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Parties and the Articulation of Neoliberalism: From “The Emergency” to Reforms in India, 1975–1991

Political Power and Social Theory

ISBN: 978-1-78052-866-3, eISBN: 978-1-78052-867-0

Publication date: 23 August 2012


This chapter enquires into the political struggles that have led to the gradual institutionalization of neoliberal policies in India. As India witnessed a surge in democratization since the 1980s, the state sought to implement a policy regime of privatization and liberalization, albeit with mixed success. This chapter's contribution is to focus on the party-movement relationships that were integral to establishing this new political economy. To this end the chapter undertakes an “event-centered” analysis of the failed authoritarian interlude of 1975–1977 (the Emergency) and its aftermath. Subsequent to this turning point, the chapter argues the two key political parties – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress – converged upon and shaped support for a neoliberal project. In particular, the chapter traces the mechanisms by which the BJP seized the political opportunity opened during the wave of democratization that occurred from the Emergency period onward, gradually constructing a political bloc in opposition to socialism. Together with Congress Party policies “from above,” the populist mobilization led by the Hindu Right sought to embed neoliberalism by eroding the disciplinary power of the middle classes. In making this argument, the chapter offers a theory of neoliberalism as a political project that, even as it is led by particular agents such as sections of the capitalist class, technocrats, and/or organized global interests, nevertheless must be embedded through democratic processes.


Desai, M. (2012), "Parties and the Articulation of Neoliberalism: From “The Emergency” to Reforms in India, 1975–1991", Go, J. (Ed.) Political Power and Social Theory (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 23), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 27-63.



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