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‘Alternatives’ to austerity: a critique of financialized infrastructure in India and beyond

Bear, Laura (2017) ‘Alternatives’ to austerity: a critique of financialized infrastructure in India and beyond. Anthropology Today, 33 (5). pp. 3-7. ISSN 0268-540X

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1467-8322.12376


Current infrastructure development across the globe is described as an ‘alternative’ to austerity and as a nationalist riposte to globalization. From the UK to India to the US, it is represented as a way of reviving the fortunes of the ‘common man’ and a dispossessed, male working class. This article, based on research in the waterscape of the Hooghly River in India and World Bank initiatives, argues that current policies of financialized infrastructure are a false alternative to austerity and are a continuation of a longer historical process. These policies have emerged from the gradual movement of fiscal control from governments to central banks, commercial banks and financial markets. This began with the financialization of sovereign debt in the 1980s–90s, which led to fiscal constraint within the public sector. Such policies eroded the material forms of state-provided public works and led to private sector accumulation through public-private partnerships and financial market speculation. Now governments are turning to commercial banks and financial markets to solve the problem of infrastructures starved of capital, even though it is the governance of the economy through these networks that has generated the current ‘infrastructure deficit’. Anthropologists now need to take part in public debates by revealing the financial predation on infrastructures and arguing for a renaming of them as citizens' commons for the public good. Ultimately, it is through a combination of ethnographies of austerity and analyses of the political economy of finance that anthropologists can challenge current inequalities.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 RAI
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2017 13:13
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:54

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