Subverting the social question: India in comparative perspective

India today is in the throes of a transition away from the developmental state to a neoliberal one. What has been the outcome of this transition for the social question, or the contradictions between India’s different social classes, especially the laboring poor?

In this lecture, Professor Breman contends that the social question has been effectively subverted in India. He will first trace the emergence of the social question in India during the decades of the developmental state, and then chart the ways in which the state and societal actors negotiated this question and eventually subverted it as India embraced the globalized world order during the 1980s. He will conclude with reflections on the fate of the social question elsewhere in Asia.


Professor Jan Breman (1936) is a comparative sociologist of labour who taught at the universities of Erasmus and Amsterdam, and teaches at the International Institute of Social Studies in the Hague as well as at the International Institute of Asian Studies at Leiden. Jan has been visiting professor in India (Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi), in China (Xiamen University, School of Public Affairs) and in Indonesia (Agricultural University, Bogor). He has consulted for ILO, UNRISD, ESCAP, Asian Development Bank, as well as various non-government agencies.

Chair: Barbara Harriss-White

Discussant: Nandini Gooptu

Series Convener: Indrajit Roy

Listen to the podcast

15 Nov
  • Professor Jan Breman (Amsterdam Institute of Social Research)
ODID Special Lectures & Seminars
Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford OX2 6UD