state should create jobs, not worry about food supplies, which the market could take care of. This episode of Bengali fratricide is revealing. Sen may be a world-class economist and philosopher, but he remains a Bengali of whom Bengalis are possessive and envious at the same time. He had abandoned his Bengali wife and his country for lucrative professorships abroad. He had to be chastised. Yet Mitra had missed the larger significance of Poverty and Famines. A clever Marxist though he is, Mitra did not notice that the foundations of Sen’s “entitlements” were in the classical labour theory of value. It was done without once mentioning Marx, but the entitlement of the individual is based on his/her labour power. In a normative twist to the classical theory, Sen argued that people in poor agrarian economies are “entitled” to enough goods to reproduce their labour power.
Unless some Muslim politician has been elected- in which case some Bengalis start eating so much more that they can enjoy the spectacle of their kinfolk starving.

Desai isn't a big thinker but even he must know that the classical labour theory of value does not stipulate for any entitlement for subsistence farmers or those who provide such farmers with services. Marx says that the 'iron law of wages' obtains where labour is a commodity. Caste or 'moral economy' based entitlements are excluded from this law.
The next step in Sen’s journey to a humane economics
which involves doing nothing for poor people but just writing shite 
involved looking at the problem of poverty in a radically new way.
The problem of poverty is not ameliorated if you stand on your head to look at it in a new way. 
Many people argue that there are no “really” poor people in the rich countries today. This implies that poverty can be and should be defined in a universal way, valid across time and space. Progressive social scientists in the developed countries reject this idea by defining poverty in relative terms-no longer just food and shelter, but the degree of inclusion in the daily life of the community.
Singapore, in the mid Eighties, decided to junk redistribution in favour of 'self-reliance'. ''Workfare' is about Social Inclusion paying for itself. Disabled or discriminated against people more than earn their keep- if they are allowed to earn.
'Progressive' gobshites did try to destroy this piece of economic common-sense by linking it to Chavez type, or Syriza Mark 1 type, stupidity. We all know how that turned out.
Sen shifted the terrain. Yes, there is a universal definition of poverty. No, it is not in terms of income or purchasing power, but of “capabilities” and “functionings.”
Utter nonsense! Income means how much you can spend without reducing your wealth. Wealth equals how much you have without reducing future income. Thanks to Knightian Uncertainty, both are only measurable with hindsight though an ex ante metric provides some guidance. By contrast, nobody knows or can know what their 'capabilities' and 'functionings' might be. I might well be an excellent hit-man for the Mafia if I took enough cocaine and worked off the consequent paranoia on the rifle range. It may also be the case that if I stop taking gluten my cognitive functioning will so greatly improve that I will go down in history as the second Oscar Wilde. 
Again this was a challenge to the utilitarian calculus of neo-classical economics. It was not some abstract utility (or its indirect measure, income) which was a measure of well-being, but someone’s capabilities. People can do any number of things: eat, sleep, play music, read a book. Potentially, they can do many more things; education is a key to realising their potential.
Sen could have helped poor Bengali people. He didn't. Why? It was because his education fucked him up. But there was no way of knowing this in advance.
The poor are poor because their set of capabilities is small—not because of what they don’t have, but because of what they can’t do. In other words, the poor can’t do very much with their time. (The emphasis of centre-left governments in the developed world on equipping people with the skills to compete in the global economy is an echo of this argument.)
In India, the poor stay poor because they ill advisedly exercise their capability to reproduce. Elsewhere, the capability to do a lot of drugs while still in High School may be a factor.
The capabilities measure is, in theory, universal.
Only if there is no Knightian uncertainty- i.e., at the aggregate level, things are predictable. But, in that case, our species would become increasingly homogeneous. In other words, nomothetic theories would be universally valid because populations would be identical.
If you can nail down a basic set of capabilities somewhat like basic needs, it may cost more in France than in Tanzania, but it will be the same set everywhere.
Because Tanzanians would be making wine and French people would be harvesting pineapples. 
The capability to lead a healthy and productive life, to communicate and participate in your community, to reproduce biologically with the partner of your choice, to move about freely, may exhaust the minimal list.
