Breaking the Silence

Why we don’t talk about inequality—and how to start again

01 October 2012
STEVE MCCURRY / MAGNUM PHOTOS
STEVE MCCURRY / MAGNUM PHOTOS

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The New Challenge of Inequality

THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUALITY is having a revolutionary effect on life in contemporary India.” This was the considered assessment of the eminent American political scientist Myron Weiner, writing for Foreign Affairs in 1962. In a society still marked by egregiously obscene forms of inequality, the term “revolutionary” seems extravagant, even five decades after Weiner pronounced his judgment. But determining what constitutes “revolutionary” social change depends on how that change is measured—and in the second decade after Independence, the distance that India had travelled from its starting point would have indeed seemed immense. Political equality had been enshrined in the Constitution, untouchability had been delegitimised, political representation was widely shared, zamindari had been abolished, a new development paradigm was instituted, and the state defined its goals in terms of common welfare.

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    Pratap Bhanu Mehta  is President, Center for Policy Research, New Delhi. A winner of the 2011 Infosys Prize for Political Science, he writes on political theory and society and politics in India.

    Keywords: economic growth caste democracy inequality poverty class
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