A Potted History

'How is Modern Efficiency related to Inequity?
A Potted History'

Deepak Malghan

27th August 2022
18:00 IST


The talk is derived from a book project that investigates the historical political economy of the idea of efficiency. The spread of efficiency to distant corners of the globe is a grand saga that transcends the diffusion of material and sociological objects commonly associated with efficiency — the steam engine, the Ford assembly line, Weberian rational bureaucracies, scientific management, etc. Indeed, efficiency is the quintessential object of modernity, and the historical arc of its global diffusion coincides with the ebbs and flows of the story of how the world became modern. The talk will present the broad contours of this history from 1780 to the present. Deepak Malghan will use the famous letter Gandhi wrote to Irwin (March 2, 1930) as a vantage point to reflect on how the modern retooling of economy, polity, and society in the interest of “efficiency” is one of the most fundamental sources of contemporary inequities.

Deepak Malghan is an ecological economist working at the interface of scale theory and thermodynamics. Beyond ecological economics, Malghan, an IIMB faculty, has a lab at the campus that has pioneered new methods for characterizing ethnic inequality and stratification by combining tools and insights from economics, demography, and political science. His current projects apply these methods to study classical as well as emerging problems in ethnic politics and political economy. He is also the co-author of an intellectual biography of J. C. Kumarappa, a pioneering Indian ecological thinker and political philosopher. He is currently working on a book project that chronicles the historical career of efficiency.

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