Archive for February, 2014

Karl Polanyi in India: Neo-liberal Capital and Politics of the Poor

The post-Cold War project of globalisation has had far-reaching implications for the dynamics of liberal democracy and governance in India. With the opening of the Indian economy in the 1990s, global market forces and private sector organisations have played an increasingly significant role in the political life of the nation. Given this background, several questions are addressed. How has globalisation affected the way that state and civil society relations in India are constituted? In particular, what are its political implications for the poor who had previously relied on the services provided by the post-colonial state that carried out significant welfare-orientated functions?

The paper argues that although neo-liberal restructuring of the Indian economy has helped India overcome the so-called “Hindu rate of growth”, it has adversely affected the economic interests of the poor and marginalized. India’s job market has shrunk, public expenditure in social development has consistently declined, urban-centric economic growth has bypassed the agricultural sector, farmer’s suicide has increased, and the redistributive politics have become irrelevant. Such contradictions of globalisation have, however, transformed the dependent identity of the poor and marginalised toward a greater propensity for collective mobilisation (or what Karl Polanyi has referred to as “the double movement”). The paper concludes that while the longer-term outcomes of such mobilisation remains unclear, the hegemonic position of entrenched elites is more clearly being challenged by the emergence of new agendas of inclusion, welfare rights and social justice appearing under conditions of neo-liberal globalisation.


S. Sahoo (2014) “Karl Polanyi in India: Neo-liberal Capital and Politics of the Poor,”  – Draft Paper for the 2nd Annual Conference of Urban Research and Development Society titled Democracy, Citizenship and Urban Violence, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 12-13, 2014.