Art and science of resource management

The study of economics equips a student to not only comprehend human behaviour, decisions and reactions, but also recognise resources in relation to human needs.   | Photo Credit: Freepik

Indians have historically referred to economics as arthashastra; a combination of the Sanskrit words artha, meaning the acquisition of material wealth, pursuit of career and a home life and shastra meaning treatise or book.

The English term economics, on the other hand, is derived from the ancient Greek word Oikonomia and was defined by Greek philosopher Aristotle as a science of household management.

The fourth century BCE work, Arthashastra, attributed to Chanakya, is a treatise on economics, politics, military strategy, statecraft and social organisation. This internationally acclaimed text is often compared to and also studied in conjunction with The Prince, a 16th century BCE political treatise by Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. These two ingenious minds belonging to the east and the west and separated by centuries of existence and different social, religious, economic and political environments continue to be studied by those who wish to enlighten themselves with the principles on which successful states function.


In an earlier time, when India was considered the education capital of the world, Indian universities and ashrams followed a multi-disciplinary approach to teaching and learning. At the time, Arthashastra was studied in combination with politics, mathematics, human behaviour and policy making. In contrast, modern-day economics courses concern themselves only with the phenomenon of production and consumption of goods and services.

In the fourth century BCE, when Arthashastra was written, the economics of nations was largely agrarian. Many centuries later, economist Adam Smith, in his 1776 book The Wealth of Nations, identified land, labour, and capital as the three factors of production and the major contributors to a nation’s wealth, a distinct departure from the earlier idea that only agriculture was productive.

The mind of an economics student, when trained in the principles such as those enshrined in the Arthashastra, becomes increasingly observant to the facts and truths of any phenomenon. Therefore, the study of economics — which is based on logic, reason, problem solving, circumstantial awareness and evidence — equips one to not only comprehend human behaviour, decisions and reactions, but also be able to recognise resources as scarce in relation to human needs.

As a result, a successful economics student, in her role as consumer, producer, citizen or householder will be effective at resource allocation, resource management and at establishing resource self-sufficiency.

Students can be assisted to understand basic economic concepts such as limited resources, money, goods, services, transactions, labour time, leisure time, collaborative work, individual contributions, planning, and savings by involving them in simple tasks linked to the management of the household affairs, even early in childhood.

In school, under most education boards, economics is introduced as an independent subject in class IX. At the undergraduate level, students are not necessarily required to have studied economics at school but are certainly required to have studied Maths, since economics is considered both an art and a science.

A postgraduate in Economics can apply the skill sets acquired to many fields such as banking, finance, insurance, stock markets, sales, marketing, policy making, research, government, NGOs, journalism and in teaching. Those who have a keen interest in higher studies and research can also pursue an M.Phil. and Ph.D. after their Master’s.

The writer is an independent educationist currently working on documenting her observations on children's play and learning experiences.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 7:37:00 AM |

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