Reproduce biologically? How often? I suppose a woman could have thirty children if her life were guaranteed to be healthy. If reproductive behaviour is genetically determined subject to environmental factors, then meaningful capabilities of the sort quoted above, enhanced by fertility drugs, would lead very quickly to a steady state where the population doubles every three years. Wouldn't that be swell?
There was now a distinct Sen agenda. Utility and income had been displaced from their primary positions in orthodox economics.
Really? When did this happen? How come trends in financial markets weren't affected? Screw that, why is my capability to have 30 sons per year with women desperate to flee war-torn countries not being actualised by some Welfare program? 
Well-being is captured by things people can do rather than things people have. If their set of capabilities grows larger, people can do more of the things they would like to do.
But the same thing could happen if it grows smaller. Indeed, by eliminating the capability to be employed on Sen-tentious shite, Society benefits coz no one wants to do such a boring and pointless thing as measure people's capabilities.
Thus we arrive at a new and dynamic definition of freedom—choice over a larger and larger set of capabilities.
But we have all already chosen not to have any truck with a capability set. The thing is meaningless. It is a waste of time. Freedom means telling stupid pedagogues to go play with themselves in private, not jizz all over our sneakers.
Throughout the cold war, choice was a right-wing, western, slogan.
No. Throughout the cold war, large numbers of people kept trying to run away from places where they had little choice to places where they had more. That's why the Berlin Wall was constructed. Slogans don't matter. What matters is that markets have an incentive to discover and cater to new capabilities advantageous to us. Bureaucracies or Academies have neither the incentive nor the nous to do any thing but fuck up big time.
The Soviet bloc talked about economic and social rights—employment, freedom from hunger, housing.
Everybody talks about stuff like that. The Market economies, after a period of State led Reconstruction, did better for well known reasons. 
The negative freedoms—of speech, of belief, of movement—were the monopoly of the west.
So did India- but it was a shithole because the market was strangled. 
Sen’s famous assertion that no serious famine has ever taken place in a democracy shows that he was never dismissive of these negative “bourgeois” freedoms, but his work on capabilities ties together the two freedoms.
Sen was a witness to the advent of democracy causing not one but two terrible famines in Bengal.
Economic development expands the choice people have over their capabilities. Freedom is choice with a larger and larger content.
Development expands choice. Period. Freedom is only connected to choice negatively- as a constraint. Certain pleasant choices imperil it. Other, unpleasant ones, safeguard it. 
These ideas have become remarkably influential, partly thanks to good timing.
Influential? Where? How? What change- political or economic- arose in consequence? None. 
Towards the end of the 1980s, the developing countries were in a fragmented state.
As they had always been. What is important is that they were more politically stable.
They were struggling with a debt crisis and the structural adjustments insisted on by the IMF.
They were struggling with capital flight caused by political uncertainty and terms of trade volatility. The IMF was irrelevant save as a useful Aunt Sally.
But the communist world had lost its allure, and the 1950s model of growth through import substitution-led industrialisation had exhausted itself in India, Mexico, Brazil.
That had happened by the late Sixties. 
The open economy, export-oriented “tigers” of Asia had shown that rapid growth was possible within the capitalist paradigm.
America had shown rapid growth under capitalism was possible. The Tigers showed it was possible without Democracy. 
The anti-market, anti-business, statist industrialisation strategy, which had dominated left-wing development theory for the previous 20 years, was in disgrace.
But continued to be profitable and thus was able to propagate itself under a meliorist guise. 
The market alternative worked, but at what price? Many countries found that in undergoing IMF-led structural adjustment, they had to achieve targets-balanced budgets, reduction of trade deficits, exchange rate depreciation-which had an adverse effect on their populations. They had to cut their health and education spending to balance the budget. The question became: are we balancing the budgets as we are unbalancing the lives of people?
Does Desai really believe that countries got into debt to educate and feed and medicate their populations? If so he must have a very low opinion of the productive capacity of people in poor countries. Had elites really pampered their poor, productivity would have shot up- the thing would have paid for itself. The IMF wouldn't have had any role except that of publishing laudatory progress reviews which would enable yields on sovereign debt to fall. 

People who run a Ponzi Scheme often claim that they were helping ordinary people to become rich. They too have a paranoid theory of how sinister global forces sabotaged their humanitarian efforts.

