Journey From India To The Two Cambridges And Berkeley And Beyond

by Pranab Bardhan: Gérard Roland came to Berkeley only around the turn of this century. He grew up in Belgium, was a radical student, and after the student movements of Europe subsided, he supported himself for a time by operating trams in the city. When he was wooing his girlfriend (later wife), Heddy, she used to get a free ride in his trams. (A few years back when I visited them one summer in their villa in the Italian countryside near Lucca, Heddy told me in jest that those days she was content with a free tram ride, but now she needed a house in Tuscany to be placated). Gérard is also a good cook.

As with Andreu, my special link with Gérard was based on our shared interests in history, politics and culture. In addition, his research involves analyzing institutional rules in the economic development process and issues of comparative economic systems, which have also been part of my own research themes. He comes to this set of issues from his long-run interest in Russia in its process of economic transition after the fall of Berlin wall, and later in China.

Illustration by Irshad Salim

At this point I might as well give some perspective for my interest in institutional and comparative-systemic issues in the context of the subsequent developments in the discipline of Economics. By institutions economists do not necessarily mean an establishment or organization. They apply the term to imply general rules and practice and custom in economic arrangements.  I have earlier talked about my interest in and detailed empirical work on agrarian relations in Indian villages—these relations are often examples of small-scale economic institutions at the micro-level. Thus sharecropping, that my early work was concerned with, is a prime example of an age-old economic institutional arrangement.

Apart from the theory to understand the basic mechanism, my work also went into various empirical features of such arrangements in land, labor and credit markets in peasant economies. I put together much of my empirical work of the previous decade in this field in a book Land, Labor and Rural Poverty published in 1984. Then, collecting the theoretical aspects of the work in this area by myself and other fellow researchers, I edited a book The Economic Theory of Agrarian Institutions in 1989. This book was meant to give the reader some idea of the theoretical frontier of institutional research in developing countries which had been going on, both…

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