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Capitalism and the Common Man – The Big Problem of Self-Employment In India

November 29, 2012 - 10:00-12:00

Public lecture series: The Political Economy of Transition in India


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This public lecture series takes place over the course of five Thursdays in November, and is arranged by Asia Research Centre, CBS, in cooperation with Contemporary South Asian Studies, Oxford University and Centre of Development Studies, Cambridge University.
Lecture 5: Professor Barbara Harriss-White, Oxford University
Capitalism and the Common Man – The Big Problem of Self-Employment In India

Barbara Harriss-White

Abstract: India’s ‘common man’ and woman are petty commodity producers (PCP) or self-employed.  In neo-liberalizing India, PCP is the numerically commonest form of production and contributes roughly as much as the corporate sector to GDP. Reproducing by multiplication rather than accumulation, it drives growth in Indian livelihoods. This lecture will explore an eclectic micro-level literature to explore i) the internal logics of PCP (found to be varied); ii) the circuits and relations of exchange in which PCP fails to accumulate (also very varied); the state’s economic project for PCP (incoherent) and the politics of PCP (mediated, marginalised and divisive).
Barbara Harriss-White drove to India to climb mountains in 1969 and has been researching and teaching it ever since. Her work has two tracks. In one, her work developed from agricultural markets to rural-urban relations, the informal economy and long term agrarian and urban change. In the other, she examined the roles of markets and other institutions in aspects of deprivation: under- and  mal-nutrition, gender subordination, poverty, disability, education, destitution, caste discrimination and aging. Among her 20 plus books and edited volumes, a select few are India’s Market Society, co-author of Rural India facing the 21st Century, India Working : Essays in Economy and Society, Outcaste from Welfare : Adult Disability in Rural South  India, and‘Rural Commercial Capital And The Left Front: Food Markets in central west Bengal over the last quarter century. Having directed Queen Elizabeth House and the Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme at Oxford, in retirement she is herding two sets of cats: the Wolfson College South Asia Research Cluster and an ESRC-DFID project on the materiality of India’s informal economy – with rice as the case study. 
Capitalism and the Common Man – The Big Problem of Self-Employment In India


November 29, 2012