Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Poulomi Chakrabarti ─ One Nation, Many Worlds: Varieties of Developmental Regimes in India

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

Poulomi Chakrabarti is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at Brown University.

Why do the political elite in some states seem to ignore concerns of development and are instead entrenched in identity politics, even as the vast majority of its citizens live in poverty? Why do some states systematically pursue growth-oriented development policies, while others prioritize redistributive goals? I seek to explain the variation in state prioritization of development policy in ethnically diverse societies by exploring the case of India. I argue that it is possible to conceptualize states as three distinct developmental regimes - growth, redistributive, and a third category that I develop and define – dignity-enhancing. Through a mixed-methods research design that combines a nation-wide longitudinal analysis of state-level public spending patterns from 1960 to 2012 with a paired comparative historical analysis of six states, I argue that understanding variation across developmental regimes requires an exploration of the class and ethnic backgrounds of political elites, and the nature of social inequality at the time the political elites assume power. I find that upper caste political elites are more likely to support growth-led development, while lower caste political elites are more likely to support redistribution. However, if lower caste social coalitions assume power during high levels of societal inequality, concerns of dignity precede redistribute politics. This is manifested through reorganization of the ethnic composition of the state bureaucracy to reflect the ethnicity of the ruling coalition. Concerns of redistribution gain focus once some equalization of social hierarchy is achieved in the state.

Development Seminar