Links to My Writings & Talks

Featured

My main website is asadzaman.net. For a QUICK START, see sampling of short posts on diverse topics on my author page at LinkedIn.  Collections of my writings are linked below:

My most popular blog post (by far) has been “A Summary of the Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi” link: http://bit.ly/1tSE9pP

My most viewed YouTube Videos are listed sequentially: (1) URDU memorial talk about my father:

(2): Inspirational & Motivational Urdu: Message of Allama Iqbal for Muslim Youth:

A five-minute guide to materials on my different websites, with an Islamic orientation:

I am now preparing several online courses with lectures on my YouTube channel, plus associated slides, lecture notes exercises, supplemental materials on course website linked below:

 

MPDR Seminar: Improving Planning and Policy

22 Feb  2107: Seminar at MoPD&R on how we can improve planning and policy making in context of Health & Nutrition.  The seminar was based on the Outcomes and Conclusions of the Brainstorming Session on Policy Priorities for Health & Nutrition held at PIDE Friday 17th Feb 2017. An Executive Summary and outline of points made at the seminar is listed below. Somewhat more detailed minutes of the Brainstorming Session are also given below. SHORTLINK for this page: bit.do/azmpdr1

A Brainstorming Session on policy priorities for “Health & Nutrition” was held at PIDE on 17th Feb 2017, with the goal of identify the major issues that we urgently need to address in this sector. Participants from Planning, PIDE, PPAF, SUN Network and Shifa Medical College attended the meeting (List attached below). An executive summary of actionable items arising from this discussion, and subsequent seminar on the same topic, is presented below for necessary action.

  1. The body of the planning process is sound, but the spirit of serving the people is missing. This is as essential as petrol to run a car. We need to encourage the development of this spirit among bureaucrats, who should see themselves as “public servants” in the true meaning of the word. A seminar on this topic was delivered by Dr. Asad Zaman, VC PIDE, at the Planning Commission on 21st February as a model of the effort that needs to be made in this direction.

ACTION PLAN: Member Communications + Our own Communication Strategy Person should brainstorm on initiatives that need to be taken, to promote the spirit of public service everywhere in general, and in PIDE and Planning Commission in particular.

  1. There is a strong tendency to ignore and criticize existing on ground projects as failures, and start fresh projects without studying the ground realities, and the causes of success and failure of earlier projects. Buildings cannot be constructed if everyone abandons previous structures, and starts putting bricks down on a new location. This tendency needs to be combatted in the following ways.
    1. Quite often, there are successful planning interventions, but we do not learn from them, and replicate them at large scale. Just being able to transplant best practices would achieve marvels in developments – we do not need to borrow models from outer space.
    2. Quite often, failures are just one small step away from success, and they are abandoned or neglected. Large amounts of effort need to go into an evaluation of existing projects, with the goal of tweaking them to improve their performance.
    3. We need to do a thorough job of evaluating existing projects, ensuring completions of PC-IV and PC-V for at least the larger projects. This is essential to learn from experience. As it is, we keep repeating the same mistakes

ACTION PLAN:  A systematic failure is the expectation (never fulfilled) that those executing the project will themselves evaluate the project. This creates the wrong incentives and ensures the perpetuation of current state of affairs where no projects are evaluated, and no lessons learnt from experience. In the future, simultaneously with the approval of the PC-1, an independent body of auditors and evaluators should be hired to report on the performance, and to produce the PC-IV and PC-V. They should be paid directly by the Planning Commission out of funds reserved in the PC-1 for this purpose. For major ongoing projects, we need to implement this right now: fund an independent audit group to (a) suggest how we can improve efficiency of the project and (b) create the PC-IV evaluation forms, with the idea of documenting the experience, so that we can learn from it. Again, it would be of great importance to involve the stakeholders in this evaluation – those involved in service delivery as well as those who are recipients of the service being provided. PIDE is prepared to facilitate this process. Money for evaluation should be built into the project PC-1 and should be released directly to the auditors, instead of asking project executors to hire auditors, or to do self-evaluations. A SEPARATE TASK FORCE should identify major success stories in projects, and devise strategies to replicate best practices across the board.

  1. A major problem identified was lack of ownership of the projects, and a very paternalistic attitude, a leftover remnant of the colonial bureaucratic tradition. Instead of letting communities take the lead in identifying their own problems and finding means to solve them, we wish to do it on their behalf, which results in lack of ownership. We should strive to ensure that the PC-1 projects are planned and initiated by the communities being served, and provide them help with this process.

