Recent Histories of Indian Economic Thought: A Critical Survey

Alex M Thomas, faculty member, Azim Premji University, will highlight the need for critical scholarship in the history of Indian economic thought.

Humanities Seminar Alex M Thomas

In this paper, Alex surveys recently published (2000 to 2020) books and articles devoted to the history of Indian economic thought. The survey is not an exhaustive one and this was done in order to ensure both the breadth and depth of the coverage.

In terms of breadth, he critically surveys biographical histories, conceptual histories, and institutional histories. More specifically, he examines the economic ideas of D Naoroji, B R Ambedkar, J C Kumarappa, P J Thomas and K Bharadwaj within biographical histories. 

As part of conceptual histories, the contributions of Arun Bose, Sukhamoy Chakravarty, and Gautam Mathur to the development of Sraffian Political Economy is also discussed. 

Subsequently, there is an elaborate discussion on the various ways through which Indian economists contributed to the understanding of development by producing concepts and highlighting specificities of the Indian context. 

Under institutional histories, he briefly engages with the history of professionalisation of the economics discipline in pre-independent India by focusing attention on economics textbooks, associations, and journals. 

He concludes by highlighting the need for critical scholarship in the history of Indian economic thought. 

Alex M Thomas teaches at Azim Premji University. His area of research is the history of economic thought. His book Macroeconomics: An Introduction was published by Cambridge University Press in 2021.