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India’s New Middle Class: Democratic Politics in an Era of Economic Reform

Leela Fernandes
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    India’s New Middle Class
    Book Description:

    Leela Fernandes digs into the implications of the growth of the middle class in India and uncovers—in the media, in electoral politics, and on the streets of urban neighborhoods—the complex politics of caste, religion, and gender that shape this rising population. Using rich ethnographic data, she reveals how the middle class operates as a proponent of economic democratization.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9905-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xl)

    In recent years, rapid socioeconomic changes in cities and small towns in India have sparked the local, national, and transnational imaginations of writers and political analysts. Small towns are increasingly marked by mushrooming institutes for computer training, Internet booths, and satellite dishes— symbols of India’s high-tech globalizing economy. Comfortable middle class housing colonies have sprouted up across the country and new models of cars have displaced the Ambassador, which was once an iconic signifier of middle class status. India’s larger metropolises like Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) and Bangalore now aggressively seek the status of global cities, and their urban...

  5. 1 The Historical Roots of the New Middle Class
    (pp. 1-28)

    In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a diverse range of public discourses debated the identity and practices of a new middle class that emerged in colonial India. Such discourses unfolded in arenas such as social reform legislation, theater and literature, political rhetoric, and the emerging narratives of Indian nationalism. Debates on the character and effects of the rise of this new middle class sought to manage the distinctive position of this social group, one that rested in a liminal¹ area between the colonial state on the one hand and traditional elites on the other.

    These past debates resonate in...

  6. 2 Framing the Liberalizing Middle Class
    (pp. 29-87)

    India’s move toward economic liberalization in the 1990s did not simply bring about changes in specific economic policies—it set into motion a broader shift in national political culture. This shift, succinctly captured in the preceding quote from an editor of a fashion and lifestyle magazine, can be seen in an array of highly visible images of changing trends in consumption practices, lifestyles, and aspirations. These images have centered around the proliferation of commodities such as cell phones, washing machines, and color televisions (and the associated global brand names of these products). Representations in advertisements, commercial “Bollywood” films, political rhetoric,...

  7. 3 Social Capital, Labor Market Restructuring, and India’s New Economy
    (pp. 88-136)

    The rapid expansion of the service sector has received much public attention and has often been credited as being a central component in India’s accelerated economic growth since the 1990s. High-tech workers have become a potent symbol of India’s success in the global economy. According to the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) estimates, revenues from informationtechnology-related services increased from $ 565 million in 1999–2000 to $1,475 million in 2001–2 with projected estimates of continued robust growth.¹ There has been an increase in new jobs in information technology (for example, from 522,250 in 2002 to 650,000...

  8. 4 State Power, Urban Space, and Civic Life
    (pp. 137-172)

    The identity of the new middle class has become a critical arena for the negotiation of uncertainties, anxieties, and resistances that arise from changes sparked by India’s program of economic liberalization and the broader cultural and social dimensions of globalization that have been associated with this set of policies.¹ The growth of civic organizations such as the Citizens Forum for Protection of Public Space represents an emerging trend in which the new middle class has begun to assert an autonomous form of agency as it has sought to defend its interests. The result is that the new middle class has...

  9. 5 Liberalization, Democracy, and Middle Class Politics
    (pp. 173-205)

    The growing visibility and assertiveness of the new middle class in India’s emerging political culture of liberalization has intensified public interest in the political behavior and leanings of the middle class. The quotation that opens this chapter captures some of the contradictions and confusions in identifying discernible patterns in the formal electoral and political behavior of the middle class. Levels of electoral participation for the middle classes have been relatively low when compared to subaltern social groups. For example, survey research has demonstrated that voter turnout is below average for upper castes, urban dwellers, and graduates and postgraduates—all segments...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 206-224)

    The rise of the new middle class rests on a complex and often contradictory set of processes that began unfolding with India’s push toward economic liberalization. Throughout this book I have sought to capture both the dominant and often rigid boundaries of this emerging social group and the fissures and contestations that arise when the identity of this new middle class has pushed up against both internal differentiations within the middle class and external distinctions that differentiate the middle class from subaltern socioeconomic groups. I have deliberately sought to capture the hegemonic nature of this social group through the sense...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 225-254)
  12. Glossary of Acronyms and Indian Terms
    (pp. 255-256)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 257-278)
  14. Index
    (pp. 279-290)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-291)