Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Birtchnell, T. (2013). Pyramid or iceberg? Problematizing the fortune to be made from India''s austerity. Marketing Theory: an international review, 13 (3), 389-392.


As far back as the 19th century, the notion of a ‘social pyramid’ was critiqued in the social sciencesas an inadequate and simplistic model of society. The model encourages the idea that those at thebottom of the pyramid (BoP) are uniformly mediocre and the small number at the top overtlyexceptional—social pyramid thinking not only tends to reflect differences in incomes but blendstogether other ‘traits’ such as talent, genius, values, practices and so on. Despite the disfavour inthe social sciences throughout the 20th century about the notion of a social pyramid, the conceptis now enjoying a renaissance in business, marketing and management theory in ‘frontier’ understandingsof 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 becauseIndia’s ToP engages with the BoP from afar, remotely and in ways difficult to trace. Crucially, it isnot those in India’s BoP who are demanding of inquiry, but instead those at the ToP in terms oftheir stakes in India’s austerity and their lived distance from these austere conditions.