Indian social history appears to be in decline. Although fine work has been published in recent years, the cutting edge of scholarship on the Indian past has moved elsewhere, particularly into the domains of cultural and intellectual life. As a consequence, the economic and material questions that were integral to social history have come to be neglected in many recent historical works. Such a neglect of the material, however, misinterprets the theoretical efforts of major thinkers, in particular Michel Foucault, who are cited in support of the shift to culture and intellectual history. For Foucault, economic conditions and material institutions were not irrelevant, but absolutely central for his analysis of modern forms of power. A one-sided reading of Foucault has meant that historians of India are ignoring economic questions precisely at the moment when economic relations throughout the world are being radically restructured. The task at hand is to bring back the exploration of the economy to the study of the Indian past. This will reinvigorate history writing and also place historians of South Asia squarely at the center of major debates and political conflicts taking place today around globalization and neo-liberalism.

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pp. 47-54
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