Graduate Student Seminar Series: Elite Business Households, Financial Capital, and Public Authority in Modern Times: A Perspective from India
Student presenter: Sudev Sheth, South Asia Studies
With the recent election of Donald J. Trump to the American presidency, the longstanding nexus between capitalist interests and political power has been revealed in all its glory. In fact, analysts have remarked that the hallmark of the Trump presidency so far has been the palpable shift away from traditional modes of statesmanship to running longstanding institutions like a family business. The appointing of relatives to key government posts and executive decision making with little regard for diplomacy bears witness to this style of bold leadership. While it is tempting to see the election of a billionaire to our country’s highest political office as unprecedented, a more historical perspective suggests that elite business households and public authority have been mutually implicated for a long time. For example, the individual stories of the Medicis of Renaissance Italy, Sir John Banks of England, and Jamsetji Tata of India demonstrate the various ways that political aspirants and profit-hungry capitalists are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. Drawing on new evidence from modern India (1650-present), this talk maps the trajectory of the Kasturbhai Lalbhai Group, India’s oldest family.