YSI Event

South Asia

Call #13 - South Asia

In the 1960s, Western intellectuals largely believed that economic progress would eventually transform most Asian countries into Western-style liberal democracies. However, this thinking that came be called “modernization theory” was attacked—by both the Right and the Left— and rendered defunct.

After the end of the Cold War, modernization theory made a comeback—sort of. Against the backdrop of Soviet Union’s breakup, many scholars predicted that these “new” as well as other Asian countries would be able to establish a liberal order by only focusing on economic growth brought about by free markets. Vocal support for these ideas came from “End of History” type arguments that made a case that free-market Capitalism and liberal democracy were the very pinnacle of human sociopolitical evolution. In other words, different nations including South Asia, had only one development path open to them; the path of free-market Capitalism and liberal democracy.

In the case of South Asia, events seemed to support the prognostications of the modernization thinking. Starting with Sri Lanka, South Asian nations, one after the other, not only instituted free-market economic policies but also turned towards democracy. After forty years of “License Raj,” India opened itself up to the world in 1990-91. Pakistan had already gravitated towards democracy and privatization after military rule came to an end in 1988. Bangladesh also made a successful transition to democracy in 1991. In sum, modernization was well on its way in South Asia in the last two decades of the 20th Century.

The Financial Crisis of 2007-08, where it heralded a “post-American world,” also brought about an end to modernization’s march in South Asia. Identity and ideology-based demands have since returned to the region in full force with most South Asian countries hurtling towards de facto authoritarian governments.

The reasons behind the recent movement towards identity and ideology-based demands in South Asia need to be analyzed and understood. For instance, is the resurgence of such demands really sui generis or has it come about due to the failures of the economic development process? If this “authoritarian turn” in South Asia the result of economic failings then the findings generated from this working group will assist policymakers in designing better economic development policies that will not only assist with making the process more inclusive but also by putting brakes on the deconsolidation of democracy in the region.

The Young Scholars’ Initiative (YSI) Asia Convening 2019 wants to delve into the recent developments in South Asia by focusing on the following themes:

  1. Economic development processes - state v. market
  2. Inclusive growth
  3. Modernization theory - redux
  4. Democratic consolidation and de-consolidation
  5. Identity politics
  6. Institutions

Our aim is to bring together regional and international researchers in order to try to understand the broad socioeconomic movements in South Asia as well as to suggest the way forward so as to arrest the ongoing democratic de-consolidation in South Asian economies.

About the South Asia Working Group

The South Asian region presents a study in contrasts. Impressive growth rates contrast endemic hunger and poverty. The relative resilience in face of external crisis contrasts informality and discrimination in labour markets. The YSI South Asia Working Group faces the considerable challenges of the region.


To submit your abstract to this call, go to https://ysd.ineteconomics.org/rc. In your abstract, please clearly identify your research question, elaborate on methodology, and list your preliminary findings and/or tentative conclusions.

Apply here: https://ysd.ineteconomics.org/rc
Note: you must be logged into the YSI website to apply.
Deadline: 17 March 2019
Contact: [email protected]