Centre for Economic Studies and Planning
In devising the teaching programme and the methods of instruction, the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning(CESP) sought consciously to set out in clear terms, the broad objectives and perspectives that the programme should aim at, in view of the prevalent trends in the teaching of economics in India and abroad, keeping in mind the needs of intellectual and social milieu in India.
The attempt was not to replicate, even if efficiently, postgraduate teaching elsewhere so as to add to the growing number of teaching and research institutions in higher education, particularly in the metropolis. The Centre's attempt was to make an effective and substantive intervention in the teaching of economics and to create certain trends in teaching and research in the discipline which had then been gathering weight in the domain of higher education.
In most Universities where economics is taught, a divide between economic theory and applied or empirical work appears to be growing, with economic theory being associated with formal textbook construction, learnt and reproduced by rote or as purely abstract exercises in logic, and the empirical work, shying away from theoretical rigour, sometimes degenerating into mere facts-mongering.
At the same time, some sophisticated econometric work too is often undertaken without adequate understanding of the theoretical premises underlying either the specific hypotheses of economic theory or the particular statistical techniques of analysis employed.
Nowhere else is this divide between economic theory and empirical work in the teaching of, and research in, economics more striking than in the case of development problems, where a view appears to have emerged that economic theory has lost relevance for the analysis of Indian economic problems and the best way to proceed in teaching economics is from the micro-level. Whereas the applied economists in search of concreteness tend to discard theory, the purists among the theorists, particularly in the Western Universities, have erred on the other side : they have tended to disown development as a rigorous field for theorising.
However, economic theory has a very live connection with historical experience and empirical observation. When one looks at economic theories, one needs to study carefully their formation in terms of their genesis in special historical conditions, their vision embedded in their conceptualisation of social relations, their logical structure specifying the assumptions and the order of causal relations, their analytical frame of reference which specifies the problematic the theory is designed to tackle.
The members of the faculty saw the imminent need not only to acquaint students with the rigorous techniques of analysis but also to train them to look for the relation between theoretical, and empirical categories. The basic analytical skill that a good economist needs is the ability to theorise on the basis of observed facts and to translate his or her theoretical hypotheses into observable categories. This is particularly so in the task of developing theoretical formulations relevant to a developing country like ours.
A constant and active interaction between theoretical constructions and observational bases is imperative. A good empirical analysis has to have always a good theoretical backbone, while a theoretical construction in economics with no inferences, whether immediate or not, towards the concrete is futile. Thus, in devising courses on the Indian economy, attempt has been not to treat them as a chronicle of events or an enumeration of facts but to treat the subject of economic change in analytical terms. These, then, were the objectives of the programmes.