Paradox in Paradise: Cooperatives and the Social Economy in Kerala

18th Oct 2013  01:00 pm - 18th Oct 2013 02:00 pm


Dr Ann El Khoury is the author of the forthcoming Infraglobalisation: Toward A Propositional Politics of Development (Routledge, 2014) and recently completed her PhD at Macquarie University's Department of Environment and Geography.


Kerala has attracted well-deserved attention for its remarkable achievements in human development. The southern Indian state has achieved unusually high social and human development indicators first world levels of literacy, life expectancy and infant mortality-at a fraction of first world incomes. The classic Kerala model, primarily concerned with redistributive policies, struggled however to induce significant economic or industrial development. In dealing with this challenge and with second-generation development problems such as educated unemployment, gender inequality and industrial development, the state undertook one of the boldest experiments in participatory decentralisation ever undertaken in the subcontinent, and one of the largest in the world.

This presentation focuses upon Kerala's recent initiatives in participatory planning, decentralised democratisation and cooperative micro-enterprise initiatives as key experimental strategies towards alternative development. These initiatives expressly seek to combine social and productive objectives at the local level, with cooperatives and Self-Help Groups (SHGs) as major development agents and community capacity-builders. The presentation spotlights the Kerala Dinesh Beedi (KDB) worker's cooperative, one of the largest in South East Asia. I argue that Kerala's institutionalisation of this experiment can offer lessons and prospects by way of alternative, parallel developmental and social economy pathways, and that Kerala's experience illustrates the importance of both state-sponsored and grassroots action to its success, which cannot simply be adduced to responsible government action or the role of epistemic elites.


Darlington Centre School Building
Meeting Room 11
The University of Sydney

For catering purposes, please contact Andre Pinto at by noon on Tuesday 15 October.