John Fell Fund

India's enterprise culture: social and political implications beyond the economy

India's recent ascendance to the status of a major economic power is often attributed to the emergence of an enterprise culture. Entrepreneurship or entrepreneurial mentality is usually associated with the economy and business. In this research, enterprise culture is approached in the broader sense of recasting of mindsets, personal identity and individual subjectivity, with profound social and political implications far beyond the economic sphere, notably for the ideas and practices of democracy, citizenship, nationalism and development as well as social and gender relations.

This project investigate whether, how and how far, the values of goal-oriented, self-directed, individual responsibility and self-development, associated with enterprise culture, are developing in India, and how this relates to existing ideas and norms. Analytical and empirical investigation is undertaken across a number of different areas: (1) new types of workplace cultures through which young people are being socialised into the new norms and values of work, enterprise and self-reliance; (2) training and "grooming" institutions (such as spoken English schools, soft skills courses, etc) as well as self-help manuals, and life skills advice given through TV shows, magazines and newspaper columns, all of which hold out the promise of equipping youth with appropriate personal endowments to participate successfully in the new economy and which could act as the new disseminators of an enterprise culture and competitive individualism; (3) an emerging and novel network of mental health and counselling services that seek to offer a new language of self-help, self-making and self-managing, that must support the culture of enterprise; (4) new forms of spirituality, reliant on a new breed of "gurus" or spiritual leaders, whose primary preoccupation is not to preach religious faith and belief, but to provide guidance on well-being, happiness, healthy lifestyle and strategies to cope with the demands of “modern” living as well as self-management, self-development and individual empowerment; and (5) the media and youth cultural practices as sites of expression and construction of enterprise culture.

Essays on some of the above have been published. An international conference on enterprise culture was held at Oxford in September 2011, from which the papers have been published, with an extended introduction, in a book entitled Enterprise Culture in Neoliberal India (2013). This project has been partly funded by the Oxford Fell Fund and by the IFMR Trust.