Economics and Sociology in Post-Independence India: Contestations and Appropriations

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Manish THAKUR, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, India
Academic disciplines are to be seen as ‘unstable compounds’ that go through a series of contingent transformations depending upon a range of institutional and political factors. The characteristics of the national field of intellectual production, the geopolitics of global knowledge creation, and the relative scientific rigour and scholarly robustness (real or perceived) of the neighbouring disciplines – all play a role in shaping the historical evolution and contemporary configuration of a given academic discipline. Sociology in India has not been impervious to these general influences. In fact, it has largely grown under the shadow of the much more influential and policy-relevant discipline of economics. The latter had a kind of inherent standing as it was bestowed upon the role of providing a newly-independent nation with the master key to unlock its pressing problems of poverty, unemployment, under-development and the like. And, sociology has had to inch its way to the academy by agreeing to play second fiddle to the national prominence of economics. By trying to smuggle in culture in the interstices of the planned economic change, sociology stayed its course by demonstrating its relevance, albeit of a lower order than economics, to the policy priorities of Indian state. As a consequence, a certain intellectual division of labour was normalised wherein sociologists generally kept off from the study of ‘economy’ and tried fashioning themselves as students of ‘traditional’ institutions and cultural obstacles to development and change. Against this backdrop, the paper maps out the contested field of interactions between these two disciplines in post-Independence India. It also explores if the emergence of new economic sociology had the promise to re-write the terms and protocols of intellectual exchange between economics and sociology in our times.