Book Launch Event

The Dravidian Model

Interpreting the Political Economy of Tamil Nadu
Kalaiyarasan A.
Madras Institute of Development Studies
Vijayabaskar M.
Madras Institute of Development Studies
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (2021)
Attend the webinar
Registration Link: Click Here
Date and Time: 16 April 2021, 5 pm (IST)



A. R. Venkatachalapathy, Professor, MIDS


P. G. Babu, Director, MIDS


Jean Drèze, Honorary Professor, Delhi School of Economics
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Professor, Ashoka University
S. Narayan, Former Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister of India
N. Ram, Director, The Hindu Publishing Group
Padmini Swaminathan, Former Director, MIDS

About the Book

The Dravidian Model: Interpreting the Political Economy of Tamil Nadu maps the politics and processes contributing to the distinct developmental trajectory of Tamil Nadu. Kalaiyarasan and Vijayabaskar use a novel interpretive framework and draw upon fresh data and literature to explain the social and economic development of the state in terms of populist mobilisation against caste-based inequalities.

Dominant policy narratives on inclusive growth assume a sequential logic, whereby returns to growth are used to invest in socially inclusive policies. Tamil Nadu’s focus, on redistributing access to opportunities in the modern economy has sustained a relatively more inclusive and dynamic growth process. Democratisation of economic opportunities has made such broad-based growth possible; interventions in social sectors reinforce democratisation.

The book adds to the literature on dynamics of regional development in the global South. It also speaks to the nascent literature on the relationship between modernisation and status-based inequalities in the global South.

Praise for the book

The Dravidian Model makes a compelling case for a development strategy powered by populist mobilization around regional cultural identity. Tamil Nadu, the authors argue, has created more effective institutions and delivered better outcomes on food, health, education and poverty reduction than other Indian states. This strategy has emphasised status inequalities of caste and gender rather than income inequalities with remarkable success. This book needs to be read and discussed.’ — Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University

‘Adopting a neo-Gramscian approach, Kalaiyarasan and Vijayabaskar have developed an original take on Tamil Nadu’s economy, society, and politics. With detailed attention to achievements in human development, structural economic change and accumulation, they reveal the ideas, politics, and institutions distinguishing social populism from economic populism. Through both kinds of Dravidian left populism, countervailing power has been built and aspirations against entrenched inequalities have been simultaneously mobilised. The state is central to their coordination, continuities, relative success and limitations. This book is sure to generate the conversation the authors seek about the struggle for social justice that is now so urgently needed.’ — Barbara Harriss-White, Oxford University

The Dravidian Model breaks new ground, not only in making sense of Tamil Nadu's political economy but also in advancing our understanding of the possibilities for socially and economically inclusive development in the post-colonial world. The book exhaustively documents and explains the historical and cultural roots of Tamil Nadu's opportunity-equalising politics and carves out new theoretical frontiers in the debate on left populism. This should be required reading for all those interested in the democratic possibilities of transforming deeply unequal societies.’ — Patrick Heller, Brown University

The Dravidian Model offers the most convincing explanation of the unmatchable level of development that South India has reached, compared to the rest of the sub-continent. It shows that political mobilisation resulting in social change and less inequalities, makes redistribution more natural. And this process prepares the ground for real development - in terms of education and health, for instance - because of a certain democratisation of growth. By contrast, Kalaiyarasan A. and M. Vijayabaskar expose those who claim that the economic trajectory of western Indian states are success stories - they are models of growth without development when the Dravidian model offers growth with development!’ — Christophe Jaffrelot, CERI-Sciences Po

‘The Dravidian Movement has been studied extensively for its ideology and political mobilisation. But its impact on social development and economic growth has rarely been subjected to such meticulous scrutiny. Of special importance here is the analysis of how the Dravidian Movement brought lower castes into the entrepreneurial sphere, lifting Tamil Nadu not only socially but also economically. A compelling and much-needed analysis.’ — Ashutosh Varshney, Brown University

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