Political Economy Seminar | Making the Neoliberal Hindu Nation: The Politics of Accumulation and Legitimation in Modi’s India
Political Economy Seminar
Making the Neoliberal Hindu Nation: The Politics of Accumulation and Legitimation in Modi’s India
Presenter: Alf Nilsen (University of Pretoria)
A02, Level 4, Room 441
The Modi regime presents us with an apparent conundrum: on the one hand, India’s socioeconomic structure has never been more polarised, with the richest 10% of the population earning 56% of all income and owning 64% of all wealth in the country while precarity prevails for the working poor; on the other hand, the BJP governs on the basis of an unprecedented parliamentary majority, underpinned by substantial electoral support from the country’s subaltern citizens. What does this conundrum tell us about the politics of accumulation and legitimation under Modi’s BJP?
In this paper, I address this question by considering the emergent form of state in contemporary India. More specifically, I present a Gramscian analysis of the relationship between neoliberal policy regimes, Hindu nationalism, and autocratisation in the current conjuncture. Escalating inequality, I argue, has to be understood both in terms of how the power of capital has reached its apotheosis under Modi’s regime and in terms of how state intervention through economic policy tends to intensify market rule and commodification. I then consider how Hindu nationalism, autocratisation, and the making of an “ethnic democracy” work to legitimise the inequalities of neoliberal India. I argue that it is necessary to extend the temporal parameters of our analysis beyond the Modi regime in order to fully understand these equations. In particular, I focus on how the legitimation of inequality through majoritarianism and autocratisation under Modi constitutes an extension of elite reaction to the political rise of lower caste groups and Dalits.