Economy and Society

Home/ Economy and Society
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1SC8144

Semester and Year Offered: 6th Semester (Winter Semester 2019)

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Smita Tiwari Jassal and Dr. Rinju Rasaily

Email of course coordinator: rinju[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: NA

Aim: This is an advanced undergraduate course to introduce students of sociology and social anthropology to the ways in which economic aspects of society have been studied by our discipline.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Theoretical approaches, methods, and debates that have illuminated the understanding of economic phenomena, including those concerning market behavior and exchange in societies.
  2. Students would have understood the interrelationship shared between the economy, market with society and its social structures.
  3. Knowledge on substantive topics that illustrate how economy cannot be isolated from the historical, cultural and ideological factors that constitute it.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module 1: Economy and Exchange in Simple Societies

This module challenges mainstream assumptions about pre-modern societies at many levels. The readings are seminal texts that assemble ethnographic evidence from a range of early societies. First the readings challenge the notion that so-called primitive peoples are not driven by economic calculation or self-interest. A second assumption to be interrogated is about the ubiquity of patriarchy. Paradoxically, it is in early societies that more egalitarian forms of division of labor are encountered. We shall examine the implications of the sexual division of labor, women’s work, women’s wealth and women’s productivity for these economies. Thus work, private property and exchange - key elements of economic phenomena are examined through the anthropological and ethnographic texts in this module.

Module 2: Peasant Production, Property and Money

This module will examine what is distinctive about peasant societies, how they are organized, the division of labour, as well as their work cultures. How they differ from aboriginal societies as well as industrial societies will be discussed. We shall also focus on differentiations within peasant societies, and touch on notions of subsistence ethic, moral economy, surplus, private property etc. The module draws on some theoretical literature on peasantries and offers readings on peasantry in colonial India.

Module 3: Markets

Module Three offers insights on markets and economic exchanges in pre-modern societies. The evidence ranges from motifs and anecdotes of economic transactions in a text such as the Thousand and One Nights to evidence of market transactions in early colonial Bengal in songs of the Bauls, and the epic or gatha traditions of the Bhojpuri speaking belt. These are rich sources for evidence of markets and bazars and their relevance and criticality for pre-modern economies. The module asks not only what was transacted in these spaces but also how and what kinds of cultural give and take occurred. Since bazars, melas or fairs are rich sources for understanding a range of extra-economic transactions, these will also be explored in the module. .

Unit 4: A Form of Capital

In the final module our effort will be to examine how pre-modern forms of economic activity might continue, and even co-exist, with modern industrial forms. Through select readings the impact of forces of globalization on the socio-economic and political processes will be examined in this module. How societies get re-structured and vulnerabilities get accentuated are some of the dimensions that will be examined in this module.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • One class test 20%
  • Class participation and presentation 30%
  • One Response paper 30%
  • Take home assignment 20%

Reading List:

  • Engels, Freidrich. 1977. (Reprint). The Origin of the Family, Private Property and State. Progress Publishers. Moscow.
  • .Mauss, Marcel 1990 (Translated). The Gift: Forms of Exchange in Archaic Societies. Routledge. London. Introduction, and Chapters pp. 1-18.
  • Weiner, Annette 1992. Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping While Giving, chapter 1, 5, 7, 9
  • Eric R. Wolf. 1966. Peasants. Prentice Hall. Foundations of Modern Anthropological Series. New Jersey.
  • E.P. Thompson. 1971. The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the 18th Century, Past and Present, No 50, pp 76-136
  • Scott James. 1977. The Moral Economy. Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia. Yale University Press.
  • Verdery, Katherine 2004. Property in Question: Value Transformation in the Global Economy, Chapter 6.
  • Özveren, Eyüp. "Bazaars of the Thousand and One Nights*." The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 14.4 (2007): 629-655.
  • Urban, Hugh B. "The marketplace and the temple: economic metaphors and religious meanings in the folk songs of colonial Bengal." The Journal of Asian Studies 60.04 (2001): 1085-1114.
  • Yang, Anand. 2000. Bazaar India. Markets, Society, and the Colonial State in Gangetic Bihar, Berkeley: University of California Press Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford. (selected pages).
  • Molly Kaushal 2001. “The transmission of Bhojpuri epics towards Nepal and Bihar” in Chanted Narratives: The Living Katha-Vachana Tradition, Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts and University of Michigan.
  • Chari, Sharad 2004. Fraternal Capital: Peasant Workers, Self-Made Men and Globalization in Provincial India. Stanford: University of California.
  • Swedberg Richard. 1994. Markets as Social Structures, Pp. 255–282 in Neil Smelser and Richard Swedberg (eds.), Handbook of Economic Sociology. New York and Princeton: Russell Sage Foundation and Princeton University Press


  • E.P. Thompson. 1971. The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the 18th Century, Past and Present, No 50, pp 76-136
  • Polanyi Karl. 1944 (2001). Introduction in The Great Transformation: The political and Economic Origins of our time. Boston, Beacon Press. Pp xviii-xxxviii
  • Smith Adams. 1776 (1937). The Wealth of Nations. Random House Inc. Online version Adam Smith Reference archive ( 2000. Select chapters on Division of labour and Market