Knowledge as Commons

Towards Inclusive Science and Technology

Prabir Purkayastha


LeftWord Books, New Delhi, 2023

Language: English

258 pages

5.5 x 8.5 inches

Price INR 395.00
Book Club Price INR 276.00

‘Prabir Purkayastha’s writing bridges science, technology and societal issues by underlining concerns regarding sharing knowledge, not patenting it, and drawing people to own this knowledge.’ — Vineeta Bal

‘Uncommonly well written, this important book by Prabir Purkayastha covers much ground — a lot of it new — in the social role of science and technology in India.’ — Ram Ramaswamy

INR 395.00
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Do the needs of society drive science and technology? Or do developments in science and technology provide the motor force of history? Has this relationship changed over time? Knowledge as Commons situates science, technology and the emergence of modern nations in a larger historical framework.

With profit as its sole aim, capital claims to own human knowledge and its products, fencing them in with patents and intellectual property rights. Neoliberal institutions and policy diktats from the West have installed a global system in which a resource that is not worn out with use — knowledge — is made artificially scarce; while limited resources such as ground water and clean air are used as though they were infinite.

Prabir Purkayastha traces the historical path towards the privatisation of knowledge. He examines the consequences of this privatisation for universities; healthcare; distributive justice; the domestic politics of developing countries, and their prospects vis-à-vis the West.

Rapid technological change, from pharmaceuticals to electronics, should be an opportunity to deliver quicker cures, affordable access, global cooperation in the production of knowledge and in securing its availability to all. Purkayastha argues that our success here depends on installing knowledge as the new commons of our global village.

Prabir Purkayastha

Prabir Purkayastha is an engineer and a science activist in the power, telecom and software sectors. He is a founding member of the Delhi Science Forum. He is the author of Knowledge as Commons: Towards Inclusive Science and Technology (LeftWord 2023) and co-author, along with Vijay Prashad, of Enron Blowout: Corporate Capitalism and Theft of the Global Commons (LeftWord 2002), and along with Ninan Koshy, M.K. Bhadrakumar, of Uncle Sam’s Nuclear Cabin (LeftWord 2007). He is co-editor with Indranil and Richa Chintan of Political Journeys in Health: Essays by and for Amit Sengupta (LeftWord 2021). He is the founder of