Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

Regress and Progress: The Understanding of Societal Change in Indian Economics, 1870-1905

Bach Maria, The American University of Paris

“Indian Economics” conceptualised an idea of development that explained India’s distinct socio-economic and political changes and constructed an intentional plan that would boost much needed progress in India. Since the 1870s, a group of Indian intellectuals, political activists, lawyers and civil servants had growing concerns about existing ideas of development being inapplicable to India. In this chapter, I demonstrate that Indian Economics was able to remake ideas around societal change at the margins, despite similarities between Indian Economics’ and other Europeans’, such as Smith and Maine, idea of societal change. Firstly, I show that Indian Economics employed the well-known stadial theory of societal change and added a distinct imperial stage to account for India’s regressive state and foreign rule. Secondly, the idea of societal change in Indian Economics included a bidirectional societal change where societies could regress down or progress up the chain of stages. Thirdly, the idea was informed and explained by natural analogies. Indian Economics was particularly informed by social evolutionary theory which likened societal change to how humans evolved from simple to complex beings. Society, to Indian Economics, was like an organism. Finally, I deal with Indian Economics’ seemingly split discourse around universal tendencies of societal change.


Keywords: Regress, Poverty, Indian Economics, Marginalised Economic Thinking

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