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Capitalist divination: popularist-speculators and technologies of imagination on the Hooghly River

Bear, Laura (2015) Capitalist divination: popularist-speculators and technologies of imagination on the Hooghly River. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 35 (3). pp. 408-423. ISSN 1089-201X

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Identification Number: 10.1215/1089201X-3426265

Abstract

Economic theory and technocratic policy have long understood economic action to be a communicative activity. From Laplace and Adam Smith to current liberalisation fiscal policy in India designed to produce price signals and entrepreneurial behaviour this conceptualisation has been dominant. Instead this article draws on the anthropology of divination to argue that capitalist action is provoked by technologies of the imagination that generate speculation. These issues are explored in the context of changing forms of governance of the Hooghly riverine economy by bureaucrats in the Kolkata Port Trust. Through ethnography we track how public-private partnerships are forged by exemplary men or 'seers' deploying divinatory action. The fortunes of business, trade and the livelihoods of informalised workers rest on these practices, which generate short-term unstable forms of capital accumulation. Drawing on this case, we can potentially develop comparative critical approaches to the recent emergence of popularist-speculators in India and elsewhere.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://cssaame.dukejournals.org/
Additional Information: © 2015 Duke University Press
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Date Deposited: 06 May 2015 11:04
Last Modified: 20 May 2019 01:48
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/61803

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