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Redefining Universal Development from and at the Margins: Development Discourse in the Indian School of Political Economy, 1870-1905

Bach Maria, King's College London

Romesh Chunder Dutt uttered that India “needs its own thinkers, its own historians, its own economists” in an article about his literary influences (An article in the Wednesday Review by Dutt, 23rd August 1905). The statement comes after Dutt has listed the most influential Political Economists in his life: “Adam Smith and Ricardo and John Stuart Mill opened out a new world to me” (Ibid.). He also mentions Henry Fawcett, Léonard de Sismondi and Émile Louis Victor de Laveleye. Dutt found that these European thinkers did "not understand the Indian land system, even [J.S.] Mill, who was thirty years in the India Office, speaks of the system of England and Ireland, France and Italy, but does not venture to touch on Indian problems in his “Political Economy”" (Ibid.). In other words, European scholarship did not adequately take into consideration eastern thought and experiences. The question that this paper then shall ask is whether the Indian School of Political Economy (ISPE), of which Dutt was a member, effectively incorporated Eastern discursive practices and contextual experiences in the school’s idea of development. I will ultimately answer the question in the affirmative, arguing that ISPE incorporated such specificities, attempting, in turn, to highlight previously undocumented discursive innovation present in ISPE’s idea of development.


Keywords: Indian Political Economy, development, progress, discursive innovation, minority discourse

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