Free Market Romanticism in an Era of Deregulation


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Romanticism has four types of attribute: imaginative vision, extravagant wild-ness, fictitiousness and remoteness from experience. It is argued that conceptions of "the market" used by certain economic historians and in much of development policy discourse are romantic. The former underplay the coercion and compulsion historically required for a market economy to emerge. The latter fails to recognize the theoretical limitations to the neo-classical notion of the market or the practical incapacity ofactual existing markets decently to structure social life. Detailed case material is presented to show how real agrarian markets in South Asia are embedded in non-market relations of locality, ethnicity and religion, gender and age, in class relations, relations with the state (also analysed "unromantically") and in the physical environment. Where market exchange is accompanied by criminal and/or corrupt activities which deplete state resources and force the state into defensive accommodation, then deregulation may merely shift the distribution of rent seeking between "state" and "market" and not reduce it.



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