Book Manuscript

Moral Orders of Capitalist Legitimacy in India

My book manuscript is based on my dissertation that I completed at MIT. The manuscript focuses on the role of economic ideas and moral beliefs in shaping market economies. It does so by providing a novel analysis of the politics of foreign investment in India. It argues that Indian state elites perceive the challenges of building a national economy through moral categories of capitalist legitimacy. These categories are predicated on competing economic ideas about the costs and benefits of foreign investment in promoting economic development. The manuscript argues that economic ideas are embedded in historically salient cultural representations of the ethical ‘orientations’ and business practices of foreign and domestic firms. They serve as interpretive frames through which policymakers distinguish between firms that may inhibit or advance nationalist goals of industrial development and societal progress. The analysis centers on three key periods by showing how categories of capitalist legitimacy emerged in the colonial era, became institutionalized in post-independence policymaking, and are now deployed in the contemporary period of economic liberalization. They do so by shaping perceptions of foreign and domestic business actors as ‘traditional’, ‘rapacious’ and ‘speculative’ ‘traders’ or ‘modern’, ‘ethical’ ‘Captains of industry’. These are explicitly moral categories that guide policy efforts to support ‘legitimate’ strategies and constrain ‘illegitimate’ practices of competing domestic and foreign firms. The analysis thus contributes to a vibrant literature in comparative political economy and economic sociology on the politics of economic ideas and on the moralization of markets.

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