Indian Antecedents to Modern Economic Thought

This paper by Prof Satish Deodhar of IIM Ahemdabad was doing the internet rounds.

The history of economic thought begins with salutations to Greek writings of Aristotle and Plato. While the fourth century BCE Greek writings may have been the fount of modern economic thought that emerged in Europe starting 18th century CE, there has been a general unawareness of the economic thinking that emanated from the Indian subcontinent. Preclassical thoughts that had appeared in Vedas dating a millennium prior to the Greek writings had culminated in their comprehensive coverage in the treatise Arthashastra by Kautilya in the fourth century BCE.

In this context, the paper outlines various ancient Indian texts and the economic thoughts expressed therein, delves on the reasons why they have gone unnoticed, brings to the fore the economic policies laid down by Kautilya, shows how these policies exemplify pragmatic application of the modern economic principles, and brings out in bold relief, the contribution of this Pre-Classical literature in the history of economic thought.

This all has been known atleast amidst a few people. However, much of Indian economic thought is reduced to a few quotes here and there. Most of economics academia based in India, has been reluctant to teach these ideas in classrooms and encourage research on the same. This is a huge challenge which has to be overcome.

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