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Economy, Politics and Society

Economy, Politics and Society introduces students to the main currents of economic thought, the ways in which geography, history and institutions have shaped the trajectory of nations, and how basic concepts such as work and labour define both the individual and society. The important facts and events that have shaped economic development around the world, and influential theorists who have had a major impact on our thinking about the Economy, Politics and Society, will be discussed to help students understand the modes of reasoning that have been deployed in this field.

Department: Political Science | Semester : Monsoon 2023

This course will introduce students to non-European aspects of political thought with particular recourse to various parts of the colonised world. An often-neglected aspect of the study of politics, is the study of the role of religion in the social, political and indeed economic formations of the non-European world and part of the aim of this course will be to highlight the continuing importance of religious and traditional thought to understanding wider political discourse. This course will equip students with a perspective that will enhance and broaden their understanding of notions like the state, liberalism and, democracy beyond their ‘Western’ interpretations in addition to providing the background for understanding the roots of these concepts in political theory. Most Importantly, the course will introduce students to major non-Western philosophers and thinkers. Apart from this the students will also understand how ideas travel and how these often disrupt the geographical imaginings that we often assume to be unassailable and fixed.

The nature of academia has meant that subjects and disciplines have been divided and categorized into what are thought to be distinct conceptual frameworks. However, my own belief is that the most compelling work in the social sciences is predicated on approaches that interrogate and blur these boundaries. Therefore, although this foundation course is formally linked to the political science department, the material we cover, the debates we unpack and the ideas we explore will also take into account historical context, philosophical underpinnings and indeed aspects of sociological and anthropological work. In keeping with this, the structure of the course hinges around reading ‘ancient’ or ‘pre-modern’ historical texts and then reading modern interpretations of these texts. Amongst other primary texts, we will read selections from the Analects of Confucius, the Bhagavad Gita, the Quran and their modern interpretations by Sun Yat Sen, B R Ambedkar and R Khomeini.

Department: Sociology | Semester: Monsoon 2023

The course seeks to explore the emergence of modern Economy, Politics and Society in India by analyzing seminal writings related to the emergence of modernity on the Indian subcontinent. We will examine the evolution of modern South Asia from 1818 until 1947. The course surveys major figures who grappled with and helped shape social, economic and political struggles during the British colonial period. We will consider the multiple debates that went into nation formation, economic condition, caste stratification, the role of women, and religious reform, i.e.,the complexity of the social and political discourse of the period. We will analyse primary texts, including autobiographies, speeches, dialogues, treatises, ethnography, and where possible cinema and literary fiction.


  • Read, think, and evaluate critically modern South Asian society, economy and politics.
    Acquire basic knowledge about major events in modern South Asian history.
    Understand the impact of important figures, and seminal debates in modern South Asian culture and history
  • Gain comprehension about colonialism and its impact on modern South Asia
  • Understand the construction of communalism in modern South Asia
    Learn to evaluate critically primary sources

Department: Economics | Semester: Monsoon 2023

Economic Ideas from Smith to Sen

‘Economic ideas from Smith to Sen’

This course is intended as an introduction to the main currents of economic thought over the past two and a half centuries. It commences with the ideas of Adam Smith, moves on to those of the other members of the Classical School, namely Malthus and Ricardo, and ends the first section of the course with the writings of Marx. Significantly, their work continues to be extensively resorted to even today. Next, before journeying to the ideas of the great economists of the twentieth century – notably, Marshall, Hayek, Keynes and Schumpeter – the course addresses the transition in the mode of inquiry to ‘neo Classical’ economics, which has come to stay as the dominant pedagogical tool. Finally, we study the rise after the Second World War of development economics, where the object of attention shifts to the economic problems of Africa, Asia and Latin America, requiring, it was asserted, a different treatment than that found in mainstream economics. In this section, the course engages in particular with the ideas of Amartya Sen, who opened up a new view of economic development which can be creatively applied to an evaluation of India’s progress since 1947. The course reveals to the student the various modes of reasoning that have been used in economics historically. It shows how economic ideas have been shaped by historical events and how they have, in turn, shaped the world as we know it. Two books form the main reading material for the lectures, namely, ‘The Worldly Philosophers’ by Robert Heilbroner and 'Great Economic Thinkers' by Jonathan Conlin (ed.), with supplementary reading being made available as necessary. In the Discussion Sessions students read passages from the work of Smith, Marx, Keynes, Gandhi and Sen.