No doubt, putting Madoff in jail 'unbalanced the lives' of many of his investors. Still, it had to be done because the thing was a fraud from first to last.
The author of this question was Mahbub ul Haq, Sen’s contemporary in the 1950s. He had been at the heart of the planning commission in Pakistan in the 1960s, and an adviser to Robert McNamara at the World Bank in the 1970s. Having served in General Zia’s governments in the 1980s, in 1989 he was back in the US, working at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
Haq helped Zia 'unbalance the lives' of a lot of people- including Americans as they learned after 9/11 and started going after Osama in earnest. But Osama was a creation of Zia's Army. 
By then Sen had moved from All Souls, Oxford to Harvard, a move triggered by the death of his second wife, the Italian economist Eva Colorni. Bringing up the girl and boy by that marriage on one salary, Sen found that even a professor’s salary was not enough. Harvard was more generous and more exciting. It was from there that ul Haq enticed Sen to become the key figure on his projected Human Development Report. In the first chapter of the first (1990) report, Sen laid the intellectual foundations of a new concept of human development. This was the translation of his work over a dozen years into terms which were to influence the largest number of policy-makers and opinion-formers.
Reality check. What happened to welfare programs after 1990? They were eviscerated. Work-fare replaced Welfare. Outsourcing and cosmetic administrative re-jigging became the order of the day. Consultants and Contractors grew rich as Clients suffered.  

Why did Voters permit the destruction of their own safety net? The answer is that Sen-tentious gobshites made it appear that the disabled Lesbian Refugee with fourteen children fathered by different rapists would get priority in accessing Public funds.

Policy-makers and Opinion-formers are shite. Voters must disintermediate them. We don't want 'Human Rights'- we want the stuff we paid for through National or Social Insurance. Screw 'Human Development'. We want what we paid for or we'll figure out ways not to pay same as the rich already do.
Human development is defined as expanding the choices people have over things they can do.
Rubbish! Development is about raising the opportunity cost of one's choices. This means only the next best alternative is relevant. That is why Development means narrowing your choice set.
At 18, Sen could have been a Physicist (as he originally wanted). By 21, Sen could have been a 'first order' Economist- i.e. he could have improved resource allocation- but he couldn't have been a Physicist or an Engineer or an Inventor. By 30, Sen could have been a Decision Theorist rather than a worthless gobshite. By 40, he could have been nothing but a recapitulation of his own intellectual inedia.
Economic growth in terms of per capita income (GNP) is downplayed in two ways. First, the distribution of income within a country has to be taken into account as a corrective to a simple “per capita” average.
Why? What is needful is a measure of the rate of change of purchasing power of different segments of Society. This helps identify missing markets or sources of immobility. But the thing is wholly idiographic. A nomothetic theory of National Income accounting is pointless.

