Law and the Economy in a Young Democracy: India 1947 and Beyond
by Tirthankar Roy and Anand V. Swamy
University of Chicago Press
Cloth: 978-0-226-79900-1 | eISBN: 978-0-226-79914-8

An essential history of India’s economic growth since 1947 and the legal reforms that have allowed it to settle in the shadow of the stagnating effects of colonial rule. 

Economists have long lamented that the inefficiency of India’s legal system undermines the country’s economic capacity. How has this come to be? The prevailing explanation is that the postcolonial legal system is understaffed and under-resourced, making adjudication and contract enforcement slow and costly.

Taking this as given, Law and the Economy in a Young Democracy examines the contents and historical antecedents of these laws, including how they have stifled economic development. The authors argue that legal evolution in independent India has primarily been shaped by three factors: the desire to reduce inequality and poverty; the suspicion that market activity, both domestic and international, can be detrimental to these goals; and the strengthening of Indian democracy over time, giving voice to a growing fraction of society, including the poor.

Weaving the story of India’s heralded economic transformation with its social and political history, Roy and Swamy show how inadequate legal infrastructure has been a key impediment to the country’s economic growth during the last century. A stirring and authoritative history of a nation rife with contradictions, Law and the Economy in a Young Democracy is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand India’s current crossroads—and the factors that may keep its dreams unrealized.
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