Perspectives on Political Economy of Labour

This course is geared towards giving students an overview of concerns and questions that make up the landscape of labour in India.

Labour as a concept works as an important hinge between the social question of livelihood and the political economic question of Development. Labour, as it is performed, produced and socially reproduced is at the heart of political economy. The course is built to introduce students to a political economic and sociological perspective of understanding labour. Labour, as deeply entwined as it is to any society, has deep implications on the question of life and as an extension to all aspects of human development. Questions of wage, working conditions and dignity of labour have implications way beyond just the act’ of work.

The course begins with introducing students to two synonymously understood concepts-
work’ and labour’ by delving into different histories of both the terms and their
implications. To root the discussion in India, we begin with the colonial period and the
several innovations it brought in both industrial and agricultural production. This is an
important perspective for students to gain because much of the processes of colonial
times have continued to define labour processes till today. Both migration and
feminisation of labour have deeper roots in India’s colonial past and have continued to
reshape the lives and practices of India’s rural poor. Globalisation introduces a new
régime of labour, made possible by technology and increasingly connected economies.
From understanding how it changes the nature of how factory’ or even workplace’ could
be reframed, it also introduces a different nature of the labour itself- the precariat labour.
As a result, the responses of this dissipated working class need to be constantly
reinvented to meet the challenges of a new kind of labour, an entirely different kind of
workplace. As a part of the course, we also focus on labour movements to round off the discussion on labour in India to see how the working class responds to changing realities of their worklives.

The course is meant to be an introduction to labour issues in India for students in the
masters of development course. As a part of the concentration on Work and Labour in
India, this is a course which attempts to provide an overarching framework by flagging
the core issues that concern labour in India.