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How Solidarity Works for Welfare
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Book description

Why are some places in the world characterized by better social service provision and welfare outcomes than others? In a world in which millions of people, particularly in developing countries, continue to lead lives plagued by illiteracy and ill-health, understanding the conditions that promote social welfare is of critical importance to political scientists and policy makers alike. Drawing on a multi-method study, from the late-nineteenth century to the present, of the stark variations in educational and health outcomes within a large, federal, multiethnic developing country - India - this book develops an argument for the power of collective identity as an impetus for state prioritization of social welfare. Such an argument not only marks an important break from the dominant negative perceptions of identity politics but also presents a novel theoretical framework to understand welfare provision.


'This is a magisterial book that takes on one of the most important questions of all time - why do some places develop more inclusive welfare regimes and deliver better social outcomes than others? Singh highlights the role of communal cohesion and shared affective bonds in producing the sense of mutual obligation that is at the root of progressive, redistributive policies. Along the way, Singh carefully shows where existing explanations fail to explain the puzzle of subnational variation in Indian social policies and development and takes the reader on a theoretically informed and empirically rich journey through parts of India from the late-nineteenth century onwards. The book is both a joy to read and is based on a rigorous combination of qualitative and quantitative research.'

Melani Cammett - Harvard University, Massachusetts

'In this outstanding book, Singh examines the question of what drives social development. Based on a comparative subnational and longitudinal analysis of Indian states, she mobilizes an extensive amount of evidence to show that social development depends in large measure on the sense of shared identity within a community. Theoretically innovative and carefully researched, this superb study is likely to influence comparative scholarship on welfare outcomes for a long time to come.'

Giovanni Capoccia - University of Oxford

'Why are levels of social development in some Indian states so much higher than in others? Prerna Singh locates the source of this variation in the degree of shared identity - the sense of 'we-ness' - among the state’s citizens. Where solidarity within the subnational political community is strong, as in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, citizens put the collective good over individual welfare and support progressive social policies that generate marked improvements in health and education. But where subnational solidarity is weak, as in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan until the 1990s, and Bihar until the mid-2000s, such common purpose is absent and public policies are significantly less developmentally oriented. This is a novel and important argument, and it is supported by a rich array of qualitative and quantitative evidence. How Solidarity Works for Welfare is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the sources of social welfare improvements in developing nations, and a welcome antidote to the tendency to view social attachments strictly as impediments to development.'

Daniel N. Posner - James S. Coleman Professor of International Development, University of California, Los Angeles

'This is an outstanding book. It raises the classic question of 'who gets what, when and how', and provides a novel answer. The argument is that relative cohesion of political communities helps us understand why some state governments in India are more effective at delivering education and health than others. The book is theoretically innovative and empirically rigorous; a must read for both academics and policy makers.'

Atul Kohli - David Bruce Professor of International Affairs, Princeton University, New Jersey

'This book makes an innovative and original argument on the political economy of service delivery. Using a wide range of sophisticated methodologies, it explains variations in state performance across different states in India. Its central insight, that forms of sub-national solidarity matter for performance of the states, is of deep theoretical and empirical interest. Its historical depth, empirical richness, and clarity of argument is deeply instructive. It will generate productive discussion for years to come.'

Pratap Bhanu Mehta - President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi  

'As famously argued by Gosta Esping-Anderson, the West European and North American politics of welfare is based on three arguments: market imperfections, religion, and class. The US and UK represent the first type; France and especially Germany drew upon the Catholic tradition of help; and Scandinavian countries tapped into the rise of social democratic parties to construct a welfare net for all. An entire generation of scholars working on welfare states has taken Esping-Anderson’s view as a founding imagination for further exploration - for or against. Prerna Singh’s manuscript radically departs from this comparative wisdom. The key for Singh is the notion of community, not class, religion or markets. Relying on Indian materials, Singh argues that when a public sphere internalizes the idea of community, mass literacy goes up significantly and the physical health of the masses also does. A truly novel argument.'

Ashutosh Varshney - Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences, Brown University, Rhode Island

'At the heart of this important new book by Prerna Singh lies a simple observation: social solidarity built upon collective identities can promote a politics of the common good. She uses this insight to explain why India’s states see such disparate social development out- comes. Singh seeks to demonstrate that identity politics - when shaped around a shared 'sub- national' identity - can improve social outcomes … The execution of the measurement and quantitative tests of the effects of subnationalism is meticulously presented, and the findings powerful.'

Louise Tillin Source: Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies

‘Singh offers a refreshingly new perspective on the causes that lead to better social development in India through the tools of subnationalism, even in fractured societies. This research greatly contributes not only to the intellectual history on the evolution of India’s economic institutions, but also development studies, behavioural economics, political science, geography, and social policy. How Solidarity Works for Welfare enables a rich interdisciplinary discourse through these intersections by adding to existing theories that underscore ethnic homogeneity and economic development as some of the preconditions for social development. Singh expands upon previous studies of Indian political economy and political sociology to include an important variable of collective group identity, and also offers valuable state social policy suggestions that can be employed through rethinking innovative regional policies vis-à-vis the spirit of subnationalism.'

Janak N. Padhiar Source: LSE Review of Books

'This is a landmark study, beyond its immediate subject matter, which is India and the role of subnationalism in social policy in India. The book is likely to become a classic in social welfare research … Singh’s book leaves us not only with lessons for theory building, but also with a ‘ray of hope’, because she shows that even deep-seated social cleavages and particularistic social structures and legacies can be overcome, even in India'

Lutz Leisering Source: Journal of Social Policy

'Singh’s subnationalism argument shall have abiding analytical purchase for scholars working on comparative politics in general and on the more specialised study of social welfare regimes in particular.'

Kham Khan Suan Hausing Source: Commonwealth & Comparative Politics

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