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The political steering of business corporations in India’s democracy: how new forms of governance are reconfiguring state-business relationships

Research conducted by Damien Krichewsky

Since the 1980s, the gradual shift from state-led to private-sector led development policies in a context of globalization has put large companies at the centre of India’s development regime. These companies (national and multinational) exhibit ambivalent relationships to “development”: firms, while providing numerous resources which modern societies need to develop and prosper (wealth, goods and services, technologies, knowledge…), are simultaneously weakening and limiting capabilities tied to development (distribution of incomes and life chances, ways of life, ecosystems…). The potential of large firms operating in India to serve as well as to hurt collective interests and aspirations has been the object of rising controversies and social mobilizations, which confront India’s political system with contradictory expectations and uncertainties. On the one hand, policy-makers tend to formulate business-friendly policies and ease regulatory constraints in order to stimulate investments and economic growth. On the other hand, they are attentive to movements of “public opinion” and social movements, which signal collective expectations and demands regarding the state’s role to restrain and regulate contentious business activities.

 

Against this backdrop, Indian political and business actors increasingly mobilize new forms of governance characterized by flexible (“soft”) and participative mechanisms, and connected to global semantics of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR), “corporate citizenship” and “sustainable development”. Damien Krichewsky’s research project investigates these shifting forms of governance with a focus on

i.                  the processes underlying their social (re)production,

ii.           their relationships with pre-existing forms of regulation based on “command & control” systems, and

iii.              their transformative effects on the way India’s democracy responds to competing interest groups involved in the political regulation of business activities.

 

The project relies on theory-driven qualitative empirical research. It combines social systems theory and political sociology to analyze a selection of cases such as India’s recent CSR public policies (2009 & 2013), regulations implemented in the wake of India’s new environmental policy (2006), and interplays between industrial policies and environmental governance at the regional (state) level.

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