the [New Inequality] in South Asia
MUSTAPHA KAMAL PASHA*
This article sketches some of the more discernible effects of neoliberalism on South Asia's political economy with an emphasis especially on the ambivalent status of neoliberalism in the context of state patronage. The first part of the article examines the rise of a new convergence amongst state managers and social groups over the desirability of neoliberal reforms. Following this analysis of the emerging convergence around neoliberal reforms and the diminished role of the state, the second part of the article focuses on the opposition to neoliberalism and the emerging compromise amongst different political constituencies. Finally, the last part of the article offers some tentative conclusions regarding new vectors of polarization and politics in the region.
NEOLIBERALISM PRESENTS to its proponents a brave new world of boundless opportunity: a world of unfettered growth, technological innovation, a borderless culture of contentment. Over the wreckage of the Second World and post-Cold War consolidation of Western global hegemony (Gill 1995), the [new orthodoxy] (Bienefeld 1988) appears uncontested; few alternatives seem feasible in the face of market fundamentalism. Against repudiations of statist rent-seeking, bureaucratic insolence in government and governance, and general economic miscarriage, celebrations of neoliberalism, with emphases on privatization and liberalization as policy choice and economic practice, look both legitimate and timely. South Asia presents no exception to the global trend: neoliberalism now is increasingly received as the all-purpose panacea to address economic and social ills.
Economies in South Asia are realigning themselves to the imperatives of the global political economy as faith in the new goddess of the market fast replaces reverence for the state. The [soft] state (Myrdal 1968) experiments with the neoliberal doctrine to stay afloat in the global ocean of prices and profit
* School of International Service, American University, Washington, D.C. 20016, U.S.A.