South Asia

1 - Changing Contexts and Shifting Roles: New perspectives on the Indian State

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Maryland Suite A, Lobby Level

Over time the role of the Indian state in the process of development has undergone perceptible changes. The concept of development is no longer equated with the pursuit of industrialization but one that also incorporates the goals of expanding human capabilities (a la Amartya Sen). Most South Asian states have consciously moved in this direction. The tugging role of the state between growth and welfare suggests that certain basic conditions of life must be provided to the people, something the political class cannot ignore, especially now as market forces exclude many from the new opportunities thrown open by international integrations. This paper seeks to investigate why the Indian state despite deregulation and liberalization now pursues specific forms of welfare at the national level. Key questions include the nature of the state in contemporary development; especially the impact of ‘globalization’ on changing the character of the state, and the structural, socio-economic reasons for the changing role of the state. Two variables suggest that the structures underpinning the state have changed, which directs the state in a neoliberal growth-oriented direction, while the politics of rights-based demands pull the state toward welfare-enhancing public policies. The latter itself is a product of a failed agrarian/capitalist transition thereby compelling the state to “politically manage” those falling through the cracks of contemporary Indian economy. How these two variables have played out in recent years is analyzed to show the inherent tensions between growth and welfare and within welfare, which results not in the transformation of India but one that concedes its relegation.

Anthony D'Costa

University of Melbourne, Alabama, Australia

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