Economic liberalization and the ideology of work reforms in India: interpreting middle class responses to new economic policies
For just over a decade the Left-Front government in West Bengal has been making strident attempts to attract transnational corporations and foreign investment to the state where immense changes to the nature of work, and workplace culture, has taken place. This paper analyses these changes through the narrative accounts of middle class Bengalis and summarizes their views concerning work-related policy reforms, privatisation and restructuring. Overall we find that the Bengali middle class have welcomed the opening-up of the economy, yet in many ways they remain critical as they perceive themselves to have not benefited in any direct way from the liberalization process. A number of people have internalised the state’s rhetoric of global efficiency based on previous state discourses of modernisation and scientific rationality. For others, cosmopolitanism and globalism are things they welcome, yet they don’t want to lose the secure safety net provided by the state, and state employment. They remain sceptical of the supposed benefits of full privatisation and a de-regulated market. There is an obvious tension between state and labour that permeates many of these responses. By presenting an analysis of the underlying reasons for employees to reproduce the government ideologies of workplace efficiency, this paper draws attention to the ways in which their discursive understanding is formulated and mediated.