ACTION PLAN: Current PC-1s have provision for ensuring that community being served has some input into the project but this is not taken seriously in evaluation of PC-1s. We need to insist on community participation in the preparation of PC-1s. In addition, some change of rules is required to enable and empower communities to originate their own PC-1s for projects with the assistance of relevant ministries.

  1. Behavioral psychologists have identified a major source of irrational human behavior: our tendency to find free offers irresistible. Whenever foreign donors come in with strange projects, we don’t look gift horses in the mouth, and agree to do whatever they suggest on the false assumption this is a free gift. Millions are wasted, and certain types of debt traps are created because we too eagerly accept gifts without close examination.

ACTION PLAN: A sophisticated evaluation of all projects with foreign donors using independent auditors is required to ensure that we don’t allow donors to test experimental medicines and treatments on our children. This can be done along the same lines as in the previous actions plan.

Brief: Minutes of the Brainstorming Session on “Issues Related to Health & Nutrition”

held at PIDE, on February 17, 2017.

The subject session was held on February 17, 2017, at 11:00 am, in the Office of the Vice Chancellor, PIDE, Islamabad. Dr. Asad Zaman, VC PIDE chaired the meeting. Session participants were from the Planning Commission of Pakistan, PPAF, SUN academia and research network in Pakistan, Shifa medical college and PIDE.  The following attended the meeting:

  1. Dr. Asad Zaman                                         Chairperson (VC, PIDE)
  2. Iffat Zaman                                                  Shifa medical college, Islamabad
  3. Dr. Durre Nayyab                                        PIDE
  4. Dr. Atiya Yasmeen Javed                            PIDE
  5. Adeeba Ishaq                                               PIDE
  6. Muhammad Nasir                                        PIDE
  7. Mahmood Khalid                                         PIDE
  8. Dr. Irshad Danish                                         SUN academia & research network Pakistan
  9. Zafar-ul-Hassan                                           Planning Commission of Pakistan
  10. Dr. Mubarik Ali                                           Planning Commission of Pakistan
  11. Syed Tanwir Hussain Bukhari                     Planning Commission of Pakistan
  12. Dr. Asma Haider                                          Planning Commission of Pakistan
  13. Muhammad Fazal                                        PPAF
  14. Dr. Seema Raza                                           PPAF

The meeting started with the recitation from the Holy Quran.  In his opening remarks, the Vice Chancellor, PIDE welcomed the participants of the meeting. After brief introduction of participants, Dr. Asad Zaman (VC, PIDE) explained that the objective of this session is to identify top priority issues of health and population in Pakistan. Three areas i.e. IMR, MMR and Malnutrition were focused in discussion.

Following issues were discussed;

  • Many countries are economically poor compared to Pakistan but have less Infant mortality rate. Pakistan’s score (107) is poor on world hunger index. High rates of malnutrition, stunting in Pakistan. Lack of immunity among children causing malnourishment that results in high infant mortality rate. Health issues arising because of poor hygiene practices, unavailability of safe drinking water and inappropriate sanitation facilities. In certain cases, Pakistan has adopted world’s successful health practices but still it is failing to make remarkable improvement in malnutrition statistics. Hence, innovative/creative adaptation of world’s best health practices is missing resulting in failure of health sector interventions. Absorption of vaccination delayed or failed because of malnutrition. Behavioral problems in food consumption also causing malnutrition in Pakistan i.e. even the rich are not food insecure but are facing nutritional deficiencies. Feeding practices specifically among children are not optimal or healthy (exclusive breastfeeding causing health issues, complementary feeding is required to lower IMR. A study conducted by PIDE on determinants of malnutrition suggest that maternal factors are crucial for IMR). Awareness and health dimensions of poverty should be addressed in poverty research. It’s not only food security that causes malnutrition. Right social norms needs to be promoted e.g. in food choices and food manufacturing both taste and nutrition value must be considered. Ethnic/geographical diversities are mostly ignored in studies identifying causes of malnutrition. Poverty is not only cause of malnutrition. It is often over emphasized. Integrated/compound programs required for malnutrition solution. Health issues are causing more damage to GDP compared to energy shortage issues.
  • Immunization practices/behaviors must be improved from community point of view. We need to think about “No missed child concept” and how to execute it into our own communities? NHC department tertiary healthcare are important but Primary healthcare level needs attention. Primary healthcare investment can be more productive than tertiary healthcare investment. Preventive healthcare more important compared to curative healthcare. Promote prenatal care as it has serious consequences for malnutrition, stunting and IMR (Fetal origin hypothesis). Also awareness about mental health and its connection with domestic violence must be created. Community resource person programs can be very effective here.
  • Lot of Foreign Aid available in health sector but effective indigenous strategies lack to channelize aid to address curative health issues. How to increase effectiveness of different health and schooling interventions or what are effective interventions in social sector? (Researchable areas). One suggestion is that Medical anthropologist must be part of design and implementation of health and population interventions. Post program evaluation or impact evaluation of interventions/ongoing programs is required to rectify interventions’ failure reasons. Also we need to go beyond increase in GDP only and emphasize social indicators importance in growth studies.
  • Sector specific PC-I should be designed and they must be demand driven. Indeed if societies get necessary awareness they can make their own PC-I. Ethics standards must be defined for PC-I. Budgetary allocations for process and execution are minor in PC-I compared to other heads in ongoing practice.

