This book is about work and resistance in India’s massive ‘informal economy’. It looks at the growth of informal labour in Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi during an era of neoliberal economic policymaking. Going beyond mainstream accounts, it argues that India’s rapid economic development has been based upon the mass employment of workers on low wages who lack basic social protection and rights at work. It discusses how urban development in India is characterised by a combination of industrialisation, industrial relocation, restructuring and informalisation. Departing from some existing studies of de-industrialisation, it re-frames informalisation as a process that complements, rather than contradicts, contemporary industrialisation in rapidly-emerging economies. The book adopts a ‘classes of labour’ approach, classifying each case of informal labour as a specific ‘form of exploitation’: as a different way for employers to lower production costs, control workers and increase enterprise flexibility.
Offering a critique of existing data on the measurement and monitoring of informal labour and employment, the book is relevant to students and scholars of Development Studies, International Political Economy and South Asian Studies.
Recognising the different ways that capitalism is theorised, this book explores various aspects of contemporary capitalism in India. Using field research at a local level to engage with larger issues, it raises questions about the varieties and processes of capitalism, and about the different roles played by the state.
With its focus on India, the book demonstrates the continuing relevance of the comparative political economy of development for the analysis of contemporary capitalism. Beginning with an exploration of capitalism in agriculture and rural development, it goes on to discuss rural labour, small town entrepreneurs, and technical change and competition in rural and urban manufacturing, highlighting the relationships between agricultural and non-agricultural firms and employment. An analysis of processes of commodification and their interaction with uncommodified areas of the economy makes use of the ‘knowledge economy’ as a case study. Other chapters look at the political economy of energy as a driver of accumulation in contradiction with both capital and labour, and at how the political economy of policy processes regulating energy highlights the fragmentary nature of the Indian state. Finally, a chapter on the processes and agencies involved in the export of wealth argues that this plays a crucial role in concealing the exploitation of labour in India.
Bringing together scholars who have engaged with classical political economy to advance the understanding of contemporary capitalism in South Asia, and distinctive in its use of an interdisciplinary political economy approach, the book will be of interest to students and scholars of South Asian Politics, Political Economy and Development Studies.
This book was published as a special issue of the Journal of South Asian Studies.