Originally published in Contemporary South Asia, vol.10, no.1, Carfax Publishing, Bradford, U.K., 2000.
Rob Jenkins, Democratic Politics and Economic Reforms in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
For better or for worse, in most countries of the post-Cold War world, a fairly generalised packaging of liberal-democratic state institutions and neoclassical market economics has now achieved hegemony as the prescription of the possible future. A host of international financial and trade institutions, aid agencies, global policy elites, and their state and non-state apparatuses now debate the dynamics of making “transitions” to this model, and the “reforms” necessary to “complete” this effort successfully. Neoliberal ideology constructs this as a universal and ineluctable process, eliding the complex politics of market-oriented reform by trumpeting an ideal notion of democracy, almost entirely emptied of meaning.
This recent book attempts to analyse this contingent, political dimension of the change in India’s development strategy since 1991, examining the commitment of governing elites to market reforms in a long-established democracy. Their commitment is by no means inevitable and irreversible, India’s liberalisation being undertaken in a competitive political system, where powerful interests could pose obstacles to thwart market reforms, unlike other “transitional” societies in Eastern Europe, Africa or Asia. In this, Jenkins intervenes in debates on the relationship between democracy and market liberalisation, arguing for the importance of political incentives, political institutions, and political skills.