Planning (and) the Market: Revisiting Development and State in South Asia Fifty Years after Nehru’s Passing

AHA Session 197
Society for Advancing the History of South Asia 9
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Harding Room (Marriott Wardman Park)
David Ludden, New York University
David Ludden, New York University

Session Abstract

The debate over the state’s role in economic development has been continuing since the 1930s. It has become especially relevant in the present economic crisis where the governments in advanced industrial economies have been called on to save the private sector. Moreover, it was the era of state planning that set the stage for the most dramatic examples of recent takeoff in the developing world—in both India and China. It is, therefore, an important question for researchers working in economic history, history of science and technology, Cold War and South Asian studies to understand the nature, process and objectives of state involvement in economic development since the middle of the twentieth century.

In our papers for this panel we will explore way(s) that historians can inspire discussion about this topic by recovering and reminding us of the more vigorous disagreements that characterized debates about the role of the state in the economy in the aftermath of Keynes, the Great Depression, and the second world war. As historians of South Asia, we feel there is no more opportune time than 2014 to consider these issues, given that it marks 50 years since the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, whose name is synonymous with the great era of government planning that dominated the economy’s not only of India but many of the other states in the region. 

In this panel we propose to revisit the origins and policies that followed from the spirit of Nehruvian planning and that defined the spirit of developmentalism in South Asia during the transition from colonial to post-colonial governance. The panel will include contributions focused on economic history as well as the history of economic ideas. Through this approach we will critically scrutinize and contextualize concepts like  ‘growth,’ ‘development,’ ‘planning,’ and the state/economy as well as tradition/modernization divide in order to illuminate the history, politics, and impact of government on the economy at a time in the history of South Asia when it was not reflexively assumed that its only impact was negative.

Faisal Chaudhry will look into genealogies of economic thought in Indian history from the emergence of the nationalist critiques of the turn of the century to the immediate years after independence and the emergence of the development state.

Parthasarathi Prasannan will look into the development of the idea of “Indian economics” in the works of the early nationalist school and follow it up in the writings of economic historians of India of the 1970s.

Benjamin Zachariah will speak on the distinction between 'developmentalism' and developmental imagination during the late-colonial and early post-colonial decades. His paper will throw light on the working of the statist agencies in developmental projects as well as developmental imagination that underlines such intervention.

Madhumita Saha’s paper will look into the history of development planning in Nehruvian Indian, focusing especially on the role of techno-science in agricultural planning of the Indian state and its subsequent shift to a capitalized model from the mid-1960s.

See more of: AHA Sessions