Hinduism and Economics



Publication Details

Birtchnell, T. (2016). Hinduism and Economics. In W. Sweetman & A. Malik (Eds.), Hinduism in India: Modern and Contemporary Movements (pp. 69-94). New Delhi, India: Sage.


The question “what is Hinduism?" has been asked and answered about as many times as the question “what is Economics?" so that it appears doubly brave to try to broach the two together. In this survey, an open view of Hinduism and economics is encouraged that sees both as composed of complex institutions, exchanges, customs, beliefs and people. Of course facets of religion, like ritual or scripture, are not contingent on social, political, and economic change; however, people and their everyday lives are equally interconnected with both economics and religion so that both can co-exist and act upon each other (Flood, 1996). A starting point in this summary is that economics includes infrastructure, well-being, charity, philanthropy, and other “soft" factors. While it is true that economists have dabbled in religion, as inputs in economic modeling or as values in quantitative surveys, these efforts have tended toward understanding religion as a closed phenomenon outside of economic activity. Yet, in the case of India, as Deepak Lal has documented in detail in Hindu Equilibrium (2005), what might appear to be economic stagnation by some accounts - principally neoliberal - is in fact evidence of the ongoing social order and continuity of a Hinduism spanning over miIlennia. According to Lal, this social equilibrium was in many ways disrupted by the colonial order and sensitivity is demanded in appraising Hinduism from this longitudinal perspective.

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