Economy of Permanence
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
27 Mar 2011

Permanence in a transient world

There are still bits of history in Wardha, the district town in Vidharbha, Maharashtra. There is an air of optimism as one strolls across the sleepy streets, sensing a whiff of peace and non-violence as people go about their daily chores. Modernity has yet to take full control on peoples’ life; the creative genius has an environment to flourish here.

Magan Sanghralaya, in the middle of the town, is a repository of non-violent tools and techniques for building an ‘economy of permanence’. It houses what Joseph Cornelius Kumarappa, whom Gandhi called the ‘doctor of village industries’, stood for in giving constructive shape to Gandhi’s revolutionary ideas.

Published over 65 years ago, Economy of Permanence is seemingly more relevant today then during the period it was written. Even as early as in 1945, Kumarappa had given a call to shun the use of non-renewable resources which he proclaimed belonged to a ‘bucket economy’ (where the water gets depleted) and exhorted that we need a ‘river economy’ instead (one that replenishes).

Partly experiential, the non-violent way of life is based on author’s own transformation from a Europeanized lifestyle. In detailing out the inter-related facets of life, lifestyle and livelihoods, Kumarappa builds his thesis on the premise that the life of man is transient in comparison with that of Nature, which is relatively permanent.

In his foreword to Economy of Permanence, Gandhi had observed that ‘it needs careful reading twice or thrice if it is to be fully appreciated’. Kumarappa was clearly ahead of his times, talking of moral values and cooperative banking in the same breath. With equal ease, he could relate standard of living to the idea of democracy as well.

Despite the book been written more than half a century ago, many of Kumarappa’s ideas are still being effectively pursued in and around Wardha.Economy of Permanence is a work of practical philosophy, insightful and inspiring at the same time.

Economy of Permanence
by J C Kumarappa
Magan Sangrahalaya Samiti, Wardha
186 pages, Rs 200