Dr. Asad Zaman concluded the session with following three points;

  1. PC-I should be originated from owners (community) and not from 3rd party (consultants)
  2. Planning commission should prioritize projects (both completed and ongoing) and get them audited from external auditors.
  3. Foreign donors’ projects must be validated by planning commission of Pakistan as external evaluators.

Guide to Guides

This is a jumbled assortment of collections, later to be organized more neatly and coherently.

Pursuit of Wealth

The Nature of Human Knowledge

  1. Eurocentric History is an expression of European Power.
  2. Logical Positivism. A disastrously wrong theory of knowledge
  3. Deification of Science — science is valid knowledge.
  4. Materialism: Only Observables matter for science
  5. Power/Knowledge. Knowledge is shaped by dominant power
  6. UNLEARNING: Knowledge requires unlearning rather than learning.
  7. Islamic views on the nature of knowledge

Methodology — Critiques of Economics

Critiques of Social Sciences

When Did America Give Up on the Idea of America?

VOICE (from Foreign Policy)

When Did America Give Up on the Idea of America?

What has gotten into those Canadians? Aren’t they supposed to be our allies in the war against radical Islam? They have agreed to take 25,000 Syrian refugees from camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey over the next three months. They have ceded much of the work of vetting those refugees to the International Organization of Migration, an intergovernmental body based in Geneva. And now they plan to distributethe refugees to 36 cities across the country. Don’t they know those people are terrorists?

No, they don’t. Jane Philpott, minister of health in the new government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, explained to me that the process of approving Syrian candidates “is not so different from our usual vetting process.” The whole process, she says, takes a few days, from pre-interview by international agencies through security screening in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey by Canadian officials. Philpott told me that Trudeau had made the 25,000-refugee target an important element of the party campaign platform as early as last March. And are the Canadian people nervous? Not at all, she said. “There was a tremendous outpouring of compassion once Canadians understood what was at stake.” Philpott is herself a refugee advocate. “It has made me very proud of my country.” (Polls in Septemberfound that three-quarters of Canadians wanted to take more refugees, though by the time the new policy was announced, in November, the mood hadshifted, with 51 percent opposing the policy.)

It makes me very proud of her country too — and yet more ashamed of my own, where Donald Trump can plausibly calculate that he will help his political chances by proposing to bar all Muslims from our shores. The question Americans must ask themselves is: Why are Canadians so calm about a transaction that provokes hysteria in the United States? Why have Republican candidates for president and Republican (and some Democratic) congressmen and governors reacted to President Barack Obama’s plan to bring in 15,000 Syrians, over a far longer period of time, after the kind of vetting process normally required in order to be nominated secretary of state, as if he had agreed to surrender American national security on a whim?

Of course, 14 Americans just died in a terrorist attack apparently motivated by Islamic extremism. For Obama’s enemies, that cinches the case against the refugees. The United States, Ted Cruz has declared, must not take any refugees “with a significant al Qaeda or ISIS presence, such as Syria.” Of course, he already thought that. Even before San Bernardino, Chris Christie, self-styled post-9/11 pillar of courage, told an interviewer that even “orphans under five” aren’t being vetted thoroughly enough and shouldn’t be admitted.

I was in Sweden immediately after the terrorist killings in Paris. The Swedes have agreed to take up to 190,000 refugees this year, far more than anyone save Germany. Plenty of Swedes told me that they didn’t believe their country could integrate all those newcomers, but scarcely anyone mentioned the alleged terrorist threat from refugees. They were worried, but they were not frightened.

Canada itself has suffered from lone-wolf terrorist attacks, including one last year on the Parliament in Ottawa. That, in turn, sparked calls for tougher surveillance measures. Nevertheless, voters welcomed Trudeau’s call to reverse the policy of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and take in more refugees. Of course, Canada (and Sweden) is every bit as devoted to its security as is the United States. That being so, the American response can’t be explained by the threat but by something else. So what is it?

