The Economic and Political Weekly, published from Mumbai, is an Indian institution which enjoys a global reputation for excellence in independent scholarship and critical inquiry.
First published in 1949 as the Economic Weekly and since 1966 as the Economic and Political Weekly, EPW, as the journal is popularly known, occupies a special place in the intellectual history of independent India. For more than five decades EPW has remained a unique forum that week after week has brought together academics, researchers, policy makers, independent thinkers, members of non-governmental organisations and political activists for debates straddling economics, politics, sociology, culture, the environment and numerous other disciplines.
EPW is also unique because it is the one forum where there is an exchange of ideas across the social science disciplines - political scientists debate with economists, sociologists read what political scientists have to say, historians study what economists have to say and so on.
EPW, published by the Sameeksha Trust, a registered charitable trust, is the only social science journal of its kind in the world. Where other reputed journals publish either only comments on contemporary affairs or research papers, EPW is unique in that week it publishes analysis of contemporary affairs side by side with academic papers in the social sciences. The only other similar publication which contains short comments and research output is Nature of the U.K., which covers the physical sciences.
EPW has been built over the decades with a shoe-string budget and has experienced considerable financial difficulties. It has grown to be what it is today because of the passion and selfless efforts of its staff, support from its contributors and goodwill from advertisers.
There are a number of features which make EPW special, not just in India or Asia but in the world:
A unique aspect of EPW is that it is the only publication in the world that publishes both research in social sciences (in the « Special Articles » section) and informed comment on current affairs (in the « Commentary » section). In this manner it appeals to both the reader looking for analysis of contemporary issues and the researcher looking for new developments in her field.
Week after week, EPW publishes a minimum of 70,000 to 80,000 words on a variety of issues. The articles are contributed by leading academics, well-known public commentators, young social scientists and political activists who seek a platform to publish their views. This makes it a veritable monograph-sized publication put out every week.
EPW has never shirked from taking strong editorial positions. It has always taken bold stands on current affairs and its pages have for decades been open to writers who have highlighted the challenges facing the disadvantaged. It is known as a publication with a « social conscience ». Some have even called it independent India’s conscience.
The EPW’s biggest influence on social sciences in India has been in catalysing debates and disseminating research output. Many of the leading debates in economics, political science, sociology and history have begun in EPW. In this respect, EPW is considered to have played as important a role as all the university departments and institutes in the country.
EPW is at the same time widely read in policy circles and is seen as providing in-depth analysis of major economic and social issues which go far beyond that published by mainstream media.
The focus of the EPW is economic issues, but it is truly a multidisciplinary publication covering sociology, political science, history, gender and environment studies. This is reflected in both the research (Special Articles) and current affairs (Commentary) sections.
EPW is India’s one global publication in its readership and the background of its contributors. In addition to Indians, living in India and abroad, it regularly draws contributors from west Europe, north America, Japan and the neighbouring countries in south Asia. It also attracts many writers from Australia, south-east Asia and, on occasion, from Africa and south America as well. The subjects it covers go well beyond Indian themes. South Asian issues are obviously covered, but so too are issues of global relevance.
Increasingly, EPW has begun to play another role. As the space for informed debate in India’s mainstream media has shrunk, the journal is perhaps the only publication that keeps alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media. It is also the only one which gives considerable space for writers who wish to develop an argument and discuss various aspects of an issue.
For decades, all young social scientists in India have considered it an honour to first publish in EPW, and the reputation of many of India’s leading scholars has been built on work published in the EPW. There are many professional journals in each of the social sciences published in India, but there is no question that for academics the forum to publish in - whether in economics, politics, sociology, politics, the environment or any of the related social sciences, and whether by academics, independent thinkers, members of non-governmental organisations or political activists - remains the Economic and Political Weekly.
Analysis of current affairs and research papers, published every week, is only one aspect of EPW’s publication programme. It produces a « Review » of focus issues six to eight times a year, each dealing with one of the following subject areas: Agriculture, Industry and Management, Women’s Studies, Science Policy and Labour.
In more recent years, EPW has also been publishing a number of « Special Issues », dealing with a diversity of subjects of contemporary policy interest. They have included, for example, an annual publication on Money, Banking and Finance.
EPW is the one Indian publication to enjoy a global reputation for excellence and scholarship. For more than four decades the EPW has been recognised all over the world as the journal that has provided independent insights into the Indian economy and domestic politics, that has published academic papers of the highest quality in all the social sciences, that has fostered debate on the major economic, social and political issues of the day, and that has been the forum for intellectuals and academics - in India and abroad - to publish their research if they are to reach the widest global readership.
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