Talking back to the state

Citizens' engagement after neoliberal reform in India

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
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In this article we propose a different approach to the study of neoliberalism. We shift away from institutionally focused accounts of neoliberalism as a strategy of rule, to examine the way citizens engage with neoliberal reform. While there is a burgeoning body of literature on the expansion of civil society, new entrepreneurship and novel governmentalities, not enough is known about the ways the state is restructured by the social processes that follow on from neoliberal reform. How does the to‐and‐fro between policy makers, state agents and citizens shape emerging projects and what consequences do citizens' actions have for state structure? The article uses two case studies from India: a local governance reform and a new health insurance. Unpacking their multiple unexpected outcomes, we argue that neoliberalism does not represent a discrete set of state practices or ideologies but a set of ideals operating in a political field that is far in excess of it and creates new contestations about how to structure and improve the relations among the state, markets and citizens.

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