For a long time, my answer was “9/11.” Americans had lived for generations with an expectation of security that had been utterly shattered; the ensuing overreaction was unavoidable. When the wildly hyperbolic debate over whether alleged terrorists could be tried on American soil broke out in 2009 and 2010, I blamed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who put impossible conditions on a proposed trial, for surrendering to Americans’ still-raw feelings about their vulnerability to terrorist attacks. The same fears, it seemed, stymied Obama’s effort to close Guantanamo.

The towers fell more than 14 years ago; the statute of limitations on post-9/11 panic has expired.

The towers fell more than 14 years ago; the statute of limitations on post-9/11 panic has expired. Yet Americans have never been more fearful. I’ve increasingly come to feel that I don’t recognize my own country. I was a little boy in the early 1960s, and, of course, we all had mushroom-cloud nightmares then. But the threat of nuclear war was real, not imagined. And even the anti-communist paranoia of that time could not eclipse Americans’ fundamental self-confidence. The besetting national sin has always been self-righteousness and complacency, not fear and loathing.No longer: The distinctive national mood today is a combination of anxiety and wrath — a blind wish to strike out at all the enemies that have laid American low. That’s why the emotional high point of so many of Trump’s rallies involves turning on a reporter, or a protestor, in the midst of the crowd; heckling him, giving him the bum’s rush, sometimes even manhandling him. Trump encourages his followers to find a scapegoat for their fear, an outlet for their anger; they eagerly accept the invitation. Maybe Father Coughlin, the 1930s fascist leader, inspired this kind of ugliness. But it’s something most of us have never seen.

Is it because Americans cannot accept the loss of unchallenged global supremacy — because we can no longer dash our enemies to the ground with a sweep of our mighty hand? Perhaps we’re more like Russia than we’d care to think — furious and frustrated that the world doesn’t cower before us as it once did. Is it the violent echo chamber of the Internet and social media and the shock jocks of radio and TV? That, too, is part of it. The idea of a rational center, emotionally detached and ideologically neutral — the old image of the mainstream media — now seems quaint beyond measure. Our emotional reaction to everything is hyperbolic.

Yet who is orchestrating this potent mix of adrenaline and resentment? Our political leaders — or rather, an entire right-wing political culture. The relentless collective message of the right is: America is helpless. Trump has based his entire candidacy on an inchoate, all-encompassing sense of American failure that only he can right. But so, in a less bullying way, have the other leading candidates and their supporters. Obama now devotes much of his rhetorical energy to counteracting the hysteria, as he tried to do in his Oval Office speech. But the extraordinary relationship he forged with Americans during his first campaign is long gone; he no longer has the ability to shift the public mood.

Here, then, is the formula: Politics, cranked to the highest volume by the Internet and 24/7 everything, acts on a very real sense of vulnerability to stoke fear and rage. Americans worry that immigration will harm the economy and change forever the texture of daily life. Those are legitimate anxieties. But Republican candidates and conservative media evoke an apocalyptic invasion, to be held in check only by immense walls and an army of border guards. The Syrian refugees are not people in need but emissaries from the land of jihad. Refugees are terrorists; terrorists are super-predators. Our institutions are weak; our enemies strong. The only inexcusable mistake is weakness. If the world hates us, let’s make sure that it fears us, too. Was it only seven years ago that Obama ran for office promising to restore America’s good name in the world? That was no small part of Obama’s pledge to voters. Yet today, a growing number of Americans look at the world beyond their borders with bristling hostility.

It feels like we’re in that stage of a Jimmy Stewart movie before our hero finally steps forward to remind the townspeople that they’re Americans, for goodness’ sake, and they’ve got to stop running around like chickens with their heads cut off. That always works in the movie, because the townsfolk have only temporarily lost sight of their better selves. I don’t think our problem is that we lack a Jimmy Stewart. The problem is that our loss of self runs much, much deeper.

Photo credit: KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

Summary of the Great Transformation by Polanyi

Link to REVISED post, which provides some additional material and clarifies some questions which arose on the original post below. ORIGINAL POST on WEA Pedagogy Blog . and a repost on RWER blog, attracted a huge number of hits, and continues to be ranked high.: See RWER: Seeking Short Summaries.   This is copy of original post for historical interest.

An earlier post by Madi provided an introduction to Polanyi’s classic work The Great Transformation. This book is crucial to understanding both HOW and WHY we need to re-structure economic education today. Unfortunately, the book is quite complex, a bit dry and technical at times, and consequently hard to follow. Although many leading economists have praised it, I did not see any glimmer of understanding of its central arguments anywhere in orthodox arena. Even among heterodox economists, it is not frequently mentioned or cited.