Department: Sociology | Semester: Monsoon 2023

This course will look into conceptualisations of new political and economic formations. It will outline the conversations, contexts and provocations pertaining to the Anthropocene and consider the arguments for reconfiguring the relations between the human and the non-human in our times. It will explore ideas that try to extend rights to animals, plants and non-living nature as part of ecologies of repair and shall offer a window into the social movements that are pursuing such engagement.

Department: Political Science | Semester : Monsoon 2023

The primary objective of this course is to familiarise students with the world of social science to better understand that world we live in. Social realities are often complex due to continuous interactions of varied nodes of identities, socio-political institutions, and economic relations that shape individual lives and collectives. This course introduces students to the basic theories, methods, and particular contributions of economics, political science, and sociology . It would focus on – a) how social scientists study critical questions about economic development, political regimes, social systems, among others, and b) understanding the complexities and challenges of democracy and governance using India as a case study, in relation to other relevant examples depending on the theme. 

Department: Economics | Semester: Spring 2024

Globalisation: Old and New Perspectives

For decades, globalisation has been a driving force of growth and development, enabling countries to diversify their economies and reduce poverty, but it has also heightened inequality within nation-states and exposed blue-collar workers in rich countries to low-cost competition, engendering deep-seated frustrations with portentous political repercussions. More recently, exposures to supply chain shocks arising from the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have also ignited questions over whether cross-border economic integration has gone too far, with many countries now explicitly pursuing policies aimed at on-shoring or near-shoring critical supply chains. Coupled with increasing demand for critical minerals to support the green transition, deep consideration of the benefits and risks of global value chains is ever more pressing.

The course will focus on books by Jagdish Bhagwati (In Defense of Globalization), Joseph Stiglitz (Globalization and its Discontents), Dani Rodrik (The Globalization Paradox), and the OECD (Interconnected Economies: Benefiting from Global Value Chains). In addition, essential readings will include policy briefs of international institutions such as the OECD and World Trade Organization and articles in The Economist and other financial newspapers and magazines.

Department: International Relations | Semester: Spring 2024

The central preoccupation of modern social theory—from the 18th century onwards—has been to plumb the nature and possibility of the social bond in a non-religiously sanctioned social order. The very notions of economy, politics and society that we take for granted were conceptualized and transmuted with the onset and development of modernity. This course offers an introduction to the key texts and thinkers of modern social theory as well as the concomitant rise of the modern state, democracy and capitalism. In particular, it aims at probing the relationship between the theories and institutions of modernity. In so doing, this course intends to ground students in the conceptual and historical foundations of contemporary social sciences. The course assumes no prior knowledge of economics, political science or sociology—only a willingness to read original texts that defy disciplinary boundaries and understand their historical context.


Faculty Name: Vinod Pawarala (Visting)

Department: Media Studies | Semester: Monsoon 2023

In 2023, Reporters without Borders, a global media watchdog that measures press freedom worldwide, rated India at 161 among 180 countries, a slide from its 150th position in the previous year. What does this negative assessment mean for a country that’s the largest democracy in the world and, as is being claimed recently, the ‘mother of democracy’? As the situation with media freedom is said to be going from ‘problematic’ to ‘very bad’ in several countries of the Global South, where deep inequalities still define their populations, what does it mean for substantive democracy, rather than merely electoral democracy? In this course, we will examine these questions critically, using such indices as ownership of media entities, their proximity to political parties, the autonomy of other democratic institutions that are expected to ensure the independent and free functioning of the media. We will investigate the challenges posed by a severely constrained media space for sustaining a healthy civil society and fostering a deliberative democracy (one that is ‘talk-centric’ rather than ‘vote-centric’). Finally, the course will explore alternative, community-based, citizen-driven media initiatives in India that are seeking to transform our public sphere into a more vibrant, pluralistic, and diverse space.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka