Book Review, Locked in Place: State Building and Late Industrialization in India

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Book Review


Government (CMC)

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Despite the newfound optimism about the turnaround in the Indian economy, this book's arguments about the failure of the postcolonial state to build a developmental state in the 1950s and 1960s are original, important, and relevant. Vivek Chibber's Locked in Place sets out to dispel important misconceptions about India's early state-building effort. His arguments are both theoretically innovative and empirically novel. Theoretically, he aims to bring back class in our understanding of comparative political economy and to insert India into conversations about the developmental state that have focused only on East Asia. He also aims to give us some sense of the “mechanisms that generate contrasting reactions” (p. 226) in the two cases that he studies: India and South Korea. This is a welcome modification to the state-centric debates about India's past failure where the state is the only target of attack or of pious hope. Empirically, the author uncovers some new archival material to argue that Indian business “defeated” the state's efforts to build a developmental state in the 1940s. The new evidence shows powerfully that Indian business had much greater power to shape economic policy in the 1940s and 1950s than we knew.

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© 2007 American Political Science Association