Mostly for the purposes of understanding it for myself, I set out to write a compact summary of the key arguments in the book. The central theme of the book is a historical description of the emergence of the market economy as a competitor to the traditional economy. The market economy won this battle, and ideologies supporting the market economy won the corresponding battle in the marketplace of ideas. I quote from the introduction of my article:

The market economy has become so widespread that it has become difficult for us to imagine societies where the market does not play a central role. Yet, for reasons to be clarified in this article, this is the need of the hour. The unregulated market has done tremendous damage to man, society and nature. Bold, imaginative steps to find alternative ways of organizing economic affairs in a society are essential to our collective survival.

Polanyi’s arguments are complex and remain unfamiliar to majority of economists. They run
counter to received wisdom, and are directly opposed to what is taught
about economics in leading universities. They are summarized in FIVE points listed below.

From the FIFTH point, it follows that acquiring and spreading a correct understanding of the limitations and failing of markets is essential to creating a better society, based on more humane values than those generated by market societies where everything is for sale.

Firstly, markets are not a natural feature of human society. Nearly all societies other than the modern one we live in used different, non-market mechanisms to distribute goods to members. Our society is unique in having made markets the central mechanism for the production and distribution of goods to its members.
Secondly, market mechanisms conflict with other social mechanisms and are harmful to society. They emerged to central prominence in Europe after a protracted battle, which was won by markets over society due to certain historical circumstances peculiar to Europe. The rise of markets caused tremendous damage to society, which continues to this day. The replacement of key mechanisms, which govern social relations with those compatible with market mechanisms, was traumatic to human values. Land, labour and money are crucial to the efficient functioning of a market economy. Appropriating the functions of these alters and harms central social mechanisms governing human relations.
Thirdly, certain ideologies, which relate to land, labour and money, and the profit motive are required for efficient functioning of markets. In particular, both poverty, and a certain amount of callousness and indifference to poverty are required for efficient functioning of markets. Poverty is, in a sense to be clarified, a creation of the market economy. The sanctification of property rights is another essential feature of markets. Thus existence of a market economy necessitates the emergence of certain ideologies and mindsets which are harmful to, and in contradiction with, natural human tendencies.
Fourthly, markets have been fragile and crisis-prone and have lurched from disaster to disaster, as amply illustrated by the current and ongoing global financial crisis of 2008. Polanyi prognosticated in 1944 that the last and biggest of these crises in his time, World War II, had finally killed the market system and a new method for organizing economic affairs would emerge in its wake. In fact, the Keynesian ideas eliminated the worst excesses of market-based economies and dominated the scene for about thirty years following that war. However, the market system rose from the ashes and came to dominate the globe in an astonishing display of power. This story has been most effectively presented by Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism .
Fifthly, market economies require imposition by violence – either natural or created. As noted by the earliest strategists, deception is a crucial element of warfare. One of the essential ingredients in the rise of markets has been a constant battle to misrepresent facts, so that stark failures of markets have been painted as remarkable successes. There are a number of strategies commonly used to portray an economic disaster as progress and development. Without this propaganda markets could not survive, as the forces of resistance to markets would be too strong.

My full article, which provides further details of this brief sketch,  can be downloaded from the link below:

The Rise and Fall of the Market Economy,” Review of Islamic Economics, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2010, pp. 123–155

POSTSCRIPT: I have analyzed the methodology used by Polanyi which is based on a historical and institutional approach. This methodology is radically different from currently accepted methodologies in use in economics and the social sciences. In particular, Polanyi shows that the economic, political and social spheres are closely inter-linked and cannot be studied in isolation, as current structure of the social sciences assumes. USING Polanyi’s methodology would lead to substantially deeper understanding of current events, as well a better tools for research.

On Islamic Political Economy: A Brief Reply to Choudhury, Asad Zaman

Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective

Author Information: Asad Zaman, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, asadzaman@alum.mit.edu

Zaman, Asad. “On Islamic Political Economy: A Brief Reply to Choudhury.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 12 (2014): 89.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1Mj

Please refer to:

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Image credit: Muzaffar Bukhari, via flickr

According to the abstract and the first few sentences, this article is about the budding field of Islamic Political Economy. Since the labyrinthine prolixity of the article defied my attempts at comprehension, I looked at the reference list to find a more readable entry into this topic. Other than the author’s work, the bibliography only lists two dated articles on Islamic Political Economy. With no relevant articles within the past decade, and only three authors writing…

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