Tug of war


May 26, 2019-

Even when Prime Minister Oli explicitly mocked intellectuals by calling them ‘bedridden’, it is only my mere speculation that Prof Chaitanya Mishra did not lose his cool and accepted the position of head of Policy Research Academy. Having been a professor, and the co-founder of the Central Department of Sociology and Anthropology, at Tribhuvan University for more than two decades, the primary cause of his resignation from the post goes beyond the insiders’  perspectives. I, as an  outsider, see the pieces of the puzzle in Sujeev Shakya’s bewilderment on Mishra joining the think tank, Nischal Nath Pandey’s defence of the privatisation of think tanks (‘Mishra’s resignation throws the future of the governmental think tank into disarray’, TKP Online, May 20) and PM Oli’s concept of Nepal as ‘virgin land for investment’.

While Nepal is not a ‘virgin land’ as far as the impregnation of neoliberal policies are concerned, books and academics are ubiquitous as vectors for popularising them. Sujeev Shakya’s latest book, ‘Arthaat Arthatantra’ is a classic example of such a vector. Glorifying Adam Smith’s notion of the ‘invisible hand’, bashing unions, uncritically rejecting protectionism and regarding ‘not country but market’ as the key ideology for economic development, his book reflects a myopic understanding of the limits of free market policy.

It is no surprise that Shakya was surprised by the induction of Mishra to the Policy Research Academy: Mishra’s Marxist upbringing as an academic can be detrimental to attracting FDIs. A Marxist and a capitalist arguing over welfare and taxation is no different from a wrestling match where one has to be subdued by the other to win the match. Is the departure of Mishra not a classic example of getting subdued by the third wave of neo-liberal policy gusting around the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Furthermore, Pandey’s viewpoint of using private sector think tanks as a solution to the problem is also deeply problematic: How can one be certain that there is no infiltration of propaganda in policy making when the government supplies funds to private think tanks? All the more, a private think tank can receive funds from several sources: Does that not make collusion highly likely?

Mishra’s books, namely, ‘Badlido Nepali Samaj’, and ‘Pujiwaad Ra Nepal’, are friendly reminders of problems of applying the toolkits of capitalism as a philosophy of economic exchange in Nepal. A close reading of his work shows that, because of crony and feudalistic capitalism prevalent in our societal structure, neoliberal policies will only make economic inequality much worse. Is his work not a critique of the neo-liberal programme disguised as FDIs in the nepali market today?

Mishra’s departure is nothing more than the aftermath of the tug of war between neo-liberalism and Marxism.

Bhola Uprety, via email.

Published: 26-05-2019 17:18

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