2017 Political Economy Seminar Series (Co-organised with the Department of Anthropology)
Chris Gregory (Australian National University), ‘What is patrimonial capitalism? Some lessons from central India’
Date: Thursday 12 October 2017
Location: RC Mills Seminar Room 148, University of Sydney
Abstract: Piketty’s study of income inequality in Europe heralds the return of ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ a socio-economic category that he strives to understand by reading the novels of Jane Austin because political economy, infatuated as is by mathematics rather than anthropology, has little to say about the workings of the family firm. Ethnographic research on kinship, the economy and religion in India reveals that patrimonial capitalism, in both its elite and subaltern forms, has flourished in India in the 21st century too. As in Europe, wealth in the form of residential urban property has emerged as the most important form of wealth as rural dwellers flock to the city and as the city boundaries expand into the neighbouring countryside. Here the newly emerging inequalities are on show for all to see in the form of the new multi-story mansions of the elite families that sit check by jowl with the mud-brick dwellings of the ex-peasant farming family whose farmlands are now being encroached upon. But the rapidly rising urban price of land has seen the paradoxical development of a new class, the ex-peasant farmer whose previously relatively worthless household land is now worth millions. They are land rich but dirt poor and have many relatives who are simply dirt poor.
About the speaker: Dr Chris Gregory is Adjunct Fellow in Anthropology at the Australian National University.