Ideas, Interests and the Politics of Development Change in India: Capitalism, Inclusion and the State

ESID Working Paper No 36

71 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2014 Last revised: 29 Apr 2016

See all articles by pratap bhanu mehta

pratap bhanu mehta

Centre for Policy Research

Michael Walton

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: September 30, 2014


This paper offers an interpretation of India’s recent political economy in relation to the longer-term history since independence. It argues that an understanding of both ideas and interests is required for this interpretation. While politics and policy are often portrayed in terms of a tussle between market-based reform and populist social provisioning, the interpretation here sees more continuity, and the coexistence of such seemingly competing narratives, that reflect the "cognitive maps" of the major actors. The performance of the state, and ideas around the state, remain central to India’s politics. While the theme of a "corrupt state" is a longstanding one, India’s future development will depend crucially on improving state functioning, through both the deepening of democracy and administrative reform. The cognitive maps of political, bureaucratic and business elites will continue to play an important role in policy and institutional designs, and in particular over whether there will be the kinds of transformational changes that are being demanded by an increasingly aspirational electorate.

Keywords: India, politics, ideas, cognitive map, interests, markets, state

Suggested Citation

mehta, pratap bhanu and Walton, Michael, Ideas, Interests and the Politics of Development Change in India: Capitalism, Inclusion and the State (September 30, 2014). ESID Working Paper No 36, Available at SSRN: or

Pratap bhanu Mehta

Centre for Policy Research ( email )

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Michael Walton (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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United States
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