Informal Economics

At Work in the Informal Economy of India: A Perspective from the Bottom Up by Jan Breman from Oxford University Press (India).

Informal labour translates as labour or employment that is not regular. Labour in the informal sector is casual, insecure, and unprotected. This book brings to light the plight of the landless and land-poor peasants in the informal economy in India. While discussing the labour being pushed out of agricultural production, Jan Breman contextualizes why, when, and how this transition occurred.

The book is a result of anthropological fieldwork conducted in Gujarat-the state with the highest rate of economic growth-spanning over four decades. Although centred on one Indian state, thereby lacking a comparative frame, the author argues that India is the epicentre of the informal economy. Thus, the informal sector here has a wider relevance and greater validity.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part covers the historical developments under capitalism, and contextualizes the deplorable condition of the unorganized workforce and the commodification of labour with the decline of agrarian bondage. The second part consists of author's ten previously published papers elaborating on themes and issues introduced in the first part of the book. This part also familiarizes the reader with the concept of informality and its ramifications.

Rs. 995, in paperback, 536 pages, ISBN: 9780198090342

Why Has China Grown So Fast for So Long? by Khalid Malik from Oxford University Press (India).

China is home to 1.3 billion people, about 20 per cent of the world’s population, and is poised to become the largest economy in the world. The Chinese growth phenomenon presents a conundrum, with many analysts concerned about ‘cooked data’, asset bubbles about to burst, and so on. Yet the Chinese economy has kept growing at a blistering pace, 9–10 per cent annually and more at times, and the landscape of the world is fast changing due to China’s unique position.

Analysing the last 30 years of reforms, this book helps us understand the Chinese growth success, the factors that made this possible, and the lessons that can be distilled from this experience for other developing countries. Arguing that traditional explanations are inadequate, the author applies the ‘development as transformation’ thesis to provide answers to a wide range of questions: Why has China grown so rapidly over such a long time, and what are the country’s prospects in the future?

Will it keep growing? Will it actually overtake the US as the largest economy in the world as some observers have been forecasting, or will it implode as the many contradictions in the economy and society grind it to a halt? The book has the vantage of the author being an economist, a development practitioner, and resident in China for almost seven years.

Rs. 595, in paperback, 253 pages, ISBN: 9780198078838