Pyramid or iceberg? Problematizing the fortune to be made from India's austerity
As far back as the 19th century, the notion of a ‘social pyramid’ was critiqued in the social sciences as an inadequate and simplistic model of society. The model encourages the idea that those at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) are uniformly mediocre and the small number at the top overtly exceptional—social pyramid thinking not only tends to reflect differences in incomes but blends together other ‘traits’ such as talent, genius, values, practices and so on. Despite the disfavour in the social sciences throughout the 20th century about the notion of a social pyramid, the concept is now enjoying a renaissance in business, marketing and management theory in ‘frontier’ understandings of poverty in places such as Brazil and India. This article argues that the idea of vested ‘globals’ at the top of the pyramid (ToP) transgresses the concept of a social pyramid because India’s ToP engages with the BoP from afar, remotely and in ways difficult to trace. Crucially, it is not those in India’s BoP who are demanding of inquiry, but instead those at the ToP in terms of their stakes in India’s austerity and their lived distance from these austere conditions.
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