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Cottam, Christine Margaret (1983) The merchant castes of a small town in Rajasthan : A study of business organisation and ideology. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Certain recent studies of South Asian entrepreneurial activity have suggested that customary social and cultural constraints have prevented positive response to economic development programmes. Constraints including the conservative mentality of the traditional merchant castes, over-attention to custom, ritual and status and the prevalence of the joint family in management structures have been regarded as the main inhibitors of rational economic behaviour, leading to the conclusion that externally-directed development programmes cannot be successful without changes in ideology and behaviour. A focus upon the indigenous concepts of the traditional merchant castes of a market town in Rajasthan and their role in organising business behaviour, suggests that the social and cultural factors inhibiting positive response to a presented economic opportunity, stimulated in part by external, public sector agencies, are conversely responsible for the dynamism of private enterprise which attracted the attention of the concerned authorities. Thus traditional ideology is negative towards externally directed change, not economic change as such. The entrerpreneurial acumen of the private sector indicates a resourceful, adaptive community and externally perceived structural weaknesses in managerial traditions are organisational strengths when viewed in the context of a known social environment where the attitudes of the people are ascertainable. The ambiguity of indigenous concepts permits certain interpretations to prevail at any particular time. This depends upon both internal and external factors and is related to the encapsulating politico-administrative framework. The development of small-scale industry has been accompanied by partial reinterpretation of ideology and the emergence of a new elite entrepreneurial group connected with external political processes. The problematic issues of parallel systems of prestige and status has implications in local systems of leadership, which is reflected in marriage alliances. Concerted, community decision-making is precluded because the interests and independence of the Mahajan family is perceived as endangered.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:01

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