India not only has hideous poverty and repression but also an unsustainable growth model, which offers little hope to the mass of the population.
Noam Chomsky, exclusive interview with Newsclick’s Vijay Prashad.
Vijay Prashad (VP): In Davos, at the World Economic Forum, the IMF chief Christine Lagarde made a strong statement for gender equality, naming Malala Yousufzai and the victim of the Delhi gang rape as sentinels for a redoubled effort for gender equality. It is a strange thing to read this, coming from the IMF at the WEF — not known for pursuing policies that enhance gender equality. What do you make of this?
Noam Chomsky (NC): Nothing. Capitalism in principle is race- and gender-blind, and it doesn’t seem to me surprising that rational capitalists wouldn’t be bothered to see a woman (like Lagarde) or a black face in a boardroom or limousine. Nor in favor of gender inequality. True, capitalism has used race, gender, and other devices to gain profit and power, but it’s not intrinsic to the system. Rather the way South African and western capital were able to agree finally to eliminate formal apartheid in return for maintaining the class system (with a few black faces).
VP: The IMF’s World Economic Outlook said that India would attain a growth rate of 5.9% in 2013, as opposed to about 3.5% this year. The ILO, meanwhile, said that global unemployment is going to be at record highs this year, with unemployment in India somewhere above the curve. The growth agenda persists, but so does the misery agenda. What is your prognosis of this growth direction for countries like India and China?
NC: I’ve long felt that the claims about power shifting to India-China is western paranoia. Both are very poor countries, with severe internal problems. India not only has hideous poverty and repression but also an unsustainable growth model, which offers little hope to the mass of the population. China has developed rapidly as an assembly plant for the advanced industrial countries on its periphery, and the west, and will doubtless move up the technology ladder (as it’s already done, say, in solar panels), but it’s a long hard slog, and there are many serious problems.
VP: The ILO chief, Guy Ryder, interviewed in Davos said that China is able to draw in foreign investment because it has infrastructure and is reliable. He does not spell out what he means by reliability. He says India can learn some lessons from China. What are those lessons, as far as you are able to surmise?
NC: I presume he means that western investors find China pretty reliable in that it can (mostly) discipline its workforce and provide for the needs of western investors: transportation, land (sometimes taken by force), etc. India much less so, apart from what appears to be far worse marginalization of the majority.
VP: When are you coming to India next?
NC: Don’t know. Long overdue. Lots of invitations. Hope to work something out, but pressures are enormous.
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