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The Idea of South Asia and the Role of the Middle Class

  • Singh, Nirvikar

In the post-colonial world, the countries of South Asia have evolved politically in different ways, amidst internal and regional conflicts, but retained some commonality of institutions and cultures. Since the 1990s, the promise of market-led development and the growth of a middle class, especially in India, have reshaped expectations in a way not seen since the immediate post-colonial period, and provided the prospect of a region that combines its particular approach to governance with common aspirations and achievement of economic well-being – what might be a new “idea of South Asia.†This paper examines some aspects of the development of the South Asian middle class, their role in economic development, and the potential of the idea that shared middle class aspirations of material consumption can be a regional driving force. The paper argues that, for this potential to be realized, the middle class in South Asia may need to aspire to something more than private affluence in the midst of public squalor. In that case, a new idea of South Asia will require building social capital in ways that will challenge all of the region’s societies. Effective collective action across, but first within, the nations of South Asia will be the true test of whether this potential South Asian identity emerges.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz in its series Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt1ph1x8dv.

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Date of creation: 29 Apr 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucscec:qt1ph1x8dv
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  1. Banerjee, Abhijit & Somanathan, Rohini, 2007. "The political economy of public goods: Some evidence from India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 287-314, March.
  2. Murphy, Kevin M. & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 1989. "Industrialization and the Big Push," Scholarly Articles 3606235, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 1988. "Income Distribution, Market Size, and Industrialization," NBER Working Papers 2709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
  5. Singh, Nirvikar, 2004. "Information Technology and Rural Development in India," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt9wj6d6kv, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  6. Abhijit Banerjee & Lakshmi Iyer & Rohini Somanathan, 2005. "History, Social Divisions, and Public Goods in Rural India," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 639-647, 04/05.
  7. Esteban, Joan & Ray, Debraj, 1999. "Conflict and Distribution," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 379-415, August.
  8. Angus Deaton & Jean Dreze, 2002. "Poverty and Inequality in India: A Re-Examination," Working Papers 184, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  9. Senauer, Benjamin & Goetz, Linde, 2003. "The Growing Middle Class In Developing Countries And The Market For High-Value Food Products," Working Papers 14331, University of Minnesota, The Food Industry Center.
  10. Nirvikar Singh & Laveesh Bhandari & Aoyu Chen & Aarti Khare, 2004. "Regional Inequality in India: A Fresh Look," Development and Comp Systems 0412006, EconWPA.
  11. Jha,R., 2000. "Reducing Poverty and Inequality in India: Has Liberalization Helped?," Research Paper 204, World Institute for Development Economics Research.
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