A Brief Economic History of Swadeshi

Abstract

This paper traces the history of the swadeshi idea from its origins to the present day, identifies its political trajectory, assesses its impact on the Indian economy and outlines how it could be interpreted in the context of an independent, liberal democratic republic. It shows that swadeshi has always been a political project cast in economic terms and its empirical track record is far less impressive than its exalted place in the popular narrative. It concludes by arguing that India’s national interest is better served by acquiring capability than self-reliance and most importantly, by embracing an open economy. 

Keywords: Swadeshi, Economic Nationalism, Economic History, Import Substitution, Free Trade, Open Economy

Author Bio

Nitin Pai, Takshashila Institution

Nitin Pai is co-founder and director of the Takshashila Institution, an independent centre for research and education in public policy. His current research includes the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific; defence economics and the politics of radically networked societies. He teaches international relations, public policy, and ethics at Takshashila’s graduate programmes.

 

Published
2021-07-02