Taking social development seriously: the experience of Sri Lanka

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  • This article was downloaded by: [York University Libraries]On: 04 July 2014, At: 03:52Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Contemporary South AsiaPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ccsa20

    Taking social development seriously:the experience of Sri LankaPhilip Bean aa University of Loughborough , UKPublished online: 18 Feb 2013.

    To cite this article: Philip Bean (2013) Taking social development seriously: the experience of SriLanka, Contemporary South Asia, 21:1, 77-78, DOI: 10.1080/09584935.2012.758475

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09584935.2012.758475

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  • views of the war are questioned. This stance of objectivity is interesting, and could bedebated, given the high degree of subjectivity dealt with in the book. Second, the readeris often made aware of the elements of newness and surprise that emerge from narratives.These purposeful suggestions are advanced without undue exaggerations.

    These themes create an understanding of war that was non-heroic and messy. We get toknow that even though war disrupts social life, societies seek to survive by shifting to analternative grammar of existence. Bose intersperses the book with the wit and imaginationthat made this alternative grammar and which helped people live through the war. Forinstance, many of her participants describe the transit, under duress, of Hindu refugeestowards India as a mela (fair) (115). We are introduced to the war of words that symbo-lized the conflict between cultural sensibilities (161170), the degrading acts, such as mind-less lynching of hapless persons like non-Bengali Muslim Biharis, the smaller visions ofpolitical leadership and limitations of war heroes episodes that make this war appearless dramatic and more human.

    Apart from having fine production quality, the book is soundly conceptualized and pro-fessionally written. Though a book about a deeply political event in South Asian life, itchronicles the cultural engagement with the 1971 war. However, its chief merit may liein the methodology employed. It is an ideal work for doctoral students to understandhow a complex terrain can be effectively negotiated.

    Atul MishraCentral University of Gujarat, India

    Email: anticontic@gmail.com 2013, Atul Mishra

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09584935.2012.758473

    Taking social development seriously: the experience of Sri Lanka, by LaksiriJayasuriya, New Delhi, Sage, 2010, 194 pp., ISBN 978-8132104650

    Taking social development seriously is a welcome study of an unusual and interesting case.The book is roughly divided into two parts. First, there is a discussion on some of the majorconceptual and theoretical issues pertaining to social policy and social development. Theaim here is to provide a model with which to analyse Sri Lankan social policy, butwithin the framework of social development. The solution is found in the theories ofthose, such as Amartya Sen, who emphasise an individuals capabilities and functioning.This, however, is the least interesting part of the book, and could have been condensedto advantage. The second, and the most interesting part, begins with a fascinatingaccount of the policy initiatives introduced during the early phase of the British colonialrule. We learn of the creation of the highly educated elite drawn mostly from the propertiedclass, imbued with the social and political values of Victorian England, namely political lib-eralism framed in laissez faire thinking and utilitarianism. Other influences include theAnglican Church which was privileged over other traditions, including Buddhism, andhelped offer an entry into Western systems of education. The introduction of a British judi-cial system freed land and labour from feudal controls. These helped develop a vibrantexport economy, driven by a new commercial entrepreneurial class.

    The late colonial stage (19311948) with its pressures towards Ceylonisation also pro-duced numerous welfare reforms, including education and health. The former granted freeeducation along with compulsory schooling which incidentally helped reduce the

    Book reviews 77

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  • influence of a now powerful Church and provided higher education for the most ablethrough the University of Ceylon. Health reforms, like most features of welfarism soughtto benefit more than the poor. For example, those aimed at controlling malaria not only pro-duced a fall in morbidity generally, but also became a significant feature in improving thesocial well-being of the population as a whole. By the end of this late period, Sri Lanka hada welfare system second to none in South Asia, and as good as anywhere in the developedworld.

    The period from 1948 to the present can itself be divided into the period up to the 1970sand from then to the present. The former saw the consolidation of the Sri Lankan welfarestate reaching its apotheosis with a UN report which congratulated it on reaching rates ofschool enrolment, literacy, infant mortality and life expectancy far ahead of other lowincome countries and better than many middle income ones (127). The emerging move-ments of Sinhalese and Tamil nationalism changed everything. Professor Jayasuriya callsit the transformation of the Sri Lankan polity from welfare to warfare with an intransigentethnic conflict, enmeshed in two cultures and two societies.

    The period since the 1970s is full of stark reminders of the destructive nature of ethnicconflict. This, of a country whose recent history involves a break from its colonial past, a25-year civil war, and a legacy that leaves Sri Lanka as the most militarised country inSouth Asia. The book as a whole offers a hopeful account of the value of Sri Lankansocial development and social policy, but the growth of the current military establishmentdoes not augur well for the future. Although Professor Jayasuriya does not say so, there aredifficult times ahead. He sees the future as less certain; it all depends, he argues, on whetherthe military establishment remains in the ascendancy and whether the earlier social demo-cratic state, which nurtured the welfare system can be restored. This is a thoughtful well-written account, by a distinguished scholar in his field.

    Philip BeanUniversity of Loughborough, UK

    Email: p.t.bean@lboro.ac.uk 2013, Philip Bean

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09584935.2012.758475

    Routledge handbook of South Asian economics, edited by Raghbendra Jha, Abingdon,Routledge, 2011, xvii + 327 pp., ISBN 978-0-415-55397-1

    The classic dilemma for books on South Asia is whether to present country-studies or totake a thematic approach. This handbook takes a thematic approach, with six parts titledEconomic growth, Human development issues, Monetary and fiscal policy issues,Sectoral issues, International trade and financial flows, and Environmental issues.Each part comprises two to four chapters.

    The handbook includes some excellent chapters. Part V International trade and finan-cial flows offers four very good chapters: namely Pursells Trade policies in South Asia,Kumars Foreign capital flows and development ., Bhattarais Trade, growth andpoverty in South Asia and The impact of South Asia on global institutions byThangavelu and Pattnayak. From reading these chapters, the reader may clearly understandthat despite the role of institutions like the World Trade Organisation, and South AsiaAssociation Regional Cooperation, the increasing number of free trade agreements, andthe presence of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement, South Asia has its own dynamic.

    78 Book reviews

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