Modern markets and exchange, compared with other social and political spheres, are seen through technical abstractions. This intellectual compartmentalization has political consequences: if capitalism operates through arcane, objective, and rational mechanics, the very real interests and very real consequences of exchange are disguised and simplified. In their empirically dense and theoretically bold edited volume, Ajay Gandhi, Barbara Harriss-White, Douglas Haynes, and Sebastian Schwecke gather historians and anthropologists to reflect on the dynamic, adaptive, and ambiguous realities of markets and exchange in India.
Rethinking Markets in Modern India: Embedded Exchange and Contested Jurisdiction (Cambridge University Press, 2020) provides a rich array of vivid case studies – from colonial property and advertising milieus to today’s bazaar and criminal economies – to examine the friction and interdependence between commerce, society, and state. Beyond providing a vantage point for rethinking global capitalism from one of the world’s major economies, the volume conceptualizes the moral, spatial, legal, and symbolic dynamics of markets in a way that is broadly relevant through the Global South.
Two of the volume’s editors, Ajay Gandhi, assistant professor at Leiden University, and Sebastian Schwecke, head of the Delhi office of the Max Weber Foundation, discuss the book’s theoretical ambitions and empirical range.
Saronik Bosu (@SaronikB on Twitter) is a doctoral candidate in English at New York University. He is writing his dissertation on South Asian economic writing. He is also coordinator of the Medical Humanities Working Group at NYU, and of the Postcolonial Anthropocene Research Network. He also co-hosts the podcast High Theory.