The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Comparative Speaker Series- Abhishek Chatterjee (Univ of Montana)

Title: Retarding Markets? ‘Colonialism’ and Economic Institutions in the Indian Subcontinent

Mon, October 7, 2019 | BAT 5.108

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Comparative Speaker Series- Abhishek Chatterjee (Univ of Montana)

Abstract:In his subsequently criticized pair of articles in 1853 on the impact of colonialism in India, Karl Marx speculated that by breaking down “the entire framework of Indian society,” England would usher in capitalist “modernity,” indeed lay the “material foundations of Western society in Asia.” Marx’s analysis was marred by poor information and hence understanding of the socio-economic structure in question, which he thought was unchanged since “its remotest antiquity.” Nonetheless his analysis—for sound reasons—set the framework for much subsequent debate, and inquiry into the impact of British rule on Indian society. Marx’s problematic has been somewhat recast in recent times as that of the role of colonialism in long run growth via its (colonialism’s) impact on institutions. This talk will address this larger question by focusing on the development of (mainly) the money and credit system during the early years of East India Company rule in India. It will argue that the establishment of the EIC state severely retarded capital market development in the subcontinent; this becomes especially clear when contrasted with contemporaneous developments in the United States, which was in the process of becoming independent of colonial rule. The talk will also briefly consider one corollary of this argument, namely, that colonial rule may have also restricted the emergence of markets in land. Indeed, rather than breaking down preexisting frameworks (that, among other things were not conducive to competitive agriculture, as Marx had noted), it might have reinforced certain aspects of it. The argument thus suggests the conditions under which some relationships between rulers, and other principal classes in society might lead to the emergence of (socially) inefficient institutions.     

Bio: Abhishek Chatterjee is an associate professor of Political Science. His primary research interests are comparative and international political economy, particularly the origins of states and financial markets, and the philosophy of social sciences, especially the relationship between ontology and research methods. 

He tends to write about himself in the third person and--unrelated to this latter proclivity--teaches such courses as political economy, state formation, and comparative politics/government (both introductory and graduate).

Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2010



  • "Financial Property Rights Under Colonialism: Some Counterfactual Possibilities," Journal of Institutional Economics, 12:4, 797-824 (2016) (Draft version; Final version)
  • "Ontology, Epistemology, and Multi Method Research in Political Science,” Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 43:1, 73-99 (2013) (Draft version; Final version)


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