Comparing the performance of countries is a waste of time. Why not simply argue whether Spiderman can beat up Dracula? 
The second demotion of income was by constructing a Human Development Index (HDI).
GNP growth rates does affect financial markets. HDI doesn't. It is useless. At one time, a headline like 'Scotland now has worse HDI than Somalia' might have had some political purpose. Now we ignore such junk Social Science. 
Three variables were chosen to measure human development: life expectancy, adult literacy and income. Taking these three together—health, education and resources—an HDI was calculated for each country. This simple device of ranking all countries—developed and developing—in a single table had a dramatic “benchmarking” effect. Poor Sri Lanka, with a per capita income of $400, fared much better in Human Development Index than Saudi Arabia with 15 times its income.
So what? Sri Lankans still went to work as nannies in Saudi, not the other way around. 
Oman and Czechoslovakia had the same income in 1990, but Oman came 58 ranks lower than Czechoslovakia in the HDI. Very rapidly the value of a country’s HDI and its ranking displaced growth of per capita income in policy discussions as well as perceptions.
But policy discussions and 'perceptions' did not matter in the slightest. What mattered was financial markets. They ignored HDI completely. The thing was useless. 
The Human Development Report is now the most widely reported and read of all the reports published by the UN, IMF or the World Bank.
Read by whom? Worthless shitheads is the answer. Desai was writing this before Chavez destroyed Venezuela. We all now know that a rise in HDI might be the signal for an impending catastrophic collapse in welfare.
Human development proved to be the “new paradigm” in development policy.
Development policy means doing stupid shit with other people's money. Development, we now all know, occurs when people get richer by their own efforts.
Progress towards increased well-being could be made even without significant spending—for example through improving the status and education of women.
Actually, Development happened when poor rural unmarried women were put into dormitories to service giant factories. One such woman is now a billionaire and manufactures the safety glass on your smartphone.
Proof was right there in the HDI. Rich countries with unequal income distributions had levels of human development lower than some sub-Saharan African countries.
So what? Those sub-Saharan countries soon descended into a maelstrom of terrorism and civil war- unless income was so unequally distributed that the rich could afford to defend their gains. 
The World Bank under James Wolfensohn began to take these ideas seriously. (Sen’s lectures at the Bank have just been published as Development as Freedom by Oxford University Press). The Asian crisis took the message into the heart of the IMF, with Gordon Brown and others arguing for a social dimension to the IMF’s structural adjustment programmes.
What actually happened was that the IMF and World Bank were able to get rid of Suharto by sticking to their guns. In other words, fiscal discipline was seen as part of what would come to be called 'regime change'.
The “Washington consensus” has come a long way from its narrow macro orthodoxy, thanks in part to Sen.
Almost twenty years have passed since Desai wrote this. Perhaps this belief was plausible then. But it makes for hilarious reading now. 
If you want globalisation with equity, you need not demonstrate outside WTO meetings. Just insist on a human development perspective alongside the market. Tell your MP that the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, says so.
Oh! The hubris! 
Sen is one of the world’s most influential intellectuals and therefore—despite his gentle, rather pedantic, manner—he has many detractors. Many economists said privately that the “Mother Teresa of economics” did not deserve the Nobel prize for such “soft” ideas. He causes anxiety by being hard to pin down. He remains a man of the left. Indeed, the West Bengal government, for many years run by the Communist party of India, considers him one of their own. Yet, like his good friend Eric Hobsbawm, he enjoys a place of honour at the heart of the liberal establishment. After a long relationship with the philosopher Martha Nussbaum he is now married to Emma Rothschild, a historian of ideas, and for the past two years he has been master of his old college, Trinity, Cambridge. He remains too much the unworldly academic for a more political position in the World Bank or in any imaginable Indian cabinet.
Still, Manmohan made a fool of him by making him Chancellor of Nalanda. Come to think of it, Desai too fell for that con. 
He has defied easy classification in other ways too.
Nope. He's a gobshite. That's an easy classification because it is true and ever paragraph he has ever written or sound-bite he has uttered confirms it. 
He is neither a macro nor a micro economist, nor a conventional development economist.
He is not an economist save in a second order sense- he posits a demand for a particular type of economic theory (which can't exist) because he posits some egregious evil in the supply of what currently dominates the market. 
And he has avoided most of the big economic disputes of the past 30 years-such as monetarism versus Keynesianism.
He avoided a dispute about Famines- in which he was wholly in the wrong- by telling stupid lies and indulging in ad hominem tactics. The rest of his work is too nebulous and defensively written to merit consideration- unless one believes that 'orthodox economists' have magical powers and a hegemonic role in the world.
His relationship with India itself has remained fraught. He has unfavourably compared the country’s failure to eradicate illiteracy and illness with China’s efforts. (The Indian state of Kerala is the only one to attract his praise).
Only a fool or a fraudster would compare China with India because the former has mobilised and deployed vast coercive forces whereas the latter relies on incentives rather than bullets in the back of the head. 
Sen was wholly wrong about Kerala. He thought the Commies had done a good job there. They hadn't. They were just a Casteist party like any other.
But in his critique of relativism—the claim that western values should not be applied to non-western countries—he has proudly promoted India’s indigeneous liberal tradition.
WTF? Western values you say? Like what? Not eating your grandmother? Is Desai really so ignorant that he does not acknowledge that Mrs Thatcher denied milk to starving British babies who were forced to cannibalistic feast upon their own Labour voting grand-parents? It was this cruel act of the 'Milk Snatcher' which caused Dagenham Man to vote Tory in 1979.  I pointed this out to Meghnad in December of that very year. Thankfully, crypto-Hayekian neo-liberals like Lord Desai will soon be purged from Corbyn's Labour Party. Fuck off to Israel you obvious kike!

Also, what's all this about India having an 'indigenous liberal tradition'? Liberalism leads inevitably to butt sex. We must turn back to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi who gave everybody an enema till they lost that particular itch. Anyway, that's what happened to the Indian Liberal tradition as exemplified by the Servants of India Society.
And in his most recent work on poverty and capabilities—in which all countries are measured by a universal standard-we can see traces of his real intellectual roots: the global Indian humanism of his fellow Bengali, Rabindranath Tagore.
Yup. Sen is a Tagore without the beard. At first blush, both look profound and 'humanistic'.  But the moment you dig deeper the more vacuous they appear. Tagore, unlike Sen, knew a thing or two about both poor Bengali people as well as gobshite intellectuals. One can easily recover a defence of the Victorian notion of an improving tax-farmer from his writing. Similarly, from Sen, we find only a path back to Sir Bartle Frere. Why? Bengal, for such Bengalis, was only golden because the British had made it so- for them, not those they claimed to speak for.